Interview with Gordon Mellor. Three

Title

Interview with Gordon Mellor. Three

Description

Gordon Mellor grew up in London and hoped to become a quantity surveyor when he was called up. 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. Returning from an operation to the Ruhr, they were shot down by a night fighter. When Gordon baled out he landed initially in a tree and then managed to find a hiding place and then began his experience of being on the run. Finally he managed to make contact with the Belgian resistance and the Comete line who began the process of guiding him home.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2016-08-17

Contributor

Julie Williams

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

01:28:00 Audio Recording

Language

Type

Identifier

AMellorGH160817

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: Let me just start off with the introduction.
GM: Sort of introduce the -
CB: I’ll start you off.
GM: Order.
CB: Yeah. I’ll start you off.
GM: Yeah. Yes.
CB: Ok. My name is Chris Brock bank and today is the 17th of August 2016. I’m with Gordon Mellor in Wembley and we’re going to talk about his life and times in the RAF and afterwards. So, Gordon, in practical terms, what do you remember about your earliest days?
GM: My earliest days were, shall we say, from birth to five years old and I do still have a firm memory at the, at the age of two, two years of falling down in some land behind our house and breaking a leg so I was sort of done up with plaster and what have you for some little time at that early age. The rest of the youth was, I should say, ordinary. I went to a local council school and stayed there for quite some years. This was a convenient house, convenient to our house of about seven or eight minutes’ walk so that I have in actual fact spent most of my lifetime in this area which is known worldwide as Wembley. Following the days at the council school that I first mentioned I was not a success on what was commonly known as the eleven plus but I seemed to pick up speed and I successfully entered the excellent technical college where the main subject matter was related to engineering and I must have stayed there nearly three years at that particular place. Then I made great friends with a man, well he wasn’t a man he was a boy like myself but his name was Kenneth Clarke. I mention him because he was, has always been until recent years quite a prominent member of my friends. When I was close to seventeen then I got itchy feet I suppose and I wanted to get out to work rather than spend the last three or four months in school so I looked around and obviously I needed to have some strong ideas about employment and also on subject matter. I decided that I didn’t want to just be a clerk in an office or an engineer of the varying quality so I decided that I would take a job to start with and for the first couple of years of being at work then I was connected with the estate agents and property subject matter and after that I then became a little more concentrated on surveying and I changed direction away from property valuation and the like and became the chartered quantity surveyor. The charter didn’t come until after the national service which will come to light in due course. For this purpose I scouted around and took one or two approaches to surveyors and eventually I picked up what I thought was a suitable proposition and by that time I suppose I was getting near to eighteen, nineteen and I found this particular work to be of interest so I then took classes in, at evening time and I was in this situation taking the class at London Polytechnic. Oh goodness me I’ve forgotten the name of the place. It’s top of Regent Street, near Charing Cross, not Charing Cross.
CB: New Oxford Street.
GM: Oxford Street. Yes. Just north of Oxford Street. So and I I found it interesting and there was a wide range of matter to become familiar with so this then certainly brought me to the period I would say was 1937/38 and the international situation indicated that there was going to be quite a conflict. The only question to my mind and a lot of other people was when? How soon would it be? Well we did find out. 1939, and the entry in to the armed forces as a, shall we say, can’t call it a pastime but it became of interest and we tried to get into the volunteer reserve. Well as I was looking for quite a high qualification in, I was doing anything from four to five evening classes a week at Regent Street Polytechnic. Anyhow, time passed and we found in September 1939 that war was forced upon us and I hadn’t been successful in getting into the volunteer reserve. I’d been doing a day’s job and most of my spare time was in study and the like. So it wasn’t until calling up papers came in the beginning of 1940 that I was brought into the services. The air force had a strong representation in aerodromes around North London. Northwest London. Hendon obviously was one of them and I had tried to extend my knowledge of the air force as, just as a matter of relaxation so when the calling up papers came and I had volunteered for the RAF and in view of my familiar approach to maps and charts and things like that I applied for service in the RAF. Much to my delight we were going to have to do something we might as well l do something that was a principal interest so I joined the RAF as an AC2 as I think most people did unless you were a university graduate or the like and this was in the early days of 1940. Well, I, how far do you want me to go on?
