Interview with Walter Morris


Interview with Walter Morris


Walter Morris was born in Kettering and started employment in 1939; after a while, older workers disappeared mostly to join the Territorial Army. He enlisted in the Air Training Corps, 101 Squadron, based at RAF Grafton Underwood. Walter reported to Lord’s Cricket Ground in February 1942, followed by Initial Training Wing and at Scarborough. Then he moved to Hull where he flew Tiger Moths. During his training in Canada he flew Tiger Moths and other types, ending up qualifying as a bomb aimer. Back to Great Britain, he was posted at RAF Silverstone, RAF Swinderby and RAF East Kirkby. He flew Anson Wellingtons Stirlings and Lancasters. Discusses aircrew selection, enemy aircraft, flying conditions, day and night bombing, aircraft, bomb damage, crew morale, operational tours, the Normandy campaign with details on operations in Germany, France and Netherlands. Walter became an instructor after the end of the first tour. He was re-crewed at RAF North Luffenham for far east service, but was posted in India until demobilised in 1946. He kept in touch with the air crew for reunions.




Temporal Coverage




01:18:09 audio recording


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AB: Ok.
GB: Hello.
WM: Hello. Lovely to see you.
GB: This interview is being conducted on behalf of International Bomber Command in Lincoln. With me today is Mr Walter Morris and the interviewer is Gill Barnes. Also present is Mr Andrew Barnes, my husband and the interview is being conducted on the 18th of January in Mr Morris’ home.
WM: 18th of February.
GB: February.
AB: 18th of February.
GB: 18th of February. Thank you Mr Morris for that.
WM: Very good. Yes.
GB: Yeah. So I’m — thank you very much for agreeing to share your memories with us today.
WM: Yes.
GB: They can be as informal as you like and in any order that you like. We’re really interested to know about how you felt during the war years and not just facts and figures but also the whole experience that you went through. But I know you’re a local man and that you were born and bred locally so just to give us a bit of background it would be interesting to know what you were doing before the war. How you came to be called up and how you came to enter your squadron.
WM: Yeah.
GB: And any other information.
WM: Yes.
GB: You’d care to share.
WM: Well as you say I was born in Kettering and I went to the Central School. I was a year above Pauline in the, in the school there and as kids we walked out together but going to the pictures was a bit of a trot trying to find one shilling and thruppence to go or something like that and we just drifted apart. But then at this time I was getting near to leaving school and I always think it probably prompted me a little bit. I was walking home from school and two Blenheim bombers came flying over and they were barely chimney height. You know.
GB: Oh my goodness.
WM: And it really, you know it’s something that lived with me ever since you see.
AB: Gosh.
WM: Anyway, a few months later I went to work at Corby. I started there on the 26th of August 1939.
AB: At Stewart’s and Lloyd’s. Yes.
WM: At Stewart’s and Lloyd’s sorry. And I I joined Stewart’s and Lloyd’s on the 26th and that same week war was declared.
AB: Oh gosh.
WM: And quite a shock when I went the following back to work after the following weekend and all the chaps of about twenty, nineteen, twenty. They’d nearly all disappeared. A lot of them had joined the Territorial Army. The war came and they all got called up so it was like starting again with that. But —
AB: Gosh.
WM: You know not long after that I realised that, you know I was going to get involved. I mean I was only sixteen at the time. If the war was going to last I was going to, I was going to be involved you see.
AB: You weren’t, you weren’t going to be involved in a reserved occupation or anything like that.
WM: No. No. No. Nothing like that. I was only an office boy really you know at the time.
AB: Right.
WM: But that was it.
AB: Oh gosh.
WM: So anyway it was on my mind. I think most people who would have been my age and I eventually, 1947, sorry ‘41 came along and the Air Training Corps was formed. I don’t know if it was Churchill or someone did it. And they had a big sort of advertising thing to get there and I remember going to Stanford Road School to enlist in it and there were over two hundred boys there waiting to sign up to join the Air Training Corps.
AB: Goodness.
WM: And anyway I went along. I suppose I was one of the older ones. In a year’s time I would have been going off to the war and they made me a sergeant and —
AB: Immediately.
WM: Yes. Well they had to form you know. So I was there and I then, in charge of the drill and all the rest of it you know. And I had a wonderful year really. We got people run it. There was the garage owner. He was the chief and then two or three school masters came along and the chemist, Boots, the manager there, he came along.
AB: Where was this based then?
WM: In Kettering.
AB: Oh.
WM: At Stanford Road School.
AB: So was the Air Training Corps Kettering based was it?
WM: It was Kettering based.
AB: Yes. Oh I see.
WM: 101 Squadron it was. Yes.
AB: Oh right.
WM: And anyway during that year I got to be eighteen and I volunteered for the, to fly in there and they were all volunteers. They were, you know, you weren’t called up to that. You just volunteered for it. And then I, there was normally a waiting time of what, about eight months. Something. Seven, eight months. The biggest shock of my life. This was in September. My birthday. December I had a thing to call me up and I had to go to Northampton for an interview and then from there later on I went to Cardington in —
AB: In Bedfordshire.
WM: Bedfordshire. And I got enrolled you see and then, ‘When can you come?’ You know and it started to get quite comical. ‘Can you come on Monday?’ ‘No sir. I can’t.’ ‘Can you come a week on Monday?’ ‘Yes. That’s alright,’ and I was, but I was, I was signed on you know. I had to give the pledge that you do and all the rest of it.
AB: Yeah.
WM: And I got my RAF number and the week before, the following Monday well I had to give up work straightaway. They let me go. They didn’t hold me up. I had to report to Lord’s Cricket Ground in February. February the 23rd it was so it [unclear]
GB: Yeah.
AB: 1940.
GB: ‘41.
WM: ‘42 this was.
AB: ‘42. Right.
WM: Sorry. Yes. Yeah. ‘42. Yes.
AB: ‘42.
WM: Yes.
AB: Gosh.
WM: As I say yes when I joined it was ‘42. It was February. And so I went to Lord’s Cricket Ground you know. First time I’d ever been there you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: We were in the room of the, hallowed room as we were signing on.
GB: Gosh.
WM: And all the rest of it.
GB: Yeah.
WM: And then they formed us up and we walked to some very posh sort of flats in— that overlooked the zoo and they’d taken it over and it was a lovely flat. Would have been —
GB: Yeah.
WM: If there was just two or three of you in there but when there was twenty of you it was a bit hard going. So we started off and into the, we had to go into the zoo restaurant to eat. And that was our start you know so.
AB: Good gracious.
WM: They were all strangers to me. We all sort of welded together and —
AB: And you started your training then did you?
WM: Well not really. We had one or two exams.
AB: Right.
WM: We went from, we went to what they called Initial Training Wing and I went to Scarborough and I was there about four or five months.
AB: And you were training as a bomb aimer from day one were you?
WM: Oh no. No. No. No. I was actually hoping to be a pilot you know.
AB: Oh right.
WM: I think we all were, you know. So I did this three or four months at Scarborough. Then they moved me to near to Hull. I forget the name of the place now. And we flew in Tiger Moths.
AB: Right.
WM: And I never flew solo but they some, a wonderful old chappy he was. He was in the First World War. ‘Oh I think you’ll make it my lad,’ you know and he put me down for pilot training.
AB: Right.
WM: So I went from there to Manchester. We had to wait to get over to America where they were— either America or Africa. Canada. They picked you for Canada to go. And they took us up to Glasgow, near to Glasgow and got the ship there that we were going on.
