Interview with Gordon Mellor. Two


Interview with Gordon Mellor. Two


Gordon Mellor grew up in London and was interested in aviation. He volunteered for the Air Force and trained as a navigator in Canada. On his return to the UK he and his crew were posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds and his first operation was the thousand bomber operation against Cologne. On his eighteenth operation they were attacked by a night fighter. Gordon baled out and landed in a tree. When he had freed himself and landed on the ground, he set off to walk, by tracking the North Star, towards the general direction of Spain. He hid in a number of places during the daylight until after a few days he was inspired to knock on a door. He found he was in Belgium with people who started the process that would lead to him being escorted through an escape line from Belgium to Paris and then through the Pyrenees to Spain. He was taken to Gibraltar and flown home. After debriefing he was told he could go home and he knocked on his own home door on his birthday four weeks after his escape and evasion began.




Temporal Coverage




01:09:16 audio recording

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GR: This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre and today, the 27th of June 2016 I am with Flight Lieutenant Gordon Mellor at his home in Wembley, London. Thank you, Gordon. We’re in Wembley, London. Was you born in London? Are you a —
GM: Oh yes. I —my place of birth was about, I should say, two miles away from here. Also, in Wembley but on the southern borders of the town. Whereas I’m living here in the northwest.
GR: Right. And what year was that Gordon? What year?
GM: Oh that was —
GR: Roughly.
GM: Well there’s nothing rough about it. I can tell you the moment almost. It was 1919. 1st of November being the actual date. And I don’t remember the situation but —
GR: No. [unclear]
GM: My memory does go back to about my second birthday or thereabouts.
GR: That’s incredible. Do you have brothers and sisters?
GM: Oh yes. I had a brother. He, strangely enough, was seventeen years older than me so he was born round about 1920, no, not 1920. 19 —
GR: 01 or 02.
GM: 02 or 03.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
GM: Or thereabouts. Yes. But at the same time of the year in actual fact except that he was a few days later than me on the actual date.
GR: In November.
GM: Yes.
GR: So, you grew up in Wembley. Went to school in Wembley.
GM: I did go to school in Wembley until I was about thirteen. My interests were more practical perhaps than other people so I went to a technical college over at Acton at that age and I stayed there virtually three years. And my school friend I found was living within a half a mile of where I lived at that time and we chummed up and carried our relationship forward into the war years and eventually then his sister and I decided to make it a go and we were married during the war years.
GR: Oh right. So, after college, if you was at college in Acton for, what was it, three years?
GM: Well it wasn’t quite, it was a senior school.
GR: Senior school. Yeah.
GM: It wasn’t a college as such. No.
GR: No. And you left there to go and work.
GM: Oh, I had several jobs. Mainly connected with, I suppose, the building industry. My father and brother and other members of the family were all connected with that industry. And what was I going to say? Oh yes, my early experience was in offices of estate agent’s and people who were on the, I can’t say senior side because I was only a youngster then but the prospects were good.
GR: Yeah.
GM: As a surveyor. So, I eventually started work with of firm quantity surveyors in central London. And after the war I returned to that profession and qualified with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
GR: Very good. But obviously you’d started work and war was on the horizon.
GM: Indeed.
GR: I presume in September ‘39 you were still at the chartered surveyors were you? Were you?
GM: Oh yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. I was working for a private organisation. It’s only in the post-war period that I went into the public service.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And certainly in the last, what —thirty five odd years or so I worked with the Greater London Council.
GR: Right. When war broke out did you sort of decide there and then to join up or —?
GM: Well, I was interested in aircraft from a young person.
GR: Yeah.
GM: It was the ‘in’ interest shall I put it of the boys who lived and went in the same road as I did and also went to the same schools.
GR: Right.
GM: And we did get a strong interest into flying and the RAF in particular.
GR: Right. Was that an interest? Was it, was it Cobham’s Flying Circus or —?
GM: No. No.
GR: No.
HM: It was RAF Hendon.
GR: Which was obviously nearby isn’t it? Yeah.
GM: Yeah. And also there was a private ‘drome as well. My goodness me.
GR: Did you used to go up to Hendon then and watch the aircraft?
GM: Yes. We used, yes, we used to go over to Hendon and get to a position round where you could see what was going on. Although we weren’t on their ground but we were as near as we could get.
GR: To watch it.
GM: To watch what was going on.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And there was also another aerodrome close by where [pause] the name of it escapes me at the moment.
GR: It doesn’t matter. [unclear] So, it was —
GM: De Havilland’s I think had got a factory there, in that area and their aerodrome was also used.
