Interview with Fred Logan


Interview with Fred Logan


Fred joined the Royal Air Force in Sheffield on 4th December 1940 and was accepted as a direct entry fitter. He went to the training school in Hednesford, where he was taught about engines, and was then posted on Stirlings to 7 Squadron. From RAF Oakington, he went to RAF Waterbeach where they flew Stirlings with the 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit. Fred’s role was on the engines which were subject to a series of inspections. He loved his work on engines. Fred then went to RAF Stradishall, followed by RAF North Luffenham. He applied to be an aeronautical inspector and passed his examinations at RAF Filton. Fred was posted to Tura-el-Asmant in Egypt where he inspected many engines. He describes the inspection work, which took place in the caves, and the camp.

After the war, Fred returned to the colliery, eventually becoming mobile plant engineer.




Temporal Coverage




00:22:42 audio recording


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AM: Okay so this interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre, the interviewer is me, Annie Moodie, and the interviewee is Fred Logan. The interview is taking place at Fred’s home in Wath-on-Dearne, and it’s 27th August 2015. So what I’m going to ask you first Fred if that’s all right is just to tell me a little bit about where you were born, and, and your family, what your parents did, brothers and sisters things like that, where you went to school. So where were you born first of all?
FL: Where I was born, I was born in Firth Road, at, is it in Brampton or Worsbrough?
Other: Brampton
FL: Brampton, yes, Firth Road, yeah, and when I was six months old we moved into a brand new council house at the top of Oak Road in Wath-on-Dearne, it was the second house from the top and beyond that was the racecourse, Swinton Racecourse, yes.
AM: What did your parents do, what did your mum and dad do?
FL: Ah, well me mum was a housewife obviously, but me father he, he worked down the Wath Main Colliery, he was a collier down Wath Main yeah. He served during, he served during the First World War as a captain in the 6th Battalion York Lancaster Regiment, yes.
AM: Crickey. Did you have any brothers and sisters?
FL: Yes, yes I had, er –
Other: Two brothers.
FL: Three brothers and one sister, one of me brothers died when he was nine months old, that was Eric. One died brothers died when he was sixteen years of age, he had appendicitis and peritonitis, he was just sixteen. Me brother died a few years ago he was the eldest in the family, and I had one sister that was all and she died a year ago.
AM: Right.
FL: Yes.
AM: Where did you go to school Fred?
FL: Wath Victoria School, and I am very, very proud to tell you that when I left the school at the age of fourteen, I was the top boy in the top class, so well I would say I was top of the school,.
AM: You were.
FL: Yeah I left school at fourteen and I went to work down at Manvers Main Colliery then, I got a job down there and during the, up to being twenty, almost twenty I was studying engineering at Rotherham Technical College, got, got quite a few certificates of course. And when the war broke out in December 4th, which was mum’s birthday, I joined the Royal Air Force.
AM: Why did you join the Air Force as opposed to the Navy or the Army?
FL: Well I was twenty years of age, and I thought well if I don’t join the Air Force, well at my age I shall be called up and they’ll put me where I don’t want to be it’s either in the Army or the Navy, so I’m going where I wanted to go. And I saw my manager, Mr. Carr, he was a lovely person and I explained it, I said, ‘I’d like to go Mr. Carr with your permission.’ Because I would have been in a reserved occupation. He said, ‘You can go with my blessings.’ He said, ‘Rest assured if you go through the war your jobs open for you when you get back.’ And on the strength of that I joined the Royal Air Force.
AM: Where did you go to join up?
FL: Sheffield, and they asked me what I wanted to be and I told them and I said I’ve got me engineering certificates. They said, ‘Well we’ll give you a little, a few questions about engines.’ You know, ‘What’s this and what’s that?’ It was just like water off a duck’s back to me I knew everything. They said, ‘Well if you want to go in, instead of doing a flight mechanics course and then going back, we’ll accept you as a direct entry fitter.’ Which they did, and I went to, I went to a place called Hednesford, that was a training school there, there was two wings for airman, one wing for WAAFs, and the other wing was for the Fleet Air Arm, and I went there, and then from there I was posted to 7 Squadron.
AM: Tell me a bit more about Hednesford, what did you do there?
FL: It was a training school, and they taught you all, well you taught you all about engines every bit, they took an engine to pieces and they explained every part of every one, and funnily enough I’ve still got me books in there yeah.
