Interview with Roy Maddock-Lyon


Interview with Roy Maddock-Lyon


Roy Maddock-Lyon was born in Cheshire and when his school was evacuated at the start of the war he began an engineering apprenticeship. He was a part of the Queen’s Messengers, a relief organisation that travelled to bombed cities to take emergency medical and other supplies. He later volunteered for the Royal Air Force and was selected as a flight engineer. When he joined his squadron, he recalls a time when they were refused emergency landing at an airfield and had to fly on to RAF Carnaby. He then witnessed a tragic accident on the airfield. He was shot down over Denmark and evaded to Sweden with the aid of the Danish resistance. He discusses the operation to bomb the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen.

The interview is incomplete and ends abruptly.




Temporal Coverage




00:40:07 audio recording

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CB: Right. My name is Chris Brockbank and we are interviewing Roy Maddock-Lyon today which is the 21st of March 2016 at Lee House in Weedon near Aylesbury. And Roy was a flight engineer and he’s going to talk about his life and times. So, Roy how did it all start in your mind?
RML: Well when I was born I suppose. But yes, I was born. I was born more or less in the time of the Big Depression but my father continued, was working. He was an accountant and he’d served in the First World War. And from then on I went to Runcorn Grammar School. It was then called technical college but it became changed to a grammar school and I was educated there until the war broke out. And Runcorn was an evacuation town so all the young kids were evacuated to Blackpool. I was one of them. I didn’t like it there so I came home but my school up was at Blackpool so I went out to work and I took an engineering apprenticeship and I enjoyed that. And I wanted to be a chemist but there was no vacancies at ICI for a chemist apprentice so I went into engineering apprenticeship. That, I studied, got my Ordinary National and I started getting my Higher National but I’d, it had just developed that the RAF and I thought I’d like to join the RAF. I didn’t think of the army. In fact I didn’t think it was my sort of cup of tea. Neither was the navy. So I went in to the RAF but during that I had an interesting experience. I was with the Civil Service, as it was then called, and I was a messenger in the Civil Service. The role of the messenger you did one night a week and you were there in case of messages, an air raid, and you lost communication and then I had to know where to go. You know, the post office, the police and that. And the interesting case was because Liverpool had been badly bombed there was an organisation known as the Queen’s Messengers. Have you heard of it?
CB: No. Never.
RML: Well the Queen’s Messengers was a relief organisation run by the government and it was stationed in Birmingham and it was a fleet of coaches and lorries carrying relief to wherever there was a damaged area and it was called the Queen’s Messengers. And as the roads were all in blackout and the road signs had all been taken down the messengers had to know the area. So I had to go from the, well the relief convoy was coming up from Birmingham to go to Liverpool and I had to cycle to a place called Helsby outside Runcorn and to get in the front vehicle and guide it to Runcorn and then hand over to the next one because they knew the road and they went on. So it was an interesting exercise and not many people probably know about the Queen’s Messengers.
CB: No. No.
