Interview with Peter Miller


Interview with Peter Miller


Peter was called up in November 1943 and after basic training was sent to RAF Halton to be trained as a flight mechanic. Whilst there he had several dangerous incidents during small arms training.
Initially posted to 527 Squadron, which was Canadian, at RAF Digby and then to 695 squadron at RAF Bircham Newton working on drogue towing aircraft.
Posted overseas, he arrived at RAF Chakeri near Kampur where he worked on servicing B-24 and C-47 aircraft for South East Asia Command. He recalls that as an airframe mechanic he had to sign the Form 700 certifying that all the other trades had carried out their servicing correctly.
The local town was largely off-limits and only certain parts were allowed to be visited. The weather was very hot and in the summer hill parties were sent to the hills to escape the heat. Peter spent his 21st birthday at Darjeeling. When hostilities ceased the spent its time dismantling and scrapping B-24s aircraft. Whilst India was partitioned, Peter's demobilisation was postponed in case of tensions between India and Pakistan.
After two and a half years he was sent home via Liverpool, where he saw his first jet, and was demobilised in July 1947.




Temporal Coverage




01:02:55 audio recording


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PM: You, you want my name or rank?
MJ: Yeah.
MM: Name and rank. Um I’m Peter, I’m [laughs] I’m nearly as bad as you. I’m recording this for Peter Miller, who is my husband, for the International Bomber Command Centre on the 1st June 20 -
MJ: ‘15.
MM: ‘15. We’re at Wragby in Lincolnshire.
PM: When I was called up. Is that alright?
MM: Ahum.
PM: 25th of the 11th ‘43. Went to Cardington. I was only there for a week getting kitted out and such. Was sent to Skegness, my home town, to do a couple of months foot drill. I was billeted about half a mile from home. So, when in the town I was the person sent by cycle on errands. Afterwards was posted to Halton on a flight mechanics course on which I was made AC1. Leaving Halton on the 29th of the 5th ‘44 I went to Digby, Lincolnshire, 527 squadron. Enjoyed time off, such, it was a Canadian station at the time. Then being posted to Bircham Newton, Norfolk, 695 squadron who were drogue towing. After a short while there I was sent to Blackpool in November classed as a PDC from which we went to Liverpool to get a boat. A Dutch ship called the [oanvan oldabarnevoort?] which after, after a late start we caught the convoy and going down the Med at Christmas Eve sailing past Gib onto Aden, then to Ceylon to drop some, some, some people off and then back up to Bombay to a transit camp. From Bombay we went to a place called Cawnpore [Kanpur]. That was our destination - 322 MU. Spending two and a half years in Cawnpore [Kanpur], returning from Bombay on the SS Somalia landing in Liverpool for being demobbed at a transit camp just outside Blackpool early July ’47. That’s, that’s my service career.
MM: What did you think to India?
PM: It was air, do you want the aircraft I worked on?
MJ: Oh yeah. I mean, well, that’s a, that’s a nice round off way of putting things how they are but yeah where, what, what, what did you do in Bombay because it seems a long way to be having an aircraft. I mean if you -
PM: It seems like a long way to what?
MJ: It seems to be a long way to go and play with aircraft so I just wondered what you had to do there.
PM: We were servicing them.
MJ: Yeah.
PM: Um Liberators.
MM: It was a big camp wasn’t it, Peter?
PM: A very big camp. Worked on Liberators to start with. About -
MM: Did you enjoy India?
PM: About five months.
MM: Did you enjoy India?
PM: Well yes. It was alright.
MJ: I suppose it was a good place to get a suntan.
PM: Yeah. Yeah but mainly. I had almost two and a half years on Dakotas.
MJ: So you mainly worked on Dakotas.
PM: Yeah, air frames.
MJ: Air frame.
PM: Air frame fitter.
MJ: Was it, was it very busy being in India fitting or was it -
PM: We were busy.
MJ: Quiet?
PM: Of course we used to service them from all over South East Asia Command.
MJ: So, so when people think that you were um in India probably having a quieter time than most you probably, you weren’t were you? You ‘cause
PM: Oh no, we weren’t living it up.
MJ: No. I mean that’s what people would think. I mean
PM: Yeah.
MJ: That’s what I’m saying. A lot of people don’t associate India with the RAF do they?
PM: Yeah. We weren’t living it up.
MJ: No. So, so how did you, I imagine it was very hot over there was it? Or -
PM: Very hot.
