Interview with Danny Walker

Title

Interview with Danny Walker

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-12-05

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:54:02

Language

Type

Identifier

AWalkerWE161205, PWalkerWE1601

Coverage

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

PL: Hello.
WW: Can I clear my throat?
PL: Absolutely. Clear your throat any time. My name is Pam Locker and I’m in the home of Mr Wilberforce Emmanuel Walker. Also known as Danny. And it’s the 5th of December 2016. And can I just say first of all, Danny, a huge thank you on behalf of the International Bomber Command Memorial Trust for agreeing to talk to me today and we’re looking forward to hearing your memories. So, Danny can I just start by asking you a little bit about your, your life before the war and what your influences were to make you join. Join the air force.
[pause]
PL: You said to me, coming up, that you, you came from elsewhere. Where did you come from originally?
WW: Oh I was born in Jamaica. Jamaica. It was a British colony in time and we had of course various aircrafts and things flying around the place and the Americans. The Canadians. And naturally, England. The English air force and things like that. The war was on at the time and us young men around the island – I need to stress the whole Caribbean, not just the island – interested in the aircrafts and the war and the mother country and the war. And various appeals from people. Our elders and things like that. What are you young lads going to do about it? So naturally sooner or later this came through the colonial office and everything, you know. The mother country needs young men from the Caribbean islands to help the mother country fight the Nazis. So we all rushed to join and, a lot of us did so behind our parent’s backs. Without telling them. They didn’t know anything about it until the letter comes for you to report for your medical and things like that. There was quite episode about it so the parents were very annoyed that this should happen. Some were very pleased we were helping the mother country because the whole Caribbean island wasn’t as it is today. They were colonies before they became independent. And so Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana and other places you know. Oh we must help the mother country. Right. So we were all here and some of us are still here.
PL: And how did your parents feel? How did your parents feel?
WW: Topsy turvy about it. Yeah. And my father wasn’t alive then. My mother was still alive. And of course mothers of course, ‘Are you doing the right thing?’ And all that. And of course we were only eighteen years old then.
PL: What – can you remember what year that was that you joined up?
WW: I think if was June 1944. Something like that. Woke up one morning and the place was covered with aeroplanes. I thought the Germans had arrived but it was the English. The Royal Air Force. Because at that time they were colonies you see. They weren’t independent countries. Trinidad. Jamaica. Barbados. Guyana and all these places. Part of the Caribbean. Yeah. Yes.
PL: So you signed up and what happened next?
WW: They asked us to volunteer and we went to the Labour Exchange and register. They had military people there, you know. Complete our papers. And naturally a lot of us it was done behind our parents back. They didn’t know anything about it until the letter comes from the government for us to report. Of course when they found out what was what and everything there was a lot going on. Did we get permission? A lot of us didn’t get permission from our parents to sign on. Went behind our parents backs you see. And yeah. It was sorted out anyway. The aircrafts flying over. The mother country needs you. Go to the Labour Exchange and do your registration.
PL: Were you — did you feel excited or did you feel worried?
WW: No. I think we were excited. We didn’t think of the danger or anything. Yeah. Seen films and everything. the chaps were doing. The British and the Americans. Canadians. Because we had, apart from the British we had the Canadians and we had the Americans. Because the Americans had bases there. We see them every day flying over. Demonstrating you know.
PL: So did quite a lot of your friends enlist as well?
WW: Yes. Yeah. Ahum. Because we worked for the government. I was a a junior clerk in the Post Office. I beg your pardon. The head office. Post office in Jamaica at the time. And I had to get the Postmaster General’s.
PL: His permission.
WW: Permission to join. Even at my age. A youngster. And I was quite — they went all over the Caribbean. Not just Jamaica. Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana. It was British Guyana then. At the time. And some of the other small islands further on. They also joined up.
PL: And so where did you do your basic training?
