Interview with Derek Carington Evans


Interview with Derek Carington Evans


Derek was born on June 20th 1924 in Edlington near Doncaster, volunteering as aircrew at the age of 17.
After leaving school at the age of 14, Derek delivered books in and around Doncaster before going down to the Royal Air Force Recruitment Centre in Doncaster and signing up for service after developing a love of aviation after seeing Vimmies and Heyfords.
Derek passed his exams for a pilot, however trained as a wireless operator because of his knowledge of Morse code. When he was crewed up, his team flew in Wellingtons at RAF Finningley, with 18 Operational Training Unit.
Derek then was transferred to a Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Blyton, where he worked on Halifaxes, before being posted to 625 Squadron at RAF Kelstern, flying on Lancasters.
He completed operations to Essen, Dortmund, Cologne and also targeted the oil refineries. Derek also took part in Operation Manna, dropping supplies in Holland.







01:42:07 audio recording

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AEvansDC160714, PEvansDC1602


AM. Ok so this is Annie Moody and I am with Derek Evans today. Derek was born in Doncaster he’s living in York at the moment and I am undertaking this interview at the Offices of Worans in Doncaster.
DE. He was born on the 20th of June 1924.
AM. 20th of June ’24, erm and todays date is the 14th of July 2016. So, Derek.
DE. I am 92.
AM. You’re 92, getting on a bit, but still.
DE. I am getting on a bit, yes.
AM. Derek tell me, you have told me when you were born, tell me a little bit about where were you born and tell me a little bit about your parents?
DE. I was born in the village of Doncaster, that’s Edlington, I was born [laugh] about twenty past nine one Friday morning and, eh my sister went to school and she came back and she got a new brother, and eh I don’t know what her reactions were but I heard plenty about it at the time [laugh], yeah eh, yes there was two of us. I had a brother as well who died em but em, there was Doris and me who lived and she died just a few years ago with rotten cancer and she was as good as, as healthy as me, which seemed anyway.
AM. What did you, what did your parents do Derek?
DE. What did?
AM. What did your parents do, what work did your dad do?
DE. My father, my mother was a housewife, my father was an electronic, electric engineer and em pneumatic. That’s em, he worked in the collieries installing the machinery.
AM. Right
DE. And em, and he served in the first war and em he got some medals for that, ‘cause he, one day he heard somebody crying in no mans land, he went over the top.
AM. So he was in the Army?
DE. Yes, he was in, first of all he was in eh [pause] thousands in the Middle East, what do you call it, the Dardanelles and he got away with that. In fact, he brought a shell back that had burst near him [laugh] and I have still got it somewhere.
AM. Still got it.
DE. And eh, eh, then he was, oh he was quite an authority in the eh Scout Movement, and eh if, if they haven’t been destroyed, I’ve got letters from Baden Powell to him and from Lady Baden Powell to him yeah, he helped in the formation of that.
AM. So were you in the Scouts?
DE. Oh I was.
AM. Tell me a bit about your childhood?
DE. Well, I went to school as an infant and, eh it was at Edlington, and eh I think my father must have had a bit better job than a miner because we lived in the top village and it was new, it was all new that, but I had to go down to the old village to school. And eh I used to go dressed, I had a little suit and a tie and did I get some hammer from the scrubbing sods down there, and eh the only thing I remember about that is I got hold of one of these lads and I pulled him up to me, and me hand went up like this, somebody got hold of it. It was me father.
AM. This was at school?
DE. Coming home from school em, yes, and I had waited for that devil because he had taunted me quite a bit. And eh I, I cured him.
AM. Your Dad stopped you thumping him?
DE. Yeah, I would really have done something [unclear], knocked him about I would.
AM. So that was the village school, what about when you were older and in your teens?
DE. That’s eh, one day my father came home from a colliery, I learnt after it was Bentley and there had been an explosion there and he was filthy, his clothes were in rags. And em, I heard him say to my mother, ’that’s the last time I go down the colliery’, and eh he gave his notice in and eh he had no job. And then he managed to get a supply of electrical goods, he was an electrician he knew all about that job and he was selling those, he used to go round the streets selling them and he built a good business up and then the war came. He lost all his contacts and we had to come out of our nice house and get a cooperation house, council house, and eh I went to, I then joined Doncaster Council.
AM. Let me just ask you, so what age were you when you left school then, ‘cause you would be fifteen when the war started, you left at fourteen.
DE. Em.
AM. So what was your first job?
DE. I got a job taking papers around and eh I gave my mother my first wage packet of five shillings, yeah. And eh and then I got eh, and then I left school at fourteen and I was on the streets.
AM. On the streets looking for a job you mean?
DE. Well walking about looking for a job and somebody said to me, “oh, you know Taylor of Colbridge’, do you remember them? ‘looking for an errand boy’ so I went in there and said, ‘I have come for that job’ and they gave it me.
AM. So what did you do, what did you have to do, what did that consist of?
DE. Well first of all it was delivering orders of books round Doncaster, eh and inside three months there were three other errand boys in there, and inside three months I was in charge [laugh], bighead [laugh]. And em, I er carried on there and eh the boss said, ‘would you like an apprenticeship?’ I said, ‘Yeah I would’, so I took an apprenticeship with them at ten and sixpence a week. Ten and six a week, which was a good wage in those days.
AM. A good wage indeed.
DE. And eh I carried on there and er and at six er at sixteen em, I was a junior there and at sixteen I was senior. All the folks had been pulled out in to the War and they left me in charge of that ruddy shop, d’know, at sixteen.
AM. So we are 1940at the beginning of the war, the first year of the war.
DE. Oh yes it would be, wouldn’t it?
AM. Yeah.
DE. And eh I run that all right, eh there was a lot of turnover I maintained it, eh I think it was, about thirty thousand a year, which was a lot of money.
AM. A considerable amount.
DE. I was in charge of about six women [laugh] old women, they were all twenties and thirties and they were all old to me of course, but I ran it, I carried on with it and eh part of there was printing you know, and of course I learned the printing job. I was a stationer, printer and bookseller officially when I came out of there. Well, I was eighteen, at seventeen, I heard they wouldn’t take aircrew unless you volunteered.
AM. Why did you want to be aircrew particularly rather than Army, Navy.
DE. Well, I thought it was a bit cleaner than being shot in trenches [laugh].
AM. True.
DE. Well, me father told me about his, he did fourteen to eighteen in the Army and he was in France, he was in Passchendaele. He used to tell me all about them actually and somewhere in that house of mine, I have got a recording of him telling the tale of the Red Baron being shot down over the trenches yeah.
AM. Baron Von Reichthoven.
DE. I’ve got that somewhere.
AM. So you are getting to seventeen, they wouldn’t take aircrew unless you volunteer.
DE. And I volunteered at seventeen, I went down to the Royal Air Force Recruitment Centre and got signed on.
AM. Right, where was that in Doncaster?
DE. In Doncaster, yeah, well my interest [unclear] out the place. My interest in aircraft started, oh, in the thirties because I was only a kid and my father used to take me to see the aircraft at Finningley, and in those days, you could walk on and walk up to the aircraft you know and I used to talk to the aircrews that were hanging about them, and eh I got really interested in, and they were, now then, Vickers Vimmies, em oh I can remember them over, I will tell you what they were later on, Vickers Vimmies.
AM. It’ll come.
DE. Aye?
