Interview with Colin Farr


Interview with Colin Farr


Colin was born in Ilford in 1920 and at the outbreak of war was working in a London warehouse. Seeing the bomb damage around him he wanted to join the RAF and gain revenge, so he volunteered. Unfortunately he had a plaster cast on his leg, following an accident, so was rejected. He was later called up and found half of his school class at the reception centre.
Enlisting as a wireless operator/air gunner his Morse code speed was very fast and he was sent to Ireland to monitor German signals. He spotted a German U-boat entering a bay and an alerted Hudson aircraft captured it. After further wireless training he was sent to RAF Stormy Down for gunnery training. He then continued his flight training at RAF Yatesbury where his first flight in a Proctor ended in a crash landing as the Dutch pilot had run out of fuel. He was immediately sent back up so as to not lose his nerve. Colin describes in detail how to take radio bearings
He remembers one momentous operation when the replacement rear gunner ordered the pilot to take evasive action by diving, which was very fortuitous as they nearly collided with an enemy fighter, flying beneath them, which was lining up to attack them. After diving to a lower level, a shell passed through the fuselage without exploding, narrowly missing all the crew. With one engine stopped they struggled home and met a flight of United States Army Air Forces bombers who were lost and who followed the Halifax home to RAF Leconfield and landed there. The problem was attributed to the American system of pre-flight briefing.
Colin flew 38 operations and upon leaving the RAF took up a career in sales.







00:54:06 audio recording


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AS: OK, I think, I think we’re ready to go now, I think we’re recording. This is ‒, so let’s start. This is Andrew Sandler interviewing Colin Farr at his home in Ilford ‒
CF: In Essex.
AS: On the ‒, is it 24th of May 2016?
CF: Yes.
AS: Can we start off Colin by asking you how you got involved in the RAF in the first place?
CF: Well I was working as a youngster in a wholesale warehouse and as soon I knew the war was coming, I didn’t tell my parents anything about it I just went straight, because I had my leg in plaster down my knee to my ankle because I’d fallen down the stairs in the warehouse I was working in ‒, right opposite ‒, oh dear, St Pauls ‒
AS: So you were working in the city of London?
CF: Oh yes, I started as a youngster.
AS: Yes, you were saying you had your leg in plaster.
CF: And so I went into the first place I could see in Ilford and I said, ‘I’ve come to volunteer,’ and I won’t use his language but his [unclear] said, ‘We won’t bloody [unclear], we don’t want any invalids,’ because I had my leg in plaster. He didn’t know that I was having er ‒, therapy for my leg and I forget what it was called but there was a lady in Wellesley Road in Ilford and she used to put a pipe round my leg and then a wet towel and she did a lot of work on my leg to get me into the Air Force. Anyway, funnily enough you bring that in, to start with I was called up to go to East Ham to sign in somewhere in East Ham, it was a school, when I got there half, [laugh] half the class which I was with at school was there, yes there were about eighteen of us, and I’ll come back on this which will be interesting because then I had to wait for a medical, and though I’d had my cast off my left leg was still suspect [static noise]
AS: I have a few things
CF: That’s not my log book.
AS: I know it’s not your log book but ‒
CF: Where did you find that?
AS: It might jog a few memories for you.
CF: Thank you very much. Do you want me to go on?
AS: Yes please do.
CF: I forget where I was now.
AS: You was just signing on and you found that half your class were there.
