Interview with Roy Monk


Interview with Roy Monk


Roy Monk remembers days spent in the air raid shelters as a schoolboy during the war. After the war he wanted to be a policeman before he was called to National Service. After training to be a mechanic he was posted to RAF Upwood. Then he was posted to Kenya. When he looks back over his National Service he particularly enjoyed the time he worked on Valiants. When he came back to the UK from his service abroad he completed his National Service at RAF Marham. He recalls a number of accidents and the difficulties of the conditions in which he worked during his time with the RAF. His memories feature in a book entitled, “The Valiant Boys.” By Tony Blackman.




Spatial Coverage




00:33:37 audio recording


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SB: This is Sheila Bibb interviewing Roy Monk on the 13th August 2015 at his home in Dartford in Kent. Roy, could you start off by just telling me a little bit about your background? Where you were born.
RM: Yeah.
SB: Your family etcetera. And then how you came to get in to the RAF.
RM: I was born at Crayford which is the next one up to London. Come straight back to Dartford. I went to school at Dartford. Secondary Modern. And of course, part of my schooling was in air raid shelters because they were bombing us. Then, I wanted to go in the police force. I couldn’t go because of National Service so the police recommended I do a solicitor’s course. Or go on a solicitor’s office. Which I did but it was no good. I was going to and fro past the Air Ministry in lunch hour. Saw all these boy entrants and that working on aircraft. I thought, well that’d suit me. I don’t want to be a sailor and I don’t want to be a soldier. So I applied to join the boy entrants which I had problems with my mother because being an only child but eventually she gave in and I joined the boy entrants on my sixteenth birthday. At RAF Cosford. And then I did an eighteen months course as an engine mechanic with a rank ended up SAC. And then when we passed out after training I was posted to RAF Upwood near Peterborough. I was posted to aircraft servicing flight where we, I worked on propellers and bomb bay and then I worked on power plants. Building up the Merlin engines in to a power plant to fit to Lincolns. And then I got a posting to 214 Squadron. That was off to Kenya. We were bombing the Mau Mau terrorists in the Aberdares. So I was off to Kenya for — we had six months there. We had pretty bad accommodation. We were, we were living in a hangar and we had no hot water. No toilets. I mean we had to sort ourselves out which we — we got used to it in the end. And then we were continually bombing day and night the Aberdare Mountains. I went on two or three trips with them. And the squadron then was disbanding. Packing up. That was December ’54. So, we all went. Come back to Blighty. I got posted to 49 Squadron who had taken over 214s operations. Went back to Kenya and there was, I was dropping leaflets. Not bombs. And then they said I might have to go to Aden and I ended up in Aden. And not for long because I had an accident and I hurt my ankle like. I was in hospital there at Steamer Point and then I went back to Khormaksar and our CO there, I think we weren’t a squadron then. I think we were a flight. Twelve. Twelve something flight. He said you’d better go home in the next aircraft so I came home from Aden to Upwood in a Lincoln. And then most of us were hanging around. There were a lot of corporals there — which I was then. We was put on station flight. The communication aircraft. We had a Meteor, a Canberra. What else was it there? Two or three other little aircraft. Oxford I believe. And I was there till we got called — well, posted at various V Bomber stations. I got posted to Marham where I stayed. I went there in January ‘56 and I stayed on 214 the rest of my service where we did all the different trips. Well I did all detachments. My first detachment was Suez. 1956. We were bombing Egypt because Nasser had blocked, blocked the Suez Canal. We were in an airfield one minute and getting aboard a Mark 1 Shackleton to fly to Malta. But over Paris we got hit by lightning. A bad storm. And all of us were being sick and treading on each other. I think they poured us out. We had an emergency landing at Marseilles Airport and then we had to go on to [unclear] The [RFT?] staging post. Then the next morning we went down to Malta. That’s when they started bombing. Started bombing Egypt. And we came back. And my next — what was my next? Oh I went to Cyprus. I’d just got married. I got married and got sent to Cyprus on an exercise with the American 6th Fleet but there was a trouble brewing. A load of suspect aircraft had been blown up at Akrotiri. There wasn’t nothing at Akrotiri at that time. It was, it was bare. And four Valiants turned up out of the blue and we wondered what it was. And we had the exercises with the American 6th Fleet. An engine went down. We had to change an engine and when the pilot came out he came over to me and said, ‘Have you just changed this engine?’ I said, ‘Well I have, sir. Yes sir.’ He said, ‘Well get in. I’m a crew man missing. You’re coming with us.’ So, I did a tour of Cyprus in a V bomber. And when we came back they sent us home because of trouble. They expected something to be blown up. They did blow an aircraft up. I think it was a Canberra. But when we come home in say, ’58, we — some of us were picked to go to America with Strategic Air Command bombing competition in California. I, we were, separated from the rest of Marham. A little detachment in the far corner of Marham. And one day I was lucky because I was de-fueling one of the Valiants and when you defuel you don’t have the power cables, or power on. You just, we had the cables out over the undercarriage. Well, I was going to and fro from the cockpit. It was a stormy day. Thunder and lightning and things like that and bits of pieces of rain and things. And I heard an almighty bang as I came out the cockpit of this aircraft and I smelled dodgem cars. And when I looked what had happened the lightning had hit the tail plane of the Valiant which was thirty odd foot up, come down through the aircraft, through the fuselage, it had shot across the undercarriage where we had our cables and it split the cables right open. Right the way down to the generating set. Now, if we’d have been refuelling we would have had power on and it would have blown the aircraft up. Because we heard screaming and shouting — I went around the other side of the aircraft. There was this poor policeman. He’d got studs in his boots. It’d gone through his feet. Yeah. And it didn’t help. He didn’t like that very much. And then we went off to America. A mixture of us. Detached. And I think we did about — we were up against B52s. We got about seventh I think. We didn’t do too bad. It was quite [pause] and the accommodation there was rough. Wooden shacks it was. And the toilet was just six toilets in one room. You sat knee to knee. I thought we were going to have luxury. Luxury accommodation in America, hooray but we didn’t. We got one of the worst accommodations I think because they said if the place had caught fire it would have been burned down in a couple of minutes. And the tumbleweed things were balling up outside the door [laughs] no. And then we came back. And what was my next one? Oh ‘59. ‘59 was the only time I didn’t go abroad. And that was a bit of a disaster ‘59 was. The aircraft that I’d been working on quite a lot, XTH69, which I went flying with in Cyprus — I was the engineering NCO on a primary two inspection prior to flight. Engine runs. Passed the aeroplane to fly engine wise. I got woke up in the morning. Said a crash had killed everybody. Oh, that was terrible ‘cause I thought we had National Servicemen that weren’t very keen and they should never have been put on aircraft I don’t think. They say bring National Service back but on a limited basis I always thought. Well it crashed. We’d had a tailplane actuator in the, in the climb. We had one that couldn’t get out the climb ‘cause balance all electric. All electric motors and this one was taking off non-stop from Marham to Nairobi. Flight refuelling over, over the Med and I think one of the other stations down — Khartoum or something like that and what had happened the tailplane actuator decided to go in to a dive. Sent it straight in to the ground and killed all. Our best crew chief was killed. Bob Shaw. Lovely man. But it was tailplane actuator that and ’60, my last trip, I was, I went out with two Valiants to Karachi. Mauripur. Pakistan Air Force. And we sent a Valiant from Marham to Singapore in fifteen hours. And that was just about it. I came out then. I had — because and I wanted a married quarter and I couldn’t get one. I got a council house instead. So that’s why I came out the air force. January ‘61.
SB: Ok. That’s a very good summary of your service.
RM: Yeah. It’s all in there actually.
SB: Yeah, and I will have a look through that chapter again in a minute.
RM: I’ve got stacks of photographs here.
SB: Can I ask you a few questions now about some other aspects? When you joined up the war itself was over but many of the people you were working with had seen active duty. Can you remember any of them? Any of their experiences.
RM: I remember one crew chief, Jack Prior. He was a Japanese prisoner of war and he’d had his shin all bashed with a rifle butt. And he was a most, he hated the Japs. He reckoned every Japanese should have been killed at birth. He really was — well as I say what he’d been treated. That’s one of the vivid ones I remember. He was a lovely man but he was a bit around the bend. He had big bushy eyebrows I remember. But he was a little bit mental. To be a crew chief on a Valiant [laughs] I thought that was a bit much. He did his job. No problems. Anybody else that I remember? Not really. I can’t remember.
SB: Ok. If you think of them while we’re talking —
RM: Yeah. Yeah.
SB: Let me know.
RM: No I —
SB: How did the war and the things you had heard about as a child affect your decision to join?
