Interview with Margaret Horry


Interview with Margaret Horry


Margaret Horry was born in Spalding. She remembers aircraft taking off going on operations, and retells wartime stories of her relatives. Arthur served in Bomber Command as a bomb aimer. Frank was also in Bomber Command. He joined the Royal Air Force as an air gunner at RAF Mildenhall (9 Squadron), gained a Distinguished Flying Medal, and served until 1954. After that he worked for Bahamas Airways. Fred served in Coastal Command, was stationed at the Azores as a warrant officer, and was eventually awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
George joined the Army in 1935 in a tank regiment, serving in Egypt at Al El-Alamein, and in Italy. He was also mentioned in dispatches.
Gordon worked for the Spalding Free Press, in his free time he was a keen radio amateur wishing to become wireless operator. He joined the Royal Air Force and served with 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby. Margaret reminisces receiving a telegram claiming he was missing, the subsequent notification of death and the whole family grieving. Margaret’s husband Arthur, was ten years her senior - he served in the Royal Air Force with 9 Squadron and 106 Squadron from RAF Metheringham. He took part in an operation to Saint-Leu-d'Esserent with Flight Lieutenant Bill Williams, then was posted to RAF Bardney practising for Tirpitz operations. Gained his Distinguished Flying Medal, he went to Singapore with 50 Squadron as part of the Tiger Force. He married Margaret after the war. Margaret also elaborates on the bombing of Dresden and discusses lack of recognition for Bomber command veterans.




Temporal Coverage




00:37:00 audio recording


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RP: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre the interviewer is Rob Pickles the interviewee is Margaret Horry the interview is taking place in Mrs Horry’s home in Exmouth Devon on the 19th August 2016, Nina Pickles is also present. Good morning Margaret thank you for allowing me into your home for this interview could I start by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself and your experiences in the Second World War.
MH: Well I was born in Spalding, parents had a sweet shop and Gordon lived at home, Bob left home when he was seventeen so I can’t really remember him at home, Gordon worked for Spalding Free Press desperate to get into the RAF in fact he had his own Morse Code Morse Sender Key and he used to send messages to the young man next door so obviously he wanted to be a wireless op so eventually he went off and my first memories are hearing wave after wave of Lancs, Wellingtons et cetera going across the back of our house out on ops one night mother said ‘I wonder how many will come back?’ and of course one night Gordon didn’t come back he flew with 12th Squadron from Wickenby next day eighth, ninth of January knock at the back door little telegram boy we had them in those days with a small envelope father took it in mother went to him they sat at the they sat at the dining table opened the envelope silence they told me and I left them I said ‘I’m going for a walk’ father said ‘don’t tell anybody’ [tearful] and so I left them to their silent tears and walked for miles tears streaming down my face I remember um the Wizard of Oz film Somewhere Over The Rainbow so I thought one day I’ll meet Gordon at the end of the rainbow so perhaps it won’t be so long [very emotional] we didn’t hear anything other than he was missing. Forty six I think presumed killed then all his aftermath came father didn’t reply got a reminder from Inland Revenue [laughs] so that was Gordon gone. Next RAF connection of course was my husband he was ten years nearly ten years older than I like all of them he didn’t talk really about what he’d done had a small connection with 9th Squadron although he didn’t do so many ops with them did an awful lot with 106 out of Metheringham had one bad raid he did say think it was St. Leu d’Esserent only two got back typical RAF he said ‘we had an enormous breakfast ‘cos they’d catered for more to get home’, he flew all the time with Bill Williams who was then flight lieutenant then squadron leader so they moved to Bardney lots of practice then off to Russia for Tirpitz their plane was US so they didn’t actually bomb the Tirpitz from there but that’s where he got his DFM for um helping the navigator because conditions weather were dreadful I had to smile to myself when I saw the citation because tell him to go somewhere two miles away and he’d get lost so [laughs] it was a bit odd seeing he spent such a long time helping to get to Russia, he was the only crew member to stay on for ops, Bill Williams had two children, the others were married and Bill was older, so he went to Singapore with 50 Squadron for tyber force [sic] they were going to bomb precision bomb Japan but of course they dropped the atom bomb so they didn’t but I think seeing the state of the POW’s which they were bringing home particularly those in Changi stayed with him really all his life we had a friend who had been a POW and they became great friends at the golf club each respected each other I think so what next. Arthur had another brother older than him who was a regular he joined in ‘35 having been a footman in London I can’t imagine Frank as a footman at all [laughs] but he joined up and was at Mildenhall and he was in 9 Squadron he was a gunner he won the DFM for in the citation shooting down two German aircraft took part in the Heligoland fiasco as it became known he did probably a whole tour with 9 before leaving, he used to come to see us after he’d left the RAF ‘cos he didn’t come home until 1954 he had been flying in Scotland towards the end of the war instructing ferrying naval people all around the place, took part in the Berlin airlift, friends with Freddie Laker but fortunately didn’t invest with him [laughs], came out of the RAF in ‘54 then took his civil pilot’s licence which is not bad going for somebody who left school when he was fourteen.