MJ: So -
MM: And you went up in the hills didn’t you on your leave -
PM: Pardon?
MM: You enjoyed going up into the hills didn’t you? On leave.
PM: We used to get on, we used to get our normal leave but also we had a, we used to go on hill parties, a month, probably fifty or sixty used to go by train to the foothills and then up by wagons to the place we spent the, spent the leave, the holiday. I had my twenty first birthday in Darjeeling.
MJ: That must have been interesting.
PM: Yeah. It was alright [laughs]. But the other places were, were very fair. They used to take us as far as they could by train, Then we had to go on, on wagons further up.
MJ: Did -
PM: We used to go by train to Darjeeling. Pre, pre, pre-war I think the moneyed folks had taken Darjeeling over and they weren’t all that keen on us blokes out there going to Darjeeling but er we made them happy.
MJ: Did um -
PM: But that’s a lovely spot that.
MJ: So even though the work was hard it was quite a nice place to be.
PM: Yeah. But, but regarding, regarding the weather it, it was very hot. During the hot season we used to go to work in the morning. There for seven and we used to work while one and after 1 o’clock the time was our own.
MJ: It was too hot to work?
PM: Yeah.
MJ: So, so, so in a way you were working nights really?
PM: [laughs] But we were we’ve had everything done I think. There was, it was a very big camp. There was three villages on the camp.
MJ: Was, was it more than just RAF then?
PM: Pardon?
MJ: Was it more than just RAF?
PM: Just RAF.
MJ: So -
PM: Yeah.
MM: There were locals. The villagers were locals.
PM: Local villagers. They were on, on the side -
MJ: Side.
MM: Doing your washing for you.
PM: Well they used to, they were our bearers and things were alright until the war finished.
MJ: What happened then?
PM: Until the Jap war finished. And then Pakistan and India were having a go at one another.
MJ: So you got stuck in the middle.
PM: Well more or less. We wanted to get home. They held, well, we believed they held our demob up for a while.
MJ: Why because of the conflict between the two -
PM: Well, in case there was going to be. Nothing happened. We got on the boat and came home.
MJ: So that, that was a better deal than you thought.
PM: Yeah. One of the biggest laughs we got was when we got to Liverpool on the way home. We were getting off the boat and a jet went over. Never seen a jet.
MJ: No.
PM: Only heard about them. You should have heard the cheer that went up.
MJ: That must have been, so you were probably one of the first people to see a jet flying.
PM: Yeah. In Liverpool.
MJ: You don’t -
PM: Vampire.
MM: Yeah.
[Tape paused].
PM: The cold season out there -
MJ: Yeah.
PM: Is about like this.
MJ: So it’s like having summer in the winter is it?
PM: Yeah.
MJ: So did you, you got warm -
PM: The, the snag is um these blokes that’s been in, in the desert and that, they reckon it goes stone cold at night. Not India. The sun, the sun sets and that’s it. Nothing else. Then the sun comes up and it’s daylight again and you’re getting warmer.
MJ: Yeah. So did you find you had to do more work in the winter per se or, or is it ‘cause, ‘cause the engine, or did you have to sort of -
PM: Yeah, in the, in the cold season we’d probably work another hour a day.
MJ: That, that doesn’t sound a lot but I imagine in those sorts of heats everything buckles including yourself does it?
PM: Yeah.
MJ: I mean, did, did you have to bring in, how did you get everything to where you were ‘cause you were saying you didn’t have any transport as such.
PM: When, when the war finished we, we were, they were sending in um Liberators to our place for scrap. We had a colossal scrapheap there. They were sending these Liberators there because - I don’t want it recorded because -
MJ: No it’s alright.
PM: Yeah well what we heard was that the Yanks wouldn’t take them back as returned lease-lend.
MJ: Well I mean that -
PM: And we just had to get rid of them but we weren’t allowed to sell them. That’s, that’s all we heard. They were wheeling them down to salvage and there was about seventy or eighty Libs there when I got posted home but on other places there was more Libs.
MJ: So I mean -
PM: And they just started destroying them. Took anything that, everything that was any use off the Libs and then, I can’t remember which station it was but there was one station in India was, had started to destroy the Libs. I, I don’t know what, well anybody that was in the RAF on aircraft would say it’s easier to build one then take one to bits. They um they took all instruments that were of any use out.
MJ: Right.
PM: Dinghies, first aid, everything like that. Armoury. All that out and then they took them onto the scrap, down to the scrapyard and drained all the oil out, out the engines and started the engines up and ran them flat out until they went bang.