RM: Well it didn’t. Not really. I said, only because I wanted to go in the police force and I was sent to, went to a solicitors office in London and I was going to and forth past the Air Ministry every day and looking at the boy entrants in these — I knew I had to do two years in the forces. And I never really dreamed about going in the forces. Being a serviceman. And then I thought when I saw these boy entrants I thought, I thought well if I’ve got to go in the army or the navy I need to learn a trade. So, I thought, well the air force looks good. Engines. Become an engine fitter and that would help me in Civvy Street. ‘Cause, boy — when we finished the training or started the training, you could either go liquid cooled engines which was a Merlin, Hercules which was the air, big air cooled engine, or you could go jets. But I thought, well, you know, I think liquid cooled is best. It’s the nearest to a car engine and the workings of a car engine. Radiator or the cooling. So — so I specialised in the Merlin. But no. We just didn’t think of it. I just thought I’d sooner be in the air force than anywhere else.
SB: Ok.
RM: Yeah.
SB: Yeah. You say your mother wasn’t happy about it.
RM: No.
SB: Any particular reason?
RM: Well I was an only child.
SB: Just that you were an only child.
RM: Just that I was an only child.
SB: Yeah.
RM: And she pampered me you know. Done my boots. Cleaned them. ‘Cause when I got in the boy’s service I spent a month crying. People shouting at me. Telling me to do this. Line that up. Oh crikey. I thought, I thought it was another world. Really. Another world. Marching everywhere. Being shouted at. Oh crikey. I couldn’t go through it again. Not again. But then when you come to the end and you were senior entry and you had your passing out parade that really was something. I regret now I didn’t get a photograph of mine and I can’t find any. Well most of my entry, 12th entry engines, most of them are dying off. Three have died off since I’ve known them. And I’d have like to have a photograph of it because it was something. When you were junior entry because it was food rationing during junior entry when I was, and senior entry would run up the queue in the cookhouse get their food and meal. Bread. Butter. By the time you got there there was nothing left. A bit of crust. I mean it was all part of the time and if you moaned and groaned about it they’d beat you up in the evening. No, did me the world of good. Yeah. I don’t regret it now. I suppose if it boiled down to it again I’d do it again. Yeah. Still had to do it. But as I say every era is changing. I mean the air force now. I’ve just seen here “Tornados combat reprieve.” Their scrapping aircraft and they’ve got to get it and put it back. When we was at Cosford last year we were taken around the workshops and they’ve got a whole, well some of our blokes worked on them, a whole squadron virtually of Jaguars. Aircraft from Coltishall. My mate worked on most of them. Mel, who you spoke to. And they’re teaching apprentices or the trainees on obsolete aircraft and I couldn’t believe it. I thought, I suppose when I [pause] we didn’t have any aircraft in the hangars when I was — because it like Lancasters and — no. I don’t know what. These were all because all the hangars and workshops had been customised to computerisation. They’ve got a Jaguar there. It’s up on a stand and you get in the cockpit and it shows you it on the wall. And whenever you do your throttle and that and it shows what’s going on. You know. You’d never dreamt you’d see anything like that. No.
SB: No. So what was your favourite aircraft to work on?
RM: Well, I suppose the Valiant. Yeah. It’s clean. Hard work though. With the Valiant you had the big doors like about as big as this ceiling and they had all these like Allen key bolts in and you had to do them all by hand. You know you had to undo them all and you were up a ladder. And that was the only part of the Valiant that I didn’t like. But we had no air guns. In fact when we started in ‘56 we only had two pair of steps. A modern V bomber force and all that all ready. And we had — one day we had a message to say all the generators had got to be changed. All the generators were faulty. So on my flight we had four aircraft per flight and I was on A flight and we had to change sixteen generators and the only way they did it was another corporal and a sergeant and they put it on my shoulders and I went out and brought them down on my shoulders — aged sixteen. Yeah sixteen generators on a shoulder and none of the equipment would do it. I mean in them days they’d got all the hydraulic gear. No. No. Well with the Lincoln I suppose, well it was dirty. Engine oil and all that. A totally different aircraft kind of thing. Especially when you were flying. Well, you didn’t get much chance to fly in the V bombers. You had to be decompressed. Go in a decompression chamber because they fly in altitude. Luckily enough we had the one down at Malta. In the naval air station and took some of us up there and because we had a flight sergeant and he had ear trouble. Oh did he scream. When he went up it was affecting his ears. Otherwise, you know. Oh no. One of the things I did I had to fly up from Nairobi. They wanted heavy bombing in Aden. They’d been using rockets and machine guns wrapped around so they wanted a Lincoln to go up with a thousand pounder I think it was. I flew all the way up to Aden — a full bomb load and had to land sitting on a full bomb load. That was a bit worrying that. Well, I mean there would have been nothing left of Khormaksar if it had blown up. Oh dear. Yeah. And I was sent up with one bloke. Four Lincolns and myself and one, well he was a fitter. He was a junior technician. We were supposed to work up to 1 o’clock. I was working all day. I had a problem with one of the magnetos on one of the engines and we couldn’t clear it. But the pilot wanted it cleared and wanted the aircraft. But we never did. Yeah. Seems — seems a long time ago that does.
