Interview with Bluey Mottershead


Interview with Bluey Mottershead


Born on a farm in Shropshire, his best friend from his youth joined the Royal Air Force as aircrew and was killed at RAF Honington when a German aircraft bombed the station. A desire for revenge made him enlist for flying duties in January 1941. He was sent to RAF Scampton for basic training where he had a flight in a Hampden which he rated as "not fit for purpose".
Flying training commenced at RAF Booker on Tiger Moths and he was then sent out of England as part of the Empire Training Scheme. Flying training on Stearman aircraft recommenced at Lakeland in Florida followed by multi-engined training at Macon in Georgia and Valdosta for advanced training. In October 1942 he became a pilot under the American Army Air Force System and declined an offer to stay and become an instructor.
Returning to Britain on an unescorted Queen Elizabeth liner, he trained on Oxfords at RAF Little Rissington. Posted to RAF Harwell to fly, in Bluey's terms "clapped out Wellingtons" he describes the system for forming a crew. They were posted to RAF Riccall to fly the Halifax.
The next posting was to an operational squadron at RAF Lissett where he did his first operational flight to Krefeld in June 1943 and trips to Berlin, Cologne and Mannheim. After his trip to Krefeld, his rear gunner refused to fly and was removed. On his second trip to Mannheim, Bluey's aircraft was struck by a bomb from an aircraft flying above. They had to reduce height and so used Window to disguise their location. The final trip was to Berlin in November 1943 and, having completed his tour, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Bluey never flew again. Sent to Tilly Whim, Bluey was trained to operate Oboe and explains the device. Posted to an Oboe station at RAF Winterton to monitor junior operatives, he met his future wife.
After the war had finished he became an instructor on the Link Trainer and sent to various RAF stations and finally to RAF Marham from where he was demobilised and returned to civilian life. In civilian life, employment in the farm feed industry was followed by time in the lubricant industry until retirement. Bluey compiled a register of all crews that flew with 158 Squadron and formed a Squadron association in 1947, of which he became president, and organised a memorial to the squadron at former RAF Lissett.




Temporal Coverage




00:45:34 audio recording


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AM: Ok. So this interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is me, Annie Moody and the interviewee is Bluey Mottershead. And the interview is taking place at Mr Mottershead’s home in Brailsford on the 19th of July 2015. So, off you go. Tell me a little bit about your, your childhood.
NM: Yes.
AM: And leading up to why you decided to join the RAF, Bluey?
NM: Well, I was born on a farm in Shropshire. I was the sixth child of my parents but they had lost two previous to me arriving on the scene and therefore, when I arrived I was treated something special. And that special has been with me all my life. And my best friend from my youth, in my youth, was also, had joined the Royal Air Force for aircrew duties and he was in a place called Honington. On a live station in Suffolk. And while they were taking a NAAFI break a bomber came over, dropped a bomb, hit the NAAFI and killed four of them. And then thereafter I was stood in the churchyard of my village while they were burying him. There went the past and so —
AM: What age would you be then Bluey?
NM: Eighteen.
AM: You were eighteen.
NM: And so, when it came around to the January after Christmas I thought I have got to go and revenge for my friend. And so, on the 18th — on the 8th of January 1942 I went to Shrewsbury and signed up for aircrew duties and I became nineteen at the end of that particular week. And so I was sent home on what they called deferred service following the medicals that I had at Shrewsbury and going to Cardington for forty eight hours to have the medicals there. And when I returned I received this letter from the Air Ministry, shall we say, saying, ‘You are now going home on deferred service and we will call you when we’re ready.’ Well, I thought that date would never come but anyway, eventually I received information from them which said report to Lord’s Cricket Ground on the 7th July 1941. No. That would be wrong. No. 1941 it was.
AM: ‘41.