RML: And they was probably there for a couple of days and the next raid, where ever it was, they went off to there and it was a very good relief. So that was all I had to do was sit in the, in the front vehicle and put my bike in there and wait until they got to where I had to hand over and there was this continuous movement. There was about three or four Queen’s Messenger convoys going. All radiating from Birmingham. I think that’s something that could be developed you know because not many people, as you say, nobody knew about them and it was essential to get relief supplies because we carried medicine and doctors and things like that. And so after that I used to do one night a week and then I got a request calling up for an interview and they interviewed me for RAF ordinary and they said would I like to go into aircrew? And I said, ‘Of course I would.’ [laughs] And so they said, ‘Right. Well you’d better go home again,’ because they weren’t recruiting at that building for aircrew. So, I was then called up about a few weeks later. Had to go to Padgate and, where they assessed me for whatever. Pilot. Engineer. Gunner. And I passed with flight engineer and then I eventually was called up to go to Lord’s Cricket Ground and, where I had a fortnight’s equipping and getting into uniform. Inoculations and that. And that, once I passed that at Lord’s I was sent to [pause] yes, Sunderland. Just outside. In a place called Hetton le Hole and I did an amount of training there and then I went from there I went to Bridlington where I was, had other training including parachute dropping. How to get out and open a parachute and drop on the ground. How to fall and do the normal roll. And then I was sent home on leave. And after doing the square bashing and that at Bridlington I was then posted to St Athan where I did type engineering training and then I got type training. I couldn’t go into Lancasters because I was too short. You had to be five foot, over five foot six for an engineer. I don’t know why. But they offered me Flying Boats or the Halifax and so I took the Halifax and I did my type training on the Halifax and I passed that and then was allocated to a squadron. Oh no I wasn’t. I was sent to HCU and that’s where I eventually met my crew of five and then made it seven and whilst at Acaster Malbis I did commando training in case I was shot down and various other exercises and then I was squadroned. Yeah. No I wasn’t. I was sent, sent to HCU then to do my initial training. That was, they was using the very old Halifaxes which were flying coffins because they invariably crashed. So It was a mark ii. Mark i and Mark ii Halifax. I went on the Mark iii eventually and it was a good experience. I had one dust up with the police because I was cycling home. We’d gone out to a party and my navigator was on the cross bar and a policeman stopped me and that was not allowed. To have a crossbar. So, he took my name. I got called up and got prosecuted for that and the magistrate said had I got anything to say. I said, ‘Yes [time that blinking plod?] was in the air force. Not punishing us.’ ‘Right.’ He’d already given me a ten shilling fine. ‘Another ten shillings. [laughs] Have you anything more to say?’ I said, ‘No.’ Blinking — I said he should be in the army or the, yeah, instead of stopping — anyhow, so then I went. So that was my brush with the law. In fact, in the squadron they all thought it very funny. Including the CO. [I hope that bloke had] had some more disasters. Anyhow, I went to my squadron and I’ve written a book here on what I did including photographs. So you can borrow that.
CB: Thank you.
RML: I can get these back wont I?
CB: Yes. Absolutely.
RML: And there was lots of things. The Halifax was a good plane but as a — well fortunately I’d written to the Hercules who made the Bristols, who made the engines and they sent me a calculator how to measure your fuel consumption. So as a result, all the other engineers hadn’t got that. So as a result, I had a good fuel record.
CB: Oh.
RML: One raid I was on using that and we’d got hit with shrapnel and all and I’d had to do the necessary fuel change and we came back to the squadron and we said, have permission to land and we got a, we were damaged, and, ‘Can we have priority landing?’ ‘No, you can’t land here. Go to Carnaby.’ ‘No, we haven’t got enough fuel to go to Carnaby.’ ‘Well too bad. Go to Carnaby.’ And we turned from York on to Carnaby which is Bridlington and as we come in to land two engines cut out. We were just on the, we planted down on two engines. Out of fuel. Thinking I’d have a lot to say about that if it wasn’t recorded because we should have been able to land. But anyhow the two engines cut out and when we taxied around another one went. So, we lost three engines. It wasn’t, wasn’t funny and, you know, all the other planes were there and as we taxied around and we got nose to tail so we stopped our plane in front of another plane and were getting out and as we were getting out there was a heck of a noise and two planes farther back — they were doing the same. The engine of one went into the rear turret of another and just chewed the rear gunner up like spaghetti. It was terrible, and we were walking, you know, got our equipment back to the reception and we saw all this, you know, damage.
CB: Yeah. Frightening.
RML: If the pilot had kept the plane going straight it would have been ok. But no, he tried to accelerate to turn the plane away and that’s what happened.
CB: Dreadful.
RML: The engine, you know, the propeller just churned him up. It was a heck of a mess. It was a bit disheartening.
CB: I bet.
