Interview with Geoff Paine


Interview with Geoff Paine


Geoff Paine attended High Wycombe Royal Grammar School and Falmouth Grammar School, joined Air Training Corps and volunteered for the Royal Air Force at eighteen. Upon competition of initial training he was posted at RAF Waltham (100 Squadron) then at RAF Hornchurch, RAF Heaton Park and RAF Hendon. He served in a bomb damage repair unit, and reminisces a V-1 weapon exploding onto an accommodation block at RAF Hendon. Geoff continued his training in Africa (Cape Town, Bulawayo, Thornhill) flying Cornells and Harvards. He qualified as a pilot near the end of the war but after august 1945 flying activities ceased. Back in Great Britain he was stationed at RAF West Kirby, Stansted, RAF Bircham Newton, RAF Little Rissington, RAF Ternhill, RAF Oakington, RAF Lyneham, RAF Valley, RAF Swinderby, RAF Topcliffe where he flew Yorks, Oxfords, Ansons and Wellingtons until he was demobilised in 1949. He subsequently went into farming and joined the Royal Observer Corps first part-time, and eventually progressing into full time role of observer commander retiring at sixty in 1966. Discusses Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit, Cold war bomb testing and observation roles.




Temporal Coverage




00:54:12 audio recording


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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and it’s the 26th July 2012 and I’m speaking with Mr & Mrs Paine, Geoffrey Paine the pilot and we’re in Croxley Green and we’re going to talk about the life and times of Geoff in the RAF and other activities. So, what are your earliest recollections of life Geoff?
GP: My earliest recollections of life? Oh, when I was a small boy do you mean? [Laughs] I lived at Gerrards Cross which is just down the road from here so I’m a, almost lived here all my life, yes always have, telephone [telephone ringing] always have done to be frank. [Telephone ringing]
CB: I’ll stop it just for a moment.
PP: I’ll go and get it.
CB: It gets.
PP: That was timed wasn’t it?
CB: I was going to say, yeah.
GP: That’s better, yes.
CB: Yes.
GP: So in Gerrards Cross I went to school first of all at —
PP: Not leaving a message, so can’t be important.
GP: I went to school first at High Wycombe Royal Grammar School and then I went down to Cornwall and went to Falmouth Grammar School, and of course when I was there the war was on and I volunteered for the RAF, I was in the ATC, Air Training Corps, down there I was one, actually joined the Air Training Corps when it was probably first formed quite early on and I volunteered for royal air force and as soon as I was eighteen I was whipped into it. [Laughs] No trouble at all. And then now where did I go first? Oh my goodness me I went to London first and then I was sent down, we had about, when I signed up in London, we had about three or four days in London and then I went to Aberystwyth, and we were billeted on, in hotels on the sea front at Aberystwyth and we used to have our lessons in the University Aber, Aberystwyth and our drill on the sea front of course, there was a great lovely big sea front there you could drill on, hard standing and then I volunteered of course for the RAF and my first recollections really I went to grading school, didn’t I, I think, I think perhaps it was grading school, No 6, yes, of course I went to an ITW first an initial training wing and then I, was on 20th September, at Aberystwyth, it was a nice place to be, billeted in the Belle Vue hotel, little hotel we were all in hotels there, we did all our drill on the sea front and we used their swimming pool, we had to go up to the swimming pool on a very cold morning, and the first time we went there we were all non-swimmers, we had to climb to the top diving board and jump in, and we were fished out with long poles, and there was one chap couldn’t do it, ground staff, [laughs] he wasn’t allowed to join aircrew, amazing. I felt sorry for him because he was very, completely gobsmacked he was. It took a bit to jump in because they’re quite high the top boards, and they had this great big long pole, and you grabbed hold of it and they pulled you in and you soon learnt to swim, I mean within a couple of days you were swimming the length of the pool so it was a good way to start, I think.
CB: Yes.
GP: A good way to start that. That was Aberystwyth, gosh, what did I do then?
PP: Well you’ve got it all written down old man, use your notes, use your notes!
CB: I’m just going to stop it a moment.
PP: Yes, go on.
GP: Elementary Flying Training School, Ansty, I went first, I did my first solo at six and a quarter hours, which was quite early I think ‘cause me instructor was leaping about, he’d beaten everybody else getting me in the air [Laughs]. Then I went to ITW at Cambridge just for a short time this was, they moved you about just to fill up time. Then I went to 100 Sqn, RAF Waltham, and there I packed thousands of blooming incendiary bombs. They were going on big raids then from Waltham and it was a continuous packing of incendiary bombs, thousands they, the whole place, must have put Germany on fire I think. Then what happened then? Bomb damage repairs Hornchurch, [?] where did I get to? Heaton Park, 18th of July ’44 and then Hornchurch, bomb damage repairs, and then Kew, bomb damage repairs, and then Hendon, again bomb damage repairs, and then I was put on a boat, the ‘Andes’ to go to Cape Town and from Cape Town you go on that beautiful train all the way up to Bulewao, I think it took three days, two days and a night I think and we went to RAF Guinea Fowl to start our elementary flying training on Cornells and then from there I went to RAF Ternhill to fly on Harlands, and then I think it was getting a bit near the end of the war. Twenty-five, five, forty-five, oh my giddy aunt yes.