GR: Not London — not London Colney.
GM: No.
GR: There was something there. I think that was the test place. So, it was an easy decision to volunteer for the Royal Air Force.
GM: Oh yes. Yes. Indeed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: It was a main point of interest as far as us lads were concerned in that part of Wembley. Yeah.
GR: And did your friends join up as well?
GM: Yes. They either joined up or called up.
GR: Yeah.
GM: In the early days of war. But they went to army or navy.
GR: Navy yeah. So, so can you remember where you joined up? Were you one of the ones who went to St John’s Wood and —?
GM: Where did —?
GR: Did you mention earlier you did some training at Uxbridge. No?
GM: Yes I, yes, my first real connection was when I was called up in 1940.
GR: Right.
GM: Early in ‘40 and I reported to RAF Hendon as many other youngsters did and that’s where we started.
GR: Yeah. Which was quite fitting considering you lived nearby.
GM: Yes. Yes.
GR: That’s quite good isn’t it? So, yeah.
GM: Riding on the train and then out to where Hendon Aerodrome was. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. Did you do your training in this country? Or was you sent abroad?
GM: Yes. In actual fact there was a bit of a blockage in the training period and we were drafted out to various places. When I say we, there was about forty of us who were all called up together. And we were then posted out to various places and I was sent to [pause] Yeah. I haven’t thought about this for a long time.
GR: No. It doesn’t matter. ‘Cause what did you decide to train as? It wasn’t a pilot was it? It was a —
GM: No. I —
GR: Navigator.
GM: I was keen on the navigation. So I, yes, I volunteered for that and I was accepted for that purpose. Yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And —oh dear. Oh dear.
GR: It doesn’t matter. Obviously training. You know, I’ve spoken to a lot of veterans and I think training followed the same —
GM: Pattern.
GR: Pattern all the way through.
GM: Yes. Yeah. We had as I say, several months on general duties.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Because there was, seemed to be a bit of a blockage. More volunteers than they could cope with.
GR: Cope with.
GM: So we joined up and we did general duties in many ways.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And in my case then I was posted up to Norfolk and I was on ground defence for quite a time.
GR: Oh right.
GM: And during that time, of course, you did pick up a lot of general knowledge about living in the air force and it was all good useful stuff.
GR: Yeah. Good. So, training, yeah ran its usual pattern when you started. And then —
GM: Yes. I suppose so.
GR: Where did you get posted to?
GM: The first real training as far as flying was concerned was at Aberystwyth which was an ITW.
GR: Yeah.
GR: And we did the course there and a bit more because there was still something of a blockage.
GR: Yeah. Right.
GM: And from there we then were posted to the Midlands as a short stopping off place and then by boat.
GR: Yeah.
GM: We went via [pause] where did we go? Reykjavik in Iceland and then through to the east coast of Canada.
GR: Right.
GM: Once there then things got moving and we finished up at Port Albert which was a training aerodrome in Ontario. About a hundred and forty miles to the west of the main cities.
GR: Yes.
GM: In that area.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. So, I presume life in Canada was slightly different to life in Britain.
GM: Well. Yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. It was. It was somewhat freer I think.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And of course, not having to cope with the blackout. That was quite an interesting period.
GR: How long did you spend in Canada, Gordon?
GM: About seven months I think.
GR: Seven months. Yeah.
GM: There was the basic navigation course which was twelve weeks. We then had a week’s leave and then we did a four weeks course [pause] to follow on the navigation.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And having completed that successfully as a group, we’d all been together since we arrived in Canada, we then went to bombing and gunnery school.
GR: Right.
GM: In another part of Ontario. By the Lakes. And we spent at least six weeks there. I have a feeling we overran a little bit.
GR: Yeah.
GM: But then it was time which you received your promotion as a sergeant and we had parade and this happened. There were a number of, a group of, I think it was about forty of us all together in two main, sort of, groups. And some of the [pause] in each group were granted immediate commissions and the others became NCOs.
GR: Right.
GM: Having got the passing out parade done then we were given tickets and travel paraphernalia and told to arrive in the east coast of Canada. We arrived close by and embarked to come back to the UK.
GR: Right.
GM: So, yes, I thought that we were treated very adequately. Being — having jumped from, what rank was I [pause] oh dear. Oh dear. Something below corporal up to sergeant.
GR: Leading aircraft — LAC1?
GM: Leading aircraftsman. How right you are. This is dragging me into the part that I —
GR: Seventy five years of, yeah, remembering.
GM: Yeah. Yes.
GR: LAC2. LAC1 and then you probably went to sergeant.