MJ: So that they couldn’t be used again.
PM: No use whatsoever.
MJ: You know if -
PM: And then they recommended that what you did was have a, have a wagon or tractor fastened to the front of them and drive the tail unit up against a wall or something like that to break them up. Anything that’s riveted you see you can’t get it to bits by, by just undoing it.
MJ: It was built to last so -
PM: But that’s, that’s how it was but there was, there was about seventy at Cawnpore [Kanpur] when I came home that, that hadn’t been touched. Well, I say hadn’t been touched they’d been stripped but hadn’t been damaged.
MJ: I don’t think that was just yourself. I’ve heard things go, you know, because it’s hard to trans. Do you think it was hard to transport the stuff back? I -
MM: Distance.
MJ: You think -
PM: But the –
MJ: I would have thought it would be the pure economics of getting something, it was more expensive to -
PM: If the Yanks had taken them back they could have flown them back.
MJ: Do you think so?
PM: Yeah. I’m sure. They flew them there they could have flown them back.
MJ: Did, did any of the, anything else get left behind? Was it just the planes? Just, everyone leaves everything behind or did you bring most of it back?
PM: Well I don’t know what happened to them at Cawnpore [Kanpur] because they were still there when I left but there was a reunion at Cawnpore [Kanpur]. I was going on it but I got a new [motor?] and I couldn’t go and er the chaps said that the Indian air force wouldn’t let them anywhere near the salvage.
MJ: They wouldn’t let them anywhere near salvage. Well I’m surprised it’s still there.
PM: Yeah. They wouldn’t let them anywhere near salvage.
MM: But you used to go swimming didn’t you? You had a pool.
PM: Oh we’d go swimming. There was a swimming pool on the camp.
MM: A swimming pool and that. You enjoyed that.
MJ:: More than I can do.
MM: I can’t swim.
MJ: Yeah.
MM: So I mean there was some good times wasn’t there?
PM: Oh yes we had some good times.
MM: Good times. Friends. Lots of laughs.
PM: Off the camp mainly, the good times.
MM: Used to go down to one of the places nearby didn’t you? Villages, towns whatever you called it.
PM: Oh we used to go in, in to Cawnpore [Kanpur] itself.
MM: Yeah.
PM: The city
MJ: Well you say it’s a city. Was it sort of like -
MM: How big?
MJ: Was it a big place or –
PM: Oh it was a big place -
MJ: ‘Cause I mean -
PM: The city was. Yeah. The actual RAF camp was called, oh God - Chakeri.
MJ: Oh right. I thought -
PM: It was about four mile out of Cawnpore [Kanpur] but Cawnpore [Kanpur] was a city and we used to call the camp Cawnpore [Kanpur]. It was always Cawnpore [Kanpur].
MJ: Um maybe -
PM: Where were you stationed? Cawnpore [Kanpur].
MM: But you used to have meals didn’t you, in the city, when you went out?
PM: You what?
MM: You used to go for meals didn’t you? In the city went out -
PM: Oh could do. Yeah. Go in to the city. But we were only allowed in one part of the city. They um it was out of bounds to us.
MJ: It’s er so -
PM: It was, it was our military that put it out of bounds to us. They wouldn’t, wouldn’t let us in the -
So it wasn’t inflicted. It wasn’t, you weren’t put out of bounds by the city itself. It was the hierarchy of the military itself.
PM: Yeah. Yeah.
MJ: Saying you couldn’t go to certain parts.
PM: That’s it. Yeah.
MJ: Ah and did you, could you go out of uniform or did you have to be in uniform?
PM: We was, we were out of uniform most of the time. I mean when we used to go to work in a morning, 7 o’clock in the morning, you’d have a, a pair of shorts on, socks and shoes, bush hat and sunglasses and we used to go to work like that and at 1 o’clock when we, when we finished work we used to walk, we didn’t march back or anything. We used to walk back in groups, probably call at the swimming pool on the way back, used to go back and have lunch and then just loaf about.
MJ: Well I imagine it’s, it’s too hot to do anything else at that time. I mean -
PM: It was a funny old time.
MJ: Yeah I can agree with you there. You –
[Tape paused]
MM: Yeah.
PM: About the same height as I am now.
MM: Six foot.
PM: Weighed seven and a half stone.
MM: Rather slim.
