Interview with Eric Evans


Interview with Eric Evans


Eric Evans was born in 1923 in Liverpool and was just 16 years of age when war broke out. He served in the Royal Air Force, and serving with 463 RAAF Squadron, going from the rank of sergeant and leaving the service as a warrant officer, before joining the Royal Tank Regiment, rising to the rank of captain.
At the age of 16, Eric had an apprenticeship as an indentured apprentice marine engineer at Liverpool docks, however wanted to serve, however he was classed as being in a reserved occupation, so therefore could only volunteer as aircrew.
Eric flew Avro Ansons, Vickers Wellingtons, before moving on to Short Stirlings with 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Wigsley where he trained as a rear gunner. He then flew Avro Lancasters with 463 RAAF Squadron at Waddington.
He flew missions to France, Nuremburg, Dortmund-Ems canal, Brunswick and targets in the Ruhr. Eric was shot down on 6 November 1944 and was taken prisoner of war, and he tells of his escape from the camp when it was liberated by the Russian forces.
After returning to the United Kingdom, Eric ran the Prisoner of War Camps, before leaving the Royal Air Force and joining the 40th Kings Royal Tank Regiment, and served 6 years as a Troop Commander.
Eric left the Army in 1956 and worked for his father as a salesman in the motor car industry. He started his own business and by the rime he retired, he had built up four businesses which he ran for approximately 30 years.







01:53:53 audio recording

Conforms To


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 and



AEvansE160331, PEvansE1602


BW: This is Brian Wright, I am interviewing with Sergeant Eric Evans of 463 Squadron, who served in the RAF, initially as sergeant, then warrant officer and finished as captain in the Royal Tank Regiment. It’s taking place at his home in Liverpool on Thursday the 31st of March 2016 at 10.30. So, would you like me to call you Eric or Mr Evans?
EE: Eric.
BW: Eric. If err, you wouldn’t mind just starting us off please Eric, could you confirm your service number and your date of birth please?
EE: The 31st of the first 1923 and my service number was double two, double one, double five, eight.
BW: OK, thank you. And you were born in Liverpool, is that right?
EE: I was.
BW: And, along with your parents, did you have any other brothers and sisters?
EE: I had two brothers.
BW: Ok. And how was it in your early life growing up? What was your family life like?
EE: It was very pleasant. A good middle-class family.
BW: A good middle class family.
EE: My father was a major in the Army.
BW: Right.
EE: My two brothers were err, both commissioned, one in the Navy and one in the, one in aircrew.
BW: Right, and were you the middle brother?
EE: I was the youngest.
BW: The youngest.
EE: I was sixteen when the war broke out.
BW: And you had a brother in the Navy. Was he the elder or the middle?
EE: The elder.
BW: The eldest brother was in the Navy, and so, your next eldest would have been in the RAF. Did he go straight in as an officer or did he go in —
EE: He went on training, to Canada.
BW: I see.
EE: And he flew as a navigator.
BW: Right. And what happened to him —
EE: He just got through the war.
BW: He came through OK?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And, at that time it was common for people to leave school at fourteen. Is that what happened to you?
EE: No, I stayed at school until I was sixteen. I went to a private school.
BW: I see.
EE: We were all privately educated.
BW: All privately educated, right. And whereabouts did you go to school?
EE: Quarrybank
BW: I see.
EE: A local school.
BW: And what was it like there? Was it pretty strict or was it a good school?
EE: It was a good school. I didn’t like school very much it was very strict but it was a good school.
BW: And then, when you were sixteen, you say the war broke out.
EE: That’s right. My father arranged for me to do an apprenticeship. He got me a position as an indentured apprentice marine engineer.
BW: An indentured apprentice marine engineer. I see.
EE: Yes.
BW: I see.
EE: With a fee of fifty pounds.
BW: And whereabouts was that? That must have been in Liverpool as well?
EE: In the docks.
BW: Right.
EE: Liverpool docks. It was a firm called Grace and Rollo and Clover Docks Limited.
BW: Grace and -
EE: Rollo
BW: Rollo
EE: And Clover Docks.
BW: And Clover Docks. I see.
EE: Limited.
BW: Right, and how long were you there? A year or two or less?
EE: A couple of years, and then I tried to get in the Army but I couldn’t get out because I was in a reserved occupation.
BW: I see.
EE: So, eventually they announced, if you joined aircrew, you could, you could leave.
BW: All right.
EE: So, I joined.
BW: (laughs).
EE: I joined aircrew.
BW: And what drew you to the RAF? Why them and, obviously, you said —
EE: Well, it was the only one I could get into –
BW: Yeah, I see, of course.
EE: The Army wouldn’t take me.
BW: Yeah.
EE: I joined the Army twice.
BW: Any you didn’t fancy the Navy?
EE: Well, I couldn’t get in the Navy.
BW: Same, same rule applied? They wouldn’t take you from a reserved occupation?
EE: Only aircrew.
BW: And, did you err, intend to fly or did you —
EE: I intended to fly, of course, there again, I could only go into a flying branch —
BW: Right
EE: Or they wouldn’t release me.
BW: So, if you had wanted to go in as a fitter or mechanic, you, you—
EE: No, I couldn’t have done.
BW: I see, so it sounds a pretty important job you had at, in the Docks.
EE: Well, they considered it to be so.
BW: What sort of things were you doing there as a —
EE: I was just an apprenticeship, with ship repair. We did the, we did the Campbeltown, the one that did the dockade at St Nazaire.
BW: Yeah.
EE: We worked on the Campbletown.
BW: Right, and was that re-fitting the Cambletown for that raid, or —
EE: Yeah.
BW: Really?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And was the purpose of fitting Campbletown out at the time known to you, or was it just given to you as a —
EE: No, we didn’t know. It was just filled with concrete all the bows were filled up with concrete.
BW: Right.
EE: [unclear].
BW: So, were you involved in filling the bows with concrete or —?
EE: No, no.
BW: It was just part of the fitting.
EE: It was part of the fitting.
BW: Right and so, when the raid took place on St Nazaire, that must have been, I’m assuming the only time you knew that was what the purpose of that ship was?
EE: She was an ex American destroyer.
BW: Right, that’s fascinating. So, when did you join the RAF?
EE: Err 1943.
BW: Ok. When about was it roughly?
EE: I don’t know.
BW: Okay. That’s all right, there’s no, we don’t need an exact date. All right, so, we’ve just had a look at your RAF service and release book and it confirms your date of service from 13th September 1943 to the 5th February 1947.
EE: I joined six months before that —
BW: You joined six months before?
EE: I waited six months to get in.
BW: I see.
EE: I went to Padgate for all my exams.
BW: So, you did your exams at Padgate, and that’s at Warrington, that’s one of the recruitment centres, isn’t it?
EE: That’s right.
BW: Err.
EE: Six months before.
BW: Right, and once you’d done your basic training, where did you then go?
EE: I went to err oh, [pause] from Padgate to Bridgnorth.
BW: Bridgnorth.
EE: And then I did all my square bashing at Bridgnorth.
BW: Right.
EE: And then I went to um Yorkshire, Bridlington.
BW: Bridlington.
EE: And I went from Bridlington to err, gunnery school in Northern Ireland. Bishops Court.
BW: Bishops?
EE: Bishops Court.
BW: Bishops Court in Northern Ireland was a gunnery school. I see.
EE: We went from gunnery school to [pause] —
BW: And this is your log book we’re looking at now?
EE: Yeah, [pause]. Let’s see, start on my log book.
