Interview with F N Larard

Title

Interview with F N Larard

Description

F N Larard discusses his training and operations as a rear gunner with 625 Squadron.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-07-17

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:14:10 audio recordings

Type

Identifier

ALarardFN150717

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

MJ: Now. It’s on. It’s ok.
LFNL: When I was on the reserve I was called to London and took a mathematics exam. Having passed the mathematics exam I had a medical examination and I was assessed as PNB, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer. From there I was eventually called up and I went to Air Crew Reception Centre, St John’s Wood, London. Warrant Officer Apse was the only man that mattered there. He was a very very great man and he was a hard disciplinarian but a fair man and he used to say, ‘If ballet dancers can be in step why can’t you lot who are supposed to have brains?’ From there I went to Initial Training Wing in Scarborough and when I was at Scarborough I realised that it was going to take me a long time to qualify as a pilot so I elected to be a rear gunner and so from Scarborough I went to Dalcross in Scotland and did my gunnery training at Dalcross in Scotland which is now Inverness Airport. From there, when I passed out I went to Peplow in Shropshire Operational Training Unit. It was on Wellingtons. John Marks was my skipper. Eventually we all teamed up in the hangar as, as was always done there and I joined, joined the Operational Training Unit at Peplow in Shropshire. When we passed out of Peplow, which might interest you, it must be civil servants that made Peplow’s runway because it sunk in to the ground halfway around and the air traffic control lost sight of you when you went down into the hole before you became airborne. From there we went to Lindholme. We were on Wellingtons then and then we went to Lindholme for heavy bomber conversion unit on to Halifaxes and it was the first time I realised about Canadian politics. At that time we’d got three Canadians in our crew and three Englishmen and our skipper decided when he wanted a flight engineer to select a Canadian. He did but when the rest of the crew knew he came from Quebec they said, ‘We’re not flying with him.’ So we had to change the flight engineer and the flight engineer eventually came from, where did he come from, Nottingham. He came from Nottingham and he joined us then and at Lindholme after the heavy bomber conversion unit we went on to the Lancaster finishing unit which was at the same time at, at Lindholme. From there when we passed out on Lancasters we went to 625 squadron at Kelstern near Louth. Eventually, when we’d been there a bit we were asked to volunteer for special duties at number 1 Group Special Duty Flight at Binbrook which we duly did and we moved over to Binbrook on the special duties flight. Group Captain Edwards VC was the commanding officer at Binbrook but he wasn’t our commanding officer. Our commanding officer was Air Commodore [Hoppie Raye] from number 1 Group headquarters at Bawtry. And from Binbrook, when we were training we went to St Tudwall’s Island off Wales every night to bomb a light in a, in a monastery. We didn’t know why. [We always had this light] we used to go and that was the special duty flight and we were trained to do that. And we’d already finished a tour actually of Binbrook on 625 but now we were being trained, we didn’t know it to bomb in Europe on marshalling yards and things like that, small marshalling yards and that’s what we did. On VE day we’d got a railway bridge to blow up that’s leading troops into into up to the British troops and so we realised what we were doing then but our crew stayed together even after the war. As I say we were three Canadians and four English. We stayed, we stayed friends and the only one apart from me that’s alive now is my skipper’s wife Pat who I’m still in touch with.
[machine pause]
MJ: You were saying.
LFNL: We were one of the few crews where every member of the crew got decorated.
MJ: That’s quite good.
LFNL: On 625 before we went to Binbrook and we were being trained then, and we didn’t know it to bomb specific targets for the battle, for the invasion of Europe so that’s what the special duties flight was about was accurate bombing. Saintes marshalling yard near Bordeaux we had to go on a bombing run where the prison was the first thing on the roadside, then the hospital and then the marshalling yard. We’d got to hit the marshalling yard. Unfortunately, we didn’t hit the hospital but we knocked the wall down of the prison. Our skipper, John Marks, felt very badly about having knocked the wall down of the prison at Saintes and when he was on holiday in France he went over to Saintes and he saw the mayor at Saintes and spoke to him and the mayor turned around and said, ‘Look. Yes, you killed a few Frenchman but I’ve got news for you. The Germans would have killed more the following day if you hadn’t so don’t feel too badly about it.’ And that happened at Saintes marshalling yard near Bordeaux.