PM: I got a demob suit and I kept my best blue. And I came home. The demob suit was slightly too big for me. ‘You’ll grow out of it’, that was that you see, which I did. Within, within a month my blue didn’t fit me. I didn’t care ‘cause I chucked it away and my demob suit was dead tight. I had to collect all the, all the family clothing coupons together and go and get measured for a suit, ‘Make it plenty big enough’ and I stopped growing then [laughs]. So I got one suit big and the other, other two too small.
MJ: So most people stopped growing and you took that many years to grow-
MM: His mother’s cooking that was. Put the weight on you. [laughs] Didn’t it?
PM: Yeah.
MM: Your mum’s cooking -
PM: Yeah.
MM: Yeah. Built you up again.
PM: My mother was in the first war.
MM: First World War.
PM: In the RAF. In Germany.
MJ: [That’s what?]
PM: Yeah. In the Royal Flying Corp.
MM: As it was then. Yeah.
MJ: So you inherited the job did you?
MM: Must have done.
PM: Yeah.
PM: When, when you were on about servicing, servicing aircraft we had to be there, we were in the hangars for 7 o’clock in the morning but if there were any aircraft either stuck outside or in the hangar that were going out you checked the tyre pressures before the sun got on them because you never know what the tire pressure would be after about an hour in the sun out there.
MM: And of course they couldn’t fly them till they’d got your little signature could they?
PM: Hmmn?
MM: You couldn’t fly them till they got your little signature.
PM: Oh no couldn’t. Well I was one of a team. I was the air frame rigger um on a Liberator four engines so there’d be four engine fitters, instruments, wires um guns and turrets all had to be checked and signed for before the pilot could have it.
MJ: How long did that take?
PM: Hmmn?
MJ: How long did that take?
PM: Well I mean if the aircraft was, was, was alright, if it had come out of the hangar after, after a major service it would be taken out on a test flight. One of each trade would go up with him if it was a bomber. Go up with him and you’d fly around and everything was alright. Come back. You’d check up again. Then before it flew again tomorrow it had to be serviced because between flights inspections on RAF aircraft if it, if an aircraft came, came up from London and landed on your airport there would be a between flights inspection before it could go again.
MJ: Oh I didn’t know that.
PM: Yeah.
MJ: How often did that happen?
PM: Hmmn?
MJ: Did that happen regularly?
PM: That was it. Between flights inspection. And being, being a rigger, that’s what I was, they were the last to sign the 700. The 700 was the aircraft manual and every, everybody that was concerned with anything on the aircraft had to sign and the rigger was the last one to sign because he was responsible for um the petrol cap being loose. Nothing, nothing to do with him normally. The um the blokes driving the petrol bowsers used to tighten them up but it was, it was his aircraft and he had to do something about it. So he used to tighten, tighten it up and any, any little panel that was loose he’d secure the panels and that before he signs and until he signed they couldn’t go anywhere.
MJ: Did you have a team of riggers or was it just you per plane?
PM: What?
MJ: Was it just you on one plane or did you have a few?
PM: Oh yes. Yeah. Yeah.
MJ: So -
PM: Didn’t, didn’t do a half a dozen planes. Just, just the one plane.
MJ: Yeah but did you work as a rigger on your own or did you have someone helping you?
PM: Was, was
MM: Was there more than one rigger on each plane?
PM: No. Only one rigger.
MM: Ahum.
PM: Yeah.
MJ: So that’s a lot of rivets.
MM: Ahum check them [laughs].
PM: Yeah well the aircraft, the framework of the aircraft and everything in general was alright. It was day to day um events um tyres and things like that. Brakes slipping. All those sort of things.
MJ: Do you think you had more trouble because it was hotter there than most would have?
PM: Of course being a rigger brakes were my job as well. [laughs]
MM: You said when you went to Halton it was a case of half of them for engines half of them for airframes wasn’t it?
PM: Yeah.
MM: So it just depends which side of the room you were on [laughs] you were telling me.
PM: [laughs] Yeah.
MM: You had some fun down there at Halton didn’t you?
PM: You what?
MM: Had some fun at Halton.
PM: Halton. Yeah. It was um water shortage. Halton camp is on a hill. The hill, the hill is that far and high that there’s two parade grounds on the hill.
MJ: Two?
PM: Two parade grounds on the hill. You go through the gates, you go up and, oh from here to the bridge there’s the bottom of the parade ground and it goes back into the hills and you carry, you carry on up the hill there and about, about another twenty, thirty foot up there’s another parade ground. It was a hell of a camp Halton was. It was a, um what’s it -
MM: Training?