GM: I did. Yeah.
GR: And then flight sergeant.
GM: Then flight sergeant.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And then yes. Warrant officer.
GR: Yeah.
GM: By that time, it was a couple of years. Three years on.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And from warrant officer I was commissioned.
GR: Yeah. So, before you got to the rank of warrant officer you were back in the UK.
GM: Oh yeah.
GR: Did you get posted direct to a squadron or was it a Heavy Conversion Unit?
GM: No. It was an extension of our flying experience. Mainly to get experience in flying in blackout conditions.
GR: Oh yeah.
GM: Because in Canada all the lights were on.
GR: Yes.
GM: So, as you soon as you got into the UK air then it was black.
GR: And of course navigation would be quite reasonable with all the lights on and if you knew where cities and towns were.
GM: Well yes. Indeed. There was no problem at all.
GR: Yeah. So, pitch black England.
GM: It was. Yeah. Well, of course you were young and adventurous so you attacked the problem with vigour and got used to it.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Which is what one had to. So, Lichfield was the place that I went to to get the flying experience in the dark.
GR: And was you with a crew then? Did you have your own pilot or —? Was it —?
GM: Shortly after that then we did crew up.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And there seemed to be quite a number of Australian pilots running parallel with us. Most of the navigators, I think, were British. May have been one —oh yes there was an odd one or two Australians as well I think. And just a way of processing us for making up the numbers from other groups of navigators at the same stage as we were. And so, we went to Lichfield and whilst we were climatizing ourselves to blackouts in general then of course we were gaining experience as a crew because we were given the opportunity to arrange, sort of, the membership of the crew during social hours.
GR: So, this was on Wellingtons. So —
GM: It was on Wellingtons.
GR: Was there about —was there five of you? I think it is on a Wellington. Yeah.
GM: Yes. I think it was five at that time.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. Because you would have had your air gunners with you as well. With you at that time.
GM: Oh yes. Indeed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yeah. It was largely done by meeting each other in the mess or during working hours. They had a flight headquarters and also during flying. You got to know who the people you got on well with and it didn’t take very long to get a crew together.
GR: To get together. Yeah. So where did things move on from training? I believe you were —I wouldn’t say rushed but you —
GM: No. We weren’t rushed. We did well.
GR: Yeah.
GM: In actual fact that post-training period abroad, we did broaden our skills quite considerably with the experience we were getting flying around. And we did eventually do a first raid on enemy territory. It was sort of a single effort in which we flew as a crew on our first operation.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And it was a comparatively easy operation.
GR: Yeah. Did they give you something like leaflet dropping or mine laying? Or something like that as a —?
GM: Oh yes. We dropped leaflets on this particular occasion.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
GM: It wasn’t — they weren’t a great deal on this occasion but at least we felt we were doing something towards the war effort.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
GM: Yes.
GR: And that’s while you was at the Operational Training Unit.
GM: That’s right. Yes. Having done that single initial trip.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Within days it was postings were announced. And I think we all were all sent home on leave for a week or something like that. When we came back then the postings took effect. We went to the squadron.
GR: Yeah. And that was 103. Yeah. 103 at Elsham Wolds.
GM: Yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes.
GR: And I believe, was your first operation then the thousand bomber raid?
GM: Oh yes. The first thousand bomber raid. As far as I can recall.
GR: Yeah.
GM: I think it was the very first one.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Where did we go to?
GR: I’m trying to remember. Would that be Cologne?
GM: Yes. It would be.
GR: Essen.
GM: It would have been.
GR: Cologne or Essen.
GM: I think it was Cologne.
GR: Cologne.
GM: Yes. Yes.
GR: And I think that was in a Wellington wasn’t it so —?
GM: Yes. That was in a Wellington.
GR: Yeah.
GM: We had converted from flying Ansons in the early days at IT. ITW. Yes.
GR: Yeah. Initial training. Yeah.
GM: Whatever it was.
GR: Yeah.
GM: When we got back from Canada that we then converted on to.
GR: Yeah. And obviously, I mean, I know you then converted from the Wellington on to the Halifax.
GM: Yes. Indeed.
GR: Heavy bomber.
GM: That was in the summer of 1942.
GR: Yeah. So, and then leading on to what obviously was an eventful night. How many operations did you actually fly Gordon? Can you remember? Roughly.
GM: I think I was on my eighteenth.
GR: Eighteenth.
GM: Yes
GR: Yeah.
GM: I was looking forward to getting, going towards the end. We had thirty to do.
GR: Thirty. Yes. Yeah.
GM: And it wasn’t to be.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Which was a great pity.
