Interview with Ronald Marlow


Interview with Ronald Marlow


Ronald Marlow went to Middleton Council School, then worked at Forgrove Engineering. He joined the Air Training Corps, volunteered for the Royal Air Force training in London at St Johns Wood. He became an air gunner ad flew Wellingtons, followed by a post to Heavy Conversion Unit. Ronald was sent to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe where he flew Lancasters on night and daytime operations in France during the Normandy campaign. After 32 operations as a rear gunner he was sent to gunnery instruction, crashing with a Wellington into woods near RAF Market Harborough. At RAF Driffield (466 Squadron) he served with Albert Hollings flying in Halifaxes Mk 3 as a mid-upper gunner. He carried out operations in Germany to Wiesbaden and Stuttgart. When demobbed he moved to Lytham St. Anne's and Blackpool. Ronald discusses operation cancellations with return to base, flights and preparation, reasons for joining, volunteering, crewing up, service and off-duty life, secrecy, mascots, rank structure, military service condition (temperature at high altitude and heated gloves), military discipline, anti-aircraft guns, aircraft damage during operations, searchlights, memorials, decorations, Bomber Command recognition and reunions.







01:21:28 audio recording


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AMarlowR160422, PMarlowR1601


BW: This is Brian Wright interviewing Warrant Officer Ronald Marlow at quarter to two on Friday 22nd of April 2016 at his residence in Lytham, Lancashire. With me as well this afternoon are his daughter Pat Darby, her husband Frank Darby, Ron’s son in law, and great grandson James Foster. So, Ron, if you’d like to start us off please just if you would like to confirm your service number and your date of birth for the record please.
RM: Yes. Well my service number is 1592700. My date of birth was 10 11 24 and I was born at Middleton, Leeds and brought up there at the time of meeting my future wife Pat.
BW: And how large was your family? How many brothers and sisters did you have?
RM: I hadn’t any. Well I had one brother which he was born and then died before I arrived so there was nobody I knew. So there was just my mother, father and my father who was an invalid. He’d, for some reason, I never knew how or why but he’d lost the use of his arms and used to just sit there like that day in day out which I didn’t know any background to.
BW: So you didn’t know whether he was in the army or anything during the First World War.
RM: No.
BW: Industrial accident.
RM: There was nothing ever mentioned at all about him and future forces or anything that could have possibly caused it. Yeah.
BW: So you were pretty much raised as an only child then weren’t you?
RM: I was. Yes. Yeah. As I say my father as long as I can remember from my school days and he was just sat in a chair. Used to just sit there day in day out. My mother obviously had to do everything for him which of course things like that I didn’t fully understand. I was a bit too young for that kind of thing but she had to do everything for him and his actual date of losing him. That I don’t know. Or my mother. But that was just the way it went. That was my life. As I say I was the only one and brought up, schooling and I started work.
BW: How, how did you find school? What was it like?
RM: Well it was Middleton Council School which of course we only ever played rugby. We didn’t play football or any other sport. We just played Rugby League so of course if you was in the team you were top of the tops. And I mean I played rugby with the school and they played cricket in the summer time and that was it. But it was, as a school it was just an average sort of a school. It was a council school which of course indicated that there wasn’t many people went from there to higher education and there was not many people could afford higher education because we were all working class people. So that was school as it was. Yeah.
BW: And did you leave at fourteen like everybody?
RM: I left at fourteen and started work at, was it Forgrove Engineering in Dewsbury Road. Forgrove. F O R G R O V E. Forgrove Engineering and I fully think some, some names. Mr Thompson was the boss. And all I was doing was we had machines that packed buttons on to strips of wire for the tailoring trade which of course Leeds was a big tailoring department and we used to just stand there and watch the buttons going down onto these, take them off, put new ones on. I mean not very exciting but that was it. I mean I suppose in a way at Middleton where I was born there was no industry. Just, you know a few shops. So I was lucky to get a job at Dewsbury Road there and I was there for quite a while until what, well yes until more or less my working days. Pardon me. Separated lifetime days because it was then that I eventually met Pat who, her parents, well they had a grocery and off licence business so I’d obviously got an eye in the right department. You know, I thought, well if they serve, that one day I met even get behind the bar which of course I did. You know, I used to eventually gave up and went and worked behind the bar when Pat lost her father and Mrs Finon was running the business which of course with being grocery and off licence it was open at 7 o’clock in the morning because a lot of the men used to get their Woodbines on their way to the pit and of course the bar closed at 10 o’clock at night. So, you know, I mean it was a full day and she was on herself with one of her neighbours helping and I eventually decided to, that with Pat in mind I would doing better for myself going into the business. I didn’t know whether it would one day become part of my life but at least it was a start.
BW: And so you met your future wife at a pretty young age then haven’t you?
RM: Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean Pat and I, we both, I mean she of course with her parents being in business she went to Cockburn High School which of course you paid for which of course my parents couldn’t afford and she used to go to Cockburn High school. I used to go to Middleton Council School which it sounded very class. Middleton Council. But anyway it served its purpose. It got me that I could read and write. [laughs]
BW: And where you were working it wasn’t an apprenticeship by the sound of it. It was a regular full time job was it?
RM: It was a little engineering company and they just, I was lucky really to get in because they had this division where Mr Thompson ran these machines which just put the buttons on the threads ready to go to tailoring so I mean while there were tailors wanted buttons on these threads we were in business.
BW: Right.
RM: And of course I stayed there until such time as I eventually started giving Mrs Finon as she was, a hand in the shop and then eventually worked around towards going in the shop.
BW: And so where were, where were you when war broke out? What do you recall of war starting?
RM: I was at the shop. Yes. I was at the shop and I lived at home. Pat lived with her mother ‘cause I mean Pat used to go to, you know Torquay and places like that for her holidays. I used to go to Scarborough with my suitcase. [laughs] I think things were, they were all within your means you know. You couldn’t afford any more so you didn’t look to do any more. You lived and enjoyed what you’d got.
BW: And did you have workmates or school friends who joined up?
RM: Well funny thing was when I eventually joined up a good, I was more or less like on my own going into the RAF. None of the workmates or people I knew went and of course I was just like one off, one on my own and off I went into the RAF and that started my training.
BW: And when did you decide to join?
RM: Oh crikey. Now then. This is –
BW: Was it something that you felt you wanted to do straight away?
RM: Well no. I think the thing it was, it was inevitable I was going to be called up for the forces so I thought well the thing was you either get in first with what you want or you wait ‘til you’re called up and put where they want you and I thought well, you know, the idea of flying was, by crikey it was way way way. I mean in those days. So I just volunteered for the RAF, for the cadets and I was in the aircrew cadets for, for a while before I actually got into the RAF but I learned quite a bit there.
BW: So when you say the aircrew cadets was this the Air Training Corps?
RM: Yeah.
BW: So this would be around about 1941/42 because the air cadets were formed in ’41 weren’t they?
RM: Yeah. Well it was a bit later than that.
BW: Yeah.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Yeah. And what was it that motivated you to join the RAF? What, what did you like about it? Did you want to fly? Did you want to be a pilot?