CB: Keep going. That’s fine.
GM: We’re alright are we?
CB: Yeah. Very good.
GM: Ok. I was, oh my goodness me, where were we going, oh yes I was called up to Uxbridge depot and I spent the first week there, joined with about forty, I would say, about forty other youngsters. I wouldn’t say that everyone was a youngster. There was quite some mature men who were also being called up and having gone through the initiation and the approaches to a service life we were then posted up to a discipline, sorry -
CB: Initial Training Wing.
GM: Indeed. Initial Training Wing. That is the correct name of course and we found that it all, it went well on the whole and we came through the first three months and there was still no sign of being posted elsewhere so we had the traditional seven days leave until we came back and all in all we saved an extra few weeks before there was a vacancy for another training course and we were posted. This was an initial training wing and we survived the entrance and the doings and also we were useful in doing odd jobs when we were given the opportunity to train for a post as navigators in Canada. So having had an introduction to navigation in this way we were posted up north to a depot on the coast and from there in Scotland we got onto a boat which was not much more than a cross channel ferry and we went up to Iceland, stayed on the boat and then transferred immediately to a much larger vessel. I used to be able to quote the name of the boat, maybe it will come to mind in a minute but we put, went from Reykjavik in Iceland across to Canada and on the way there we were accompanied by a number of other boats and although we were going quite fast then certainly it wasn’t for the slower vessel at all. It was quite a quick trip. We landed on the east coast of Canada and in no time we were being marshalled off of the ferry boat and I used to be able to -
[Machine stopped]
CB: No. No. That’s fine. It’s my way of just covering it then. So we’re restarting now and we’re in Canada.
GM: Yes.
CB: Just going back a step.
GM: Yes.
CB: So the intriguing thing is the number of places that were training and some were slightly different but you went to Port Albert.
GM: That’s right.
CB: Which is on the Lakes.
GM: Yes. Yes.
CB: So what did you actually do when you were there? How did the course go?
GM: Well it was a mixture of navigation instruction and as that progressed so we did flying exercises which followed the increased knowledge that you gained in the classroom.
CB: Right.
GM: So we were still having lectures on navigation problems and requirements at the end of the first three months much in the same method of training as we were at the beginning of that period. It was the subject matter that improved.
CB: Right.
GM: Then we had the period after that of several weeks and then we were posted to the bombing and gunnery school.
CB: So when you were doing the navigation training, you’re at Port Albert.
GM: Yes.
CB: What’s, what’s the geography like there? Are we in the prairies or are we in a built up sort of area.
GM: We were in Ontario.
CB: Yes.
GM: Which is a major farming area I would have said. It was, we were about twelve miles out of the town of, I think it was Goderich.
CB: Yeah.
GM: And there we learned the techniques and what have you and flying from the, that aerodrome we put what we had learned in the classroom, so to speak, into practice.
CB: Yeah.
GM: In the Ansons which were -
CB: You were in Ansons. Ok
GM: Available. The class was split into groups of twos and I think there was somewhere around about twenty four of us in groups of two all flying in the, at the same time so it looks, rather looks as though we had something like twelve aircraft allocated to half days so to speak. There was a course flew in the mornings and one in the afternoons. And later on of course then we had night time flying as well.
CB: Ok. And when you went to gunnery what were you flying there? How did they run that?
GM: Yes. We had Fairey Battles and still two people in the gunnery position. One chap at the back with the, sort of, fire power and the back towards the back of the plane towards the tail and the second pupil, if I can call us that, the second pupil was stuck on the seat in the fuselage so he didn’t get much to see during that exercise except down below and it was mainly map reading and exercises such as that.
CB: Because this is a three crew aeroplane.
GM: Yes.
CB: And you could change over could you? The roles in the air.