PM: Oh God.
MM: Officer’s training do you say?
PM: No.
MM: No.
PM: Weren’t officers. They -
MM: Cadets.
PM: When you join, you join the RAF you -
MM: Cadets?
PM: You was a member. I was a member of the air force but I was only a sort of a temporary member but I, I, I didn’t sign on for ten years or owt like that but all the regulars they, they were right under the thumb. By hell they were.
MJ: So you think it was different for you. Was it ‘cause you -
PM: Yeah.
MJ: Because you were sort of part time if you like.
PM: Yeah.
MJ: For a better word.
PM: I liked Halton. It was a nice camp.
MM: Taught you how to shoot there didn’t there?
PM: Hmmn?
MM: Taught you how to shoot there didn’t they?
PM: Yeah.
MJ: This is um -
MM: One poor chap. Everybody dashed because -
PM: We had two, we had two Jewish lads -
MJ: Yeah.
PM: By God they were dim [laughs] and er they, they, they were on a, on a rigger’s course but everything, everything went wrong with them. On one day we had um rifle training so went up on the, up on the bus up the hill and there was um the targets. Perhaps six or seven targets.
MJ: Right.
PM: And a wall, a wall just below them and behind, behind the wall there was a trench so the blokes, blokes up there looking after, looking after the targets they were, they were safe and you had ten rounds and you just, you had your ten rounds and you got in front of one of, one of the targets and that and you’d been told how to fire them and everything. The corporal would shout, ‘Fire.’ And then down there on the range there used to be a flag on a pole come out and he used to stick on to the target where, where the bullet had gone through, if it had gone through. Well these two Jewish lads they couldn’t even hit the target never mind [laughs] and there was everybody else had to get off and let them pick their own target and everything. Our corporal was on the phone to them down there and, ‘Right. Fire. Take your time.’ Bang. Flag went like that. Bang. Next time it went [beuuuu]. Phone rang. Corporal said, ‘What’s the matter?’ He said, ‘He hit my mate.’ He’d, he’d hit his tin hat. Hit his tin hat. This bullet and had gone off his tin hat.
MJ: So he was safe though?
PM: Yeah.
MM: Most of them.
PM: And then we had hand grenades. There was, there was this wall. All sandbanks and that and over the other side of the wall about there, there was a, there was a hole and behind this wall there was another wall and everybody used to get behind that wall and the corporal used to bring one bloke around and show him, show him everything, make sure he, he was holding the grenade right, then he used to toss it over to go in the hole. Everybody else was doing alright and this one he dropped the grenade the other side just on the top and it rolled down so the corporal grabbed hold of this bloke, pushed him down and more or less sat on him. Bang. ‘That was close wasn’t it?’ the corporal said. And, and, we, we went up into the, up the hills. Sten guns. They were deadly you know. If you dropped a sten gun it’d bounce about all over the place till it emptied and [laughs] there was two corporals that had never, never met these two. ‘Watch them. We know what we’re doing.’ Corporals, ‘Alright.’ Showed them how to go on and everything. Give these two a sten gun each, got them to load them, ‘Don’t do anything. We’ll have you one at a time so you come with me.’ So he fired. Nowhere near the target or anything like that but he got shot of the, the ammo. The second one went, spun around, he says to the corporal, ‘It won’t fire’ pointing it at the corporal. [laughs] God. He said, ‘Stand still. Let go of the trigger. Put it down.’ If there hadn’t been anybody else around he would have clouted him around the side of the earhole with the sten. Anyway, they got rid of them. I don’t know where they went to but they were no good as, no good on engines or airframes or anything like that. They were completely useless, the pair of them.
MM: They were only young though you see weren’t they? Eighteen and a half.
PM: Yeah they’d only be just over eighteen.
MM: That’s what I mean. Today –
PM: Yeah.
MM: They’re at school aren’t they?
MJ: Yeah. So it’s surprising you’re here.
MM: Yeah.
PM: Yeah.
MM: Then he come back to Digby, Lincolnshire.
PM: Eh?
MM: You enjoyed Digby in Lincolnshire didn’t you?
PM: Yeah.
MM: No calamities there?
PM: No. Come back to Digby.
MM: You used to go in to Lincoln didn’t you?
PM: Yeah. Used to go in to Lincoln.
MM: On time off.
PM: It was a Canadian station. Everything underground.
MJ: Underground?
PM: Eh?
MM: Underground.
MJ: Everything underground?
