Interview with Harold James Warren. Two

Title

Interview with Harold James Warren. Two

Description

Continuing of interview with H J Warren. Includes descriptions of encountering submarines when flying from RAF Greenock.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-05-06

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

00:27:35 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AWarrenHJ160506

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: My name Is Chris Brockbank and today is the 6th of May 2016 and I’m back with Harold Warren in Brackley and his children Mervin and Carol and we’re just doing a re-run on a number of items. So, what I want to talk about is when you were in Canada then you met various people one of whom suggested you might like to fly, I understand. And so on leaving Canada what did you do? If you could just take me on from there please.
HW: Same sort of job that I was doing in this country. Maintaining aircraft mostly.
CB: And what about flying?
HW: Yeah. Got air testing of course.
CB: Yes.
HW: When you done the job they like you to go up in the aircraft that you worked on.
CB: Yeah. Why was that?
HW: Well keep everybody a bit more happy. They’d think, ‘Well if he worked on it he would do the job properly.’
CB: Right.
HW: Which I did in any case.
CB: Yes. But it was a sort of incentive.
HW: That’s right.
CB: In a way.
HW: Yeah.
CB: So when you came back to the UK -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Where were posted to when you returned?
HW: Come back to Bicester, I think.
CB: Yeah.
HW: I reckon so.
CB: And you mentioned that you went on to flying boats.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Where was that? So where did you go on to flying boats?
HW: Scotland.
CB: Right.
HW: Yeah. Greenock.
CB: Greenock. Ok.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And what were you doing with the flying boats there?
HW: Same job.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Flight engineer on those.
CB: So you were flying on them.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
HW: Yeah. Used to from Greenock -
CB: Yeah.
HW: Flew up the north of England.
CB: Yeah.
HW: To Canada.
CB: Right.
HW: Which you had to landing in there.
CB: Yeah.
HW: To refuel.
CB: Yeah.
HW: But er -
CB: And then come back again.
HW: Yeah. Yeah. We couldn’t, we could force the U-boats up.
CB: Yeah.
HW: But we couldn’t take any on board because we hadn’t got room for them.
CB: Right.
HW: So we kept them covered.
CB: Yeah.
HW: And they had a navy ship to come along and take them off, take the prisoners off. Yeah.
CB: So, this particular U-boat, how did you come to capture that?
HW: Well I really, I don’t know quite. It wasn’t my job that. All I know is we made them surface.
CB: Right.
HW: They found some way. I don’t know they did, they had sort of a radar thing [I believe] in those days. It was not a very complicated thing but I mean it was early days then.
CB: Yeah.
HW: And mainly I think they were forced up you see because we dropped, we’d located them someway. I don’t know. That was not my job.
CB: No.
HW: It was the navigator’s job and we forced them up and we dropped the depth charges and they thought they’d better come up and they did. So we kept them covered till we got a navy escort to take them away from us.
CB: So the depth charges made it come to the surface.
HW: Yeah.
CB: How did you know that it was surrendering?
HW: Well I don’t know quite. I think they, when they surfaced I think they were covered by gunfire.
CB: Your gun fire.
HW: Yeah, our gun fire. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So you had several turrets on the plane.
HW: Eh?
CB: You had several machine gun turrets.
HW: Oh yeah. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Yeah. One, two, three. About four at least.
CB: Yeah. So the submarine is on the surface. Then what did you do? Did you fly around it or did you land next to it? What did you do?
HW: We landed, we alighted next to it.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Kept them covered by rifle fire and that was it.
CB: And how close did you get to the submarine?
HW: Very close.
CB: Did anybody go on board?
HW: Yeah. I for one.
CB: Oh did you?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Right. So when you got on the submarine -
HW: Yeah.
CB: What did you do?
HW: Just had a good look around.
CB: Ahum.
HW: I found a great, a lovely box of apples [laughs]. So they didn’t stay on the submarine long.
CB: No. What about equipment? Was, what equipment did you find in there that you wanted to remove?
HW: Well we didn’t er see much of that really because we weren’t, we didn’t stay there long on board as we had to come back, still keeping them covered -
CB: Right.
HW: Till we got the navy escort to take them away.
CB: How long did it take for the navy to come?
HW: Not long.
CB: Roughly.
HW: Not long because it was, we, we radioed that we’d got a submarine on the surface.
CB: Yes.
HW: Well before the surface.
CB: Right.
HW: And they had to come and take them off quick.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Because we couldn’t er we couldn’t delay flying.
CB: No.
HW: ‘Cause we hadn’t got enough fuel to take all that, too much mileage so we had to, we had to take off again.
CB: Yeah. So you landed next to it.