AM. It’ll come
DE. Oh, it’s there yes and the Handley Page, eh the Handley Page, it had the gunner on the, in the front nose and the two engines were at the side of course. And eh, I had a look round and I was dragged into one, one day just to show, show me and I remember they had thirteen there and they went off on a [unclear], what did you call it eh, eh countryside eh, travels so. And eh thirteen took off and they got two back they crashed the rest of them.
AM. This was before the war?
DE. This was in the thirties, when the Vickers Vimmies and Handley Page Heyfords, Heyfords, em yeah and from then I have been interested in aircraft.
AM. So, you are interested in aircraft and you want something cleaner than the trenches, so off to the RAF Recruiting Officer.
DE. Yeah
AM. So they signed you up, but then what?
DE. Well eventually of course, my eighteenth birthday turned and they called me up into the Air Force and em I got, I got into the Aircrew Receiving Centre, Aircrew Receiving Selection Centre and it was in the Zoo in Regents Park [laugh].
AM. Had they, at that point, done any testing or anything to decide whether you were going to be aircrew or Ground Crew.
DE. Wait a minute.
AM. Sorry, going too fast.
DE. Typical woman rushing away [laugh].
AM. I apologise.
DE. And eh we was in the eh, the melee of being selected and, and, and I passed the exams for Pilot and they, after a week or two, we were square bashing at that, we were feeding amongst the monkeys [laugh], the zoo and eh one day some sort of Air Force bloke, I didn’t notice what his rank was in those days eh, ‘does anybody know morse code?’ I said, ‘yes I do’, ‘why?’ I said, ‘because I have got a radio station meself and with another bloke, we rented an office, an office we were using in the middle of Doncaster for half a crown a week’ [laugh], and we got all the gear in there. And eh this bloke said, ‘we are short of recruits for radio officers, do you think you could, like to transfer?’ ‘Yeah, I don’t mind, it’s flying, I’ll come’, and I then went down into the radio school and eh I spent twelve months there, came out, it tells you in the book there, came out and qualified a radio operator.
AM. So it was twelve months?
DE. I am sure it was twelve months yeah.
AM. Don’t matter, so what was that like, tell me a bit of what the training was like, easy, hard?
DE. It was hard yeah, it was not particularly hard for me actually em, they could fire morse at me all the days of the year and I could take it then, it’s a good job ‘cause when I was flying on operations, I had, it was all the time morse was coming in from headquarters em, eh Bomber Command headquarters. Go on, you tell me?
AM. No I can’t remember.
DE. And eh it all came in code and you had to be taking it down, writing it out and I could take twenty words a minute then [laugh], and I used to say to the Pilot, ‘oh there is diversion on, we are diverted when you get to such and such a place’, and that is how a radio operator used to perform and weather reports used to come through.
AM. So you finished your training as a wireless operator, what happens next after that.
DE. Well, I got, I don’t know, I was selected and I was given a course of radio navigation and it was a month, and I had a what I call them ‘sprog pilots’, they had just qualified and they wouldn’t trust a good pilot with me [laugh], and I used to fly all over the country and tell him where to go and what city he is going to do. I did that for a month, I did it successfully and I was passed out as a radio operator one then, and then I went to gunnery school and I went to, majority of them didn’t but I was selected to go to Gunnery School and I have no idea why.
AM. Not as a trained radio operator, not when you were already a trained wireless operator.
DE. Well in Bomber Command eh, there were more WOP/AG’S because if anything happened to the rear gunner, he was shot, my job was to crawl down there, open the doors, chuck him out into the open space and get in, sit in the guns [laugh] and that was the procedure yeah. I went to gunnery school, I have got the results there, they are good results and eh [looking through papers].
AM. I am just flicking through the log book for the tape to find where we are up to.
DE. Let’s have a look at it please.
AM. So we are looking at, we are looking at the initial trips here and the results of the initial courses.
DE. You are nowhere near the operation here.
AM. No, I know, no, no.
DE. Ah this is it look, extra syllabus.
AM. So we are May, June ‘44 and we are on the gunnery course.
DE. Yes
AM. And the results of the gunnery course are above average a very keen Cadet.
DE. [laugh] and when I were in gunnery, I used to be in the top turret of an aircraft in the mid upper gun turret, and eh they used to fly, now then a master, or an em, they are Masters aren’t they? Single engined training aircraft towing a long drogue and we had to hit it. You had to fire at that thing coming over you.
ME. A bit like clay pigeon shooting, not.
DE. Oh, I have done plenty of pigeon shooting.
ME. Oh later on. So, I’m looking at the fact that you were given extra syllabus training, given in lieu of bad weather, which cancelled flying.
DE. Yes, ah and that’s Dominies, isn’t it? Yeah, Domini that’s it. The De Havilland Domini was a twin engined twin winged aircraft I don’t know whether you -
ME. No.
Unknown. A biplane.
DE A biplane yeah, it was a lovely aeroplane that, lovely.
AM. So you have done your WOP training, you’ve done your gunnery training. What next?
DE. Eh after gunnery, I don’t know what they call it, it was advanced flying school, oh that’s advanced gunnery course.
AM. You moved onto the Operational Training Unit I would guess.
DE. No not yet.
AM. No, was that later?
DE. [unclear] Wigton that is on the West Coast of Scotland and I don’t know what we were supposed to be doing there, have I made notes of it? [pause] It’s just the details of what we were doing, I don’t know. Anyway, that’s Advanced Flying School, and then I went to No. 18 Operational Training Unit. How I got to there was, we were paraded one morning and eh this corporal came out and he said, ‘I am going to read out names and say a place where you are posted to. You will find that some is going to Leuchars in Scotland’. The bloke next to me said, ‘I live at Leuchars’, he said, ‘the others are at Finningley at Doncaster’. I said, ‘and I live at Doncaster, what is your name, I will swap you names’. Well, this Leuchars name came up, put me hand up, join the queue for Leuchars. No, I, t’other way round, yes, and when it was all, come out in the wash, I was going to Bomber Command, so I thought I had dropped a clanger here, and he was going to Coastal Command, so anyway I joined 18 and we were, we were put in a big, we were put in a Hanger with four, and there was a desk in there and there were four candles. The bloke sat there he re [unclear] they got a seventy-two scale Spitfire if you like and he went, and you had to shout out, and I got everyone right.
AM. Right, so what were you looking at?
DE. I was looking at the aircraft.
[Unknown]. Aircraft recognition.
AM. I’ve got you actual recognition of aircraft, I’ve got you.
DE. An eh, Peter Russell, who was and who’d come and he was in this hall, and there was about four hundred of us and eh he came to me and he said, ‘would you like to become my radio operator?’ and he had done a tour.
AM. How did you know he had done a tour.
DE. He told me.
AM. Ok but he had a little brevet as well that shows that they had done a tour I think. He talks about that in his book that maybe at crewing up, people were happy to join him because he had already done a tour, so you are probably going to be safe with him.
DE. Yeah, he was good looking too.
AM. Right, so he decided.
DE. Couldn’t keep the girls off him.
AM. So at crewing up then, there’s you.
DE. So, there is a Pilot, Colin Richardson, Navigator, Derek Evans the Radio Operator and Titch Haldred the Rear Gunner, is that it?
AM. Yeah, I have got them written down.
DE. Where do you get that from?
AM. The book.
DE. Oh, I see and I did quite a fair lot, quite a lot of flying to a lot of places.
AM. And this was on Wellingtons.