GB: Yes.
WM: And we had a look. It was a misty day and then we saw the Queen Mary.
GB: Gosh.
WM: We went to Canada on the Queen Mary. That was quite a thing you know.
GB: Yes.
AB: Did you have any anxiety about submarines or anything like that?
WM: Sorry?
AB: Did you have any anxiety with submarines? Being torpedoed?
WM: No. As a matter of fact the Queen Mary and ships like that they never had any convoy because they were too fast. They reckoned that they couldn’t, you know, the submarines couldn’t —
AB: Couldn’t keep up with it.
WM: It would be a lucky shot if they got it, you know.
GB: Yeah. Gosh.
WM: ’Cause they were going too fast, and they were on a set zigzag course.
AB: Oh right.
WM: But anyway you know we had five days there and I think on board there would be about five or six hundred people. We got to Boston in America and transferred from there and they took us up to Canada.
AB: Oh right.
WM: But when we got to, we had a fit when we got to Boston. Took us off and paraded and in the front of the Queen Mary there was a gash as big as this room in the front of it. And, you know, ‘What happened here’ you know. And apparently it was on a zigzag course and there was a British warship somewhere and they couldn’t turn and it cut the —
GB: Gosh.
WM: It cut the ship in half and so they filled the front of the Queen Mary up with concrete.
AB: Concrete yes.
WM: And things like that to make it and took us across —
AB: To make it seaworthy. Yes. Yes.
WM: And then they put it out of service until while got it done.
AB: Good gracious.
WM: And that was a bit of a fit to start with you know.
AB: Yeah. Good.
WM: But then we went from there. And this was in October eventually. September. October. And we went up to Canada. Moncton in Canada and we went through the States on the American and it was, you know, I was only a kid of twenty at the time and it nearly, it was a beautiful day. Blue, the blue of the lakes and the sun you know and the leaves coming off all different colours. You know it was something that just stuck in my head all that time.
AB: Did you go by train or by bus?
WM: Sorry?
AB: How did you go? By train. Or by bus?
WM: Train.
AB: You went by train from Boston.
WM: Oh we went by train. Yes.
AB: To Canada.
WM: Yes. We went out from Boston in the evening and it would be the next afternoon before we got where we were going. So we got there and then from there they put us into quarters and I finished up going to Alberta and a flying field up there where we did the flying but the weather was a bit intermittent and all the rest of it. I just didn’t, I couldn’t fly. I mean in those days. I don’t think I’d even sat in car a dozen times in my life. You know.
GB: Yes.
AB: Gosh.
WM: And I thought the pedals were there for pushing and all the rest of it.
GB: Yeah.
WM: And they, I never did go solo but I couldn’t land the thing you know to and so —
AB: What sort of planes.
WM: They said, ‘I’m sorry. Very much. I’m sorry.’
AB: You’re not the one.
WM: ‘You know, you’ll have to come off.’ You know. So.
AB: So what planes were you practising on in Canada?
WM: They were, they were Tiger Moths.
AB: Oh they were still Tiger Moths.
WM: And there was, they did have some Canadian ones as well.
AB: Oh right.
WM: But it was about the weather. I mean it got the wheels off and you landed on skis you know. There was that much snow about you know.
AB: Oh right. Oh right.
GB: Oh of course. Yeah.
AB: So it was very cold for you.
GB: Yeah.
WM: So anyway I, they said, ‘I’m sorry.’ Not me. There was quite a lot of us.
GB: Yeah.
WM: ‘And what would you like to do now?’ They gave you a choice of navigator or air bomber sort of thing
AB: Oh right.
WM: And I went for the air bomber thing. I don’t know why. And they then shipped me from Alberta right across to Ontario on the banks of the Lake Ontario.
GB: Yes.
AB: Gosh.
WM: Where I then started my air bomber course and I went to a little island just in the lake and finished. Well no. Got half way through the course, then I went from there to the other side of the lake on the just seventy miles north of Niagara and finished there and on July the 23rd 1943 I qualified as a sergeant bomb aimer. Very proud of myself, you know.
AB: Well.
WM: And that was it. Yeah.
AB: And then you went back to England on the Queen Mary again.
WM: I came back. Well yes. I got to say that. We came back to Moncton which was a holding station and I eventually we got shipped by the Queen Mary but when I told you there was six hundred coming there was nineteen thousand going back on it.
GB: Golly.
WM: You see they were getting ready for you know obviously the build-up of the war.
WM: In the meantime America had come into it.
AB: Oh right.
WM: And it was full there so what we did you got a bunk for twenty four hours then you had to sleep where you could for the rest of the time while someone else had you, had your bunk.
AB: Oh right.
WM: Yes. So —
AB: Wow.
WM: But er —
AB: So you were with Canadians and Americans.
WM: There was Canadians. There was, there weren’t a great number of us air force people going back you know.
AB: Right
WM: Probably a couple of bus loads but the rest were Americans all going over
AB: Ah
WM: I can see it now. They used to queue up on one side of the boat and go right the way around queuing up to get some chocolate to bring home. Not a bar. We had a box you know.
GB: Gosh
WM: We could
AB: Oh right.
WM: A catering chappy I knew, he was with me, I hadn’t got enough money so he lent me five pounds so that I buy some more for my parents and things like that.
AB: Well five pounds was a lot of money in those days.
WM: Oh yes it was, you know but that was it. But anyway so we we got on like that. I always remember all these Americans they were all playing, what’s the big thing and I forget the name of the game that they were playing. Rolling dice and all the rest of it.
AB: Backgammon was it or something?
WM: No. They didn’t call it. I forget what it was. Anyway, they were there and they were all around. Some RAF officer was, permanent I should think you know, ‘Stop,’ he said, ‘I’m stopping you. I’m taking this.’ You know. And this American bloke pulled the thing, ‘I’m f-ing sure you’re not.’ You know and he ran off with it. They never did catch him because there were so many people there you know. So that was my adventures coming back but it was —
AB: Was the food good on the ship?
WM: Oh it was lovely yes.
AB: Good.
WM: Going out particularly you know the sort of bread was sort of off white thing we had in this country.
GB: Yes.
WM: Then we were back to food which was supplied from America.
GB: Oh gosh.
WM: Really we were eating very well indeed.
AB: It was better quality coming home than going out was it?
WM: Well it was more comfortable going out than coming back.
GB: Yes.
AB: Oh right. Yes.
WM: There was more than one place to eat you know.
AB: Yeah.
WM: And I know some people went there and had two plates. Two places to eat you know.
AB: Yeah. Yeah.
WM: So that was it.
AB: So you got back then to Glasgow.
GB: Yes.
WM: Sorry?
AB: You got back to Glasgow then.
WM: No. No. We got back to Birkenhead actually.
AB: Oh Birkenhead ok.
GB: Birkenhead.
WM: Yes and that was it and I came home on leave and you know I was transferred and started my, the flying part of the air bombing more then anything else.
GB: So there was still more training to do when you got back.
WM: Oh yes. Yes.
GB: Gosh.
WM: I say I joined in 1942 and I was finished training at the beginning of 1944 really.
GB: Golly. Yes.
WM: I went to Glasgow for some flying. I did a bit of navigating as well.
GB: Yes.
WM: Then we used to go to southwest Scotland and we had to fly down to the Isle of Man or to Ireland you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: And do other exercises there.
GB: Yes. And what sort of planes were you flying in?
WM: We were flying in Ansons. Avro Ansons.
GB: Right.
