Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood


Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood


This interview is with Peter Hopgood, who relates the experiences of his father, Sergeant Pilot Phillip Hopgood.
Philip Hopgood lived in Liverpool and after matriculation he registered for the Royal Air force as he was a member of the Air Training Corps. Too young to be enlisted, he worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Supply.
Called up at the age of 18 in March 1943, he was given pilot aptitude testing and basic training in England before travelling to Canada as part of the Empire Training Scheme. There he completed his pilot training at 6 Elementary Flying School at Prince Albert and 4 Secondary Flying Training School in Saskatoon, flying Ansons. Leave was spent being entertained in the homes of local Canadians.
He became a pilot in October 1944 and returned to England. Phillip spent time in hospital and on discharge was sent to 4 School of Technical Training at RAF St Athans where he was trained on Lancaster aircraft as a flight engineer. Phillip was posted to various stations before being sent to 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Woolfox Lodge flying as a flight engineer on Lancasters.
The war ended and he spent time at various stations, then 29 Elementary Flying Training school at Cliff Pypard flying Tiger Moths. Here he made a forced landing after running out of fuel.
After various aircrew allocation centres, he spent time at 1 Gliding Training School at RAF Croughton before being sent to a number of maintenance units.
Finally in February 1947, he was discharged and worked for Dunlop at Speak Airport in the laboratories, and then as a salesman for Avery Scales.
Phillip Hopgood died in 1999.







