Interview with Derek Jones


Interview with Derek Jones


Bomb aimer Frank Jones wrote notes decades ago regarding his service in Bomber Command with 158 Squadron. His son, Derek reads his father’s story, which includes his early life, enlisting into the RAF and training in navigation at No. 43 Air Gunners school in South Africa. Frank was based at RAF Lissett after his training. He reads about Frank’s operation over Gelsenkirchen Nordstern where he earnt the DFM for his bravery. Frank completed 35 operations and mentions the names of his crew. After the war Frank decided not to go back to horticulture but to become a teacher and states that the war had a decisive impact on his life.




Temporal Coverage




00:08:10 audio recording


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BB: We are going to erm, read some of his father’s notes, that he’s going to explain that
DJ: Disembarked and travelled to RAF Hednesford on the 16th of July 1946, then on the 20th of July with demob leave until the 30th of November 1946, to apply for a job and so ended my war time service of five years, nine months and twenty-eight days.
[recording paused]
BB: This is the interview with Mr Frank Jones’s son, Derek, as Mr Jones senior is, is an elderly gentleman and er, is, has a frail sounding voice, but he is present and er, he does give his permission. And so, I er, would just like to say that the meeting is being held in my house in Dunblane and it’s now twelve fifteen.
[recording paused]
DJ: I have found my Dad’s notes written in his own hand about his war time experiences. It covers in detail his enlistment, training camps, time abroad, how his crew were put together, bombing raids and his demobilisation, plus other interesting and unusual stories. They were written decades ago but they are primary source material and accurate. They will help with the recording and here is the information from those notes:
Prior to joining the forces in World War two, I had left school at sixteen and trained as a horticulturist with the Liverpool Corporation, having successfully passed my gardening exams, I decided to follow three of my brothers and join the forces. On the 1st of October 1941, I joined the RAF at Padgate, Warrington, aged eighteen. After basic training in England, I spent the next two years training in South Africa. I trained in Whitley, Anson and Oxford aircraft. The training included dinghy and parachute drills, I was continuously tested in subjects such as navigation plotting, astro navigation, compasses, maps and charts, instruments, reconnaissance and photography. I remember completing fifty hours in an Anson and twelve hours in an Oxford as detailed in my flying book. Er, when my training in South Africa was almost complete, I qualified as a navigator bomb aimer, at Queenstown, on the 29th of May 1943. In the following month on the nineteenth of June I qualified as an air gunner at ninety, er, No. 43 Air Gunners school.
Back in Britain, at the beginning of 1944, I continued flying training in the Whitley, this training was to hone my skills acquired in South Africa. My main role in those training flights was air-bomber, I also carried out simulation and bombing practice. My training in Whitley and Anson aircraft was at RAF Kinloss at No. 19 OTU, flying time totalled just over ninety-three hours. From May 1944 until June the 13th, there were more training flights, practising among other things, circuits and landings, three engine landings, bombing, fighter affiliation, instrument flying. By this time, I had completed two hundred and forty hours in the air since the beginning of my training. [pause]
I was based at RAF Lissett near Bridlington with 158 Squadron, whose motto was ‘Strength through Unity’. My crew for all the operations that I flew were, pilot Fred Meaden, Alf Shorter, Mac Harris, Ray Wells, Ron Evans and Dave Lockyer. On the twenty-third of June nineteen forty-four, I took part in my first op when we flew to [unclear] I was a bomb aimer, I was positioned in a streamline Perspex nose, with a single hand-held machine gun. From then on, I completed another thirty-four operations before being screened. I flew in a Handley Page Halifax Mk 3 with improved Bristol Hercules engines instead of the Merlin engine which was used in the Mk 2 Halifax. With a maximum speed of two hundred and eighty miles an hour and a range of twelve hundred miles fully loaded, the targets we went after were largely German industrial ones. [pause]
My, one of my most dangerous was the one in which I was awarded the DFM for, er, it was the 12th of September 1944 at Gelsenkirchen Nordstern, it was a daylight raid against a synthetic oil refinery. On the run-up to the target our aircraft came under heavy accurate flak and in the book, “In Brave Company”, Ray Wells, the flight engineer, described the attack as follows. ‘When pilot Fred Meaden arrived over the city, bomb aimer Flight Sergeant Jones was unable to pick out the aiming point through the banks of smoke and cloud, calmly he asked the pilot to make a second and then a third orbit, before he called, ‘bombs gone’. By this time, we had lost the main force and we turned to England as quickly as we could. The next morning our ground crew had found half of the rudder control cable severed by flak’. As my pilot Fred Meaden said in my citation for the DFM, I was always completely determined to press home the attack and to ensure the accuracy of my bombing, I frequently asked him to orbit the target.
BB: That must have been very annoying for the crew and very frustrating for the crew.
FJ: It was!
BB: But you had to get the picture and you had to get the photo of the last picture and you had to hit the target, so there was no, the pilot got you there, the gunners protected you, but you [emphasis] had to drop the bombs.
FJ: That’s right.
BB: And that was a very important part.
DJ: In total, I flew thirty-five sorties and my last one was on the 2nd of November 1944, on a night time raid to Dusseldorf. By this time, I’d completed two hundred and fifty-four hours of day time flying and a hundred and seventy-one hours of night time flying. Er, overall, I had fifty, fifty-five thousand men died in the air war and that is one in every two men who joined up. I was fortunate to be in 158 Squadron, which I believe had fewer losses than many other squadrons. Also, those flying in the Halifax Mk 3, suffered fewer casualties perhaps because of the improved ceiling limit and the greater manoeuvrability of the plane. When the war concluded, I decided that I would not return to my old job as a horticulturalist, instead I decided to become a teacher. Like so many of my generation the war had a decisive impact on my life and the course I followed thereafter.
BB: Thank you very much for reading that Derek and thank you very much Frank for telling us your story. It’s tremendously interesting to hear erm, these things first hand from people who were there, and that’s the whole point of this archive, so that generations in the future will benefit from your story and the stories of others, so thank you very much and we now will conclude this interview at twelve-thirty. Thank you very much indeed.



Bruce Blanche, “Interview with Derek Jones,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 17, 2024,

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