GM: Oh the navigator and, the two navigator’s, yes they could swap over. There wasn’t a lot of room in the plane but certainly the gunnery position as you remember it was the back of the compartment which the navigators occupied was sealed, it wasn’t exactly sealed but it was shut off from the pilot’s position. You couldn’t pass from one, from the front to the back of the aircraft. The pilot had sole use of the front half of the aircraft and the two trainees were in the back half and I thought there was a radio operator on there as part of the permanent crew. Same as the pilot was.
CB: Ok. And what did the gunnery training comprise?
GM: Oh mostly machine gun fire on a target being towed by another aircraft and there was, yes, there was that and this is so long ago and I haven’t really talked about it for a long time. Yes. Certainly the two trainees they each got a spell on each flight so that the time wasn’t wasted at all. You were either doing the exercises which were laid out to be done from the rear gunner’s position or you were map reading or other sort of interesting exercises looking down through the bomb, sort of window, I don’t know, hatch I suppose you would call it which was patent glazed, not patent glazing it was a glazed opening and I think in normal times it was, you could lift it and get into the aircraft in that position.
CB: Ok. So you’ve got two people who are learning gunnery in the plane.
GM: Yes.
CB: They hit the target. How do you know who has shot what?
GM: That’s a good question. They, they must have had a means of telling either the first or the second amount of gunnery which was being tested so -
CB: Was it coloured ammunition?
GM: Well that was hovering in the back of my mind but I’m not oversure.
CB: Ok.
GM: I thought, I seem to remember on occasions we did have coloured ammunition but I can’t be sure that it was at the early part of your gunnery training at all.
CB: Because the plane was only towing one target.
GM: Exactly, no the plane, the other plane was -
CB: Yes.
GM: Tow, perhaps there was a non-identifiable and perhaps there was also another half which was indicated in some way. I should imagine it was sort of a paint arrangement that –
CB: So the course you were on is the observer course in those days.
GM: Yes, yes.
CB: The third aspect of what you were doing was bomb aiming so how was that done and in what aircraft?
GM: To my mind it was a bombing and gunnery course so that one was sort of mentally passed over to the people who specialised in bomb aiming and there was a certain amount of exercising and also [jockeying?] the targets. How they separated it out is a good question because I can’t, I haven’t got the, I shall have to look it up.
CB: Well we can come back to that.
GM: Yes.
CB: So –
GM: I’m sorry but there are now a number of details which have now -
CB: Yeah.
GM: Slipped my memory.
CB: That’s ok. So we’re in 1941.
GM: Yeah.
CB: You went out there in April.
GM: Thereabouts.
CB: You were there during the summer. How many months were you doing that training?
GM: April. So including the toing and froing?
CB: Yeah.
GM: So April. April, May, June, July, August, September, October. That’s about it yeah. Seven months.
CB: Ok. And at the end of -
GM: We had a visit by the New Zealand premier. Not that that’s of any particular significance other than the fact that we did get a visit.
CB: Because they were training New Zealanders as well.
GM: Well he was on a diplomatic tour of something and it was just one day that he came to Port Albert and for whatever it was and he, yes he chatted with us and what have you, it was quite interesting.
CB: At what stage were you presented with your observer’s brevvy? Flying badge.
GM: Oh what a good question. I can remember that. Now the question is what stage? [pause] I should have done some homework on this.
CB: This was before you returned to Britain was it?
GM: Oh yes. Oh yes. Yes. That was immediately before we left. We had the parade and we all got our wings. Most of us had the second uniform suitably fitted out with the, with the badges and we left the same afternoon so it was right at the end of the visit. Of course we left that evening, went to, started on our way back and as long, they didn’t want to know where we were going or anything like that except that they gave us a date to be at the port on the Atlantic coast so that we were travelling at any old time that suited us and we -
CB: Right.
GM: We were given, let’s see yes I think we were probably given five days or something like that.
CB: Yeah.
GM: To get ourselves from the station where we were got our wings and overnight I think we got ourselves to Toronto. It was a hundred and forty miles. It didn’t take long on the, on the train and of course we were all packed up and ready to go and probably another two or three days calling in at Montreal and returning to the Canadian port.