GR: And those eighteen were with the same crew? Were you —
GM: Oh yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. Yes.
GR: So, I don’t know whether you can tell us a little about yeah, obviously I know you were attacked by a German night fighter.
GM: Well what it really boils down to — the raid followed the usual pattern and except that when we came out of the target run and dropped the bombs and we were turned away for the return trip back home and we were jumped by this German fighter.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And he just hung around in the background so — I didn’t see him. I was in the front of the aircraft so, but from the rear gunner and the other people who could look backwards he stayed probably something like five hundred yards behind us. He didn’t do anything that was aggressive or anything like. He just sort of sat there. And we did, with the captain making up his mind then, we did talk about what we should do and eventually we said, ‘Well let’s try and scare him off.’ Bad decision. Because we opened up on him from the four gun turret in the, at the rear and also there was a turret —
GR: Mid-upper.
GM: Mid-upper turret. Yes. And that amounted to six machine guns in all. Four with the rear gunner and two mid-upper. And that annoyed the [laughs] chap who was following us I’ve no doubt because having received a blast from our gunners he then opened up and he must have been very good because he really gave us, I think it was —I think four bursts I think we experienced and in that time he set the two inboard engines on fire. He also hit the rear gunner and he missed the rest of us by very small margins because you could see the tracers going past.
GR: And through —
GM: And through.
GR: The machine. Yeah.
GM: Yeah. Yeah. And it set the two engines so named so, we were burned and the pilot put us into a dive to get to a lower level and we were flying at about twelve thousand feet I suppose. Certainly, no more. We found that to be a relatively good level to make an attack and, on this occasion, it didn’t pay off out, pay off in our favour as it had done in the past. So, we were shot down, in plain English. And got down to quite low levels before the order was given to abandon aircraft. And I, in the front of the aircraft was standing on the escape hatch. So all we had to do really was to move ourselves. That’s the radio operator, the front gunner and myself. And just behind and above us was the pilot and his —
GR: Flight engineer.
GM: Flight engineer.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yeah
GR: Was you the first out?
GM: Yes. I was standing on the escape hatch. And they were, having made the decision, the general impression was get out. Don’t hold anybody up.
GR: Yeah.
GM: So, I got the trap door up and I dropped to sitting on the side of the aperture with my legs dangling and I knew the others were anxious to get into that position so I slid my rear end off the edge of the opening and I was sucked out by the slipstream. And I didn’t pull my cord of the parachute until I was well away from the aircraft. And probably somebody else would have got out in the same time. And I eventually did do so but I wasn’t in the air very long. Just time to look around and there was the light and somehow or other it seemed to be yellowy to me. I don’t know what colour the night was there but I’ve got this yellow feeling in my memory so perhaps it was from the flares or something like that burning as the aircraft got closer to the ground and the fire took greater hold. Anyhow, I pulled the rip cord and came to a jarring stop almost, I suppose. And within a very short period — seconds it seemed, so it probably was that I found myself crashing through the branches of a tree. And I was left swinging with the parachute and the harness stretched out above me spread over the foliage of the branches of the tree.
GR: Yeah.
GM: So, I couldn’t touch the ground so I thought well I’ve got to do something. So I twisted the knob on the release on the parachute harness and the straps sort of sprang apart and I was free to drop — which I did. To my surprise I fell about a foot. No more. I mean, if you can imagine.
GR: Yeah.
GM: You pulled the cord and as soon as you were in motion then you stopped.
GR: You were bracing yourself for a bad fall.
GM: Indeed.
GR: And you dropped twelve inches.
GM: Yeah.
GR: Good.
GM: It couldn’t have been more. It was so quick. And so, I got myself out of the tree and dogs were barking around and I could see there was a building close by which I thought, well, sounds like this might be bit of a farm. In that style. I dumped my harness and what have you there. It was largely still attached to the silk of the parachute which was stuck up in the tree and I left it there. It was no good. I wasn’t going to be able to pull it down. It would make too much row in any case. I did try but I gave up when I heard the creaking and the crashing and the scratching on the branches. So, I walked my way down to the, what I thought might be a road and having got through the hedge it proved to be a road going, yes, downhill. Not very steep. So, naturally, I took the road down. I didn’t go up and I found that I was walking, from the observation of the North Star, I found that I was walking more or less in a northerly direction and as I felt then at the moment then that was the wrong way to go ‘cause I would only be walking to a coast.
GR: Was you in France Gordon? Or in Belgium? You know, when you landed.
GM: When I landed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: I was in, on the border of Belgium and Holland.
GR: Belgium and Holland. Right. Yeah.
