Interview with John Ormerod


Interview with John Ormerod


John Ormerod left school at 14 and worked in the textile industry before he volunteered for RAF. At first he trained as flight mechanic but later remustered to be a flight engineer. He talks about synchronising props and the German speaking eighth man special operator with 101 Squadron. He discusses the losses on his squadron and a crash landing with damaged undercarriage after a mid-air collision with another aircraft. He also discusses other members of his crew, one man's reaction to a lack of oxygen, and the corkscrew manoeuvre. He flew on flights with Transport Command to the Far East after the war.




Temporal Coverage




01:35:36 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Tuesday the 7th of February 2017 and I’m in Rochdale with George er John Ormerod. 101 Squadron man. So John what are your earliest recollections of life?
JO: My earliest recollections. I can remember being, living in the house which was behind the grocer’s shop and therefore we had electricity which [pause] We lived behind the grocer’s shop and they had electricity and so therefore this house behind them where we lived also had electricity which in those days was, you know, for shops and all that kind of thing. Very few, you know, local houses had electricity. Very few. What? [pause]
CB: What did your father do?
JO: My father was a mule spinner in the cotton industry.
CB: And how many brothers and sisters did you have?
JO: I had two sisters.
CB: And where did you go to school?
JO: I went to school at Balderstone. Balderstone School. A Church of England school. I went there until I was fourteen and then after that the education was more or less three nights a week at night school and from there of course I started work as a, actually as a weaver on looms. Weaving. And from there I progressed into the engineering side of the, of the work and from there carried on learning engineering at night school. [pause] I can’t just —
CB: Okay. So you were born in 1922.
JO: That’s right.
CB: So the war started when you were sixteen.
JO: Yes. Around about.
CB: Seventeen.
JO: Yeah.
CB: What? You didn’t join the RAF then. Why not?
JO: Well of course we weren’t old enough in them days.
CB: Right.
JO: You had to be eighteen you know before you could but eventually when they were starting to recruit I decided I was going to get in and get in what I wanted and that was the RAF. So of course by pushing myself forward I managed to get in.
CB: Were you in a reserved occupation.
JO: [What for?]
CB: Because you were in engineering?
JO: No. Not really.
CB: Right. So why did you choose the RAF and not the army or the navy?
JO: It were just, just one of those things. You know. I preferred it to the others and it was the leading one as far as we were concerned where I lived, you know.
CB: What was the main attraction?
JO: The flying. That’s what I wanted to do. Not to be in the ranks you know. I wanted to be flying.
CB: Were you a fairly active youngster?
JO: Oh yes. Yeah.
CB: Keen on sport?
JO: Football [laughs] at one time. We were always playing football.
CB: So you pushed, you said, to get into the RAF. Where did you join up?
JO: A place called Poynton. Somewhere near Preston I think it was.
CB: And then what? What happened at Poynton when you got there?
JO: We were allocated out to the various training units and I forget now where it actually was. The training unit. I can’t just remember.
CB: So when is this? This is — we’re talking about when? 1940? ’41?
JO: Nineteen forty — I think it was the beginning of ’42 I think.
CB: Okay. And what trade did you decide you wanted to follow and did they respect that?
JO: Well I wanted to go into engineering. And I got on as a mechanic to start with and of course I went up to, you know, up in the ranks until eventually I got to a warrant officer.
CB: Right.
JO: In the engineering.
CB: Right.
JO: Became a flight engineer of course.
CB: So what, so you became a flight mechanic on the ground.
JO: Yes.
CB: To begin with. And at what stage did you then get to be trained for aircrew?
JO: I would say after about six or eight months. Something like that. I started on that. Of course spent the rest of the time in there as a flight engineer.
CB: Yes. Did you do, you were trained in ground mechanic as a flight mechanic.
JO: That’s, that’s correct.
CB: Where was that done?
JO: I don’t know again now.
CB: And then when you volunteered to fly they sent you to St Athan did they?
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Right. And what did you do there?
JO: Well we did the training actually at St Athan and, for the normal you know —
CB: For the ground trades as well?
JO: But then it was, it was such a big station they were training all sorts of trades there and I actually went back again. You know what I mean. I went as a mechanic and then I later went back later as a, [unclear] for a flight engineer.
CB: Oh right. So after you’d trained initially at St Athan as a flight mechanic where did they send you? You were posted to, was it a squadron or were you sent to something else?
JO: To be quite candid I don’t remember.
CB: Doesn’t matter.
JO: No.
CB: So St Athan. That was —
JO: I’m ninety four now you know.
CB: Yeah. Brilliant.
JO: It takes a lot of remembering.
CB: It does. So from St Athan the course was quite long was it? Some months.
JO: Yes. If I remember correctly it was something like six months you know. Something like that.
CB: And do you remember what the process was because an aeroplane is a complicated machine?
JO: Do I remember what?
CB: What the phases of the training at St Athan were.
JO: Oh they were all about the engines and that to start with.
CB: Right.
JO: And then of course when you started to get working on the engines and that it became learning about the rest of the aircraft.
CB: Okay.
JO: And eventually of course that was what got me onto being a flight engineer.
CB: Yeah. So you’d do engines. Then what? Because the other things would be —
JO: Well the theory of flight. All the rest of it. You know
CB: Right.
JO: So —
CB: Hydraulics?
JO: Hmmn?
CB: Hydraulics.
JO: Hydraulics yes. Pneumatics. The lot.
CB: And what about the electrical side?
JO: Oh yes. Aye. We had to do that and the batteries as well, you know. Working off the batteries. Talking about that I was once working out in India, you know, with the Lanc and it wasn’t made for those climates. And I always remember we were flying along and our eyes started to prickle and it was the batteries that were boiling. You know from —
CB: The heat.
JO: From being in too hot a climate. And we had to disconnect them. [laughs] Oh it was, it was a right, a right game was that. Another thing out there of course, out in India was we had to get on our way early because if you wanted to test your engines it got too warm so what happened later on in the day if you were going to take-off you had to take off without testing or anything. As you were starting the last engine up you were more or less on your way, you know, because otherwise the first engine you’d started had been boiling. [Would have been boiling off coolant?]. So we had to be very quick. No testing. Just get all the engines going as quick as possible and away smartly. Otherwise it were having to get up early to test it.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Very very early.
CB: Yeah. So how high did you have to go before the engines would settle down?
JO: Oh you could settle them at any height. Up to, I think, if I remember correctly, somewhere around about twenty eight thousand was the maximum but we used to fly somewhere around about the twenty, twenty two. [pause] With normal flying you’d fly about ten thousand.
CB: Yeah. Right. So back to St Athan some of the equipment on the Lancasters was getting complicated in that you had Gee, H2S and other more sophisticated items.
JO: Oh yes.
CB: How did they train you on those?
JO: Well we weren’t trained on that stuff. That was the wireless operator that had those. In charge of those. No. The engineer was just on more or less the engines and the operating equipment for ailerons you know and rudders and so forth.
CB: Hydraulics. Pneumatics.