RML: But we, we had other raids to go on. And then one other raid. My pilot was a bit of devil. Having flown the Tiger and other, we came — we was out doing, we were training like Barnes Wallis wants. Low level flying. And we came over Bridlington beach and the holidaymakers dropped to the ground because they thought they was going to be cut up but we carried on from there over the Yorkshire Moors and I don’t know if you’ve been up that area.
CB: Not recently.
RML: Well they’ve got pylons there.
CB: Oh yes. Yeah.
RML: They’re quite high aren’t they?
CB: Yeah.
RML: Yeah. Well what do you do with a pilot that wants to go underneath the wires? At about fifty or a hundred feet. Which is what we did.
CB: Amazing.
RML: He had, he got a severe reprimand for that.
CB: Really.
RML: So, anyway, but yes we did low level. We was training for low level flying. You know a lot of people think that the Lancaster was the only group that could do low level flying. They weren’t. There was other squadrons that was capable of doing a low-level attack because they had to. There was lots of cases. And so when I, well I was eventually shot down. Done eighteen raids and on the eighteenth I was shot down in Denmark. It wasn’t very pleasant because it was February. It was a bit cold. So, when I landed I’d got the old fashioned flying boots which is a disaster because when my parachute opened my shoes decided to continue. You know the ones I mean. They were just sleeves –
CB: Fell off. Yeah.
RML: Oh, they went down so I landed in bare feet. When I didn’t, I looked around, blew my whistle and I couldn’t hear anything because I think I’d gone deaf, you know, with dropping from twenty thousand and so if anyone had blown their whistle I didn’t hear it. But I looked up and I could see there was a farmhouse there so I started walking in bare feet to go to the farmhouse and then I realised that going to the farmhouse I’d be leaving my trail because it was soft ground. So when I got to the farmhouse I walked, turned right at the farmhouse and walked down the road and I came to another farmhouse and it appears that the next day the Germans went to the farmhouse I’d been and there was nobody there. I wasn’t there. The farmer took me in and gave me ham and eggs and I’d got my escape kit and my escape money and I slept in his house that night and he was absolutely panic stricken because he’d got a young daughter and if the Germans had known I was there they, that would have been the end of their life. So anyhow the next morning when I got out of bed the milkman called and the woman was in tears apparently and she said she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to give me up but she was worried about her daughter. So, the milkman said, ‘Right. Put him in the hayloft,’ which is what I climbed up in to the hayloft. Burrowed down about two or three feet because the Germans, if they was looking for anybody they’d bayonet the holes to check. I was down deeper than that and at 6 o’clock at night when it was dark the milkman came and brought me some shoes. I take size seven and he took size ten or eleven [laughs]. Not funny. And so, I put those on. Went with him across the fields because he only lived about half a mile, a mile away and the house where I’d stayed the farmer there followed me with a rake levelling off the ground where my footprints had been and so that he was giving me cover and it turned out then this new bloke Johan Helms, he, it’s in the book, he thought, his wife got me clothes because I’d still got RAF uniform on. So, he got me some shirt and trousers, shoes and we went next morning. He said we’d got to get out quickly because there was a train coming and we had to get on the train. So he took me down. Instead of going down the road we went down field-ways because he knew the area, being a milkman. And we get to this station. I just forget the name of the place. [Toulouse?] that was the name of the town. And he — I’d got the money so I gave him my money. He got the railway ticket and to go on the train which we did but as we were waiting for the train there were a couple of SS officers come stalking up and they got on the train with me. In the same compartment. They were talking, yabbering to each other. They’d probably had a girl the night before and they weren’t interested in passengers on the train. So and the train was going from [Toulouse?] to Copenhagen but in Denmark they’ve got an underground system like London Underground and so, we got off at a place called Roskilde. Oh no. The SS officers got off at a place called Roskilde which was German headquarters and then we went on a little bit farther. A few miles. Ten, twenty miles and the train stopped again and we got off because it turned out that we, he put me on to, or we both got on to the Underground which was going around Copenhagen and so, we got on that. When it gets to Copenhagen the train which we’d been on was in the platform and the German troops were searching it and we were on another train and what they, we all thought, and I agree with that the Germans probably realised when they got off the train at Roskilde that what was sitting