CB: Halifax, Nova Scotia.
GM: Halifax. Was it?
CB: Was it?
GM: I should have got myself a map out.
CB: Don’t worry. So you then take the boat via Iceland.
GM: No. No.
CB: You returned.
GM: We came -
CB: No.
GM: Straight back.
CB: Straight back.
GM: Yes.
CB: Ok.
GM: It was only on the outward journey we went to Iceland.
CB: Ok.
GM: So we came back and -
CB: Then what?
GM: Having landed in the UK we then transferred from the boat to a train and we were taken down to Bournemouth. There was a reception centre there and we then started the familiarisation of being with the RAF and not with the Canadian Air Force. There were differences.
CB: Because you’d been fair weather flyers in Canada. Now you were -
GM: Indeed.
CB: Coming to be foul weather flyers in the UK.
GM: Well certainly the weather was more, shall we say, a part of our daily life in Canada the weather was consistently good. There’s no doubt about that and, it wasn’t all that bad in this country but certainly it was, had to be watched and of course it got colder. It was much further north in Ontario which was south of us yes. And that was a different feeling about the whole thing. It was, you were getting near to being or realising that there was a war going on. In Canada it was like peacetime and back home then of course as soon as you were given leave then you returned home and many of us came from London area and of course we experienced the air raids. That was just part of it. From that reception centre and the familiarisation with English service we were posted to the Operational Training Units and as far as I was concerned that was at Lichfield and I won’t say everyone who had been with us in Canada was on that posting but certainly a fair number of us were so we were maintaining the same contacts as we had for quite some time which was very useful. The visit, as I say, to Lichfield was interesting. The familiarisation with the weather conditions was certainly on our minds far more than it had been under the rather stable conditions of Canada and of course when you did get leave you could go home, be with the family which was a great asset. The training at Lichfield lasted a fair time. Some, some months. It got extended. Now it’s here it was all much more serious in our, in our minds. I mean the next stage was to be as a squadron so it was essential that you got as much experience as you could while you were still in a training situation.
CB: What was the first thing you did when you got to Lichfield?
[pause]
GM: I think it was normal reception procedure. We had quite a pleasant reception on returning to this country and to go down to Bournemouth but you went up to this place and we were on for a fortnight or maybe for three weeks we were not on the main station but we were in the familiarisation situation and as the accommodation became available in the, training establishment which we would occupy for a month or two at OTU. The weather was a bit of shock I admit. It certainly was a lot cooler and flying in the blackout was an entirely new venture as far as we were concerned. We certainly had to get used to that through the winter of course. Then it doesn’t get light until what half past seven getting towards 8 o’clock and certainly it got dark in late afternoon. Five, 6 o’clock at the most so it rather altered our lifestyle but it was good to get into the area where things were beginning to happen and we recovered our enthusiasm I think. After that first two or three weeks we were then posted on to the main station at Lichfield and we then started flying.
CB: Ok let me just interrupt a mo. So you arrive on your own but to fly you have to be in a crew so how did that work?
GM: Ah. This is the point we were, came from various places and we had a period, some of this period was on the earlier three weeks and you just lived with the other youngsters, they were, and we sorted ourselves out into crews so that you’d found some likeness in your thinking and in your, the type of youngster that was there and the crews came together sort of voluntarily. It didn’t always work and you had to make changes providing the instructors there had decided that it was better if you worked with somebody else. So it was mostly a voluntary crewing up I would say and where there was a need for, to get a move on so to speak if you didn’t crew up voluntarily which started usually with the pilots. There were two pilots if I remember rightly and a navigator and then of course, as it was Wellingtons then, we had a couple of gunners and the bomb expert. So that was a rather peculiar setting as we had a bomb aimer as well. There were two of us who were capable of carrying on with that role but we sorted ourselves out and the course progressed and as a crew then you started taking some of your spare time together and, or all of it just depending on how you hit it off and the crews gradually gelled into a working unit. I don’t recall in my particular connection whether there was anybody who couldn’t work with their opposite number.