EE: It was gunnery school, a continuation of gunnery school.
BW: And so, this starts in January 7th of January 1944, and you’re flying Ansons at this time.
EE: That’s right. That’s at gunnery school at Bishops Court.
BW: Uh-huh.
EE: And you turn over.
BW: This is just details, the number of rounds that you fired in practice on, on targets.
EE: That’s right.
BW: I see, and that confirms you flying twenty-one hours and ten minutes at 12 Air Gunnery School, Bishops Court.
EE: What’s this?
BW: And then a move to 14 OTU Bosworth.
EE: That’s it. And Wellingtons.
BW: Flying Wellington mark tens. This is April ‘44, so this is very nearly err, seventy-two years, almost seventy-two years to the day actually, since you started —
EE: Yes.
BW: How did you find flying in Ansons and target practice compared to flying in Wellingtons?
EE: It was all right. It was just normal [indistinct] you just gave, you just took what they gave you.
BW: And were you given much instruction about the arms, the guns that you were firing?
EE: Oh yes. [unclear] blindfold and all that kind of thing.
BW: Right. You had to take them apart in a certain time and do it blindfold.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And how did you find that? Was it—
EE: It was easy enough.
BW: Ok. And what was your, I mean, these detail your different sorties, how did you find your um, accuracy on the guns?
EE: Reasonable. I think I was average.
BW: Mm-hmm.
EE: I didn’t expect to be more than average. But err, you just went out and did what you had to do, to the best of your ability.
BW: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm So, looking at this you’ve had, you were flying pretty much every day almost, maybe the odd day or two in between and that lasted up until May, the end of May ‘44. But there’s a mark here, where you’ve got bullseye.
EE: Yeah. [pause] That’s it.
BW: I see. And some of these are marked on duty as cine, is that right so were they filming you, is, that right?
EE: We had cine instead of bullets —
BW: I see —
EE: They had cine film on. I think err, what kind of aircraft, oh no [unclear].
BW: I see
EE: We used to fly against Spits and things —
BW: And this was what they called fighter affiliation then —
EE: That’s right.
BW: So, the Spitfires would be flying dummy attacks —
EE: That’s right, and we would film them.
BW: There’s a description here, fifteen minutes, I think that will be fighter affiliation, infra-red, what does that entail?
EE: I don’t know, don’t remember, oh night time, night time I think.
BW: Right.
EE: End of 14 OTU. Operations Unit.
BW: So, same type of aircraft here now. This is the 8th of May ‘44 err, where you have moved to 14 OTU at Market Harborough —
EE: Yeah.
BW: Still flying Wellingtons, and [pause] it’s a mix of live ammunition and cine film. Were the bombers flying straight and level or were they taking part in manoeuvres?
EE: Oh no, they were doing corkscrews and things. All the manoeuvres one would normally do.
BW: And so, while the pilot is putting the aircraft into a corkscrew manoeuvre, you are still having to fire at a —
EE: That’s right
BW: At a target approaching.
EE: Yes.
BW: And I’m looking here there’s about the same time, equal time, spent day and night.
EE: Yeah. [pause].
BW: I see. And then from there, you had presumably a couple of months leave between May and July. This is when your heavy conversion unit training starts.
EE: Yeah, Stirling, horrible aircraft.
BW: What didn’t you like about the Stirling?
EE: Big and ugly. Big, awkward thing.
BW: Some crew found it quite spacious, did you -
EE: Too big.
BW: Too big?
EE: it was like a bus.
BW: [laughs]. Did it feel like it handled like a bus?
EE: Yeah, didn’t like the Stirling at all. Never felt safe in the Stirling.
BW: And that was simply because of the amount of space around you?
EE: Just a big ugly —
BW: Right
EE: Big ugly thing.
BW: And so, you’ve done between the 14th of July 44 and the 11th of August ‘44 at 1654 Heavy Conversion Unit at Wigsley, you’ve done um, best part probably of six weeks training thereabouts, maybe a month’s training?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And, were you, um, placed as a rear gunner or in different positions?
EE: A rear gunner the whole time. Never changed, or I wouldn’t, stayed as, never took any other position.
BW: And is that a role that you asked for, to be a rear gunner?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And was your preference for that? What drew you to that?
EE: I dunno.
BW: And then, moving on from err, the conversion unit, this is Number Five LFS,
EE: Lancaster Flying School.
BW: Lancaster Flying School, at Syerston in Nottinghamshire, and 27th of August 1944, this presumably was your first flight in a Lancaster?
EE: Yeah.
BW: How did that feel after being in Stirlings and Wellingtons?
EE: Good, but they were all clapped out old aircraft. They lost ten percent of all crews in training. Ten percent, it’s outrageous.
BW: Right.
EE: Because they were all clapped out old aircraft.
BW: Gosh.
EE: They weren’t fit for squadron use.
BW: And, did you know any guys on your courses who were lost as a result of —
EE: Oh yes, I don’t remember their names now.
BW: But there were guys who —
EE: Oh yes, ten percent.
BW: Right
EE: One out of every ten.
BW: Mm. So, you’ve not long, really, you’ve probably, only literally a few days, maybe a week at a Lancaster School thereabouts, and then you join —
EE: 463 Squadron.
BW: 463 Squadron, RAAF at Waddington. How did it feel to finally get on your squadron?
EE: Well, it was, what it was all building up towards. It was quite a, quite a do. First trip was to France.
BW: And do you recall what the target was in France?
EE: Yes, troop concentrations, it’s written down.
DW: Ah ha
EE: It’s written down there
BW: And then same again, troop concentrations around Boulogne? And this is after the invasion.
EE: Yes.
BW: Was there a sense of having missed out on what they call the big show, the invasion?
EE: No, it wasn’t a big show for the RAF. We did all the bombing for it. For the Legions of Honour. For those two trips.
BW: I see, so because you took part in raids over France, you became eligible for the Legion D’Honneur.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And did you take up the offer from the French government for that?
EE: I’ve taken it up, but I’ve not heard from them yet.
BW: I see.
EE: Very long winded.
BW: Well, I hope it comes through soon. There’s a note in your book here and it looks like you were flying in the group captain, group captain’s Lancaster, Group Captain—
EE: Bonham-Carter
BW: Bonham-Carter, over Germany?
EE: Yeah, right.
BW: And then a note about Guy Gibson.
EE: Well, he was missing. He [unclear]. He went missing on that trip.
BW: And what was he fulfilling?
EE: Master bomber.
BW: Master Bomber?
EE: Yes.
BW: Did you hear anything about what happened to him?
EE: No, they kept it quiet for about three weeks.
BW: I think he was killed in a Mosquito.
EE: He was. I’ve been to his grave.
BW: Have you?
EE: Yeah, in Holland.
BW: Presumably you never met Guy Gibson, just heard of him.
EE: No, I never met him.
BW: What was the err, I suppose the legend about him, how was it at the time—
EE: Nobody liked him.
BW: Nobody liked him?
EE: No, he was an arrogant bugger.
BW: And then, from October ’44, you are flying still Lancasters with 463. You had a regular aircraft it looks like, Q —
EE: Yes, you eventually got your own. Queenie.
BW: Queenie?
EE: That’s right.
BW: And do you recall the names of your other crewmen?
EE: Oh yes.
BW: There was a chap called Sunderland.
EE: Yeah, he was my pal.
BW: Was he?
EE: The navigator, Stanley.
BW: There was a Stanley Harding.
EE: He was a mid-upper.
BW: And —
EE: He was killed.