00:30:23 audio recording


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CB: Right, my name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 15th of February 2016. This is number eleven of the proxy interviews, the purpose 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 that 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 are 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 your, what you regard as your father‘s 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: 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 erm, he, so the earliest I remember is secondary school. I remember him talking about secondary school where he went to the Holt which was a grammar school in Liverpool and he matriculated from there. Not sure when forty one or forty two or something like that and he was very good at chemistry. He 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 I think it was 1941 round about the time. When he was about sixteen anyway, fifteen, sixteen and I don’t know whether this prompted him to join the Air Training Corps or whether 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 and he joined the Air Training Corps. The war had been running a couple of years by that stage so I suppose this was the channel in for lots of boys getting them into the idea that they were going to have to go to war and this was the 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 which 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 the bombs were scattered all over the place. And there are records of deaths from the bombs in roads very nearby. 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, 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 that I have put together is from other people’s stories. I’ve gleaned, movements from Liverpool to recruitment centres to, and all the messing about that they had to do for medicals and things like that. And it is a very similar story although not necessarily my dad‘s story. Because he went, had his medical, went to oh just outside Manchester to be recruited and have his interview. And then went off to Lord‘s which was the, where they got everybody together, the initial training. Just forgot a little bit I suppose, 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 Lord‘s where they did all their getting their kit and getting their jabs and everything else. And then they went on to initial training —
PAH: Oh sorry, missed a bit, which is the time between when he signed up, he, that was—
CB: Because he was too young.
PAH: That was February ’42 before he was eighteen, he would be seventeen and a half, signed up. And I remember the little RAF Volunteer Regiment badge that he, 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 were, 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. And so he had that at seventeen and a half. And then he was only called up to go down to Lord‘s in March 1943. So again he would be eighteen and a half at that stage. In between time 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 that 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, erm —
CB: This was in Cornwall?
PAH: Yes, yes Torquay wasn’t it? No, in fact, actually no he didn’t go there first, he went to Shillingford, Shollingford[?] near Shrivenham. And they put them up in aeroplanes just to see whether they would be actually trainable as pilots.
CB: Ok.
PAH: 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 whether they were suitable. Because there is a test at the end of that of twenty one days flying —
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 there, 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 training for aptitude -
PAH: And then he went to —
CB: Then they thought that was okay and they sent him to Canada is that right?
PAH: Yeah, so he went to flying training.
CB: Yeah.
PAH: In Shellingford, then 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 Training School where they were bombing about in Tiger Moths and —
CB: Cornells.
PAH: Cornells, yes erm, and spent a lot of time on link trainers and et cetera, et cetera. So they got over there by boat from Liverpool and then 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 would imagine. And there was a long, long train journey through Quebec and down the side of Lake Superior et cetera, which he took photographs of. Ended up at Prince Albert initially that was the elementary flying training school and doing a lot of flying around there. And then, they seemed to have holidays when they were there as well because they went out and stayed with Canadian families, for a break. I have seen some photographs of that where they are out riding ponies and driving cars around and generally mucking about, and so that was 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 ever seeing a full sheepskin but it certainly had a sheepskin collar, yeah.
CB: So he was at two places there, he was at Prince Albert -
PAH: Yes, so then he moved onto the four, number four, what was that, Secondary Flying Training School.
CB: For twin engine flying.
PAH: Yeah for multiple engines, so he was on twin engined planes.
CB: Okay.
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, his pilot‘s 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 planes, the Crane and what did we say? 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. And then 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 pretty 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 mark 1 and 3 and he has got a certificate in his log book or stamp anyway to say that he passed the flight engineer course.
CB: So he’s 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, but I guess that’s why that happened. Because he, he really wanted to be a pilot and was happier flying than doing anything else. But to get in, the most important thing for him was to be in a plane. So if it was as a flight engineer then that was better that not being in a 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 the list.
CB: This was a time in the war when they had lots of aircrew who were unallocated to squadron tasks.
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: Well, with the heavy bombers the engineer joined the aircraft when the crew had already been formed at its operational training unit.
PAH: Oh okay.
CB: He would have been there as an engineer but because of his skill as a pilot he could do both tasks.
PAH: Right okay, 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 were a number of sort of short stays at various different places. From Woolfox Lodge he then went to— [papers rustling]
CB: This is because the war in Europe had ended.
PAH: Yes. He was then in Harrogate in June number 7PRC, then RAF Acinos, Akin [?] A-C-N-C-O-S Locking, July to August. 7PRC, Harrogate for a couple of weeks in August. Then Cottesmore for a couple, a week or so in 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 just 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 ran out of petrol on one occasion. Landed in a farmer‘s field which nobody was very happy about. [laugh] After flying in Cliff Pypard he went off 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 then went on to, 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 in 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 at 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 June to August 1946. Where there were lots of motor vehicles, I don’t know whether 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 number 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 just shows the difficulty they had in allocating trained people to useful tasks didn’t they?
PAH: Yes, I think so.
CB: And also that they were doing a staged demobilisation so that the civilian world wasn’t saturated with people.
PAH: Yes, yes.
CB: But it must have been quite soul destroying, did he ever talk about the peripatetic, 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. Erm, 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 may have led him into that. Because it was very much a, an aeroplane suspension system I suppose, well like an engine mounting unit type thing, which is rubber. And they used them in aeroplanes, which is why he was based at Speak Airport. So they would be using those, the things that they were dealing with in the aeroplanes that were coming for maintenance there. Yes, he spent quite a few years there and that’s where he met my mum. They got married, so he must have been there for about six years probably, something like that. 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 being a scientist, 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 off 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: Okay, good, thank you very much. I think that is a really interesting insight into the sort of 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 alright in civilian life.
PAH: Yes I think so, good training.
CB: Thank you very much Peter.
PAH: Okay. [recording paused and restarted]
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 erm, back in the sixties there was quite a big thing about ‘well, 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, 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. But 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, there were 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 those that stayed in, and I don’t know if the moving around was at his choosing. Or whether he was being put into different places to see if he fitted any particular place to be assigned to after the war. But 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 telling everybody what to do. But 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. But my dad was very regimented as it were, yeah. What were we talking about?
CB: Okay, 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 to 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 ever 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 whether that was a bomb or whether that was a training exercise I am not really sure. It could just have been a dummy, it could just have been waste that they were trying to get rid of, I don’t know. But er, no I don’t think there were any instances of people that weren’t up to the tasks as you mentioned.
CB: Okay thank you.
[recording paused and restarted]
CB: In terms of flying hours it’s interesting to see that the log book of Phillip Hopgood showed three hundred hours he had done by the beginning of ’45, by the beginning of ’46 it was at three hundred and sixty five so he’d done quite a substantial amount of flying during that period.


Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Peter Andrew Hopgood,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 4, 2024,

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