HW: Yeah.
CB: So that you could wait for the destroyer. Was it a destroyer or what was it?
HW: Any what?
CB: What kind of ship was it?
HW: I don’t know um I forget the name.
CB: Ok. Do you remember the number of the U-boat?
HW: No.
CB: Right.
HW: No.
CB: And -
HW: [Nearly all U something.]
CB: Yeah, so when you got on the U-boat who, who else came with you?
HW: Um the navigator I think. [knock?] Come in.
Other: Sorry I’ve just got your cups. Sorry. Sorry.
HW: Thank you.
Other: I’ll shut the door for you.
CB: Thanks. The navigator -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. What was his name?
HW: Um I think you’ve got me now. I don’t know.
CB: Ok.
HW: Forget.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Wilson I think.
CB: Ok and how well -
HW: Flying officer Wilson, I think.
CB: Pardon? Flying Officer Wilson.
HW: Ahum.
CB: Ok. And what did he do when he went on the submarine?
HW: Had a look around and we didn’t stop on the sub long. Just had a quick look and come back off it again.
CB: Apart from the apples what else did you remove from the submarine?
HW: Very little. [Nothing at all].
CB: No electronic equipment.
HW: No.
CB: Right. Charts?
HW: Eh?
CB: Did he pick up any charts? What did he pick up?
HW: Maps, I think he got. The navigator picked up.
CB: Yeah.
HW: A compass. [coughing] Yeah. A compass.
CB: A compass.
HW: From memory, he got a compass.
CB: Because, did you, were you able to watch the submarine as soon as it, yourself, as soon as it came to the surface?
HW: Yeah.
CB: And did you see the Germans get out of the submarine?
HW: No. Not as I remember. Not as I remember, ‘cause we had to get ready for another, for our take-off.
CB: Yeah.
HW: And everything.
CB: Do you think -
HW: We had to do checks for take-off.
CB: Right. You had to do your checks for take-off. And did they throw anything overboard? Do you know?
HW: I don’t know. I didn’t see it.
CB: No.
HW: If they did I didn’t see it.
CB: Yeah.
HW: I suppose they did. I don’t know.
CB: Because –
HW: A common thing.
CB: Well, all the submarines had an enigma machine in.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And I just wonder -
HW: Yeah. So I believe.
CB: Yeah. So what date are we talking about now?
HW: Eh?
CB: What date? Roughly
HW: I don’t know.
CB: No.
HW: That’s a long time ago.
CB: Yes. And that, you’ve got a picture of a Sunderland on here.
HW: No. That wasn’t, that’s not a Sunderland.
CB: Oh. Isn’t it?
HW: No. That’s a conversion from a civilian -
CB: Right.
HW: Thing. That was.
CB: Yeah. But you were on Sunderland’s.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And what squadron were you?
HW: Eh?-
CB: What was the squadron number? Yours.
HW: Er pretty low number er eight, eighty four, no. Not as high as that. Eighty something.
CB: Was it?
HW: Eighty one or two.
CB: Ok.
HW: I think.
CB: Ok. And the crew, were they all British or were they a combination?
HW: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Right.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Ok. And you were flying from Scotland.
HW: Yeah. Greenock.
CB: Greenock. Yeah. So when you got back -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Then what happened?
HW: Well, just made our report and everything. Carried out a service on the aircraft ready for the next trip.
CB: Right and um did you get interviewed by the intelligence officer when you returned?
HW: Oh yeah. Yeah. He wanted to know all sorts of things.
CB: Right.
HW: What you saw and, you know, all that sort of thing.
CB: And this was all in daylight.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Did you see the destroyer come alongside the submarine?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Did it arrive while you were there? Did it?
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Ok.
HW: Yeah. They soon, they soon took the German crew away.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And do you know what they did with the submarine?
HW: I think they took it back to Greenock or somewhere.
CB: Oh did they?
HW: Yeah. I think so.
CB: They towed it?
HW: Because they wanted to poke about and find different things on it you see. They took it somewhere. I’m not sure where.
CB: But they were able to tow it?
HW: Yeah. They -
CB: Ok.
HW: They had a crew that could understand it, the German submarine -
CB: Yeah.
HW: It was kept on the surface and we just took off and that was it.
CB: Yeah. Right
HW: We didn’t see it anymore.
CB: No. And how -
HW: Took it some experimental place and all that sort of thing.
CB: Right, and can you remember roughly when this was?
HW: [laughs] I can’t. Not really.
CB: Was it the summertime or was it the winter or what?
HW: Er winter I think. Autumn time, something like that I reckon it was.
CB: Ok. And after you’d been on that -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Sortie, did you fly much more after that?
HW: Not a lot. No.
CB: Because they posted you somewhere else? Or what happened?
HW: No. I came back to Bicester.
CB: Came back to Bicester.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Yeah ok. Right.
HW: It was time for demob then of course.
CB: Oh right. Soon after. Yeah. Well, you were demobbed in, a year after the war finished weren’t you?
HW: Eh?
CB: You were demobbed in -
HW: Yeah.