WM: And then later on we got, when I got to Silverstone we were in Wellingtons.
GB: Right. Yes.
WM: And later on from that we changed. We went to Swinderby and in Stirlings.
GB: Yes.
WM: They were a bit of a dead loss. They’d got no height and they were no good for really for doing the job that they were built for so —
AB: Oh really.
WM: And then they transferred us from there to, from them to Lancasters.
GB: Lancasters.
WM: And then we had conversions there and then eventually we got swapped on to the —
AB: Was there much difference in the technique of bombing from different aeroplanes?
WM: Well it’s hard to say because I was, you know, there were only four pound bombs that we were practicing with. We didn’t use anything very big.
AB: Right.
WM: But the only difference was that I think well the Lancaster was that much faster than the Stirling you know.
AB: Right.
WM: It certainly fell into place quite easily. So that was it. I was going to say earlier on we had the crew. There’s a photograph of them at the back of the book there I think actually.
GB: Oh yes.
WM: Yeah. And they were the six of us and we got to the, we got to Swinderby and Doug, the flight engineer came in. This was obviously taken before but we got to the —
GB: Is that you there?
WM: No. That’s Smithy.
GB: Oh right.
WM: That’s me there.
GB: Oh right. Oh. The good looking one.
WM: That’s what my wife said this morning. And anyway we got our crew made up and the one there behind me.
GB: Yes.
WM: We don’t quite know what happened but he disappeared I think. Whether it was lack of moral fibre they called it. Whether it was illness or not I don’t know so —
GB: Gosh.
WM: But he did, he was very, he was a nervous sort of fellow. Nice man but —
GB: Yes.
WM: But —
GB: What was -?
WM: We were buckshee without a rear gunner.
GB: So this was the gang you got together in the hangar at Silverstone.
WM: It would be taken at Silverstone. Yes.
GB: Yes.
WM: Yes.
GB: And you all self-selected each other.
WM: Well yeah. I selected Smithy on the other side of the pilot.
GB: Yes.
WM: Then we walked along and the two in the middle Alec and the one behind him is Don.
GB: Yes.
WM: They came and then the other two lads were gunners. They were together and we picked them up as well.
GB: Right.
WM: Like I say we’d never seen any of them before.
GB: No. It’s amazing that.
WM: Yeah.
GB: And the guy who disappeared. What? Was he a gunner?
WM: He was a rear gunner.
GB: Rear gunner. I could tell by the size of him actually.
WM: Yeah but he —
GB: Goodness.
WM: Yeah.
GB: Was he a volunteer do you think?
WM: Oh they were all volunteers.
GB: They were all volunteers.
WM: They had to be.
GB: Yeah.
WM: He was an older man. He was married as well I think. You know you don’t know really what came of it but —
GB: No.
WM: It must have been the lack of moral fibre they called it because —
GB: Yes.
WM: We never saw him again. He just was there one day and gone the next.
AB: What would happen to him then?
WM: They stripped them down and sent them, put them down to aircrew 2. You know the lowest. Sweeping up and this sort of thing.
AB: So ground jobs basically.
WM: Oh yes. Yes.
AB: Yes. Yes.
WM: So that was poor old Smithy in that respect but I say he did us a good turn because on the squadron there was a Flight Officer Bate who’d got six trips still to do to complete a second tour and he came and flew with us and he was quite, very very helpful. He kept us. He knew what he was doing. He’d, I mean, he’d done something like fifty ops you see. And then when he finished they picked up another chap, Eldridge who lived quite near to Doug, the engineer who did know him at the time.
GB: Yes.
WM: He came along. He was on his second tour and it was quite helpful really.
AB: How long was a tour? Was it fifteen ops? Or thirty ops.
WM: Well thirty.
GB: Thirty.
AB: Thirty.
WM: It varied. I was told I would do thirty to start with.
AB: Right.
WM: But the war ran its course and they put it up from thirty to thirty five to do and then on the last day that I was doing my, last day. We were due to do our last op. We had to take the aircraft up for a test. An air test sort of the thing. And the skipper, Alec, said to us, ‘I’ve got a message for you. Now be quiet and listen.’ He said, ‘I’ve just been told to tell you that the cook tour has been cut from thirty five trips to thirty three trips so that means we’re finished.’ And we didn’t hear much more. We all went and put parachutes on just in case anything was going happen to him but so it went down from thirty five to thirty three having gone up from thirty to thirty five.
AB: Oh right.
WM: You see, I mean, before, before, I mean once D-day came it changed because it was all mainly all big cities and that sort of thing that were bombing. Towns.
AB: When did you go active?
WM: Sorry?
AB: When did you go active with your bombing?
WM: I’ll come to that in a second.
AB: Right. Ok. Sorry.
WM: And. No. It’s alright. And then the, it came to D-day up to that time they were bombing cities, engineering firms, and all the rest of it.
AB: Yes.
WM: And then after that they went on to supporting the ground who had invaded. The English the Americans to try and soften up the enemy and trying to ruin the German transport links and all the rest of it.
AB: The railways.
WM: Yes.
AB: And bridges.
WM: And that just caught us. We arrived at East Kirkby on the, on D-day minus one — June 4th so June 5th we went down there and everybody was full of the invasion and all the ships that they saw and we had quite a chat with them but it was another week before I actually they let us, let us go fly you see.
AB: Oh I see. A week after D-Day.
WM: A week. Yes. 11th or 12th
AB: So that was ’44.
WM: Yes.
AB: Yeah.
WM: So then I did a tour. Took me from there to October. I was looking the other day thinking about this. It was very very hectic really at the time. I worked it out. I just had a hundred days on the, in the squadron as such. Take off two weeks. Then I had leave. That’s only really basically there for eighty odd days and we got thirty four ops.
AB: So where were you based originally?
WM: Based at East Kirkby.
AB: East Kirkby. Ok.
WM: That’s about ten miles north of —
GB: So you emerged from the hangar in Silverstone as a team.
WM: Yes.
GB: And how did you become 630 Squadron? Part of it.
WM: Oh well they posted us to 630 Squadron.
GB: Right.
WM: Yeah. And they were I’m sure there were people from 630 Squadron.
GB: 630 yes.
WM: Went with them. We went with them and we don’t know where we picked them up from you know. Of course that was, there was a constant loss of course.
GB: Yes.
AB: Yes.
WM: Just get a crew and they’d say well you’d better replace that one you see.
GB: So you went to 630 Squadron at East Kirkby which was quite close to Coningsby I think.
WM: Yes it was. Yes.
GB: Yeah. And started active service there. And where were you staying when you were there?
WM: Staying?
GB: Yes.
WM: Well East Kirkby was a wartime aerodrome and it was, it was not like the Scamptons or anything — there were lovely buildings and all the rest of it.
GB: No. Yes.
WM: And we had quite a lot of tin huts and things like that and we were actually, we were, the non-commissioned people were in Nissen huts.
GB: Right.
WM: And we were a good twenty minutes walk from there to the airfield and a quarter of an hour to the mess. The mess. So we, you know we had plenty to do to walk.
GB: You got plenty of exercise.
WM: So we used to go for meals and we’d pop in to the mess you know after from there but we didn’t make, well it was too busy really.
GB: Yeah.
WM: To get in there and I did, while I was there I did twenty four air operations at night and ten at daylight so it was, it was a lot more hectic really.
AB: What would, what would the gap be.
GB: Yes.
AB: You wouldn’t get a daytime raid and then a night time raid directly.
WM: Not exactly but I was looking at the times on some of those, you know. It was certainly within twenty four hours that we sometimes went up again you know but —
GB: Gosh yes I can see.