RM: Well I think the first and foremost I knew that my education would limit me on what position I could undertake in aircrew and I thought well pilots, navigators. Then you come down a bit engineers and bomb aimers you know. They’re, they’re all just a little bit, and I thought well there’s one thing about it. As an air gunner you only learn to fire a 303 and once you can fire it that’s it and I mean the four guns were all linked up together. You pulled a trigger and they all went off and just a case of making sure you aimed in the right direction [laughs]. Oh dear.
BW: So, you, you’ve joined up and they’ve sent you for training. Did you fly on Ansons and Whitleys at first or do you recall?
RM: Wimpies.
BW: Wimpies.
RM: Yeah. Wellingtons. Yeah.
BW: The Wellingtons. Yeah.
RM: Yes ‘cause we went to London first of all. We were called up to London and the first flying we did was in Wellingtons. Well of course that was an advancement. I mean Wellingtons. Twin engine bombers. I mean ‘cause they were in service at the time. And it was just the fact that they had, you know, a rear turret, which they hadn’t a mid-upper, they’d a rear turret which of course suited what we were learning to, well wanted to be. So the two went together.
BW: And at this stage you, did you volunteer for rear turret? Or –
RM: I volunteered, I volunteered for aircrew and of course there was only really when you got down to the lower limits of aircrew you started with air gunners and worked your way up. Well of course I mean a lot of the training in air crew was much longer than air gunners because I mean air gunners if you could, as I say, if you could fire from a turret you was in. But of course I mean navigators, bomb aimers they all had an extended training period so I thought well if I’m going to be in it I might as well be in it as soon as possible as later.
BW: Were you specifically attracted to flying as a gunner in the rear turret?
RM: Well no it wasn’t really that. I think what it was it was just a case of, well I wanted to be in aircrew and then you know when things got whittled down as to what were available in air crew you realised well if I want to fly I can only fly with the capabilities I’ve got and that’s start at the back end and work forward [laughs]. Which of course they were all at the nose and you were stuck at the back end [laughs].
BW: Can you recall what it, what it was like the first time you fired your guns from a turret. Even in training?
RM: Well yes I mean it wasn’t a case I don’t think as I can recall that I was aiming at anything. I think it was a case of I thought I’d seen something and of course I mean you always thought you saw something because you were looking for them and it was bound to be out there somewhere and I think it was just a case of, ‘Was that?’ Let it go just to be, I thought well if it is I shall shift him and leave us.
BW: So, you, you passed out your training and were made sergeant which was standard for gunners.
RM: Yeah. St Johns Wood was where we, we were trained up and brought up and got into our basics of gunnery school and then of course we went on to flying duties, learning flying duties and then getting crewed up and I think, you know at the beginning you thought well I hope they pick me, I don’t have to pick them and I think they did. They more or less just got a crew together and you got to know each other and you worked together and developed. Yeah.
BW: Where was it that you met the crew? Was it at a conversion unit?
RM: At St Johns wood because St Johns Wood was the recruiting centre for aircrew so we went to St Johns Wood and there was you know the different schools and you learned your basics there and then you were more or less drafted through schooling into meeting up with other crew members. Higher educated, well, educated yeah and you know you eventually got to the point where the skipper selected his crew. Well, I mean, you thought you’d been selected. I’m in. I mean it wasn’t a case of you was just the same as anybody else but, and then we got crewed up. More or less met up, introduced to each other. This is who I am. This is who you are. This is what you will be. And we formed a crew and then started you know I mean we started first of all without flight engineers because you didn’t really need them on the early training but once you got established as a crew then you got together and got a crew membership of the seven people and all developed together. Yeah.
BW: And then from there you were posted to 50 squadron at Skellingthorpe.
RM: Skellingthorpe. Yes. Yeah.
BW: And did you pick up your flight engineer there when you got there? Or did you meet him before?
RM: Yeah. The flight engineer was the last one that we picked up because I mean they were, you know, trained separately but we did some flying together just prior to going to the squadron so we did know everybody in the crew. Yeah.
BW: And presumably this is at a Heavy Conversion Unit for Lancasters ‘cause that’s where you were first on wasn’t it?
RM: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Oh yes. I mean once you, once you were going to be up there on the squadrons it was Lancasters and that was it until you either got the chop or you got through. Yeah.
BW: And how was it when you were told you were going on Lancasters? Were you made up about that? Were, were you quite happy with that?
RM: Well I think it was a bit of a false reaction. You thought this is it. I’ve made it and I thought, flipping heck. Where are we going? You know and you made your first trip and it probably a quiet night, a silent night. Nothing ever happened. Nobody attacked you. I mean a lot depended on the target. If it was a place that was heavily defended you could expect anything. Ack ack or even attacked by aircraft. If it was a small place which a lot of them were small I mean to us there wasn’t, you know it was a target and that’s what you were going for and that’s what we went for and of course it wasn’t heavily defended so there was no real defences. Just sat there and you know, ‘How long are we going to be before we go back?’ It went very well any rate. I mean, it was, it was a little bit novel to start with. You thought well if this is it it’s not bad. We’ll get through. Then of course bigger targets came and more defensive and offensive and you learned your ways. Yeah.
BW: So I guess at this stage it’s now 1943 maybe in to 1944. Is that right?
RM: Yeah.
BW: When you start on ops.
RM: Yeah.
BW: And do you recall where your first op was? Where?
RM: Well it’s all in the book there ‘cause I’ve got that it starts the full tour.
BW: Right.
RM: But then it also starts where I did the five trips, five trips on Halifaxes with a wing commander.
BW: So you start in mid-May 1944.
RM: Yeah.
BW: And it looks like you’ve really, with a couple of exceptions where you’ve changed aircraft you’ve stuck with the same one.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Which was B. Did you have a nickname for it?
RM: Baker.
BW: Baker
RM: Well yeah B for Baker. B for Bravo. I mean it was just a bit versatile. Of course one of the trips I remember was the fact Pat’s mum was in hospital, your mum was in hospital and they didn’t know just how she was going to come out of it and they scrubbed me off that trip and gave me a twenty four hour pass to go and see her which was very kind of them. Can you manage there?
BW: Yes, thank you.
RM: So you can see by that we didn’t waste a lot time by doing a trip and then having nights and nights and nights doing nothing.
BW: Yeah. And your early sorties are mostly in France aren’t they?
RM: Yeah. Oh yes. Yeah.
BW: ‘Cause this was working up to D-Day.
RM: ‘Cause when you’re thinking from Lincolnshire, straight down to the coast, across the channel it didn’t take long to get in to France, to some of the French targets. Places we’d never even heard of. So obviously from information there was something there. Something that was earmarked to the bomb aimers and pilots. The target is such, you know. That, that’s what you’ll go for and we used to go, get rid of them and let’s get out of here kind of thing. Yeah.
BW: And as gunner did you attend those briefings with the other crew members as well? Were you all briefed together? Or –
RM: Yeah. We were all briefed to go and then of course when we, when the trip was over we came back. There was a briefing but then if there was anything more in material that needed to be recorded for future trips then of course the crew just went to the briefing. That was it.