CF: Yes and then, anyway, eventually I was called to the colours and was pleased to get in and start square bashing at ‒, oh dear, right on the coast somewhere, Yarmouth? Somewhere like that. It could have been Yarmouth. Anyway, I managed to get through that and then there was a long wait to get through to where I was doing my training, marching, rifle drill, bayonet fixing, and jab it into a sack and I got through all that and I eventually started at Brighton post office where the teachers were, who worked there, and they were teaching Morse. That’s where I started going from four words up to twenty-six works a minute, send and receive, and it’s a strange thing that because all through the war, not through it but coming to the war, I wanted to get on my next stage, ‘cause I knew I’d got to do the wireless, which was taking a wireless to bits and pieces, which we did in one of the museums. They had bits of the radio and transmitters there and you had to put the thing right ‘cause some clever devil purposely had taken something out of it or dislodged it or put it in back to front and we had to know to ‒, we knew that was wrong and we’d put it right and made it, the mechanism, work properly, and that was very, very interesting, and then of course I moved on from there, ‘cause that took place in ‒, somewhere in London and it was very close to a big place, all round, had flats all round it and we were billeted in flats there, where all the music comes from in London, Kensington, can’t think of the name of the place. Anyway, from there I advanced and I went on to further courses on Morse and then I went somewhere else and they said, ‘What speed can you do?’ so I said, ‘Why don’t you test me?’ And I was taking it down roughly at about twenty-four words a minute in Morse, I was doing it, you know, just like that and they said, ‘You’re doing very well, keep going, keep going,’ and from that I advanced from that and by then I had done my gunnery, not gunnery, rifle drill, marching and that and that and all the basics. So now I’d got to start really working on the trade that I wanted to get into, wireless air gunner. Well that then took me to Brighton where I was taught all about the radio itself, and the extras that went with it and it was a very interesting course indeed and I got through that and then, ‘cause I was able to do so many words a minute, send and receive, I was already going to an air gunnery school. Oh no, I had a posting to Ireland and they put me on a post in Ireland with four servers up on a box with a roof where they had all the layout of the land below them. They had twenty of these posts up there and we were on one of them and what was happening, the Germans ‒, ‘course we were getting the weather reports that we get, because it comes from the east and goes west so we had it before they had it. Pretty good wasn’t it? Whether somebody was blowing for us their way I don’t know but that’s how it worked and while I was there I heard Morse come through, because I took everything down, and from another post, and I took it down, German submarine in gulf, what do you call them when they’re coming in? Gulf? Not gulf ‒, entrance through into the ‒, to get ‒, thinking it was [unclear] German, sorry, thinking it was southern Ireland and then ‒, I think they made a mistake. They came in and got caught because the boys there ‒. I was on nineteen post. I think it was eighteen post spotted it because it come in round the corner on surface, thinking it was coming through, thinking it was southern Ireland to fuel up and what they did, they sent in and the headquarters, there was the Air force there, and it was a Hudson aircraft went up and he flew over the chap and he did this, waved his wings to say, ‘ You’re going to retreat or I’m gonna bomb you or shoot you up,’ and they gave in and that was tied up at the place, that place I could tell you about, also in Ireland, because I was posted there for a year. Didn’t like it very much. It was an education.
AS: How long were you in training?
CF: Oh dear, I started Morse training, from that I passed my wireless, then I was eventually, we went down to er ‒, these places [unclear] it was in Wales, Bridgend, I think it was Bridgend, and there I started my gunnery course and that was very interesting news, air to air, and air to ground, and ground to ground, so it was quite interesting ‘cause they had a big area with things on tracks would be moving, and there’d be going round, coming round posts, and bushes would suddenly appear, you know, and you open fire and start shooting. They were on electric rails. Very interesting. Well we got through that and I’m afraid we had too much to drink because as we [unclear] we had to get a certain train to come out of Ireland and we threw all our rucksacks on the line and we had all the booze, we had a good drink [laugh]. Anyway, eventually we came back and got on the train and that was the end of that. So then I thought now I could start flying, thank God, and I was posted to a place called Yatesbury and there, you see the little cross on the wall, with a poppy? See the aircraft just to the left there? That’s a Procter, a single engine aircraft, well there we had to go up in that and tune the radio into a frequency they gave you and start sending Morse, which we did from a book, you got in this and the pilot said, the sergeant said to me, ‘The pilot is Dutch,’ but he said, ‘He will explain with his hands,’ [unclear] that means let the ariel out and all he said was , ‘Lose ariel pay fifty pounds for it.’ ‘Cause it went out so long and they was all lead balls on the steel and they went out behind. Well suddenly he digs me in the back and said ‒, so I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘Wind up.’ We wound the thing up [background noise]. I couldn’t hear anything. And what happened, we’d run out of petrol. This Procter, the very first aircraft, with the cross in the middle and that’s the very first time I went up in an aircraft. Well this fella let it float and float and float and we finished up in a field of vegetables growing, carved a lot of them up. Well we got out and he went across, I waited ‘cause I got my equipment, and he went over the fence or something into an aerodrome that was quite near because we didn’t want to go floating in there in case it crashed so we’d be safer going in a vegetable field, which I think it was right. Anyway, it was quite fun really because eventually he had a jeep come out to pick me up and take me back to Yatesbury. Well I went off at twenty to twelve and as I got out of the jeep I said to the sergeant, ‘Cor Sergeant that was good timing. It’s twenty to one. I’m going to dinner’. He said, ‘You’re not getting that one’, and he sent me up straightaway, so I had another hours flying. Anyway, I got through that and then ‒, I won’t go into the trouble I had, well I had no trouble, the thing is they wanted me ‘cause I could do Morse and I was useful and I turned out to be quite a useful person, I would be pleased to say ‘cause the navigator suddenly says to me over the intercom, ‘Get us a bearing’, and I said, ‘OK’. All I did was, I didn’t have a clue where we were, but I just looked at the south coast thinking well, I know south’s that way, I’d find a place and I’d look in my book and get their frequency and I’d tune my radio up on that frequency and when I catch it, it goes ‘burr’, like that, so I clip my clip down on the key that I send Morse out on so it’s a continual ‘burr’ and then I have to tune my transmitter in to that frequency until I get a ‘burr’ on the ‒, from the, transmitter and the transmitter picks that key as well, its burring so I know I’ve got the right one, so I take my finger off that and I ask for a bearing and they give me one and I give it to the navigator. Well I could do that in three minutes and that’s getting a bearing from England. Yeah, I was, I was very quick on that. I enjoyed doing it, it was nice, and then of course we had all sorts of funny things happen when we were flying. One of the things that has always stuck in my mind, our navigator said to me, because he sat, no I sat here and he was sitting that way. This was the port side. I sat here, and my receiver was here, and my transmitter was up here, and I sat there and this was the mid upper gunner’s legs and we were all sitting, I could touch the ‒, he was standing there, the chap in charge of the petrol, the flight engineer, and then we had the pilot, he was beyond the navigator, the bomb aimer was down there on his stomach and the rear gunner. That was how we are and I was sitting. Anyway, we went on one of these trips coming home from Germany and quite amusing. Our navigator said, ’Well, we’re on the way home now.’ He stood up and said, ‘You know what? All these years, no, all this time I’ve never looked out of the dome at the top.’ He was a tall man like yourself and he got up there and suddenly he says, ‘Good God,’ he said, ’Do you know there’s a fleet of American bombers coming,’ He said, ’There’s eleven of them across and they’re doing this.’ Well that meant they were lost, so my navigator said to Sid, ‘They want to follow,’ so Sid just waved our wings and the pilot, yes it was the pilot, a very nice man. There’s my pilot, but anyway, do you know how many aircraft there were out? Eleven lots of three. And as we went that way to go across the channel, these turned onto out tail so we led them from out of Germany, across France and over the water. Well, when we got to England we thought, ‘Well, they’ll know where they are now,’ so we carried on, we were in Yorkshire. Do you know, they followed us all the way to Yorkshire? We were still flying on three engines ‘cause my engine had been hit and it wasn’t working. It just stopped so we were flying on three engines, which we kept going anyway. Anyway this lot followed us, not up to where they [unclear] ‘cause our navigator said, ‘Oh, they’re all in the Cambridgeshire area. They’ll land there.’ They didn’t, they followed us on and on and on and when we got to, almost to Leconfield, where I was in Yorkshire, our navigator said, ‘We’ve got thirty three American bombers that have followed us all the way from Germany to get back home.’ Anyway, so as we’d been on three engines and fuel was getting low our cap wouldn’t allow us to land, ‘No, you keep your height and stay. Let this lot in.’ So these thirty-three American bombers landed before we could go in. Fortunately we were alright but they were having to put them, park them, behind the houses, putting anything, string, not string, straw or grass or anything. They had to do it themselves, camouflage it so if the Jerries’ had seen them lot they would’ve sent more over. So we had the Americans. Anyway they had a conference in the morning with our Group Captain. He said, ‘Why aren’t you taught ‒,’ He said, ’I’m sorry,’ he said, ’We’re not taught, we have to read the map,’ so they read the map. They were given a map evidently and a book and they’re told on the day. They’re given a piece of paper and they’re told, ’You’re going to such and such a place,’ and they mark it all the way where you got to make, to that town and this and that and that’s how they did it. That’s how they were told. That’s how the cap found out from them. But that was one incident we had. Another one is ‒, oh I’ll tell you about that. Can you see the flag with the ‒? That’s our crew there, just below there’s a hole in the wall, well that hole happened to our aircraft. We were ‒, unfortunately, our rear gunner, very good gunner as well, he had to immediately leave as his wife was dying. So this was one of our later flights, or trips, and when we started going we got to get down to ‒, let me think, I get some of these things mixed up now, oh [pause] where did I say I was going to now? Yes, it’s gone. It’s funny how these things in your brain just slips like that but I shall be able to pick it up somewhere. How did I start it?
AS: You were talking about the picture over there.
CF: Oh yes, yes, yes, that picture, that picture yes, I’ve got it now. Our rear gunner went on holiday, not on holiday, leave ‘cause his wife was very ill, she was dying, and now, whoops, you got it? We had a spare wireless, rear gunner, spare and his name, believe it or not, was Churchill, no relation, but Churchill. Do you know he saved our lives? And so did a German, a German fighter saved our lives. What happened was, we was flying along and suddenly Churchill came up and it was the first time we’d heard his voice on the mic, he said, ’Bandits, pile of bandits ten o’clock, dive, dive, dive,’ and of course [unclear] we just climbed down from our bombing height of nineteen thousand three hundred feet down to fifteen thousand three hundred feet just like that. Well, suddenly the rear gunner said, or Mister Churchill said, ’My God,’ he said, ’As you went down you nearly hit an aircraft which was underneath you, which was lined up with those machine guns like that on top,’ which were really incendiaries, they explode, he was underneath just lining up on us so that was the second bit of luck we had ‘cause we nearly knocked him out ‘cause we just went down like that you see and we could have taken him with us. Our rear gunner said, ‘God, he just suddenly flashed up in the air.’ It must have shaken him up with this bomber coming down on him. We didn’t touch him and that was that. So now we were at fifteen thousand feet, fifteen thousand three hundred feet instead of being at nineteen thousand three hundred so we had to carry on ‘cause we decided if we climb up to nineteen thousand three hundred we wouldn’t have enough fuel to get home so rather than give the Jerries a rest we decided we’d bomb at fifteen thousand while we’re flat. Anyway, we went in and did what we had to do and come home and that’s when we picked up with these Americans that were coming on the way home. We were three engines only and this lot followed us all the way up to Leconfield, oh it was incredible. But oh, we had quite a number of er ‒ , well I went on leave. It might have been a Wednesday, something like that, and my mother and father said, ’Tell me, were you bombing on Sunday?’ So I said, ‘Why do you ask?’ This was Ilford, [unclear] Ilford, and she said, ‘Our letter box was going like this, rattling, shaking off its hinges.’ Do you know, we were out there about six o’clock in the morning, bombing, and when we came back to England they were still going out? They were bombing one of the big ports in France that the Germans had taken, they must have blown it to smithereens I should think and we were on that there.
AS: How did you come to be in the RAF? How did you choose the RAF?
CF: Oh, I didn’t have to choose. I wanted to go in the RAF.
AS: But why?