NM: And there was hundreds of us there. All from over the country. The same men who had been on deferred service and they were all called together to the, to Lords Cricket Ground. And then were allocated sleeping accommodation in St Johns Wood. In a lovely place called Viceroy Court. And we were lying on palliases on the floor and there was no furniture but quite obviously the flats would be luxury flats. And having done that they decided right we can’t keep all these men here. It would be rather dangerous. There were thousands of us in a very small area and if the Germans had got to know, then bombed the area they’d have killed thousands of us. And they decided to send parties of us out and I was sent to Scampton. Just the job. And of course Scampton was a live station and we were all very interested to watch these Hampdens and things taking off. The Hampdens I didn’t care two hoots for. In fact, I did go to one of the satellites of Scampton and had a ride in one which I didn’t think was fit for purpose. And so when that was over came back to St Johns Wood which was called ACRC.
AM: What did you actually do at Scampton? Did you just —
NM: Oh just normal.
AM: Square bashing.
NM: Square bashing and all sort of things connected with the air [pause] I’m sorry. My –
AM: Oh don’t worry.
NM: Identification of aircraft and all that sort of thing, you see.
AM: Right.
NM: But anyway we were shipped back, back to ACRC at St John’s Wood and from there I was sent to Newquay in Cornwall for my ITW. Now, having completed all that we then were sent to a little airfield by High Wycombe called Booker and there we were introduced to the Tiger Moth. And I had a very senior flight lieutenant, old flight lieutenant as my teacher sort of thing. And he and I got on very well and in the end I discovered afterwards that having been sent on for the next stage I’d never gone solo in this Tiger Moth. I’d flown it time enough again with him in there. So, then the time came they said, ‘Right. Off you go home. Take a bit of leave at Christmas and report to —' a place at Manchester. A park. Something.
AM: Heaton. Heaton Park.
NM: Heaton Park. Heaton Park. There once again there was thousands of us and we were billeted out and I was billeted with a family — together with a friend of mine, Ron Champion and we were there. And funny things happened which don’t, have nothing to do with my life’s —
AM: Oh no. Tell us. Tell us.
NM: We [pause] there was a small area within the park itself was RAF property. And outside that, outside that we were ourselves again and of course we were staying with these people. Well, one young lad was seen walking around outside the RAF area after midnight. And so of course they called him in and said, ‘What’s the problem?’ He said, ‘Well, my landlady keeps getting in bed with me.’ And [laughs] do you know there must, must have been fifty or so had been there before and they never said a word and he had to go and let the cat out of the bag. After completing all that of course it was decided because we had not got the facilities in this country to train two thousand pilots and so it was decided to send us overseas and I was very fortunate in as much as in the January 1942 we sailed out of Liverpool for Halifax, Nova Scotia. And I do not recommend being in a smaller boat crossing the Atlantic at that time of the year. There was a little, a Polish destroyer with us and he kept disappearing out of sight and coming up the other side. How the hell they kept stuff in their whatever they call them. Where they keep — do all the food for them. I can’t remember.
AM: The galley.
NM: The galley. And anyway one or two of them the first morning out — the boat we were [pause] I think it was lunchtime. No. It had got to be morning and the boat did this. Twice.
AM: Rocking about in the sea.
NM: And everything on the table went whoosh in to a ruck on the floor. Well half of them looked at it and since they were little bit of somehow or other being affected by being at sea half of them went [laughs] went missing the next, the next day and boy could I eat, and I ate everything that came in front of me.
AM: You were not seasick then.
NM: No. No. It didn’t trouble me one little bit and then having landed we got on the train and went to Moncton. The PDSI. Personnel department of the –whatever it is. I can’t remember. And there we stayed. And one of the lads on the boat —I said, I said to him, ‘Shall we go to St George’s Church tonight? To the service.’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ So we went to the service and there we made friends with a family and I’ve been in touch with that family right after the war and they came and stayed with me. How wonderful things are. And then it was decided then we were ready and we were going to be shipped down to the United States. So, we got on a train and we were on that train for two days and three nights. It stopped at Toronto and I managed to get somebody on the train to contact my cousin in Toronto and he was, he came to the train to see me. Well I didn’t know him because he was in uniform and the last time I’d seen him he was in civvies. And he didn’t know me because I was in uniform. But nevertheless it went ok and on we went down into, into Georgia. Turner Field, Georgia. After a short time there they divided us up and I was sent in to, in to Lakeland in Florida.