WW: Before, yeah. We had to sit an intelligence test and everything. We had to enter a military base run by the British at Port Royal. The old well known thing that was with that generation of British rule. And from there we went on to America. Patrick Camp, Patrick Henry in Virginia where we were for a few weeks until everything was settled for us to move to England. And from there we went on to Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia where we did a bit of basic training in there. Training. We had to sit a test for everything they want you to do and what you would like to do. If you passed it you would getting into this different trade which were motor mechanic, wireless, you name it. All the trades were there which were needed by the military. If you passed you go. If not you either said, ‘Thank you sir,’ or they ask you to remuster to something else. You know. A chap would go for something higher there. Then they looked at his own records. He couldn’t do it so they asked him to do something lower that suited his intelligence or something like that. You see. Yeah.
PL: So what did you choose to do? What were you interested in?
WW: Mind this was ground crew. We weren’t the aircrew job. The aircrew were already here. This is the ground crew and administration. No. I beg your pardon. Wireless. Wireless, but I didn’t get into that. I ended up doing, oh yeah, sorry about that, come over here and your public John. Clerk – general duties. Administration. Ended up doing that. From there we were pushed off to camp Patrick Henry in Virginia to await transportation to England. And the Americans accepted us quite well and was [unclear] then from there a few weeks there doing drilling and various things and how to behave with the military. The next step was we were on our way to England and we ended up in Butlins camp, Filey. Which became, as you probably know, Butlin’s Camp, Filey there was a holiday place. It was a place for recruit training for the Royal Air Force. And there squares and everything was set out where you could do this and do that. The type of training that was required. You had the shooting ranges and everything where you learned to shoot. Things like that. Some of the guys who were with us could shoot. They were there with their parents buy them guns and things like that and ammunition. Of course, we had people from all backgrounds. Civil service. Not just youngsters. We had grown men as well who volunteered for it. You know. Providing they were in the right age group.
PL: So in Filey was there a mixture of nationalities?
WW: Oh yes.
PL: Were there Americans and Canadians and as well as people from the Caribbean?
WW: Yes. Also Caribbean. Black Caribbeans. White Caribbeans. Chinese Caribbean. Or Caribbean Chinese. Indians as well. Because as you know it’s a multi racial country. Not just Jamaica. And they were all assembled in Jamaica. Of course you go back to the days of Nelson and all those people. In the Caribbean. Port Royal in Jamaica was one of the main places for the navy. The Royal Navy. And the airports around there were also commandeered. Some of them. And they had people there. And they had the Canadians and some of the Americans. And of course some of the Americans had, before the war, they had places there and they helped us. Or helped the British. You know. We did our basic training. Drilling and things like that. Rifle range. You get on the rifle range. Learn to handle ammunition and guns. And ammunition
PL: So, in Filey. When you were based in Filey. What happened after that? What happened next?
WW: Now, Filey. We went to, yeah we had to get to England so what they did of course in conjunction with the Americans because the Americans had bases in Jamaica so they’re our friends and everything. Camp Patrick Henry in Virginia was a well known holiday place in America. And of course the military, American military had that and all the people who volunteered in Jamaica were bundled off there and to do a bit of basic training. How to handle a gun. A rifle. And America was in the war then.
PL: Of course.
WW: And so we spent a few weeks in America learning how to use a rifle and various ammunition and things that we had.
PL: And then you were transported to England.
WW: Yes. Yeah.
PL: And you ended up at Filey.
WW: Filey
PL: Which was the old Butlins Camp.
WW: The Butlins camp before the war.
PL: And then what happened?
WW: Oh we did our basic training there. How to handle a gun.
PL: Ok.
WW: Various other things to do. We had people. Different trades. It wasn’t just we were there. Because initially had whatever the situation you were fit for and they’d like you to do that. And give you an inkling of what they’d like to do and give you training in that. Motor mechanic, drivers and various whatnot. And aircraft.
PL: Of course.
WW: And handling an aircraft.
PL: But you were an administrator. You were a clerk.
