Interview with Frederick Limer


Interview with Frederick Limer


Freddie Frederick volunteered for the Royal Air Force and did a course in Blackpool. He was posted to No. 12 Initial Training Wing at St Andrew, although was unsuccessful in his flying test. Freddie was then trained at RCAF Moncton in Canada and posted to 31 Navigational School on Lake Erie. He came top in a bombing course at RCAF Fingal.
From Canada, Freddie went to RAF Staverton where he became a bomb aimer. He transferred to a unit where he crewed up and was made a flight sergeant. Further courses were taken on twin engine and four engine aircraft. In December 1944, Freddie was assigned to 149 Squadron at RAF Methwold, a satellite of RAF Mildenhall, where they converted onto Lancasters.
Freddie describes operations to Krefeld, Saarbrücken, Dresden and Kiel. He also was involved in two food drops to The Hague. They became known as Gee-H Squadron for their greater navigation accuracy. They did classified work doing line overlaps: photographs in sequence of certain areas in Germany. Freddie also refers to Cook’s Tours at the end of the war. He was involved in flying back prisoners of war from Juvincourt in France and Pomigliano in Italy.
After the war, Freddie was appointed bomb aimer at the RAF Bomb Ballistics Unit at RAF Martlesham Heath whose operations were secret. They flew in Lancasters and Mosquitos through Orford Ness, a peacetime experimental station, which tested the accuracy of a wide number of bombs.
After Freddie’s career in the plastics industry, he became a local councillor and chairman of the council. His housing work continued with various governance roles for a housing association.







01:36:40 audio recording


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AS: Okay that’s fine I think it’s working now. So this is Andrew Sadler interviewing Freddie Limer for the Bomber Command Archive on Thursday, 9th December, 2015, at his home in Epping. Thank you for speaking to us Freddie. Can I ask you to start off with how it was that you came to join the Royal Air Force?
FL: At the beginning of the war I was a management trainee, after a short while the company decided to discharge the, all the trainees when the war broke out, and I was er, on reporting to the Labour Exchange I was sent to work in a factory, and during my experience in the factory I learned how to weld, both arc and acetylene welding. And that company was a long way from my home so I decided to ask the Ministry of Labour if I could transfer, so I transferred to another company, an engineering company which was close to my home. There I was taught, eventually I was taught how to inspect taps and dies, it was on that job that I eventually decided that having learnt that the whole of the company, but more particularly inspectors of taps and dies [laughs], were reserved and couldn’t volunteer other than for special services. I enquired of the local recruiting station what these special services were, they listed, submarines in the Royal Navy, Tanks in the Royal Tank Regiment, as my brother was already a lieutenant in there I said, ‘To hell with that I didn’t want him as my commanding officer.’ Or aircrew in the Royal Air Force. I decided that I’d volunteer for aircrew in the Royal Air Force, as I had been left school by then quite a bit my maths was a bit weak so when I was eventually assigned a job in the Royal Air Force if was a, a wireless operator/gunner, and I reported eventually to Blackpool. I did a course at Blackpool and as during the period of my acceptance in the Air Force and my call up, I decided that I should try and swot up on my maths which I knew were weak at the time of my original enlistment. So at Blackpool once I’d got half the way through the wireless course I enquired and was allowed to apply for a reassignment. They gave me then a, a list of questions and mostly mathematical that I had to fill in which fortunately I was successful. They then posted me from Blackpool to Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, where the assembly there was the, er, full of pilot aircrew. After a, a few days there, fortunately it was close to my home, so I used to nip home from time to time, but after a few days there I was then posted to No. 12 ITW at St. Andrews. Did the course on the at St. Andrews and towards the end of the course the government had introduced a new system where each of the cadets coming through ITW’s had to take a twelve hour flying test with Tiger Moths. We were assigned to go to Scone in Scotland, only a comparatively short distance from St. Andrews. It was a grass runway, my two colleagues, the three of us used to go together. My two colleagues passed with flying colours, one of them soloed in four hours and the other soloed in seven, and they were obviously destined to be pilots in the Royal Air Force. Unfortunately I, on my solo, I had a slight mishap, I might point out that the aerodrome was a grass runway, they used to have these things cutting the grass with dirty great poles sticking up in the air with flags on, well one of them actually didn’t have a flag on when I finished my solo. So needless to say I, that terminated my possibility of becoming a pilot. I then was sent to a small unit which [telephone ringing].
AS: Okay there we go were on, sorry do carry on.