GM: So, it was about as far as where you could get without being in Germany I suppose.
GR: Yeah.
GM: So, anyhow, I thought well it’s no good staying here. You’ve got to find somewhere to hide for daylight and it was still before midnight. So, I walked off and having made the discovery that I was heading to the north I turned on the first immediate turning and went up a road to the west and I did see where the aircraft had crashed. Having been left. So, I thought —right, well south is going to be over that way so I went that way and continued to do so for the rest of the night.
GR: So, you walked through the night.
GM: Yeah. I don’t know how many miles I travelled.
GR: Yeah.
GM: But I walked through the odd village certainly.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And the odd dog did bark.
GR: So, in the morning as the light’s coming up did you meet anybody or decide you had to get some sleep?
GM: Yeah, well I was still on the road. I was going, from my observations, then I realised I was no longer travelling to the south. I was travelling to the, what’s, south, east, west —
GR: West.
GM: I was travelling to the west along the road and I thought well there’s houses there. I wonder what is around the back somewhere. It was beginning to get light so, I turned off the road into a field path. And eventually I found a copse on the farm and I got myself in and got in to the undergrowth so that I was hidden although there was a road close by. Or a path of some sort close by. And went to sleep. I woke up mid-morning or thereabouts and I could hear people moving about in the field and I found I was in this copse on the side of a rise and there was men working above me in the field there and there was people passing along the road which was in front of this copse in which I was hiding. So, I just kept out of sight as best I could for the morning. The same in the afternoon. I examined what I’d got in my pockets which was edible. There wasn’t much. A few little bits of chocolate and what have you and I stayed there until the farm began to close down for the night and the light was well on its way to disappearing. Leaving it dark. So I just got up and I’d seen the traffic in the roads close by so I went, turned around, turned across the grass that wasn’t very long. Yes, it was grass of the field. Went through the hedge and down the road. Heading more or less in a southerly direction. And I proceeded where the road was going west and south and I took a variety of roads passing through whatever built up areas there were. And there were a few villages. Not big. That one could walk through.
GR: So, did you walk through the night again?
GM: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. I walked through the night. In the early part of the night when I went past a group of houses very often there was a coffee shop or a beer place or whatever it was where people had gathered for their evening’s entertainment. I was being tempted to go and find out whether there was any help there but I resisted that and carried on until I had to find another hiding place on the following morning. And this was repeated. Staying hidden as best as possible in the hiding place which I’d chosen in the dark actually. And as soon as it got anywhere near dark I was on my way.
GR: How long did you do this for before you came into contact with anybody?
GM: Well I saw people. People came.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Did come fairly close to me without seeing me.
GR: Yeah.
GM: When I was hidden in the bushes and things like that. I think it was about the fifth day.
GR: Fifth day.
GM: Fourth or fifth day and I —
GR: And did somebody approach you or did you approach them?
GM: No. No. What happened was I’d been staying in the middle of a village. In the bombed house. Or an empty house anyhow. It wasn’t in very good nick. I imagined from what I could see that it was a bombed-like. During the daytime there in this particular place the shops across the road and on either side and what have you was, were mixed. In some cases, there were shops and there was living quarters there as well. Houses and flats. And people were going about their normal daily business.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And I, up on the first floor occasionally poked my head up and looked out of the windows and I could see these people dressed normally and carrying shopping bags and things like that and they went. They went. The scariest part of it was at lunchtime the kids were out of school and I don’t know whether they had their lunches at school or whether they had them at home but there was a number of them about and two or three of them came into the house in which I was on the first floor. And they messed around a bit as kids do in an empty place and they started coming up the stairs and then something happened. I don’t know what happened but it took their attention. Perhaps their playtime had gone and they didn’t get right up to the top of the stairs so, I was left on the first floor there unmolested. And I just stayed on there until it started to get dark. I can’t tell you what time it was that it got dark but this was October.
GR: Yeah.
GM: So, evenings were getting dark fairly early and the number of people out on the street of course diminished as soon as it came what would have been, in the old days, lighting up time.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And the streets became largely vacant so I took a chance. Went downstairs and got the general direction in my own mind to go south and west and I got out of the old bombed house on to the main road. I just walked through. Eventually I got out of the town and I took where my fancy took me. In actual fact, I was aware of what the countryside was like and whether I was on open ground or whether I was passing through places where there was copses of trees and what have you but I stayed on the road as much as possible. It was easy walking.
GR: Yeah.