PM: Everything was built underground. It was a radio and radar station. We didn’t, we didn’t know that when we were stationed there but, but they used to work underground.
MJ: That’s -
PM: At Digby. It was good station. It was a Canadian station.
MJ: Was that better than the RAF ones?
PM: Well, they were better supplied than what we were.
MM: Food was good [laughs] Yeah.
PM: Yeah a lot better supplied.
[Tape paused]
PM: We were all, all air frame fitters and one of the station aircraft, we got two Dakotas belonging to the station. One had gone to Lahore.
MJ: Right.
PM: From our place and um next morning they were refuelling it and the chap drove the petrol bowser with the dipstick sticking out and tore the underside of the wing. Well that was it you see. He didn’t just tear the surface of the wing he, he buckled the main spar. So we, we had several Dakotas there that would probably never fly again and using them as spares and got hold of, got hold of my mate we did and get a, get a mainplane from, from salvage. Give him, give him all the gen on this one aircraft, ‘Go and, go and check if it’s alright.’ So he come back he said, ‘Yeah it’s alright.’ He said ‘Right. The three of you,’ he says, ‘You Miller’ and what his name, ‘Go and fetch it off.’ And we took, we took the crane down with us and we got the, got the trestles and everything and the jacks underneath it’s wing and we disconnected the wing and took it away completely from the engines you see. You’ve got the two engines there and a centre section between them and the fuselage but beyond the engines that’s the outer so we got that and we got a Queen Mary. You know the Queen Mary’s, we used? The um -
MJ: Ahum?
PM: The long, the long low loaders. Very wide, ten foot wide, that the RAF used to drive around you’ve seen them there their low loaders haven’t you? They’re called the Queen Mary’s. They’re ten, ten foot wide and during the war if, if you had to take anything with, with a Queen Mary through, through a town you had a police escort and they’d take you the best way through the town because of, because of the width of the vehicle. And we loaded this, loaded this mainplane and all the gear we wanted and everything and we cleared off to Lahore. The three of us. It took us three days to get there. Close on four hundred mile.
MJ: What were the -
PM: Well the roads in India were just like the roads down to the villages here and we got there and this Warrant Officer [Pryor?] said, ‘Goodness I’m pleased to see you lot.’ He said, ‘Get on with it.’ So we took, took this mainplane off and they carted it off to salvage there and um they got all the gear there, got all the gear and everything but they wouldn’t let them touch it.
MJ: Why was that?
PM: So we, we had to do it you see. The plane belonged to us so we, we, we got the mainplane off and everything, put the other one up got it all, all bolted in. Everything. Control cables, electrics, everything and got hold of Taf Bevan, ‘Right. Fly it.’
MJ: How long did that take you?
PM: Hmmn?
MJ: How long did that take you?
PM: Well three days overall. ‘Fly it.’ He says, ‘Alright. Sign.’ So we signed for it and everything. The warrant officer, the err engineering officer at whatsit, he said, ‘You’ve done a very good job you blokes have.’ The CO was there as well. At Lahore. He was, he was there as well. He said, ‘It looks very, very nice,’ he says. He said, ‘I’ll get on to,’ Oh I don’t know the name of our CO. He said, ‘I’ll get on to him and tell him what a good job you’ve done.’ And we went up with Taf and he, he said, ‘Nothing wrong with this. It’s alright.’ Taf Bevan, he was a bloody Welshman. We never did find out his name. His first name. Never. And he was a warrant officer. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t take a commission. He just wanted to stay non-commissioned.
MJ: Did he say why?
PM: Warrant officer.
MJ: Yeah. Did he say why he didn’t want to take a commission?
PM: He said, ‘I don’t want to be with that crowd stuck in the officer’s mess and that. Better off in the sergeant’s mess.’ He said, ‘I’m away next morning.’ We said, ‘You’re bloody well not without us mate’ and we transferred the um the Queen Mary to Lahore and climbed in the Dak with him and flew home. Thirty minutes. [laughs]
[Tape paused]
PM: Now can’t you? Between you?
MJ: I think so. You should be able to.
PM: You just, you know, well why not do that?
MJ: Did you -
PM: What about that? [Oh bought]
MJ: Yeah. People don’t think that so that’s why your lifestyle is different to todays because people don’t realise what you did. I mean so -
MM: Things have changed so much haven’t they? So much.