FL: I was then transferred back to Reception Centre in Heaton Park, Manchester. I was there for a few weeks before I was transported to Liverpool where we boarded the Queen Mary and were destined for New York, destined for Moncton the Reception Centre in Canada for all RAF aircrew, I was apparently going to be an observer. On our way over in the Queen Mary we’d learned that there were a few ships that we thought most unusual but we thought the Queen Mary would be used to travel over fast on its own, but there was in fact a cruiser some distance away, and further away there was a small ship that we thought might have been, er, a destroyer or something like that. Sure enough when we got to America one of the colleagues observed coming out of the one of the rear windows, rear doors rather, Winston Churchill, it apparently there was also the rest of the War Cabinet and this was of course when they were having a meeting with the President of the United States. From our point of view we learned that there was an epidemic at Moncton in Canada where we were supposed to go, therefore we were transported to Taunton, in Massachusetts in America onto an American Army Air Force Base. And we were told that we might be there for a few days, a few weeks, we didn’t know. However, it was a bit of a godsend going there because it was the first time most of us had ever tasted a T-bone steak, and in UK at that time the T-bone steak size was the equivalent of family’s month’s ration, it was enormous, most of us made ourselves very ill eating these. However, we didn’t do very much there other than give drill demonstrations to the Americans, then the epidemic was cleared in Canada and we went to Moncton. At Moncton as usual of course in the Air Force there’s a dirty great pile of people there and we were there for a number of weeks. One of the interesting features about Moncton was that having been there a long time they had then developed a, a, number of the blokes had developed a little variety show and they used to give this show approximately once a week. To our surprise when we first went to our first show the compere and comedian of this show was Jimmy Edwards, he was obviously destined for Canada for his pilot training. However, after that we were all posted off to our various stations. I was posted to a 31 Navigational School, er, and that was on, on, on Lake Erie, and completing the 31 Navigational School course which was basically navigation and other ancillary qualifications we were then posted to another station, Fingal, which was a bombing and gunnery station. At Fingal we, although I was only an intermediary as far as examination results from the navigation and the other qualifications, when we did the course at Fingal I was top of the class, or top of the course on bombing. The bombing was in fact a single target that you approached at different heights, and dropped single bombs and then the assessment was the pattern that you had created. For becoming the best bomb aimer on the course I was awarded a little, tiny little medal which is referred to as a pickle barrel which showed a bomb dropping into a barrel, I still have the, the little medal today. From there we were posted back to Moncton, from Moncton we were then transported to a port on the coast, Canadian coast and boarded a ship called the “Louis Pasteur”. The journey back on the “Louis Pasteur” was in fact a nightmare by comparison with our first class journey on the “Queen Mary”. I think everybody on that ship was sick, and we came back in hammocks from there, contrary to the lovely quarters we had had on the “Queen Mary”.
AS: So there we go.
FL: From the “Louis Pasteur” we were transferred once more to a holding unit, and I and others went on to Staverton to start our courses, but we were informed that our observer badge did not qualify, had being phased out, and that we had to select from our qualifications as an observer one of the requirements of a seven crew aircraft, i.e. Stirlings, Lancasters, and Halifaxes. And as I had qualified pretty high up in bombing I decided to become a bomb aimer. From there I, from Staverton doing courses on map reading and various other activities connected with bomb aiming. Unfortunately on one of the exercises we were obliged to descend rather rapidly because the pilot had received instructions that was enemy aircraft in the area. His descent caused my right to ear to split and I was therefore, when we landed I was in considerable pain, and I went into hospital and was there for ten days before they allowed me to come out, and then they indicated that there would be a short gap before I’d be allowed to fly again. The short gap elapsed and I then was transferred to a unit where all the aircrew of various categories were assembled, it was in RAF language a dirty big hangar which there were pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, gunners, the only missing person was the engineer, he arrived at a later stage in our training. From there we went, we, we assembled, and we were all NCO’s at the time, I was a little senior because I had been in the Air Force a little bit longer than most of them, and hearing the pilot also was senior, so within a short period of time we were made up to flight sergeants. During our crewing up and our training we did the usual courses in together, this exercise was in fact having to go onto twin engines as he had only been, most of his training had been on single engines. He, we did this together and part of this twin engine training was in fact part of an OTU, but on Wellington 10’s, we did that and we did, strangely enough we did two operations where they were supposed to be diversions, and we dropped window, after we’d done that we then, Ian then had, had to take various courses in converting to four engines. We went to a station, we were all together, went to a station where he was converted onto Stirlings, and from Stirlings we then proceeded, all of us at the same time were doing our various training and exercises so forth in the crew, and by then of course we had added to our crew an engineer. Engineers at that time were very junior they course was round about six to eight months, and within six to eight months were, they were crewed up and some of them were on the squadron, other crew members were of course much longer periods of time dependent on who they were. From there we proceeded to be assigned a squadron and we were assigned 149 Squadron which was in fact a satellite, of Mildenhall which was called Methwold. Ian was then converted onto Lancasters from the Stirlings, the pilot was converted on Lancasters to Stirlings, and the rest of us were of course at the same time doing various exercises of our own particular trades. After we’d completed the initial work on the Lancaster we were then assigned to operations and we started on our operations. The first one being over to a place in France and unfortunately the weather closed in on our return to Methwold and we were diverted to St. Eval in Cornwall, this was quite a harrowing experience for the pilot and the navigator, but the pilot came through with flying colours and eventually we landed at St. Eval and we had roughly about fifteen minutes fuel in our tanks. We stayed there overnight then returned to our base at Methwold. Have a break.
AS: So while we’ve been paused Freddie has shown me his log book and his first operation that he’s just described was on 11th January, 1945, and the operation was to bomb Krefeld [spells it out], and the second operation on 13th January, was to Saarbrucken [spells it out], and it was diverted to St Eval [spells it out]. Okay thank you very much. Shall we restart?