DE. Wellingtons, we used to go wandering around the Continent you know and eh and from then -
AM. Sorry to interrupt, so at this point there is five of you, ‘cause you are in a Wellington and you are doing your training on Wellingtons based in, where were you actually?
DE. Finningley.
AM. You stayed at Finningley.
DE. Eh well we used to use the satellite at Worksop.
AM. Yes, I had scribbled down Worksop.
DE. Finningley was the base and em, and then what, what happened then. Oh, went to eh, four engined aircraft and that was Halifaxes.
AM. So this is heavy conversion unit to get you used to big boys.
DE. Yes, and therefore we had two crew, we had an engineer and a mid-upper gunner.
AM. And I think I’ve got the names here. Tim Cordon was your Flight Engineer and Tony Large was your Mid Upper Gunner. So you picked up your extra two and got seven of you.
DE. No, I am telling lies, he was a Dubliner. I said to him, ‘what the hell are you doing here?’ he said, ‘you don’t think you are fighting the war on your own’ [laugh].
AM. So you went to Heavy Conversion Unit I think at em, Blyton.
DE. Blyton yes, it was the base was Lindholme, but the airfield was -
AM. Was at.
DE. Yeah.
AM. And that was initially on Hali, on old Halifaxes.
DE. Yeah.
AM. So what was the wireless operator bit, room, not room, area like in the Halifax?
DE. Ruddy awful, in fact I, I wouldn’t say it terrified me but it frightened me to death.
AM. Why was it ruddy awful?
DE. Well, there was a staircase and em, the Pilot sat on the top of this staircase and I sat directly under him, in trouble and the aircraft spinning, do you think I got down those stairs? No, no, you were pinned in, no, you had no room, I had full radio gear there. I could do all the nice flying, I could do everything you want to but I wouldn’t have like to thought I was getting in operations in it. Anyway, then we went to Lancaster Finishing School at Hemswell, an eh -
AM. So how different, tell me how different was, the Lancaster was to the Halifax.
DE. Well, it is like coming, sitting in this room instead of a back passage somewhere yeah, you could walk about in a Lanc.
AM. And the wireless operator area was better?
DE. Well, there was the pilot, there was the bomb aimer, our front gunner and then there was the pilot and then there was the navigator and the radio operator, we sat together and that was a flight crew. You couldn’t take a four engined aircraft off without having a pilot, navigator and a radio operator yeah, three and eh good job as well, I will tell you later on. I pulled them out of the drink.
AM. Got some stories. So, you done your heavy conversion training, what did that consist of? Just basically up there?
DE. Circuits and bumps.
AM. Circuits and bumps.
DE. And familiarisation with the aircraft of course, but the radio gear was the same so I didn’t need any conversion to that because I knew that backwards.
AM. For your pilot of course, who was moving onto a completely different plane, to fly from what he had been used to on his first tour.
DE. Yeah, oh he used to fly Hudsons, that’s an American twin engined originally a civil aircraft and eh yeah, I’ll come to him in a minute if you like? [laugh].
AM. Sorry, where am I up to, we know where are you, so you have done your circuits and bumps, your heavy conversion training, got your crew.
DE. And then got posted to a Squadron, 625 Squadron.
AM. Yep, at RAF Kelstern.
DE. Kelstern, and the CO met us, because we were two crews posted there to replace two lost last week. So he says, ‘Good evening gentlemen, the only thing we can guarantee here is two weeks life. The crew, the other crew took off with us on the first operation and was lost’. They had one life em I went, well we went as a crew we went on, we went on, we did a tour, we did.
AM. When he said that to you though Derek, you are twenty years old.
DE. Twenty.
AM. You’re twenty. You have not done your first operation yet and he is telling you you’ve got -
DE. A years . .[unclear].. well
AM. I can’t imagine how that felt or what you thought about that?
DE. Em, well we were a little bit bravado, we said, ‘well we will bloody show you’ [laugh] yeah well Peter had done two years operational flying before that and our first operation was to Essen.
AM. Was this the, on your first one, well first of all, you start off, your pilot has to go as second dicky and not all of you went with him.
DE. I don’t know if I went on his second dicky or not, I can’t remember, but he normally took, this is the old, this is the experienced taking the new crew, they actually, they were the, he used to take, the old pilot, used to take the new pilot as second pilot, and he used to take his own navigator and his own rear gunner. So I wouldn’t go on that dicky, second dicky. I did a few of those when we took a new crew on ops.
AM. I’m just looking, so when you did your first one
DE. Was Essen.
AM. Right, let’s find it [pause]. Circuits, here we are. So, the very first one was HLB?
DE. High Level Bombing.
AM. High Level Bombing at Essen. So, tell me right, so this first operation you’re going to Essen, what was that like from the beginning. As in, you know, you are going, you start off, it’s going to be a night, night flight.
DE. Will you close your ears a minute [laugh]. Em the Battle Order, that’s an illustration of the Battle Order in there, it was posted in the mess in the morning and we had to go for breakfast, and eh we thought oh, tonight so what we did as a crew, at ten o’clock we used to go down to the aircraft and we used to go through it like a dose of salts. We used to make sure everything was working and the first thing we did was to say to the ground crew, ‘what’s loaded on here?’ and they used to say, ‘eighteen hundred gallons’ or ‘two thousand gallons’, and of course, if it was two thousand five hundred, we used to say, ‘a long one tonight’. Then we em, went back and had a meal and then we went to kitting out. Put our ‘chutes on and whatever we were going to wear. We used to find out by devious means the temperatures, ‘what are we going to wear?’” So, and then we went into briefing and eh I went into radio briefing, navigator went into navigator briefing and so on, and gunnery and then we had a briefing altogether where you saw the wall, and we used to think ‘bloody hell’ [laugh]. And eh we used to then get in the bus and took out to dispersal, where we climbed in our aircraft. And by ritual all aircrew before an op, had to wee on the wheels.
AM. That is better than doing it up in the air isn’t it?
DE. Yeah, you diverted me a little bit
AM. Sorry.
DE. It’s all right. It was really cold, I mean I’ve flown in minus fifty I, I, actually in conjunction with this, I’ll have to write you a story about Essen, I can tell you.
AM. Tell me what the story is?
DE. I can’t really without thinking about it but eh, Essen, we were up through the flak barrage but we didn’t enquire, we didn’t, we didn’t involve running into a fighter, and we came back on that and eh. That’s where that poor devil lost his life on that first flight of the next crew that we were replacing. So that was Essen done. Come back, you got a cup, a mug of cocoa and half a mug of rum.
AM. A mug?
DE. You could treacle it out the rum you know, if it was naval rum. I didn’t drink, it sort of thawed you out a bit ‘cause you come back from these raids, and I will say it quite bluntly, you were terrified. And em, and then of course you went to your bed and you slept very soundly.
AM. Did you speak with each other about how terrified you were or did you keep that to yourself?
DE. No, no, we, no, no, we talked about it. Because one was saying, ‘did you see that fighter, did you see that, did you see that going down on so and so’. Oh no, you portrayed the whole lot together because the pilot had a different view all together over the rear gunner. I had a different view of them all because I had the radar and I could, I could see every aircraft in, in the Bomber Stream.
AM. Is that the Fishpond?
DE. Fishpond, oh I have saved the, with that I have saved the crew on numerous occasions where I have said to Titch, in the tail, em, ‘aircraft two thousand yards astern, don’t know what it is but it looks quite small and it is going fast’, so we presume -
AM. So it is not a Lancaster then.