RP: That’s very [unclear] so who did he fly for as a civilian?
MH: I don’t know one time he was flying from Bournemouth to Paris didn’t like that ‘no sooner take off then you land’ he said.
RP: [Laughs]
MH: Then at one time he was carrying oil pipes in Iraq et cetera when they were laying oil then he was with Bahamas Airways and he stayed in the Bahamas.
RP: I wonder why [laughs].
MH: He got into property development and came back owned a house in the Isle of Man obviously for tax purposes ‘cos he died in ’80, 82.
RP: But?
MH: So left an awful lot of money [laughs].
RP: Yes so a long flying career though.
MH: Yes.
RP: So to go back to Frank on 9 Squadron you said he did the full tour which a lot of people never did did he ever feel himself lucky to have done the full tour did he ever talk about that?
MH: No, I think he had the same attitude as Arthur that’s not going to happen to them if you think it you will and Gordon was always doubtful I always remember Arthur saying ‘that’s no good if you think it you’ll go’.
RP: So what you said Gordon had always wanted to join the RAF what provoked the RAF was there no RAF history in the family?
MH: No no none at all.
RP: He just decided that was for him. Did Arthur ever say why he picked the RAF and not the army.
MH: I think he did because of Frank.
RP: He just followed in his brother’s footsteps?
MH: Yes he not idolised Frank but um huge connection between them they were very similar Frank never married but always had a bevy of model type girls [laughs] surround him we were very very fon fond of him he’d just turn up at the house I remember one day in Cambridge I’d cleaned the house from top to bottom everything dumped in the kitchen, I had a six month old and a four year old, and there was Frank he was very particular but he didn’t mind the kitchen being a mess, or Sheffield picks up the phone ‘I’m at the station Margaret think I’ll get a taxi’ he just arrived.
RP: But because you liked him you didn’t mind?
MH: No.
RP: So did he ever look back at his RAF career or was it something just in the past?
MH: No.
RP: He never.
MH: No.
RP: He never spoke about Bomber Command?
MH: No.
RP: I just wondered the two of them how they felt when they didn’t get did they ever mention not getting a medal at the end of the war ‘cos that’s always been a sticking point hasn’t it?
MH: Yes um Arthur thought it was very unfair fighter boys got recognised bombers were vilified and everybody brings Dresden but Hamburg got it first and what about bombing all the Germans bombing neutral Rotterdam um it was not fair and Harris took that’s what upset Arthur all the other navy army chiefs were recognised Harris wasn’t that hurt, he’d met Harris he never said what raid they were going on but Harris came and addressed the squadron finishing by saying ‘goodbye lads don’t suppose I shall see many of you again’ but I don’t know which which raid it was [laughs].
RP: Yes.
MH: And when they came back and oh another thing that annoyed him 9 bombed the salt pan which 617 didn’t ‘cos only one got through the captain of that one of 617 feels peeved ‘cos he’s never mentioned so did moan.
RP: Yes.
MH: And he was never mentioned and of course the programme on the radio um about the dams they never mention the salt that 617 didn’t damage and never mention 9 had to go with Tallboy but they dropped the level of water increased the width of the dam there were twenty four ack-ack guns and balloons the report was that it was simple raid but Arthur did talk about that and he thought it was a bit dicey take, no, no Winko had a hit, Arthur had a hit, and of course it wasn’t breached.
RP: No it’s a very solid dam unfortunately ‘cos it’s earth it’s earth and stone, so -
MH: Yes.
RP: It’s very hard to damage.
MH: They increased stones.
RP: You mentioned before that Arthur was injured on one raid what what happened there?
MH: Yes. Um it’s in one report from.