AM: Yeah. We’re ok.
NM: Yeah. Lakeland in Florida.
AM: Actually. [pause] Ok. I think we’re ok.
NM: And then we were flying Stearmans and having completed what was necessary we were then shipped to Macon in Georgia to fly in the second stage. They called it Advanced Flying School. And we were flying multi —whatever the plane was called. I ought to have my logbook here. That would have helped a great deal. But nevertheless we were flying. And I was very lucky that the instructor that I got was, had been a pupil himself in class 42a and I was in class 42i. We had reached that stage there were so many classes. And we did all the necessary and then we were passed on to Valdosta which was Advanced Flying School. And there we were flying twin engines. Three types of twin engine as well as the A6 which we called [pause] we called the Harvard. And my instructor was an American lieutenant and so he said, ‘Come on Mottershead. We’re going in the Harvard today.’ So off we go and get in this Harvard. And he said, ‘Right. Do the checks.’ So, I did the check. ‘Ok. Taxi around and take off.’ Everything alright, but my right wing was down, and my left wing was up there and I couldn’t get the damned thing right. I thought what have I not done? And I realised the lock that was in the joystick — I hadn’t pulled it out [laughs] so then the wing came up and everything was nice. He said, ‘I shouldn’t do that again if I was you. Watch it in future.’ [laughs] And got back and landed and he said, ‘Right. Off you go and fly it yourself.’ So I did do. And it was a beautiful aircraft to fly. It touched down on all three wheels. No trouble at all. So, having completed there we then on the, in the October, came up for our papers of authority as being a pilot under the United States Army Air Force and I’ve got my silver type wings. The American wings. Then it was a case of I went before a board of four senior American officers and they looked at all my paperwork and said, ‘Would you like to stay behind and teach future classes of UK,’ and because of something that had happened while I was at Macon, Georgia I had to say, ‘I’m very sorry, but I can’t.’ I’ll tell you that separately. And so, on the train back to Macon —back to Moncton in New Brunswick of course I’d already made contact with the family, so I re-made the contact with this family and got on so wonderfully well but the main thing about being here in Britain and being over there was the fact that we were limited by ration books to XYZ whereas they —it was there for you to buy and eat etcetera. Marvellous. And of course, I could eat. There’s no argument about it. So, after a while they said, ‘Right,’ — get your knapsack, not your knapsack, the bag with all your bits and pieces in. ‘There’s a boat in for you.’ So, right, we got on the train, landed in Halifax and walked off on to the quay. You can say that again. A boat. It was the original Queen Elizabeth. Oh dear. And we got on board that feeling millionaires. But there was that many on from different countries and different regiments and all the rest of it. All coming across with one purpose in mind and that was to kill Nazism. And so, we crossed the Atlantic unescorted. Our liner was doing twenty six knots during the day and through the night she was doing thirty two ‘cause that gave it that little bit extra to get out where the Germans might well have figured out where we might be on such and such a time and so, one morning we woke up and we were in the Clyde.
AM: Just like that.
NM: Just like that. We’d gone through the boom and we were in the Clyde. So we had to then gather our things together and come down stairs after stairs ‘til we came to water level. And then we got on tugs which took us over to dry land and there was a train waiting for us to take us to [pause] well you’re asking me now [pause] well-known place up in Yorkshire anyway. And of course they said, ‘Right. Well you’re here now. Right. Take a bit of leave. You’ve been away three —six months.. Go and see your parents,’ etcetera which I did do and then I got notice, right —'Report to Little Rissington in Gloucestershire.’ And that’s where I was flying Oxfords. I had a little student tuition on the Oxford and then the instructor said, ‘Right. Mottershead go and get yourself some practice.’ Now –
AM: So how big was an Oxford? What?
