Interview with Thomas Charles Arthur Long


Interview with Thomas Charles Arthur Long


Thomas Charles Arthur Long was born in Quorn, England. He was in the Home Guard and worked at Brush as a draughtsman, also gaining a Higher National Certificate from Loughborough College. He decided to join the RAF being that the only way to get out a reserved occupation. He was on the reserve for months and eventually sent to Aircraft Recruitment Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground / St John’s Wood. He was then post on to Newquay Initial Training Wing, followed by training in Canada in Halifax and Moncton. Recollects Winston Churchill at the First Quebec Conference, and provides details of training on a bombing and gunnery course as a Royal Canadian Air Force observer. Badge was presented by Princess Julianna of the Netherlands since many Dutchmen where on the course, and Sarah Churchill also attended the ceremony.
Upon returning to Great Britain, he retrained as navigator at RAF Halfpenny Green, Lincolnshire and crewed up with 75 Squadron at RAF Mepal on Lancasters. He went on operations over Germany dropping propaganda leaflets, bombing Calais gun emplacements, Kohlen, Stuttgart, Essen, Cologne, Duisburg, Solingen, Koblenz and Dortmund. Discusses the thousand bomber raids, social life and keeping in touch with the crew post war, mine laying, anti-aircraft damage, jettisoning stuck bomb over the English Channel, flying conditions and military ethos.
After the last tour, he was offered the chance of being a navigator in the BOAC British Overseas Airways Corperation, flying to various locations in Europe, Africa and Middle East including a VIP Lancastrian trip. He got married, demobilised in 1946, and went to work a motor cars designers with Rootes, Castles, Hillman, Sunbeam-Talbot, Peugeot and Chrysler



IBCC Digital Archive




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00:57:08 audio recording






GB: This interview is being recorded for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Gill Barnes and the interviewee is Arthur Long. The interview is taking place at Mr Long’s home in Leicester on the 11th of June 2016. Also present is Mrs Joyce Long and my husband Andrew Barnes. Arthur, I’m really looking forward to hearing about your life and experience in the RAF. Starting at the beginning where were you born?
AL: You don’t want to go back just before that ‘cause — oh wait a minute. Before that I was in the Home Guard at Quorn.
GB: Yes. Whereabouts in England were you born though?
AL: Quorn.
GB: In Quorn. That’s right. You were telling me. Yes.
AL: Quorn. Yes. I was in the Quorn Home Guard.
GB: Right.
AL: Before that but that was while I was working at the Brush at Loughborough designing buses, tramcars.
GB: Were you an engineer?
AL: I was a draughtsman.
GB: Right.
AL: Designing body work of buses and tramcars for Blackpool, Leicester and people, places like that.
GB: That’s right.
AL: London too.
GB: And where did you go to college to learn that?
AL: Loughborough College. I didn’t go daytime.
GB: Right.
AL: I went night school to Loughborough College.
GB: Right.
AL: Passed my National Certificate.
JL: Higher.
AB: Higher National Certificate.
AL: That was when I was working at the Brush and I was on a reserved occupation.
GB: Right. And about what time was that? What year roughly?
AL: ’41.
JL: 1940.
AL: Sorry?
JL: 1940.
AL: Around about 1940.
GB: 1940.
JL: ’39/38.
GB: Ok.
AL: Yes.
GB: And did you go to school in Leicester?
AL: I beg your pardon?
GB: Did you go to school in Leicester?
AL: Yes. It was just an ordinary school. No. In Quorn.
GB: In Quorn.
AL: In Quorn.
GB: Yes.
AL: But I did night school in Loughborough College.
GB: Right.
AL: And took my National Certificate there.
GB: Yes.
AL: I was in the middle of the Advanced National Certificate when I volunteered ‘cause I volunteered you see.
GB: Yes.
AL: That being an reserved occupation — that my friends were all in the army or were serving. Been called. So I thought something had to be done about this man Hitler. He was running rife.
GB: Yes.
AL: And my friends in Quorn, a lot of my friends in Quorn.
GB: And what —
AL: And that was at the time I met up with Joyce.