PM: I know we were on a test flight one day with Taf and um Taf used to let us take control for a while. He used to sit there but he knew what was happening and everything and one of the blokes he said, ‘Do you want it Taf?’ Taf says, ‘No.’ He says, ‘Just carry on.’ He got it lined up. It was about three mile out from the end of the runway. ‘Go on. You’re alright.’ He said, ‘Shall I land it?’ ‘No you bloody well won’t land it’ [laughs] He said, ‘I’d be the laughing stock of the bloody sergeant’s mess. Come out.’
MJ: Yeah.
PM: We used to, on a Dakota there’s a cockpit and there’s a cabin and it’s the full length of the aircraft near enough. You go in, you go in the double doors.
MJ: Right.
PM: And you go up to the, to another door and that that’s the control. There’s navigator, radio operator, two pilots and we used to, about three, four of us used to get up near the door and Taf would be sat there you know, nodding away there to himself and that. ‘Right. Now.’ And we’d run to the other end to the tail end [laughs]. ‘Come up here you lot.’
MM: He knew what you was doing?
PM: We, we’d run to the tail end.
MM: Yeah and made it, realised.
PM: [Climb?]
MM: Yeah.
MM: Realised what you were. You had a laugh at East Kirkby didn’t you?
PM: Yeah.
MM: They were doing a Dakota up at East Kirkby.
PM: Yeah. They were.
MM: You went out to, to have look and you said to the lads there, ‘Can I have a look inside it.’ I think you managed to get in it didn’t you?
PM: Yeah.
MM: And anyway you said to them.
PM: ‘Do you know anything about them?’ I said, ‘Yeah a little bit. I used to be on them in the air force way back.’ ‘Bloody hell. When?’ I said, ‘Oh I came out in ‘47.’ ‘God, I weren’t even bloody well born then.’
MM: Made you feel very, very old didn’t it duck [laughs] yeah.
PM: They were a lovely aircraft to work on. Dakota is. No trouble whatsoever.
MJ: Didn’t bite back.
PM: Hmmn?
MJ: Didn’t bite back.
MM: No. [laughs]
PM: They were no trouble at all. Used to fly around with the doors off.
MJ: Why?
PM: You see there’s, there was a passenger door and a cargo door on them.
MJ: Yeah.
PM: Take one or the other or both doors off. It didn’t half whistle and that inside the aircraft.
MM: Was there any reason to take the doors off though?
PM: No. No.
MM: No.
PM: You either take it off before you fly or when you land. You don’t take it off while you’re flying.
MM: No, presume not.
MJ: Was there any reason why you took them off when you flew? Or was it just because they were in the way?
PM: The doors come inwards. Not outwards.
MJ: So -
MM: What reasons did you take them off for?
PM: Eh?
MM: What reason did you take them off for?
PM: Well.
MM: Can you remember?
PM: No particular reason.
MM: Oh. Good job it wasn’t raining.
PM: During the war, on the Dakotas, along the top of the fuselage there was little windows about that size, along. So that when they were carrying troops they could open one of those windows and fire at any aircraft that was attacking them.
MM: Ahum.
PM: If they were carrying troops.
MJ: Really?
PM: Yeah. Yeah, I’m not kidding.
MM: Never heard of it.
MJ: I wouldn’t have thought of that one.
PM: I’m not kidding. Liberators, you know, you used to get in and out through the bomb, bomb bay. Get in and out through the bomb bay. The bomb doors, the bottom of the Lib is only about that far off the ground and the bomb doors go up like that and there’s a cat walk right through. The cat walk goes to, to the rear where there’s a mid-upper gunner and two, two [waist] gunners. One each side. And a rear gunner.
MJ: So you always had -
PM: And if, if you go forward up a couple of steps you get on to the flight deck where the crew, the air crew go. You, if they’re flying around and they opened the bomb doors there isn’t a bloody soul would dare go across that cat walk. From the back to the front or the front to the back. There’s not a soul would dare go. It’s, it’s perfectly safe, there’s no, no danger whatsoever and there’s plenty to hold on to. Hold on to all the bomb racks.
MJ: But no one would do it.
PM: Nobody would go in. No one would do it.
[Tape paused]
MJ: So what was this about Fred then?