JO: Hydraulics as well yeah for going down.
CB: So if an electrical fault was to appear.
JO: Yeah.
CB: How would that be dealt with?
JO: Well you more or less knew lots of bits and pieces. Put it that way. But not a master of any particular trade really. You had to be, you had to be one that knew a bit of everything otherwise you were no use at all, you know. And you’d to be one who could quickly, you know, understand what had happened.
CB: Yes.
JO: You know. Have sufficient knowledge to deal with it.
CB: So how could you? You talked about disconnecting batteries. How do you disconnect the batteries in flight?
JO: Oh well just —
CB: Where are the batteries?
JO: Pardon?
CB: Where were the batteries?
JO: The batteries were on the starboard side about halfway down the aircraft.
CB: Right. So you could isolate them.
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Did they have a switch to isolate or did you have to literally.
JO: No. You had to disconnect them manually.
CB: Disconnect them. Yeah. So the generators on the engines were creating enough power whilst you were flying.
JO: That’s right.
CB: Okay. So from St Athan where did you go then? Because you didn’t fly at St Athan did you?
JO: No. I didn’t fly at St Athan. No. I can’t remember now.
CB: So the next step would be the Heavy Conversion Unit.
JO: That’s right. We went, we went first on Halifaxes.
CB: Right.
JO: And then off the Halifaxes on to Lancasters.
CB: At the Heavy Conversion Unit.
JO: That’s right.
CB: Yeah.
JO: And then we were sent to 101 Squadron and I couldn’t remember exactly where that was at the time but we finished up in Ludford Magna.
CB: Yes. Just before that. When you went to the Heavy Conversion Unit the crew had already been formed at the Operational Conversion Unit hadn’t they?
JO: That’s right. They picked the engineer up the last.
CB: Yes. Now how did you get selected for your crew at HCU?
JO: Well it was a matter of getting talking around the room. All the crews with the engineers kind of thing. Got talking with Rusty and stayed with Rusty. We seemed to get on quite well together and he was satisfied with me so that was it more or less.
CB: Was the rest of the crew with him or were the pilots making the selection?
JO: Well the pilot was making the selection definitely but the crew were there, kind of thing.
CB: They were.
JO: But not taking any part in it really.
CB: So how were you introduced to them?
JO: Rusty just introduced me to them as far as I can remember. And, well we seemed to get on together right from the beginning and of course all the years through we all kept in contact with one another which I think is very surprising really. But we were so happy together I think that was the real reason and then of course we went through quite a great deal together really. You know. On our nerves. [laughs]
CB: So your initial experience of flying was at the HCU. So just before we get to the squadron what did you actually do at the Heavy Conversion Unit as a crew?
JO: Well we went off Halifaxes onto Lancasters and then of course we did a lot of cross country runs and everything so that the navigator could use his knowledge and er to show he was proficient at doing these things. And the wireless op of course with his job. And mine of course was seeing that the engines were okay.
CB: And you —
JO: And the main thing really with the engineer as far as the ordinary flying was to, well for all the crew, was to get those engines all in unison where if you didn’t you were getting like a hell of a lot of noise. And on a long trip, on say an eight hour trip or something like that, you know, you’d be shattered with the noise which was enough you know but if you got them humming away together then they lull you to sleep rather than anything.
CB: So how did you synchronise the engines then?
JO: Well first of all you’d synchronise the two on one side by looking through the props and when the props started to look to go back, backwards then you got them two in unison but then it was getting the other two in unison. But then trying to pair them up with the others, you know, so that you got all of them going, you know, similar.
CB: So what did you do to get them to do that because it’s visual but you are controlling something to do it? What is that?
JO: Throttles.
CB: Right.
JO: Yeah. Throttles when you push them backwards and forwards gives the extra revs and so forth and they used to have a gate on it where you pull it down and it could only go so far. Now you only lifted that gate in an emergency. You were taking off or something and one of the engines failed. You lifted it up and got the extra on the field to get up. You know. Only in an emergency like did you ever lift that.
CB: So the, you talked about starting off on Halifaxes.
JO: Yes.
CB: And were they on radial engines or were they on Merlins?
JO: No. They were on the ordinary engines really. The Merlin.
CB: They were on the Merlin. Right. So what was the difference from your point of view between the Halifax and the Lancaster?
JO: I don’t think there was that great a difference really. But of course in those days the preference was the Lancaster.
CB: The layout was different wasn’t it for the —
JO: You what?
CB: The layout inside.
JO: Oh yes. Oh yeah.
CB: For the engineer’s position.
JO: That’s right.
CB: So how different was that?
JO: Well the on the, on the ones are Lancasters. The panel was down on the right hand side behind the pilot on the starboard side. He sat on the —
CB: On the port side.
JO: On the port.
CB: Yeah.
JO: And me on the starboard and that were behind me on the panel. And if everything was running as it should do all the, all the pointers on the gauge pointed to 12 o’clock. All of them. That was when they were all running as they should do. So you just glanced and if there was one that wasn’t 12 o’clock, you know, it hit you right away.
CB: But are these the rev gauges or are they pressure gauges or what are they?
JO: Pressure gauges.
CB: Right.
JO: All the lot. All the gauges on each engine they were there. You know, one below the other but if any one of them wasn’t reading 12 o’clock or near enough 12 o’clock when you were flying there was something wrong so you just looked at the panel and automatically one were out. It showed straightaway.
CB: Now what documentation did you have to complete in a flight?
JO: Oh you did the normal stuff but you got the air miles per gallon. You worked with the navigator and worked it out. How many air miles you’d got for a gallon which was normally one point one air miles per gallon. If you beat that you were doing very well.
CB: It depended on the headwinds.
JO: Oh yes. Well that automatic, you know. In other words the wind’s going back with you and you were trying to go forwards. [laughs]
CB: Now there were quite a few tanks in the wings of the aircraft how did you work out the transfer of fuel between them?
JO: Well the outer ones they carried about just over a hundred gallons each. About. I think it was a hundred and thirteen gallons and that had to be pumped into number two tank.
CB: Which was where?
JO: That was the tank next to it coming in-board. So as soon as you had available space for it you pumped it into the number two which you ran off. Ran off number two.
CB: So going back to this documentation. You were logging the readings at what interval?
JO: At what?
CB: At what interval were you logging readings from your gauges and tanks?
JO: Well, you were, you were logging them in your mind all the time more or less but if you had to make any changes then you put it down on your log.
CB: Right. So the second tank is in the middle of the wing is it?
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Between the engines. And the main tank. Is it called the main tank? Is it?
JO: The main tank. The one nearest —
CB: What number’s that?
JO: Well it would be number one.
CB: Number one. Yeah.
JO: And that nearest to the aircraft.
CB: Yeah.
JO: The fuselage.
CB: So where was the fuel being drained from first and was it the main tank and then you topped it up?
JO: You took, as far as I can remember all the fuel being taken to the engines was from number two.
CB: In the middle.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Right.
JO: And the number one filled number two up you know and of course the number three tank. A hundred and thirteen gallons was pumped in to number two.