GB: Right. Where we —
JL: ’41.
AL: We were both in the same choir at the same church.
GB: Oh gosh.
AL: And in the Youth Club too at Loughborough, at Loughborough Baxter Gate Church.
GB: Right.
AL: About that all about that same time.
GB: Yes.
AL: The 1940s.
GB: And what drew you to join the RAF as opposed to the other services?
AL: Well you had to. To get out of a reserved occupation. I wanted to join the RAF but you couldn’t get out of a reserved occupation unless you joined the RAF and so and crew. RAF as a crew member. So I was put on the reserves. I got a reserve badge as a volunteer reserve and I had to go to Birmingham to get a medical and then I was put on the reserve for about six months. They didn’t take you straight away. Anyway, that is when they, I was finally called up to ACRC. Lord’s Cricket Ground, London.
GB: Yes.
AL: And that was, this photograph is of, at St John’s Wood just outside Lord’s Cricket Ground. You know it.
GB: I know it.
AL: We used to eat at the Zoo [laughs] and we used to go, used to march from St John’s Wood to the Zoo cafeteria and the apes would start howling and we helped them along. The boys did of course. We were woken up very early at St John’s Wood by bashing dustbin lids to waken everybody up. It was still dark. We had a lantern at the front and marched down to there for breakfast at Lords, at er the Zoo. So that was my first experience.
GB: And what did you learn there? What were they, what was the training?
AL: Oh no training. Purely, purely medicals and things like that.
GB: Oh right.
AL: Aircrew. ACRC is Aircraft Recruitment Centre. It’s just a recruitment centre.
AB: Yeah.
AL: Now I was sent on to Newquay then. ITW at Newquay and Newquay we were there that’s where we started our training in navigation, astrology, [pause] communication.
GB: Yeah.
AL: By Aldiss lamp and —
GB: Did you choose to become a navigator?
AL: No. Now there’s a story behind that. Quite a story. We get to that because I was sent on from there er trying to remember exactly where we went but I did most of my training in Canada. Went over on the Queen Elizabeth on its own. Not a convoy. It zigzagged across the Atlantic and one day we found ourselves getting quite warm and had gone quite south to miss the U-boats.
AB: Gosh.
AL: And we finally finished up at Halifax way up north and got the, got the train down. Got our first orange, taste of oranges. [Laughs]. We had that for some time. And went down to Moncton which was another holding station. Very cold there but the people were nice at Moncton. If you went to a church in Moncton you got invited to their families. Well, wherever we went, if you went to a church you were invited to a family. Of course we finished up at Quebec. I was invited there as well. But when Churchill was there at Quebec with Stalin and various at Chateau Frontenac in Quebec and we, that takes me into the start of our training because we went on a bombing and gunnery course as an observer not as a navigator. They started and this became strengthened as you will find later on. I went to, I forget, I’ve got the names of the places down here but, there was, [pause] I don’t know what it was called.
GB: Why did they send you to Canada to train?
AL: I’m trying to think of the names of the places I was at in Canada. There was that. Oh. Oh it was at. Oh. Oh that was Monkton that was so it was after that. Air Observer. RC. Royal Canadian Air Force. Number 8 Air Observer’s Course. Oh that was until, now that was Quebec.
GB: Right.
AL: Where I got my observer badge which was sent in by a Princess Julianna of the Netherlands. Now Princess Juliana became Queen.
GB: Yes.
AL: And that was because there was quite a lot of Dutchmen on that course that I was taking. That was training in navigation. Everything, everything to do with being an observer and as an observer you had to be, it was a Coastal Command thing. Anyway, it was Princess Julianna of the Netherlands who presented me with my brevet and we —
GB: Were there many English people being trained in Canada?
AL: Yes. Oh yes. In Quebec. Yes. They were English people and they were very nice. Very helpful. We were supposed to be reviewed by Winston Churchill himself but he couldn’t get away so he sent his daughter Sarah Churchill. So she reviewed us which was a bit of a let-down.
GB: Where did you do your officer training?
AL: I beg your pardon?
GB: Where did you do your officer training? To become a pilot officer.
AL: I became a pilot, now that’s a [laughs] that comes a bit later because —
GB: Right.