AB: Do you remember your first trip out?
WM: Yes. It was a bit of a laugh. It was to Caen. The British or Americans, someone, were in battle with the Germans and they wanted us to go over there with our bombs and drop them on the German side to make the progress better.
AB: Is this Caen? C A E N.
WM: That’s right.
AB: In France. Yes. Caen. Yes.
WM: In Normandy.
GB: Yes.
AB: Yes. Normandy. Yes.
WM: Anyway, we got there and getting ready and message, ‘Stop bombing. Stop bombing.’ ‘No bombing’ and ‘return to base,’ sort of thing and it turned out that our people had broken through and there was the case that if we had bombed we would probably have bombed them as well.
AB: Oh right. Of course. Yes.
GB: Of course.
WM: Anyway, they stopped it and we went back to East Kirkby or wherever we were going and the [pause] we the person that was speaking to us said, ‘Have you got a bombload? So, ‘Yes we’d got a full bomb load.’ ‘Well you go out to the North Sea and you drop. You’ve got to drop it so you’ve got a safe all up landing weight,’ you see.
GB: Yes.
AB: Yes. Yes.
WM: Well I didn’t hear that but someone told me and anyway we went out there and opened the bomb doors and dropped the lot you see.
AB: Right. Yes.
WM: There was, I can remember seeing them now, they were sort of not primed to go off but some of them still went off, you know.
GB: Golly.
WM: When they hit the bottom.
GB: Yes.
WM: Anyway, the next day they wanted to see me and the pilot in the bombing room, you know. ‘What do you mean by dropping all those bombs at sea? You were only supposed to drop about six of them,’ you know to get all in the weight. I said I didn’t know anything about this.
GB: No.
WM: No. So anyway, ‘Well just don’t let it happen again,’ you know, sort of thing. I dropped, instead of, I think we had about ten or eleven bombs on board.
AB: And you should only have dropped four.
WM: I should have dropped half of them.
AB: You dropped half of them.
WM: And brought the rest of them back. Yeah.
AB: So do you prime the bombs before, before you drop them normally, in action?
WM: Sorry?
AB: Do you have to prime the bombs or are they already primed?
WM: Yes. Yeah. You primed. You’ve got a switch there sort of a thing. A switch.
AB: A switch. Was that your job as a bomb aimer?
WM: A part of it yes. I had to prime them.
AB: Right.
WM: And then when I dropped the bombs, when I dropped the bombs, you know, it released them one at a time.
AB: Yes. Yes.
WM: But quite often what happened was a sweep thing on the instrument and that’s plugged over each one and it knocked them off, you know. They didn’t always come off and you had to look through the best you could to see if there was anything lying on but —
AB: And if they were left you had to give them a push did you or what?
WM: No [laughs] but anyway when I, when I did that you know right that was it. They shut the bomb doors again and we were not allowed to open them again till they landed. The people who serviced the aircraft could do that but we weren’t allowed to do that.
AB: Why? What was the reason for that?
WM: Well in case it bumped. When you bumped your landing it did, you know, the hook that was holding it up would probably come loose or something.
AB: Oh I see. So you’re talking about a bomb left in the plane.
WM: It could have dropped on to the floor of the door.
AB: Yes.
WM: And just hit. If it hit the ground you know, in that condition it was quite likely to —
AB: Go off. Oh right. Ok.
GB: So at last you’re in Lancasters. You’re in East Kirkby and you’ve started your work and started your tour.
WM: Yes. Yes. Yes.
GB: And did the crew socialise together at all or-?
WM: We get on very very well together if we go out together.
GB: Yes.
WM: But we’d got three people who were officers there.
GB: Yes.
WM: They went into the officer’s mess so we didn’t really.
GB: Of course.
WM: We, the other, three or four of us, we stayed in the, we were in the same Nissen hut.
GB: Hut.
WM: Together.
GB: Right.
WM: And we played cards together and had a laugh.
GB: Yes.
WM: And all the rest of it but as I say we were glad to sleep to be truthful. You know after eight, nine, ten hours flying probably and you get a bit weary doing that you see.
AB: Was it cold in the aeroplane? In the Lancaster.
WM: No. We had not too bad. The, it was summertime anyway.
AB: Right.
WM: I never, I never felt really cold in there but the worst one of course was the rear gunner.
GB: Yes.
WM: They had Perspex in front of them. Some of them, it used to steam up so they had it cut or broken away and they were sitting there with their kit on and the wind, the cold was getting in.
AB: Getting cold. Right.
WM: It was terrible. A terrible job really.
AB: What height were you flying at? Fifteen thousand feet or —
WM: We were normally up to eighteen, nineteen.
AB: Oh right.
WM: One of the trips we did we were told to, we could up as high as we could. Went to Brunswick and we got to nearly twenty three thousand but it wouldn’t go any higher than that, you know.
AB: Oh the plane physically wouldn’t go higher.
WM: No. Apparently not. No.
AB: Did you have breathing apparatus?
WM: Oh yes. Oxygen. Yes.
AB: Oxygen. Yes.
WM: If you flew at night with the oxygen on when you got in the aircraft and when you daylight you, if you got to ten or eleven thousand feet the skipper told you to put your oxygen on.
AB: Oh right.
WM: So that was it really.
GB: And your operations took you all over the place.
WM: Yes. Yes.
GB: [Kiel?] Stuttgart. Caen. Lots in France.
WM: Yes. We, we never did go to Berlin or anything like that, you know.
GB: Oh right because —
WM: That more or less finished before I got on there.
GB: Oh. It had because it says on the history.
WM: Yes.
GB: Of 630 Squadron that there was a big responsibility for bombing Berlin.
WM: Yes. Yes.
GB: And also laying mines in Norway.
WM: Yes. We laid, we laid mines up in Heligoland once. It was the most boring flight we had flying over the North Sea.
GB: Sea. Yes.
AB: You went on and on.
WM: Dropping bombs. Putting the mines down and came back again.
AB: So a mine was just like a bomb was it? You dropped it and it floated when it hit the water.
WM: That type of thing yes.
AB: Yes. Yes. And these were the old fashioned mines with spikes sticking out.
WM: Oh no. No. Not that. Well I didn’t see them but they weren’t those sort. They came off the boats. These sort of floated but we didn’t see any. Well they couldn’t have put them on because they couldn’t have stuck in the aircraft you know.
AB: So they were cylinders basically that floated were they? Or —
WM: Yes.
AB: Oh I see.
WM: Some of them.
GB: And did you have to aim the mines when you dropped them or -?
WM: Well no. They gave you an area to drop them in.
GB: No. An area. Yeah.
WM: Because there was nothing to line your thing up.
GB: No. No. Did you have any near misses or —
WM: Yes. We had one or two really. We went to a place called Revigny.
GB: Oh yes.
WM: I think it’s in Northern France. I’m not sure.
GB: Northern France. Yes.
WM: And that was one. And another one, our fourth one was West Wesseling which was near, just below [pause] I forget the name.
AB: Sounds Holland. Sounds Netherlands.
GB: Yes.
AB: Was it the Netherlands?
WM: No. West Wesseling. Where the cathedral, the two, I can’t think of the name of the blessed place.
AB: In France or where?
WM: In Germany.
AB: In Germany. Oh right.
WM: Yes. On the Rhine it was.
AB: Oh right.
GB: The Revigny one. It says you were, you had light flak and fighters all along the route.
WM: Yeah.
GB: And it was poorly marked.