BW: Now your mate Sunderland, what was his first name?
EE: Cecil.
BW: Cecil? And so, Cecil Sunderland is navigator, Stanley Harding is the mid-upper, and, there was a chap called Lynch.
EE: We were pals.
BW: What was his first name, can you recall?
EE: Joe.
BW: Joe?
EE: Yeah.
BW: His first initial was a C but he must have gone —
EE: C J Lynch.
BW: And your bomb aimer was a chap called Rogers.
EE: Was a chap called?
BW: Rogers.
EE: Yes, that’s right.
BW: Do you recall his first name? It was R C Rogers, couldn’t -
EE: Can’t recall it.
BW: No problem. The flight engineer was Sergeant Haywood.
EE: Yes.
BW: And what was his first name.
EE: Don’t know.
BW: And there was a chap, he was an Aussie, the wireless operator called Woolmer.
EE: Eric.
BW: Eric. So, there were two Erics on your crew.
EE: I saved his life.
BW: Say again?
EE: I saved his life, I got him out.
BW: Really.
EE: It was in the write up. You read the write up.
BW: I ’ll ask you about that in a little while, um, do you recall any particularly memorable raids out of this lot?
EE: Yes, this one. That one.
BW: This is to Nuremburg.
EE: I could never have done that again. I’d have gone LMF I think.
BW: And, what was it that you particularly recall about that raid?
EE: Well, we flew in to a mile squared of predicted flak. A mile square of predicted, imagine what that was like.
BW: A mile square of predicted flak. So, it’s -
EE: We had to fly though that to get to the target. It was impossible, but we got through.
BW: And so, you could see, the rest of the crew could see this? You were obviously in the rear turret.
EE: We cut all our Perspex out. We cut all ours out, from the top to the bottom so there was better sight.
BW: I am just going to temporarily pause the recording because there is some background noise.
BW: So, were you briefed about this particular flak hazard at Nuremburg, did you know about it beforehand.
EE: No. They told us very little about this kind of thing. They didn’t tell us about the upward firing guns.
BW: Schräge Musik
EE: Never told us. There was a plane shot down in 1943 with complete, seventy-degree guns fitted, they didn’t tell us about it.
BW: And, in terms of um, general preparation for a raid, just talk us through what, what would happen, from the base, from your point of view. You would attend a, a briefing about a raid, what, what sort of things went on? How did you —
EE: Well, there were maps all over the wall. Loads of maps, you knew where you were going, and you just prepared for wherever it was [laughs]. Everybody moaned.
BW: So, were there particular trips that everybody moaned about, particular targets that were notorious?
EE: All the Ruhr targets. My three COs were killed on the one I was shot down on. Three COs killed there.
BW: On the same raid?
EE: Different raids.
BW: Different raids, but same target?
EE: Yes. Most heavily defended target in Germany.
BW: Gosh. And why was that? What was significant about —
EE: Dortmund-Ems Canal.
BW: I see. You obviously knew your crew pretty well. How did you get to meet them? How did you crew up in the first place?
EE: Just in the hall. Just crewed up. Found the pilot and found the navigator and we just crewed up.
BW: Just got talking and liked the look of each other. There were only a couple of Aussies on your crew and yet it was an Australian squadron.
EE: We were lucky. Best squadron of them all. No bullshit whatsoever. Superb squadron. Had the biggest losses of the war, my squadron.
BW: I read that, yeah, the Australians and your particular squadron had the highest loss rate, probably because you had such heavy targets to go against.
EE: Well, that’s it. We were 5 Group, which was one of the top groups. All the dirty work was done by us.
BW: All the dirty work was done by 5 Group. Did they have a reputation amongst the air force separate from the other groups?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And what was that?
EE: They were a bit gung-ho.
BW: And was that, do you think, because of the mix of I don’t know, let’s say, colonial crew and squadrons —
EE: I don’t know, I don’t know why.
BW: What sort of preparations would you make before actually getting on board the aircraft and taking off? What, what kind of things would you do? Were there any mascots that you took, or rituals you had as a crew?
EE: No, no. Just got on board and got on with it.
BW: So, you weren’t a superstitious bunch at all?
EE: No. Not that I knew of. I didn’t take anything.
BW: And did you socialise as a crew on base as well?
EE: Oh, always. I used to go out with my navigator.
BW: And so, whereabouts did you go into?
EE: Into Lincoln. All the pubs in Lincoln.
BW: And what was that like? Were you treated well in the pubs?
EE: Yeah, except in Yorkshire. They didn’t like us in York.
BW: And why was that?
EE: I don’t know [unclear].
BW: Mm.
EE: But Lincoln was a stinking place.
BW: Did you meet any of them before you joined the squadron, or did you meet the all at —
EE: Met them all there, met them when, when we became a crew.
BW: And what was your pilot, Joe, like?
EE: Nice fellow. He was a year younger than I was, he was only twenty.
BW: You were all young and Stanley was only nineteen at the time as well. So, you were all in your late teens, early twenties.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And what were you wearing as a rear gunner? There were electrically heated suits, did you have one?
EE: Yeah. It was a silk suit, on your sort of skin and then underwear and a pullover and pants, and a denim overall, and an electric suit. The electric suits were useless. Used to short out and you’d get a red-hot leg and a cold one. Bloody useless. They never checked.
BW: And how did you find your position in the, a rear turret of the Lancaster? They said they were made to get in to and not out of. Was it fairly cramped?
EE: Yes, yeah. Very cramped, but there was space to do everything, except if you get a bad stoppage.
BW: And did that ever happen?
EE: Yeah. I had a separated case.
BW: And how did you manage to clear the guns when you had the stoppage?
EE: Well, you couldn’t, just isolate it. Stop the feed.
BW: And the guns you were using at the time were the 303s, is that right?
EE: 303’s, they were just being converted to the point fives when they got shot down.
BW: Did you ever get the chance to use your guns in anger?
EE: Yeah, I shot down a 110.
BW: Really.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Talk us through that. What happened?
EE: Well, he suddenly appeared about a hundred yards behind me. I say I shot him down, but I don’t know if I ever did, how can you tell at night? Anyway, he got a full, full load in the face. I got two that night, I hit two that night. I don’t know how many, I don’t know what happened to them. I never claimed them.
BW: That’s interesting, that you managed to hit two separate aircraft and didn’t claim them. Why did you not go through the —
EE: Well, how could I claim them, I just fired at them.
BW: So, they didn’t go down in flames but they stopped their attack.
EE: I don’t know, they could’ve done, you don’t wait around, do you?
BW: No.
EE: They’re both down there [pause], Brunswick.
BW: Okay, op number eight over Brunswick. Two fighters, so actually on the same raid —
EE: Yeah. One, I’m certain I got him. He was only about a hundred yards behind me. Hit him full on. I could see the pilot.
BW: And, that’s a really close range for them to, to be attacking you. They’ve obviously come in to a very short distance before attacking, were there —
EE: They didn’t realise. One night we were flying along a fighter between our tail plane. Flying along with us. Main partner tail plane, we suddenly looked and we both peeled off.
BW: And so, because it’s at night, even, even so it was very difficult, so you were lucky in that case that you didn’t have a mid-air collision.
EE: Yeah.
BW: With a fighter between your tail plane [laughs]. Were there any other raids that were particularly eventful or memorable? For you.
EE: All the Ruhr raids.
BW: All of them on the Ruhr?
EE: And when we got lost.
BW: Wilhelmshaven?