BW: And so when it was revealed what your targets were going to be what was the reaction generally? Were you –
RM: Well you see with a lot of them I mean some names you thought, oh my God. Flipping hell I don’t fancy going there. You know there were names that hit you straight away. There was obviously something there to be going for so we’d better look out. Some of the places which, if you look in there, some of the French targets we could have been in somebody’s back yard for what it was you know. There was I mean it didn’t mean anything to us at all. I mean the briefing was that there was probably some ammunition dump or some light ack ack there or some barracks or something. There was always something that they told us we were going for but never a lot of detail as to what it was. So it was just a case of well saturate bombing and hope you got rid of them.
BW: And what happened during the preparations for the mission itself? Can you talk us through what you might do having had the briefing what would you then do to get to and then get on board the aircraft and sort your guns out?
RM: Oh the thing was once you knew where you were going and what you were going for then that was pretty secret and that was a case of they told us and we didn’t tell anybody because somebody could have been listening that shouldn’t have been. So it was not a case of tell you and then you know you’d go for your tea about three or four hours later. Just a case of well you’d go for your meal, come back, briefing and more or less straight to the aircraft or within a reasonable time to the aircraft. So you couldn’t really, if you wanted to, you couldn’t really discuss it with people. It was pretty quiet.
BW: And would you get changed? Would you get in to your flying suit before you go out?
RM: Well you see the thing was your normal uniform. Then you ‘d to go to your crew room where you’re flying suit was which of course with us was flying suit and the mask and your mask and your harness and so forth which of course we took longer because I mean the crew at the front end they were, apart from a Mae West and that they had virtually nothing on where we of course had to put on a flying suit on, flying boots on, fasten it all up and harness round here and you know I mean when you walked you could hear it clunk clunk. [laughs].
BW: And did you, did you have a seat pack parachute or a carry carry on parachute?
RM: Well the parachute. At the rear turret when you opened the outer doors you used to swing into the turret but you left your parachute there. Got in to the turret.
BW: Inside.
RM: And shut the turret doors. So if you did have to bail out you’d got to be quick enough to open the doors to get your parachute, bring it in and turn the turret and go out backwards.
BW: Obviously never happened to you, that.
RM: It never happened. No. Thank goodness. No. We were never got to that situation. Thank goodness. In reality, I mean we did a full tour and there was never any real time when we, ‘Be prepared we may have to bail out.’ We could if anything. We were very lucky. We were very very lucky in the fact that we completed a tour and we never had any calamitous happening where, ‘Get ready to bail out,’ you know. We were very lucky. We were.
BW: And when you had got all your flying kit on and your suit and things did you take any mascots with you or have any good luck charms or anything? Had Pat given you anything to –?
RM: Oh some of them did you know. I mean some of them had little bits and pieces. Oh I must, I must remember to take this, and I must take. At, I think we had, I think we.
JF: Picture of grandma.
BW: Oh right. That’s oh right this is a picture of Pat with an aircrew hat on and did you take that, did you take that with you?
RM: Yeah.
BW: Did you take the picture on board?
RM: No.
PD: Oh he did.
JF: You did.
RM: No. We didn’t carry anything with us in the turret because it was always a thought that if you did you’d want to get out as quick as possible and where have I put this, and have I got that? So we just left these in the billet.
BW: Oh.
RM: And got out as quickly as possible if we had to [laughs]. Tell you. So all in all I was one of the lucky ones.
BW: Do you recall what you had to do when you, when you had got yourself in to your turret did you have certain checks to do on the guns or anything like that? What can you tell us about that?
RM: Well the thing is you know your elevation and traverse, you know.
BW: Yeah.
RM: That they could go up and down and traverse and the turret was working. Obviously you couldn’t do anything with the guns but the fact was the turret was working. You could rotate the turrets, up and down the guns, everything was as it should be. It was just a case of would it be right at the time if necessary? So, you know you thought oh well everything’s working. Just sit there and keep looking around.
BW: And did you have 303s on this particular turret?
RM: Yeah. Browning 303s. Yeah. Four 303s. Yeah. [laughs]. And of course the, the change the bullets went down in front of you down underneath the turret into the fuselage. They don’t, they wouldn’t have lasted long if you’d have got four guns going but anyway we never had that requirement, thank goodness.
BW: And I understand some gunners took out the Perspex panels because it made it easier to see. Did you ever do that on your turret at all?
RM: No. I always left it in because I don’t know it was just one of those things that some did, some didn’t. And you believed that it was there for a purpose and you left it in. Yeah. I mean the thing was you could find that if there was bad weather and there was any rain or anything about it could, you know, look a bit obscure looking through it. Whereas you used to think, well I used to think well best left alone. Yeah.
BW: You mentioned before the crew that you’d met and teamed up with and aside from yourself your pilot was Pilot Officer Pethick.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Do you recall the names and roles of the other crew members?
RM: Now that I don’t. Pethick.
BW: Was there a Philips?
RM: Oh I must be honest I –
BW: Flying Officer Philips.
RM: I’m completely struggled when it comes to crew members. ‘Cause you see those that were officers you met them in the aircraft or any training but apart from that you didn’t see much of them because they were officers. You were NCOs. But in respect of other crew members [pause] I just can’t think.
BW: Ok.
RM: I’m sorry.
BW: That’s alright. Did you, do you recall being a fairly tight crew? I mean you mentioned about socialising with other, I suppose ranks or whatever. Did you, did you stick together as a crew?
RM: Oh you did if you were out and so forth but when you were on the station when it was practical I mean obviously it was a bit difficult, officers meeting up with NCOs, even though you were crew members. That was possible at times but generally speaking it was a case of them and us but I mean you’ve got to keep rank you know. I mean no matter what they were officers, you were NCOs and you could meet up when it was necessary as crew members training etcetera etcetera but you didn’t meet up socially completely. Yeah.
BW: And when you were in the aircraft were you on first name terms?
RM: Oh yeah.
BW: With each other.
RM: Yes. But I mean the thing was there wasn’t a lot of communication in the aircraft because the skipper would check on everybody. If you were in, in your position, in your situation, ‘Everything alright? Any problems let us know before we take off rather than later,’ and once everything had been checked throughout the aircraft with the skipper then you were on first name terms. Yeah.
BW: And so when you, when you took off were you pretty much in silence unless you had to talk?
RM: Oh you was. Yes, because there was no need to be talking. I mean you got to the end of the runway and you got the light and you turned on to the runway. The skipper said, ‘We’re going to take off,’ and that was the last words that were spoken when you went down the runway and climbed up, took off and you’d hear the skipper say, ‘Wheels up,’ and the engineer would get the wheels up and you would then be airborne and you were as a crew flying together. Yeah.
BW: And naturally as a rear gunner you were first in the air technically weren’t you?
RM: Oh yeah.
BW: ‘Cause the tail would come up first.
RM: When that tail lifted I was airborne. I mean I got more flying hours in than the others. Not that it was recorded as such. And I mean there was the occasion of course sometimes you know when you were glad to be back and he put the aircraft down and the tail wheel went down a bit heavy. You got a bit of a shudder. I’d think never mind we’re down. [laughs]. Oh dear.