FL: Er, from, where were we, we’d just done our first operation.
AS: Yes to Krefeld, yes that’s how we, yes.
FL: Okay. All the other ops are in there.
AS: Oh yes. Good.
FL: Okay? Restart?
AS: Yep, yes we’re ready to go. So do you want to tell me about any other of your operations?
FL: One of the operations that was in fact somewhat hairy was the operation up for Dresden, later on in our number of ops, and there our navigational aids went wrong and we were virtually lost, we were however buzzed by a German aircraft which we learned later was a 262 one of Germany’s new jet fighters. It, we however got free of that, but then Ian the pilot who observed certain water marks, water areas that he considered were way, way off our track, and he suggested the navigator that we should now turn course north and go back to base, at the same time Ian and I, the pilot, discussed what we were going to do about the bomb load. We had observed the pair of us that we were over quite a large area of what we considered to be forest land or open fields, so it was decided that we jettison our bombs but that I should make them safe, we did so, and the bombs were released safe. We then proceeded on our course north as Ian had suggested and low and behold within about thirty minutes I observed that there was a city in front of us, or approximately in front of us, eventually the navigational aids having restarted Joe the navigator indicated that the possibility was that it was Paris, and sure enough it was Paris. From there the navigational aids appeared to come back to normal, we then set course and arrived back at base in due time, needless to say the interrogation of our crew particularly the navigator, and myself, and Ian the pilot, was pretty considerable in view of the fact that we had to, (a) not reach our target, and (b) jettison our bomb load. This was however accepted and nothing further was heard on this particular incident.
AS: And from your log here that would have been on 13th February, 1945, you’ve noted here to Dresden, and the pilot Ian, was Flight Sergeant Sturgess?
FL: Flight Sergeant Sturgess yes.
AS: So really you were, you really started with your first mission in January 1945, this was quite close to the end of the war?
FL: Oh yes, oh yes indeed, oh yes indeed. That’s my because I volunteered in 1941 the er, and my training had taken some time, the crewing up etcetera it was December ’44 because, before we arrived on the squadron, and our first operations were in January of that year, lots of the familiarity of the change of aircraft onto a Lancaster, and consequently our tour was conducted pretty late in the war.
AS: Yes, your in your log book here it’s Christmas Eve 1944, 24th December, with pilot, Flight Officer McKey, and your remarks are, ‘you were checking the circuit’.
FL: Well he was in fact instructing Ian broadly speaking on the use of the Lancaster aircraft from the Stirlings that we were that Ian had been trained on up to that stage.
AS: Yes, and you’ve got here that the flight was fifteen minutes, and then, and then there’s another flight the same day with Flight Sergeant Sturgess as the pilot, circuits and landings, twenty minutes.
FL: Yes, yes, well that’s familiarity with the Lancaster you see. Which from then on of course we, also in my operations you will observe in my log book that we did two food drops over some open ground outside The Hague.
AS: Oh right.
FL: And that was a particularly interesting feature because I was responsible for checking out the food drop, and for the food in the bomb bays as all bomb aimers were, and on the second trip I decided to obtain a little plastic bag and filled this with this stuff that I got from the NAAFI, as well as I’d put my flying rations in there, when I dropped the food on the second trip I dropped this little plastic bag with it with my little parachute that I’d put on with one of my handkerchiefs. It’s interesting on that particular point that after the war my mother received a letter from a lady thanking her for the little gift dropped. [laughs] Excuse me I’m going to cry. Little gift that she had hand dropped during the war and although the food was rather spoilt, most of it was spoilt there were some elements of the food that were edible.
AS: Oh how nice. [laughs]
FL: That letter incidentally I took back from my mother, I gave it and talked about it to one of my sisters, who had a Dutch friend after the war, and she accepted the letter, and that letter I’m given to understand is in the war time section of the Dutch Museum in —
AS: So when, I see here you’ve got one of the operations marked here as “Cooks Tour” would that have been the dropping of the food?
FL: No, no, no. At, when operations were in fact, bombing operations were ceased by the RAF, some squadrons, ours happened to be what is known as a GH Squadron.
AS: Yes.
FL: Which was an extended version of G which could in fact navigate with greater accuracy, we then were assigned to do what were known as line overlaps, photographs of certain areas of Germany. Oh yes, this at the time was in fact classified as being secret.
AS: And looking at your log here in April ’45 it would appear that you only did two operations, one was Kiel, and you put the “Admiral Scheer” sunk so presumably that would have been against a ship?
FL: On that particular operation that you refer to, Kiel, I [phone ringing]
AS: You were just about to tell me about the operation to Kiel.