EE: We went to Bremerhaven by ourselves and then turned back and went to Wilhelmshaven by ourselves. Nearly got sent to Sheffield. You know about Sheffield, do you?
BW: Not in detail, tell me about —
EE: You don’t know Sheffield?
BW: I know of the city but —
EE: Nobody seemed to know about Sheffield. It was a punishment camp for aircrew.
BW: I see.
EE: An RAF punishment camp.
BW: And this, presumably, was a result of you flying to um Bremen, instead of Wilhelmshaven, but you didn’t drop your bombs on the —
EE: We did eventually.
BW: But only on Wilhelmshaven.
EE: No, we were going to Wilhelmshaven but we went to Bremerhaven.
BW: Bremerhaven.
EE: We turned around, we saw the fires so we turned back. Went to Wilhelmshaven and dropped them.
BW: And, as a result of that, you were then sent to Sheffield which was a punishment —
EE: We weren’t sent —
BW: I see.
EE: We were threatened with it.
BW: You were threatened with the punishment camp?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And would that have applied to all the crew? Or just —
EE: The whole crew.
BW: Gosh.
EE: People don’t know about Sheffield. It was, it was, an Army camp like a glass house. You got about a couple of weeks or a couple of months of strict discipline, then sent back to the squadron. But the Argies wouldn’t stand any of that nonsense. They had their own, no Argie was ever punished by the British.
BW: I read somewhere that they were paid by their own government, not by the British.
EE: They got twice the pay that we got.
BW: So, did your pilot buy the rounds in the pub [laughs].
EE: No [laughs].
BW: [Pause]. And then, on your last mission, this was November 6th, 1944, and this was significant for a couple of reasons. Clearly this was going to be your last trip in a Lancaster, but you mentioned as well that you saved the wireless operators life, and there is a description in the book, or the memoir that you have put together. Would you just talk us through what happened on that, on that night?
EE: It’s all written up there, yeah.
BW: So, this is fairly early on. This is a target at the Dortmund-Ems canal system at Gravenhorst, and then you were hit by a night fighter, and this was just as you were on target, and it says that you were flying straight and level with a bomb load of fourteen, one thousand-pound bombs of high explosive, and the impact was just behind, your, your turret.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And so, can you describe what was happening at that particular point, did you see the fighter?
EE: No, he was underneath. He was way, far away, he would be under, under the main bar.
BW: And so, you didn’t see the fighter because it came underneath, behind your turret, and —
EE: We didn’t start firing until they were seventy degrees, so if you took an aircraft and you were firing here, and I was here — [background noise].
BW: OK. I’m just going to pause the recording for a moment briefly, partly ‘cos of background noise but just to have a quick look through the description too. So, there are bullets coming through the fuselage behind you, and your turret is partly rotated to the beam position you said. Can you describe what you recall next?
EE: We were trying to get out through one door, with the seat back, I got out and didn’t touch the sides, went out like a ‘rat up a spout’, into the fuselage and found the wireless operator. The mid upper came down and he told us to grab the—
BW: And the mid upper got hit in the second attack by the —
EE: Yeah, cut him in two, right through the middle we stepped over to the osam position. Obviously, they had all gone on the first attack, apparently everybody had gone. I don’t blame them for going, we were still there.
BW: I’m just going to pause this one moment, we’ll just continue, there was some background noise. And at this point in the raid, you said there were a number of others that had already got out and you didn’t blame them. There was you and the wireless operator left in the aircraft, is that right?
EE: And the mid upper.
BW: And the mid upper? And you describe in your account how you got him out, with the aid of a foot in the back?
EE: Yeah. I got him on the step. He passed out on the floor and I dragged him to the step and kicked him out, a hand and a leg over the step and pushed him out. I never told him.
BW: He survived the bail out, but he was unconscious when you pushed him out.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Was the aircraft still straight and level or was it going down gently?
EE: I don’t remember, she was going down. Then suddenly she banked and caught me. I got trapped.
BW: And you were pinned against the fuselage by the seat by G force.
EE: That’s right, he’d gone.
BW: And there was nobody else in the aircraft at this point.
EE: I was the last one. Had a minute and a half to go according to records, before she hit the deck.
BW: And so, the aircraft is in a steep dive, your pinned to the roof of the fuselage—
EE: Right opposite, I could see the door below me.
BW: And, at a critical point, the aircraft banked—
EE: She banked, let go of me and away I went. Hit the tail plane going down [laughs].
BW: And at that point, the aircraft banked, did you go straight through the door, or did you have to crawl to it and get out?
EE: I don’t know. I don’t remember. And then I hit the tail plane.
BW: And you were lucky, in the sense that you had a seat pack parachute —
EE: Yeah.
BW: Most gunners, fitted their chute to the side of the aircraft.
EE: Yeah
BW: Did you have choice to have a seat pack?
EE: No. Just issue. Very lucky, been lucky all my life. Very lucky man.
BW: And it saved your life in that respect.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And, the hit against the tail plane didn’t knock you out. Did it injure you?
EE: No, I hit it with my back. I remember I was crouched up, and I straightened me up and skidded over the top of it, and after that I don’t remember much.
BW: You managed to pull the chute.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Did you see any of the other crew in their chutes?
EE: No, no.
BW: There were two other aircraft lost on that raid, that same night.
EE: Four altogether.
BW: Four altogether?
EE: We were the only ones that survived.
BW: So, the others went down and the crews were all killed?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And, were you given an order to bail out by the pilot?
EE: No, no, they’d gone.
BW: So, there was no order, they sensed the attack because of the bullets hitting the aircraft and they just took their own decision to go.
EE: Yeah. They may have got an order to go, but I didn’t get one. They probably did, I don’t know.
BW: Do you know roughly what height it was when you bailed out?
EE: No. No idea.
BW: How long do you think you were in the chute before you landed?
EE: No idea. I can’t remember now, too long ago. Not very long [pause].
BW: You then landed on your backside, it says here.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And I think you had another lucky escape, where you landed.
EE: I did.
BW: Just, can you explain why that was?
EE: Just sheer luck. Sheer good luck.
BW: Were there sharpened spikes in the field?
EE: Yeah, they had trees sharpened, planted in the field.
BW: Trees, planted in the field, that were sharpened, specifically to stop guys like you landing there.
EE: Yeah [laughs].
BW: And, out of all of that, you missed all of them.
EE: Yeah [laughs].
BW: So, you’re now down, and safe, in the sense that you have survived, but you are in Germany.
EE: Yeah.
BW: What did you do next?
EE: Started looking for somewhere to hide.
BW: And, you describe here that you started to run, but you ended up in a bog.
EE: Yeah, lost me boots.
BW: Both boots?
EE: One boot.
BW: One boot. And, you tried to shelter in a, in a wood.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Can you recall, how it felt at this point?
EE: I didn’t believe I was in Germany. I just hoped I was somewhere else, but obviously was in Germany, but you just hope against hope you’re not.
BW: Did you find any of the escape kit that you were given useful?
EE: Oh, yes, I ate the Horlicks tablet and the chocolate.
BW: And, at this point, you were on your own, you didn’t run into any of the other crewmen.
EE: No.
BW: And you were trying to avoid Germans and dogs.
EE: Yeah [laughs].
BW: And you ended up by a jet fighter base?
EE: Yeah.
BW: What was going through your mind at this point, do you think?
EE: To get away from the jet fighter base as quick as possible.
BW: And shortly after that you were —
EE: I’d been attacked by a jet over [unclear], 262’s, over Brunswick.
BW: Over Brunswick?
EE: Yeah, over Brunswick.
BW: And was that a daylight raid at the time?
