Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood


Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood


Peter Andrew Hopgood discusses his father, Peter David Hopgood's service.



IBCC Digital Archive




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00:30:23 audio recording





Temporal Coverage


CB: Right, my name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 15th of February 2016. This is number er, number eleven of the proxy interviews, the purposes of which is really to record the experiences of deceased World War Two Aircrew and also some of the people who are still around but are not well enough to be able to participate. It is important that these stories are added really to the live ones from aircrew at the moment. The background is we need to remember that a lot of veterans weren’t happy to divulge their experiences in the war to their immediate offspring, or even to their other halves, and the horrors that some of them went through. However there were some people who were prepared to talk to their offspring. And so today I am speaking with Peter Hopgood whose father 67, 1673132 Hopgood PD, Phillip Hopgood joined the RAF in 1942. And trained as a pilot but then was diverted to become a flight engineer. So Peter can we start with what your, what you regard as your fathers earliest recollection of family and then go through how he came to leave school? What he did before joining the RAF, where he joined the RAF and his experiences through that and afterwards?
PAH: Em. When you say his earliest recoll—
CB: Recollection of family?
PAH: Of family?
PAH: So where he went to school, what his father did?
CB: Right, sorry em, so the earliest I remember is secondary school. I remember him talking about secondary school where he went to the Holt. It was a grammar school in Liverpool and he matriculated from there. Not sure when forty one or forty two something like that and was very good at chemistry. Was hoping to go to University and study chemistry, but there was a war on so that didn’t happen. Then I remember him talking about the bombings around Liverpool. So that would have been em, I think it was 1941 round about the time. He was about sixteen anyway, fifteen, sixteen, I don’t know if this prompted him to join the Air Training Corps or whither that had always been a passion. There are photographs of him with model aeroplanes, so I guess that he had always wanted to be a pilot, as I did. So er, he joined the Air Training Corps. The war had been running a couple of years by that stage so I suppose this was channel for lots of boys getting them into the idea that they were going to have to go to war. Em, this was part of the indoctrination if you want to call it that or something. Just getting them used to the idea of authority,and the things that they would have to do. He, during the bombing raids on Liverpool, there was a story told by my grannie of a bomb that dropped in the allotments. Probably less than half a mile away,so certainly within walking distance. And they were aiming at the railway line I think at the bottom of the road which was two hundred yards away from where they lived. And er, and they were on their way into Liverpool and into the docks as well, so bombs were scattered all over the place. And there are records of deaths from the bombs in roads very near bye. This would have been a further prompt for my dad to join up and get his own back, ‘cause that was the sort of attitude that my grannie and grandad had. That reflected in what he felt as well, I think. So in em, before he was eighteen, he registered to be joined up. I don’t know an awful lot about this part particularly and that is why I have done the research and the document I have put together is from other people’s stories. I’ve gleened, movements from Liverpool recruitments centres to, and all the messing about they had to do for medicals and things like that. And it is a very similar story although not necessary my dads story. Because he went, had his medical, went to oh; just outside Manchester to be recruited and have his interview. And then went of to Lords which was where they got everybody together, the initial training. Just going on a little bit, prior to that he was in the Air Training Corps as I said but he had a professional certificate part one. Which then meant that he was recommended for commission and for training as pilot,observer. -‘So where do we go from here Chris?’-
CB: Well, really he signed up initially and went to Lords where they did all their getting there kit and getting their jabs and everything else. And then they went on to initial training —
PAH: Oh sorry, missed a bit, which is between when he signed up, that was—
CB: Because he was too young.