AM: Yeah. Was it different, well it must have been different then the engines you’d been working on at the colliery?
FL: Oh yes, yes, well the ones at the colliery were all in line engines, the one’s I was introduced to were radio engines, and they weren’t only what they call poppet valve engines they were sleeve valve engines, Bristol Hercules Sleeve Valve Engines.
AM: You’ll have to tell me a bit more about that, what’s that mean?
FL: It’s very, very technical.
AM: Ooh.
FL: To explain the difference between a poppet valve engine and a sleeve valve.
AM: But they’re different?
FL: Yeah, they are different in a poppet valve engine you have valves like a car with springs and everything the valves open, but in the sleeve valve engine you have a sleeve that, that you works like that.
AM: Yeah.
FL: And there’s, I don’t know how to explain this, pieces cut out you get so far that lines up with the inlet side of it and lets special air come in then as it goes further up it closes and then when it’s fired and it comes back down it lines up with the other one and the exhaust goes like that there, so there’s no valves there’s just what you call a junk head.
AM: Did you find it easy to change from the one to learning about the other?
FL: No problems at all, no problems. And later on I went down to, they sent me down to Bristol and they had a training school there and they taught you about the different radio engines that they manufactured, they taught you all about those, and at the end of a fortnight you had to sit an exam which I did and of course it was no problem.
AM: Easy peasy.
FL: No problem, I got ninety-three per cent. [laughs]
AM: Oh what about the other seven?
FL: Oh I don’t know.
Other: But you don’t you remember —
FL: I missed a few dots and commas there I think.
AM: Ah.
FL: Yeah, but it was, it was at Filton and this place wherever we went, this school it had been a blind school all blind people went there, and when the war broke out it was right next to Filton where they were manufacturing the aircraft, so that if they’d have tried to bomb that place they would have bombed the blind school so they moved all the blind people out and then they made it a training school for, for Air Force engineers.
AM: Right. So how long were you there for’ish?
FL: I think the course itself was I don’t whether it was two or three weeks something like that, yeah.
AM: What sort of people were on the course with you, what had?
FL: They were nearly all fitters from, from different squadrons.
AM: Right.
FL: I enjoyed it there, enjoyed it there yeah, I did.
AM: And then where next after that?
FL: I, what from Wokington, 7 Squadron, that was at just outside Cambridge, and at the other side of Cambridge there’s a place called Waterbeach, it’s on the main road between Cambridge and Ely.
AM: Yes.
FL: And they were flying Stirlings from there with 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit and I was posted there on Stirlings.
AM: Right, so that was 7 Squadron?
FL: Yeah.
AM: Right okay.
FL: They were Stirlings at the time.
AM: Yeah.
FL: Then I went on to Stirlings at Waterbeach.
AM: How long were you at 7 Squadron for?
FL: I can’t remember that love its —
AM: Oh don’t worry.
FL: No times and days.
AM: [laughs].
FL: I almost forgot what they called it. [laughs]
AM: Give over.
FL: And from Waterbeach of course I was on Stirlings for a long, long time.
AM: What was it like at the Heavy Conversion Unit?
FL: What it was, I mean they were massive aircraft these you know, and they were training pilots there, they were bringing them off, bringing them off twin engine aircraft and training them on four engines, which was Stirlings.
AM: Did they come as a crew at that point?
FL: No they came as individuals.
AM: So they were still individuals at that point.
FL: The pilots yeah. It was basically training pilots and us engineers as well, but the main thing was training pilots.
AM: And what was your role in, in all this?
FL: What was what?
AM: What was your role in all this, what were you doing?
FL: I was engines, all just engines alone, yeah.
AM: That’s me phone. Keeping ‘em all going?
FL: Yeah. Used to er, yeah of course the engines were, even in, even in when they were on duty they’ve got to be inspected, have a daily inspection and signed for to say that you’d inspected every part of that engine before it goes, they have a daily inspection, then they had then I think it was forty hours they took it into the hangar and did the inspection, at eighty hours it went in and we did a forty and a few more, and then until one-sixty we did a major operation then you know, took out everything to pieces nearly.
AM: How many of you were there? I mean —
FL: I can’t tell you that.
AM: No, no.
FL: I can’t tell you that really.
AM: I’m just trying to get a picture in my mind of what it was like, ‘cos you’re all there on the Heavy Conversion Unit, you’re doing your job, you’ve got all these pilots coming in —
FL: They were coming in off Welling, Wimpeys we called them, off Wellingtons.