EE: No, night.
BW: Night?
EE: It was over Bremen, Bremen. Five fighters [pause]. Went to Bergen in Norway as well.
BW: So, there’s a possibility, perhaps, that when those five fighters had intercepted you at night, and those jets that you had seen attacking you —
EE: Yeah.
BW: Possibly were from that base that you were now sat in front of.
EE: Yeah.
BW: What prompted your decision to approach a farmhouse?
EE: Well, I had been three days out, absolutely soaked, would have died of the cold, never stopped raining. So, I had to approach somebody, I would have died of exposure otherwise.
BW: Can you recall the moment that you knocked on the door?
EE: Yes, old lady came to the door and an old guy, they were obviously the mother and father of the farmer. I saw a picture of Hitler on the wall. I knew they were German and that was it.
BW: And how did they treat you?
EE: Okay. They were a bit frightened of me. They were worried about me, as one would be.
BW: Were you able to communicate with them at all?
EE: No. I said I was an Englishfleger
BW: You said simply that you were an Englishfleger
EE: That’s right.
BW: And from your account, they must have called somebody who then came to arrest you.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Can you talk us through that period?
EE: Well, this guy, this fella came through in a very resplendent uniform, he was a forest warden. And err, he took me off to the pub, dragged me through the wood, which I’ve since then I’ve followed my route, I’ve been back to Germany. Followed my route, and he dragged me through the woods and then he took me in to the pub to show me off to his pals, and then the Luftwaffe came for me.
BW: And were you still in the pub when the Luftwaffe turned up?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And what happened?
EE: Well, they put me in a cell and then eventually I finished up on the Dortmund, on one of the canals.
BW: So, were you imprisoned at this, at this point?
EE: Not really. It was a guard house.
BW: It was a guard house by the canal?
EE: That’s right.
BW: That you actually been attacking near the canal, you said it was the Dortmund-elms canal.
EE: I don’t think it was the Dortmund.
BW: Was it not? And you mentioned that there was an American pilot brought in.
EE: No, he was already in there.
BW: He was already there.
EE: Yeah, all his face was bandaged and his hand.
BW: And an American thunderbolt pilot joined you as well.
EE: Yeah, he was okay, he wasn’t injured at all. He would just curse.
BW: How did he take to being captured?
EE: Very badly, very badly [laughs].
BW: And then you were taken by train to Frankfurt —
EE: To Oberusal and to Dulagluft.
BW: And put straight in an air raid shelter, ‘cos there was an air raid going on.
EE: Yeah.
BW: What did that feel like, being under an allied air raid, that only a few days before you would have been —
EE: Whilst I was in, I was bombed by the Americans, the Russians, the British and the Germans during my full-time service.
BW: So, at this stage then, you are in Dulagluft and you have been ordered to fill out information, and it seems they weren’t quite convinced you were RAF, is that right?
EE: Well, they always do this [unclear], tried to frighten you.
BW: Did it work?
EE: Yeah.
BW: There were um, rules about information you were able to give —
EE: Name, rank and number.
BW: And how effective were those rules do you think.
EE: God, I just told them my name rank and number, that’s it.
BW: And you weren’t mistreated because of holding to that?
EE: No.
BW: But you were put in a cell with a radiator at the end of it —
EE: That’s right.
BW: That, that was turned hot and then cold.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Seems pretty grim.
EE: Wasn’t too bad. There was a lot worse.
BW: ‘cause you had met people who had been injured —
EE: Yeah.
BW: And then been captured.
EE: Yeah
BW: And the food was not much to go by, was it?
EE: Oh God, no.
BW: Can you describe what they fed you?
EE: Yeah, two pieces of black bread and some watery soup, that was it.
BW: And this was very thin bread.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And nothing to look forward to there for a meal each day? And somebody lent you a book while you were in there.
EE: Yes, the fellow opposite. They opened the door and this bloke pushed a book across, it was Zane Gray, western.
BW: Zane Gray, western. Did the guard do anything, did they see it?
EE: They didn’t notice, just the door opened and he pushed it across.
BW: And was that the first contact you’d had with anybody?
EE: Yeah. Anybody from England. I don’t know who the guy was.
BW: And how did it feel? Did it give you a bit of hope knowing there was some others in there?
EE: Well, I suppose so.
BW: At, at this point, you snuck a shave when you shouldn’t have done apparently.
EE: Yeah [laughs], I went down the [unclear], waved my book and he sent me down to the library at the end, saw these, these blokes shaving so I joined them, and had a good wash and shave.
BW: And apparently having a wash and a shave was only a privilege not a —
EE: You had to, had to chat with them.
BW: And the colonel who was in charge of holding you, was not very impressed with that was he?
EE: He wasn’t. He went berserk.
BW: And then then there’s an interesting incident here, where a German officer told you that you were going to be shipped out to a POW camp, asked you to swear an oath that you would not escape.
EE: Yeah, he got shouted down and that, it was a stupid thing to say to us.
BW: And were you all taken out and lined up at this point?
EE: We were in a group, in a big room.
BW: And am I right in thinking that this was must have been the first time you had seen all the other prisoners together?
EE: Oh yeah, Americans and British and Canadians, Aussies and everybody, all mixed up.
BW: How did it feel, being, you know, in a larger group of your —
EE: Very impressed, hearing English spoken again.
BW: You were then taken by train and packed into trucks um, and then during the trip, you stopped at some marshalling yards at Ham. What happened there?
EE: We got bombed by the Americans.
BW: Your guards deserted you, didn’t they?
EE: Oh yes, they locked the carriage and buggered off.
BW: And so. You’re all trapped in the railway carts while —
EE: And they were all jumping off the bloody rails. The damn thing was jumping off.
BW: Because of the concussion of the explosion?
EE: Yeah.
BW: So eventually, after the best part of a week, five days and six nights you say here, you arrived at Stalagluft 7 —
EE: That’s it.
BW: At Bankau, and you managed to get some boots and a great coat.
EE: A polish hat. A new American great coat, new boots, and a Polish hat and that was it, oh, and a pipe.
BW: A pipe as well? And you’ve still got it.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And this looks just like a regular pipe but it’s got the inscription —
EE: I put that on, carved it with a razor blade.
BW: And you carved an air gunners brevet, into the bulb of the pipe, with 463 squadron on it.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Do you still smoke it?
EE: No.
BW: Did you still smoke it after you came out of service?
EE: No.
BW: Just kept it as a souvenir?
EE: Yeah
BW: It’s wonderful. And how did you manage to find boots that fit you?
EE: Well, they, they made sure they fitted. We got underwear as well, we got underwear and socks and things.
BW: So, the Germans issued you this or was it —.
EE: Oh, yes, it was all American.
BW: Was there any indication where they got it from?
EE: The Americans. Obviously, it was all American, new American army. Boots saved my bloody life.
BW: So, you were issued with underwear, socks, shirts, towels, comb, toothbrush, razor, razor blades and the pipe which you’ve shown that you still have, and this that your showing —
EE: A dog tag.
BW: Is a dog tag, which is about two inch long by one-inch wide, and it’s numbered one, two, four, zero, and German initials, which presumably are standing for Krieg —
EE: Fangelager.
BW: Kriegsgefangenenlager. D —
EE: Number seven.
BW: D dot, LW, dot number seven. And it’s inscribed top and bottom —
EE: I broke it in half. If you died, they broke it in half and buried one half with you and the other went to records.