CF: Well, I wanted to fly, I wanted to fly and I’d also get my own back, my own back. When the bombs went down I said to myself, ’That’s for you England. Nothing to do with me.’ I felt evil about the way they were scattering things and doing things all over the place. I mean, I had still to go to work before I joined the Air Force and climbing over barrels this size and about that tall of water being drawn out of the Thames and all around the big barrels were screw-ons where the firemen put their hose on and they were on top putting fires out still, which were set fire in London during the night and I was trying to get back to work. Buses weren’t going backwards and forwards, the number nines, the elevens you couldn’t get either, they didn’t know which way they were going to be sent so we had to go back to Tottenham Court Road and around the back, doubles. Oh, it was terrible but I’m lucky. I got over it but where I was, unfortunately, I fell down on the back stairs getting out of St Pauls, the Porser [?] Lease is the name of the company, right opposite St Pauls and I fell down the back stairs. In fact I stumbled because they were all rushing to get out and I fell down on this leg and this is the consequence. I hit my knee on the concrete with a metal edge and my cast was ‒, that’s where the cast came in on my leg and when I went to get through my medical it was a miracle. How luck was with me I don’t know because there you had to catch it with your aim, put your foot on the chair, and stand up, one, two, three, do it a dozen times and my left leg wouldn’t have lifted me off the floor once so I would have failed. And that very second this man was called away so I slipped this off quick and slid it up this arm and I said to this chap next to me ‘cause [unclear] I done this left arm, so I slip this one off and slip it up here and I said to the man this side, ’Excuse me, would you mind if they do me ‘cause I want to keep up with my friends,’ ‘Oh sure,’ so I just tightened it up and with my left leg, no my right leg, and I got away with it and that never trouble me in the war, never troubled me at all. In fact I’d been very lucky, it isn’t really painful, it is [emphasis] painful sometimes but I’ve got so used to it. But anyway, coming back to that hole in the wall there, we were coming back from this trip and we were not out of Germany and suddenly there’s a terrific bang and whoosh, I saw this thing come up here through the floor and up out through the roof and the navigator was standing this side of so it missed him and that’s what it did. It left a hole in the aircraft about this size, huge thing, it was brass. I was lucky. I actually saw the thing come up and go through there and I tell you what, it frightened the life out of me, it didn’t go off. The reason why, ‘cause they, the Germans, had already sussed out the height that we were bombing at. This was one of them that came up and of course it would go on up, so it went up. It turned us on our side which the pilot had to rectify and carry on flying home [laugh]. That was a bit of luck.
AS: It was.
CF: Oh there was so many things that you have that go through your mind and many of them I don’t remember and suddenly they do come back, you know, like meeting an old friend. I’ve no aircrew friends now at all, they’re all gone. How old do you think I am?
AS: No.
CF: Have a guess.
AS: Um, ninety-five.
CF: I’ll be ninety-six in three weeks’ time.
AS: Oh, good.
CF: Yeah, but I’m still tough.
AS: All the people I’ve interviewed have been between ninety-two and ninety five.
CF: Am I the oldest then?
AS: No, I don’t think you are.
CF: Have you got some a hundred?
AS: No, I interviewed someone who was just one week off ninety-six a few months ago.
CF: Well. I’m ninety-six on the 29th of June.
AS: So where were you born Colin?
CF: 61 Alton[?] Road, Ilford, Essex.
AS: And what was the date?
CF: When I was born?
AS: Yes.
CF: It must have been 1920.
AS: Was your father in the First World War?
CF: Yes, he was.
AS: And what did he do in the First War?
CF: He was a ‒, awful job. He was a stretcher-bearer with the RAC, they called them [unclear] the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Germans saved his life. He was picking up wounded they could be Germans, they could be French, they could be English, find a body, put it on the stretcher, bring it in and go out again while the shells were coming down and God knows what. Must have been terrible and suddenly the warning went up from base and spread quickly, the Germans are now using gas. My father hadn’t got his gas mask with him at all but he saw a dead German laying there in a bomb shell and he slipped down the side and he grabbed his mask and put it on, so a German helped him.
AS: Gosh!