FL: One of my operations I flew with a crew other than my own, it was an Australian pilot, the rest of the crew were British, but the destination was Kiel Harbour, and we were given the target of the “Admiral Scheer” which was docked there with other battleships, and we carried only one bomb, it was a twelve thousand pounder, and we were given to understand it was for the armour piercing. Several of us in squadron had this, this particular bomb, and several of us claimed that we had dropped our bomb on the “Admiral Scheer” and sunk it because we learned later that the “Admiral Sheer” was sunk, and as there were about thirty odd aircraft there and they were all bombing the same targets it was doubtful whether any one of us could claim individually that we were the person who sunk the “Admiral Scheer”, but we all did. [laughs]
AS: Yes, so, and I’ve just found in your log here that on 3rd and 8th May 1945 were the dates where you’ve put here special operation to The Hague, food, two hours twenty-five, and two hours fifteen minutes each flight.
FL: They, they were conducted, the bombing height was two hundred feet, which was pretty low in a Lanc, and we weren’t sure whether of course the Germans were going to shoot us or not at that time, fortunately none of us on our squadron had any mishap at all on that particular operation.
AS: And then you’ve got —
FL: Other operations that we did what were known as line overlaps, these were photographs taken in sequence over what was known as a square search, where the aircraft proceeded over one course and reversed over the next adjacent course and photographs were taken of those and they were referred to as line overlaps, the cameras were operated by myself on the instructions of the navigator as and when to start. I did a few of those operations, but they I think were confined to a couple of squadrons in 3 Group. At the end of the war of course the ground crews were all very interested in what was happening or what had happened so we did an operation or two what we referred to as “Cooks Tours”, taking ground staff piled into the aircraft to observe what had happened to some of the near targets on the Ruhr. One or two of them were females, and they were, it’s a little bit uncomfortable of course in a Lancaster for people trying to observe, and there were some very near misses where people trod on the wrong thing but they went off successfully. Another interesting feature on one of the operations that we did, when we proceeded from the perimeter track round the main track to get to the runway the gunners used to have to, on each operation, test the traverse of their turrets and their guns, the rear turret in particular and the mid-upper, but on one occasion the rear gunner had what is known as a runaway, the strange thing about that was he had the runaway when we were passing the guard room and he was reprimanded for this for carelessness but no further action was taken. Another incident when we first arrived at the aerodrome on proceeding to the guard room to sign in, we observed that behind the main counter of the guard room there were a long line of coffins, and when our little mid-upper gunner, Titch Holmes, saw these, he screamed out, ‘Bloody hell.’ And we thought that that was quite appropriate considering that we’d just arrived on the squadron. [laughs] That’s one or two of the incidents on the squadron which. After the war I was appointed by the squadron commander as the designated rather as the bomb aimer to go to Royal Air Force Bomb Ballistics Unit at Martlesham Heath. I was in fact on selection appointed to this and I then served from May 1946 until August 1948, during that time the operation, the operations at that time were secret but I should imagine now the secrecy of that itself not particularly important, but our role there, I was the only bomb aimer on that unit. There were several pilots and we, our role was to fly from Martlesham Heath to Woodbridge at Woodbridge, as most bomber command people will know was the emergency aerodrome for bomber command and had a runway which was exceptionally long, and it was said that light aircraft could take off on the width of the runway. Most of our loads then were the single bombs as a general rule and they were loaded at Woodbridge, we took off from there and flew through Orford Ness, over Orford Ness we were then guided by radar, they informed us what height they wanted us to travel, what speed, and therefore we had to release the bombs on their instigation, they then tracked the bombs which then landed on the marshes at Orford Ness and we then proceeded back to base to reload or merely rest. The aircraft we used for that operation were Lancasters for the heavier bombs and altitudes up to about fourteen, fifteen, sixteen thousand feet, and then we had the Mosquito which we used for high altitude up to thirty-two thousand feed, this was the first time that I had been involved in a Mosquito, and as you know the Mosquito only has a two man crew and therefore I was obliged to bring in the fact that I had been trained as a navigator as well as a bomb aimer. We did several trips like in the Mosquito, as well as the Lancaster, and eventually we had finished or what appeared to have been finished our operations with that unit. It took approximately eighteen to twenty months to do this and after that we then rested from that type of activity. The station at Martlesham Heath was in fact a peace time aerodrome, mainly dealt with experimental, but in war time the Americans used it, and we released it from the Americans when we took over the Bomb Ballistics Unit. We spent most of our time, I think the airmen spent most of their time clearing the gum from underneath all the tables and chairs in the various messes. The mess at Martlesham Heath, the officer’s mess was a delightful place, there were of course only about eighteen serving RAF officers there but we had quite a number of boffins, scientists who were in fact members of the mess, and I had the unfortunate duty of being assigned the catering officer of the mess and I took that like a duck to water, and also I had a colleague there called Reg Kindred, who was the adjutant of BLEU [?], he was minus his left leg, he was a pilot and had been shot down over France in a Manchester a twin engine aircraft that was doomed to failure. He was repatriated to the UK by the Germans on the grounds that he would not be able to fly again, and this was truly the case because he then became an adjutant and he and I were buddies on RAF station.
AS: Good.