MJ: Exactly what I mean.
LFNL: But the skipper, he wasn’t happy that he’d, that we’d killed some of the French prisoners in that camp but there you are. But as a crew we stuck together all the weathers, all the time. After the war all our families did, we stayed together. As I say we were an Anglo-Canadian crew and we had no fall outs. We went on leave together. The mid upper gunner came with me, the bomb aimer went with the skipper and that was that so the Canadians were the bomb aimer with the skipper yes oh and Gerry was with me and Tommy the navigator he, he always went to stay with friends down in the Worcester area.
[machine pause]
MJ: You’re on.
LFNL: Our drinking hole at the time was The Lifeboat at Cleethorpes and I’ll guarantee you that the man who ran The Lifeboat at Cleethorpes could tell you how many aircraft had gone missing the previous night by the lack of customers the next day but he looked after us very well, the landlord of The Lifeboat at Cleethorpes and then we used to go across the road from The Lifeboat to The Gaiety Dance Hall and have a dance before we went back to our units.
[machine pause]
LFNL: Bomber Harris’s eightieth birthday was celebrated at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. There must have been about six or seven hundred of us there. We presented him with a walking stick with a silver handle and it, everybody got up and cheered him. He was supposed to be the person that we weren’t supposed to know. Well we all did and we all stood up and cheered him and he said, ‘Y’know my lads. I made some errors and I cost you lives.’ And he meant that from the heart but anybody in that position of Lord Harris, of Sir Arthur Harris had to make decisions and some of them didn’t work out but he felt it very very much. He did care about his people. He cared a lot about his men but as he said, ‘In my position I made mistakes and cost you lives,’ and I know by the way he spoke he really meant that and it hit him so he hadn’t got the easiest job in the world either.
MJ: No. Right.
LFNL: What, some of the people I remember were the sergeant WAAF in charge of the air crew mess. She was fantastic. She used to see us off then be still there when we got it back. How she managed to get, do it I don’t know. It must have hurt her when some of the tables that were vacant when we got back. The other thing that I remember, two other lots of ladies I remember. Lady air traffic controllers basically were better than the men. And also I always felt for the ladies who transported us out to the aircraft. How they must have felt when they took crews out and then at night when we came back to find that their aircraft hadn’t come back. It must have hurt them a heck of a lot. But I’m sure the lady who was in charge of the, particularly at Kelstern, in charge of the mess there I’m sure she got a lot of food in from the local farmers fed in because the way she fed us we could never say we were hungry at Kelstern.
MJ: No. What made you think that the traffic controllers were better?
LFNL: They never panicked. The ladies never raised their voices at all. If you were coming in in fog and we have come in in some pretty bad fog that you wouldn’t include it as such now but when we came in their voice never changed. You might be having problems getting in because it’s ground control approach. Forget what you’ve got now for goodness sake. Then, all we’d got ground control approach which meant that the lady in the control tower was actually telling you what, where to turn, what speed to do and what height you were. She was guiding you in. She was guiding you in. You had no other. You hadn’t got anything inside the aircraft that was going to help you. She was doing it from radar.
MJ: Oh right. Yeah. [pause] Yeah.
[pause]
LFNL: I agree to what I’ve been saying. My name is Larry Larard. L A R A R D. Retired flight lieutenant Royal Air Force 183900 DFM. Message ends.
MJ: On behalf of the International Bomber Command Archive I’d like to thank Larry, oh sorry, Flight Lieutenant Larry Larard DFM for his recording in Thetford on the 17th of July 2015. Thank you very much.
LFNL: Thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Mick Jeffery, “Interview with F N Larard,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed August 5, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8863.

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