next to them was one of the RAF people that was escaping. So that was why the train was stopped and, but we didn’t need it. So, they never found me, and I went to a place called Charlottenlund which was, the owner of it was the warden of the equivalent of Kew gardens and it was called the [Forest Botanski Garden?] and this man, who was the brother of the milkman because he’d rung up his brother to say he’s got, got some nice chocolates and I was traded as a box of chocolates. And so, we got there and he er [pause] yes, his daughter, the owner didn’t want me around for obvious reasons so his daughter took me around the wooded area where the trees were and we were walking around there and suddenly two German soldiers come up and she put her arms around me and started kissing me. Not that it meant [laughs] and the Germans probably thought I was her boyfriend so they just walked on, and I was left, and I was then later that day handed over to Professor [Eyg?] I don’t know if his name is familiar. He was the leader of the Underground. The Danish Underground. So, he took me to a safe, a safe house where they took my identity, my photographs and gave me a false identity and, I’ve still got it here. And I just well yeah they gave me, and then again I became another box of chocolates because this group who interviewed me of Danish ladies handed me over to another bloke and his wife and I just went and I had a bath and had a good wash and a shave. And he took me for, he said, ‘I want to take you around Copenhagen in the morning,’ so he did and as we were going down one of the side streets there’s a German road block. So they were checking everybody for their identity. So there was a cinema next door there so we went into the cinema and saw some film which was — I don’t know what it was. And after about a half hour we came out and the road block had gone so we were free so he took me around Copenhagen, around Gestapo Headquarters and that was, and he didn’t tell me what he wanted me to see but he showed me what I could see and that was Gestapo Headquarters and also there was doing, the Germans were doing something. Do you know what Copenhagen looks like?
CB: I’ve been to Copenhagen. Yes.
RML: Well there’s four lakes coming down and at the end of the fourth one is Shell House and what they were doing they was putting trees down next to the lakes and he said, ‘Take a note of that,’ and I just did that. Apparently, when I got back, it’s skipping the order to tell this bit, Air Ministry made one terrific blunder because they were planning a Gestapo Headquarters raid which went a complete success but a disaster because one of the pilots on the Mosquito, I don’t know if you know it, missed the, went down the wrong lane and hit the school.
CB: I know about that.
RML: And wasn’t supposed to
CB: Right.
RML: Because I’d gone back to tell them that the Germans expected it and they hit the school because the pilot, that one pilot had gone sick when I did the briefing and he didn’t know about the alteration and as a result he went down what he was been told, trained for, which was the wrong direction and that was how a whole load of school children were killed.
CB: Yeah. Very tragic.
RML: About a hundred children. More. Killed because of a pilot who didn’t go to the training. Anyhow, I felt very angry to say the least. But because the Gestapo headquarters, they hit it as they wanted to. I don’t know if you remember what they did. They hit the ground floor with the rockets.
CB: Yeah.
RML: And all the Gestapo and SS who were on the ground floor were killed and all the Danish government officers who had been put on the top floor escaped. It was a wonderful success that. And anyhow eventually they decided that I had to get out because I’d got, I didn’t know I’d got this information because for obvious reasons they didn’t tell me. But they got me out and as I said it was February and they put me on a ship that was leaving Copenhagen that night to go to Bornholm and on to Germany and what it was doing it was taking German troops back to Germany. So I had to be on that boat before the German troops came on so and so they put me on the outside of the life boat which was just, the water was down there and when the ship started to sail I had to crawl from outside the lifeboat to the inside of the lifeboat. The lifeboat was sitting on the deck and they put the searchlight on and they couldn’t see me because I was on the inside now. Beforehand when they were searching the ship I was on the outside. And eventually when it had gone out of the port they came and dragged me because I was frozen. Very cold. And they took me down to the captain’s cabin and he was a double agent because as he pointed out to me on the last voyage he found a German revolver and he took it down to them and said, ‘Look. You must have left this.’ And he said it may have been a trick. But anyhow he was, he said, ‘I’ll have to leave you now.’ But he gave me [egg and ham?] lots of food and I was eating that all night and he was entertaining the Germans down below. And after the war I had to go to Denmark to identify that he had actually been a double agent.