BW: I see. So, there’s, there’s a hole in each corner, apart from one, and there are serrations in the middle, and so the inscription is top and bottom of this and, as you say, is used if the prisoner happens to die, then they separate the two halves and send one half back and bury the other with you. Fortunately, they never had to use that.
EE: No, now here’s my —
BW: And, now this is your Caterpillar Club card. Name, Flight Sergeant E Evans. Am I right in thinking that you had to return your chute handle to get one of those?
EE: No.
BW: No?
EE: [Unclear] as a squadron, says here. Letter’s in here.
BW: Okay, and a bit of luck I suppose, in the sense that you arrived at your prison camp just before Christmas.
EE: [Laughs] yeah.
BW: You describe getting Red Cross parcels.
EE: Yeah, the only one we ever got.
BW: And was that, do you think, because the Germans were intercepting them, or they were just no —
EE: Well, when we left, we left ten thousand in a place nearby, ten thousand parcels we should have had.
BW: And it sounds as though, from what you’re saying, that the Germans kept them and just used them for themselves and didn’t distribute them [Pause]. And there was a brew made for Christmas with raisins and prunes.
EE: I don’t know who made it. Some of the old lags.
BW: And it sounds pretty potent.
EE: [Laughs], it was, make you go blind.
BW: How would you describe life in the prison camp at that point?
EE: Boring.
BW: What did you do to relieve the boredom?
EE: Nothing. Nothing, bloody boring. Just walked round and round and round the perimeter by the trip wire.
BW: When you mention the trip wire, what springs to mind perhaps, is a scene in the Great Escape where there’s sort of a trip wire in front of the fence, was it accurate what they portrayed?
EE: Yeah, you just didn’t go over the trip wire. Got shot by the guards. One fella did get shot.
BW: And do you think that was because he’d had enough or was he trying to escape or —
EE: He’d had enough.
BW: And by this stage the war is coming to a close. We know this retrospectively, but at this time —
EE: Well, there was another six months to go.
BW: And the Russians were advancing.
EE: Through the Vistula. Always the Vistula. We were jammed between the Russians and the Oder and the Vistula. We were trapped in the middle, so they had to get us over the Oder before the Russians got us.
BW: And just describe, if you can, that period where, where, the Germans decide to evacuate the camp.
EE: Well, what can you do? You’ve got to go, you’ve no choice.
BW: Did they tell you what was happening?
EE: No. We thought we were going to be shot. We thought they were going to take us to us a wood somewhere and shoot us.
BW: Did they order you out of the huts in to the —
EE: Yeah, in to the main compound. Told us we would be leaving in half an hour. The previous night we had been bombed by the Russians, the camp was bombed.
BW: Were there any hits in the camp or was it just around —
EE: No. No.
BW: And, so, you start walking, and you mentioned previously that it was about a three-week trip. Can you describe the conditions with the sort of weather or the terrain or —
EE: Well, it was the worst weather for fifty years in Germany. Twenty below and we were living out. They were rushing to get us over the Oder before they blew the bridges. We were the last people over the Oder, they blew the bridges after we got over.
BW: And you joined a long line of columns, you mentioned people fleeing the Russians.
EE: They didn’t get over the Oder. They were turned left, just turned the off and then blew the bridges. We were the last people over the Oder.
BW: So you were given preference over the civilians to cross the river.
EE: Well, they wanted to get us away from the Russians. Civilians, they didn’t give a damn about them.
BW: And you pitched up at a brick works and it seems like a bit of black humour here, where there was German aircraft attacking and —
EE: Yeah. We saw the columns, and we used to look up and [laughs] there were black crosses on them and they were one of ours.
BW: By this stage you were saying, ‘it’s one of ours’, and on the 8th of Feb you arrived at StalagLuft 3-A Luckenwalde near Potsdam, and the Germans were looking for volunteers, is that right, to join their forces?
EE: No, that was previous, that was at the first camp.
BW: Oh, I see.
EE: Oh, at Luckenwalde, that’s right, they were. They were, that’s right yes [unclear]. I’d forgotten.
BW: And there were Russian prisoners there too, but they were badly treated.
EE: Yeah, different compound. There were thirty thousand when we camped.
BW: And again, harsh conditions in that there was no bunk or beds to sleep on, just straw, and no food as such, no medicine.
EE: And they brought the prisoners in from the Ardennes, the Americans came in and they had new accommodation for them, put them under canvas. There’s a picture of them in here [taps].
BW: Let’s have look. There’s a picture in the scrap book that you’ve got [pause].
EE: They’re there.
BW: I see, so these are large, I suppose, marquee style tents —
EE: Yeah.
BW: There would be several dozen to a tent. And the pictures show prisoners just sat around on the ground around fires, trying to keep warm and cook food. There looks to be clothes hung on the fence as well on the —
EE: Yeah.
BW: Where did you get the photograph from?
EE: A bloke took them, and he, I gave him my address and he sent them to me after the war.
BW: There’s a photograph of a football match going on too.
EE: Yeah [laughs].
BW: And a picture of Russian soldiers. And I think you describe, when the Russians turned up, that Zhukov’s forces were pretty professional and disciplined.
EE: Oh, they were, it was all the ‘rag, tag and bobtail’ that came in afterwards. They wanted to jump on the tanks and go to Berlin with them. We were the last camp to be liberated and we were passaged to Berlin, about twenty miles away. We just had to ‘bugger off’.
BW: And so they left you for their err, second line, or reserve forces to pick up.
EE: Yeah.
BW: But you felt they were much more poorly disciplined.
EE: They were just ‘rag, tag and bobtail’. No rations. No official rations.
BW: And then there’s a letter here, ‘senior British officer communicating the following in writing to the Russian authorities today the 7th of May’ —
EE: We were held hostage for a month by the Russians, that’s why I escaped.
BW: And so, the Russians took over the camp, and, and this is at the point that Zhukov had arrived and you stood right beside —.
EE: Marshall Zhukov.
BW: What, what, did he look like, can you describe him?
EE: Not really, one of the guys had trouble firing his gun, so he jumped down and fired it for him.
BW: So, the firing of the gun was presumably to, was it to keep people back or was it just a celebration?
EE: No, it was a firing of the salute to the [unclear].
BW: I see. Were you able to communicate in any way, with the Russians at all?
EE: No. they were savages.
BW: And was that through their temperaments or their —
EE: They were peasants.
BW: So, these weren’t the professional soldiers that you’d seen, these were the ‘rag, tag’ ones you mentioned.
EE: Yeah, millions of them.
BW: And, on the 21sth of April 1945, there was a battle nearby, and you were watching dog fights between American Air Cobras, Russian Yaks, and Stormaviks, a German fighter. That sounds quite a melee, completely disorganised.
EE: [laughs] Yeah.
BW: And you were lucky not to be hit by the shell fire and tanks, and fighters strafing the camp.
EE: Well, the bombers were coming over at night as well. They were dropping on Berlin. There was a short fall of twenty mile [unclear], so we used to dig in. I was a month late getting home from Germany, I was held by the Russians.
BW: And what was, what was happening during that time?
EE: Well, they were just ignoring the fact that we were prisoners of war.
BW: And the point you mentioned, the Russian troops were trying to persuade you to join them, you refused and they fired over your head.
EE: Well, that was when we were, the Americans sent the trucks to enter the camp.
BW: And it was at this point or thereabouts, that you, and a Canadian and two other Brits decided to make a run for it.
EE: We did. Let ourselves out of the camp, and took off. The most dangerous thing I ever did. Stupid really. We just got fed up being amongst the, we thought we were going back home through Russia, God knows what would have happened then, I would never have been seen again.