AL: The RAF, after my operations which I’ve got yet to talk about, after the operations I was seconded to BOAC, British Overseas Airways Corporation to start it up. Nobody had heard of BOAC. They thought I was in the French Navy when I wore their uniform. It was dark blue. So, anyway, I went with BOAC for twelve months and while I was training at Ossington air force, Ossington Training School for a first class navigator’s certificate the RAF’s certificate wasn’t enough for BOAC. I had to train for first class navigator’s certificate which difference being mainly concentration on —
JL: Stars.
AL: On the stars.
AB: Astronomy.
AL: Astrology.
AB: That’s it.
AL: Being using a sextant and everything and astrology. I know I had to, with, with BOAC I think one of the earliest days out our computer went. Not computer, compass. My compass went. I had to correct it, our course by taking sextant shots of the sun.
AB: Yes.
AL: To get us back on course.
AB: Ok.
That was when we were flying down the Gold Coast. I think we had to cross Africa but that was during BOAC. That was after.
GB: Yeah.
AL: I was in the air force. So, after the air force I came back on the Mauritania. Going out on the Elizabeth we were in cabins but in the Mauritania coming back we were in the hold in hammocks and that again was a long journey zigzagging back to England. Dropped us at Liverpool. Now, when we landed at, when we were over in America er in Canada I did a hitch hike down to America and back and I bought Joyce a ring.
GB: Oh.
AL: I, to be sure, make it safe I hung it around my neck. I’m glad I did because the other things that I brought as gifts back, I brought them back to Liverpool and the stevedores — and Liverpool, doesn’t hold any good memories for me — Liverpool, the stevedores broke my knapsack open and stole the gifts that I’d brought but they couldn’t steal that ring because I’d got it around my neck. Anyway, we landed. Again, another bad mark for Liverpool was we, it was Christmas and we were due to go Christmas leave and they said, ‘Oh we’re going to make you navigators.’ We said, ‘No. You can’t. We passed out as observers.’ ‘Well we won’t let you go on leave unless you put up your navigator badge you see. So what could we do? We [un-? ] the observer’s badge, put on the navigator badge. Got our leave put the observers badge back on again and went home. [laughs] Got our leave. Anyway, that —
GB: Was there any more training?
AL: A bad, bad mark for Liverpool.
GB: Absolutely. Was there any more training after that, Arthur?
AL: Oh yes. Yes. Yes. We had to go to Halfpenny Green.
JL: Lincolnshire.
AL: For training to jump with a parachute. You jumped off a high platform so that was that sort of thing. Now when we were at Moncton in, in Canada we tried to build up an unofficial navigation course but they were more interested in doing [calls?] like helping at the infirmary and if you had to go to a hospital that had medics on Moncton Centre. You had to walk way up in the freezing weather [laughs]. Anyway, it was quite an experience. Twenty five degrees below I think it was. Very cold.
GB: How long —
AL: I was on duty at Moncton once and you had a brazier. You could always put your hand in it it was so cold. Anyway, that was at Moncton. And I’ve jumped on a bit. I was at a bombing and gunnery school at another place which I’ve forgotten the name of. No. I can’t remember. My memory goes. It’s so bad.
AL: That’s —
GB: But then we went on to Wing which was where we crewed up. At Wing. And there I think we did our first flight over over Germany or somewhere. It could have been Poland. I forget where but we dropped leaflets. Leaflets for —
AB: Propaganda.
AL: Yes. What do you call it? One was in Polish and one was in German I think.
GB: Oh right. Yeah.
AL: I don’t whether —
JL: Propaganda.
GB: Absolutely.
JL: Propaganda leaflets. Never mind.
GB: So that was your first experience of flying on a mission.
AL: That was, that was first crewed up experience.
GB: Yes. How did you come to —
AL: Harry. Harry Tweed.
GB: Ok.
AL: He was Henry Tweed really but we all knew him as Harry.
GB: Right. How did you come to join 75 Squadron?
AL: Well that was, that was that was part of, that’s when we were at Wing.
GB: Right.