SB: Yeah. With your experiences in Kenya and Aden and the bombing how — how did you feel about that at the time?
RM: Well not brilliant. It just felt it was just a job, you know. A job I chose to do and it was part of it. I mean dropping those bombs on them men. They were terrible people they were. The Mau Mau. They chopped people up in bits. I know one day a flight lieutenant, officer’s wife and child went out and he was chopped up around the garden. They were terrible people. We had to get rid. Well they’re still, they’ve got a Mau Mau club out there still. They still exist but because of the cost in money — and the amount of money it must have cost. You know. The amount of bombs we dropped. We’ve got a record of the bombs. Dropping bombs through [unclear] over a period of time it’s impossible. And .5 ammunition. Like fifty thousand rounds. Things like that. Which, I mean, you don’t realise the cost of these things. Well, I suppose in them days it was as bad as like it is today, well [laughs it’s a radar beam today or something isn’t it? Yeah. No. We had Wing Commander Beetham come in in 1959 to do flight refuelling. He ended up marshall of the Royal Air Force, Sir Michael Beetham who I did see regular and he started to call me Roy. A marshall of the Royal Air Force, you know shaking hands like. Bomber Command Association. And the squadron, 214 Squadron Association. But poor old boy now he’s bent right over. Going blind. We don’t see nothing of him now. But he he got his AFC through flying from Marham to South Africa. But I think it was all planned. You could see it was planned. He only came on the squadron a short while. I don’t remember seeing him on the squadron. I think they’d got him in on the squadron. He had to do the V bomber, the Valiant, course and then he did the run to South Africa and got his AFC. But I reckon it was all planned because I knew he was going to go up higher. He was going to end up one of the top man. Because the rest of the aircrew didn’t get anything. It was just the pilot. I never did see him. I can’t remember seeing him. Get him in the aircraft. Get him back out. Yeah.
SB: After you left in ‘61 what Association have you kept with the RAF since?
RM: Well, I joined the Bomber Command Association. I’m one of the original members. As soon as it came that they were going to have an Association. And then 214 Squadron Association. There’s RAFA. RAFA. I belong to RAFA. I’ve been with 214 now, I was on the committee at one stage. We’re now trying to recruit some people but — I did recruit a few but they all, now don’t get anybody. Don’t get any younger members at all. We’re all crotchety old men at nineties and eighties now down the club. But we have had one or two come but gone. Well the navy’s taken over our club now. We couldn’t, we couldn’t run it. There wasn’t enough of us. And the navy have taken over and made a good job of it as well but they got a grant from Dartford Council. Six thousand pound which we couldn’t get. We tried but there was only, you know, about seven of us. I don’t know how many will be down there tonight. Old George is the one. Our top man. The Lancaster wireless operator. Of course he’s deaf and blind now, you know. A bit of a stoic. You can speak to him, you know, he does, if you go right up to him. And then there’s not many had been on Bomber Command. Oh got one there — Barry was an armourer on Bomber Command. He was out in Singapore most of the time I think. He was at Marham but only for a short while. And Mel, who did twenty five years, he never was in Bomber Command. When he joined, he was a boy entrant, it was changed to Strike Command. I mean who else was down there. Who else have we got? No. John, the barman he wasn’t. He was Transport office. Bill Starkey was in China on Sunderlands. In fact he was on the Sunderland that went up the Yangtze River with the Yangtze incident. It was his flying boat. Then there’s our secretary. Was. Gordon. He was. He was university. Rod our mainstay he was. He was on Jaguars quite a bit at Coltishall. But I don’t think he — oh he must have been in Bomber Command because he worked on the Valiants and he had one job on a Victor. Yeah. So we haven’t got many. Oh and we’ve got one Yugoslavian. He’s ex — well he comes from Yugoslavia. He did but he got out before the Germans got into Yugoslavia. He was working on Spitfires he was. But he’s now going blind. He can’t see anybody. And he’s ninety. But as I’m saying not too many. We’ve got nobody left. You know. It’s all gone. And as I say there’s no young people coming up to wanting to know about Bomber Command. No.