WM: Yes.
GB: And then you were damaged by flak on your return.
WM: Yes. Was that Revigny?
GB: Yes.
WM: Yes. Well that was something I sort of found out after the war. At the time the Germans started these fighters with upward firing guns. We knew nothing about them at the time but we were coming back this particular night and suddenly a terrific sort of bang and all the rest of it and the aircraft went into a dive.
GB: Gosh.
WM: And the skipper, you know the fateful words, ‘Get ready,’ we were supposed to bale out. Get ready you see. Well where I was lying you had a sort of double cushion. You pulled it up and the exit was below that. I had to pull that.
AB: Oh right.
WM: Well I got there ready to do that to where my station was and I all there ready to go and then he said, ‘Its ok. I’ve got control again,’ and he pulled it up. Doug, the engineer, helped him but he always told them he was halfway out the aircraft and I was pulling him back holding his bottom. Which we didn’t, you know. I mean I never opened the doors but that’s his tale and he liked it but —
AB: Do you keep your parachute next door to you all the time when you were flying or do you wear it or what?
WM: No. It’s in a sort of like a cushion more or less and you just stuck it up, got the hooks behind you. You picked it up and put them on.
AB: And just hooked it on. It was what a half a minute’s job was it or -?
WM: Well it would do if you put it one right way up. Yes. Yes. It’s quite, it clipped on quite easily really.
AB: Clipped on. Oh right.
WM: Anyway I’d got that on.
GB: Yes.
WM: Obviously waiting to go. Doug, he did say to me the other week that the Lancaster would start falling apart if you got to four hundred miles an hour and he said our aircraft was near on that.
AB: Gosh.
WM: But he, well someone, two of them pulled the thing back. Got it under control and we got back quite safely but you know if, I think, it hadn’t have been for Alec I think any of us might have stuck to getting out you know and all the risks you took then but I’m quite sure that Alec saved our lives that night.
GB: Yes. Sounds —
AB: Did you find out what caused the aircraft to drop afterwards?
WM: Well yeah. It was an upward firing gun you see.
AB: Yes.
WM: And it caught one of the wings. He didn’t get the petrol tanks that were in the —
AB: No.
WM: It just knocked the balance completely. Yes.
AB: The aileron. The aileron. I see ok.
WM: But that was that. Yes.
GB: Well it says here that you’d been, you thought it was flak that had hit your plane.
WM: Well yes that was earlier on. You know and —
GB: Yes but it may have been a night fighter.
WM: Yes.
GB: Who may have hit you from underneath?
WM: Yes. No. You know as I say we didn’t know anything about.
GB: No.
WM: Upward firing guns or anything like that. As it happened when we did dive it went, we went into cloud so the bloke couldn’t have followed us up.
AB: Couldn’t see you.
WM: He couldn’t see us so.
GB: And you had to go out flying again the following night.
WM: Yes. I see that. I saw that today. Yes. Oh they’re kind to you [laughs]
AB: A different plane obviously.
WM: Oh yes it would have to be. The wingtip put back on and things.
AB: Would the plane be taken away?
WM: Yes.
AB: Or would someone come in to repair it?
WM: Sorry?
AB: Would the plane be taken away or would somebody come in to repair it?
WM: Oh do it there. And it wasn’t bad enough for that you know. They did take some away to do but —
AB: Gosh.
WM: But that was — we lost four aircraft from our squadron that night and Wesseling, Wesseling, which was, what was the name? Cologne, just below Cologne. That’s right.
AB: Yes.
WM: And we were get there as well and that was a real bit of good luck to us. It was our fourth trip and the navigator, we think it was the navigator, made a mistake with his graphs and all the rest of it.
AB: With his bearings. Yeah.
WM: And we flew along and Geoff our tail gunner he used to, ‘Skip. One going down on the port bow.’ You know. So Alec said, ‘Ok. Thank you.’ Bit later, ‘Skip there’s another one going down,’ you know. This sort of thing. So it got just to the bit so Alec said, ‘Oh just make a note of it,’ you know. He didn’t believe him at all. Anyway, we got quite near to the target and, quite near to the target and he said right you’ve got to turn north east now and he called me and told me we will be at the target in seven minutes. It was twenty odd minutes before we got up there. He’d gone farther around and we had a clear run all the way around there to there and never saw — only saw these in the distance. When we got to Wesseling we were the only ones left there. There were no aircraft so we turned around and came back the same way.
AB: You dropped your —
WM: When we got back to East Kirkby they had to put the lights on again to put us, get us in, you know.
AB: But you dropped your bomb load in.
WM: Oh yeah. We dropped our load.
AB: But you were late were you? You were later than the rest of your squadron.
WM: Oh we were later than the rest of them. Yes.
AB: Gosh.
WM: We had a, well we had a four thousand pounder in that night so we didn’t want to bring that back you know.
GB: No.
AB: No. No. And how accurate was your bomb aiming?
WM: Well they, when you took your, dropped your bombs it also released a camera.
AB: Oh right.
GB: Oh really.
WM: Not a camera, a photo.
AB: Yeah. A camera. Yes.
WM: But we and then they put them on the, published them on the map the next day to show. We got two or three what we called aiming points.
AB: Yeah.
WM: And some not so far. Some obviously a long way out because not only that the aircraft’s got to stay straight and level.
AB: Yeah.
GB: Yeah.
WM: If you missed you were over there somewhere but —
AB: But did you know what you hit because —
WM: No. No.
AB: The time between releasing the bomb and actually going off it could be a minute or two couldn’t it?
WM: Yes but it went more or less the same speed forwards as you were going.
AB: Oh of course forward. Yes. Yes.
WM: But the wireless operator Don Tong, he lived in Winchester he did. He’s died now but he went back to Kirkby afterwards and worked in the, this part of the workshop. Whatever. And he got quite a lot of these photos and he’s gone and died on us and I suppose his Mrs has got them or given them to one of the kids you know, sort of thing.
GB: Oh right.
AB: Yes. Yes.
WM: I saw them but I didn’t see many of them you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: So that’s how they kept their eye on you.
AB: Could you see other aircraft from where you were sitting as a bomb aimer? Or lying.
WM: No. The most, a bit reassuring at times you were flying along and the aircraft starts going up or down and you’re in the windstream of the, of an aircraft in front of you somewhere so you knew there was someone there.
AB: Right.
WM: We had the unfortunate experience of seeing bombs drop on one of our own aircraft because that sort of lit up sort of thing.
AB: Oh gosh.
GB: Gosh.
AB: So one plane was above the other.
WM: Yes.
AB: And released the bombs onto it.
WM: Yes. And then what happens, it’s not like the Americans. They were all in formation. They tell you you’ve got to fly at eighteen thousand feet and at eighteen thousand feet that the pilot had to set a little instrument on his altimeter.
AB: Yes. Yeah.
WM: But your opinion of eighteen thousand feet might be different from mine from eighteen thousand five hundred.
AB: Right. Yes.
WM: So what they tell you all to fly at eighteen thousand. You notice this more on daylight than anything.
AB: Oh. There was a big variation in height.
GB: Yes.
WM: Depth. So if you are above there is a danger of being bombed.
AB: My goodness.
WM: And we did have a very sad one in September er in August. We went to a Dutch airfield, Deelan. And as we were flying along in the daylight you could see everybody then easily and we saw this aircraft. It could have been a hundred yards or so away from us and a bomb had hit that and knocked the wing off it and —
GB: Gosh.
WM: It crashed obviously.
AB: God.