BW: So, it was a real fear that you were going to be held properly captive by the Russians —
EE: Oh yeah.
BW: Not just temporarily.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And you picked up err, or rather, you describe a man coming towards you on a bike, it turns out he was a British soldier.
EE: Yeah. He’s still in Germany, took over a farm [laughs].
BW: And he met a girl and was quite keen on living in Germany still.
EE: Yeah. There were a few of them.
BW: And then, trying to cross the river Mulde, you were at a ferry point and a sort of KGB type officer appeared and persuaded the ferryman to take you across.
EE: Yeah [unclear] we were just wondering whether to throw him in the water, the German, we had no need to.
BW: You ended up in an abandoned inn and met some Russians there, who insisted on feeding you, and, plying you with beer.
EE: Schnapps, schnapps, there was no beer.
BW: Just schnapps. The atmosphere seems to have changed a lot.
EE: Well, they were just Russian troops, they were quite friendly [laughs]. Told them we were American.
BW: And, so, these must have been the regular professional soldiers perhaps?
EE: Well, I don’t know [unclear].
BW: And what was the town major like that you met?
EE: Well, she was ok, a woman, a middle aged, sort of, no, late thirties I would say.
BW: And she had a few grenades with her, didn’t she?
EE: A belt full of ammunition. A belt with grenades, very fearsome looking.
BW: A fearsome looking woman with a belt full of grenades.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And this is pretty close to the full end of the war now and you are um, moved on, and given bicycles, and you met a young German girl. What happened there?
EE: Yeah. Well, she was obviously going to be raped by the Russians, so we took her with us, took her to the Russian, err, American lines. Got her through in the American sector. Very lucky, you couldn’t get, once you got to the Americans, the Russian wouldn’t let anybody across, people, one fella swam and got drowned, trying to get across. We just walked across with our bicycle.
BW: There was no bridge at this point I think you said, because—
EE: The bridge was down.
BW: And so, when you say “walk across”, what —
EE: We climbed up, rope ladder —
BW: And were there remnants of the bridge, perhaps rails or whatever —
EE: It was just collapsed. Huge iron bridge, huge metal bridge.
BW: And so, you clambered across the steel structure across the river, is that right?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And, even though you had to push through the, or pass, the guards at this point, from your description, is that right?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And you weren’t stopped. So, you managed to get this girl across —
EE: They didn’t stop us, threw her bike in the air and we were on our way. Someone took a film of it, an American took a film of it so somewhere there’s a film of it.
BW: And what sort of welcome did you get on the other side?
EE: Oh, wonderful. Food and drink and cigarettes, as much as you want.
BW: And how did the girl feel when she got across?
EE: Well, we handed her over to the Americans, they took her to a DP Camp.
BW: A displaced person’s camp, a DP camp.
EE: Yeah, and she was safe.
BW: And so, you, you were obviously well treated by the Americans —
EE: Oh, very well.
BW: Well stocked, and then you flew out of Germany on Dakotas, landed in Brussels you say, and you were talking with an old soldier, but what was your view?
EE: I want to get home, as quick as possible. He was left for weeks, you’d get ten pounds a day.
BW: And you just wanted to get home.
EE: Wanted to get home.
BW: How did you manage that?
EE: Well, just queued up the next morning, shouted my name, and away I went.
BW: And you, you arrived back by Dakota into the UK.
EE: Yeah.
BW: How did that feel after all that you had been through?
EE: Can’t remember now, felt good obviously.
BW: And, so, you’re, you’re back in the UK, what, what happened from that point up to being demobbed?
EE: I wasn’t demobbed then.
BW: Not at that point, but between arriving back in the UK —
EE: I took over prison camps. I ran prison camps.
BW: And, so, you had a long leave and returned to run two camps for German POW’s, one at Woodvale which is not that far from here, near Southport and the second one was a maintenance unit at Bramcote in Warwickshire.
EE: That’s right.
BW: You mentioned before, and it says here that you joined afterwards the 40th Kings Royal Tank Regiment and served for six years as a troop commander.
EE: Yeah.
BW: What, what led you to join the Army at that point?
EE: Because of the rotten treatment I had from the RAF.
BW: And —
EE: All my thanks were, a couple of weeks before I left the RAF, I was stripped down to a sergeant.
BW: Really?
EE: Yeah, and that was my thanks.
BW: And what was that for?
EE: Oh, God knows.
BW: So, you’d been through all that, and been a, I think you were a flight sergeant, you weren’t commissioned during your service, were you?
EE: No.
BW: So, you had been a senior NCO and promoted up to warrant officer, and then the thanks you got from the RAF, as you put it, was to be then stripped down to sergeant.
EE: That was it, no thanks.
BW: And they didn’t give you a reason for that?
EE: No.
BW: Understandably, that must have been pretty galling.
EE: It was. Of course, it was only a couple of weeks before I left the service, so I was a warrant officer for about a year. Best rank in the service.
BW: And what, what gives you the view of it being the best rank do you have?
EE: Well, you’re neither “fish nor fowl”.
BW: [Laughs].
EE: All aircrew should have been commissioned. It would have given us better rights under the Geneva Convention and a decent pension in the very likely event of your demise on ops. We were all doing the same job. Do you know seventy five percent, twenty five percent of air crew were commissioned, seventy five percent weren’t? Of the gallantry medals, seventy five percent went to the commissioned, twenty five percent went to us. Seventy five percent. That’s how fair it was.
BW: And in general, the rule was that, the reason airmen were given the rank of sergeant when the joined aircrew, was to at least guarantee them better treatment as prisoners.
EE: Yeah, but we were all doing the same job. Why commissioned?
BW: Yeah, and there were even, on your crew, there was a mix, one of them, I think the pilot, was a flying officer, and the rest were all NCO’s weren’t they?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And the rule has changed in the post war years, that all aircrew now have to be —
EE: That’s not the rule.
BW: Have to be officers.
EE: I have something else to write.
BW: So, you decided to join the Army.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Did you experience a better appreciation of you as an individual in the Army?
EE: Yeah, yeah. The Army was an established service with proper ranks. Proper rules and regulations, good background.
BW: And you didn’t have to go through any other training, did you? Apart from trade training as a tank commander.
EE: I went to the War Office Selection Board to enlist.
BW: And they put you forward and you became —
EE: To be a lieutenant, and then a captain, a substantive captain.
BW: And where were you based during that time?
EE: Bootle, near here, it was a TA regiment.
BW: At Bootle?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And how did you find the um, your colleagues, your Army mates, how were they? Officers’ final dinner. This is a —
EE: Well, we were disbanded.
BW: Right. Monty’s Foxhounds, your troops called. What sort of tanks did you use? Lieutenant E Evans yeah? Presentation of the colour on the 11th of April 1954, this is a sort of service, an order of parade document. Did Montgomery, as Commandant of the regiment, did he attend this parade at all?
EE: No. Err, Err, Lord Whatsername did it. Can’t think of his name, a Liverpool man.
BW: Just pause the recording there for the background noise. I say, I’m looking here for the official who attended the parade when you were at Bootle. Presentation of the colours.
EE: We had to learn sword drill for this.
BW: You had to learn how to salute with a sword, there’s a way of doing it isn’t there?
EE: Yeah, the new colours.
BW: Uh- huh.
EE: Can’t think who it was.
BW: And what do you recall of your time with the troop? Was it all home service? You weren’t sent abroad anywhere?
EE: No, we used to go to camps every year, firing camps and tactical camps. It was good, Comets and Centurions.