CB: OK, we’ll stop again a mo’. Could you just explain the bomb damage repair you were doing, so what was the scene?
GP: Well we, there were about I think twenty, twenty-five of us, and we had a chiefie, you know an RAF sergeant.
CB: Flight sergeant, um.
GP: Nice old chap, and a lorry and when a bomb had dropped and blew all the tiles of roofs, blew the windows in we were piled off, given a place to go and there we had all the necessary stuff to, yellow calico stuff, to nail to the window to keep the wind out because all the glass had gone, we put stuff on the roofs, if there were tiles we put tiles, if not we put tarpaulins on the roofs just to make the place habitable, habitable after the bombing, that’s what happened then.
CB: So some of this was in East London?
GP: Yes it was, it was in East and West, and West London too, yes.
CB: And what about Hendon, that’s an airfield, so?
GP: Yes.
CB: What happened there?
GP: I went to Hendon just for a few days. They’d had a, a doodlebug had landed in the evening when they were all having showers and things right onto an accommodation block.
CB: An RAF billet block?
GP: And we had to clear the site which meant clearing human remains as well, it wasn’t very nice at all. It meant shovelling bricks, shovelling it on a lorry and off it all went, that was it. A complete barrack block got a direct hit, unbelievable really they picked that one building out on the station.
CB: Amazing. And what with the human remains this was a sensitive thing but what did you do with them?
GP: Well, you find yourself a hand with a bit of the, bit of the —
CB: The bone, yes.
GP: A bit of bone sticking out, you didn’t know whose it was.
CB: No.
GP: You just put it in a pile, no way of finding out at all.
CB: So what did they then do with those?
GP: I think they were buried somewhere ‘cause they didn’t know whose they were. They knew who’d died in the blocks obviously but the remains you couldn’t really match them up, impossible. Didn’t find any heads or anything, mostly arms and legs and bits and pieces like that. Not very pleasant but it was as if you were in another place, it didn’t mean much because there was no body with it, just an arm or a leg, wasn’t very nice at all. Oh gosh what did I do after that?
CB: So going on from there you were on the ‘Andes’ yes?
GP: Yes.
CB: Which route did that take and how long?
GP: Oh, it was lovely we called in on the way, it was a posh boat the ‘Andes’, a cruise ship and we called into, what’s it called half way down?
CB: You didn’t go via Canada?
GP: No, we didn’t, no. [unclear]
CB: You went in the west coast of Africa did you?
GP: Of Africa, I’m trying to think.
CB: OK, and who were the people being transported, were they only air force or?
GP: Only air force yeah, I’m trying to pick it up on here. All here, near Gwelo. Yes, that’s right. It was back a bit, arrived at Cape Town.
CB: Yeah.
GP: We went on this nice boat to Cape Town on 1st March.
CB: 1945?
GP: Then we were heading for Southern Rhodesia.
CB: Yes.
GP: I think it took two and a half days to get to Rhodesia.
GP: Two days and a night. Each carriage had bunks to sleep six so we arrived in Bulewao on 4th March and spent twelve days there to become acclimatised, being so high up above sea level I think it was, I think it was about six or seven thousand feet above sea level.
CB: How did they acclimatise you?
GP: Well just a matter of —
CB: Exercise or?
GP: Matter of doing a few marches, they used to take us out and drop us out on the bush and we had to find our way back and you had to be very careful because if you didn’t pull your socks up or your trousers down you got ticks sticking in your knees all over the place because they used to be on the undergrowth and they’d burrow into your skin.
CB: Yes.
GP: And —.
CB: How did you get them out?
GP: With a cigarette if you had a cigarette, you’d put a bit of heat behind them and they reversed their way out, that was better than doing it any other way otherwise they left the beak in there didn’t they you see? So you got a cigarette behind them and they soon came in reverse [laughs]. Yeah, oh gosh.
CB: And how did the flying go when you were there, you were flying Cornells?
GP: Cornells, well the weather of course, every day was like this, beautiful weather, beautiful weather, lovely flying, and it was, the airfield was out, well out in the countryside and we did a lot of low level flying. We used to beat up the native villages, I can see them all now cowering underneath their little shelters. They lived in thatched roof, you know rough little places, we were pretty horrible to them really. [Laughs]. We used them as a target, we didn’t hit anybody but we used to go in very low and —
CB: Yeah.
GP: And then what else, I think, the war finished and we were shuffled off down to Cape Town and we were there for several weeks, we had a wild time because we climbed all the, well I climbed all the mountains. As you know Cape Town goes all the way round, I climbed all the mountains there, I used to live on the mountain. We’d go to Muizenberg and we’d learned to surf, lovely surf at Muizenberg and the people there were ex-pats who’d moved out there before the war and they were very nice, if they saw you coming down the mountainside they’d call you in and you’d have coffee and cakes and goodness knows what, they looked after you which was jolly nice. We were there for some time before they shipped us home again you see, it was really like a nice holiday really.