WM: And it turned out, in fact, the pilot, he was in Holland he was a Dutch.
AB: Dutch pilot was he?
WM: Dutch pilot and he would have been, well it was his last trip but it would have been the last trip of his tour.
GB: Yes.
WM: If he did but he didn’t. It just killed him.
AB: They didn’t have time to bale out.
GB: Gosh. I can see that.
WM: Oh no. You wouldn’t have.
GB: No.
AB: No.
GB: 15th August. Deelan.
WM: Yeah. That’s right.
WM: Yes.
GB: Yes. Are you feeling ok? Do you need a drink of water?
WM: Oh no. I’m alright. Thank you. No. No.
GB: So active service at East Kirkby continued and you were reaching the end of your tour.
WM: Yes.
GB: And then what? What happened after your tour?
WM: Oh well. I always feel a little bit guilty about this. We, we finished on the 5th of October and they wanted to get rid of us.
AB: Was this ’45.
WM: ’44.
GB: ’44.
WM: ‘44 right. Yeah. Yeah.
WM: And they wanted to, they moved you on because they wanted to bring people in.
GB: Yes.
WM: And anyway they took us to the railway station at Boston I suppose and we got off at Peterborough. We were all sitting there chatting. ‘Well I’m off now,’ you know. ‘What’s your telephone number?’ ‘What’s your address?’ You know. And all things like that and we just walked out of each other’s lives you know. We did, we did have addresses for Christmas cards and things like that but —
AB: But why did you finish in ‘44 because the war didn’t finish until ‘45.
WM: Oh well yes that’s another story but anyway I, we got ready as I say — to get back to this we got off at Peterborough and we, I came through to Kettering and the others went off to where they lived. Two lived in Kent, one lived in Winchester. Jock came from Scotland and I think Geoff came from Birmingham, you know. It was all, all different so we that was it and to be truthful I mean I got married a year later and you know you put this to one side and it was only what twenty, thirty years afterwards when they started having reunions that we got back into it you know.
AB: Back together.
GB: You met again.
WM: It’s became a massive part of my life really talking and being.
GB: Yes. Yeah.
WM: But, so that was it.
GB: So the whole crew did meet up again with the reunions.
WM: Well I said earlier that only two of us are alive. Two of us as far as we know.
GB: Yes.
WM: We, Smithy, the what do you call it, he trained in South Africa and we’ve got an idea that he picked up a girl out there and went back to her after the war ‘cause we heard nothing more about him. Jock, behind him — very, very sad. He married and he went to immigrate to New Zealand. His wife got an incurable illness and it was too much for him and he did himself in.
GB: Oh goodness.
WM: Yeah.
AB: So just going back to my earlier question why did you finish in ‘44 when the war finished in ’45?
WM: Well I finished my first tour.
GB: Yeah. You’re not expected to fly.
WM: Flying then. After that they sent me to train to be an instructor and all the rest.
AB: Oh you were taken off active service basically.
WM: Yes.
GB: Yes.
AB: Oh I see.
WM: And after so many months they wanted me to. Well they didn’t. They crewed us up. I was at, over in North Luffenham at the time.
AB: Oh yes.
WM: Flying with them. They crewed us up and we then went through a course of flying and we were going out to the Far East and we finished the course there and they sent us home on leave and they’d say, you know, when we’d got to go and the last day of the leave VJ day came along. They’d bombed Japan into submission.
GB: Yes.
WM: And you report back to North Luffenham. Well I hadn’t got a car or anything so I see it’s VJ day and I didn’t go. I stayed at home. Went the next day.
AB: So, yeah —
WM: When I got there the others had gone. They’d all been transferred to somewhere else.
AB: So did you actually go to the Far East yourself?
WM: Sorry?
AB: Did you actually transfer to the Far East yourself?
WM: No. I didn’t volunteer. No. No.
AB: You didn’t. Sorry.
WM: And so you know with the war ending they just cancelled all that.
AB: Yes.
WM: I had to go to a special place near Harrogate or somewhere and they said, ‘You’ve got to finish flying now. You’ll keep your rank but what do you want to do?’ Gave you a great list. And I didn’t know. I said, ‘Oh well,’ and looked — Post Office. I got to work in a Post Office sort of thing so they did and, ‘Where would you like to be posted to?’ And I put Silverstone or Desborough or something like and anyway they did but then two months later I was on my way to India [laughs] to Bombay and Calcutta where I had eight, ten months before they demobbed me in 1946.
AB: And how did you get to Bombay?
WM: By boat.
AB: By boat. By ship.
WM: Naval boat. It was Devonshire. A destroyer.
AB: Oh really. A destroyer.
WM: So we went on that. They were doing a bit of trooping.
AB: Oh right.
WM: So I had to go.
AB: How long did that trip take? Two or three weeks.
WM: 15th to the 30th of December.
AB: Oh two weeks.
WM: We got there. No. 31st. We got there on New Year’s Eve.
AB: Right. And you went down through Suez Canal?
WM: Yes we did. We were the first ones after the war finished to go down there. Yes that was quite an experience.
AB: Wow.
GB: Wow.
AB: Gosh. And you were training people in Calcutta and Bombay were you?
WM: No. I was, had a great time really. The mail used to come in and I’d got about three or two Indians. They were having to sorting them out. ‘Where is this place?’ You know.
AB: Oh this is part of the Post Office. Yes. You —
GB: Oh I see.
AB: This was the forces post you were looking after.
WM: Forces post. Yes.
AB: Yes. Yeah.
WM: And you know if the people had been demobbed they went in to, the letters went and they had to come back this way.
GB: Well that was quite a long way from Desborough then wasn’t it [laughs]
WM: Yeah. It was. Yes [laughs]
AB: Did you meet any nice girls in India?
WM: Did I?
AB: Did you meet any nice girls? Any nice ladies.
WM: No. No. Didn’t. No I didn’t. [laughs] No.
AB: Right.
WM: I didn’t want to go there.
GB: No.
WM: But having been there I’m glad I’ve been. It was quite a —
GB: Yes. Incredible.
WM: We had a great time there. Fun. We used to go to the Post Office building and then go from there to an American mess actually for eating and we used to get these blokes with their — what do you call it? Where you sat in them.
GB: Yes.
AB: Rickshaws or whatever.
GB: Rickshaws.
WM: Rickshaws. Yeah.
AB: Yes.
WM: And then we would have a race to see who would get there first you know and all the rest of it.
AB: And did you get on with Indian food alright?
WM: Any?
AB: Did you get on with Indian food? Curries and things.
WM: I like curry but as I say we were eating in an American mess.
AB: Ah. So it was all American food. Yes.
WM: Yes.
AB: Gosh.
WM: So that was, at the end of the time it was a nice way to finish. But as Pauline was saying earlier to you we came back to Liverpool and from Liverpool to Preston where they demobbed us.
GB: Yes.
WM: You went in one door and came out twenty minutes later with a bag with your clothes in and that was it. Nobody said thank you very much or —
GB: Thank you.
AB: They issued you with a standard suit and standard shirt and —
WM: Yeah. ‘What size are you?’ You know and then they threw them at you and you came with a hat on and all the rest of it.
AB: Oh. Good grief.
WM: And it was just as well ‘cause they were the only suits I’d got at the time. You know. I’d been married. I was married before we went to India.
GB: Gosh.
WM: So you know that was one of the reasons I didn’t want to go.
GB: Yes. Yes.