GM: That’s what I did. And I had to find, at the beginning of the next day before it got light I had to find a hiding place each time. And the countryside was quite interesting. It was quite hilly and I did come to a river. Wait a minute. No [pause] I’m not too sure where that was. I certainly came to the odd railway so I had to walk along the ordinary road and went across the railway bridge to get to the other side. There were people about. A bit. But it was as good as being, walking on your own.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yeah. It was, it was quite good. So, I walked overnight for the first four or five nights and got away with it.
GR: Got away with it. So again, when did you meet somebody or how did you meet somebody —
GM: Yeah.
GR: Who was involved with either the resistance or helpers?
GM: Well, I stayed in one town as I say.
GR: Yeah.
GM: I think that was probably the last one. Anyhow, I walked from that last town and eventually having sort of just taken the general south-westerly direction I found myself in fairly open country and of course it had started to rain. It had been dry all the time previously. And I got pretty wet. Ok. What do I do now? And it was no good sort of getting under a tree or anything like that.
GR: No.
GM: ‘Cause the summer foliage was disappearing fast and the branches were fairly clear of leaves. So, I thought well I’ll have to go back to the old place where I’d stayed the previous night which was a bit of a problem because it was some miles. Anyhow, I did go back and I came into a village and you needed a map because it affects the story to a certain extent. Anyhow, I got, I passed one of the villages which I’d come through and I saw a house on the other side of the road. There were houses around.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
GM: And I was walking down the main street. There was nobody about and looking across the road I could see there was a light in this house. It was surprising because most of the lighting was so subdued that you really couldn’t make any use of it. In any case it would have given one’s position away quite easily. Anyhow, I was in the middle of this village and I was quite amazed to see so much light from it. Anyhow, that was only for a short while but the house was still there and I thought there’s somebody obviously living there. And it took me some time to make up my mind but I thought I’m soaking wet.
GR: Wet, tired and hungry.
GM: Indeed. Indeed. Greater pusher to making up your mind.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And so, I went and knocked on the front door and there was no response from the door but the window flung out from the first floor. And just one question, ‘qui est la?’ Who is there? So, I tried to explain my position to this face up at the window. And I don’t know what he said but obviously sort of —wait. So, I just stood there and I heard him thundering downstairs so he’d still got his shoes on and this was about 8 o’clock in the evening I suppose. From my general recollection. And the door was flung open. And I think I said something rather crass like, ‘Je suis Anglais,’ or something like that. And he looked me up and down. Didn’t say anything. Just beckoned me in.
GR: Just beckoned you in.
GM: And I then followed him into a back room and he put the lights on. He gave me a good looking over and his wife then came downstairs. Whether they’d been going to bed or whether they’d got an upstairs room I don’t know. And so there we were. They sort of, I think they started to dry me off to a certain extent and they also had a, what we call a boiler, a solid fuel fire of sorts.
GR: Yeah. Fire.
GM: And so I’m sort of sat close by to that and his wife, as I say, came down and I tried to explain who I was. I showed them my uniform and the flying and the badge and they were very friendly. Anyhow, it wasn’t long before there was a knock on the door and in came a local priest. So, they’d got a message through to him pretty smartish. Mind you it was — the timing was such that it was now in time which nobody should be about except those who were in authority.
GR: Yeah. Curfew.
GM: There was a curfew.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And this man was the local priest. He’d got some English. He’d got a good lot of English. Anyhow, he understood what was what and his main words that he said was, ‘You come with me.’ So, I thought, well, ‘Great. And by that time the rain had finished and it was dry outside. Well I say dry. It wasn’t raining.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And having thanked the man and his wife for the help I came away with the priest and went and stayed at his establishment which was some walk away. And he was living there with his housekeeper and she was still up so it couldn’t have been so very late. So, she just sort of said hello, so to speak, and accepted that I was one of the opposition to the Germans. They had me in there and I don’t know — they gave me a drink I think. I don’t know whether it was hot or cold now. And a bed. That was the first bed I’d been in for some time. it was typical continental.
GR: Yeah.
GM: One of these great puffed up ones.
GR: It was a bed.
GM: It was a bed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And it was in the warm. In the dry. And they were friends.
GR: And did you find out later were they part of the resistance or were they just somebody — did they put you in —?
GM: Oh, they were in the know.
GR: They were in the know.
GM: They were in the know. How active they were I don’t know but they certainly —
GR: You wouldn’t have known at the time but obviously you were at the beginning of the Comete line.
GM: Yes.
GR: To be passed all the way down.
GM: It may not have been actual Comete people but people who were associated with them.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And yes, I was then [pause] I made the contacts and went on and eventually with the result that I got in with Comete but it was no joyride having found them.
GR: No. No.