RP: He was hit by shrapnel?
MH: Shrapnel he was bombing well in bombing position shrapnel came through hit him in the chest so he called ‘skipper I’ve been hit’ so Pretty Johns the flight engineer came down to him pulled his jacket et cetera and pulled out this red hot piece of metal all my dear husband could say was ‘you clot I only got this shirt out of stores this morning’ [laughs].
RP: How badly was he injured? [laughs]
MH: Um oh a plaster the next night nothing happened he still did had the scar from it.
RP: So it wasn’t as deep as you imagine it was just a piercing rather than a a sort of.
MH: Yes hmm hmm
RP: Intrusion?
MH: Penetrated.
RP: Still it can’t have been very nice.
MH: But he swears having been in bombing position a voice called out ‘Chucky’ which was a schoolboy nickname the voice was Mr. Headman Hamilton a teacher so Arthur thought naturally he turned to see where this voice was coming from if he hadn’t have turned shrapnel would have hit him straight in the face and killed him.
RP: And he never really knew where the voice came from?
MH: No and nobody knew the nickname ‘Chucky’ when it left school that was it so very very strange.
RP: How strange is that.
MH: [laughs] very definite about that he was.
RP: Did Arthur ever sort of give you an opinion which he squadron he preferred that he was on did he have a favourite?
MH: Well I think 9 he
RP: Because the two of them served on 9 Squadron didn’t they at different times?
MH: Yes don’t know why so he said he did less with 9 then 106 but um didn’t say much apart from that time when only two got back and the whole village was in mourning he said, we’ve been to Metheringham um quite eerie.
RP: Was there is there a cemetery at Metheringham I think there is in the village a small cemetery?
MH: No there’s a little memorial garden there and if you come out go a mile down the road you get to the second runway.
RP: Oh right.
MH: At the side of that there’s a little garden and a plaque in the seat and there’s a runway straight in front of you and I sat there got a most peculiar feeling.
RP: Yes yes ‘cos people have taken off from there.
MH: Yes yes.
RP: The ghosts, but yes I think 9 Squadron has had quite a reputation, what did he think of the Lancaster did he ever give you his opinion of the aircraft as such?
MH: Devil to get in to down to where he had to go to his office as he called it but fantastic I mean they got home on two engines they got shot up lots of times as Ron Harvey said ‘it’s quite strange to see bullets going from through the fuselage from one side to the other’ [laughs].
RP: And not be in the way.
MH: It was yes, one raid they were chased by Messerschmitt and they’re being shot up Bill dived over the sea and a little Scottish voice came over ‘skipper if you don’t get up soon I’ll get wet feet’ [laughs] and that was um um Sandy rear gunner.
RP: Oh yes but I suppose Arthur was in the bomb aimer position he’d have the best view really of the ground?
MH: I I yes I think.
RP: He sort of was very close [laughs]?
MH: Well forgot [unclear] Harvey navigator who holds forth quite bit but as Arthur said he [emphasis] didn’t see anything I think that’s what got through to Arthur being a bomb aimer he saw more than anybody, skipper, he and rear gunner would see the most of the damage they were doing, what was coming at them, the flak, the fighters, so those two positions were I think the nastiest in terms of what they could see.
RP: But when he and Frank met up did they ever discuss their experience?
MH: No.
RP: They never sort of looked back at all?
MH: No.
RP: Did they go and see the Dambusters film [laughs].
MH: No! It was strange one night there was a film on not Dambusters ‘cos we didn’t watch that but another one and what else Danger by Moonlight?
RP: No, “Ill Met by Moonlight” it’s a different one is that.
MH: It was a black and white.
RP: An Elstree black and white probably.
MH: And it was on the television and it was a raid, bomb aimer featured, skipper, Arthur sat there and suddenly said ‘we don’t want to watch that do we?’ so no switched off it was getting to him.
RP: Yes yes ‘cos it’s taken a long long time to get people to talk about it.
MH: Yes.
RP: Because we didn’t understand the horror of it all and the feelings they had in losing so many of their friends.
MH: Yes.
RP: I think er that’s one thing. Can we go back to yourself then can you remember when the war finally ended where you were and what you were doing?