FL: I had one or two interesting duties when I was at Martlesham, as I previously said I was made assigned catering officer of the officer’s mess, when my colleague Reg Kindred left he er, he was the bar officer I had to take on that role as well, which I did with relish. I was responsible for getting beer and what have you from the various breweries, we used to get beer from Cobbolds in Epping in Ipswich and we always used to get other beers, but Cobbold’s beer at the time you used to get as much as you liked, all we had to do was order it and they used to send little trucks along with it, ‘cos it was generally known in the mess as “Cobbold’s piss”, ‘cos it was so weak, in those days some of the beer was very weak, but we used to get beer from Fremlins, which is a delightful beer but that was very rationed, and there was a great deal of hard work done as to who had more Fremlins than had more Cobbold’s. [laughs]
AS: So when you were dropping bombs on Orford Ness what was the point of that?
FL: The point of that was Orford Ness was in fact a peace time experimental station and they were in fact tracking the bombs to test various faculties about them.
AS: Right.
FL: Their speed of acceleration, accuracy of other elements of it, but broadly speaking that was, with all the bombs they were testing the accuracy of the bombs in their release from an aircraft at a given speed to given height as to how accurate their trajectory was in hitting the target that they had assigned.
AS: Oh right, so all your entries in your log in 1947 were obviously just really you’ve got lots of entries saying bombing and then the number of feet.
FL: Yeah, well at the time you see we were restricted because it was comparatively secret then, we were restricted as to stating too much fact in there, and also we were restricted in stating the bombs that we were using, but on one occasion when we were dropping a twelve thousand pounder we’d picked it up from Woodbridge it dropped off as we were taking off, and the aircraft rose like a god almighty rocket and we were obliged not to put that into our log book, ‘cos it was felt that it was put in there it had to be recorded and the airmen who were responsible for fitting that would be court martialled, and we were kindly advised not to put it in our log book. But you might find in my log book that I have slipped in one of them when we dropped a twelve thousand pounder, twelve thousand pounds in there.
AS: Oh right.
FL: But as a rule we didn’t state the bombs that we were dropping, that was the general rule not to do so, but we dropped practically every type of bomb, other of course than the “Cookie”, the four thousand pounder which I think nobody arrived what it’s trajectory was it arrived on the target sometimes I think or somewhere near the target, but each bomb load that the RAF carried or bomber command carried invariably carried a “Cookie” which was in full of course high explosive.
AS: And you’ve got entrances in here for June ’46, photography and radar runs, and training programmes, air tests, and then you’ve got ferrying ex-prisoners of war in May ‘45?
FL: Yes, it was, it was after the war between my leaving the squadron, or rather not leaving the squadron, the end of my time in the squadron, the crews then were being split up. The senior pilots like mine was in fact transported away somewhere else or released, and the junior pilots then took over and we were assigned to a, a, collect POW’s from, POW’s that had been in the bag for a long time from France, from [unclear], and also we collected about eighteen, seventeen or eighteen of those at a time, we didn’t carry the gunners at all, we had an engineer and I was the marshall of the, the bomb aimer as I was, was the marshall ensuring that the men were properly placed inside the aircraft so that they didn’t in fact cause too much possibility of damage or, or accident. There was one accident I understand but one squadron to that, er, aircraft crashed and there were some fatalities in that, but we didn’t have any of that possibility. Later on as well as collecting POW’s from Europe we also went out to Fermignano[?] in Italy to collect POW’s from there, but we only did the one trip because we found it was far too uncomfortable for soldiers in the main to be housed in an aircraft like the Lancaster for such a long journey, and I think that was discontinued as it was felt it was far better for them to be transported by boat, although it took longer, it was far more safe and comfortable to do that, we only did the one trip from Fermignano [?] which is Naples of course. But when we were there of course we were there for three or four days because the weather had closed in and some of us had the opportunity of being escorted up Vesuvius, and that was quite an experience rather hot underfoot, but, but it was quite enlightening.
AS: How long were you in the RAF after the war finished?
FL: From the end of the war up to 19 November 1948.
AS: Oh gosh.
FL: Which was quite a while, I haven’t worked it out precisely, but that was the period of time. Because I was at Martlesham from June ’46 until August ’48.
AS: How many operational sorties did you do altogether then there?
FL: Actual operations over Germany, only twenty-two.
AS: Twenty-two that’s still quite a lot.
FL: Well the tour was thirty you see.
AS: Yes.
FL: But the, my tour was made up of the operations that our squadron did, line overlaps the photographic thing because there was still the possibility then of possible accident, or possible enemy fire, but although the war was over. Even when we dropped this food over Holland and we were warned then that there were still some Germany people who were a little bit trigger happy, I think one or two aircraft did in fact experience single bullet hitting their aircraft, we didn’t at all we had very comfortable two trips.
AS: When you finally demobbed from the RAF how did you fit back into civilian life?