PAH: That was Febuary ’42 before he was eighteen, he would be seventeen and a half, signed up. And I remember the little RAF Volunteer Regiment badge, you know the lapel badge. I found that in and amongst bits and pieces so he had that. And there is a photograph that I have of him somewhere wearing that on a blazer. And they had that to prove that they weren’t shirking their responsibilities. Because in Liverpool I think people would be; tarred and feathered if they weren’t volunteering to do their duty and protect the country. And particularly protect Liverpool which was having a hammering of the bombings. Er,so he had that at seventeen and a half. And then he was only called up to go down to Lords in March 1943. So again he would be eighteen and a half at that stage. In between times he worked in the Liver building in Liverpool I think it was for the Ministry of Supply, but he worked there as a clerk. Just filling in time I think ‘cause otherwise he would have been taking A Levels, well our equivalent of A Levels and going onto University which is what he wanted to do. Which is something he always regretted, because he loved his chemistry and didn’t get to further his studies in that area.
CB: Then he went to the Initial Training Wing and that was at Babbacolme?
PAH: Yes, again I don’t know a lot about that and the story I have written down was a similar story from somebody else. But they did sort of physical training and a little bit of flying training, em —
CB: This was in Cornwall?
PAH: Yes, yes Torquay wasn’t it? No,in fact, actually no he didn’t go there, he went to Shillingford, Shollingford[?] Shrivenham. And they put them up in aeroplanes just to see if they would be actually trainable as pilots.
CB: Ok.
PAH: Em, and this was just to, they weren’t piloting but they were taken up by flight sergeants, flight lieutenants, flying officers, I guess to see if they were suitable. Because there is a test at the end of that of twenty one days flying em,—
CB: And this is an aptitude test for pilot training.
PAH: CF 1,
CB: Mm.
PAH: Yeah which he passed.
CB: Which is shown in his log book.
PAH: Yeah it is that one there isn’t it, I think?
CB: His log book has got some entries at the beginning which is before he started flying training, seriously, as a pilot.
PAH: This is before he got his log book in elementary flying training, I think; in Canada because those people, people that signed him off here are Canadians.
CB: Right, so he had his initial training wing and then he went to have his initial —
PAH: And then he went to —
CB: Then they thought that was ok and they sent him to Canada is that right?
PAH: Yeah, so he went to flying training.
CB: Yeah.
PAH: In Shellingford, than he went to the ITW in Babbacombe.
CB: Yeah.
PAH: For the physical and all the other stuff and then he went to Canada after that.
CB: Right.
PAH: So that was the Sixth Elementary Flying School where they were bumming about in Tiger Moth and em —
CB: Cornells.
PAH: Yes em, and spent a lot of time on link trainers and etc, etc. So they got over there by boat from Liverpool and took the train from Monkton. They spent a couple of days, a couple of weeks there, I think, in Monkton acclimatising, getting their winter kit I should imagine. And there was a long, long train journey through Quebec and down the side of Lake Superior etc, which he took photographs of. Ended up at Prince Albert initially that was the elementary flying school doing a lot of flying around there. Er,and then, they seemed to have holidays there as well because they went out and stayed with Canadian families, for a break. I have seen photographs of that where they are out riding ponies and driving cars around and generally mucking about, and eh, a bit of a holiday. He always said that in Canada it was so cold that you had to eat ice cream because you might as well have been cold inside as well as outside. [laugh] He kept the flying jacket, I don’t remember seeing a full sheepskin but it certainly had a sheep skin collar, yeah.
CB: He was at two places there he was at Prince Albert.
PAH: Yeah and then he moved onto four, number four, what was that, Secondary Flying Training School.
CB: For twin engine flying.
PAH: Yeah for double engine, so he was on twin engined planes.
CB: Ok.
PAH: Er, what were they? Cranes and Avro Ansons and then they had a bit of a holiday on the way home, because there were photographs of him in uniform in New York.
CB: Let me just interrupt. Where did he get, did he get his wings then at the end of,pilots wings at the end of the experience in Saskatoon does it say?
PAH: 1944, 27th of October—
CB: I will stop it just for a moment. [tape stopped]