WW: Yes.
PL: And where?
WW: Clerk. General duties as they called it.
PL: Right. And were you on a particular base? On a particular air force base. Were you transported then to —
WW: Yeah.
PL: Where did you go?
WW: After that they sent you to Filey where you did all that initial thing. From there people who had various places that were [pause] how shall I put it? Were masters of their particular trades you were transported all over the place. Motor mechanic. You have drivers. Carpenters. And various administration. You were sent to those bases to learn how to do it the way the air force wanted you to do it.
PL: Ok.
WW: Put it like that.
PL: So where did they send you?
WW: Well what they did, if I may, they get you, before that they sent you to a camp where you learn how to drill. How to respect officers and other ranks and things like that. Then you went onto a training kind of thing where they get wireless operators, they send you to places where that sort of job was on. And administration you go to some other places. And motor mechanic go to engineering places where the government had an interest. You know. And get you to do whatever trade you said you would like to do. But of course before that you had an intelligence test.
PL: A test.
WW: To see whether you would be fit to try and learn a trade. Yeah.
PL: So Danny. As a, as a clerk can you remember where you worked in England? Where you were based.
WW: One of the bases was on [pause] it was very familiar. We went, they did send us to Filey how to learn to drill.
PL: Yes.
WW: Then — where was I based now? [pause] Oh dear. I can see it now. Down in Cornwall. Newquay. Not Newquay. I beg your pardon. A holiday camp before the war? Oh gosh. Newquay. You know. Because it was a wireless base. Some of the guys were wireless. They put in for wireless operating and various other. And I was clerk administration. They needed clerks there so we went to Filey. A station at Filey. Of course not everybody goes to the same place. We were scattered all over the place. We were there. Places for training. Yeah. And our little lot — we ended up in Filey
PL: It must have been such an experience being so far from home. How did you feel about that?
WW: Well it was something new. And we had to get into it you know. And you’re away from your parents. You know. Because you weren’t allowed to do things you shouldn’t do. You were under military rules. You obey the laws. Military laws. English rule. Which of course you all had English because they were English colonies then. Always the same. Yeah. But then it depends on what trade you were in. Mine was clerk general duties. You had people who were wireless engineers and wireless operators, radar operators and they were dispatched to those camps that operated those sort of things. You know. Motor mechanic people. Drivers. And so they also went to motor units of the Royal Air Force training. Administration – you go to places where they train you for administration work. The aircrews of course, the aircrews went before but there still were some non-training air crew there. They kept them there and they dispatched them to places where they could train around the country.
PL: So were you mainly based in training centres? Is that where you did your work? You’re clerical work.
WW: Oh no. After the training centre you were dispatched to various places all over the country.
PL: So, so can you remember? You think that was down in Cornwall.
WW: Yes. My, yes mine was just outside Filey. Yeah.
PL: Right. And you were, what sort of work did you do? You did clerical.
WW: Clerk general duties. That’s what it was known as.
PL: So what sort of thing would that involve? What sort of thing would you do?
WW: Oh. Receiving people and dispatching people to various. Mine was, what do you call it in the first place. If I may go back.
PL: Of course.
WW: You had to do your square bashing first.
PL: Yes.
WW: And when you finish your square bashing then you’re dispatched to various places of the trade that you’re selected. Mine was clerk general duties. Yeah. And some people called it orderly room warder. That was where you made the travel warrants for people who’s going or coming in. Receiving and dispatching people it was. ‘Cause the training centre where wireless operators, radar operators mainly. These are.
PL: Right. Ok.
WW: Where I was. As soon as they finished training with their radar operating.
PL: Ok.
WW: They were dispatched to other proper radar stations.
PL: Right.
WW: For continual work.
PL: Right. Right.
WW: You see. And then the same as other places. As soon as you are finished your job you go to places that needs extra people.
PL: Right.
WW: Really. Because there was always movement going on. People being transferred or people got demobbed. They need new people so they had to get people from various places. You got to have places for extra people where you can call on them at any moment to fill the gap of the people who have left.