CB: So when you were on the OTU what were the main tasks preparing you for the next stage?
GM: Well there was the conversion of course from the aircraft that we’d used in the States, not the States, in Canada and pilots were having to do what was necessary and instead of flying Ansons then they were having to change onto Wellingtons which was quite a difference I understand but as far as the navigators were concerned whilst the pilots were doing their conversion then we were flying. I suppose it took about a fortnight, three weeks we were flying Ansons and doing navigation exercises. Of course the British countryside and the British weather and the like whilst the pilots were converting on to the bigger and heavier aircraft.
CB: So you’re all in the Wellington. You finished the OTU. Then what?
GM: We had a bit of trouble with a crash. Whilst we were at Lichfield yes we took off for a morning exercise, the power units started giving the pilots trouble so we converted er completed the approach to the circuit and we were on the way towards the aerodrome on this first, I’d better just start that again. This was a particular period after the training and we took off and the idea was to fly around and go over the aerodrome. That was your start of the exercise so you noticed the time and the details and you went off to do the exercise but in this case we got half way around on the first circuit and we started to get in to trouble with the engines and we couldn’t maintain height so before completing that circuit where you note the time and set off on the exercise as we approached that part of the flight then we lost height rather drastically and we made a wheeled up on approach, crossed over the railway line and a station and lobbed down into the fields on the east side of the railway and buckled the plane up and the pilot was injured so we he was carted off to hospital and the rest of us, who were in the crash positions when we hit the ground, got a few bruises and a shake up and we’d lost our pilot. So we then had a short period and a new chap, Australian, as all those particular pilots were. Another Australian to be the first pilot. So we changed crew a bit and that was that. We survived, survived the crash. Two or three day’s leave. Probably it was a week. I don’t really remember now but we had a short period off and when we came back then we were then reintroduced to the training and we continued until we got to the end. At the end of that particular training then we did a first flight to Germany and back as an introduction I suppose to what it was going to be like. We had a, yes a satisfactory introduction ourselves with the new pilot and we were quite happy as it went. The other chap, who was the Australian, Don Jennings, he was off, I think he had a broken leg. I wasn’t sure but because he got out of the plane and he got a few yards from the nose of the aircraft and he collapsed. I think he’d got a broken leg but I can’t swear to that. Then we were posted having satisfactorily done our first visit over enemy territory and went on leave and we didn’t get our actual place of posting to, at that time. I think it came by letter. I can’t be sure. It’s a detail that doesn’t matter but we were posted as a crew. I’m not even sure whether anybody else was posted with us. We were posted to Elsham Wolds.
CB: Didn’t you go to the Heavy Conversion Unit first?
GM: No. Not, not to my knowledge and this was, this was in early ’42.
CB: There weren’t any.
GM: There weren’t any.
CB: No.
GM: As such.
CB: Right. Ok. So straight to the squadron. What was the squadron?
GM: 103.
CB: And what were you flying?
GM: Wellingtons. 1Cs.
CB: Ok. Yeah.
GM: We were, as a crew given, so to speak, to an experienced pilot there who was already there and got a number of trips under his belt and we then started flying together and getting used to each other’s abilities and moods I suppose. The, we did a bit of flying for a short period and then we were put on our first trip which was a thousand raid on Cologne. We went on all the thousand raids.
CB: Ok. So what was that like?
GM: Spectacular. On sort of a, I mean a thousand aircraft and they got everybody over in about ninety minutes. I think that was, I can’t quote you for sure about this. That’s the general impression that I received. We did two. Was it? And then there was, there was a break and then we did, I think there was a third one but that’s just a detail that doesn’t really matter. And then it was time to be posted and we said, ‘It starts now.’ Yeah. So, and the -
CB: So how many raids, how many operations did you do from, with that, with 103 from Elsham Wolds?
GM: Seventeen but after we’d done ten then we changed aircraft to Halifax. Four engines. I didn’t fly Lancasters at all.