NM: Oxford aircraft.
AM: Yeah. How big? How big was that?
NM: Twin engine.
AM: Right. Ok.
NM: The American when they open the throttles get hold of the throttles get hold of them and pull them back. We do this. Get behind the throttles and press them forward. So I was more or less getting the American system out of, out of use and back in. So he said, ‘Right Mottershead. Take that one and go and get a bit of flying yourself.’ So me — I flew at about two ninety. Something like that. And flew until I picked up the River Severn and I flew up the River Severn until I got to within a mile to where I lived and I flew around and around and around. And after a while I thought, right, well I’d better get back. In the meantime a front had moved in and I was above cloud. And I was flying down towards back in the general direction of Little Rissington and I did not know where I was. And I’ve got, I came up with —I shall either A) I can jump out with my parachute and let my aircraft go and crash in to something. Or B) I can go down through and hit something that I wouldn’t wish to hit like a church tower or something like that. And as I was pondering over it I looked on my port beam and there was an aircraft coming towards me and he passed in front of me and I said to myself, ‘If you know where you’re going I’m going with you.’ And I followed him and he, it was a, it was a radar station where —not radar. Signals and all the rest of it. At a place called Madeley near Hereford. And he landed and I landed after him. And so they just picked up the phone and rang Little Rissington, ‘One of your boys has touched down here.’ So he came over and I took off and followed him home. Went the day well. Having done all that I was then posted to Harwell where we had clapped out Wellingtons who’d done all the necessary they wanted to or at least they were wanted for and were in a clapped-out situation. And as we stood there we crewed up. I did not choose anybody. I just stood there.
AM: I was going to ask you about crewing up. How that went.
NM: I stood there, and they came and joined me. It was as easy as that.
AM: Yeah.
NM: Right.
AM: Together or in ones and twos?
NM: Well, I don’t whether they’d been talking with one lot over there and they looked at me and thought well I like the look of him and so they came over and joined me. So, I’d got everything except the flight engineer and the second gunner at that stage. Well, I didn’t stay at Harwell but I went to one of their satellites. A place we called Hampstead Norreys near Newbury and we were flying out of there. Well, we had been warned, ‘Don’t over shoot.’ Come in and land properly because there was a big pit, gravel pit at the end of the runway and people had gone in. Oh dear. The trouble. Anyway, we flew that and did all the necessaries and then having finished they said, ‘Right off you go home and get some leave and report to a place called Riccall,’ near –
AM: York.
NM: Yes. Selby. There we go, there we were introduced to the Halifax. Four engine bombers.
AM: So, you finish your training, you’ve got your crew and you’ve gone to Riccall. Have you been assigned to a squadron at this point?
NM: No. Not yet.
AM: Right. Ok.
NM: And there at Riccall I picked up a flight engineer and another gunner. And once again in latter years I said to the flight engineer, ‘How did you come to join me?’ He said ‘Well, I saw you standing there and I walked over and stood with you. It’s as easy as that.’ And so the same with the gunner. He came and joined me. And then of course on completion of that but before then the chief flying instructor at Riccall was called Harry Drummond. So, I got used, just used to flying the Halifax. He said, ‘Right, Mottershead take your crew and there’s, one of the planes over there. One of the Halibags. Take that and get a bit of flying hours in with them.’ Fair enough. Thank you very much and off we went. We got in this aircraft. Taxied around to the runway. Ok. Right. Open the throttle. I was belting down the runway and looked at my speedometer. I hadn’t got any. No speed. And it was too late to stop so I took off without it. And I flew without a speedometer around a time or two. And we tried to, what had happened we’d left the cover on the pitot head. Once again checking beforehand. We tried — first of all we opened the hatch in the front and tried to push it off and we couldn’t do anything like that. We couldn’t reach it. And so I switched on the heater and the heater wouldn’t burn it off. I thought, ‘Well, righto. Well, I’ve got you up here. You lads. I’d better get you down again.’ So, I said, ‘Right, we’re going in now.’ And I approached a little too fast because I didn’t want to stall and go in before I reached the runway. And so, I sort of hit the runway and bounced a little bit which wasn’t good for old Halifax bombers and whipped around and parked up where I’d taken it from and the crew got out. The wireless operator stood on the shoulders of the flight engineer, reached up and took the pitot head cover off just before Harry Drummond arrived around the corner. And he gave me a rollicking for landing the way I did but I didn’t tell him what had gone wrong. Went the day well again.