CB: The one on the wing tip.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Right. Okay. So on a flight starting with take-off what would you be doing?
JO: What?
CB: In the aircraft.
JO: What?
CB: As your role. What would you be doing for take-off?
JO: Oh my role was to help the pilot. In some instances a pilot did like you to take over the throttles and like he’d say what he wanted you to do kind of thing but others would rather do it themselves. It just depended. You know.
CB: How did Rusty do this?
JO: Rusty. He did it himself. You used to follow him up kind of thing, just in case.
CB: Did you put your hand over his glove?
JO: Yeah. More or less.
CB: As he moved the throttles forward.
JO: That’s right.
CB: Yeah. And you talked earlier about going through the gate.
JO: Yeah.
CB: To do that you flick a bar out of the way do you and that enables you to go.
JO: Well it were like a piece of heavy wire.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Used to came out about a matter of about an inch and a quarter.
CB: Right.
JO: And what, that was like holding them and it couldn’t go any farther.
CB: Yeah.
JO: But if you wanted to go farther you had to lift that up to get that extra but if you used it it had to be reported because then you had to have a proper overhaul of the engines because they’d overgone what they should normally do.
CB: So on take-off how often would you need to go through the gate?
JO: Oh you wouldn’t. Never. Unless you really had to do if an engine failed or something like that and you needed the extra. Then you would do.
CB: So when you go through the gate what’s that doing with the engine? It’s doing something to create the power.
JO: It’s going over the normal power.
CB: How?
JO: Yeah.
CB: How is it doing that? Is it revs or is it boost? Or what is it?
JO: Well it‘s boost actually.
CB: Which is the supercharger.
JO: Yeah. That’s right.
CB: How many super —
JO: Plus four.
CB: Plus four. So that’s plus four atmospheric pressure. Four times atmospheric pressure is it?
JO: Yeah.
CB: Right. And did you have to do that occasionally?
JO: No, no. Normal speed like I say. It was only in emergency.
CB: Yeah. So on take-off you didn’t have, there wasn’t a second seat, you had a folding seat to sit on.
JO: That’s right. You leaned against it.
CB: You sat on that did you? Or were you standing?
JO: Well you leaned against it.
CB: On take-off.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Right.
JO: And used to have a bar across that you pulled out and you put your foot on it. I always thought it was a solid bar until one time we made a bad landing. My weight went against it properly and it just folded [laughs]. It was only a hollow, you know.
CB: A tube.
JO: Yeah. And as soon as it got all my full weight on it it just folded up and I finished up in front of the aircraft.
CB: Amazing. Just going back to synchronising the engines.
JO: Yeah.
CB: So revs, getting them right meant that the throttle position wasn’t necessarily the same for each engine. Is that right? Because you had different speeds.
JO: That’s true. That’s true.
CB: Were you also adjusting the pitch differently for each engine or not?
JO: No. No. That normally used you know as a normal setting. Well it did for everything really because you didn’t want messing about with two things on one prop. You know what I mean?
CB: How often did the engines play up?
JO: Oh. Very very seldom. Very seldom.
CB: So when you got to the squadron what happened then? 101 Squadron.
JO: 101 Squadron. Well we were the last. Engineers were the last to join the crew.
CB: At the HCU.
JO: Hmmn?
CB: You joined at the HCU.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Then you went. The whole crew. You went on to the squadron.
JO: That’s right.
CB: At Elsham Wolds.
JO: No. Ludford Magna.
CB: I meant Ludford Magna. Yes. Yeah. So in the squadron how many aircraft were there at that time?
JO: I have a feeling it was somewhere around about twenty two or twenty three aircraft.
CB: And what was the first raid?
JO: The first.
CB: The first op. Can you remember?
JO: No. I don’t know.
CB: Okay.
JO: My son has my logbook.
CB: Right. So, what you did. How many ops did you do altogether?
JO: Thirty one.
CB: Right. Why was it thirty one and not thirty?
JO: I’ve no idea. No idea whatsoever. No idea. But it finished up at thirty one.
CB: So in thirty one ops then some of them —
JO: There was some mix up at the end. What they did at the end they were starting to, they were doing some of the short ones over to France kind of thing you know and they were starting something of calling them a third of an op.
CB: Yeah.
JO: And it was only in this mix up at the end that like you had to do quite a distance to become a full op. Any road I don’t know what happened exactly but it was sorted anyhow. Each one became an op.
CB: Yeah. What were the most memorable ops you went on would you say?
JO: Well I suppose they were all memorable. They all, they all finished up with your nerves. [laughs]. I believe [pause] I don’t know who it was but one of the engineers he actually was down on the ground, well down on the floor in the aircraft scared to death. And of course they had to get him off the, the squadron right away. You know. Out of the way.
CB: What did they call that?
JO: Lack of moral fibre. LMF.
CB: What happened to him? Do you know?
JO: Oh they sent him off to be helped but he, funnily enough I always said to myself he wasn’t the kind of person to be doing the job. The ones that were doing that job kind of thing were [pause] they weren’t a master of any trade but they had a good knowledge of everything. Which, that were really what they had to have and but he, to me he should never have been in aircrew at all. To me he didn’t seem to mix. You know, he was an odd one out.
CB: In what way was he different?
JO: Well manliness and just generally he wasn’t that kind of person, you know. Too soft and that. Not a rough and ready kind of person.
CB: Was he highly educated or —
JO: No. I shouldn’t think so.
CB: But was he a very analytical person?
JO: We got, we got a bloke which we couldn’t, we couldn’t pronounce his name. We all called him Shenai. I think he was Indian.
CB: Called him what?
JO: Shenai.
CB: Shenai. Right.
JO: Yeah. But he was very well educated. Very very well educated and he was funny and all. Years after the war I’m walking through Manchester and going home from work and I turned to this bloke as he spoke and went past you know and he turned around and looked at me and finally we finished up walking back to one another and then I said, ‘Shenai.’ [laughs] And he came up. He was, he finished up on Sunderlands.
CB: Oh.
JO: He was a highly educated bloke. There were no doubt about it. And he went on the Sunderlands.
CB: And he was an engineer.
JO: An engineer. Yeah. Sunderland Flying Boats.
CB: Any other characters?
JO: Not as I can think of. No.
CB: Now what about raids themselves?
JO: Who? Raids.
CB: What, what significant ones stick in your mind?
JO: Well the Berlin ones were always when they were telling you where you were going to go you know. They pulled the curtain back and they’d say, ‘Well. The target for tonight,’ and they’d say, ‘Is the big city.’ Everything would go quiet because bombing Berlin — you can imagine. All the ack-ack guns that they could get from any part of Germany were around there to, to, you know, defend the capital which was funny really because they played ducks and drakes with one another. To get all their ack-ack to protect Berlin and then they’d go to that bombing the outer places. You know, other cities and when they got all the tackle moved to these other places then they started bombing Berlin again. You know it were just part of it. Part of the way they ran the war.
CB: Now in your plane you had the eighth man. The special operator.
JO: We had the special operator. Yeah.