SB: Well as someone who wanted to be a policeman you’ve got a great deal of aircraft memorabilia around.
RM: Oh yeah. Yeah.
SB: So you did choose the right course.
RM: I did get into the police force eventually.
SB: Oh you did.
RM: As a special. I did eighteen years. Yes. Got my sergeant as well. Yeah. I’ve got it written down there. A sergeant just came up to me one day, ‘Sign this form.’ And that was it. On the first night on duty ‘cause we didn’t [unclear] in those days. Truncheons or things like that. I went down to Dartford nick and they sent me out on patrol. I hadn’t got a clue. Not a — I went out with another special but I got separated. I made a — [pause] that’s why the regulars didn’t like us. Called us hobby bobbies you know. But eventually when they needed help and he was there they changed their mind. Yeah. I see a couple now. An ex inspector and all the other, they’re all now in senior ranks virtually. That was in the eighties that was. Long time ago. I’ve got a few tales to tell there as well. Yeah.
SB: Well are there any other incidents that you’ve thought of?
RM: Well, there was one I went up to — from Marham from the 214 dispersal to go to the hangar to [pause] with an armament sergeant. We had to look at something in the loading — the hose drum unit. The flight refuelling pack. And we went down the hangar and we went in the hangar and we dodged down under the bomb bay and this pack — we had a thing called a dinosaur. It was a big hydraulic ramp. Because most of the stuff was — all the bombs were drawn up through the fuselage on a Valiant. A big hydraulic tube went down, picked them up. And we went in there. I picked the hose drum unit up with this thing and it snapped and it came down. I stood there and it went past. It just touched me. If it had been a few feet more it would have killed me. And the sergeant that was with us, he had to dive out of the way. Yeah. That was, that was a shocker that was. It just went bang and dropped. Dropped to the ground.
SB: So what was your favourite part of your service?
RM: Whilst I was working on the Valiants. You know, you knew it. I can’t say the training was — it was hard the training was. Being shouted at and having to do PT and things like that. I was fit though. Really fit. No. I suppose working on the Valiant. Especially when there was something on. Rushing out to Egypt and bombing Egypt from there. That kind of thing. Not many people do that in Civvy Street but [pause] no. I suppose that I was lucky. I had quite a mixture of different things. But some people you talk to they were in Transport Command and they didn’t get off a transport aircraft. And I thought that would have killed me. And others say they never went anywhere. Never. They stayed in Blighty all their service. A lot of them bought themselves out I know. A couple had bought themselves out. In fact there’s one. He bought himself out and joined the Canadian air force. He come from Wolverhampton and he ended up warrant officer. He’s now got himself like a penthouse in Winnipeg. I phoned him up the other day. ‘I’ve just come back from Florida.’ Or ‘I’ve just come back from Alaska.’ He’s got himself a brand new motorbike. A new car. And their pension’s far superior to what we get. I’d have had to do fifty five to do a pension in my days. You could even get a pension, I think, about five years now but I had to do the full whack. Well Mel gets a pension. He did twenty five years. But as I say it’s entirely different now. I can’t think of anything else. I probably will eventually think of something else.
SB: Yeah. Ok. Well I’ll pause this for now then. If you think of anything else we can start again.
[recording paused]
SB: Right. I see from the chapter in the book that you always kept a diary. Do you still have those? Do you still keep them?
RM: Yeah. Keep them. I do a daily diary. Mostly [unclear] but in the air force I used to keep a daily diary on what aircraft I worked on. Where I was. And I kept that up continuous. All my service.
SB: So do you ever refer back to it at all?
RM: Oh yes. Yeah. Quite a lot. Yeah. What dates I, the date I joined. Two or three other things that I’d done. When I want to check on different aircraft. Like aircraft numbers. I wanted an aircraft number the other day. I couldn’t think. Well, I wouldn’t have remembered it but it was always in the diary and I helped the book I was in, “The Valiant Boys” so you got a lot of information out of it. Off the diaries for the book. Yeah. So it was well worth keeping it. I didn’t keep it up very good because I’m not a very good writer or that but I got the basic bits down. I could have done more. It’s like I’ve got a flying log. I made a flying log up but I could have made it a lot better. Well it does, I suppose, with not being air crew kind of thing. The aircrew have got their logs but I should have done it better. Like aircraft numbers and times and that I didn’t get but no, it’s all useful to look back on. Not many people do. You know. I’ve got it. Yeah.
SB: Well thanks very much for that. Let’s have a quick look at this logbook.



Sheila Bibb, “Interview with Roy Monk,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 29, 2024,

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