BW: Comets and Centurions.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And did you enjoy that?
EE: Great, yeah, I would still have been there but they disbanded that regiment. That was the final dinner.
BW: Hmmm. And what happened after you then left the Army in 1956?
EE: I was working for my father, in his business. I was a sales manager.
BW: You were working for your father, and what was his business?
EE: A motor business.
BW: I see, selling motor cars?
EE: Yes, and a workshop. Quite a big business actually.
BW: And how long did you stick at that?
EE: About ten years. Then we fell out and I started my own company. Had four businesses, I finished up with four.
BW: Right. And what were they?
EE: [Unclear], ship repair business, hydraulic business and workshop, machine shop.
BW: Right, that’s quite a broad base of business to have. Four business in com, in pretty different sectors, so, and you had all those four companies, for twenty, thirty years maybe?
EE: Yeah.
BW: And through all that time, you were presumably married, there’s a lot of family photos in your house.
EE: Yeah, three girls.
BW: Three girls?
EE: My wife died about ten years ago.
BW: Uh-huh.
EE: All three daughters are still alive. I’ve got nine great grandchildren now.
BW: (laughs) And do you see them regularly?
EE: Oh yes, my daughter will be here very shortly.
BW: So, how have you err, heard about the commemorations of Bomber Command, and what do you think of the activities to now try and restore a bit of err, pride or honour to Bomber Command?
EE: Well, the RAF ignored them after the war. Totally. He and Churchill, they turned their backs on us. No doubt about that, everybody said ‘shouldn’t you mention Bomber Command’ and they all came up with the bloody target in Germany. I was very sick of it.
BW: How do you feel about the recent recognition in —
EE: Well, it’s about time, fifty-five thousand of us died. Biggest loss of the war.
BW: Mm.
EE: Much bigger than the first world war even.
BW: And its err, at least commemorating you and your comrades and what, what you did. Have you seen, you went to the unveiling last year. How was that?
EE: Yes.
BW: How did you feel about that?
EE: It was okay.
BW: Yeah, it doesn’t seem fair does it, that there’s, there was only a clasp awarded for it?
EE: It was ridiculous, a bloody insult.
BW: Well, I think Eric, that is all the questions I have for you.
EE: Do you want to look through there?
BW: I will have a look through your, your scrap book, I will just pause the recording. Now this is an interesting telegram, it’s, is that from Liverpool to British Army staff at Washington DC, or is it that other way around?
EE: Not it’s from my mother —
BW: From your mum?
EE: In Liverpool, to tell my father.
BW: And your mum was Madge?
EE: That’s it.
BW: And you father was abroad at the time, was he?
EE: He was on the British Army staff in Washington [unclear].
BW: So, you mentioned he’d been a major in the Army, was he still in the Army all the way through the war.
EE: Yes. You can see a photograph of him later on.
BW: There’s a photograph of him?
EE: My mother and my eldest brother.
BW: That’s it, mother and eldest brother, who was in the Navy. Now this is a, this is quite a service family photograph, there’s five of you, including, your, well there’s three sons in the family and your father and mother.
EE: Yeah.
BW: Your father’s in his Army uniform, there’s you and your middle brother in your RAF uniform and your older brother in the middle of both of you, stood in the middle of both of you, in his Navy uniform. What rank was he in the Navy?
EE: Lieutenant.
BW: And your other brother is wearing an observers brevet.
EE: That’s right.
BW: What did he get up to in the —
EE: Navigator.
BW: Navigator.
EE: On the squadron at Waterbeach. That’s the guy that saved his life.
BW: Yourself and the wireless operator, taken, taken on D Day.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And that looks like he’s wearing the Australian uniform.
EE: It’s a bit dark.
BW: It’s a bit darker than the RAF one,
EE: Better quality.
BW: And did you keep in touch with him after the war?
EE: No.
BW: Do you know what’s happened to him since, not heard a thing or anything through associations or —
EE: No. That was a TA, he became a general. General Sir Richard Lawson.
BW: Sir Richard Lawson! And he sat across a table from you?
EE: Yeah, he was my adjutant, Dicky Lawson.
BW: [Laughs].
EE: He did very well.
BW: So, he must have transferred regiment then, presumably, if your unit had been —
EE: He was a regular adjutant.
BW: He was a regular adjutant, I see, so you were in the TA branch.
EE: [Unclear]
BW: Then there’s pictures here of a V1,
EE: Yeah, a piloted one.
BW: A piloted one.
EE: Yeah. I saw a V2 launch.
BW: Where did you see that?
EE: In Poland
BW: In Poland?
EE: Yeah.
BW: So, was this —
EE: On the march.
BW: Actually during the march?
EE: Yeah. We got to Sargan and we saw it launch. It went crazy.
BW: So, when we see the archive footage of these rockets going off, and there’s a few that do spin off and crash into the ground, and this was one that did, was it? It was lucky it didn’t come over your way and —
EE: We were a few miles away.
BW: I bet you could hear the bang from where you were.
EE: Yeah.
BW: And this photo is of May Schmeling.
EE: That’s Max Schmeling.
BW: Max Schmeling.
EE: He was a world championship boxer.
BW: Who visited at Stalag 3-A Luckenwalde in the uniform of a paratrooper, 3rd March 1945. Did you get to speak to him?
EE: Yeah, he gave me his autograph.
BW: What was your impression of him?
EE: He was all right, very broad.
BW: That must be your wife.
EE: Yes [laughs].
BW: I’m just going to pause the recording. I was just going to say, this is a —
BW: An Air Vice Marshall who has his own sort of service medals, stood with you, and where was the unveiling?
EE: At Green Park.
BW: At Green Park, so this would be in 2012 in London.
EE: Yeah.
BW: There are, it looks like, these, these must be the, the Germans there are some names here —
EE: I took a trip back. Went to the Dortmund Ems canal.
BW: I’ll just pause that again. May I just briefly ask you, the scrap book contains details of your visit to Germany. How did it feel, going back, and re-tracing your route?
EE: Very interesting actually, because there was. This is a telegram.
BW: Yeah. And you actually met the pilot of the—
EE: No, I didn’t meet him, I didn’t want to.
BW: I see, I was just seeing a photo of a German pilot there.
EE: I didn’t meet him.
BW: You didn’t. I see. Was it, did he happen to be at an event that you were also at
EE: This is an escape photograph.
BW: I see.
EE: Have you seen those?
BW: These are your escape photos. ‘Escape photos, issued to air crew, and the only personal things taken on ops’, it says here under description, ‘the photographs were to be used on forged identity documents etc, in the event of an escape or invasion. It was always difficult to obtain photos for this purpose, there were extra copies left at base, usually only two were carried. Note: unshaven appearance to add authenticity to photos’.
EE: [unclear] typical.
BW: And so, these were actually taken in civilian clothes because of course, then they can be used on forged documents, but it never came to that though, did it?
EE: No.
BW: And you went back and visited the graves of Sandy who’s your navigator, and Stan, the mid upper gunner, in Germany, seems you’ve been back a couple of times, is that right?
EE: I only went back once.
BW: You only went back once? And the barn demolished, it shows here, by the impact of the Lancaster when it came down. And they’ve managed to recover a prop, or a prop blade.
EE: Yeah. And a wheel.
BW: And a wheel. Wonderful, well, as I say, thank you very much for your time, Eric. If there is anything else you would like to add, by all means, but I shall end the recording there if its ok with you. There’s a picture of, there’s a coloured drawing of a camp.



Brian Wright, “Interview with Eric Evans,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 21, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.