CB: So who was he?
JO: Well he were called Ted Manners.
CB: And how did he fit in?
JO: He fitted in very well. Very well. We met, met his two daughters.
CB: After the war?
JO: Yes. After the war. Yeah.
CB: So what, what was he doing?
JO: He was monitoring all that he heard in German that was applicable to what, you know, what we were doing. Anything at all. Anything he could pick up at all he logged and then all of them from our squadron would later on, they’d be analysed you know and see if they could find anything out from what different ones had heard, you know.
CB: So where did he sit in the aircraft?
JO: He sat behind the wireless operator.
CB: That means behind the main spar.
JO: That’s right.
CB: And did he have a little cubby hole. What was it?
JO: Well more or less just a piece of panelling out from the side of the aircraft like the wireless op did, you know. The wireless op sat there and then he sat behind in the next corner.
CB: And was he screened off?
JO: No. Not screened off. Just —
CB: With a curtain?
JO: A divided position kind of. Partition.
CB: Right. And what equipment did he have?
JO: Well such, similar to the radio bloke. You know. The wireless op. I don’t know exactly.
CB: Yeah. And what was the difference in the look of the aircraft? What did it have on it for him?
JO: In what way?
CB: Well it had aerials did it?
JO: Oh it had. Yeah it had.
CB: And what were they?
JO: But when they were flying they had a trailing aerial.
CB: Oh.
JO: But that had to be pulled in and nine times of out ten they forgot and they lost parts of it by, you know, catching.
CB: Yeah.
JO: When they land but they had that trailing aerial that they worked on.
CB: And what fixtures were there in aerials on the aircraft?
JO: Just the, just the ordinary one. That were it. They could wind it back in, you know. That was —
CB: Yeah but then they have large aerial masts on the aircraft.
JO: Oh they had two special ones. I don’t know exactly how they worked.
CB: How big were they?
JO: A matter of about two foot. They’d two of them anyhow.
CB: So his role was to do what exactly?
JO: Well to log anything he heard appertaining to, well to anything really.
CB: Because he was a German speaker. That was the key wasn’t it?
JO: Oh yes. He could speak German. Yeah.
CB: Right. And what equipment did he have to use against the Germans?
JO: He didn’t use it against the Germans. He was just using it for logging. To sift out and find out anything about, you know, about what had been going on down below.
CB: Did he not have a jammer?
JO: No.
CB: Based on a microphone in the engines to broadcast.
JO: Well.
CB: Into the German night fighter.
JO: Actually nothing of that description was ever told to us you know. He probably had, you know. But I don’t know why but nearly all them fellows that were doing that was German Jews or something like that. And many times they didn’t just fit in. And one of them must have been for the other side because I remember them saying one of them had jumped out and he must have been, you know, not of ours. He must have been for them and somehow or other made his way.
CB: He deserted effectively.
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: On one of the raids. So if they were German speakers what were they doing with that? That was the logging you talked about.
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: But did they speak into their equipment?
JO: No. Not as I remember.
CB: Now thinking about accommodation on the airfield.
JO: Yeah.
CB: At Ludford Magna. Where were you accommodated?
JO: Well we were accommodated in Nissen huts.
CB: The whole crew.
JO: All the ordinary ones, you know. The ones that weren’t officers were stationed on one site and the officer material was in the officer’s mess and their living quarters.
CB: So the NC, was your crew a mixture or was it all NCOs?
JO: It was a mixture. Rusty was an officer. Alec. The navigator.
CB: The navigator.
JO: I was a warrant officer. Me. Made me up to a warrant officer.
CB: While you were still on the squadron?
JO: Hmmn.
CB: And the special ops man? So Ted Manners.
JO: Yeah.
CB: He was accommodated where?
JO: Well I think they were all accommodated together at one period but eventually of course they became part of the crew and was billeted with us you know but at the beginning they were all separate.
CB: How many crews would there be in a Nissen hut?
JO: Two. All down one side and all down the other you know like. Seven on one side. Seven on the other.
CB: And what about eating and enjoying yourself socially? How did that work on the airfield?
JO: Well again officer material all went to the officer’s mess and all the non-commissioned were in your sergeant’s mess
CB: And what happened in the sergeant’s mess?
JO: Well nothing much different at all.
CB: But it was for eating but was there a bar there or how did it work?
JO: Oh there was a bar. Yeah. Bar in the sergeant’s mess and one in the officer’s mess.
CB: And on the airfield did they run entertainments? How did that work?
JO: Entertainments. Yeah. They had various ones. And they had ones where the girls came in from the village. You know, for a dance or something like that.
CB: Where would that be on the airfield?
JO: That were, well it was the mess you know.
CB: Oh in was the mess was it?
JO: Yeah. I remember one time we lost seven aircraft in one night and when we came. When we landed to come back there was no breakfast for us. Nothing going on. All there was were a lot of girls weeping. They’d lost their boyfriends, you know and we were playing bloody hell we weren’t getting our breakfast. Oh I always remember that.
CB: So when you landed you’d always have a breakfast. What would that be?
JO: Oh the full breakfast you know.
CB: A good fry up.
JO: Oh yes. Definitely. Oh we did very well. And always when you were on ops you always had a good fry up before you went.
CB: And when you got back.
JO: Well same again. We did alright.
CB: So these girls were in a bad state because they were the people doing all the catering were they?
JO: That’s right. Yeah. But when we lost that seven one night. Seven aircraft. Of course all the girls had lost their boyfriends and oh.
CB: That was fifty six people.
JO: The station, the station were in a right — you see you never knew how many you’d lost because —
CB: No.
JO: As soon as they knew, they were, new crews were brought in and all the tables were full for breakfast again.
CB: That quickly.
JO: So that you never saw any empty tables. They had it all worked out. You know what I mean. Otherwise you’d have said, ‘Oh bloody hell.’ You know. Well they didn’t. They couldn’t do that because they filled them all.
CB: What was the loss rate of 101 Squadron compared with other squadrons?
JO: I believe it was very high actually in comparison. It was a special duty squadron. When we were flying I probably didn’t? you didn’t think of them as any different, you know. You just did the job as usual [coughs]. I was flying the Avro Yorks after the war. Lancasters during the war and then I was flying on the Avro York which was the first passenger carrying aircraft that was used after the war. You know the first one to be used and I was flying on the run out to Singapore carrying passengers. [pause] We used to do very well out of these VIPs. They always used to be wanting the prices of shares and all sorts and we had a wireless op who could take down commercial, commercial Morse. Well he couldn’t take it down. It came too fast but he could talk it. And he used to listen to it and he’d talk it and the navigator used to put it down in shorthand. And then of course they finished up sending a news-sheet around the aircraft, you know, for the passengers. And then of course when the passengers knew. Some of them would be on to us to get him to do this or get him to do that, you know. And we were always plenty of free drinks anywhere we stopped. [laughs]
CB: Going back to being on the squadron. What would you attribute the higher loss rate to be caused by?
JO: Well just by fighters. Ack-ack got some of them but fighters were the thing really.