AM: Yeah.
NM: And so the day came that we had to go to Lissett. We were transferred to Lissett. Now, I think I’d probably heard of Lissett but we all went. There was Doug Cameron and his crew and myself and my crew. And of course, we had to get a bit of flying in together before we went on operations. I arrived there. Can you switch off a second, I’ll go and fetch —
[recording paused]
NM: Are you on?
AM: Ok. We’re back on.
NM: Right. I arrived at Lissett on the 15th of June 1943. And after a familiarisation on the 16th and the 17th — on the 21st was my first operation. To Krefeld. Now, all targets, as Bomber Command will tell you, have got searchlights and flak as well as fighters waiting to get hold of you. So, we went, went through the — etcetera. And poor Doug Cameron — a different story. I must tell you about him. Not on my record. And as a result, when we got back — you see a rear gunner never sees what’s ahead of him. He can only see what’s behind and he could see the fires in Krefeld burning thirty miles away. So when we arrived back at Lissett we went to the debriefing room and he said to me, ‘I’m not bloody going again.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘I am not bloody going again.’ And he was taken out and stripped straightaway of his brevet, sergeants and all the rest of it. What happened to him I don’t know but in, in hindsight he did me a very good turn. For they took my other gunner, mid-upper gunner from me and a couple of gunners had just completed a tour — a Canadian pilot’s tour of operations. But they needed another five runs themselves so, one of them related, the Groupie, said to — ‘Go around and see Mottershead. He’s looking for some gunners.’ And they came around to see me and we were discussing one thing or another. And I said, ‘Right. This is the position. My job is to fly that thing. And if you tell me to dive to port I shall dive to port. Don’t you worry about it. Everything you tell me I shall do.’ They said, ‘We’re in.’ And so they stayed with me for their five ops which cleared them. Then I got my original gunner back. Mid-upper gunner back.
AM: Mid-upper.
NM: Having lost the rear gunner. And then I had nineteen different gunners on my tour of operation which was must be a flaming record with the exception of perhaps a wing commander and that who had to grab a crew where he could get one.
AM: Why did they keep changing, Bluey?
NM: Well, I had to have gunners and they [pause] Smith and Edwards were the names of the two gunners were and we got on a like a mountain on fire and so it went on one after another. I went to Berlin on three occasions. I went to [pause] oh hell. Where’s the cathedral?
AM: Oh.
NM: We went —
AM: Dresden. Not Dresden.
NM: No. Cologne.
AM: Oh Cologne. Yeah.
NM: I went to Cologne on three occasions. I went to Mannheim on three occasions and in between all the other nights that we were bombing etcetera. On the second visit to Mannheim we were, people do not realise this, we were flying in complete darkness and other than the fact we saw markers ahead so the bomb aimer led us, led me to it, and he said, ‘Right. Bombs gone.’ Two or three seconds later there was such a hell of a bang. I said, ‘What the bloody hell was that?’ And what had happened an aircraft above us had dropped his load and hit my port inner engine. It sheared the blades off the engine. Off the propellers. And of course, the engine ran away and with it going like that it shook the plane as though it was really in trouble. Anyway, fortunately I’d got a very good flight engineer. He shut the engine down. Closed it down. Then he pumped all the fuel out of the tank nearest to the port inner across the wing to the tanks on the other side you see. Now, my reaction was, when that happened — stick the nose down let’s get out of here which I did do. Because the explosion had hit the Perspex around me on the port, especially on the port side and did other damage etcetera and so it was, we were down to five thousand feet before we could make headway. Now, everyone in Bomber Command will tell you if you are on your own flying at five thousand feet by heck you’ll soon have somebody on your tail. So, we were crossing and as we flew cross country in the dark I could see the lights of this town or city, whatever it was, I could see all the street lights because being under Nazi control they didn’t have to have a blackout. And so I said, ‘Right, get some Window ready in case the searchlights come up,’ etcetera. And we gave a dose of Window and they didn’t come on and we kept flying and I crossed —
AM: What’s Window?