BW: And it’s on your list of ops that you flew on D-Day itself as well.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Regarding that were you aware during your briefings and operations prior to that that the invasion was forthcoming. Was it suspected or were you told.
RM: It was indicated to us that this was a distinct possibility. That, you know, D-Day was very very imminent and that we would of course be more than likely to be called upon in or on D-Day so of course the last minute, if you will, last minute, ‘Well this looks like it lads. This is where we go.’ And nobody was, said this is D-Day but it was given to you well and truly to you that we were on the move. You, you know, you make your own decisions from here.
BW: And yours was actually a night-time flight wasn’t it on D-Day?
RM: Yeah. Was it? Yeah.
BW: It wasn’t early in the morning. It was.
RM: No.
BW: Late at night.
RM: Yeah. Oh dear.
BW: I don’t suppose you got to see any of the forces going over to France on that day did you?
RM: No, because as I say you see I was always looking back. I was looking at what had happened earlier. If there was anything left still going over that’s what I would see. The main force of course was ahead of me [laughs]. Still, never mind.
BW: And on the, on these operations how would you describe your view out of the turret? Could you see any of the other bombers in the main force at all?
RM: You could. Yes. I mean the thing is from a turret, either mid upper or the rear, you had a good out vision all the way around. I mean the thing is when you think of it while you were there you needed it. There was no good saying I could see you but I couldn’t see there or there could be somebody behind that. You’d got to be able to see all the way around through the, you know, the Perspex so really you’d a good view all the way around and you made sure that there was no little patches where you couldn’t see clearly. You know you got around. You got around. Yeah.
BW: And was it pretty cold in the back?
RM: Oh it could be. Yes. It could be. ‘Cause I mean the thing is there was no real heating on. I mean you’d your oxygen mask and your flying suit and all the rest of it. You were all connected up but I mean when you think the heat from the front end never really got to the back end to the extent that, ‘Oh it’s better now.’ You know it, I mean it was cold. I mean naturally you had to think it was cold because of where you were. You were at the tail end of the aircraft. There was not much coming through from there but anyway I mean you got used to these things after two or three times in the turret you just accepted what it was for what it was. You were there and hopefully with the grace of God you’d get through and finish a tour and hope that you didn’t get shot down before.
BW: And were your gloves adequate? It was pretty cold obviously, as you say, in the turret.
RM: Oh yes your gloves were electrically heated.
BW: Nice.
RM: Yeah. Clipped together and you know kept your hands because I mean well you can imagine back there I mean with your hands on triggers all the time because it was like a bicycle handlebars if you will. Small. But for operating both sets so you had to have your fingers free to be able to move them. Yeah.
BW: How did you elevate and move the turret? Elevate the guns and move the turret?
RM: You just –
BW: Sort of twist your wrists.
RM: That’s right. You twist the wrists to up, twist the wrists to down and then if you wanted to turn it you just tilted the handlebars and it moved the turret around.
BW: I see,
RM: Yeah.
BW: So as you say it’s I guess like a motorbike handlebars.
RM: You needed all your activities in your fingers. Your hands. Yeah.
BW: And I believe that you got to warrant officer at one stage but then something happened. They decided you weren’t –
RM: Yes.
BW: Going to stay at warrant officer. What happened?
RM: I’m trying to think. There was something that –
JF: You got drunk. You went through the officer’s gate when you were drunk.
RM: Pardon?
JF: You went through the officer’s gate when you were drunk.
RM: I can’t hear you.
JF: You went through the officer’s gate when you were drunk
RM: Oh that was it wasn’t it. Yeah. Went through the officer’s gate.
BW: Went through the officer’s gate.
RM: Which was not, was a case of non-entry to, to us.
BW: So as an NCO you ended up –
RM: I thought I was more than what I was. [laughs].
BW: But the reason was you’d had, you’d had a few drinks had you?
RM: Well I suppose that could have been the main reason [laughs] Dear oh dear. Yes, you, I mean the thing was in those days it wasn’t so much that you could consume. It was just a case of a couple of pints and oh I mean you couldn’t afford more but by Jove you enjoyed it.
BW: And so how were, how were you found out about this? Did somebody see? See you and –
RM: Well you were walking through the gate
BW: Report you?
RM: And somebody said, ‘Where are you going airman?’ I said, ‘Airman?’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘This is not for you. This is the officer’s gate.’ So it was about turn and what number, rank and name. Yeah. I think there was about two or three of us got hobbled on that sin.
BW: And did you have to go before the CO?
RM: Well no it was just a case of you shouldn’t have been coming through that gate. It’s a non-entry to any other crew –
JF: Gramps. You did. You went in front of the CO which was your pilot.
RM: Did I?
JF: Yeah. And he gave you a rollicking.
RM: Oh my God, make it worse wouldn’t it? I tell you a lot of things are, you’ve brought a lot back to me but oh through my own skipper. Coming in through our gate.
JF: It was at Driffield.
RM: Pardon?
JF: It was at Driffield. It was Hollings.
RM: Yeah.
JF: And he was the base commander and your pilot and he was the one that gave you the rollicking.
RM: That’s it now. Wing Commander Hollings because as I remember now, thank you. I’m thinking about the other one first. He said, ‘You do realise that I’d put,’ ‘cause they were all officers apart from me, he said, ‘You do realise,’ he said, ‘I’d put you forward for your commission,’ he said, ‘but you’ve had that now.’ That was the end of that.
BW: So this is when, this is when you’d finished with your first squadron and had transferred to 466 at Driffield.
RM: This is when I’d gone on to Yorkshire.
BW: Yeah.
RM: Yeah. Yeah. I just I can’t think of any reason why I would want to go back on a second tour when I’d done a tour but I suppose I was stupid.
BW: Well you, you’d done a good number of ops.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Already and you’d completed your first, first tour.
RM: First tour completely. Yes. I was, I was on instructing.
BW: And looking at your list of ops you mentioned when we were talking earlier your longest one being over eight hours this one is is there is one of nine but most of them are on average probably about four or five.
RM: Four or five hours. Yeah.
BW: ‘Cause they were French targets.
RM: Yeah.
BW: But there’s one or two here that are long trips and I suppose most of these would be in, be in Germany. There’s [Wiesbaden?] and Stuttgart.
RM: Yes. Yes
BW: What was Stuttgart like? Was it that a notoriously difficult target?
RM: Well, some of them, it was surprising in a way. You could be over the target or approaching the target area and there was very little air defensive but there was a lot of, you know, ground attack like ack ack and so forth but fortunately I suppose from our point of view there was very little of like, you know we put up Bomber Command and they’d put up Bomber Command and we used to put Fighter Command up in opposition. There was very little from them so I suppose in a way we were very lucky. Yeah.
BW: And you saw the flak and the –
RM: Oh you could see the flak.
BW: The ack ack coming up.
RM: Yeah but I mean the thing was, you know they at the front could see it before obviously we did and they used to say, ‘Oh there’s flak ahead,’ and you’d think oh flipping heck here we go. [laughs]
BW: It was notoriously accurate as well. Did, did you find that to be the case?