FL: Very slowly and I immediately decided that I should get back into earning my income because my gratuity from the RAF we all felt was rather paltry, I think I received two hundred and eighty-seven pounds, and if you want to find that two hundred and eighty-seven pounds you’ll find it at the Valentine Pub in Ilford [laughs] with the other chaps that were being demobbed at the time, mainly RAF some Naval, there were about eight of us used to go to the Valentine and we had regular visits to the Valentine Pub and eventually we were running out of cash we then all were obliged to start thinking about earning a respectable income because we were then placed on the dole as it was called in those days. But I decided to take a refresher course with a company in Holborn on sales and marketing and that was around about six weeks, after that I decided on information that I had received to visit the Officers Re-employment Unit just outside Victoria Station, and I was fortunate enough to be able to get in touch with a company called Bakelite, where once more fortunately the sales manager there was an ex major in the Army and I found that the, the eight salesmen eventually they took on were all ex-service, either warrant officers, officers, warrant officers and sergeants, no other ranks were part of the his crew of trainee representatives, some of them had already been there before me and were in fact quite senior. But I, the course I then had to take was to, I was placed in the Wearite [?] division of Bakelite which is the plastic with the decorative plastic division, and then I was assigned to go to Victoria report there, and from there I was sent to Ware in Hertfordshire where I did a six week course in what laminated plastics were all about and what Wearite [?] was all about, and I enjoyed that very much because it was in the factory learning lots of skills that I’ve never ever thought that I would experience. I eventually we, from there I was then transferred back to the London office and there I was given an area that I was to cover as a, as they termed us technical representative, because we weren’t salesmen we were trying to get people to become distributors of the product, we didn’t sell direct to anybody, and also to train people in precisely how to use the laminated plastics at the time.
AS: After you left the RAF did you keep in touch with your comrades in your crew?
FL: I didn’t keep in touch with any of the comrades in the crew because we dispersed, it wasn’t until about a year later when I was, nearly two years later when I was married and living in my present house that somebody had phoned my parents’ home in Barkingside and asked whether Fred Limer was there and they indicated that he had died. The people who lived in that house got in touch with me and let me know what had happened, and I said, ‘Well the person who died of course was my father and whoever you informed you have informed him that I was dead.’ However, they fortunately they had taken the individuals telephone number and name, they passed it on to me and it happened to be my pilot, Ian Sturgess, so I got the telephone number and decided I’d phone him up. [laughs] I phoned Ian and when he came on the phone I said, ‘Ian Sturgess, this is Freddie Limer raised from the dead.’ I heard him go, I heard him go. He was then managing a farm, he was a farmer, managing a farm, anyway we had a long conversation and then eventually I went down to see him in where he was managing this farm and then we continued our association together, and as I had then become a member of the Bomber Command Association, I used to go to their functions a number of times a year, and Ian was not a member of any of this, I invited Ian twice a year to come to the AV, the AGM and also the Autumn meeting and they were luncheons and things and I used to meet Ian on those occasions, when I first met him on those occasions he indicated that he thought that I had not changed a bit, and I felt exactly the same thing about him, we were both lying of course [laughs] we’d got very much older. And I saw Ian for a long time after that and eventually I was informed by Elizabeth his wife that he had fallen and had fractured his hip and he was very unwell and he had in fact died and that arrangements were made for his funeral etcetera but it was strictly private family affair, but they were holding a wake and a reception and that I would, if I would like to come, and my wife the, and daughter would be delighted to see us. Later on when I gave an article to the local paper and gave them a photograph of our crew, I was, the reporter whom I knew, reported about the food dropping exercise and the picture was noted by a young person living in Lowton [?] a nearby town, and she said that one of the crew as her father, which happened to be Joe Siddell [?] the navigator.
AS: Oh gosh.
FL: So she told her father about it and Joe came along and saw me, so we had a long chat. I’ve seen him since he now can’t drive apparently he had a prang with his motorcar but he lives not too far away from Elizabeth, Ian Sturgess the pilot’s widow, not too far away from there. And from time to time I get in touch with him on the phone. So they’re the only two members of the crew, I did learn that Dagwood, or rather Wilfred Oxford, the engineer, had in fact died, but I haven’t heard anything about the gunners. I beg your pardon, I had heard about Bill Buckle, the wireless operator, he was a villain on the squadron, he was a woman chaser, but he eventually, according to Joe Siddell, the navigator, he moved out to Australia, because he’d gone out with some people that he’d learned on the squadron, known on the squadron, and was now living in Australia with his family and was quite prosperous. But other than that the other crew members, oh I beg your pardon once again, I heard from Titch Holmes, the gunners, the mid-upper gunner’s son phoned me one time, he phoned me because he’d seen in the press about my MBE and he wondered whether his father could come and see me, but I learned from Ian that Titch had been to see him but he was, um, Ian didn’t like, like him too much because he was trying to sponge money out of him, and I thought when the son phoned up and asked if he could see me, I said, ‘Well it would be inconvenient for him, for me to see him.’ So I never did see Titch. I wasn’t very keen on Titch he was a little miner about the size of two happeth of pennies, but he was as strong as an ox, and he frequently got into scraps in the, in the pubs when we used to go and have drinks together, and one time he took a swipe, took a swipe at me, fortunately I got out of the way of it, but as boxing was in fact my main hobby. But no apart from that, members of the crew, it’s only because I’ve been thinking about it and reflecting on it that I remember these incidences of remembering these, these people. But as I say after the war I did this course, sales and marketing, joined Bakelite, rose to be the manager of the, after about ten years rose to be the manager of the Midlands area, decided because I couldn’t have the financial arrangements with them without moving house etcetera, I decided to leave Bakelite because I’d been offered a directorship in one of my customers’ companies and they’d offered me a quarter of the shares of the company, but they were wanting me to manage the company for them, and manage the sales and marketing in general, which I did for about ten years. Eventually the, we were paid, paid the same salary each and also the same bonuses each but eventually they the other three decided that they wanted to retire, and they retired we agreed to sell the company, but I had to agree with them because they would have outvoted me to a young couple, well one of them wasn’t all that young but he was a qualified accountant. But the other three left but they asked me if I would be prepared to stay with the company for about twelve months and would pay the same salary that I receiving now and bonuses but they would also put a respectable amount of money into my pension fund which it sounded attractive so I stayed with them for that period of time. In fact it went further than a year, and eventually I left when they decided that they were moving to a much larger factory and became a much larger company, the company is called Decraplastics, it’s pretty large now, much larger than it would have been with my three colleagues and I. I left them and I came, decided that I would get involved locally with activities in my town of Epping. I was in a pub once talking to a friend, and I said, and I talked to him about the fact that I thought that having lived in Epping for a quite while it’s about time I got interested in doing some activities or others. He said, ‘Well interesting, I’ll, er.’ Next day I received a phone call from a friend of his saying ‘I understand —‘ From then on I did in fact decide to become a councillor, and in 1965 I was elected as a councillor on the Epping Urban Council, and found on the council that the activities the council did were activities which I, I, I, I found I had a lot of interest in. Some of them [?] and I was made chairman of the housing committee, I took like that, to that like a duck to water, thoroughly enthralled by it, and I was chairman for a few years and decided that having revamped the whole idea of the council house both the waiting lists etcetera, we decided that we would commit people with the financial resources to do so to buy their council houses, and in mid 1960’s we decided to do this. At the same time people also wanted to, I decided that people who were under occupying their council houses, like on investigation we found that there were couples who were in three bedroom houses, there were elderly in accommodation most unsuitable for them, there were some single persons in three bedroom accommodation which was very wasteful considering we had a quite sizeable housing waiting list. So we then set about planning to build and did build housing suitable for the elderly, apartments in the main, that were managed by a manager or a warden or whatever you want to call it, and that they would be transferred there, we found that some of them didn’t have the resources to [coughs] to finance their removal so we assisted in that direction. There were several buildings that we eventually built to house these people and a lot of the houses one they were then vacated for and we cleared off our housing list, at that time was somewhere in the region of about four hundred, we cleared the whole lot off and a lot of people started buying their council houses. Which then of course a reorganisation took place in 1973, and I was then the having been the chairman of the council twice, I was the senior councillor who led the team in the reorganisation set up which four other three other local authorities were involved and we, we it was decided the way we would set up what was then became a new district council. The new district council then had a population of one hundred and twenty thousand, from the fact that we had started off with our council having about fifteen thousand was somewhere in the region of an enlargement.
AS: When you were selling off the properties what was the rationale behind that?
FL: Mainly because a lot of the people that were living in there had indicated that they didn’t want to move because they had jolly nice neighbours, they’d spent quite a lot of their own money building up there houses and they felt they would like to stay there. We inspected a lot of houses to try and verify this, added to which I was fortunate enough to have a councillor that had been retired who also was a past schoolmaster who kindly agreed to get a team of people, half a dozen people [coughs], ex councillors etcetera to do an investigation of the houses for me to get a clearer picture of who lived in the houses, what their attitudes were broadly speaking etcetera, and this was the picture that we got was the considerable under occupation, a fair amount of people who had lived in their homes and felt they didn’t want to move because they’d spent a lot of money improving them etcetera, they would like to buy them if they could. It was on these grounds that, I would say persuade the council that we should sell the houses to the tenants. Wasn’t all that many, I mean it was a fair number, but the urban council only had council houses of about twelve hundred or more, and then beg your pardon, twelve thousand or more, and the task wasn’t a great task being a salesman by trade or by occupation broadly I found this exercise to be rather fulfilling and of course my colleagues realised that [coughs] I knew what I was talking about. Anyway that went through fairly successfully and I say right up to reorganisation.
AS: And this was something that you decided at the council rather than part of the Conservative policy.
FL: Oh no, no, no, no. I wasn’t interested in Conservative. Although I’m by political indic, indication a Conservative I’m just about a Conservative, just about a Conservative. On many of the, I was totally opposed to nationalisation that what swung me in favour of being a Conservative because the Labour Party at the time of course were very, very much in favour of nationalisation. But it’s with that I strong, I didn’t have strong political attitude because I wasn’t really a politician when I first became a councillor.
AS: Were you standing on behalf of a Party or?