CF: Incredible isn’t it? ‘Cause really it was a German fighter at the start of that story I told you, started saving us ‘cause if we had gone up and bombed at nineteen thousand feet we could have been shot down. Of course, the shell that came through wasn’t fused to go off until nineteen thousand three hundred feet, that’s why it went [unclear] straight through the aircraft and turned us on our side. Where I was standing on a frame which they used to change the engines, you know, when the unscrew them, all the fittings, and take an engine out and put a new one and that was the frame and we had to stand on the outside of it and that was taken from the inside of the aircraft.
AS: What aircraft were you flying in?
CF: Halifaxes, oh yes, I must tell you a funny story. This is real true honest, well you’ll hardly know it. We were naturally flying Halifaxes before these more modern [unclear]
AS: Lancasters.
CF: Lancasters. We came to ‒, were you at Lincoln where there were seventy-seven thousand people? You know what they did there? We always said those, what did they fly? They were flying ‒, oh Gosh, Anyway, it doesn’t matter. They said there was going to be an air display and all the rest and we sat there and waited and airplanes were flying backwards and forwards and they said, ’We’ll be sending our ‒,’ oh I can’t think ‒, what’s the name of the other bomber? Derek, what’s the name of ‒
DF: Lancaster? And London not Lincoln.
CF: Lancaster. We had a Manchester, a Lancaster, they said, ‘It won’t be long now ‘til the Lancaster came over. It’s going to fly over and show you his steel’. It was all quiet for quite a while then suddenly they said, ‘We are very sorry but the Lancaster is out of service, we can’t get it to fly,’ [laughs] and what happened the same thing, and we laughed our heads off, the ‒, came over at [unclear] thousands the Queen arranged for our memorial, the Lancaster came over and he flew this way and dropped the poppies, thousands, millions of them, and they were three fields away and boy you could hear them say, ‘Typical Lancasters’, [laughs], ‘Typical Lancasters, they don’t even know how to allow for the wind,’ oh dear, that was funny [laughs]. Do you know there was seventy seven thousand people in that park? They never thought they’d have as many. Do you know we had a continual run, continual, all the time, of lorries coming in and loading and unloading chairs, you could see them in the distance. You was with us Derek, wasn’t you Derek? It was packed solid. It was lovely though, really enjoyable.
AS: So it was just Halifaxes you were on?
CF: Oh yeah, no, I mean, I started on, the first aircraft I ever flew on was the one without the fuel, was the ‒, oh God, I forgotten the name of that now and then we went to the next one, which was the de Havilland and we ‒, I was well trained as a wireless op but I was still at the end of my training. Do you know the chappie that got on with wireless op, he had been drinking and he lay down on the floor and went to sleep, yeah, pilot says [unclear] I says, ‘Yeah’, so he says, ‘Come up would you?’ and I went up there. I don’t know what happened to this one.
AS: How many sorties did you do altogether?
CF: Thirty-eight.
AS: Gosh.
CF: Oh a lot of them did a lot more. I enjoyed it. We were well into Germany, well in, and I came out as well. You see that big stone that’s on the wall, almost to the door? My son took that for me. That’s the stone they put down, the Air Force, ‘cause that was our last vision of England. We used to fly out over that and we used to say, ’I wonder if we’ll see the old ‒.’ You know what it’s called Derek?
DF: Beachy Head.
CF: Yeah, ‘Wonder if we’ll see that place Beachy Head again’, and it had another name as well, I can’t think what it is.’ But we did.
AS: And what were you doing when the end of the war came?
CF: What was I doing at the end of the war? I think I must have been in Ireland because ‒I’m pretty sure I was in Ireland. No, I didn’t go to Ireland before I flew. It was afterwards ‘cause it took us eighty-two hours to get to er ‒, somewhere in the middle of England to get to that place where we were in Ireland. When we got there we went into a village. They got a lorry picked up with our kit. I forget how many of us there were. That’s where we looked for all these posters round the island for Germans trying to get the weather report. They used to fly around this way ‘cause you see we had the reports early, came from the west. But the Germans couldn’t get it from the west, not until after we had it, so we always had a bit of a lead on them which was very fortunate.
AS: What did you do after the end of the war? How did you settle back into civilian life?