NM: Window.
AM: What’s that mean?
NM: Slips of paper, silver backed paper.
AM: Oh yes.
NM: And that dropping by the millions fill their, their —
AM: The radar.
NM: The radar.
AM: The signal.
NM: What we call Grass.
AM: Yeah. Yeah.
NM: They couldn’t pick out what was what and [pause] where’d I got to —
AM: So, you’re on your way back.
NM: On our way back –
AM: You’ve seen all the lights.
NM: We crossed the coast and I said to the flight engineer, ‘What’s the fuel like?’ He said, ‘We’ve got enough to get back to Lissett.’ And so, we went back to Lissett. Now, the hydraulics on the Halifax is controlled by the port inner engine. The hydraulic. And I didn’t know whether my undercarriage was locked. So I called in and they said, ‘Right. Fly down the runway as low as you can, and we’ll put the searchlight on you and have a look at you.’ So, having done that they said, ‘Right. We think you’re locked in alright.’ I said, ‘Right.’ So I went around again and landed. Went the day well.
AM: Again.
NM: We were back home. And it went on until the last. My last trip was to Berlin on the 22nd of November 1943 and the Wing Commander Jock Calder was on that night. I feel sure he was on. So when we came, you know, came from our aircraft in to debriefing Jock said to me, ‘That’s it Bluey. No more.’ And that was the end of my tour. The end of my flying altogether. I never did fly anything else.
AM: Ever.
NM: Ever.
NM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I then, they decided they needed controllers for operating Oboe. Now, Oboe was controlling aircraft over Germany from, from either — the main station was in Norfolk. Winterton. Did you happen to see the programme last night on — it was all about the lighthouses turned into houses etcetera. And Winterton was the Cat station. Now there was another station down in Deal in Kent and that was called the Mouse station. And the Cat station was controlled — the Cat station controlled the pilot. The Mouse station was talking to the navigator, bomb aimer. We’re talking about Mosquitos. And so, he would, when he reached the area he wanted to he’d pick up our signal. If he was too near he had dots. If he was too far out he had dashes. He had to have a steady signal and kept flying at a distance from the station in Norfolk at a distance of say two hundred and fifty miles away. And if he kept flying he would complete a two hundred and fifty mile circuit all around us, you see. But [pause] so, I had to go down to Swanage to learn all about this Oboe business at a little place called Tilly Whim. Down there. They seemed to have a station of the same thing. So when we’d finished. Right. I had no say on where I was going and I was sent to Winterton in Norfolk. Not to the one in Kent. The next morning after I arrived there I walked into the signals office and there was a young lady on the teleprinter talking to headquarters for 8 Group. Headquarters at — I forget the name for the moment. On the tele — on the teleprinter. And when she’d finished she looked at me and I said, ‘You’re wearing too much makeup.’ I’d found my wife. So —
AM: What did she say back?
NM: She didn’t. She [laughs] she was, she was a WAAF, you see. Oh dear. Oh dear and then of course that went on until the war had finished and then they didn’t want anybody there then.
AM: So what exactly were you doing there, Bluey?
NM: I was watching the younger part of the air force. That they’d got everything set up alright. The distance and all that sort of thing. What was going on. And I was even taken from there and posted down in to Deal. The Cat station. For a while.