FL: I was standing on behalf of the Conservative Party, that’s broadly speaking why we got in, because at that time the swing was towards Conservatism in the district and we swept at that, within two years we swept all of the Labour and Liberal, as they were in those days Liberal not Liberal Democrats, Liberals off the council so the twelve of us at that time were all Conservative, when I was then became the senior councillor. But as I say when reorganisation took place in 1973 urban councils then were abolished, town councils were created, which my group myself created Epping Town Council, but we also became part of creating, six of us became part of creating the Epping Forest District Council which had fifty-seven, fifty-seven councillors, but unfortunately of course we only had six, therefore we were for the first couple of years not even considered until they found out that some of us knew what we talking about and from my point of view they knew what I was talking about when I talked about housing so I was persuaded, I persuaded them to let me become chairman of the housing committee. After I’d been chairman of the housing committee and started my usual process of right to buy continuation we started drawing in, buying in houses that were in our area that belonged to other councils, Walthamstow, Waltham Abbey, there were some there, they were GLC council houses in here, we bought all of those out and brought them back into our own fold in the Epping Forest District. I initiated broadly speaking the policy in relation to that and then of course after having done that as I say I was invited by the World of Property Housing Association to join them if I would care to. I did join them and then became a member of that particular organisation which after about twelve months decided to, to extend their activities and alter their name to Sanctuary Housing Association which is well known today. They made me, or persuaded me to become chairman of Essex Committee, then they persuaded me to become chairman of the Hertfordshire Committee, then they joined those committees together and asked me to be chairman of both the committees, the joint committees. Later they invited me to become member of central council which I, all of this is voluntary in my particular case.
AS: Yes.
FL: And costing me.
AS: Yes.
FL: Apart from the fact I got travelling expenses and when I was away for a long time I had lunch and all the other things catered for, but that’s all, I wasn’t paid. I was opposed to payment at that time [coughs]. Anyway the procedure with Sanctuary was more or less similar to my procedure in the council, I became vice-chairman of the council of the association, appointed also manager of a group that were responsible for the development of Shadwell Basin [?] because there was a large piece of ground on there owned by the housing association and they wanted to develop it, and we developed that into a large block of flats, beside on one side of the basin they were about eight detached houses. The detached houses were sold, the flats initially were let but a lot of people once more wanted to buy them and there was no objection if they wanted to pay the right price which Sanctuary agreed to do. Then on the other side of Sanctuary there was another piece of ground there that we developed that and there we confined it to rental, but we confined the rental to nurses, firemen, policemen, and one or two of the other, doctors as well, who wished to be locally located, a lot of those were rented together and there were roundabout I think about two hundred, say two hundred, two hundred, I think it was two hundred and ten, and they were all let, but eventually of course a lot of those people wanted to buy them and eventually they started buying them as well.

AS: I think that one of the problems in London is that properties have become so valuable that they cease to becomes, they’re very much investment opportunities.
FL: Yes. Oh with Sanctuary I then as I say I became vice-chairman of the central council and by then I’d been with Sanctuary about ten years, eight, ten years and they wanted to persuade me to take on the duties of the chairman which I refused, but I did accept the duties of the chairman of the special projects committee, and that was the most gratifying committee that I found. And today Sanctuary is the largest Housing Association in the country and also I’m pleased to say that they are doing a lot of care facilities for people and in a nice good way, and also a lot of, um, they started letting people buy some of their houses but I don’t think they were enthusiastic about it, which I didn’t push, but ultimately of course I was getting on a bit and decided when I was seventy-nine that I’d had enough and I discussed with the chief executive and the treasurer, two very good friends of mine by then, that I was going to retire. They regretted it but understood, and I graciously after persuasion by some of the members of the committee I understand gave me a crate of my favourite red wine when I retired, which I so enjoyed, and I did leave Sanctuary regrettably but I think it was inevitable, and I’m pleased to say that as time as gone by, I’m still in touch because I’m still a member and still life president although that role is a non-entity really, but unfortunately most of the council members are now paid. The chief executive and treasurer have got salaries that I think are higher that the Prime Minister’s but that is I’m afraid life now that people are paid these monies in order to, the organisation to attract the most skilled people they’ve got lawyers, managers, what have you on their committees, so that they are in fact as I say the most financially balanced housing association in the country but, and the chief executive I understand recently awarded a CBE,. which in the past being slightly socialistic he wasn’t inclined to want, but I think the grade of CBE I think attracted him a little bit more than an M or an O and I think that, that I believe changed his mind. I’m still in touch with David and treasurer, not very much, I occasionally get acquainted with their activities but I’m gradually receding into the background, I’m still filling in an annual little return about what activities that are going on and what I think of them and the people that are on the central council which I’ve got no jurisdiction over at all so it’s just a question of fill the paper in and sign it I do that annually. They used to send me a catalogue, a diary at one time, but they don’t anymore which I regret very much because it was a damn good one. [laughs] But there you are it’s closing down at the age now of ninety-four given up most of my activities when I was eighty, I regret to say that when I retired from the Epping Forest District Council, having been disgustingly fit most of my life I then bumped up against one or two health problems which am fortunate enough to have skilled doctors, and skilled practitioners, specialists in our local hospital whom I became very friendly with and they were very, very accommodating, and I have been cured of most of those activities the only thing that I do now is take quite a number of pills and I never walk fast these days in case I rattle. [laughs]
AS: Thank you very much Freddie I’m very grateful for the opportunity to hear your story.



Andrew Sadler, “Interview with Frederick Limer,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 14, 2024,

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