AL: We were at Wing then. Of course when you crew up you are given a choice of postings. And so we talked it over among, among ourselves and the only one that we could think of was at Mepal which was our rear gunner’s, tail-end-Charlie’s, his home was near Mepal.
GB: Yeah.
AL: And that was, that was 75 Squadron at Mepal.
GB: It was. Yes.
AL: It’s been in the news lately I think.
GB: Yes.
AL: They found a skull there in a quarry there I think or something.
GB: 75 flew a number of aeroplanes. They started, well they had a phase of flying Wellingtons and then they went on Lancasters.
AL: That’s right. Well we went straight on to Lancasters.
GB: Right.
AL: So I was in A Squadron. We’ve got that photograph of B, we’ve got a big photograph of B Squadron but we didn’t seem to get one of A Squadron. So I wasn’t on that.
GB: And who was in your crew?
AL: Did what?
GB: Who was in your crew?
AL: Well there was Harry Tweed was the pilot. Benjy was the mid upper gunner. Benjamin. We called him Benjy.
GB: Yes.
AL: They’re in there I think.
GB: Yes.
AL: Complete with names. There was, I sat at, you know how it is to get into a Lancaster. Well, laden with sextant and maps you had to, you got into the aircraft alright but then you had to climb up, clamber over the D spar. You more or less fell over the D spar. It’s about this high you got over. Next to the pilot.
AB: Right.
AL: There’s a pilot, there’s an engineer, all the names is down there and I forget them.
GB: That’s fine.
AL: They’re all written down in there.
GB: Yes.
AL: And then there was the tail-end-Charlie was, his father was a farmer and we used to go to his house and they used to lay on dances and things. They were very very good. So we used to, I had a motorbike then and they had a car. The rest of the crew had a car. They would go off in the car and I would follow up with the motorbike or whatever. [They would away?]. That was very helpful.
GB: Ultimately 75 Squadron went on to become a New Zealand Squadron. Were there any —
AL: Well I thought it was always a New Zealand Squadron.
GB: Oh right. Ok. So were they, were you, were there any New Zealanders in your –?
AL: And the reason why it was a New Zealand Squadron. We joined it, 75, we had one New Zealander in the crew.
GB: Right.
AL: That was the bomb aimer. Alan John.
GB: Right.
AL: The bomb aimer. And he was Shorty. We used to call him Shorty and he didn’t like that [laughs]. Anyway, he liked to think he was good but he wasn’t that good.
GB: So what year are we now? You’ve got your crew. You’re flying Lancasters. Roughly what year was that?
AL: Forty. Oh my logbook’s upstairs. It’s down in there.
GB: Ok.
AL: It’s in my logbook but that was, when I when I was at Ossington at training for, it was, Dunkirk. No it couldn’t have been. No. No. No. No. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Dunkirk. [Pause]. My, my could you get my logbook from upstairs? You know where it is. Dunkirk is when we had the end of our, my flying on ops. Or was it the beginning? No. It could have been the beginning. It could have been the beginning of my ops and that’s when we were bombing gun sights in France near Calais to help the evacuation. I’ll be able to give you a better date when Joyce gets my book. But I’m pretty sure that was one of, one of my earlier operational flights. Yeah. Here we are. Here. Do you see? It won’t take long. You had to enter it in your logbook. You had to enter all your operational flights in red. So here we are. Daylight operation at Calais on the September the 15th ‘44. That was, yes ‘44 was daylight operation. Calais gun emplacements. Again. Gun emplacements.
GB: So that was, that would have been after the landings. D-day landings.
AL: No.
GB: Before.
AL: Evacuation this is.
GB: Oh right.
AL: Dunkirk. Not D-Day.
GB: No.
AL: D-day happened, I think, while I was at BOAC. No. This was, this was the evacuation of our troops from France and from which I’ve just received a Legion d’Honneures medal for that and that’s in the front. I got, I only got that recently. I’ve, I have rung the Association, the RAF Association to ask them how you display it but they haven’t replied. I don’t know which order you put it relative to your other medals ‘cause I’ve got a row of other medals as well but —
GB: So you and Harry Tweed are flying Lancaster bombers.
AL: Yeah.
GB: Where were your missions taking you?