CF: Quite easy. I went back to Porser [?] Lease at St Paul’s Church Yard and the man in the department for stockings and socks and things of that sort. He said, ‘I promise you you’ll be a traveller for me.’ ‘Cause I wanted to be a commercial traveller. I didn’t want to be sitting there doing a load of work in the warehouse so ‒, well first of all, when I came back to see this buyer he’d been killed during the war so I lost that exit. So I went into dress fabrics and I was measuring out roll by roll, rolls and rolls and of it. Do you want a cup of tea Derek?
Other: Tea of coffee?
DF: Coffee please
Other: Sugar, milk?
DF: Milk, no sugar, thank you.
CF: Yes, I was saying ‒
AS: You went back to St Pauls.
CF: Yes, yes, and when I got there this buyer had been killed so I thought, ‘I’d better go on the road, I must get on the road, I must get on the road and I’m going to get on the road,’ and I told the director straight, I said, ‘I want to become a traveller. I’ve been working here years now, before the war, and I’ve just come back and now I want to work for myself as an agent,’ and he said, ‘Well, we’ll get one.’ ‘Cause he’d heard I was going to go in stockings and, anyway, a friend of mine, a friend, was working at the same shop or warehouse, he left and went to the west end and he heard about a job and he told me of it and I went and got the job just like that and I started selling and boy I was happy. It was lovely. I started and they said to me, ‘What area would you like?’ and I said, ‘Essex, Sussex, Kent or more in the middle, Middlesex but,’ I said, ’I don’t want anything with a London number. ’ So he said, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘Because London is too congested. You’ve got to queue up.’ Travellers. I mean, I went from one of the firms I was working for before the war, I went in with a sample to see the to a buyer in one shop and there was about seven men in the queue so I thought, ’I don’t want this’. So I said, ’No, London’s out.’ Anyway, I had a phone call on a Sunday evening, there used to be a most beautiful orchestra playing nice music and when he finished about eleven o’clock the phone rang and the voice comes on on the phone, he said, ‘Is that Mr Farr?’ I said, ’Yes.’ He said, ‘This is Mr So and So.’ He said, ‘I’ve just read your advert in the “Traveller’s News” and you’re looking for an agency and you worked for a wholesale warehouse before the war.’ He said, ’ I wonder whether you’d be interested’, [background noise] so I said, ’Yes,’ [background noise] Shall I carry on where I left off?
AS: Yes, please do.
CF: Where was I?
AS: You were looking for a job travelling.
AF: Yes, yes, and this chap rang up Sunday night and he said, ‘Forgive me for ringing. I’ve seen your advert.’ He said, I’m looking for a traveller.’ He said, ‘How old are you?’ and I told him and he said, ‘That’s just the age,’ I said, ‘Well I was working for Porcer [?] Lease before then before the war and I said as soon as I got out I wanted to be a traveller.’ My father said would I work with him and I said, ‘No.’ My brother’s firm asked me to work with ‒, going in working the same warehouse. I said, ‘No, I’m going to do it my way,’ and you know, I jolly well did and do you know I travelled the whole length from Margate to Penzance. I did the Jersey Islands and Guernsey and I came up from right down in the corner from as far as you could go, Ilfracombe, and I’d creep up until I got to Bath, Bristol and then I go further up until I get into the middle of England and I was working on my own just with a business card and samples and do you know I made a bloody fortune? I did well, I did well, and you know, I was so proud and do you know and my brother said, ’How particularly good you did.’ Because he just worked for Breckells, you may have heard of Breckells? Breckells underwear, shirts?
AS: No I haven’t
CF: Well, they’re still going but unfortunately they took him, oh I’ve got my hat on, they took him unfortunately away from Beckells into the fire service and then it was rather unfortunate because he wanted to go in the Forces, the Air force, but they said, ’No you’ve been trained as a fireman you’re in the fire service.’
AS: When the war finished did you keep in contact with any members of your crew?
CF: Oh gosh yes. Unfortunately because my membership ran out [unclear] and it wasn’t the contact really I looked forward to. All of them funerals.



Andrew Sadler, “Interview with Colin Farr,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 23, 2024,

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