RM: Oh yeah. I mean it was, you could many a time come back with little holes, you know, in the aircraft where small, nothing big, heavy but small anti-aircraft had exploded and done a bit of damage. I mean it could have in the right area but if it just damaged the wing or the fuselage it didn’t make a lot of difference thank goodness. [laughs]
BW: And could you hear it when it hit the aircraft?
RM: Oh yeah, you could hear a bang on the fuselage and you’d think, oh my God what had, what’s gone? And then you’d hear a bang, a bump and then it would be quiet. And it was gone. You’d missed it.
BW: But they never caused significant damage on your aircraft. You didn’t lose –
RM: No we were -
BW: Engines and things like that.
RM: Fortunately we were never damaged to the extent where we had to consider whether we would need to bale out or not. We’d, you know, I mean damage could have been just a couple of small little shell holes that they used to just stick a bit of paper over and go again. So we were lucky. We were very lucky. I mean you could see aircraft go down. You know, there would be some ack ack and there would just be a flash and that would have been one aircraft been hit, probably in the bomb bay when the bomb bays were open. Could have been hit there and that was it he was gone. But we were lucky as I say. Lucky.
BW: And presumably over a target where there’s searchlights and things going you could, if you weren’t able to see the other bombers in the formation you could see them then.
RM: Yeah. Yeah well I mean that was one of the big dangers. They used to say don’t look at the searchlights because obviously you know the searchlights, the brightness could affect your eyes and for a while afterwards you couldn’t see anything clear. So if there were searchlights about you were to keep away from them. It was all –
BW: Did you ever get caught in a searchlight?
RM: Fortunately no. We were very very lucky. I mean a little bit of slight damage but nothing of a serious nature that would have caused or could have caused, you know, serious thinking by the skipper. Do we need to get out? I mean the engines were still turning and bomb doors were opening and closing. Let’s get out of here kind of thing.
BW: What was it like when you could feel the bombs had gone? You could hear the bomb aimer’s voice.
RM: You could feel the aircraft lift. You know. You’d be going along and you’d say to the bomb aimer, you know, ‘When you’re ready,’ and he’d say, ‘Right. Right. Steady. Left. left a bit. Steady. Steady. Bombs gone.’ And you could feel the aircraft lift. Yeah. You used to think to ourselves thank goodness they’ve gone. Be glad of them out of the way. Oh dear.
BW: And the Germans used blue searchlights as well. Did you ever see any of those? They used radar –
RM: No.
BW: Guided.
RM: Not that I can think. No. I mean they used the, you know, the normal searchlights but I can’t think of any blue ones. What was the purpose of that?
BW: I was just curious because they used the blue, the blue ones were radar guided and so they could lock on to a bomber.
RM: Yeah. Lock on. Yeah.
BW: And the other yellow or white ones.
RM: The others were manually operated. Yeah. No. Not that I can think. No. Mind you I wouldn’t be looking for searchlights. I’d be looking the other way.
BW: And you didn’t happen to see any night fighters around at all either?
RM: No.
BW: You’d be looking for those.
RM: No, I, again I say we were very very lucky. Now whether there wasn’t sufficient up or whether they were going for other aircraft and not us but never at any time can I recall seeing a German night fighter which was a blessing. It was.
BW: So I suppose it might be fair to say you didn’t actually fire your guns in anger.
RM: No. No. I mean my guns were cocked. They had to be obviously but never at any time did I have to fire at anything on a trip so –
BW: So I presume the only times you would fire them would be when you tested them over the channel on the way in.
RM: Oh yes. Just give your guns, the skipper used to say, ‘Right. Give your guns a burst. See if they’re alright.’ And that was it. Yeah.
BW: One of your targets here is Caen and that was in mid-July and that was at a time when they were really trying to push the D-Day forces on from the beach head.
RM: Well probably. I mean getting rid of some of the defensive situations on the beaches would be a good idea wouldn’t it?
BW: And of course at that, at that time at night you wouldn’t see anything of the city or anything like that so.
RM: No. I mean the thing is –
BW: No indication.
RM: From where we were you could not look straight down. You could look out at the sides and the skipper used to say, ‘Don’t look down. That’s the bomb aimer’s job.’ But of course the bomb aimer used to be laid in the nose and telling the skipper, ‘Left a bit. Right a bit. Steady. Steady. Steady. Bombs gone.’ And as I say when you felt it lift you’d think thank goodness they’re out of the way.
BW: And there was, there was one sortie where you were recalled. That was in June but it was presumably one where you were going to go to a target in France but you were recalled. Do you recall?
RM: Yeah.
BW: What, what that was. Was it a case of the target couldn’t be seen or something or –
RM: Well I don’t know because they just used to say that the target has been cancelled. Return to base. Don’t take off or anything but there was no reason given. Whether it was, you know incorrectly or whether it was something had happened at the other side or what but it was just cancelled and that was it.
BW: And so you’ve come through three months really. Almost three months to the day since you started on the 11th of May through to the 9th of August 1944.
RM: Yeah.
BW: You’ve had pretty consistent flying and presumably about thirty ops. I’ve not counted all these but there’d be about thirty ops. One, two, three –
JF: Thirty two.
BW: Thirty two.
JF: From memory I think, thirty two.
BW: And then you went on to gunnery instruction.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Was that something that your CO decided for you or did you volunteer for it or –?
RM: Well you see the thing is they had to find somewhere for you. I mean you’d finished your tour so what was you going to do? Just be kicking around at some station waiting till you were called again or what? So you volunteered to go to a gunnery school and get linked up with, you know gunners that were coming through. It helped. Well it was something for you to do if that’s a way of putting it but it was something for you to do and rather than just being kicking around at a gunnery school doing nothing. Yeah.
BW: And do you recall where that was? Do you know where you were posted to?
JF: Market Harborough I think it was called.
RM: Was it? It could have been. Thank you.
JF: I think that’s right.
BW: Market Harborough.
RM: Market Harborough [laughs].
JF: It was 14 OTU I think. Number 14. Yeah. Market Harborough.
BW: So do you recall anything from from that time of being an instructor? Can you recall what sort of things you would tell the other students to do?
PD: You crashed.
BW: Did you have a crash in a Wellington bomber at one point?
PD: When you’d been training [do you mean]
RM: Sorry but can you speak up a bit ‘cause I mean –
JF: You crashed.
RM: I’ve got a hearing aid in one ear which doesn’t work.
JF: Wellington.
PD: Landed in a Wellington in the woods and it split open didn’t it?
RM: Oh yeah.
PD: When you were training.
RM: Yeah. Sorry. Can you just give that out? Yeah. A Wimpy that we came down in. Didn’t do us a lot of good but fortunately we were not injured or incapacitated in any way. It just came, I don’t know what it was.
JF: You were, you remember, you told that skipper that you heard somebody on the radio saying that they were in trouble and they were going to go down?
RM: Thank you.
JF: And the skipper said, ‘Yes it’s us.’
RM: [laughs] Oh well. That’s being at the back end you see. You couldn’t hear things properly [laughs]. Oh dear. You’ll have to forgive me as I say. It’s a long time ago. I’ve done very well considering.