[pause]
CB: Let’s stop.
GM: We went -
CB: No carry on, go on.
GM: We were allocated to an experience pilot of course when we got there and so we had two pilots. Like us the trainee who we hoped we were beyond that stage by now and also a chap who’d been with the squadron for some time so that your early flights were all done with somebody who knew the score so to speak. Essential. Anyhow, the period we started flying seriously of course was, as I say, with the first thousand bomber raids which were oh about a third of the year away in 1942 and we converted on to Wellingtons. No. The -
CB: On to the Halifax.
GM: Halifax.
CB: When was that?
GM: That was roundabout July. We were there in time to do the thousand raids and our score trips was around about ten I would imagine when we changed over and we started operating the four-engined aircraft. That took us through September and in to October and on our seventeenth which was in to the Ruhr. Anyhow, that was a disastrous raid as far as we were concerned. We bombed the target, came away from it, we were only about ten thousand feet. We found at that time between ten and twelve was moderately safe for our purposes anyhow and on the way out from the target we were found by an ME110 and he just sort of hung on to the back of us about four hundred yards back and so it raises the question well what do you do about it. And so we did. We opened fire with the rear gunner and the mid upper and that didn’t please him at all so he then opened up and his accuracy from his point of view was pretty good. Anyhow, he hit the rear gunner, the bulk of the crew of course were up towards the nose end and the ammunition was zinging around. You could see it, some of it inside the fuselage. How I didn’t get hit I don’t know. Anyhow, we caught fire in the two inboard engines. The outside engines in both cases seemed to survive but we weren’t going to be able to get the fires out. There was no way about that. It was too fierce so the skipper said, ‘Bale out.’ I was in the nose of the aircraft in the navigator’s position and I was sitting on top of the front escape or entry position and skipper said, ‘Everybody out,’ and so I got up from my seat, folded it back, picked up the door or the flap whatever you’d like to call it, the hatch and turned it over and dropped it out of the bottom of the aircraft. Nobody was going to want it so and then with the parachute on I did what they said. Get out. So I sat down with my legs dangling out of the hole and gave myself a push and I slid out. I don’t know what height we were. This all happened very quickly and I fell some distance. Pulled the chute. That was the decision and it seemed a very short time, having just got my legs down that I was crashing through branches of a tree from top downwards and came to a rather ragged halt and swinging there I could hear a dog barking and I was just swinging in the harness. I couldn’t feel how high I was. It was pretty dark. So in the end I turned the parachute harness to the on position if that’s the right way and/or the off perhaps and banged the harness catch, the harness flew away and stayed up in the branches of the tree and I dropped. Fully twelve inches I would say and I was hanging there and in then the next second I got my feet on the ground. Wonderful. Started the dogs barking a bit more. I thought well there’s a farmhouse down there, I’d better get out of the way so I left the parachute and the harness up in the tree. It was probably, what, fifty sixty feet high, seemed to be a very high tree and so somebody got the parachute silk if they managed to get it down. I felt, made my way out of the foliage of the hedge in to the next field and made my way down a slope. A hundred or so yards or so of passing down a field and then I went through a hedge and dropped down on to a road and it fell away to the right so I had a quick look up at the sky and I could see where north was so that told me that’s where the North Sea is and I hadn’t got much of a clue where we were because we’d travelled quite a bit and in the plane as it burned. I went a short distance down the lane there and went past three or four people standing outside of a house and I ignored them. They were watching the raid which was going on in the distance away to the east so I hadn’t travelled very far even though it seemed a long time for us to still be within sight of where the raid was being, taking place. Complete muck up of timing as far as I was concerned but there we are so I continued walking. I was going north and decided that wasn’t a good thing and there was a lane turning off to the left and sort of a rise and so I thought well the only thing to do was to get oneself down south. It’s not going to be any easy to get across the sea around Northern Belgium and, or Denmark or anything like that so I decided that I’d make for Gib. It seemed an incredibly long distance but it seemed the best thing to do so I went up this side road, it rose and when I got to the top of the rather meagre rise I could see that the plane had crashed about a mile, a mile and a half away and it