PL: But essentially you were with the air force.
WW: Yes. Yes. Air force people. Training unit. Because they were all over the country. Scotland. Wales. Various other places around the country. Around the English counties as well. Wireless operator. Clerk general duties and various other jobs. Motor mechanic. You name it. Wireless operators. Radar operators.
PL: So — so you arrived in England in 1944.
WW: 1944.
PL: And so you must have stayed, you must have stayed with that job with your general duties through to the end of the war.
WW: Yeah. Yes with kind of duties. I stayed with that. You know. Yeah.
PL: So did you have a lot to do with demobbing people as the war came to an end? After the war had come to an end.
WW: Receiving. Before that. Receiving. Or transferring people. Before the war was ended because people, as soon as you are finished, somewhere is short of staff and you have got extra staff. You were handed a list and you’d got to transfer these people. They’d shove a railway timetable at you. Where to go to get to this new station you see. And you have to go. They send you there and then you join up with that group. It could be anything. It could be a motor mechanic. Wireless operator. And wireless mechanics. You know. Clerk general duties. Drivers. All different trades. Yeah.
PL: And so when you think back to that time were there any particular experiences that you had that you remember very clearly as being important experiences.
WW: Yes. General clerk. Ggeneral duties. Meeting people and getting on with people and things like that. And various other jobs. You know. Exchange views on what you are doing. You’ve got the radar operators, and the wireless operators. Radar mechanics. It was not just admin. Motor mechanics. Radar mechanics. Wireless operators and you name it they were all there. Everything in the station. Course with the aircrews now that was a different kettle of fish. They were in a different group to us. The aircrews came before this. They were still coming all the time but they ended up at different places. The aircrafts were being, getting on. And this is all over the country. England. Scotland. Ireland and Wales. You know. It was quite interesting. Yeah. Because mine — ours was a ground crew because the air crews came earlier. They were still coming but not as much as before. The others — motor mechanics, clerks, cooks. You name it. All sorts of trades. That was quite a thing.
PL: So did you have a good social life?
WW: Yes. Yes. We had dances and we had our own NAAFI. When the NAAFI was closed or something like that usually the weekend they put on dances. Right. So you could go into town. Nearby town if you’ve got one there and you mingled with the people. Civilian life and everything. And of course the camp was big enough. They usually had sport and games and things and dancing in the evening.
PL: Cricket? Cricket?
WW: Oh yes. A bit of that. Football. We weren’t very affluent at rugby. One or two. But football and cricket were very popular. Tennis as well. Yeah. Yeah. And of course the gymnasts had their thing as well. They wanted to do. Gosh. So it was, because my little time down in Cornwall was quite interesting. What do they call it now? Orderly room warder. The headquarters where the commanding officer sits there and next to him you had all his, you had to make warrants for people who were being transferred to other places. Of course in the radar station and wireless station and they were transferring those people. Even clerical. To other stations. And you’d got to make out their railway warrants for them. Get a book with the timetables. Where the train is moving. Starting. Where it’s stopping. Where it’s ending. You know. It was quite interesting. Transferring people. You had to find out where they were going and times of the trains. Where they’ve got to change to pick up another train that’s coming from elsewhere. Passing through to join the train to get to their destination.
PL: It must have been a complicated job because of the bombing that had gone on because trains were so disrupted weren’t they?
WW: Oh yes. Could be. Could be. Because I wasn’t in a place where the bombing was going on and that but the with the people who were stationed in some of those areas. Oh yes. It was going on. Even places near the big towns where the bombing was going on. A heck of a problem for them. Yes.
PL: So when the war came to an end. What did you decide you wanted to do with your life?
WW: [laughs] What did I do then? Do I stay here? Do I go back to the Caribbean? So they said we had offers of places where we could go. And I ended up in the Inland Revenue. Various places, you know, around the country.
PL: So were you based in London with the Inland Revenue? When you first started for them.