BW: That’s absolutely fine. So you were on a, you were on a training mission.
RM: Yeah.
BW: In a Wellington and some problem or other developed.
RM: Something. Obviously. Yeah.
BW: And the pilot told you that you were going to have to crash land.
RM: I mean the thing is when you look at it realistically I’m at the back end looking that way. They’re up there looking the other way to where the aircraft is going. What could I have possibly seen that was going to decide –
BW: Yeah.
RM: What the aircraft was going to do?
BW: Yeah. So all, so all you knew was it was going down and -
RM: Exactly, you know, am I going with it?
BW: The pilot says, ‘It’s us.’ And so do recall this crash in the woods? Do you?
RM: Well obviously it was nothing of the serious nature that anybody got seriously injured but the aircraft was obviously damaged wasn’t it? Yeah. Split open. Yeah. Split open. No.
BW: So –
RM: I mean when you think for what time I was in that wasn’t bad was it?
BW: Yeah. To go through all of that over enemy territory and then to –
RM: Yeah. Yeah.
BW: Have to crash in your own country.
RM: I mean the thing is you know I mean when you think of all those trips I did. What a hundred and twenty nine. To never be seriously damaged from enemy action that was very lucky. Yeah. You know, to be damaged by ack ack or enemy fighters which as I say to think if I ever saw one or two was the most. Yeah. ‘Cause you see I mean if there was ack ack fire going up they wouldn’t want the night fighters up ‘cause they could have been caught with that.
BW: And you never found out what caused the Wellington to go down?
RM: No. No. No it was probably some stupid idea that we’d got that something was going wrong. Probably an engine spluttered or could have been something and I mean we never went back to ask. You know. Crikey. Could happen again. Don’t find out. Never mind.
BW: Were you near the base at all? Were you near your home airfield or was it some distance away?
RM: It can’t have been that far away because I mean when you were ever doing any training flights in Wimpies you never did big long distance ones. You know they usually were within an area around the base so must have been pretty close.
BW: And then from there you went to 466 squadron at Driffield.
RM: Yes.
BW: An Australian squadron.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Did you, did you meet a lot of Aussies? I mean this particular unit wasn’t fully –
RM: Oh yeah.
BW: Occupied with Aussies until later in the war but –.
RM: Yes. Yeah. A lot of Aussies yeah. I mean as an Australian squadron it was basically Australian crew. Yeah. But as they, as they reminded me I slipped up with the going through the long gate, wrong gate. Thank you.
BW: And your pilot was actually the wing commander.
RM: He was the station CO. Yeah.
BW: Station CO as well.
RM: Yeah. Wing Commander Hollings. Station CO.
BW: This is Wing Commander Albert Hollings.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Who had, who had a DFC but he was an Aussie.
RM: Yes. Yeah.
BW: What was he like to fly with?
RM: Well I mean you couldn’t deny the fact that he was a wing commander which was way way way above me so I mean we only met when we had to do a crew training or crew instructions or anything like that. I mean other than that I mean when I’d, on the charge I was just marched in to the room. He was behind the desk, said what he had to say and said what he had to do and that was it. Me finished. Oh well.
BW: And when he did that were you demoted from warrant officer?
RM: Well I was. I was as I was. I stayed as I was.
BW: Right.
RM: I didn’t alter. I was going to go up but –
BW: And this was where he said you were going to be put forward for your commission but because –
RM: Yeah. He said, ‘I was putting you forward for your commission,’ he said, ‘But you’ve had that now.’
BW: Simply because you walked through the wrong gate.
RM: I walked through the wrong gate. Yeah.
BW: That’s harsh.
RM: I mean the thing is apart from anything I was a foreigner. I wasn’t Australian. Oh dear.
BW: And the aircraft you were flying this time were the Halifax Mark 3s.
RM: Halifaxes. Yeah.
BW: And you’d transferred from being a rear turret gunner.
RM: Yeah.
BW: To being a mid-upper.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Was that on the CO’s direction or was that just because there was a slot going? You wanted it?
RM: No just to make up, as they wanted the crew as we got the position ‘cause as I say used to sit on the top there. I thought flipping heck. You’re completely exposed. You know, you’ve no protection around you up here. Anyway, that was all by the by.
BW: Do you recall what your armament was? Were they, were they the half inch machine guns?
RM: Two 303s, two 303 Brownings. Yeah.
BW: On that version as well.
RM: Yeah.
BW: And did you meet or get to know the rest of the crew at all on this on this particular time.
RM: Well with the Aussies of course I mean they more or less kept together and the Aussie officers, the Aussie officers stayed together and you just didn’t mix unless it was anything that required you all to be together. Anything like that you were but other than that it was a case of you go that way and I’ll go this way. Anyway.
BW: So even, even though you’d been on a crew before where you might have mixed with a couple of the guys because you were the same rank. On this occasion there was even more segregation because –
RM: Oh yeah.
BW: The Aussies didn’t mix with you.
RM: Well you see being the station CO and the squadron commander I mean he’d got a group of Australian officers with him. I mean I suppose in a way I was lucky to have got on the crew. Well never mind.
BW: And how, how did you find flying in a Halifax compared to a Lancaster?
RM: Well, to a gunner there wasn’t a lot of difference. You were sat. I mean from rear turret to mid-upper turret you were just sat there. Sat upright. You could rotate fully. You’d two guns that would go up and down so there wasn’t a lot of change. You know you were just in a turret same as you would have been with the others in a Lancaster. Yeah.
BW: Did you feel there was more room though in a Halifax or a -?
RM: No. Well I think, I think you felt safer this way. I mean you could unclip your seat and drop out whereas with the rear turret you had to undo your back door, back door open that out then slide out into the fuselage so it was a bit more difficult. Yeah.
BW: And getting in and out of the aircraft in general did you feel it was a bit more roomy?
RM: Yeah ‘cause –
BW: Or easier?
RM: ‘Cause the door was in the aircraft side. Little short steps you know. You just, everybody climbed up those and went either front or rear. Oh yes. No, no problem.
BW: And was it, was it still as cold as before or was it a little bit warmer because you were nearer the nav?
RM: Oh it was warmer because you weren’t right down at the back end you know. I mean it was bound to be warmer. I mean I suppose in a way you looked at these things but you used to think well I’ve got my clobber on, I’ve got my coat on, I’ve got my uniform on, leave it at that. Yeah.
BW: And the difference this time is that it’s early 1945 now.
RM: Yeah.
BW: When you’re, where you’re on this part.
RM: Yeah. On the Aussies. Yeah
BW: And although your targets are still Germany was there still much opposition at the time? Were they still as active as you felt they had been before?
RM: Well I mean one of the things was obviously that the opposition, that’s really, real opposition was much deeper into enemy territory. I mean you crossed on to France and it was pretty quiet you know. It had receded. So it was a bit safer in that respect. Yeah.
BW: Were you aware of the war coming to an end? That it would end imminently.