DE. It is not a Lancaster, well I can see all the lights around us em, because I used to say to the pilot ‘increase your height by about two hundred feet, ‘cause there is somebody converging on us’, and it would be another one of the stream, ‘cause we had a thousand in the stream you know. And he would raise the aircraft and you would feel the wash of something passing underneath and that was going to be a collision had we not had the knowledge. Mm, so, and then I would say to the, I would say to Titch in the tail, we called him Titch, he was about my size actually, and eh I would say to him ‘seventeen fifty yards, fifteen hundred yards, twelve hundred yards, you are now coming up to a thousand yards’, and he would say ‘I can see him’ and so, and once, I don’t know which. Well I do, I have got it somewhere down eh, I heard him say ‘bloody hell, there’s four of them’. and so they came in and eh the first one actually went up and he set a Lanc on fire above us. We saw them bale out and floating down and it exploded, and all the flaming petrol landed on the ‘chutes and they went, and the next one he decided to have a go at us. He went out to, he went out to starboard and was coming in like this, and I was counting out to Torrey in the top turret, ‘he is just above the horizon, em and is in within oh, he is coming up to about nine hundred yards now from us’, and I said to him, “he will, he’s a fighter and his guns point forward, he’s got to level himself up with us’. and I kept saying to him, “he’s levelling up, he’s levelling up, he’s levelling up’, and I heard Torries’ guns going brrrrr and this thing, so he got him, shot him down [laugh]. And em, the other time, our rear gunner never shot anybody down but he knew where they were, so they didn’t come in his range, but twice Torries came in because once a Junkers 88 came alongside us and he was stalking a Lanc in front of us, and he didn’t see us. Then I heard Torrey, and I heard Peter shout, ‘who’s firing?’ He said, ‘it’s me, oh I have just hosed a Junkers 88 down’. He must have killed the crew ‘cause it went straight down. Aye, I didn’t like to see that just the same, whether it was the enemy or what, but I do know if it hadn’t been the enemy, it would have been us.
AM. Exactly, exactly.
DE. And em, oh this went on night after night.
AM. Can I just ask you about that Cologne trip. So, it is your second one and I believe you, if I have got this one right, is this one where you had to land somewhere else?
DE. Oh, we were going, we were running in on the target and there was Kenny the Bomb Aimer just shouted ‘steady, steady, steady, steady, bombs open, bomb doors open, steady, bombs gone’, and the old Lanc, you know, we used to be at about seven or eight, yes, five hundred foot, it used to rise you know and then eh [pause], well heard, it was a god almighty bang, crash and lit the whole aircraft up and I thought [unclear], and eh we levelled up, Peter caught it again and we got it flying and [pause], no at that time he said, ‘I lost me, I haven’t lost me bombs’, so we went round again like stupid idiots, and we let our bombs go and him at the front said, ‘I haven’t got any bomb sight, the shell has hit it and destroyed our bomb sight’, so some wag in the back shouted, ‘let’s dive bomb them then’ [laugh] and we did, we used Cologne Cathedral as the sighting point and missed it.
AM. Was this the one where the compass and the chart didn’t match and you later found out that the compass had been shot up actually.
DE. Well what happened was that big flash [unclear], a shell had burst next door to us very, very close and had shaken all the navigation equipment that was fixed to the walls, onto the floor and Colin was groping round looking for it, and em we are flying along and em, I suddenly said to him, ‘Colin, you are running on about 230 degrees’, and I said ‘if my memories right, that’s heading for the Atlantic, yeah West’, you see, ‘no I’m not’. I said, ‘you are’, anyhow, I am arguing with him and I knew he was wrong.
AM. How could you tell?
DE. I could see all the bomber stream, I could see the fighters attacking them on the stream.
AM. On the fishpond.
DE. On my Fishpond and eh I saw the bomber stream converging north, and us converging west and eh anyway, Peter the Pilot he said, ‘what are you two arguing about?’ I said, “well we are off course, we should be wanting to swim back shortly because we are heading for the Atlantic’, and eh he talked to Colin for a minute or two and then he said to me, ‘Derek, take us home’, just that, ‘take us home’, and he dismissed Colin as navigator and eh I brought ‘em home, I brought ‘em home, and eh I got, I was given them the courses, I could read the courses off and I thought, thank god I had had some navigation training. We were, we were flying up country and I said I can’t get em, eh a beacon from Binbrook, because that was the local with the em, the pilots thing, that’s right, and if you keep those like that, you will get to where that is being transmitted from and if it collapses, you are on, turned over it. So anyway, I couldn’t raise Binbrook and I couldn’t raise Binbrook and eh we were flying up country, and our rear gunner shouted, ‘there is an aircraft below us, in car headlamps’. Because I had just said to Peter, ‘by god, you are flying low’, he said, ‘I am looking for a field’, he said, ‘we have no juice hardly’. Eh so I said to him, ‘you use your flight control radio’, it’s a little radio in the pilots cockpit and I said, ‘shout Darky on it’, and eh he shouted, “Darky, Darky’, and all the lights came on and he whipped it round like that and banged it down on the runway, and eh a car came and he followed us to dispersal and em it was an American, it was half American and half British, I can’t imagine.
AM. Falkingham.
DE. Falking.
AM. Falkingham.
DE. Falkingham yeah that’s right, she knows more than me about this.
AM. Oh I don’t.
DE. [laugh] I didn’t notice you sat at the side of your mam like.
AM. I am a bit younger than that.
DE. I would have thought, you are alright anyway [laugh]. Anyway em, we parked and we went into the mess, God, the food was beautiful. The Americans used to fly their own food in you know, and eh it was served like pigs. You walked past the table with all this beautiful stuff on it, custard, kippers.
AM. All together?
DE. All together a plate full of [unclear]. The next morning, as usual, we went to look at our aircraft, ten o’clock in the morning, we always used to gather round the aircraft and eh it was like a colander. There were holes in it and eh Peter said to a so called engineer, who was walking about there, ‘how long are you going to get this kite ready, how long is it going to be?’ and he said, ‘that’ll not fly again’. And eh there was an unexploded shell which lodged in the port outer engine, if that had gone bang, um.
AM. And what about the compass, because at this point Colins compass, you brought them home because the compass wasn’t working.
DE. I bought mine, yes, through my radio detection gear.
AM. What happened to the compass.
DE. It was lying on the floor.
AM. So that had been shot as well.
DE. It had shot off, well I don’t know whether the explosion but it was lying on the floor of the aircraft at the back because the, the rear, what do you call it? That compass anyway was lying on the floor and it was giving all sorts of bloody readings to him, ‘cause I couldn’t believe that Colin had lost us because he had run us into targets and kept the forty five second window that we got to bomb.
AM. So Colin was vindicated.
DE. Yes, I he grumbled at me a bit ‘cause I, I told him, ‘You are out of your mind, Colin, you are wrong’, [laugh] and I knew he was.
AM. But it was his equipment rather than him?
DE. It wasn’t Colin, no, no.
AM. So that was only your second operation and you had to get back. Then how did you, you get back from there [unclear].
DE. On a truck.
AM. And what did they say to you when you got back to your own base?
DE. First thing I done, I went into Flying Control and I said, ‘what happened to the comp. The transmitter at Binbrook’, I said, ‘I couldn’t get that for the last, we were half up the country’. And I could have brought Peter with that device over the airfield, and I couldn’t and fortunately, the rear gunner shouts, ‘there is an aircraft in the car headlamps’. Anyway, ah I walked into Flying Control, Peter Russell, Colin Richie and Derek Evans, there was a line through us. They had written us off, dead and they wouldn’t answer my calls, and anyway, we had that out with them with a little bit of fury [laugh] and we were alright with them then, I mean. The aircraft didn’t fly again for some months and we got it again once.