PM: He, he used to go out first thing in a morning, he’d go to bed at night about nine, but first thing in the morning, probably 5 o’clock he’d cross to the cookhouse to get his porridge before they put sugar in it. Yeah. He wanted salt in his you see. Yeah. Well he was always messing about with, with animals and that and he went out one morning for a walk and there was a narrow path, trees at each side and that. He was approaching this corner when around the corner there come this panther. He says, ‘It stopped and I stopped, of course.’ He said, and its tail was going like that. He said, ‘And we stood there for about three quarters of an hour. Seemed like it.’ He said, ‘And I thought if that bloody thing comes at me there’s a tree just behind me. I can leap behind hopefully.’ He said, ‘I daren’t look around.’ He said, ‘I was weighing all this up’ he said and all of a sudden the panther put the foot down on the ground, spun around and shot off back the way it came,’ he said, ‘ And I shot off the way I came.’ He said, ‘We were about twenty five miles apart in ten minutes.’ He, he was, he was always doing something like that. Always messing about with, with animals. There was an empty cookhouse and he went and there was a wild cat in the bloody cookhouse. ‘I’ll have that.’ He went in there. This wildcat was flying around the walls. He said it was going that fast it was on the walls. He said, ‘I didn’t know what to do with it,’ he said, but the windows, the windows were all shut except one. He said it took a flying leap at that and crashed straight through the glass and everything and away it went. He said it went out, missed, missed the veranda and everything and landed out in the middle of the road. [laughs] He said, ‘I wasn’t frightened of it.’ [laughs]
MM: And who slept on a snake? One of you lads found a snake under his mattress.
PM: Yeah. Yeah. Rum lad that.
MM: Who was that? Who found a snake under his mattress?
PM: Oh er who was it? One of the other lads. Fred said, ‘I’ll get that out for you.’ He outed it. ‘Cause you see if you found a snake out there you had to find the other bugger. Nearly always travelled in pairs.
MJ: Do they?
PM: Ahum we had a, we had a snake in our billet one night. We got it and finished it off and we were looking around for its mate. Couldn’t find its mate anywhere so that was it. Wasn’t going under the mossie nets. Next morning this bloke got up and er there was this snake laid, laid in there. It had been crushed. He’d crushed it. You see the beds out there were wood. They were just a wooden frame and then there was like string across and then what they called a dhurry. It was like, just like an [asbestos] sheet the size of your bed. When you went anywhere you know on guard at night or something like that you took whatever you wanted in your dhurry. Got it all wrapped up in the dhurry. Then you had your mossie net and your mossie net was you had four, four bamboo canes that used to go inside the legs across the back of the bed like that and your mossie net went on the top and your mossie net was shaped, was shaped just like, just like a box. The box was down, the box was that way up and the things, the sides of the net came down you see and these, these four bamboo canes they went up behind, behind the leg and up the inside of the nets so it was all sprung out. That was how your mossie nets went. There were times when we’ve taken the mossie nets down and inverted them and then put the bed inside, inside it.
MM: But this snake that you was talking about.
PM: It was an open top.
MM: This snake you was talking about was underneath this here mattress thing wasn’t it?
PM: Underneath the dhurry.
MM: Yeah.
PM: Yeah.
MM: I didn’t realise he’d been sleeping on it all night.
PM: No. No.
MM: No. Oh horrible things.
PM: Well it was dead anyway. Fred says, ‘Poor little bugger. You’ve been laid on it all night.’
MJ: I’d like to thank Mr Miller on behalf of the International Bomber Command project on the 1st of January no oh June 2015 for his interview and, and for myself I’d like to thank him. My name’s Michael Jeffery and this is the end of the interview.
MM: My name is Mavis Miller, recording this for the International Bomber Command Centre on the 1st of June 2015. We live at Horncastle Road, Wragby, Lincolnshire. Yeah. I was at Minting, school at Minting, during the war. We lived about four miles from Bardney aerodrome so we saw a lot of the RAF lads and the WAAFs who used to come to the Sebastopol at Minting. My father also worked at the Bardney aerodrome so we were involved quite a bit. He always used to come home very distressed when, at times, the bombers would come back with the air force lad’s uniforms having to be burned because they were blood stained. Another small happening during the war was I was with my friends down Hungerham Lane about a half a mile from my home when we saw two of our fighters firing at this German fighter and it was brought down at Baumber, again only about three or four fields away from where we were. Unfortunately, no one got out the plane. We were told that it went up in flames. The farm workers couldn’t get anywhere near it but I was pleased to get home that night safe and sound. I think that’s about the end of my experiences.
MJ: On behalf of the International Bomber Command Historical Unit I’d like to thank Mrs Miller for her stories of when she was a child and on the June the 1st 2015 I’d like to end the interview.



Mick Jeffery, “Interview with Peter Miller,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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