RM: I don’t think so. I don’t think you really looked at it like that respect. You know you just looked at it well I’m in aircrew and we’ll keep flying ’til and told not to. [laughs]
BW: Just keeping going ‘til the end until they tell you to stop.
RM: That’s it. Yes.
BW: And so you’re on this, by this record there’s only five trips that were done between 12th March and 18th of April so that’s really only a month on this before you then stopped flying over, over Germany altogether.
RM: Yes. That’s right. Yeah.
BW: Were you involved in other, let’s say humanitarian ops like bringing prisoners of war back or dropping food?
RM: No.
BW: To the Dutch.
RM: No. No. As we finished flying operationally we more or less finished flying and we were just on different stations with, you know, routine jobs. You know you’d still got your rank and you’d got your, whatever you were but you were not doing that anymore. You were just more or less filling time in with being with the services until it was your time to be demobbed.
BW: And so when the announcement came that the war had ended and that you know and that was the end of operations what then happened? Did you celebrate the news and move on or -?
RM: Yeah. Well of course I got my demob. Came home. Got back in to the shop and got that more or less sorted out. Yeah. I might have had a pint or two to celebrate. I mean it was on tap.
[Voices in the background.]
BW: I would imagine the Aussies had quite a big celebration.
RM: Well I mean the thing is when you think Aussies in Cambridge I mean, er Canadians, they could go home. I mean we were home. I mean train, bus or something and you were home. They had a long way to go so it didn’t take long to celebrate.
BW: And in some cases I believe the Australians and Canadians went home sooner or were demobbed much more earlier than the, than the British.
RM: Well I mean the thing was if you look at it from a realistic point of view why not get them home. They’d further to go. Much further to go. Get them away. We were on the doorstep. We could go home at weekends. Go home for seven days leave. I mean they couldn’t so it was practical to get them, you know on the move as quick as anything. Yeah.
BW: And to be honest you weren’t yourself that far from home. I mean if you were at Driffield in North Yorkshire.
RM: Crikey no. I mean.
BW: Back to Leeds. It’s not that far at all is it?
RM: No. No trouble at all. No. No I could get home very easily.
BW: And during all that time did you manage to get to see Pat during the time.
RM: Oh we got leave. Yeah.
PD: Can I say something?
BW: Yeah. Yeah. Go on.
PD: You used to get a penny platform ticket, get on the train [unclear] with your penny platform ticket.
RM: You’re not supposed to talk about that [laughs]
BW: So you used to get a ticket just for the platform and jump on the train instead. [laughs]
RM: [laughs]. Well we hadn’t much money you see had we?
BW: You had to economise. So even in between ops and I guess with not having that tight a crew where you’d socialise together I guess most of your opportunity to take time off you went home and spent, spent with Pat.
RM: Well that’s it you see I mean the thing is you either went out with the lads which are all more or less equal rank, you know, Sergeant, flight sergeant and so forth or if you were in the upper half you went with the boys so of course we just more or less as you say me being on home territory I could, if necessary, at times, get home. Yeah.
BW: And where, where were your favourite haunts? Did you go in to Leeds or any of the nearby towns?
RM: No, because Leeds was probably too near home to be, you know. [laughter in the background] Shut up. I mean the thing was if we were in you know, the other places like Lincoln well I mean Lincoln was farther away but I mean you know if they said, ‘Right there’s no ops tonight,’ Well we all just you know have a mass exodus down to the nearest pub.
PD: Drink chug a lug.
RM: Yeah. Get around a table and drink chug a lug. Drink chug a lug. Drink chug a lug.
BW: And you mentioned when we were talking before you mentioned that sight of Lincoln Cathedral when you were going out.
RM: Yeah.
BW: And seeing it on the way back.
RM: Yeah.
BW: So that seems pretty prominent in your memory.
RM: Well as I say we used to say well where you are in the rear turret it’s the last thing you see. I mean everybody’s looking forward apart from the mid-upper and I mean he’s probably just thinking where the heck are we going? We were looking behind us and the last thing was the two towers and then when we landed just before the tail wheel went down was to see the two towers again. We used to say, you know, ‘Thank goodness we’re home.’ [laughs]
BW: So that for your personally was quite significant wasn’t it?
RM: Those two towers meant an awful lot to us.
BW: And so I guess just jumping forward a bit that where the Memorial is now at Canwick Hill the Bomber Command Spire and it overlooks the valley to the Lincoln Cathedral. That’s quite appropriate isn’t it?
RM: Yeah. Are you digging in your basket again?
JF: You see, you’re distracting him now.
PD: I’m just looking at some photos.
RM: Oh sorry.
BW: So you finished your second tour, you’ve been demobbed, you’re back home at the fruit and veg shop.
RM: Off licence.
BW: Off licence.
RM: Yeah. Fruit and veg didn’t come into it.
BW: Oh. I beg your pardon.
PD: Groceries.
RM: And then we decided that, you see, Pat didn’t want the business. The wife didn’t want the business at all. She wasn’t going to go into it so it was a case of me and I would have had to take staff on so Mrs Finon would have been living off the business, we’d have been living off the business and there would have been staff. So that’s when we decided that we would come to St Anne’s and we moved to St Anne’s just by the railway station. St Anne’s. And that was a complete turnaround then of our family away from Leeds. Yeah.
BW: And so even immediately post war and this was would be 1945/46 presumably. So you’ve moved out this way to Lancashire.
RM: Yeah to to St Anne’s and then in to Lytham and oh two or three places anyway.
PD: Blackpool and –
RM: Yeah.
BW: So you’ve been in this part of the world for the best part of seventy years.
RM: Oh yes. Yes. Yeah. Much, much more. Yeah. Yes it’s been, it’s been most of the time here hasn’t it? Yeah. [pause] Well I hope we’ve helped you.
BW: I’m sure you have. You have. Yeah. You’ve given a lot of, a lot of good information. And when you went to the Memorial last year was that the first time you’d seen a Memorial to the men of Bomber Command or had you been to London?
RM: No. We’d been before hadn’t we? No.
PD: No that was the first time.
RM: That was the first time. Yeah.
FD: You also went to Skellingthorpe
PD: While we were down we went.
FD: No before then. We went to the Skellingthorpe Memorial.
PD: With you.
FD: When they, when they commemorated it.
JF: Was that in ’89?
PD: Yeah.
FD: Something like that. Yeah.
PD: Yeah. That was when he went last year it was a beautiful day.
BW: Yeah. Yeah. It was great wasn’t it?
PD: And James as I say arranged that. [pause] That’s his. That’s his original photo.
BW: Right.
That was my grandma’s. It’s still in its original frame.
BW: Yeah and that’s the same as the photo album.
PD: ’Cause they used to paint the colours on then.
BW: Yeah.
PD: Because they were black and white so that’s –
BW: Yeah.
PD: So that’s the original. The frame’s falling to pieces a bit I’m afraid. Who’s that young man?
BW: That’s [a sergeant?]
RM: This old man. This old man.
PD: My dad is only seventeen years older than me.
BW: Right.
PD: Aren’t you?
RM: Yes.
PD: When I take him to hospital they called me Mrs Marlow. I say, ‘No. I’m his daughter.’ And James.