AM. Did you?
DE. Yes, aye, but there was a hole in the floor, hole in the floor between me, and I used to sit with the navigator, close as this and our table was here, and eh there was a hole in the floor, hole in the ceiling something had come through and missed the pair of us. And my father was right, wasn’t he, ‘cause when I started this he said, ‘don’t worry lad’, he says, ‘the Devil looks after his own’ [laugh].
AM. But somebody was.
DE. Yeah, my mother was a spiritualist and, on that night, it was three o’clock when we landed, and she wouldn’t let me father and her go to bed, ‘he’s in trouble’, and at three o’clock she said, ‘he’s alright’.
AM. He’s alright now.
DE. That’s fantastic ‘aint it.
AM. Do you want a rest?
AM. So I am looking at other stuff that I’ve got here. I’ve, I’ve so we have done the Essen, we’ve done the Cologne, then we have Düsseldorf, Bochum.
DE. Bottrop, we were attacked by about four ruddy German fighters there with that. It was a terrible job that, I don’t know whether, I got some, I got some, I got some good notes but I never carry them about with me.
AM. I have got some here where, I think it was on your third one, that was one where I think you saw and aircraft hit. Tell me about, there was one, there was one where you had a near head on crash?
DE. Oh god aye, we were flying, well, we did, no, not quite all night bombing but most of it. That’s the aircraft I got together and the only things I haven’t made are the wheels, I couldn’t do rubber wheels.
AM. We are looking now at a picture of a model of E for Easy, Derek’s second Lancaster that he made and I have got a photograph of that.
DE. Do you know how long it took to make that?
AM. A long time.
DE. Two thousand four hundred hours, because I built it from the plans, and all these engines and all the ribs and everything are all scale fifteen scale. Two thousand four hundred hours and it is a beautiful model and it is made to fly, and I put it on our drive eh, I opened the throttles and it shot forward and I closed them. I thought that’s not going into the air ‘cause [unclear].
AM. You wouldn’t get it back. Tell me about the operation where you had a near head on crash?
DE. Oh well, it’s in the Ruhr, we had done the bombing and suddenly, we were flying like that, suddenly we went down and I looked up and I saw an aircraft pass over the top of us. I thought ‘bloody hell, that was a close one’, and Peter says, ‘I was watching that aircraft come towards us’, he says, ‘and when the wings filled my windscreen, I thought I had better dive’, and that one went up and it was a German fighter.
AM. Right.
DE. So he nearly got his chop as well.
AM. I am looking at, I am looking back at Derek’s log book here, at all the various things. So, in November ‘44 now we are talking about. So, thinking about what is happening generally, we have had D-Day, the Army.
DE. No, not in.
AM. In November ‘44.
DE. Yes, yes, D-Day was, was it June ‘44?
AM. June ‘44.
DE. Oh yes.
AM. So the Army are working their way up towards Germany now and you are still flying over Germany.
DE. We are taking out important points eh Dortmund, Durkheim, [unclear], Dortmund, good gracious.
AM. I think you bombed quite a few railway, railway lines as well, railway yards.
DE. And also, oil refineries.
AM. What did you think, if you did think at all about, about the, the people on the ground.
DE. Nothing, afterwards yeah, I thought oh dear, we got reports back, you had killed so many on that night and eh, we as a crew had killed four hundred and fifty Germans or something, and I was sorry. I don’t like killing eh, we have had to kill ah, while these German fighters were levelling their guns up, we had to kill ‘em quick or it was the man who got in first.
AM. Kill or be killed.
DE. Yeah, but I didn’t like, I didn’t like it particularly. I am not a killing man but you are if you get in the right circumstances em, yeah [laugh] yes. Em just to jump a year or two, I was, I didn’t attend a meeting and I was appointed President of an Air Gunners Association over the north here somewhere, and I thought, ‘flipping heck’, and eh I then said to myself, ‘what did I do. I know, lets go see if there is any German fighter pilots still alive’. I went to Germany, I walked into a Luftwaffe station, I said, ‘does anybody know anything about flying here?’ [laugh].
AM. And they said?
DE. Oh, I got ever so friendly with them, as a matter of fact, it eh, em we got invites to, my wife and I, got invites to stay with them and we invited them and their wives to stay with us. It culminated in, I cleared a couple of fields, ‘cause I still have the farm and em, I got, I asked the, I knew the Army, a Major in the Army, Richard somebody or other, and I said, ‘do you do any manoeuvres?’ and he said, ‘why’, I said, ‘I have quite a few acres of woods and fields’, ‘Oh’, ‘the price is couple of marquees and a field kitchen on Saturday, such and such a date’, ‘yeah that’s easy, yeah I’ll do that’, and they arrived and I issued an invitation to British and German aircrews, a hundred and twenty eight turned up. The wife says how are you going to feed these? Well, we got a few sausage rolls and that, and I said, ‘oh I know something’, and I went into see the CO at Finningley, a David Wilton, he was very friendly with us and eh I said ‘can I borrow a Jetstream for an afternoon?’ He said ‘what do you want one for?’ I said ‘I’ve got a hundred and twenty five British and German aircrew starving in a field of mine and I know that’, what is the German station, closing one down [pause] and eh I will think about it and I had heard on the grapevine that there was chucking food away and stuff, and so to fetch all these bottles of whisky and food into Finningley, it wasn’t changing hands was it? It was RAF in Germany and RAF in England, and eh when we put the, when we put the piles of food down on pallets, my drive was eighty five yards long and it was full, we had tons. I was, I was moved of course, I got a field kitchen cooking and eh I thought, ‘I wonder where they make all the sausages in Germany’. Just as a thought, so I undid a big bundle and got down to a small package, a kilo or something and it said ‘in case of complaint, such and such a company, Burnley’ [laugh]. I held it up and I said you bloody Krauts can’t even make your own sausage.
AM. Can’t make a sausage. I am going to pause while we have some lunch.
AM. So we are back now, we have had lunch, a bit of refreshment and Derek is raring to go, I think.
DE. Raring to carry on.
AM. Raring to carry on. So, we, we have talked about his early life and we have gone through joining up, crewing up, squadron, some of his first operations em. I think just before we paused, Derek was telling us about the near miss when he nearly had a head on crash.
DE. Yeah, I looked up and saw this bloody aeroplane two inches above me, well it seemed like it.
AM. Not long after that em, I think your pilot became a squadron leader, your squadron leader.
DE. Yes, he was.
AM. What difference did that make to rest of you as a crew, did that make a difference?
DE. No, no, no, no he, all the crews were all a family, all the crews were a family.
AM. Right.
DE. The only time I couldn’t get near him was what I used to crudely call ‘Birding’.
AM. Playing out with the ladies.
DE. Yes, and he was very good at that.
AM. You don’t mean, you don’t mean bird watching with binoculars then?
DE. Eh I don’t think he would know one bird from another actually.
AM. Also just before we finished or maybe just after we switched off, you talked about a landing at Sturgate with Fido, tell me about that, what happened?
DE. Well eh, they put some eh pipes and they didn’t quite join them up, there were leaks in them on both sides of the runway and [unclear].
AM. Yes, so as you are coming back from, dropped your bomb load, on your way back and it is not foggy as you are coming back.