PAH: So at the, what do you call it, the SFTS, Secondary Flying Training School in, this was in Saskatoon in Canada where they were training on multiple engine aeroplanes, the Crane and the Avro Anson. He gained his wings and became a pilot on the 27th of October 1944. Gained his wings and have got photographs of that em. And they, he came out of Canada on a ship and came back to UK. And shortly after that became a Sergeant on the 31st of December 1944 and classified as a Sergeant Pilot at that stage. And then on the ship back he must have caught something very bad, because he was in hospital for a week in Forward Military Hospital near Preston, don’t know why. Then went from there to the School of Technical Training that is at St Athan, number Four School of Technical Training where they were working on Lancasters MK1 and 111 he has got a certificate in his log book or stamp anyway to say he had passed the flight engineer course.
CB: So he was a pilot but because they were short of flight engineers, is that right?
PAH: Well I think so, he didn’t really talk much about this, this time er, but I guess that’s why that happened.
CB: Because he, he really wanted to be a pilot and was happier flying than doing anything else. But er, the most important thing for him was to be in a plane. So if it was being a flight engineer that was better that not being in plane at all, I guess. He passed out on the 14th of March and then there is a bit of a gap in his log book between there and going to various bases around and about. He seemed to spend a lot of time at Harrogate, but he was at various air bases, referring to a list.
CB: This was a time in the war when the er, had lots of aircrew who were unallocated to squadron charge.
PAH: Mm.
CB: But he then moved onto heavy bombers?
PAH: Yes that’s right, so he did his flight engineers training then went to 1651 Conversion Unit at Woolfox Lodge. That’s where he was flying as second pilot in Lancasters and doing various training exercises. And after that seems to be where his flying stops, in Lancasters anyway.
CB: Yeah.
PAH: June 7th ’45.
CB: With the heavy bombers the engineer joined the aircraft when the crew had already been formed at its operation training unit.
PAH: Oh I see.
CB: He would have been there as an engineer but because of his skill as a pilot he could do both tasks.
PAH: Right ok, so pilot number two is the flight engineer is it?
CB: It is but he always kept, they always kept their pilots wings.
PAH: Yeah. So then there was a number of short stays at various different places. Em from Woolfox Lodge he then went to—
CB: Because the war in Europe had ended.
PAH: He was then in Harrogate in June number Seven PRC, then RAF AC, ACSCOS Locking, July to August. Seven PRC, Harrogate for a couple of weeks in August. Then Cottesmore for a couple,a week or so August to September. Then back to Harrogate in September to October and then was at Cliff Pypard 29EFTS, October 1945 to February 1946. Seems that they were just flying around in Tiger Moths to keep up their flying time I would imagine. But he would be the pilot or second pilot on those. But I do remember him admiring the countryside and probably getting lost in flying and run out of petrol on one occasion. Landing in a farmers field which nobody was very happy about. [laugh] After flying in Cliff Pypard he went of to Wheaton Aston near Stafford. That is a pilots advanced flying unit, no idea what they were doing there and no flying time shown. He was there for about three weeks and went on to er, number 7PRC, Market Harborough. Then ACA, Aircrew Allocation Centre at Catterick in March 1946 for a week. Then number 4ACHU Cranard [?] Cranage in March to April 1946 again at an aircrew holding unit so, not really sure what they were doing there. Then went to number 1 Gliding Training School at Croughton that’s a couple of weeks in April 1946. Then to number 4 School of, I think it is Airframe Training but I am not entirely sure Kirkholme, Lancashire for about six weeks. But I think it was a demob centre at that stage. So they would be learning how to live in civvy street. After that he went to 2051MU in Bristol em, June to August 1946. Where there were lots of motor vehicles, I don’t know if he went there to learn to drive. Or just move vehicles around, not really sure. Then had a little spell in number 30MU Sealand August 46 to February 1947. That was a maintenance unit. Then went to 101 Personnel Dispatch Centre in February ’47 for a day. That was the end of his service, that’s Wharton Aerodrome in Lancashire. And then came out of the RAF at that stage.
CB: It shows the difficulty they had in allocating trained people to useful tasks didn’t they?
PAH: Yes, I think so.
CB: And also they were doing a staged demobilisation so that the civilian world was not saturated with people.
PAH: Yes, yes.
CB: But it must have been quite soul destroying, did he ever talk about the very pathetic, soul destroying process?
PAH: No. [laugh] I think he just wanted to get out. Either fly or get out.
CB: What did he do after the war?