CB: So what was it about your plane that attracted the fighters?
JO: Well the fighters nearly always used to try to come up from below because you couldn’t see down anywhere. Only from the tail. And then of course out of the pilot’s side and the engineer’s side they could look down on through that you know. On each side. But of course the pilot couldn’t really look through his side because of, you know, flying the aircraft. The engineer always had a good view of forward and to his starboard side. I always remember we had a crash in mid-air and the one who crashed into us of course with it’s propellers. It must have whipped the engines out. It went down through the clouds and that were the last we saw of him. But the, the damage was to the undercarriage but when I come to put them down, drop them to have a look actually speaking I wouldn’t do anything on the hydraulics until I had to do and then I dropped the undercarriage. And when I did I could see what looked like a pencil mark on the tyre and it was where this other aircraft, the props had gone through the engine nacelle and it had, it had cut the tyre. And I said to the skipper, I said, ‘When you land,’ I said. ‘Land on your starboard wheel.’ I said. ‘The other one,’ I said, ‘It’s flat.’ I said, ‘It’s cut.’ And of course he did do and when the, when the port side went down. Bloody hell it just went around in a circle did the aircraft. You know, nothing there really. Just the shape of the tyre.
CB: So in doing that did the undercarriage then collapse?
JO: No. I don’t think it did actually but we went, we used to have FIDO on our ‘drome and what happened was that we actually went over the top of it all and smashed it all up. You know.
CB: Lucky not to be set alight in that case.
JO: Yes. Aye.
CB: What did FIDO stand for?
JO: I can’t remember. No.
CB: It’s a fog dispersal.
JO: Oh was it?
CB: System isn’t it?
JO: Yeah.
CB: So how —
JO: Yeah, actually that, it were fantastic. It could be, it could have turned foggy down below you know but when they put this FIDO on it was three pipes down each side of the runway. Away from the runway. You know, quite a distance. They pumped this petrol it was like petrol that was suspect with water. Do you know what I mean? So it was like, had to be used up and when they used to light these three pipes down each side of the runway I always remember I only ever saw it once and we were up in the air and they were testing it and we, when we saw it come on it were fantastic. You couldn’t see so well you know, flying but you could see this down below. These flames, you know, and of course when you came down and entered this part it was as clear as a bell in that. It were like going into a big tunnel. Aye. Fantastic.
CB: So you had to use it once.
JO: We only used it once but it was a way of getting them down safely you know. Aye. When you went down it was just like going into a tunnel. You could see the burning, you know, like and then when you entered it were just like the Mersey tunnel. You know. It cleared all that inside.
CB: Because the heat cleared the fog.
JO: Yeah. In the runway and it was like —
CB: But you could see it through the fog when you were flying above.
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Right.
JO: It was fantastic. They could always get you back in kind of thing.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Otherwise you’d have been flying blind, you know.
CB: So to what extent was it used by other squadrons at your airfield?
JO: Well I don’t know but it was probably were used on odd occasions you know with other squadrons. Well it would have to be, you know. If fog came down you know unexpectedly. I think it was the only one that had them.
CB: I was thinking of how there would be a traffic jam.
JO: [laughs]
CB: With all the aircraft coming down you see.
JO: Well there used to be a jam weather or not when we came back. We were given different heights to fly at and there was three aerodromes and the flying circle. We were all given different heights to fly and when he came to the centre of the triangle of three ‘dromes you’d to be at a certain height in the centre. When you’re flying you’d drop to another height on the outside of the circle just to keep everybody, you know, missing one another.
CB: This avoided collision.
JO: Yeah.
CB: So there must have been collisions occasionally. Or not.
JO: Or not. Not that I knew of.
CB: Right.
JO: No. No. They’d do that pretty good you know.
CB: You talked about the connection with the other aircraft and it cutting your tyre but what happened to the plane that was beneath you?
JO: Oh that went down. His propellers you see. Any damage to a propeller you just well it’d shake that much that it would rip it out of the wing.
CB: What happened to the aircraft immediately after that incident?
JO: Well of course we stopped in mid-air more or less until it chewed its way through. You know.
CB: So your plane chewed through the plane beneath.
JO: That’s right.
CB: What? Through the wing?
JO: No. No. They chewed at us with their propellers.
CB: Okay. Where else did they chew the aircraft?
JO: Underneath. That’s all.
CB: Just, no. No. Was it just that wheel?
JO: Just that one.
CB: Or elsewhere?
JO: Just that one nacelle with the wheel in it.
CB: Yeah. Right. Okay. But the engine continued running did it or did you have to shut it down?
JO: Oh no. The engines were alright. No, it was them like that would be in trouble.
CB: So what happened to him?
JO: It just went down through the cloud and that were it.
CB: Was it yours? Or —
JO: No. We, we stayed up.
CB: No. Was it your squadron? Or was it —
JO: Oh it was our squadron I believe.
CB: And did the plane, did they just jump out or did it explode? What happened to it?
JO: It just went through the clouds. We don’t know what happened. We never took, they never told us anything.
CB: No. I wondered if by coincidence you’d established what happened to the crew.
JO: Oh. No.
CB: So what was happening? You were flying straight and level were you?
JO: Yeah [pause] and this other one came underneath us.
CB: And was that because he was rising because of dropping his bombs or where in the —
JO: I don’t know how it happened really but it was so as he came across us and he cut the engine nacelle at the bottom.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Well it was where the undercarriage went in.
CB: Yeah.
JO: The nacelle and then his props would go, you know what I mean and then of course his engines. The main plane.
CB: So in the circumstance of losing a propeller what would happen to the aircraft?
JO: Oh well in the first place it’d, it’d rip the engine out of the main plane and well of course you’d be in trouble right away.
CB: Because the plane could fly on less than four engines. What could it fly on?
JO: It could fly on two. They reckon that if you used the overload that it could fly on one but you’d be coming down all the time you know. You wouldn’t have any choice of where you were going to land like. Really.
CB: So here you were flying. Was it towards the target or after you’d dropped your bombs?
JO: What?
CB: This incident.
JO: I can’t remember. I can’t remember.
CB: You would be standing behind the pilot at that time would you?
JO: No. I always stood to his right.
CB: You would. Right. And monitoring the gauges while you were at it.
JO: That’s right.
CB: What other incidents?
JO: We used to have Taffy and Alec. Alec was the navigator. Taffy was the wireless op. And many a time they used to get at loggerheads. Alec was a damned good navigator.
CB: Yes.
JO: And he used to say sometimes, he’d get information from London kind of thing and when he read it he just said, ‘Rubbish.’ In other words it wasn’t to what he’d calculated, you know. And anyhow him and Taffy, Taffy’d give him this thing and he’d say rubbish and Taffy would start arguing with him and then the skipper used to say to me, ‘Sort them.’ And I used to [yell?] at Taffy’s oxygen tube and I used to just disconnect it and when he started singing, “There’ll Be a Welcome in the Hillside,” [laughs] I used to put it back again and he didn’t know what had happened or anything. [laughs]
CB: So you’d say that was a distraction.