AL: All over the Ruhr mainly. Well that one was France but and it was, it was our first flights actually but then we went on from daylight [Coln/Kohlen?] Stuttgart, Essen [Weskapau?] Cologne Duisburg [pause] Daylights. Sollingen. Sollingen, Koblenz, Dortmund. Daylight at Cologne. Oh. That’s where we got shot at quite a lot. Got holes [laughs]. [unclear?] and interestingly during that period we had to do, at home we had to do a fighter affiliation flight when they developed the radar and we were two of the aircraft in the Squadron were fitted with the radar. Ours was one of them and you had radar and you had the other radio beam navigation. That was where it was quite different to BOAC because BOAC was mainly stars. You didn’t have the radar etcetera which were only lease-lend Dakotas that we flew in.
GB: Yes.
AL: With BOAC.
GB: Harry, I can see there are so —
AL: Ahem.
GB: Sorry Arthur I can see there are so many missions there.
AL: Pardon?
GB: There were a lot of missions and sorties.
AL: Oh well we were hard pressed. Flying every, yes we did it very quickly. Between our first mission was in September 20th 1944 and my last one was —
JL: January.
AL: December.
JL: ’45.
AL: 29th also in ‘44.
GB: Oh right.
AL: So I remember we were on the thousand bomber raids. Do you remember there was a particular raid called the thousand bomber raid? We were part of that and —
GB: Were you going up almost every night?
AL: Went, went twice one night. Off twice. Very very pressurised. Very pressurised.
GB: Mainly from where?
AL: Mainly night time but some daytime.
GB: And mainly from which base?
AL: From Mepal.
GB: Mepal. All Mepal.
AL: All my operations were from Mepal.
GB: Right. And did you have any scary moments? Any difficult times?
AL: Oh yeah. Well most of them were.
GB: Yes. Silly question I’m sorry.
AL: As I say once we counted the holes in the aircraft from flak.
AL: Flak.
GB: But one, one difficult time in particular was nothing to do with the Germans. We went on, over and as you can see it was turning cold in late winter and we’d been over, I don’t know where it was, we’d been over somewhere. Harry was a very good pilot. He held it steady all the way through. It didn’t matter what was happening around. I I happened to look, be able to look out. I couldn’t look out often because I had to plan for the next leg and out but on one occasion I looked out ahead. Saw one of our people I knew, aeroplane shot down. Exploded in the air. Shot down. But on this particular occasion we were coming back home and we suddenly discovered one of the bombs had frozen in its hooks. It hadn’t gone and it was rolling around. I think it couldn’t have been a very big bomb. It was rolling around in our —
JL: Hold.
AB: Bomb bay. Yeah.
AL: Undercarriage
AB: Undercarriage. Yeah.
AL: In our, oh my memory goes on words.
JL: Hold.
AL: Anyway, if you’re relying on my memory you’re not on a very good thing. My memory’s not very good. Not now. Anyway, we managed to jettison it over the English Channel. So, hopefully, it was, when Harry gave the command to jettison, open the flaps, open the flaps, that’s it. Bomb doors. Open the bomb doors sorry. You don’t open the flaps, you just up and down. Opened the bomb doors I’m pretty sure he’d make sure it was fairly clear down below when he did but that was a scary time. [laughs]
GB: Were you more afraid of flak or the Luftwaffe?
AL: Pardon?
GB: Were you more afraid of flak or the Luftwaffe?
AL: Oh loads of flak. Always. Every time. You had to fly through it. And if, if you were above if you didn’t maintain the height they’d told you you’d got to do. If you went above to get out of it you were put on a court martial. Yeah. So you had to stay in that line and Harry did. He, he’d got a nerve of steel and he went straight through. He was very good. Very good you see. And none of our crew. Alan John, the bomb aimer is still alive I think. The others aren’t and he’s in New Zealand. I’ve been over there to New Zealand since. We’ve been twice actually. I’ve got relations over there too.
GB: Did you see any Messerschmitts 109s?
AL: Well I’m sure the gunners did. I didn’t see much.
GB: No.