JF: Yeah.
PD: That bit about dad’s dad. He was in.
JF: He was in the Flying Corps.
PD: He was in the Royal Flying Corps his dad. He was in the army and went into the Royal Flying Corps.
BW: Right.
PD: Do you remember you had his Royal Flying Corps cap badge?
RM: Yeah.
PD: In your RAF cap and you lost it didn’t you?
RM: Yeah. I did.
PD: You lost it. Yeah.
BW: So your dad used to be in the Royal Flying Corps.
RM: That’s probably where the feeling really came from of being, you know, airborne, if you will. Oh dear.
BW: So your dad was in the Royal Flying Corps.
RM: Yeah. I don’t know what he was but –
PD: He was in the army wasn’t he? And then he went in the royal flying.
RM: Yeah. But he never talked about it. Well I mean bless him he just sat there for day in day out. Never talked about anything. I suppose in a way he felt that there wasn’t much for him to talk about. I mean I don’t know. I know when he came out he was a tailor’s presser. Now whether the big operating steam presses that they had any effect upon him I’ll never know.
PD: And I have a sister as well. There’s two of us.
BW: So you had a son and two daughters.
PD: No. Just two daughters.
BW: Sorry. Two daughters.
PD: Two daughters. Yeah. My sister’s five years younger.
RM: Yeah.
PD: Yeah. I’d have liked a brother but it never happened.
BW: And so I guess you’re quite chuffed that there is a Memorial going up to the Bomber Command crews in Lincoln.
RM: Oh I mean as far as I’m concerned they’ve earned it. I mean it says down there how many were, how many were lost. Where is it?
JF: Fifty five thousand [unclear].
BW: Yeah.
RM: A heck of a lot were lost.
PD: And they didn’t get the recognition did they?
RM: No.
PD: They never got the recognition.
RM: No.
BW: You’ve got your medals and Bomber Command clasp as well.
RM: Yeah.
BW: And –
PD: He had to buy that one.
BW: Which is this?
PD: That’s, that’s one they had to buy.
BW: Right.
PD: It’s not. I don’t think recognised as a –
BW: Yeah. It’s not formal issue Bomber Command medal.
PD: No. No. There are his formal issue ones.
BW: Yeah.
PD: So –
BW: Ah. Thank you.
PD: And that was the, that was the recognition one he got.
BW: Yes.
PD: Which I think is rubbish to be honest. I think it should have been a proper medal but there we go.
BW: Yeah. There hasn’t, there hasn’t been recognition for –
RM: For air force, aircrew. No.
PD: For Bomber Command.
RM: No.
BW: But hopefully the, this Memorial and the Centre will go some way to it.
RM: It will mean a lot. It will mean a lot to people. Yes.
BW: Did you say there’s guys on there that you knew? Are there, are there any names of guys on there that you knew on the Memorial walls?
RM: Well there’s always a possibility.
BW: Or not.
JF: There’s one in Edinburgh Castle.
PD: Yes. There’s one lad. His name’s in the book in Edinburgh Castle.
JF: If it’s 5 Group isn’t it?
PD: What was his name?
JF: [just a minute?] Taylor
PD: ‘Cause you told me to have a look in the book.
JF: Taylor.
PD: Is it Taylor?
RM: Could be. I forget love.
PD: [unclear]
JF: [unclear]
PD: You know when the crews split up wasn’t it because of the night vision.
JF: Yeah.
PD: They all went with different crews and a lot were missing presumed killed and he was killed.
JF: Yeah.
PD: And he’s in the book in Edinburgh Castle.
JF: Yeah before he had, his first crew was obviously Pethick at Skellingthorpe. Before Pethick he had another crew but the pilot’s night vision had gone a bit iffy so it says in the, that the pilot was sent to London for re-evaluation so the rest of their crew was all spilt up and gramps was the only one of that crew that actually survived the war. The others all throughout the period of the war were shot down and killed. We’re unsure of the pilot. We could never find out what happened to the pilot.
PD: No.
BW: And so these guys on this picture. The crew. The pilot there you say was Pethick.
PD: Yeah.
RM: Yes.
JF: All that crew stayed there together didn’t they?
PD: And Tom’s there. After the war.
RM: Yeah. That’s Tom. Yeah.
PD: Tom was the one that died a couple of years ago. My dad was at Lincoln with Frank.
BW: Right.
PD: And he used to whistle all day long and he was whistling. This gentleman said, ‘I know that whistle anywhere,’ and they met up again. They’ve all gone now apart from dad.
RM: Yeah. Oh dear.
BW: And so those were the guys from –
JF: 50 squadron.
BW: 50 squadron.
RM: That flew with 50 squadron. Yeah.
PD: Sad isn’t it but people grow old don’t they?
BW: But as you say at least they all came through the war. They all survived it.
RM: Oh yes. We all, we all came through together. Yeah.
PD: Pethick came over from Canada twice to see you didn’t he?
RM: He did. Yeah.
PD: But of course he’s not now but yeah he came over.
RM: Well of course I mean skippers of course they were older weren’t they?
PD: Yes. Well you were the youngest one. You were only eighteen.
RM: Yeah.
FD: And after 50 squadron well after you’d done your tour Pethick then went on to Fighter Command didn’t he flying fighters.
RM: He probably did Frank. You probably remember more.
FD: Yes he did. Yeah. He went on to Hurricanes.
RM: Yeah.
FD: Yeah. Hurricanes.
PD: But dad was eighteen when he volunteered so he was quite young really. Married with a family and –
BW: Yeah. That’s quite a lot of responsibility at a young age. [pause] Ok. Very good. Well I think that’s all the questions I have for you Ron.
RM: Well I’m very pleased. I hope it satisfies what you’ve been looking for. Some background to –
BW: Yeah.
RM: The likes of me. Yeah.
BW: It does. It’s been very good. It’s been very good to talk to you. So –
RM: Thank you.
BW: On behalf of the Bomber Command team.
RM: Yeah.
BW: Thank you very much for your time.
RM: Thank you. My pleasure. Yeah. Very nice to meet you.
BW: Thank you.
FD: Have you ever heard of a Peter Lonk.
BW: A Peter.
FD: Lonk.
PD: No. He’s from Belgium.
FD: He’s a Belgian. Well, he’s in America now isn’t he?
PD: Yeah. He used to find wreckages of aircraft and –
BW: Right.
PD: He used to keep in touch with you didn’t he?
RM: Yeah.
PD: Where am I? My dad is Mr November in the calendar. [laughs]. British Legion calendar.
BW: British Legion calendar, yeah.
PD: Yeah. You look a bit pickled there dad.
JF: He probably was.
RM: What day was that on I wonder?
PD: I don’t know. It’s got different ones in.
FD: Alright there James?
JF: Yeah.
PD: From different. They came and asked could they take his photo.
BW: So this is the British Legion.
PD: I think it’s the British legion. I’m not sure to be honest. I think it is.
BW: Very good. So you’ve made it to November.
PD: Yes. Mr November. One of the calendar boys. Yes.
BW: Brilliant. Thank you.



Brian Wright, “Interview with Ronald Marlow,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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