PAH: So after the war he worked for Dunlop at Speak Airport. Em, and working in scientific labs, looking at the bonding between metal and rubber. And I guess his engineering training, flight engineering training would have helped there. And maybe some of the stuff at the maintenance unit that he went to led him into that. Because it was very much a, an aeroplane em, suspension system I suppose. Like and engine mounting unit type thing, which is rubber. And they used them in aeroplanes, which is why he was based at Speak Airport. Em, so they would be using those, the things that they were dealing with in the aeroplanes that were coming for maintenance there. He spent quite a few years there and that is where he met my mum. They got married, so he must have been there for about six years probably, something like that. Em,maybe even longer six or seven years and then decided that he wanted to get out of Liverpool and have a job which paid a bit better than a scientist. Em couldn’t see the job going anywhere so he became a salesman for Avery Scales. So again the technical side helped because he was a technical sales rep. Started of in Liverpool and then he was transferred to Cumberland, lived in Carlisle after that.
CB: And then worked there until he retired?
PAH: For the rest of his life.
CB: So when did he retire?
PAH: He retired at age sixty four on ill health because he had multiple sclerosis.
CB: Oh dear, and when did he die?
PAH: Nineteen seventy, oh no nineteen, ninety nine.
CB: Ok, good, thank you very much. I think that is a really interesting insight into the things that went on. Where people who had really good skills as in a pilot and engineer were not able really to use them during the times of hostilities.
PAH: Er, yeah.
CB: But it worked out ok in civilian life.
PAH: Yes I think so, good training.
CB: Thank you very much Peter.
PAH: Ok.
CB: Peter just as a supplement to that. My father never spoke to me about what he did in the war really, but in your case you got quite a bit. Were there parts that he was more, found more comfortable in talking about or did you have to tease it out? How did it work?
PAH: I think em, back in the sixties there was quite a big thing about ‘what did you do in the war dad?’ And I seem to remember adverts on the television and things like that. Because there was still a stream of being against people who were conscientious objectors,at that stage. Because there were wars coming around, there were other events after the Second World War, which they needed forces for. Em, and so it was a way of making sure that people volunteered as necessary or joined up as necessary. Because there was quite a big drive for joining the forces,when I was at school in the sixties and seventies. He was always reticent about talking. He said he had a jolly good time and probably wished he could have stayed in, but that didn’t look possible because there were, as you said, so many pilots. So many people with skills, that they could only choose a few of them,for whatever reason. They graded them and he wasn’t to be one of them to stay in. Er, and I don’t know if the moving around was at his choosing. Or whither he was put into different places to see if he fitted any particular place to be assigned to after the war. That wasn’t to be, he always acted like a flight sergeant. [laugh] So the discipline was passed down to everybody else. And my mum always said. ‘Oh blooming, still thinks he is a sergeant.’ [laughs] Sergeant major and er, telling everybody what to do. That would have been drilled into him, I think in the training that he had. So it was very difficult to get rid of that. My grandfather wasn’t like that at all, he was a very easy going chap. My dad was very regimented as it were, yeah. What were we talking about?
CB: Ok, so just an extension of that there are all sorts of anecdotes and some things people don’t like talking about. I have had situations where they have said. ‘Turn off the recorder while we talk about such and such.’ But a sensitive topic that is called a different title now,which is battle stress in various ways. There was a feeling, well a title called “LMF” which is lacking moral fibre. Did he ever make any reference of that to you?
PAH: That he didn’t have any moral fibre or — ?
CB: No, no that he came across people who had been graded or branded or —
PAH: No I don’t think so.
CB: Described as people who failed to do their role when they were flying.
PAH: No.
CB: Because of fear amongst other things.
PAH: I don’t think he ever mentioned that.
CB: No.
PAH: And partly because they never, I don’t think they faced any action as such. Although there was the one story, of where they went out in a Lancaster and dropped a bomb in the North Sea, because they couldn’t find where they were going to. But whither that was a bomb or whither that was a training exercise I am not really sure. It could just have been a dummy, it could just have been waste they were trying to get rid of, I don’t know. But er, I don’t think there were any instances of people who weren’t up to the tasks you mentioned.
CB: Ok thank you.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 10, 2020,

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