WW: Now where was I? Where did I go now? Heck. Kingsway. Kingsway. Kingsway. Yeah. Various places. Then down in Cornwall. Places. It was quite interesting.
PL: So you decided to make a life here.
WW: Yes. I decided I’d get a job. I did sign on. For four years. And then after that, you know. Demob and then went to work for the Inland Revenue at a place in Kingsway in London. And we went to other places. Three or four places. Yeah. I stayed with them until demobilisation from them [laughs] I already had one from the military. Yes. In the country.
PL: So Danny are there any other memories from that time that you would like to share with us?
WW: There’s so much. Going here. Going there. Pleasures. Going out in coaches. Weekends. A coach load of us going here, going there. It was quite interesting. Visiting other camps you know and joining in their sporting or whatever was going on. You know. You were invited to come to such and such event. They were having a day or a dance night. Something. On the verges. Some meeting was going on. Athletics meeting or cricket matches going. Away from your own camp. Watch other people playing. Or dancing. Things like that. Yeah. Military coach would take you there and back. Yeah. So much to do. When your leave time comes you get your leave. You can go to places that you’d like to go to. Gave you a warrant and things like that. Visiting London was quite a highlight. Had to visit London.
PL: Tell me a little bit about that.
WW: Oh well we had a club opposite Waterloo Station. We used to go there by train or if you’ve come the other way off the Strand, down the Strand. Cross Waterloo Bridge and do you know the area do you? This club. The Union Jack Club. Opposite Waterloo Station. Yeah. Very interesting. Waterloo Station. The other one interesting was Waterloo Bridge and that was the place where we’d go. Military or civilian life you could go there. Very interesting.
PL: So is that where you stayed there? That’s where you stayed. Is it?
WW: Yes.
PL: Then you’d go out.
WW: And then you’d go out for days and whatever you wanted to do. You had the Nuffield Centre in the West End. That was another place. That was quite interesting.
PL: So what happened there?
WW: Dancing. We went there. Various orchestras. You had the Hammersmith Palais. The Nuffield Centre which was a nice place. Named it after Lord Nuffield. Well his money went in to it. Built it for military personnel. Nuffield Centre. Another nice place, you know. Hammersmith Palais. The dance hall. Lyceum. The Strand. You’re nodding. You know these places. You’ve been to them have you? No. Oh yes the Nuffield Centre was very nice. Yeah. There was so much to do in London.
PL: So did you worry? Did you worry about the bombing when you went to London?
WW: No. I think the bombing of London was almost over then. This was after the war and I remained in London. Yeah. I think the bombing all around the country, most of the bombing. Yes based near London and there was Henley on Thames and another place where we were stationed. If we were going to watch The Regatta. Down in Henley, and Marlow. Yes. And always go to Henley and go the other way if we go to [pause] what do we call it now? Oh gosh. Something that goes on there. I’m getting stupid now. What was this place called? Not Maidenhead. That was the other way. Oh hell. No. Never mind. There’s quite a few places around. Henley Regatta was one of the important places to go to when I was at Medmenham then. Between Marlow. Yeah.
PL: So did you have a group of friends that you worked with? That you travelled around with.
WW: Or on your own you could go there. If you weren’t with friends you could go on your own. There was transportation. People were kind. Helpful. You weren’t scared going out on your own. Yeah.
PL: So at the end of the war it must have been a wonderful time when the war came to an end. Do you have memories of that? Or was it mixed? Was it a mixed feeling for you thinking about what to do next?
WW: I found it not much problem. I was lucky. I got a job. No I didn’t end the war. Silly me. I’m jumping the gun. I stayed on. I signed on for four years extra service. Yeah. See me through till the end of that four years. And I hit London. To the places I remembered whilst I was serving. Places I used to go. I re-visited these places. See how they were getting on.
PL: Fantastic. So was that where you settled then? In London
WW: Yeah. Yes. Near Maidenhead. Not near Maidenhead. Between Henley. Between Henley and Marlow. Yeah. I always watch the Regatta at Marlow. [laughs]
PL: Wonderful.
WW: When the Regatta comes around. Going to Henley to watch the Regatta. It’s called Medmenham.
PL: Do you have any memory of meeting anyone special during the war. Any particular memories about anyone that you met that you might want to share with us.
WW: Oh dear. I can’t remember now.
PL: Did you meet your, did you meet your wife during the war?