AM: Off the single —
FL: Things like that and being trained, because they were massive aircraft these. They were the only aircraft with electrically operated undercarriage, all the rest were hydraulics every other aircraft hydraulics, but not them and they had sleeve valve engines in [laughs] Bristol, Bristol Engines, sleeve valves.
AM: What was it like on the Heavy Conversion Unit then in terms of, were the ground crew separate from the pilots?
FL: Oh yes, yes, yes. There was, they had their flight mechanics, they had dispersals, special dispersal for each aircraft, and they had a ground crew to look after them. You know like an electrician, an air frame fitter, an engine fitter, they had, they had a full crew there for every one of them the different ones, yeah.
AM: And how long would the pilots spend on them before they converted?
FL: Well the pilots were, the pilots were brought, well I don’t know that I truly don’t know. But they were coming off Wellingtons and aircraft like that out of here, they’re big clumsy aircraft these you know.
AM: That’s a Stirling.
FL: Yeah. If they, if they had a full bomb load they’d twenty-eight bombs on, three, three between the inboard motor and the fuselage on each side, and twenty-two in the bomb bay.
AM: And they had to learn to manoeuvre all that lot?
FL: They had seven fuel tanks in each wing, terrific in’t it.
AM: It’s well, yeah I can’t, I can’t even begin —
FL: You can’t visualise it can you?
AM: No, no, not now.
FL: Oh they were massive.
AM: Did you like ‘em you sound as if —
FL: I’ve always, I’ve always loved working on engines though, right from being a little lad, used to mess about with motorbike engines.
Other: You see them standing underneath.
AM: Oh yeah I’ve seen all the pictures. What was it actually like, what was life like there? There’s a question for you [laughs].
FL: First of all it depended on whether you were suited to the Air Force or not, I was I wanted to be in and I enjoyed the job I were doing. But there were lots of people doing jobs that they didn’t enjoy doing, and of course for them it was a matter of wait till the end and let’s get out quick. But I loved every moment of my service in there, because I was doing what I wanted to do, I wanted to work on engines, I’ve always loved engines.
AM: Did you ever get to go up in one of the Stirlings?
FL: Oh yes, if we fitted a new engine you just said, ‘Any chance.’ ‘Yes, yes.’ And what they used to do test it, if we fitted a new engine in they used to stop it in mid-air and then start it up again [laughs]. I want, I want enamoured with that part of it though I can assure you.
AM: No, I can imagine.
FL: But, oh I loved, I loved every moment of my service career, only thing of course was people getting killed, if they hadn’t of been I would have been highly delighted yeah.
AM: Did you, because you were at the Heavy Conversion Unit, so that there were people that were converting and then going off doing what they did.
FL: Yes, yes. Well they were coming and training on four engine aircraft which was the only ones, we didn’t have Lancasters then or Halifaxes they came in a bit later, and then they carried on, on four engine aircraft, yeah.
AM: How long were you there for? ‘Cos you got there in what 1940-41.
FL: I joined the Air Force on 4th December 1940.
AM: ‘40
FL: And I came out was it five and a half years later, I think I did, I think I came out in the middle of ’46, I’ve got me, I’ve got me book there.
AM: Oh I’ll have a look in a minute. So, so you were on the Heavy Conversion Unit what did you do after that?
FL: ER, from Waterbeach we went down to Stradishall with Stirlings, and then up to North Luffenham, and when I got up to North Luffenham I applied to go in as an aeronautical inspector, that was a very responsible job, and I was granted and I went down to Bristol, and I sat all my exams there for an aeronautical inspector and, and I passed them easily, and the next thing I knew, it was very late, very, very late on in the war then because I do all this service with Stirlings, but I was posted to Egypt. I, I was posted to a place called Tora El-Asmant, that was the name of the place and we were working in caves. Yes, apparently, it was the dry, it was an old, the River Nile changes its course periodically and this was the waddy [?] where it was originally. So obviously if the water level was twenty thirty foot, the caves would have been there, but when there was no water in they were thirty foot up there.
AM: So how did you get up to them?
FL: They built a road from the domestic site up to it and then levelled it off, we worked in there overhauling engines and I went in there obviously as an inspector.
AM: What was, I’m just trying to think what was happening in Egypt at the time, because Rommel had been turfed out of —
FL: Most of it was after the war, but we were doing all sorts of engines even American engines.
AM: How big were these caves?