AL: I had my head down in front of the D spar. Head down. Keep, keeping ahead of the aircraft. I always had to be ahead, ahead of the aircraft so I had my head well and truly down. I could feel it. I could hear it. But you could hear our gunners saying, ‘Over there.’ ‘What’s that?’ ‘Harry, there’s a fighter over there,’ or something like that but we had our helmets on and we could hear it. I could hear it going, all going on. Even when the flak hit the plane you could hear it but never, I couldn’t see very much.
GB: How did you know when they had dropped the string of bombs?
AL: I I gave Harry the next course and as soon as he said, ‘Bombs gone,’ Harry was off on the next course. I think I wrote it down if I remember right. I plotted it for the next course back.
GB: Did you try to fly over the sea as much as you could to get home?
AL: Over the sea?
GB: Yes.
AL: Oh no. Straight across the English channel.
GB: Right.
AL: No. The most time we spent crossing over the sea was a different occasion because on a different occasion we laid mines in the Baltic and we had to go out at sea level over over Norway and Sweden. That direction. And they used to fire. I don’t know what happened but we were way up by the time we got there but right across the sea we were at sea level and we went into the Baltic and this is where we used radar. Towns came up as blobs and I, the bomb aimer was supposed to navigate me by the screen where these blobs were but he didn’t. I had to do it myself. And the other thing I had to do was aim for a headland in the Baltic on a certain course. Give Harry a certain course after we’d taken a fix as to where we were. After a certain course head for a headland and then I had to tell him every so many seconds or, yeah, seconds to drop a mine and at the same time I had to take a photograph of the screen to, so that when I got back they knew.
AB: A record.
AL: Exactly where they were dropped. So I had to do all this. It was, it was pressurised I can tell you. You were always ahead of the aircraft. You had to be ahead of the aircraft. You had to tell them what to do at what time and which heading.
GB: Everything depended on you.
AL: Oh yes. Yes. Yes. Very much so. And take this photograph at the same time. Click with the camera.
GB: Did you —
AL: I never found out. I could never, the trouble was getting back to base they never showed you what your efforts were and I never did find out but I only concluded that when they recommended me for BOAC that I must have did ok because they must have [recorded?] and that was when they gave me my, I was at Ossington training for my First Class Navigation Certificate when I received my commission.
GB: Right.
AL: Notification.
GB: Yes.
AL: It wasn’t until after I was in BOAC that I got the [laughs]. I was then called a navigation officer by BOAC. I’d been that since I’d passed out.
GB: Yes. What was the social life like at Mepal?
AL: Well only when we went to the rear gunner’s home. There was no social life otherwise. I remember sleeping in barrack er in Nissen huts but social life I can’t remember.
GB: When you were waiting to fly were you all in one hut or one place?
AL: No. No. You had to go to, [pause] you had to go up into the airfield and you were briefed. That was the only time when you came together. The crew were more or less together but with other people you were briefed and then that was fairly short. And the same when you got back. You were debriefed. When you got back from an operation you were debriefed. Yes. I can’t —
GB: Did you, did you meet up with your crew socially apart from –?
AL: After, after the war.
GB: Yes. Right.
AL: Yes. Post war. One of them got married. Oh Harry got married I think, to a Welsh lady, Harry did and they came over to that. We got together. Mostly most of the crew got together. I don’t think the upper gunner. He seemed to be a loner for some reason after the war. During the war he wasn’t a loner because he used to hang around with the rest of the crew but I know I did dance but if they went to a dance I used to stay at the rear gunner’s home. He’d got, they’d got children so I used to entertain the kids. The kids.
GB: So —
AL: But they’re all, they’ve all passed on.
GB: Did you always fly in the same planes or did your plane change –?
AL: No. We finished up in C for Charlie.
GB: Right.
AL: But I think they had a different plane now and again but it was always A Squadron. But I can’t, I can’t remember what other. It’s got the name of the aircraft in my logbook here.
He was a Flight Sergeant Tweed then. I think he became a, he got his commission and went on. Lancaster 3 AAJ. That was the first flight. Lancaster C DKE. That’s an F. It may an E. No, it’s an F I think. I flew in different aircraft but C we finished quite a few. C for Charlie. I do remember that. CCC. I went on B there. It must have been B. But that was B. The photograph is B Squadron.