WW: Oh I thought you were referring to military people.
PL: Well. Either.
WW: No. That was after the war. After the war. Yeah. Yeah. Yes.
PL: How did you meet? Can you share that with us?
WW: Dancing. It was the Astoria. You know the Astoria.
PL: I’ve heard of it.
WW: You tell me about the Astoria.
PL: I’ve heard of it.
WW: Oh yeah. The junction. The junction of Oxford Street and, I think its Holborn. At a dance hall there.
PL: Wonderful.
WW: Went dancing. Lou Preager, famous Jewish bandleader. He used to play there. And others. And of course I was living in Bayswater then and that was just down the road there. Down Oxford Street. Went dancing and I met her there. And we got married. A group of us chaps used to go there. Because I had a job nearby there. During days I used to walk past there and going home sometimes people were queuing because it was a special dance. This was the Astoria. A famous Jewish band leader used to dominate that place. Lou Preager, yeah, and there was another one, now, can’t remember his name. And Lou Preager was a famous man there. Fantastic music then. At weekends it was crammed with people. It was at the junction of Oxford Street and Holborn. Across there. Leading to High Holborn. Fantastic.
PL: So was there a lot of American music.
WW: American music. Yes. And English music. Yeah. Mixture. Because this Jewish band leader. He dabbled in everything. Yeah. And further on there was another place called [pause] not far from there. Caribbean. A mixture of people of all — yeah. What’s that street called now? Leading up to [pause] Used to lead right up to Euston. Used to love the music there. Used to go to [pause] because the Lyceum was — there was another place down by the Strand Hotel. I think it was Lou Preager. Jewish bandleader. Fantastic music he used to play. [unclear] this place where they have the famous market in the West End. Fruit, vegetables and everything.
PL: Covent Garden.
WW: Covent Garden. Leads down to The Strand. Lou Preager used to play there. Fantastic music you know.
PL: Exciting times.
WW: Gosh. Yeah.
PL: So —
WW: Used to have another lovely one at the junction of Oxford Circus. Another Jewish man. I can’t remember his name now but we used to go there a lot. So many. Hammersmith Palais. Another place we used to go to as well. It was wonderful. Wonderful in London.
PL: So I’m just going to switch off the recording for a moment.
[recording paused]
PL: So re-starting the recording. So Danny you were just going to tell me a little bit about your wife Phyllis. Because I understand you were married for a very long time.
WW: Yes. Yeah. Yes. Lovely lady I met at a dance hall. I mentioned some of the places. Guess which one.
PL: Was it the Astoria?
WW: Yeah. Astoria. The junction at the top of the road. You know the Astoria?
PL: I’ve heard of it.
WW: At the corner of Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus. We went dancing there on a Saturday night.
PL: And what did she do for a living?
WW: Oh she was a clerk at a place called [pause] place what do you call it, road. Not the east end. It was a big warehouse people. She was an admin clerk there, oh gosh I can’t remember their name now. It will come some time. And then she was I met her either at the Astoria or the [pause] what do you call it? What’s the other dance hall now? I think it was the Astoria. Was it the Astoria we met? Dancing one Saturday night.
PL: How lovely.
WW: And she wore gold. West London way. Yeah. We got on very well and we got married. In the end she joined in the Inland Revenue as well.
PL: So you both worked in the same place.
WW: No. Not the same place. Somewhere there. She worked somewhere else. And she had a brother who was in the military as well. We all got on quite well.
PL: So was she English? Your wife.
WW: English yes. From Chiswick. Yeah.
PL: So quite unusual for the time. To have a mixed marriage. Were her family supportive or —
WW: Not really, no, it’s been going on. After the war years, you know, there was more of it. Yes. Yeah. She came from Chiswick. Her brother was also in the military. Yes.
PL: Very good. Marvellous.
WW: Yeah.
Well Danny can I just say a huge thank you for agreeing.
WW: I hope I haven’t wasted your time.
PL: Not at all. It’s been, it’s been a fascinating story. It’s been a fascinating story and a very unusual story. So thank you very much indeed.
WW: Well thank you very much for asking john to invite you. Or ask me to come and meet you. Give a little bit of the old experience. Life.
PL: Thank you very much, Danny.
WW: Thank you for having me. Very nice. Very nice.

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Citation

Pam Locker, “Interview with Danny Walker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 6, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8769.

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