CB: 1946.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Yes.
HW: Yeah.
CB: What else do you remember about these trips on the Sunderlands?
HW: Well, all I know, I had a job to do. Make sure, check all the instruments frequently.
CB: Yeah.
HW: To make sure the aircraft engines were working correctly.
CB: Right.
HW: And you’re going from one side of the aircraft to the other. Took you a little while. You had to have a chat on the way of course with everybody else.
CB: Absolutely. Coffee break.
HW: And make a cup of tea. [laughs]
CB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: How long did it take to fly from Greenock to Canada?
HW: Er a long flight and the Sunderland was about the only aircraft that could do it. About six hours, seven hours, something like that I would think. No. Longer than that. Further than that. If the Sunderland could stay airborne eight, nine hours. It didn’t take quite that long but you had to have a safety margin.
CB: Yeah.
HW: In case you had trouble.
CB: Yeah.
HW: That sort of thing.
CB: How many people in the crew?
HW: Er two pilots, navigator, bomb aimer, flight engineer and two or three miscellaneous people. Gunners and that sort of thing. About eight or nine, I suppose.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: So your tasks were to monitor the instruments.
HW: Eh?
CB: Your task -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Was to monitor the instruments.
HW: Yeah.
CB: What else?
HW: Yeah. Yeah. Oil pressure and all that sort of thing.
CB: What about transferring fuel from tanks.
HW: Eh?
CB: Did you have a task to move the fuel between tanks? Did you move petrol from one tank to another?
HW: Yeah. You could do. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That er, that applied to most aircraft -
CB: Did it?
HW: During the war. You transferred fuel from one to the other -
CB: Right.
HW: In case you got a leak and you could change it over.
CB: Right.
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So where was most of the fuel stored?
HW: Wings. Yeah. All depends where the tanks were. Some were in the fuselage. Mainly in the wings.
CB: What sort of things went wrong? With the -
HW: Eh?
CB: What sort of things went wrong with the aeroplane?
HW: Oh various things. As I say oil pressure for one thing was a deciding factor whether you could carry on or what. Yeah. There was nothing you could do about oil pressure and that sort of thing if you was out at sea although we did have one or two that were carrying out maintenance. Sort of if you had a snag you could report it back and if you were lucky you might be in flying distance of the servicing aircraft so you’d done very well. Yeah.
CB: So, on these flights you were the only engineer.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Were you kept busy all the time or did you get a bit of a rest?
HW: Yeah. You got a bit of rest but you asked one of the others to keep an eye on things. You were pretty, they all sort of knew what was going on and, you know, you could work with one another and that sort of thing.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Well you couldn’t, you had to have a bit of a rest.
CB: Yeah. And when you were flying -
HW: Yeah.
CB: And doing this flight engineer job.
HW: Yeah.
CB: What rank were you?
HW: Yeah, I was a corporal then.
CB: Right.
HW: Promoted to a sergeant.
CB: Oh you were. Right.
HW: You had, you had to be a senior NCO
CB: Yeah.
HW: In case you were taken prisoner ‘cause you were supposed to be taken care of better then.
CB: Right.
HW: Which I doubt [laughs]
CB: So you had the engineer’s brevvy on did you?
HW: Eh?
CB: Did you have on your uniform the -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Engineer’s -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Brevvy?
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And when you went back onto ground work.
HW: Yeah.
CB: You kept your brevvy did you?
HW: Yeah.
CB: And what about your rank? Did you keep your rank?
HW: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: So, for the rest of the war you were a sergeant.
HW: Yeah. It wasn’t for very long. Soon demobbed.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Ok. So how many flying hours do you think you did roughly?
HW: More than I care to think about [laughs]. A lot of them.
CB: Ok. How long were you flying in these aircraft, in the Sunderlands? How many months?
HW: About three I think. Something like that. Maybe more. I don’t know. Maybe less.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And when you started had you volunteered to do it or did they just send you there?
HW: Well depends on what qualification you had and I’d been used to four engine aircraft. Sometimes Lancasters and that sort of thing. Sunderlands. And they had American aircraft, four engine bombers. Worked on those so that’s probably why I ended up like that.
CB: Yeah. When you were in Canada.
HW: Ahum.
CB: Did you start flying there? Or did you -
HW: No, not a lot, only testing aircraft. [testing of course]
CB: Yeah. Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Similar job.
CB: Yeah. So how many big aeroplanes were there -
HW: Yeah.
CB: In Canada?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Were there big ones there?
HW: Er –