GB: Was it cold in the plane?
AL: Yes. But we wore goon suits as they called them. Goon suits. Silk gloves. Yes. Well, well protected. Excuse me. We were well protected. Yes, it was cold and it was noisy. That’s, that’s a product of the noisy plane both in RAF and BOAC because BOAC were Dakotas. Lease lend Dakotas and they were noisy too.
GB: So —
AL: Nothing like flying today.
GB: No. So in 1944 you’d been flying on Lancasters.
AL: Yeah.
GB: And then how did the link happen to BOAC?
AL: How did what?
GB: What made you join BOAC?
AL: Oh [laughs] well they came. After that tour, the last tour, they called me into the flight office and said, ‘We’ve got a posting. Would you, would you like it?’ I said, ‘What is it?’ And they said, ‘Well it’s a, it’s for a private airline trying to bring back to life again.’ It was British Airways before I think. Or something.
AB: BEA wasn’t it?
AL: But it was BOAC by the time I joined. British Overseas Aircraft and they had a, so, well I said, ‘I’ve never heard of them but I’ll try it.’ [laughs] So they said. ‘No. You’ll have to go on a course to get a First Class Navigators Certificate.’ I thought, ‘Ok.’ I was on that for a short time. It’s all on there. All my BOAC flights as well.
GB: What? You were flying Dakotas. Where did you go? Was it commercial?
AL: Cairo a lot. West Coast of Africa down to Accra. Down to Lagos. Used to swap planes at Accra or Lagos and then fly across Africa to, to, what’s in North Africa. North Africa and Sudan. And then, I know I’ve been in locust plagues and things when we got there. And we even got a basket, a laundry basket upstairs which I brought back from on the way to Cairo. But then on, [pause] I was twenty years doing that and towards the end of that year I was down in Cairo and the day before we were getting married on June the 22nd which is coming up. The day before we were getting married I was down in Malta and got stuck there because with Dakotas we didn’t have pressurised aircraft so you couldn’t get over the Alps back home and I was wondering whether I was going to get back in time but we did. The weather lifted and I got back home the day before.
JL: I know you did.
GB: And that was 1945.
JL: Six.
GB: Oh ‘46
AL: Yeah. I brought back bananas and things and oranges for our wedding which they’d never had. Yeah so —
GB: The first civil aircraft to land at Sweden.
AL: I was demobbed after that.
GB: He didn’t mention that.
AL: It was after that that I was demobbed. After we were married I did one flight didn’t I?
JL: Yeah.
AL: One flight from Bristol. I flew. I had to stay, with BOAC I had to stay at home in Quorn and they would send a telegram saying please report for duty. So I had to go down the day before. I had, I had to rent a room in Bristol. I hadn’t permanently near Clifton Bridge and I had to go back there and they go to Bristol airfield and where there was a plane which took us. The plane. A Dakota I think, I think it was which took us down to Bournemouth. We picked up our passengers at Bournemouth. Now one of the flights I went on, you’ve probably never heard of this but there was a Lancastrian built. It was a Lancaster with only twelve seats. It was a VIP plane. A VIP Lancaster with portholes down the sides and I had to navigate that from, from Bournemouth to Karachi and we only had one stop. Tel Aviv. We, every other flight we did we had to keep putting down to get fuel. Refuel, with Dakotas but with this Lancastrian it did Tel Aviv and then Karachi. Quite, quite a long and the same coming back so it was quite a long quite a long flight.
GB: When you —
AL: And it never flew again. I don’t think. The Lancastrian.
GB: When you were flying the Dakotas were you mainly flying passengers or cargo or both?
AL: Passengers.
GB: Passengers.
AL: Always passengers. Any cargo, not much cargo. We got cargo, a bit of cargo coming back with a few bits and pieces the crew had picked up on the way back.
JL: What about your first trip to Sweden. When you went you were the first civilian airline to land at Sweden at Ahlberg.
GB: You flew to Sweden.
JL: Oh you say it.
GB: You flew to Sweden I believe with BOAC.
AL: Yes. Yes. I did. Yeah. With BOAC. A flight to Sweden. I’ve got a picture in there of the plane. It had to land at Aalborg with a forced landing.