was burning away merrily. I had no idea what had happened to any of the other crew having jumped and been, ’cause I was told to get out of the way so everybody else could get out and I obliged. So anyhow I then decided that I’d have to go to the general area of Spain so I turned south taking my bearings from the stars and set off. I walked all that night. This was only about half past ten in the evening, it was quite an early raid and so I travelled a good few miles. I didn’t meet anybody at all. I travelled on the roads and in some cases I crossed fields and the like and just with the general aim of going in a south-westerly direction. I’d got a compass in my gear and that was it. I walked until the light began to show. In that time I’d done quite a lot of road walking and there was one part of it which went due west so I followed that through and then as it was beginning to show signs of getting light I thought, now to do, what do I do now? Anyhow I was approaching a village and there were field on the right, just ahead of me was village buildings started so I thought well I’d better go around the back so I turned right, went past the property there onto a footpath, followed that around and the light was getting a bit stronger so I thought well I’ve got to had to hide somewhere. So I was dead lucky. I found a farm road and I could tell that there was buildings down the end of it and I thought perhaps that was the farm itself and anyhow the clump of trees with some undergrowth and the road towards what I thought would probably be the farm went past it so I got myself into the clump of trees with the yes with a few thickets growing there and so I was out of sight and I went to sleep. When I woke up I could hear people talking and it was daylight and I carefully sort of took stock of my surroundings and workmen were going, of some sort, were going along the, that approach road that I had spotted and they obviously were farm workers because they seemed to go down to the farm and then they started their working day and there was a, the whole, there was a hillock. Couldn’t have been much more than that as part of where the trees where I was sheltering under was part of that so, and I could hear people working at the top of this rise sort of. I’d say that was it. Then I sort of got here into the trees and there was a rise with the trees in a clump and up on the top there where the actual farmable roads were, farmable fields were then there seemed to be a number of men doing whatever men do on fields in the autumn but I could hear them chatting away and talking and fortunately none of them came into the copse where I was trying to keep myself out of sight and that, so the days lasted and sometime just before it was getting, beginning to get dark then they all knocked off and they went past and went to the farm. Presumably at the end of their working day. So I thought well there’s nothing here for me and I didn’t have much in the way of, I had a bit of chocolate and a couple of toffees or something like that in my pocket so I sort of started off as soon as it was dark and went, followed my general trend in a south westerly direction and this went on for something like four days. Maybe it was five. I don’t know. I lost count somehow or another. I certainly covered some fair old ground in amount and each time as it began to get light then I had to find a hiding place and the most exotic one I suppose was I finished up in the middle of a village. It had got a High Street and had a bombed house there. It was beginning to get light so I took a chance on it and I assumed it was a bombed house. The windows had gone and it looked as if it had suffered some sort of damage. It may well be that it was just bad housekeeping and it had got deteriorated in the normal course of events. Anyhow, I sort of went around to the side entrance of the house and I saw there was a water butt with water coming into it, rain water. So I got my first drink for some time there and whilst I was standing there drinking the water in this tank I heard some footsteps crunch and just down about fifteen, sixteen feet away on the front of the, this house there was a road and somebody in uniform stopped and I could see them looking around and then they started looking up the alleyway where I was standing by the water butt and I froze. And after a couple of minutes he went off. So I thought that’s, that’s not much good. Anyhow, I went into the house and it was dry. I went upstairs and there was no furniture in the house. It was empty and it had been, considering that it was, I thought it might be a bombed house but I didn’t see any other bomb damage perhaps it was just general degrading of the property. Anyhow, I bedded myself down on the first floor in the front bedroom and I’d been up all night walking and what have you so I lay myself down and had a sleep and when I came too I could hear people chatting so I just stayed still where I was. I heard somebody, some boys down below and one of them started coming up the stairs and fortunately he gave it a second thought and went back so he didn’t