CB: Lancasters?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Or American?
HW: The American. Yeah. Yeah. I liked working on the American aircraft.
CB: Why was that?
HW: Well, you had all the tools and everything to do the job. On the RAF you were lucky if you found a screwdriver or a spanner. [laughs] Yeah.
CB: They were that -
HW: Short of equipment and all that sort of thing. The Americans were geared up for that sort of thing.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: There was, was there a general shortage in the RAF of tools to do the job was there?
HW: Eh?
CB: Was there a general shortage of tools?
HW: Yeah.
CB: In the RAF.
HW: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s err you had to get your finger out and put in a lot of hours.
CB: Yeah. What about the weather?
HW: Weather. Yeah. [Canada was the nicer part of it] and part of it was bloody awful but we carried on just as normal. They didn’t, they ignored the weather over there. They had to carry on. No matter. I mean you couldn’t stop for three or four months while it was bad weather could you?
CB: No.
HW: No. They didn’t.
CB: How deep was the snow?
HW: Oh it varied quite a lot. Depended where you were. Yeah.
CB: And when you were flying, going back to your flying time -
HW: Yeah.
CB: What was the balance between daylight and night flying in the Sunderland?
HW: Quite a difference really. I can’t tell you any [details?] of it but -
CB: Which did you do more of? Daylight or night time flying in the Sunderland?
HW: It varied quite a bit. I mean you might take off in daylight. You end up flying, end up in the dark and then might be the other way about. Yeah.
CB: When you landed next to this submarine because you’d disabled it -
HW: Yeah.
CB: Was that daylight or was that in the night?
HW: Daylight. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah.
CB: And how long did it take you to eat all the apples?
HW: Eh? Oh not long [laughs] yeah. Very good.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Yeah.
CB: So what would you say was the highlight of your time in the RAF?
HW: I don’t know. I had a lot of them I think. That was one of the highlights, I suppose.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Bringing the submarine to the surface.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah. We all cheered then [laughs]. Yeah.
CB: What did the Germans do? Did they stand on the deck or did they keep inside the submarine?
HW: Er well we took them off the submarine.
CB: Oh did you?
HW: Ahum.
CB: On to the Sunderland.
HW: On to the Sunderland. Temporary so that the naval escort could come and pick them up.
CB: Yeah.
HW: ‘Cause they’d already taken the German submarine away.
CB: Oh had they?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Oh right.
HW: Yeah.
CB: Right. So what did you do? Stack them one on top of the other did you in your submarine, in your, in your Sunderland? How did you get them all in?
HW: Get what?
CB: How did you get all these German sailors in your -
HW: Oh.
CB: Sunderland?
HW: Oh there was just room.
CB: There was?
HW: Yeah. They were packed in mind you.
CB: Yeah.
HW: I mean, in one, in one crew and somebody had to cover them with a rifle and machine gun.
CB: Right.
HW: That was it.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Until they were picked up by the navy.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Yeah.
CB: ‘Cause, their, their officers carried lugers.
HW: Yeah.
CB: So they were confiscated were they?
HW: Yeah. Of course.
CB: Yeah.
HW: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
CB: And how long were they on your Sunderland would you say?
HW: Not long. A matter of hours.
CB: Ahum.
HW: Yeah.
CB: But you didn’t let them have any of the apples.
HW: Managed two or three [laughs]
CB: Right. What was the worst thing that happened to you in the RAF?
HW: I don’t know. I can think of quite a few.
CB: What, in those early days? Or -
HW: What?
CB: Later.
HW: I think the worst one is when we, the first job we went, we went to France early -
CB: Yeah.
HW: In the war. Well about the first day of the war and it was a waste of time. We’d got nothing to, no airc, couldn’t, as I say we got nothing. No armaments. Hardly anything. But we, gradually, we were about stationed mid-France, can’t think of the name now. No end of them. And we were gradually forced up to the north towards Dunkirk which we had to be evacuated and I think that was about the worst bit I come across. Yeah. We were evacuated Dunkirk. Come back to this country on a little boat.
CB: Oh, did you?
HW: Yeah.
CB: Did you have to wade out to that or did you get on to it or from one of the moles?
HW: Eh?
CB: Did you have to wade out through the water to the boat or were you put on -
HW: Some did. Some didn’t. It just depends. Yeah. I didn’t. In fact a boat come in to the shore more or less and got them on board but some had to wade out to them. ‘Cause there weren’t many rescue boats about then.
CB: Yeah.
HW: No.
CB: Ok. Harold, thank you very much indeed.
HW: You’re welcome.
CB: That was really helpful.
HW: You’re welcome.

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Harold James Warren. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 18, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8771.

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