DE. And I am saying to Peter, oh I got it through the ‘we can’t land at Kelstern’, ‘Oh?’ ‘We have been diverted to Sturgate’. ‘What’s Sturgate, we don’t have been of there’, ‘it’s Fido, Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation’, and em we arrived over Sturgate, there was just a blazing mass, there’s the air and the fog had been moved up to about five thousand feet I should think, so it was above, above the runway and the runway was just a mass of fire actually and Peter said, ‘god [unclear]’. Anyway, he landed down there and we were frightened, we didn’t want to get a tyre burst or anything, and em we landed there and then we taxied back up the runway, and we picked up a truck with lights flashing and took us into dispersal. That was it, we stayed there for the night. It was em, it was a dangerous job landing on that job, if you got anything went wrong with you and you veered off, you were burnt.
AM. It went down both sides of the runway, didn’t it, all the way down.
DE. Both sides about six thousand gallons of petrol, a minute was burning oh, colossal, colossal amount.
AM. How many times did you have to land on a FIDO? Just the once?
DE. Just the once um [laugh].
AM. Good job.
DE. Yeah, we took off on it, we got, the next day, message came through that Kelstern was clear, so we said ‘right, we might as well take off and get on back’, and so we did.
AM. But it was still foggy where you were?
DE. It was still blazing so we actually took off amongst the blazing petrol and em got up to a reasonable height and cleared off then.
AM. And got back to Kelstern.
DE. Lovely station was Kelstern, it was a -
AM. What was it like, tell me what Kelstern was like?
DE. A field.
AM. But you just said it was a lovely Station, what was lovely about it?
DE. Em, it was a family, there were no rules and regulations, it was just a station carved out of the countryside and all we got round there was just fields and woods, and eh it suited me because I had been used to woods and fields. We spent a nice time there and eh everybody knew everybody, there was no ‘morning Sir’, in fact the boss there was Air Vice Marshall John Baker. I saved his life once and he always called me Derek, never airman.
AM. So how did you save his life. I think I know this story but tell me anyway?
DE. Well, we set of to bomb em some German positions that were holding the British Army up.
AM. You say we, so he was with you.
DE. Oh Aye yes, he was with us and em we were flying over the North Sea and I got a message from headquarters, eh position over run, return to base and take your bombs and fuel back. Thirty two of aircraft and bombs and I said to Peter, ‘yeah whip it round, we have a recall’, and he said ‘our position is to fly with the boss’.
AM. So he was in a separate aircraft.
DE. Oh, in a separate aircraft, we were the aircraft escorting him because Peter was high up then in rank, and em we were to fly in Vic formation with him. You have heard of Vic formation, haven’t you?
AM. Yeah, yeah.
DE. And we kept on flying and I said, ‘Peter. aren’t you turning round?’ He said ‘I can’t let him fly over ‘cause we’re getting near the Dutch coast there you see’. So eh he said eh, so I said, ‘go a bit closer to him’, and I got the Aldiss lamp out and I winked out the message, and that stupid radio operator said, ‘Why?’. And I signalled back ‘read your bloody bomber [unclear] broadcasts’, and he disappeared and he did and em just before the Dutch coast and the Dutch defences. There were rockets you know. We used to fly along and a rocket would be fired and we would steer round it [laugh], you can’t believe it can you? And em I saw him then turn and we flew back with him, and em he said to me, he says, ‘thank you for saving my life’.
AM. So neither of you had dropped your bombs, the whole lot had to land.
DE. We were loaded with petrol and bombs, thirty tons, and em Peter came in, came in last ‘cause we, they had all gone, they had all gone to land except for the gaggle, us and Peter said, ‘I will let him land and go back in after’, so we did an orbit or two and eh then he came in. His rate of sink was too much because a hundred mile an hour was the rate of sink of a Lanc you know, coming in to land. He was sinking a lot and he slammed the throttles forward and he came in a hundred, came in to land on full throttles and we [unclear]. I was in the astrodome, I thought, ‘bloody hell, we are not, we are going to be buried automatically in the field here, you know’, and em, he touched down and then, he was like this, wheel to wheel and he banged open the throttles and took off, and we went round and come and did a proper landing then. We got in the crew bus and we were detached, dispatched outside the Flying Control near the parachute section and all that, and there was John Barker, the Boss, he got all the air crew kneeling down on the hard runway and we were all with this.
AM. Bowing.
DE. Yeah, and Peter said to him ‘what’s all this’, and he said, ‘any bugger who can survive a landing like that is a god’ [laugh].
AM. I can’t, I can’t imagine landing with the full bomb load and how scary that must be.
DE. It was scary. A burst tyre would have made things hot.
AM. Very.
DE. Oh you wouldn’t have got away with it if you had burst a tyre.
AM. You know that Vic formation that you said, what does Vic stand for? I know what it is like and arrow head.
DE. Vee
AM. Oh vee, of course, yeah, but I was trying to work out what the I and the C stood for.
DE. Vic
AM. Vee, Vic, so it is the phonetic alphabet, isn’t it?
DE. Three aircraft.
AM. It is the point at the front.
DE. Yes, that the Vic.
AM. The ones that take the flak.
DE. Yeah.
AM. I read in the book that you led a formation of about two hundred at the front of that, and Colin got them all there and got them all back.
DE. Yeah, oh he was a good bloke was Colin, he was a bit shirty with me when I said, ‘you are bloody miles out, Colin’, ‘oh no I’m not, no I’m not’, and Peter says, ‘what are you two arguing about?’
AM. To be relying to, on his instruments. I am looking at, I am still looking at your log book here at some of the others “Gaggle Leader Training.”
DE. Yes, you are talking about Vic, aren’t you.
AM. Is that what, I am just looking at this.
DE. What do they say about a flock of birds?
AM. A gaggle of geese.
DE. Yeah.
AM. But it is got here that you actually did training for it.
DE. Yes that’s right, learned to fly in vics.
AM. Yes, got you.
DE. Because normally we flew alone, didn’t we?
AM. Yes within the stream.
DE. Yeah.
AM. And then you, what else have I got here, I’ve got one, I’ve got a little note about when you were attacked by some fighters near Nuremburg.
DE. Yes, yes.
AM. Can you remember that one, I might be jumping about too much now, and then the other note I’ve got is em that in April 1945 Kelstern closed, and you had to move to Scampton.
DE. Yes.
AM. And then your very last Operation was Heligoland?
DE. Heligoland yes, a submarine base. I remember running in over that and we weren’t leaders, we were in the main stream and eh we were dropping big stuff on there. Eh and I mean the ones with the em, ten tonners, they used to go through thirty eight feet of concrete and very often didn’t explode a few days later they would explode wouldn’t they. It was designed for that, what do you call it, delayed action yeah, ’cause we, we done one or two trips to em the Dortmund Emms Canal and eh we used to let the water out the canal [laugh] bad people.
AM. That’s one way of putting it.
DE. All eh, you see the submarine engines were made by MAN, M.A.N [spelt out name], you have seen the lorries and that was, that was down there anyway, Dortmund or somewhere and eh, they always used to use barges taking these submarine engines to Bremen to be fitted to submarines and they were all stuck there with no water in [laugh].
AM. That was the idea.
DE. Have a good trip, yeah, yeah [laugh].
AM. And that was it so that was April ’45, that last one.
DE. Yeah.
Unknown. When was VE day?
AM. VE Day was in May, early May, wasn’t it?
DE. Something like that, I know where it starts, the last operation and the next was delivering food.