WM: The only other thing I didn’t like about that that we were going on the Devonshire and I was a warrant officer by this time and in the mess there and Sunday morning it was and we just either coming out or going in the Bay of Biscay and I was really feeling seasick and then the radio came on. Tonight’s, ‘Today’s church service is from Fuller Chapel in Kettering,’ And that’s where I was married three weeks, a month before.
GB: Oh no.
AB: Gosh.
WM: I wasn’t very pleased about that. No.
GB: No. I can imagine.
WM: Yes. So that was it.
GB: So really leaving the air force was a bit of an anti-climax.
WM: Yes.
GB: Compared to what you’d been through. What did some of the others go on to do after the end of the active service?
WM: Well the flight engineer was Smithy. It was [pause] I’ll get his name in a minute. He went to, he’s not on there.
GB: No.
WM: He went back to Kirkby and he was a training flight engineer. He was telling them what to do he was. Doug that was.
GB: Yes.
WM: Telling them what to do. So he went back to East Kirkby as well.
GB: Yes.
WM: Alec became a pilot at, near to Brackley.
AB: Silverstone.
WM: Hmmn?
AB: Silverstone.
WM: No. Between Silverstone. Near to.
AB: Hinton in the Hedges was it? Or something like that?
WM: Something like that.
AB: Yeah.
WM: Anyway he was there. We didn’t know that. I mean he was only twenty, thirty miles away from us.
GB: Gosh yes.
WM: But as I say we don’t know what happened to him. [unclear] So that was it.
GB: Which was the one that went to New Zealand.
WM: This one.
GB: Oh right.
WM: Yes. So —
GB: And —
WM: That was it. I say then it was nearly thirty years later we met up at Boston.
GB: Yes.
WM: For a meal with their wives and things.
GB: Did you meet your skip there?
WM: The skipper was there. Yes. Yeah.
GB: What was he doing by then?
WM: Well as I say he went near to [pause]
GB: Brackley.
WM: Near to Brackley.
GB: Yeah.
WM: To train. Whether he got an early release I don’t know because his father had a business. Whether they got him out of it I don’t know.
GB: So he didn’t continue as a pilot.
WM: Sorry?
GB: He didn’t continue as a pilot in civilian life.
WM: Oh no. No. No. After the war we went somewhere where there was a Lancaster and he said you know I must have been a bloody fool to fly a thing that, you know. [laughs]
AB: Have you ever been back to see an old Lancaster. Have you been to —?
WM: I’ve been to East Kirkby.
AB: East Kirkby. You’ve been there.
WM: That’s right. Yes.
AB: Does that bring back memories?
WM: Oh it does indeed.
AB: Yeah.
WM: We went once when they had the engines running, you know, running it up and down the -
AB: Oh the runway.
WM: And the men, you know, well they were older than me at the time and there were tears in their eyes as they saw the aircraft go by.
AB: Gosh.
WM: Amazing.
GB: Were you ever frightened?
WM: You know I’d a thought you would probably ask that.
GB: Yeah.
WM: I think at that age I was I wasn’t frightened. I was a bit apprehensive I suppose but I never thought about not getting back sort of thing but when I saw this I told you about this aircraft getting bombed.
GB: Yes.
WM: That did make me frightened because —
GB: Yes.
WM: When you saw one of the aircraft above you were getting, coming up from underneath.
GB: Yes.
WM: Suddenly coming down it did worry me a bit because I was sufficiently near the end of my tour and it was —
GB: Yeah. Your tour, your tour was a very active one wasn’t it? In that you were up every day
WM: Oh yes.
GB: Or every other day.
WM: Yes.
GB: You didn’t have time to be worried really. You were so busy.
WM: I think you know I did, in about eighty, eighty odd days you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: And got them all done, you know, and it was —
AB: Did you leave a letter behind every time you went off saying with your wishes if you didn’t return?
WM: No. I didn’t truthfully. No. No.
AB: Oh really? I thought that was encouraged. Oh right.
WM: A lot of people did you know but no we weren’t advised to do it. The only thing that annoyed me they told us not to keep a diary. Now I wish I had have done.
GB: Yes.
WM: Because a lot of people have made a lot of money writing about what happened.
GB: Yes. Yeah. Absolutely.
WM: Yeah. It was very —
GB: And so you came back to civilian life and resumed with your same company.
WM: Oh I did. I did. Yes. Indeed. I wrote an eight page thing about what I did.
GB: Yes.
WM: In my [pause] get my glasses on.
GB: There’s some here but they’re [unclear].
WM: No. I don’t. Anyway what I was going to say was that I went back to Stewart’s and Lloyds and I was on about three pounds fifteen shillings a week. I think that’s what I was you know and after —
AB: Did you go back to your old job as administration?
WM: They moved me on a little bit to three pounds fifteen. I was twenty four nearly and I got a wife and a child on the way then.
AB: Right.
WM: And I I got the pay so I went in to see the manager who was a bit of an idiot anyway and I said about that. He said, ‘Well let me see,’ he said, ‘Well,’ l he said, ‘You’re classed as a junior.’ And I’d been in charge of a blooming aircraft when I was flying over a target you know but I’m still a junior. But he said until you’re twenty five. But he said let me see [?] in three weeks’ time. He said, ‘You’ll get a good rise then.’ The next payday I got six shillings extra, you know.
AB: Yeah.
WM: So that was, I put that just as a tailpiece on my story.
AB: Wow.
WM: But that was it. It just makes you wonder. I remember when we were working there we walked out of the office once and one of the seniors, a man in to his fifties or early sixties, his payslip fell on the floor and being like we did they picked it up. Forty eight pounds a month he was getting you know. So it just showed how things have changed. Yeah.
GB: Changed. Absolutely.
WM: No I was going to say in the Nissen hut there were four of us and three of four of another crew there and at the far end from the door there was a chappy, an older chappy. He seemed to be in bed more than anything so he said — we were having a laugh and a giggle, ‘Can’t you people want to sleep?’ This sort of thing you know. Miserable so and so we called him. Anyway, I came home on leave and I saw in the paper that his name was Robert [Dodd?] and it said he was killed in a raid and he was this bloke. He went to the same school as me but he was ten years older than me.
GB: Oh goodness.
WM: So I never really got talking to him. He was —
GB: No.
WM: At twenty nine they were old in those days, you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: So it’s just amazing how these things —
GB: Yes.
WM: And when I was in Canada, in Alberta I saw the name of a pilot trainer. His name was Hart and his father had a printing factory in Kettering. It’s funny how you run into these people isn’t it.
GB: Goodness. Yes. Well it was a big part of your life and you got to go on the Queen Mary.
WM: Oh yes.
GB: See Canada.
WM: Yes. Oh yes. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity.
GB: I know. And then see Lincolnshire. A lot of Lincolnshire.
WM: Yeah.
GB: And then suddenly it was all over and finished.
WM: Oh yes. I was very, it took me a long while to settle down. Truthfully.
GB: Oh I can imagine. Yes.
WM: I got something in there about my — all the places I went.
GB: Yes.
WM: In nearly five, four and a half years or so I went to forty different stations so you know you never got settled down.
GB: No.
WM: And then to suddenly to get back, you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: Doing the same thing day after day.
GB: Yes.
WM: Was a bit of a problem. Yeah.
GB: It must have been.
AB: You got one or two entries in your logbook here. Formation flying. Was that practicing?
WM: It would be, yes. Yes.
AB: And you just what? Take off over the North Sea or something would you?
WM: Yes. Yes. Yes.
AB: And you’ve been to Caen. Instructed not to bomb.
GB: Yes.