MH: Oh still in Spalding at High School um I think the day I took the entrance exam to Spalding High School went to a wedding reception held in the sergeants mess when RSM Lord of the Parachute Regiment got married to a Spalding girl that of course was before Arnhem because I don’t know which regiment John was in but they were confined to barracks so often before long it got to be a joke but eventually they went and of course it was a bit of a disaster, quite a lot had married Spalding girls, Spalding felt it dreadfully, John Lord went on he was very famous with the Parachute Regiment for organising the POW Camp even the Camp CO knocked on his door and he when he came home he was RSM at Sandhurst but I remember that because they were camped on playing fields at the Grammar School.
RP: Oh were they.
MH: But Spalding I did go out at night, mother and father didn’t, lots of people, lots of ATS girls, Polish officers and some men from somewhere all celebrating, but then of course there was still Japan several people still had sons, husbands who were hear it on the news if they were alive and of course the war having ended in ‘45 it just seemed to go on and on because of rationing, I don’t know when it was ’43, ‘44 we were bombed our wonderful department store which was all white and gilt and Father Christmas used to stand on the balcony that was totally demolished, and we did go in the shelter that night our shop was the end of what had been a row of cottages with a single roof right along a reed and slate roof and we were at the beginning another shop on the corner an incendiary dropped on right through the roof so course we would all have gone up but it landed in the toilet pan [laughs] and went out [laughs].
RP: Oh right [laughs] oh that’s a good place to go precision bombing.
MH: And fifty yards away um Penningtons Carpet window back entrance that was totally demolished so it got very near to whether we’d got a home to go to.
RP: How many times did you have actually go down into the shelter during the war then?
MH: Oh twice.
RP: Just the twice?
MH: It was it didn’t go down it was next door to the Police Station which is still there it looks like a castle two turrets and that was the Police Station and the air raid shelter down the side it was an oblong brick built flat roofed shelter [laughs].
RP: Not ideal then.
MH: No, just across the road from it was the Liberal Club built eighteen hundred something that was totally demolished, at school we had the rounded shelters so we had air raid drill and this would be beginning of the war when I was at infants it was smelly [laughs] I remember that and er I know once or twice perhaps they were perhaps they were trying to bomb the guns and searchlights stations because something must have got near because mother and I sat underneath the oak dining table, which I’ve now got, which had a bar across the middle underneath which one could sit on, and er no we did go in the shelter twice.
RP: So you mentioned about all the siblings and Arthur and Frank all the family did they all survive the ones that were in the various forces they all came home?
MH: Yes yes there was I mean Arthur was Bomber Command, Frank was Bomber Command, Fred was Coastal Command for a long time in the Azores he was a warrant officer and got the DFC, George the eldest joined the army in 1935 in tanks he was in Egypt when I think due for leave when war was declared.
RP: Oh dear.
MH: Went right through Alamein, Italy.
RP: And survived.
MH: And survived.
RP: He did well if he was in the Tank Regiment.
MH: Yes.
RP: He did very well.
MH: He was the well not glorified but the one the officers liked to have the eternal experienced sergeant.
RP: Yes [laughs].
MH: He you know he had a mention in dispatches because a tank what he called had a brew up hit so he got his crew out they were being machine gunned from the top of a dune and he told them all to crawl towards the machine gun ‘cos trajectory they were under it which took some thinking.
RP: Yes yes not the sort of thing you’d want to crawl to.
MH: He was a very very had a very dry sense of humour.
RP: It’s good that they all survived I think we’ve covered most of their careers um is there anything else you think we need to know about Bomber Command that you might have missed a quick recollection I think we’ve got a lot of we’ve certainly got a lot of um memorabilia to look at and er I think that’s been so interesting I’m sorry that the emotion of it got to you but I can understand how sad it must be the memories are still there for your brother but I think he would be pleased that we are still remembering him.
MH: Yes.
RP: And I think and this he would be pleased.
MH: This is it he felt neglected.
RP: And I think Frank and Arthur and all the others would be pleased that at last.
MH: Yes.
RP: Maybe too late for them but
MH: And it’s being passed on.
RP: That’s right.
MH: A friend said ‘oh but that was so long ago’ Arthur used to say that ‘oh that was in the past’ um but my friend said ‘oh but that’s history’ I said ‘yes and history must not be forgotten’.
RP: And must not be repeated even.
MH: No.
RP: Anyway Margaret I’d just like to say thank you for that and it’s been lovely talking to you.
MH: Thank you.
RP: Thank you for agreeing to invite us here thank you very much.



Rod Pickles, “Interview with Margaret Horry,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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