AM: The Cat one.
NM: Anyway, when the war was over we didn’t need either of them. And so of course I had met Kay and there we are, by hangs another tale. So, I was still in the air force and they decided well you’ve done a lot of link trainer flying. The link trainer aircraft in the dark. It’s a statutory thing but you’re all closed in. You can’t see what was going on. You had to fly by instruments. And so, I learned, I learned how to do that and they posted me first of all to Prestwick in Norfolk.
AM: In –
NM: In Ayrshire. To the airfield there well that was then being taken over to become the airfield for Glasgow.
AM: Yes.
NM: The main airfield. So, I was on there a very short time and they said, ‘Right. Well we’ll post you to Marham in Norfolk.’ And I was on the same thing but when I got there and set up everything and ready for pilots they said well the war’s over we don’t need to do this anymore. And so, the rest of my time I was doing all sorts of jobs. Particularly, orderly officer and all that sort of thing and then I reached the stage where I thought, ‘Right. Look. We’ve got to go ahead now. We’ve got civilian life ahead,’ and so my dear wife and I decided —
AM: So, you were married by this time.
NM: We were getting married then.
AM: Ok. Yeah. Sorry.
NM: The war had finished up. We had already arranged the marriage up in Lanarkshire because she was a Lanarkshire girl, for the 18th of August 1945. The war finished in the Far East the 15th of August 1945. And so, we went up there and got married and thereafter settled down and I didn’t quite know what to do. Like a lot of people who had been in the services it was difficult to know exactly what to do. Anyway, there was a company in Liverpool called Silcocks Animal Foods that supplied to farming communities and I’d been a farmer’s son. And the position I was in and a decent sort of looking fellow the Silcocks agent who used to, who went to Shropshire, covered Shropshire said, ‘Well why don’t you join us?’ And so, I made enquiries and I joined Silcocks. I was sent to Nuneaton under an agent who had been there years to help him and I did all the necessary. And then came a vacancy of an area in Derbyshire and so I was sent from there to Derbyshire and landed in Brailsford on the, in August 1952. Something like that. And settled down and I was going around the farms and of course they knew I was a flying type and at that time Brooke Bond had a certain types of cigarette. Not cigarettes but cards in the thing.
AM: Yes.
NM: And that helped me to get familiar with the families etcetera. Swapping and one thing and another. And I reached the stage where one Remembrance Sunday morning at Brailsford, after that Mr Cecil Dalton who ran Silkolene Lubricants at Belper said, ‘Neville, will you come and work for me?’ And I said, ‘Mr Cecil, I will come and work for you.’ And I went and worked for Silkolene Lubricants until I retired.
AM: Right.
NM: Good.
AM: Neville. It sounds funny to hear you called Neville. I always think of you as Bluey.
NM: Yeah. Well I’m still known as Bluey of course. As you know.
AM: Just tell me why you became called Bluey.
NM: Because of my hair. I had ginger red hair. Now, the Australians — those big kangaroos in Australia which have reddy brown hair were called Blues. And so, when the first Australian saw me he said, ‘Well you’re a Bluey.’ And that’s it.
AM: It stuck.
NM: And it’s been with me ever since.
AM: Can I ask you a little bit about the 158 Squadron Association.
NM: Yes.
AM: And you became chairman I think. Tell me a little about that.
NM: Yes. Well I started looking, I started when I came [pause] when I’d finished. Well as soon as I could, I can’t remember exactly, I decided to draw up a register of all those who had been with 158 Squadron and [pause] now I’m looking for something in particular. I think I left it next door. But it’s the book with all the names in. The complete crews. And I kept getting these names of these, of these people and inviting them. And so in 1989 I think it was I got the freedom of entry into this town of Bridlington for the squadron and that’s how it developed from there. And I’m still now president of the squadron until such time as I kick my boots and somebody else will take over.
AM: So, every year you go up to Lissett.
NM: Every time. Yes. Yes. Yes. Now I’ll —
AM: And what about the memorial? Tell me a little bit more about the memorial at Lissett.