AB: [Ou Nessier?] Oudon.
WM: Yeah.
AB: Little flak. Well marked.
WM: Yeah
AB: You went to [Bouvier?]. Bombed through the cloud. Little light flak. Wesseling. Heavy and light flak.
WM: Yeah.
AB: Spotlights ineffective. Bombed through cloud. That’s why they were ineffective I should imagine weren’t they? Then —
WM: Of course we had this thing — H2s which was underneath the body of the aircraft. There was a sort of thing that shape.
GB: Right.
WM: And that was, it gave a picture of what was on the ground or supposed to and I had to go and help the, sit with the navigator and I could hardly make head nor tail of it and he was bad. We were supposed to bomb when we could see the outline what we wanted to bomb but it didn’t come off really.
AB: So the H2S was an identification system.
WM: That was H2S. Yes.
AB: Because H2S is a gas isn’t it but that’s nothing to do with the gas. This was an identification system.
WM: Yes it was. Yes. Yes.
AB: Oh I see. Gosh. Did you have much trouble with fighters? Fighters attacking you?
WM: Any?
AB: Any problems with fighters.
WM: No. No.
AB: Messerschmitt’s attacking you?
WM: I thought about this. I don’t recollect either the flight er the two rear gunners or myself firing the guns in anger.
GB: Oh really.
WM: At all. Not the whole time. No.
AB: Good gracious.
WM: We went to Bremerhaven. One of my last trips and I said, ‘Skip there’s an aircraft above,’ you know and my job — I had the front guns you see.
AB: You had the front guns.
WM: Yes. If it had to I only had to get up there in case of emergency and I got up and got the guns trained up and Jock the mid-upper gunner said, ‘Ay stop. It’s a Lancaster.’ [laughs]
AB: But here you’ve got, you’ve got one of your operations — Pommereval. Target well marked. Fighters. No flak. So does that mean you encountered Messerschmitts or what?
WM: No. It wouldn’t have been Messerschmitt. I don’t, we didn’t have seen anything near at hand like that I don’t think.
AB: It just says, “Fighters. No flak.” So it would be enemy fighters presumably.
WM: Oh yes. Indeed. Sorry. Yes. It would be. Yes.
AB: But they didn’t cause you any trouble.
WM: Well luckily no. No. No. We had more trouble with flak coming up from the ground.
AB: Yes.
WM: Rather than —
AB: Than fighters
GB: I think. Yeah. I think the Messerschmitt had been pretty much knocked out by 1944 hadn’t they?
AB: Ah yes.
GB: The night fighter weren’t. So the 630 Squadron is Death By Night.
WM: Yes.
GB: And you were mostly a night bombing outfit.
WM: Yes.
GB: But then it was after the war the squadron finished and —
WM: Yes it went.
GB: Yes.
WM: They did it a bit I think with the American Air Force. Enlarged the runway a bit.
GB: Yes.
WM: But I didn’t see. Yeah. Actually we, you know, we were only 1943- 45 the aerodrome was in use.
GB: Yes.
WM: But the bomb, apparently the bombing record was very good you know. The number of bombs we dropped and all the rest of it.
AB: Did you get any subsequent recognition? Any sort of service medals and things like that?
WM: We don’t talk about that. No. Just got the France and German medal. If we’d started a month earlier we would have got Aircrew Europe medal.
AB: Right.
WM: But once the, you got back to the invasion, we got the France and German one. And we, well we think that Winston Churchill played dirty with the Bomber Command.
GB: Yes.
WM: In that, following the raid over Dresden, he denied all knowledge of this sort of thing yet apparently, you read that he gave Butch Harris the ok to do this and apparently the Russians had asked them to bomb Dresden as well and just to keep in with what the politicians doing he denied all and on the speech he made on VE day, I think it was, he ignored Bomber Command altogether. And about three years ago the pressure was put on Cameron to do something and I eventually got a little bit of tin to put on the bottom of my medals to say that I was in, you know, flying.
AB: Oh gosh. Right.
WM: That’s a bit of sore point you know.
GB: It is. Yes. Very much so.
WM: I mean when you think of the, I mean every other person was going to get killed according to what you read about it later.
GB: Yes. Yeah.
WM: Fifty five thousand.
GB: Yes.
WM: Of them against a hundred and twenty thousand. What do you call it?
GB: Including your younger brother.
WM: Oh indeed. Yes. We don’t know what happened there you see.
AB: And he was flying Lancasters as a pilot. Was he a pilot? Your brother.
WM: No. He was a flight engineer.
AB: Flight engineer.
WM: He was only nineteen you know. But I think —
AB: Yeah. And you said he was returning and crashed at Bridlington.
WM: Sorry?
AB: He crashed at Bridlington.
WM: Yes. Near to Bridlington. They were coming in to land and it landed. So that was it you know.
AB: And a Lancaster again was it?
WM: Oh it was a Lancaster. Yes.
AB: And had he been on duty that night.
WM: He’d been to Dusseldorf and he was just returning.
AB: He’d been coming back from Dusseldorf.
WM: Yes.
AB: Right. Ok.
WM: I think it was about his eighth raid that he did.
GB: Gosh.
WM: So —
AB: Well.
WM: So of course you see we wouldn’t tell. He told me that he was flying but he said, ‘Don’t say anything to mum,’ ‘cause you know she’d had an anxious time while I was doing it.
GB: Yes.
AB: Yes.
WM: And a month later, or two months later he was, he was killed and it was a bigger shock then ever you know. And for my dad particularly. He never got over it. No. That’s the way it goes.
GB: You were a very lucky crew.
WM: Oh indeed. Yes. I can’t speak highly enough of them you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: On the ground we were all closely knit. We were very very friendly. Alec, he was the leader on the ground as well, you know.
GB: Exactly.
WM: He, in the air he was a different, you needn’t say, ‘Smithy, can you tell me what route to take?’ ‘Can you do this Jock,’ you know. If you spoke to him you, flight engineer. Mid upper gunner. You know you had to speak to him like that and do it.
AB: Yeah.
WM: All discipline and things like that.
GB: Yeah.
WM: That’s how it goes.
GB: But obviously it had meant a lot to Alec as well in that when he did die finally he left you all —
WM: Two hundred pounds each. Yes.
GB: Two hundred pounds each.
WM: Yeah. Yes. What it was again [laughs] He was a lovely chap really. He died of cancer, you know.
GB: Oh. No
WM: And that was it. His daughter was a, wrote in the Daily Express and Daily Telegraph and things like that.
GB: Oh really.
WM: She came up here once in the other room with a photographer and took no end of photos of me and we chatted away about it but then something else happened and it got wiped and it never did get into the paper but —
GB: Well anything else you’d like to add? It doesn’t matter if you remember other things
WM: No. No.
GB: You can email them to me.
WM: No. I don’t think so. You know, it was, well it’s hard to say. I mean you know what the end result when you’re dropping bombs on people but it was an experience that has stuck with me.
GB: Absolutely.
WM: Up to now.
GB: Yes.
WM: All the time, you know.
GB: Yes.
WM: And obviously I think it altered my life as well quite a bit you know.
GB: Yes. But you came back eventually to the same girl and the same company.
WM: Oh indeed. Yes. Yes. Yes
GB: But —
WM: I did yes. So there we go.
GB: But thank you very much for your time and thank you very much for your contribution.
WM: Nothing else you want to add is there?
GB: I don’t think so but if there is we can always add it later.
WM: Yes. Good.



Gill Barnes, “Interview with Walter Morris,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 20, 2024,

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