GB: Oh right.
AL: And Aalborg in Denmark and we were the first civil plane to land in Denmark after the war.
GB: Wow.
AL: But it was the forced landing. We had to. So we stayed in Aalborg for two or three days. For a few days while waiting for a part to be flown from England.
GB: When you were demobbed did you want to stay in flying or navigating?
AL: Well BOAC asked me. I said, ‘Well I’ve got a profession to go back to because I’m a road transport designer.’ And I finished up designing motor cars at Rootes. Rootes [Humber] Hllman, Sunbeam-Talbot and finished up with Peugeot. I’m still, they’re still, I’ve a Peugeot pension [laughs]. Anyway, no they asked me would I stay on and I said well I’ve a profession to go to and I’m fed up with living out of a suitcase. So I said, ‘I want to get my feet back down on the ground,’ and so came back to Longwall Green.
JL: Bristol.
AL: Coachworks designing luxury buses and tradesmen’s vehicles that you know, that went around carrying goods around.
GB: Yes. So you lived in —
AL: That was all [timber?] work but then I came, I got fed up with the manager at that place eventually. The chap at the top was very nice but the manager he had a foul mouth and I couldn’t put up with him so I said, ‘I’m leaving.’ I told him, ‘I’m leaving,’ and I came back to Leicester to build aluminium built, with, what’s the name?
JL: Castles.
AL: Castles. Castles. Yes. They, they did display vehicles. They did display vehicles. Fire engines I designed, which I designed for them. Again I wasn’t really too happy there and I got worried about Rootes. They were on a better pay than I was at Rootes Group for and I was there for many years.
GB: Gosh.
AL: Well until I retired.
GB: Yes.
AL: It wasn’t Rootes. They sold that to the Chrysler.
GB: That’s right.
AL: I was with Chrysler.
GB: Yes.
AL: Designing for them. I went over to America. Did take a big full size layout of one of the cars that we, that we draughted, put on to draught. The models took [points off ?] big clay models and gave it to us. We drafted it and then I took this big roll, big as a car and took it over to Detroit and then they sold out to Peugeot Citroen and I finished up at Peugeot Citroen. That’s where, I retired in France.
GB: Oh. Did you live in France at all?
AL: For a year. Yes. I used to fly back home. When I say I lived there. Not, not really but I I was —
GB: You worked.
AL: In France for a year and Joyce came over for my retirement party at St Germaine.
GB: Lovely. Good. So, when, Arthur when you think back to flying those Lancaster, flying in those Lancasters do you have any particular highlight memories? Any really difficult missions?
AL: Well only the one with the, (pause) I took it in my stride really. I didn’t, as I say I had my head most of the time.
GB: Yes.
AL: But the time that we’d got the bomb rolling around underneath. That was a nasty nasty moment but I was trying to think. At Mepal I think I knew a family or two in Mepal. We used to go out but mainly to the one, mainly, which was a little way away mainly with the rear gunner’s home.
GB: Yes.
AL: Yeah.
GB: And 75 Squadron then had the New Zealand connection. And that, did that continue?
AL: It’s always. That’s how I always knew it.
GB: Yes.
AL: I always knew it as 75NZ.
GB: Right.
AL: I never knew at as no other.
GB: Yes.
AL: It was always 75NZ.
GB: Yes. And were you proud to be a member of that Squadron?
JL: I don’t think you thought about it.
AL: Well as much as I was proud to be of the RAF.
GB: Yeah. Yeah.
AL: As a whole. [Laughs]
GB: Yes.
AL: Yes. But as I say —
JL: Just got on with it.
GB: Yeah.
AL: The only thing that I was sad about was seeing the crew that I knew fairly well shot down in front of us over one, one of the targets and I forget which target it was.
GB: Yeah.
AL: But I remember it being shot down and they didn’t return. Like a lot of the others didn’t.
GB: Yes. Well thank you very much for that Arthur.
AL: But if if —
JL: Kettle on. I’m sure you could do with a cup of tea.


Gill Barnes, “Interview with Thomas Charles Arthur Long,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 21, 2019,

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