see me and as it was the school lunchtime period they all disappeared and I was left. I could look out of the window and see people doing their shopping and what have you in the shops close by. I kept myself well down so that I wasn’t spotted at all and eventually lights of some sort began to show and then they had the blackout going of course and once the people had got off the street there didn’t seem to be many people occupying the pavements during the blackout period and I thought, time to go. So I did. I got downstairs, out of the house, there was nobody about much so I just made my way out of the property in the general southwest direction and away we went. Well eventually, I, one of these midnight walks and what have you I got soaking wet in rain and I’d been walking about an hour or so I suppose and so I thought, oh well the best thing I could do is go back to my last place and dry out. I didn’t want to get through anything. I hadn’t got any food so I was rather low mentally on that. Anyhow, I did turn around and started walking back and went through in the return direction, a road that I’d already been along and I saw the property which was showing a light. It shouldn’t have been but it was so I stood on the opposite side of the road and watched the house. There was no movement or anything like that at all so I thought well the rain had stopped and I was beginning to dry off, feeling in a better mood and so I went across, banged on the door and obviously I startled the family and a man put his head out, ‘Qui es la?’ So I thought well my French is no good so I said, ‘RAF. Air force.’ And then I had to repeat that and he got it because he didn’t say anymore just slammed the window, I heard him running, coming downstairs, he opened the door, he looked at me and I showed him a couple of my badges on my uniform. I mean I struck oil. That was the beginning of making contact with the resistance.
CB: I’m going to suggest we stop there for a mo.
[machine paused]
CB: So we’ve got to the stage where the man has left you, let you into his house.
GM: Oh yes. Yes. And his wife came thundering down the stairs to see what was happening. And they were very kind. They were very kind. My language was not very good but we managed to make ourselves understood with each other and they produced some food for which I was infinitely grateful. I’d gone through quite a few days without. And then there was a bang on the door and in walked a local padre and he’d obviously been made well aware of my nationality because he started to speak to me with a few questions in English. I don’t think he got a great deal but enough for us to settle with each other that we were both on the same side and he said, ‘You’re coming with me.’ So I thought, that’s, you know, that’s good and we left the couple who had fed me and watered me and we set off and we walked to the next village and we went into the manse. I suppose that’s the proper name for it. Anyhow, it’s where he lived and worked and I was introduced to his housekeeper. She obviously was used to seeing strange people and she gave me a grin and shook my hand and that was it so I was then sent to bed so to speak and waited. Yes. We come, oh wait a minute. Have we got away from the first house I called in?
CB: The house where they, you called in and he was upstairs and came down and opened -
GM: Yes.
CB: And let you in.
GM: Yes. Let me in and they -
CB: Fed you.
GM: Fed me. That’s right. And the local priest then came and he collected me and we went to his home.
CB: Right.
GM: That’s right. Yes. Well that was temporary. I don’t, I must have stayed there overnight. I think they were, they were a little bit perturbed because they had a young son so they sort of kept me out of sight whilst, before he went to school otherwise it would have been all around and during that period on the following day I had a visit from a lady who was in the business of getting people away under these sort of circumstances and so I was taken to another village and I stayed there for a short while. Subsequently men came and we chatted a bit and I went with him on a train journey. [pause] And where did we get? I’ve lost my thread a bit.
CB: We can stop.
GM: Sorry.
CB: We can stop a mo.
[machine paused]
GM: But I banged on the door.
CB: Yeah.
GM: And they let me in and they fed me and I then went with the local priest.
CB: So you went to his house, you said.
GM: Yes.
CB: And then -
GM: And then, having stayed two nights. Yes. I think we can, stayed two nights.
CB: Ok.
GM: I was taken by, to be honest I don’t know who the bloke was there. No.
[pause]
CB: Well it doesn’t matter -
GM: Anyway.
CB: What his name is. If we can just -
GM: No.
CB: Yeah
GM: After the second night sleep there I was collected and escorted into -
[pause]
GM: I’m getting muddled up now. This is ridiculous.
CB: Let’s just have another break.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Gordon Mellor. Three,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 23, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8819.

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