GM: As a matter of fact it was downright dangerous in places.
GR: Yeah. Because at the time I presume the Germans knew that something was, they knew airmen were getting down.
GM: Oh yes.
GR: They would have known of an existence of some sort of resistance movement moving them. How, can you remember how long you were actually from being shot down to getting through the Pyrenees how long were you —?
GM: Oh, three weeks or thereabouts.
GR: Three weeks.
GM: Yeah. Yes.
GR: And obviously you and your helpers would have been living on your wits all the time. Like you said it was dangerous.
GM: Yes, well I eventually —
GR: Probably more dangerous for the helpers.
GM: Oh certainly.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Certainly. Yes.
GR: As long as you still had your RAF dog tags you had some sort of security.
GM: Yes. Yes indeed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: But I did take other badges and things off so there was nothing to show for it. And then of course, the priest lent me one of his overall coats. I don’t know whether — he wasn’t as big as me but, so where he got the coat I don’t know but it certainly fitted really well. And I eventually got through to Brussels. From Brussels I got through to Paris. I got from Paris down to St Jean de Luz and from there through the Pyrenees. That was a long run. I don’t know how many miles. Thirty odd. And the —
GR: And this would have been the end of October. Probably the beginning of November.
GM: Yes.
GR: So winter was on its way.
GM: It was the end of October.
GR: Yeah.
GM: It was —I got down to the Pyrenees. I think it was the 19th of October. And got across and I then went down. Yes. Yes I eventually got down to — what’s the capital of Spain?
GR: Madrid.
GM: Madrid.
GR: Madrid.
GM: Yes. Eventually they, on the grapevine, they were told in Madrid that I was up there on their side of the border and so they sent a car up to take me down to the British embassy.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And arrangements were then made and we went from the embassy two or three days later and we then finished up in Gibraltar and they sort of were pretty careful about finding out you were on the level.
GR: Yes.
GM: And so, I then went down to the Rock of Gibraltar and eventually, a couple of days later I flew to the UK.
GR: So, you flew back. You didn’t — yeah.
GM: Yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And that was [pause] how many days are there in October? Thirty one.
GR: Thirty one.
GM: Well that was the night of the 31st of October and we landed down in Cornwall to book in and do whatever official things had to be done and then we were flown up to, now, an aerodrome near London.
GR: Croydon.
GM: No.
GR: Not Hendon.
GM: No. No.
GR: Uxbridge.
GM: No. Further out.
GR: Northolt.
GM: Further out. Anyhow —
GR: Yeah.
GM: We got a train in.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And reported in to whatever place it was. Up in town. Yes.
GR: And then I presume —
GM: I’m sorry. This is getting a bit —
GR: No. Gordon it isn’t and your memory’s very very good. And I presume you were then debriefed.
GM: We came up. We landed in the UK and then we, then came in to, towards central London.
GR: Yeah.
GM: We then, I was with other people. Then there was three, I think, of us. We hadn’t been in our escapes with each other at all. It was just whoever was [pause] happened to be, due to come, return back to the UK.
GR: Yes.
GM: On that particular day. Anyhow, as I say we landed on the first of November and we got, we then, with several hiccups we got up to London and Baker Street. It was a hotel which is still there.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And went in. And it had been taken over by the air force, and booked in and in the next couple of minutes we were asked a question. The question is, ‘Where do you live?’ And I said, ‘Well, my family live in Wembley’. He said, ‘That’s just down the road by train.’ So he said, ‘Right. You can go home tonight.’ So, I don’t know what — oh they gave me a pass, I think. Travel. Yeah. Anyhow, I got on the train in Baker Street along through to Wembley Central and I walked down the old road. The estate. Sort of. Which had been there for quite some time and I turned down the road, our road —Douglas Avenue after travelling down the Ealing Road which does lead one to Ealing still and I banged on the front door. Gave my mother nearly a heart attack I think. She already knew I was ok.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And so, I went in and I was home. And the 1st of November is my birthday.
GR: So, you was home for your birthday.
GM: Indeed. Well, the last couple of hours of it.
GR: So from taking off you spent what, four weeks. Got back four weeks later.
GM: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. About the 4th or the 5th of October.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And I walked into home. Thousands of miles away I suppose you could say.
GR: Round trip.
GM: Round trip.
GR: A wonderful birthday present.
GM: Indeed.
GR: Going back to the crew, Gordon.
GM: Yes.
GR: If you don’t mind. I know your rear gunner didn’t make it.
GM: No. He didn’t.
GR: The other five members. Did they evade or were they taken prisoner of war?