NM: Yes.
AM: How did that come about?
NM: Well. After Lissett the old airfield became a farm. Belonged to a farmer. And the powers that be decided it would be the ideal site to put up wind generators. So they put up twelve wind generators on the old airfield. In the meantime, 158 — if you reverse those figure you’ve got 851 and that was the number of young people who were killed on that squadron alone. Eight hundred and fifty one. Eight hundred and fifty males and one female. The one female was a sergeant WAAF in the Met office and she’d never been in an aeroplane and she went on a flight with someone unscheduled just to show her what went on. The damned thing crashed on [pause] that Head that comes out north of Bridlington. Crashed there and killed the lot of them. And she was one of them. So there was eight hundred and fifty airmen, men, who were killed and one WAAF. And so, it was decided by the people who were going to put these generators up that they needed a memorial and of course we were behind it and said yes. And that memorial is still drawing people. Just as the Angel of the North drew people to see it so the one at Lissett. Is that still on? In fact, the other day, one of our members who lives up in the Wakefield area had been up there and gone to have a look at it. He said, ‘It looks awful,’ he said, ‘All we’ve got is stalks left.’ What happened is there are flowers which bloom.
AM: Yeah. There’s poppies there.
NM: And then it’s all left so that the seeds from that drop down to the ground and re –
AM: Yeah.
NM: Come alive again. And he went at the bad time of the year. So, when he rang again I said, ‘Look there’s nothing I can do about it. As much as I appreciate you ringing me and telling me. I know what its like. But,’ I said, ‘We have nobody in that area at all to do anything.’ But the locals do it. Anyway, I understood that they’d even called in the East Midlands, East Yorkshire organisation had called in people to go and have a clean up there.
AM: People.
NM: I hadn’t ordered it. They just went and did it.
AM: Excellent because it’s a lovely memorial isn’t it.
NM: It’s a lovely memorial. A friend of mine from Derbyshire whose funeral I attended this year — he always talked about me and us and I said, ‘Well take a run up there and have a look at the memorial yourself.’ So he, along with another couple and he and his wife went to see it and then I saw him a few days afterwards. I said, ‘What do you think of the memorial?’ And he said, ‘It’s a very very wonderful thing.’ He said, ‘I read every name on that memorial and yours wasn’t on it.’ [laughs] So, I said, ‘Well it won’t be will it? I’m still here.’
AM: Still here. They’re the ones that are not.
NM: He didn’t realise that you see. But it really is. Oh, and let me go and fetch something first.
[recording paused]
AM: So I’m looking at a picture of the first meeting of the Squadron Association.
NM: In 1947.
AM: Ok. Were you there? Are you on it?
NM: Yes. Yes. I’m on the back row. You’ll see me.
AM: Point. Point yourself out to me.
NM: This little chap here, look.
AM: Oh of course you are.
NM: And that was arranged by Scruffy Dale at — I forget the name of the place now. And we all turned up for this and that photograph was taken. And there’s all sorts of people on that photograph and I can — there’s no one left on that photograph as far as I’m concerned. Only me. All the rest are gone. Now, I want to show you this because this is what I’m working on.
AM: Bluey’s showing me the most beautiful tapestry. Is it tapestry or cross stitch?
NM: No. It’s tapestry.
AM: Tapestry of the Halifax and —
NM: The crew.
AM: The crew and it’s beautiful and we’ll take a photograph of it.
NM: It’s not finished yet ‘cause I’ll go and fetch the other bit if I haven’t got it here. This is the other bit.
AM: How long have you been doing this for Bluey?
NM: [laughs] Oh heaven knows.
AM: It’s lovely. I’m going to end the interview now but we’ll take a photograph of this — of the tapestry that Bluey’s been doing.
NM: Now that fits. That will be fitted in there.
AM: Right.



Annie Moody, “Interview with Bluey Mottershead,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 26, 2024,

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