FL: Massive, massive, you know, we filled them with workshops. There was a photography, the whole of the photography section for the Middle East was worked from through those caves.
AM: Crickey.
FL: Yeah, oh I, you see the beauty of it was the heat of the day you could work all day in the caves and you were quite cool and comfortable, and as I served the rest of my time as an inspector.
AM: So what did that involve?
FL: Every time they do a job you’ve got to inspect it and sign for it you know, if they putting a piston into an engine you’ve got to examine the piston, examine the rings, take the proper measurements and everything, and then stamp it, you had sheets and it said examine one piston, examine number two piston, and my letter was ZUW, and I had a stamp and I just used to put ZUW, now if that broke down in service who was ZUW? Right, shoot him. [laughs].
AM: No not quite, on a charge.
FL: Yes.
AM: So what were they actually working on in the caves, actual on engines?
FL: All engines, my department was all engines. They used to bring them in and strip them down and thoroughly clean every piece, and then they went on the benches and the inspectors inspected every piece separately, and then when it had all been inspected they started the assembly again and everything that we assembled was inspected as it was assembled and signed for until the complete engine was built up. And we used to send them, I don’t know where they went to, but we used to send them where they used to put them on test beds and test them, and if they passed their test they went back into service.
AM: Right.
FL: I loved it.
AM: I’m trying to think what else? What did you do after that? Were you demobbed, at what point were you demobbed?
FL: I was demobbed, ooh I was left out in Egypt a month after the war finished.
AM: How long were you in Egypt altogether?
FL: I don’t know, I can’t recollect, it was very, very late on in the war, when I went there, but I wasn’t enamoured with Egypt.
AM: I don’t know if I dare ask why? [laughs] Hot? Dirty?
FL: Yeah it was hot, but we used to go on parade at seven o’clock in the morning and it were cold and of course we’d got long stockings on and shorts and shirts like this and whilst we were on parade —
AM: He’s shivering by the way.
FL: Whilst we were on the parade the sun used to come up, and before you went up the, up to the caves for working you were sweating.
AM: What were the digs like?
FL: We were under canvas, yeah just that’s all there were, the big tents, the bigger ones you could get about six in.
AM: What about meals and things like that was all that under canvas as well?
FL: We had a canteen, we had a cookhouse, and the canteen and the NAAFI, and we even had The Red Shield Club, Salvation Army, yeah.
AM: Right.
FL: Was an out of the way place for the Salvation Army.
Other: They were working there weren’t there.
AM: Yeah.
FL: Yeah.
AM: So what did you do after the war then?
FL: I came back and I went, I went back to work down there, and they had a fleet of small diesel driven locos, and they had some big dump trucks and things like that, and I was put in charge for all the repairs for the dump trucks and the little locos and the big locos and everything that had got either diesel or petrol in was mine. And I eventually got to be about the mobile plant engineer, I was the top man and I took over locos, I had ten locos, five of them were diesel, Rolls Royce driven diesels and the rest were odd jobs, bulldozers, excavators, dump trucks, er, anything with diesel or petrol in was mine and I loved it. [laughs]
AM: You sound like you’ve had a great life?
FL: I’ve had a lovely life, nobody could ever have had a more satisfying life. And what’s been the most satisfying life about it I married the right lady.
AM: I was going to say where did you meet your wife?
FL: Sixty-three years we’ve been married.
Other: Yeah.
FL: And we are as happy today as we were then, I still do as I’m told. [laughs]
AM: That’s the key to it.
FL: The doctor asked me that you know, because she’s spent her whole life doing charity work. She’s got a gold, a diamond pin for presented, well it’s on there down there on that photograph, presented a diamond pin for all her charity work sixty odd years.
AM: I’ll have a look in a minute.
FL: And the doctor was here one day and she was talking to the doctor and he said to me, ‘Now then Fred whilst she’s been doing all this charity work?’ He said, ‘How have you coped, you know, how have you got on?’ I said, ‘Well the truth is doctor, we had an understanding when we got married.’ I said, ‘There’s absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for my wife.’ And I said, ‘There’s nothing that she wouldn’t do for me, and that’s how we’ve got through our married life doing nothing for each other.’ [laughs]
AM: On that note I’m going to switch the tape off.



Annie Moody, “Interview with Fred Logan,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 4, 2023,

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