AM. For the Operation Manna. How many of those did you do?
DE. How many?
AM. Did you just do one Operation Manna?
DE. No, we did two or three, did more than one anyway.
AM. ‘Cause you were flying really low level in Operation Manna weren’t you. What was that actually, after all that year of the full tour of dropping bombs and all the rest of it, now you’re dropping food?
DE. Well we was dropping food to this Hospital. I was stood in the astrodome and we were lower than the nurses standing on the roof.
AM. I know it was really low level, I didn’t know it was that low, I knew it was really low level.
DE. And you know, some years later, I take my wife to Buxton, to the theatre there, you know the theatre? I drove into this car park, lined up and got out and a Volvo came in and what a pigs ear he was making of trying to, so I got out and I am saying, ‘come on, come on’, you know, then I notice it’s Dutch number plates. So I said to him ‘are you a Dutchman then?’ and he said, ‘yes, have you been to Holland?’ I said, ‘I have been over it a time or two’, he said, ‘have you?’ I said, ‘yes, the last time I went I was delivering food’. He said ‘I’ve got some photographs’, he said, ‘I had hidden a box brownie camera’, and he’d taken photographs of us. He said, ‘I have got it with me and you can have them’.
AM. That’s brilliant.
DE. That was marvellous that was, wasn’t it?
AM. What was it, I can’t imagine what that must have been like to be flying so low that you could actually see the people waiting and, and for the food, because they were starving weren’t they?
DE. Oh, we would have killed them if we had dropped it on them, Aye, we were dropping six ton, lots and eh, we went along this low, we went Hague, I think we went somewhere else as well, I think it was the Hague.
AM. Yes, we’ve got the Hague here ‘Spam Droppings’.
DE. Spam Droppings, we call it spam yeah [laugh], and eh we used to, we dropped that and then we dropped, we went across low like that, if we could have put our wheels down landed on it, it was that low. Well, eh was perhaps thirteen, thirteen foot diameter [unclear] props they were and as soon as we let the things go, turned it over and went straight up. We was told not to fire at the defences because they had agreed not to fire at us and I remember Titch saying, ‘the buggers were going with us all the time’, their guns you know. He said, ‘and I got ‘em lined up as well’ [laugh].
AM. Just in case.
DE. Yeah, but the only one that was any trouble was an American. They fired at some of the defences and they shot him down. Serves him right, the agreement was made, it should have been kept.
AM. They called it ‘Chow hand’ didn’t they, we called it ‘Operation Manna’ and the Americans called it ‘Chow hand’.
DE. They would do. When we got a, we used to land at different places if there was fog like Sturgate, the Americans used to land with us in case, if their bases were fog bound and I remember once, this young airman, he attached himself to me, this American airman. ‘Will you show us a Lancaster?’ ‘Yes, I will show you a Lancaster’, and then there were the bomb trains starting and he said ‘where are all these going from?’ I said, ‘they are going to’, I said, ‘wait a minute, this is ours, look’. I said, ‘climb on one of those bombs and you will have a ride round’, so we rode round into the, into our dispersal and he lay on that aircraft until the last one was bombed. He couldn’t believe it, ‘cause I don’t know we eh, four thousand pounder, sixteen five hundreds eh about two and a half thousand pounds of incendiaries, that was a usual load you see. He watched every one hung cause he couldn’t have believed that lot would have done the whole lot of and American squadron, ‘cause their bomb load, maximum bomb load is four thousand pounds. Well, ours was twenty two thousand pounds.
Unknown. What on a Flying Fortress?
DE. Pardon?
Unknown. What on a Flying Fortress, American.
DE. And the German, what do you call that, Dornier 17 isn’t it.
AM. Dornier, yeah.
DE. That was four thousand pound load as well, they couldn’t carry anything.
AM. Well the Lancaster basically was a flying bomb factory, machine wasn’t it.
DE. That is what it was.
AM. And when you stand under it and look at when the bomb doors are open.
DE. Thirty three feet long.
AM. Yeah it is, so have I missed any stories about various operations. Can you think of any more that I have missed that you need to tell me about?
Unknown. The one that you were trying to get Derek was the fighter one, that was the one when Pete went into the Corkscrew, you know, the manoeuvres that got the fighters off the tail.
DE. Eh, I think it was Bochum, yes Bochum. It was a [unclear] because I have got a lot of.
AM. I think Bochum is just after the photographs.
DE. I see it, yes.
Unknown. I know you told me before, Derek, about how Peter had to turn, turn the Lancaster into, you know, the Corkscrew turn, upside down.
DE. We used to turn a Lancaster down like that and roll it, somebody says to me, ‘you can’t roll a Lancaster’. I said, ‘you bloody can with a fighter at the back of you’ [laugh]. I don’t know how many, I can’t remember how many fighter attacks I dealt with, because I dealt with them before the gunners saw them. Yeah look, ninety minutes to the target, Titch in the tail shouts, ‘fighter, fighter!!’
AM. Eight o’clock.
DE. ‘Eight o’clock level, corkscrew, left, go!’
AM. So describe that to me what that felt like from where you were sat?
DE. Where I was sat, I was glued to a screen, eh, well I used to do this with the armchair to hold myself there, ‘cause I’d be swung about and eh Its corkscrew left, right wing down, nose down, dive four thousand feet eh, and then eh, change the wing so that wing was down and then up and that’s why the corkscrew was like that you see, yeah. And that’s why we hoped that the fighters wouldn’t follow us em, and we through them off most we had, oh we had about twelve fighter attacks so we got used to it [laugh]. But with two very good gunners, they were, they were, I mean Torrey the Mid Upper Gunner shot two down, and he shot two down because em, ‘cause they got too close and he said ‘I waited’ and I was saying to him, ‘cause I was vectoring him onto this fighter coming in, and eh I said to him, ‘he has gone out to starboard but he is just, I can see him, he is just below the em, horizon’. He then said, ‘I can see him’, I said, ‘well watch him because he has no guns on top, he has got to fire out of his wings ‘cause he was a 110’, an eh we knew the German aircraft, we knew them very well, best thing for him to do was to study them. That, I can see him now, ‘cause I am up on top, looking, then I saw this fighter coming up and I said, ‘he is going to get his guns level on you, Torrey’, and Torrey let him have it, killed him, oh he killed him, killed him and eh that was five seconds to our demise. That coming up like that and he got him just before he got his guns level em, oh yes, em. Sometimes we got a bit of excitement.
AM. Ah, probably excitement you could have done without.
DE. Oh god, aye, yeah.
AM. And then it all just came to an end, VE Day, last operation. Just looking at your log book, after the Operation Manna, you did a couple of photographic em.
DE. Oh eh, yes in there you see, eh about ten of us nicked a Lancaster.
AM. Nicked a Lancaster?
DE. Borrowed one and then we, and what have I done now, called it?
AM. You have called it a Special Bombing Photographic.
DE. No, I didn’t.
AM. Was it later than that?
DE. Yeah.
AM. Let’s have a look.
DE. Oh we did a Cooks Tour as we called it, we borrowed an aircraft, well there were plenty [unclear] and I think it was about ten of us and we went round the Cooks Tour, up over the Ruhr and the targets we done and had a look at them, and we were shattered. We were shocked at the damage we’d done and eh fighter affiliation, that is you meet up with a Spitfire and it is trying, its got cameras and it is trying to shoot us down with cameras, yeah and that is where we learnt to fight night fighters. And then on 69 Reserve Flying School, I was, of all the flight crew, that was navigators, pilots, navigators, radio operators em, were given a five year call up if you like and em, they gave us an aircraft and we had a lovely time, this was after the war.