JO: [laughs] You know. Whatever like. You know. Rusty used to say, like, you know, ‘Sort it.’ Taffy would give Alec a wind or something what they’d sent and it wouldn’t be what he were getting and he’d just say, ‘Rubbish,’ you know and Taffy’d be saying, you know, ‘That’s what I got.’ You know. ‘That’s what I got.’ He’d say, ‘Well it‘s rubbish.’ [laughs]
CB: So we’ve talked about various crew members. What about the bomb aimer? What, what was he like?
JO: Who?
CB: The bomb aimer.
JO: The bomb aimer. Norman. Oh he was alright. Yeah.
CB: Because he was the one who was —
JO: He actually, I don’t know how it went but he was one who went over to Canada. Aircrew were at the front end of the aircraft. You know, they, they went to Canada, a lot of them to do their training.
CB: Oh originally.
JO: Yeah and [pause] Norman was one I think who was going for aircrew like and he I think he failed and that and finished as the bomb aimer.
JO: What?
CB: Pilot/navigator/bomb aimer.
JO: That’s right.
CB: That was the grouping. So he was originally trained in which?
JO: England.
CB: Yeah but, but in flying are you saying he was pilot trained to begin with but then moved to bomb aiming did he?
JO: Yeah. Aye. He failed so he went in. I was an engineer.
CB: Yeah.
JO: On the ground and finished up as flight engineer.
CB: And we haven’t talked about the gunners. So what did they do during your time in ops?
JO: Well they acted as the gunners but the rear gunner — I always remember they brought out a new turret. You see the ordinary turrets they were all Perspex.
CB: Yeah.
JO: With just slots where the guns could be lifted up and down and of course they could move the turret. You know what I mean. But the only place they could see was through the slots where the guns were because the other used to get frosted up. Well they started with another turret which was open. Open to, in fact the rear gunner he was the best of the lot if anything happened. He could just tumble out of his seat. Unfasten himself and tumble out of the back. So he was, he was alright you know. But this open turret of course didn’t get any frosting. Any frosting up and of course being out in the open like that he could see at any time.
CB: So did they like that?
JO: Hmmn?
CB: How well did they receive the idea of it being open?
JO: Well I just, they just accepted it but I do remember Harry, our rear gunner, he, what happened was his oxygen tube had a certain amount of condensation and it all froze and he got frostbite with it. But it, it didn’t happen very often but you see there were no other squadrons I don’t think that were using that rear turret like we did.
CB: And how often did they fire at other aircraft?
JO: Well normally speaking it was other aircraft that was doing it to us. Fighter aircraft were shooting at us rather than the opposite way around. We didn’t want to upset anybody.
CB: Right.
JO: We wanted to just go out there and bomb and come back and the fighters could only go out so far anyhow. You know, they couldn’t go past half their fuel, you know what I mean.
CB: The British fighters you mean.
JO: Aye. They couldn’t follow us very far because they had to get back again you know what I mean. So once it got to that distance we’d no cover at all, you know.
CB: So how often do you remember being attacked by German fighters?
JO: Oh we were very very lucky. I can only remember once and it, I don’t know why but whether he was short of fuel or what but he did the whats-its-name you know like the cheerio.
CB: Yeah.
JO: With the aircraft you know and left us and I think he’d no ammunition left or something. Or his petrol was down and he had to get back. And he just did that like.
CB: He hadn’t fired at you.
JO: Hmmn?
CB: He hadn’t fired at you first. Or had he?
JO: No. No. He hadn’t fired.
CB: He just came across you.
JO: But he was there you know.
CB: Yeah.
JO: And he just waved his wings and saying like — cheerio [laughs] But if you ever saw one we always used to say to all the others in the crew keep your eyes out on the opposite side you see. You know, if we were looking to port. We’d say like, ‘Keep your eye on starboard,’ you know, because often they used to show themselves. Acting the goat or something you know or doing something trying to attract your attraction so that the others could get in.
CB: They worked in pairs did they?
JO: That’s right. Yeah.
CB: So what evasive action did you have to take?
JO: Well there was, they used to call it corkscrew. It was a way of getting away with it you know but with a bomber you get a fighter and if you can time it at the correct time a fighter would, his guns and the bullets would be going together at about four hundred yards. You know, the guns were like pointing together and so that at four hundred yards if his bullets were hitting at four hundred yards it would rip it to pieces. But the [pause]
CB: So they’d close on you and fire at four hundred yards.
JO: Oh that’s right. Yeah. Now if you could time it at the correct time when they could, at four hundred yards, if you could manage to just start to turn before that time then the fighter’s going at such a speed —
CB: Yeah.
JO: If you start to turn he can’t get around with his guns and he starts to skid. You know he tries to do but he can never get them guns around to you.
CB: Right.
JO: And if it’s timed correctly he could do it all day with him. Let him get so far and then just start to turn but he was going so fast that he couldn’t bring himself around to get his guns on you.
CB: So who in the crew is making the call to the pilot to do the corkscrew?
JO: Well any member of the crew if he was the one who could see it was necessary, you know. The pilot would be ready to take anybody’s orders. You know. Usually it would be me mostly who would be up there with him and I’d be seeing the other side of the, you know, from what he was.
CB: So you are not in a seat and you are not strapped in. What happens to you?
JO: No. I’m standing. He’s sat in. In the pilot’s —
CB: Everybody else is strapped in but not you.
JO: No. Well I had to be free to be able to move anywhere if necessary.
CB: So how did the corkscrew work? It’s called by, let’s say the rear gunner. What does the pilot then do?
JO: Oh the pilot does this corkscrew whatever.
CB: But what is it?
JO: I don’t know exactly but it was a routine of if they had somebody on their tail kind of thing of getting the best way of getting rid of one.
CB: So he’s diving. So you go corkscrew left would be dive fast left.
JO: Yeah. Well he’d say that in the first place.
CB: That’s it.
JO: The one who was giving him the order would say, ‘When I tell you,’ you know, ‘dive port or starboard.’ You know what I mean?
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JO: And so when it did happen he’d just be saying, ‘Dive. Dive. Dive,’ you know and of course the bloke had already got his own instructions which way you know.
CB: So how far would he go down? The pilot. Before he changed.
JO: What?
CB: Corkscrew.
JO: I’ve no idea.
CB: Because he’d got to get back hasn’t he? To where —
JO: Oh yeah.
CB: To the track.
JO: Yeah.
CB: That he was on in the first place.
JO: Probably stay at the same height more or less. You know. When he did it.
CB: Right.
JO: He wouldn’t be going down that far you know.
CB: Yeah but you had to practice this before going on ops didn’t you?
JO: Oh yes. He would. He would do. Yeah.
CB: But you were always standing up so for you it was a bit of a —
JO: I was standing up.
CB: You’d be holding on tight would you?
JO: I was standing up. The pilot was sat down. The navigator was sat down. Wireless op was sat down. Of course the gunners were sat up in their turrets.
CB: And the bomb aimer was always lying down was he?
JO: That’s right.
CB: Or was he in the turret at the front?