CB: Yeah.
RML: Because he was under, the Danish people thought he’d been a traitor. So anyhow, I get off the boat and the Air Ministry or the government had sent somebody down from Stockholm because they were expecting me. They got a message across to say that I was on the boat and the Danes, the escape route — I think — I forget the name of the route, but it had to be closed down because it had been compromised but it was too risky not to take the chance because they had to get me back to Stockholm to Air Ministry urgently. So, the Danes took a terrific risk in getting me on a route which had been blown because the Germans insisted on identities of people going on. It’s in this book it’s described and so they got me off and it was and then in the morning as I say the Air Ministry, the air attaché had come down from Stockholm, met me, took me to his flat and I had a wash and a shave and one memorial episode. He said, and it was night time now, he said I’m going to give you a shock. I said, ‘Well what?’ He went to the window and drew the curtains back and I’ve never seen anything as — you can imagine when we’d had a blackout for four years. Nothing. No light. And Malmo, where we’d landed, was just like Piccadilly Circus. You — the lights were terrific. It was mind blowing. And so that was a shock to me. He then took me to the station and he didn’t come with me. I don’t know why but he put me on the train to Stockholm and I’d only been on, it was a sleeper, night sleeper. I’d only been on the ship er on the train about ten minutes and somebody else came to get in the top bunk and he spoke to me. He said something in German. ‘You’re not German.’ ‘No.’ ‘What are you? American?’ ‘No.’ ‘British?’ Well you couldn’t argue with the fact I could only speak blinking British, so he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’m not going to give you up.’ He said, ‘I’m the German courier from Berlin and I’m going to the German Embassy.’ It’s nice that they have got some people that’s friendly. And so, we sat there and he said that Germany wasn’t so, this was February ‘45. Getting towards the end. And we had a little chat. In the morning he shook me out of sleep and he said, ‘Where are you going to now? British Embassy?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘I’ll get you a taxi.’ So, he got me a taxi, ordered, told him to take me to the British Embassy. This was a German courier. And I got to the German Embassy, er British Embassy and it was fine. So I’m there and then one of the staff at the Embassy said, ‘Do you smoke?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Here’s two hundred gold flakes from the British Red Cross.’ I said, ‘Oh thank you.’ So, I got those and I got sent to a hotel. The Grand Hotel in Stockholm which is quite a good one. It’s a big one. It’s like The Savoy. They put me in and when I’m, I decide to go out and I’d got some cigarettes in my pocket and I was in plain clothes now because they’d taken me to like Harrods or somewhere where they equipped me with a suit, tie, shirt, everything and so, and shoes, everything. I’d got everything I needed. So, I went downstairs and was sitting outside and a Swedish girl came up to me, a blonde and said, ‘Have you got a cigarette?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Can I have one?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Ok.’ I was naïve. Stupid little boy. So she said, ‘You haven’t got a spare packet have you?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘Oh, I’ll see you in a minute.’ ‘I thought that’s the worst, you know, she’s taken my cigarettes and gone and buggered off. About ten minutes later she came back and said ‘It’s all fixed.’ I said, ‘What?’ ‘The room.’ The packet of cigarettes was getting you a room for the night. So anyhow to be honest it didn’t materialise. So, and so I didn’t take her up on her offer. I was only in Stockholm two or three nights, so I went to the Embassy and it was interesting. The air attaché had got two daughters...



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Roy Maddock-Lyon,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023,

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