AM. Just before the after the war bit, so we have had VE day, you’ve nicked your aircraft and had a bit of fun going round looking at the bomb sites. How long, what, what happened to you then between then and demob, because it was usually quite a lengthy time wasn’t it?
DE. I don’t know why but eh I, I was posted to eh em, electronic school and I qualified as an electronic engineer then, and then I got on a fighter squadron, servicing their gear.
AM. In, in England.
DE. Yeah, and then I got posted to ruddy Scotland, Leuchars, do you know Leuchars?
AM. I don’t know it, but you talked about that right at the beginning.
DE. And eh -
AM. It’s Coastal Command isn’t it up there?
DE. Yes, it used to be Bomber Command and then it was Coastal Command. Because I think they took off from there and the adjacent station to bomb the ships in the fjords, that’s the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau and then em, I had been there a little bit and I was just about getting acclimatized I was posted to St. Leonards, the point of Cornwall.
Unknown. Penzance.
AM. About as far away as you could get.
DE. Yeah, and I thought to myself eh and I thought my demob number is number 53 and they are demobbing 45, ‘I’m not working’, I went. I went looking round the beach and I saw a bungalow for to let and I went in there and I didn’t turn up for work. But what I’d done was, I went into the, into the other aircrew that I was friendly with and I said, ‘book me into the mess will you, for each meal and sign Derek Evans’. Eh after a fortnight I thought, I wonder if they have missed me?
AM. So what did you do, just generally played about on the beach and had a rest?
DE. On the beach it was lovely, a bit of surfing and that, I was fit then and em, one morning I thought ‘I wonder if they’ve missed me?’ So I got on me bike and rode to the station, I went through a fence where the radar section was and somebody says, ‘the Adj. is looking for you’. ‘Oh’, I said, ‘Is he?’ I went in front of the Adj. and eh ‘you have been absent without leave’, I said, ‘no I haven’t, go and look at the meals register’. Well he couldn’t get anywhere so he said, ‘you had better go and see their Radar Officer in charge of the radar section’, and eh he said, ‘you have been absent without leave’, I said ‘no I haven’t’. Bit of an argument and I thought ‘bloody bloke, he has been here all the blinking war, telling me off’, and at the end of the argument, I said ‘what you need is a bit of air under your arse’ [laugh] flying.
AM. And he said?
DE. Put me on a charge for insubordination and I went in front of the CO, and he says, he says, ‘you shouldn’t demonstrate discipline like this’. He gave me a right ticking off. My demob came up then about a fortnight after and I went in front of the same Group Captain, and he says ‘will you sign on?’ I said ‘after what you have told me’, he said ‘I have got to talk in front of these buggers’. But he had the same medal ribbons as me and I knew what he’d done [laugh], then eh I went, I, I, left then and he says, ‘I’ll guarantee you promotion to Squadron Leader in five weeks if you sign on’. He says, ‘we are losing’, he said ‘you are experienced ground crew, experienced aircrew’. I said ‘you’ll be right now’, I said. He said ‘Squadron Leader’, and I said ‘no’ I said, ‘I am going back to my own patch where I served an apprenticeship’ and I did.
AM. And that’s what you did. Were you married by then Derek, did you meet your wife in the war, during the war or afterwards?
DE. After the war.
AM. It was after.
DE. I wouldn’t entertain [unclear]
AM. Of course, you are still only twenty two or twenty three at this point, you were still only a baby in relative terms.
DE. Twenty two and em yes, quite a few contacts with WAAFs especially in the, well that’s put it politely, and there was one or two wanted to marry and I says ‘do you know what job I am doing?’ I says ‘tomorrow I might be dead’, I said, ‘if anything happened you became pregnant’ [unclear]. I said ‘no, I won’t attach myself to anybody’ and I think I did right. I eh was posted to Verne, that is near Selby and there’s a Holding Unit. They had bods in there and they were saying ‘I need six so and so, right six out of these’, and eh I was, I was driving up past the racecourse in Doncaster which was, well my mother’s home was there, just near the racecourse and I saw this WAAF working, walking on her own and I pulled up and I says ‘hello, what are you doing here?’ She was one of the Kelstern teleprinter operators. She said ‘I have been posted to Verne’, I said, ‘that’s where I’m going, get in’, so I took her up there, and eh I did marry her actually, eventually. Me dad said to me, when I took her home the first time, ‘she’s no bloody good to you, you know’. My god, was he right, I didn’t last long with her.
AM. So this wasn’t Edna then. That wasn’t Edna then because I know that your wife that you have been married to for a long time, was Edna.
DE. No, I don’t know if it is for publication actually. She was a chemist was Edna and she was in, worked in Boots, just down, and I managed an office equipment shop, just above and we just used to say ‘hello’, you know, nothing and eh, I was living with me father and I was in the pub one night and I used to meet all the builders and business folks, ‘cause I used to collect business, you see. And em, ah, I am trying to think of his name now, Terry it was, anyway I said to him ‘Are you building any houses?’ He said, ‘I have got whole estate going at ‘em’. I said, ‘have you anything cheap?’ He said, ‘Well I have a very nice bungalow, er, next to the field which we are not building on’, I said, “oh, what do you want for it?’ and he said, “two and a half thousand pounds’. I said, ‘I’ll have it’, and I bought it off him in the pub [laugh]. I move in there and I was in there for a bit and eh I kept seeing Edna, I used to chat with her, nothing extraordinary. She said ‘What have you done then?’ I said ‘I have moved from me fathers’ place, I’ve bought a bungalow in [unclear], a brand new one’. ‘Oh’, she said, ‘what’s that address?’ Anyway, bless her, I am having my dinner one day, I used to go, it wasn’t far from where I worked. She knocks at the door, she had all her cases with her. I said ‘what are you doing?’ She said ‘I’ve come to live with you’ [laugh].
Unknown. That’s very forward.
AM. And that was that?
DE. Oh, I took her in and that was it, yeah and I was with her, I have been with her sixty odd years, sixty six years.
AM. How did the, you know, I know you, you talked about what you did after the war, but you know the model building, how did the model building come about?
DE. Well. I used to build models, I have built hundreds, ships, aircraft.
AM. As a hobby, this is a hobby, not as a job.
DE. Yes, and I eh, a friend of mine said, he was one of the officials at the brewery, John Smiths, and I said ‘have you got any property you are getting rid of for nought?’ And he said, “yes, got a nice one in Silver Street, a nice’, but he said ‘but Legards are in it’, but he said, ‘their things coming to an end’. He said, ‘so you had better put in a thing’, so I had a look at it and I thought, ‘this would make a good shop’. I don’t know what, I don’t know what I was thinking of, and then, and then I thought a model shop, yeah, a model shop. Em, the bloke who’s in it, what they call him, I don’t really know him now but, he says ‘Oh, your lease is coming to an end’, ‘cause I rented it from him for a week or two, and he says ‘the lease is, so your rent will have to go up’, so I said to him, ‘why, has your landlord put your rent up?’ ‘No, I am going to see him’. ‘Oh’, I said, ‘you had better come back to me and tell me how much you want more’. He came back to me and said ‘you cheeky bugger, you own the place’.
AM. You are the landlord [laugh] and I think on that note.


Annie Moody, “Interview with Derek Carington Evans,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 13, 2024,

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