JO: He was in the turret in the front with his bomb aim.
CB: Right.
JO: His bomb aiming equipment. And he used to give the orders to the pilot. ‘Left. Left. Steady, hold it.’
CB: Yeah.
JO: You know and so on giving the instructions to be able to get his bombs in the correct place.
CB: So how often did the bomb aimer have difficulty in placing it and you’d have to go around again?
JO: Oh no. No. If you did that you were bloody well asking for it. I mean one aircraft going around turning back against all the others. No. No way. No. He’d be better to either go by and turn back, you know or go down and turn back. All them kind of things were automatic, you know.
CB: Just going back to this incident where you hit the other aircraft. What other dramatic events were there during ops for you?
JO: Nothing like that. Nothing else.
CB: What do you think Rusty’s view is of that incident?
JO: Well again Rusty, I mean I watched him. I actually saw on one occasion. I saw this wing. He couldn’t see very far many a time you know depending on the stars and everything.
CB: Because we’re in the dark.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
JO: But I remember the wing just going under ours you know and I forget exactly but it was so as I couldn’t tell him to do anything. If I had said to him like, ‘Climb,’ you know and if I’d said anything to get him up or down well I’d have put ourselves in trouble you know with this other one nearby and I just had to let it go kind of thing. Hope for the best because it was in such a position that if one or the other moved you know from where they were, where they were going they weren’t going the same way. That was going like that. The other one was slightly —
CB: You were going across each other.
JO: Aye. Yeah.
CB: How far away was it from you? Up. Below you. Below was it?
JO: Pardon?
CB: Was it below you? You saw this wing.
JO: Yeah. Going under. Under us.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Going under us. Well he couldn’t go either up or down because if he went down you know your tail went up in the air. If the tail went up before the nose went down kind of thing or vice versa. You’d got to work everything out in your mind you know.
CB: And Rusty didn’t see this wing coming.
JO: Well Rusty is on his instruments and that keeping level flight and everything you know. So he’s watching his instruments all the time. Keeping level flight and all that kind of thing.
CB: Was this close to the target or some way away?
JO: I can’t tell you now.
CB: The reason I ask the question is because the next question is was there an autopilot on this aircraft?
JO: Oh there was an autopilot on. Yeah.
CB: But how often was that used?
JO: Well if you was in a position where you thought there was nothing there you know happening in that respect then you could put it on autopilot which they would do you know because keeping an aircraft handling, you know, all the time I mean it tires them out. I mean they’re holding against it and turning it and all this like kind of thing you know. And using petrol and things like that you know. You’ve got to decide which tanks to use and so forth you know to help the aircraft because if you had to trim the aircraft in any way like to keep the tail up you had to trim it to fly with it up, you know, like then you were creating.
CB: There would be more drag as a result.
JO: Harder to fly. You know what I mean. So you’d use more juice if you did that. So lots of things to think about all the time.
CB: So which part of the controls did the autopilot manage?
JO: Everything.
CB: The throttles as well.
JO: Oh not the throttles.
CB: No.
JO: No. No. But when you put it in autopilot it just did it for them you know and then if anything happened just knocked it out you know.
CB: If he moved the stick that would disconnect it immediately would it?
JO: Yeah. Oh aye. Just knock it off you know.
CB: So after this incident what, the two incidents, what did you talk to Rusty about? So one is when you, after you get back with a punctured tyre. Did you talk through what happened in that incident?
JO: Oh we talked in the air actually.
CB: Right.
JO: I dropped the undercarriage and I could see this like, like a pencil mark you know.
CB: Right through the tyre.
JO: On the tyre. This mark. And of course the thickness of the tyres and that they just look as normal. You know what I mean? And I just thought bloody hell you know it’s hit the engine, it’s in the nacelle that the wheel went up in. I think it, I think it’s actually caught it you know. And so I had to say like, ‘Try to land on your other wheel and watch it for when it drops,’ you know.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JO: Anyhow, I was right. When the other one did finally drop, when it went down, he couldn’t hold it any longer. We just went around in a circle.
CB: It bent the wing.
JO: Huh?
CB: Did it bend the wing or did the wing not hit the ground?
JO: Well we actually hit the pipes.
CB: Oh the FIDO.
JO: Yeah. We hit them.
CB: So you were lucky not to catch fire.
JO: Yeah. Very lucky.
CB: It went straight through did it? To the other side of the FIDO lines.
JO: More or less like kind of bounced over it.
CB: Oh right.
JO: And broke it.
CB: But the plane, the aircraft was flown again afterwards fairly quickly was it?
JO: Oh yeah.
CB: In the one where you’re flying and you see the other plane coming. How did you discuss that with Rusty? The pilot.
JO: Well he been looking forward just like, you know, I would. If anything was coming towards you it would have hit you before you knew what had happened. You know what I mean? It were that fast.
CB: Yes.
JO: You wouldn’t even see it. You would have just hit one another.
CB: So we’ve talked about those two things. Were there any instances where the plane went through extreme manoeuvres?
JO: There was one time when we were down at about four thousand feet I think it was and there was explosion down below and and it, what’s the name, it blew the aircraft in the air. There were no doubt about it. It nearly blew us over, you know, that —
CB: Did it actually turn over?
JO: No. No. No. No, it didn’t.
CB: But it blew it up in the end.
JO: It blew it out, aye, of its position, you know. I think it was the ammunition. An ammunition dump or something that had gone off.
CB: Oh right. On the ground.
JO: Yeah.
CB: What were you bombing that day?
JO: No idea. No idea.
CB: But it did, what did, the plane went up? Then what happened to it? Did it affect its flying?
JO: Oh no. It was alright, you know. It was okay but it really threw it out of its flight. You know what I mean.
CB: But it didn’t turn it over.
JO: No. Oh no.
CB: Do you know of any aircraft that were ever turned over in raids?
JO: No. I don’t. No. [pause] What time is it?
CB: Do you want a break?
JO: Twenty to.
CB: Yeah. We’ll finish shortly. So when you finished your tour what happened then?
JO: We just, we just stayed flying local you know. As far, as far as I remember.
CB: In your existing Lancasters?
JO: Yeah.
CB: But then you moved to something different.
JO: We moved to Ludford Magna.
CB: No. You were at Ludford Magna. So you’ve come to the end of —
JO: I can’t remember where we went to.
CB: But you sent you went to Yorks.
JO: Oh that.
CB: So that was Transport Command.
JO: Oh, Avro Yorks. Yeah.
CB: Was that immediately after that or did you go to something quite different first?
JO: No. No. We went to Yorks and we went on the Singapore run.
CB: Yeah. What squadron was that?
JO: I can’t remember now.
CB: Operating from?
JO: It was Transport Command then.
CB: Yeah. [pause] And from an engineer’s point of view how, what was that like compared with flying a Lancaster?
JO: Well for one thing you were carrying goods and you got to put the goods in certain positions so that as you use your petrol they kind of came more into balance you know.
CB: That was your job?
JO: Yeah. And sometimes even moving a load a little bit you know to try and get rid of that. Having to trim the aircraft.