GM: No. They were — those that were injured —
GR: Yeah.
GM: Were taken to hospital and they then became POWs.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And the others who were just banged about a bit the same as myself —
GR: Yeah.
GM: They were taken prisoner.
GR: They were taken prisoner as well. Yeah. So out of the crew you were the only one who managed to get back.
GM: Indeed. Indeed.
GR: Yeah.
GM: It was a great pity but —
GR: And the rest of them had to wait until 1945.
GM: I’m afraid so.
GR: Yeah. So what happened to you Gordon? After you were back and you’d had your leave and obviously the end of the war would have been still two years away.
GM: Oh yes this was, what, ‘42 .
GR: ’42. Yeah. So —
GM: Running into ‘43. Yeah. I had Christmas at home.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yeah.
GR: ‘Cause I know they had a rule about not letting you fly again or fly over.
GM: It depended on your experience I think.
GR: Yeah.
GM: But I had, in actual fact, in that four weeks and I’d got to know the identity of a lot of people.
GR: Yeah. Which was good.
GM: So, there was no question of going back on ops again.
GR: No. So did you, what did you actually do for those two years. Did you —
GM: Oh. Well, yes, after the interrogation, the next day.
GR: Yeah.
GM: After I’d been home I had to go back to this old hotel at Baker Street and went through the debriefing and they said, ‘What do you want to do?’ So, I said, ‘Well I would like to do SN course in navigation.’ Staff navigator. And so they said, ‘Well, that’s alright. We can fix that.’ And sure enough they did. I was posted away from London to Cheltenham. The aerodrome at Cheltenham. Or nearby. And I was on the staff there as an instructor until July ‘43. That’s right. July ‘43 and in that time, I was an instructor in —
GR: Navigation.
GM: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And I then took the advanced course which was very interesting.
GR: Yeah.
GM: It was a good course. And I then was posted, after that, to [pause] now where did I go to?
GR: Again, as an instructor or —
GM: Oh yes.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Yes. Yes. I was posted up to Scotland. That’s right. And strangely the place where I got posted to was Wigtown.
GR: Wigtown. Yeah. I know Wigtown.
GM: And the chap I was working, that I was sent up to work with was Len [unclear] he was a flight [unclear] officer. Flight lieutenant.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Was he? Yeah. He was flight lieutenant. He was, certainly he was a regular officer and navigation specialist so I worked with him to start with and, well it all turned out very well.
GR: Yeah.
GM: Finishing up, as you say, as a flight lieutenant.
GR: Yeah. And so, I’ll pull to a close. Where was you on VE day? So 8th of May 1945. Was you still up in Scotland instructing? Where was you when you were told the war had finished?
GM: 8th of May.
GR: 1945.
GM: ‘45. I was at Wigtown.
GR: You were still up in Wigtown in Scotland. Yeah.
GM: Yes. I stayed on with the flying training. Still continued.
GR: Yeah.
GM: The air force didn’t suddenly sort of pack it all in and go home. It carried on very much as it had before. And eventually they were closing down the advanced, was it the Advanced Navigation School?
GR: Yeah.
GM: Something. Anyhow, the camp was going to be decommissioned by the sounds of things until something else was found for it to be used for and we came down south and I [pause] There was somebody who was the nav senior instructor who I’d known and met and he put a request in, I think. For me to go to where he was.
GR: Yeah. And obviously by the time you finished your service in the Royal Air Force.
GM: Yeah.
GR: You came back to Wembley.
GM: Yes. Indeed.
GR: And this house we’re sat in. How long have you lived here now Gordon?
GM: Oh, about forty five, forty six years.
GR: Forty five. Yeah. Yeah.
GM: And we had another house before this for twelve years.
GR: Yeah.
GM: The other side of Wembley.
GR: Yeah.
GM: And on the same road as where my parents lived and where I grew up.
GR: So apart from a six year sojourn in the Royal Air Force.
GM: I’ve lived in Wembley.
GR: You’re here in Wembley and we’re still in Wembley.
GM: Yeah.
GR: And I have to say, Gordon. I really appreciate what you’ve just talked about. It was absolutely wonderful. Thank you.
GM: I’m sorry to not be —
GR: Do not say sorry.
GM: More.
GR: No. I mean I —
GM: I haven’t thought about some parts of this at all.
GR: Yeah. I mean I knew your story obviously from past experiences and some of the books you’ve appeared in. And I know you’ve got your book coming out in September which is going to be eagerly awaited. But no —that was wonderful. Thank you.
GM: Oh well, you’re very kind.



Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Gordon Mellor. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 5, 2023,

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