CB: Now you had to calculate that.
JO: Yeah.
CB: Before loading.
JO: That’s right.
CB: Was that done with you and somebody else or was that your task exclusively?
JO: No. It was done with — I don’t know who it was actually but they always had a bloke there that did it and he’d be saying when you’ve used so much you’ll move this back. You know. Used to have levers to lever it and then fasten it down again you know.
CB: As you used fuel.
JO: Yeah.
CB: What sort of stuff are we talking about and what weight?
JO: What? In what way?
CB: What was the weight of the load?
JO: Well petrol was seven. Seven pounds a gallon I think it was.
CB: In weight.
JO: In weight.
CB: Yeah. But you were carrying petrol in cans were you?
JO: No.
CB: Or was it other things?
JO: No. No. Just in, just in the tanks.
CB: Yeah.
JO: They could actually carry overload tanks out on the wing.
CB: Oh.
JO: But it was very seldom done unless, you know, it was really necessary.
CB: Where were they secured?
JO: Well on a long, a real long distance you know.
CB: On the wing. Where would they be attached?
JO: Oh at the end of the wing and they used to drop them, you know.
CB: Oh I see. Right. [pause] So seven pounds a gallon.
JO: Seven pounds a gallon. Yeah. Roughly. Seven point something it were.
CB: What were you carrying?
JO: Oh two thousand gallons, two thousand.
CB: No. No. I meant, I meant the load. What was the load that you were transporting?
JO: Oh I don’t remember now. I can’t remember. No use saying I can [laughs]
CB: I’m just thinking of how you can move that around inside safely you see.
JO: Oh. Well it’s like bars made specially. What they get. We could get them and pull, you know other things one way or another. Pass them down.
CB: So this was still wartime. No. This is after the war.
JO: This was after the war.
CB: So between, yeah. Between your ops and going there what did you do?
JO: I’ve no idea.
CB: Did you go instructing somewhere?
JO: Probably. Although I didn’t do a great deal of that.
CB: So you were demobbed when?
JO: I couldn’t tell you.
CB: Okay. And what did you do after the war?
JO: I’m trying to think about the demob. I think it was somewhere around ‘46 I think.
CB: And then after the war you returned home.
JO: That’s right.
CB: So you’re a warrant officer.
JO: Yeah. Talking about that I always remember a bloke called MacDonald. A pilot. And he, he’d been a butcher’s errand boy when he joined up and he finished up as a flight lieutenant pilot. He said, ‘What do I when I go back?’ He said. You know. In other words like how he’d gone up in the world and that and of course he said there’d be pilots but there’d be ten pilots for every one that was wanted you know. It must have been funny for a lot of them mustn’t it?
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JO: A butcher’s boy and finishes up like a squadron leader or something.
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
JO: And then he goes back in to Civvy Street. What does he do?
CB: I’m going to stop there just for a mo.
JO: Yeah.
[Recording paused]
CB: Carry on then. So the war is over.
JO: Yeah.
CB: What did you do then?
JO: I went —
Other: Hello.
CB: Oh we’ll just stop for a mo.
[Recording paused]
CB: Yeah. So the war finished and you’re a warrant officer without a job.
JO: I’m trying to think. I went bus conducting. I know that. To start with. And then I went bus driving. You know my mind’s not working at all. Mind you I’m ninety four now [laughs]
CB: You got tired of that.
JO: I can’t remember. You know. My brain’s gone dead.
CB: That’s alright.
JO: My brain’s gone dead.
CB: We’ll stop. Thank you very much indeed.
JO: Yeah.
CB: I really appreciate it.
JO: Yeah.
[Recording paused]
JO: Well yeah they more or less were you know.
CB: So the searchlights you got. Did you get caught very often?
JO: Well occasionally you did but you always, I mean, I know it’s a rotten thing to say but anybody down below them you flew over the top to hand the flare on to them.
CB: Yeah.
JO: You know.
CB: Yeah.
JO: The light.
CB: Yeah.
JO: That was on to you. You’d fly over somebody else and hand it over to them. As soon as you saw it going onto them you’d turn fast, you know, out of the way
CB: Yeah.
JO: On to them and they’d stay on the one below? you know.
CB: So when you turned but you changed height as well? Is that where you used the corkscrew?
JO: Oh no. You didn’t use that for that. But that, that was what you did as far as, you know, getting rid of it that way. Fun and games.
CB: So if you were in for how long did you say?
JO: What?
CB: If you were caught in the light how long did you have to get out?
JO: Well more or less the guns were on you as the light was on you. I think they followed one another, you know as the guns were following the light, the searchlight. You know. I think there must have been something like that between them.
CB: Yeah. Well you knew how long it took a shell to get from there to you.
JO: [laughs] Something and nothing.
CB: Did you come back with much flak damage on the aircraft?
JO: Oh little bits. Sometimes you’d hear it like rain.
CB: Oh.
JO: You know. Catching. Just catching you but the thing were if it went in to your air intakes or anything like that. Then you were in trouble with one engine or whatever you know. No. A lot was lady luck. You know. We were there at the right time. You know what I mean.
CB: What was the ground crew’s reaction to bending their aeroplane?
JO: Oh, [unclear] they loved their aeroplane and they loved their crew more. You know. They were very very good the ground crew.
CB: Were they?
JO: Yeah. And anything had happened to the aircraft well you know on a trip oh they were on the job rightaway fixing it up. Making sure you were ready for the next one if necessary. You know.
CB: Yeah
JO: Aye they were good.
CB: Did the chiefy come out drinking with you?
JO: Yeah. Well we used to drink on camp really mostly.
CB: Yeah.
JO: Only on odd occasions did we get, we got down in the village you know but actually going somewhere proper you know. No. We did it all in the village. In fact the group captain once, I forget now where he was, whether it was in the mess but he, he more or less said you could spout as much as you like in a Lanc in the camp but when you go down anywhere else you know keep your mouth shut. Somebody had said something he shouldn’t have, you know. Mind you when you get some beer down you it’s surprising what can happen.
CB: Yeah. Yeah. And how often did you get leave?
JO: I think it was something like about once every three months or so as I remember it.
CB: But when you went out what did you, they took you in a truck or did somebody have a car that took everybody?
JO: Oh no. Mostly a truck you know. A truck into town.
CB: How did you meet your wife? After the war that was was it?
JO: No. Well it was in a way but her brother was with me. He was in the RAF and he came, he came to my home for a weekend and then when I went over to theirs he had a girlfriend and of course I was at a loose end and they were going dancing at the Palais at Bolton and he said, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘Go with our kid. You’ll be alright.’ You know. So I asked her, I said, ‘Would you like to go to the Palais like, with us?’ And she said she would.
CB: This is Doris.
JO: Yeah. And it finished up of course that we got going together then from there and eventually got married
CB: When was that?
JO: Oh I’m trying to think. 1942 would it be?
CB: 1946.
JO: ’46. ‘46. Happy days
CB: Yes. Good. Thank you very much. Really good.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with John Ormerod,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 21, 2024,

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