CB: What was the ship like that you returned on?
GP: A bit rougher than the one we went out on, we went on the ‘Andes’, came back on the ‘Reina del Pacifico’, which was a bit of, I think the ball had blew up in Belfast when we came back, it was a real old tramp steamer, [chuckles] packed with RAF people coming home.
CB: So we’re talking about May 1945?
GP: May ’45 yes.
CB: And you then went where?
GP: I went to, can you find it below, yes this is it here, yes. I went to RAF Ternhill, on the 25th May we went to Ternhill.
CB: What did you do there?
GP: I’m trying to think, um.
CB: That would be where you the advanced training. [Dialogue confused with interviewer].
GP: Flying Harvards. Yes I was flying Harvards there. I went solo in three hours forty minutes which was quite good and received my pilot wings and along came VJ day, got my pilot wings there and then a victory in Japan day and the second world war —
CB: Yeah.
GP: All flying training ceased.
GP: We all returned to Cape Town to await our boat home to England, four wonderful weeks in Cape Town climbing the mountains.
CB: So that’s what you did earlier?
GP: Yeah.
CB: So if I just interrupt you again?
GP: Yes.
CB: We come to the end of the war but in the war you were in the Air Training Corps but you were also in the Observer Corps were you?
GP: Yes, no.
CB: That was later?
GP: That was later.
CB: OK, so we’ll come to that in a minute.
GP: Yes.
CB: OK I’m just going to stop for a moment. We’re just doing a correction here, because it’s not Ternhill in England, it’s RAF Thornhill, before coming back. Let me just.
GP: Yes, we went down to —
CB: So after Guinea Fowl then where did you go?
GP: We went down to Thornhill.
CB: Right.
GP: Another RAF training school, No22 Flying training School at Thornhill, and on, along came VJ Day, that was on Harvards, but along came VJ Day and all flying ceased and we were just enjoying ourselves, put on a train and sent back to Cape Town. And when we got to Cape Town there was no boat. We saw the boat going out, we missed the boat, and so we had about four or five weeks in Cape Town to do what we wanted so we climbed the mountains, I did, I climbed up the mountains went all along the back behind Cape Town [Colossal?] and then down over, it was interesting, coming down Oloch[?] you had to get down on to the main road if you wanted to get back to where camp was and there were all these people who, ex-pats who’d built lovely houses there, obviously moneyed people, and they used to welcome us with open arms, ‘Do come in’, used to open a little gate and they’d give you cakes and tea, coffee and drinks if you wanted it. We had rather a nice time, four or five weeks there, before we came back on the boat to come home. And we got on this tramp steamer I called it, ‘Reina del Pacifico’ it was a rough old boat, a lot of people on it, very much overloaded, I’ve got pictures of it here we have, we kept. We stopped at Mafeking going down through, that was interesting coming down to South Africa and —
CB: On the train?
GP: Yes, I got off the train there ‘cause the train was there for a while. They were changing engines so I said to the driver ‘How long are they going to be?’ he said ‘Half hour, three quarters of an hour’ so I went down to have a look at Mafeking and there, there’s Rhodes.
CB: Statue?
GP: Cecil Rhodes statue. Which was quite interesting.
CB: Yes, yes.
GP: And this was when we spent time down to Cape Town and I spent my time climbing mountains there.
CB: So on this boat then, ‘cause you’re going back on the boat.
GP: Yes, back on the boat.
CB: What was that like?
GP: Yeah.
CB: What was that like?
GP: A bit overcrowded.
CB: Um.
GP: But we came out of Cape Town and then we came up the coast and we called in at St Helena which was interesting because Napoleon had been banished there.
CB: Yes.
GP: And the people came out, and I remember buying my mother a tea cosy made out of local raffia or something. [Laughs]. Had quite a good time really. Now what else happened, what happened after that, oh gosh?
CB: So then where did you dock when you got back?
GP: Liverpool.
CB: Um. And where did they send you when you returned?
GP: Trying to think, Liverpool.
CB: I’ll just stop for a mo’ hang on.
PP: Dad.
CB: Right so you’ve landed at Liverpool then what?
GP: Yes, we went to, went down to West Kirby in October ’45. I don’t think we did very much there at all, we were just swanning around, didn’t know what to do with us and then they sent us to Stansted. Stansted was an airfield that had closed and we were put in the hangars and lorry loads of equipment from closing airfields came in and what we did we built little bivouac’s underneath some of this equipment and hid there, nobody knew we were there, otherwise we were given a job. So, we were there for about four or five weeks, hiding away [laughter] otherwise you would, they just gave you something to keep you out of mischief I suppose really. And then 28th November ‘45 I went to number, Bircham Newton, No27 FSTS Bircham Newton, and then I went to Little Rissington, 6FS, solo flying training school at Little Rissington on the 18th January ’46, then I went to Ternhill where I got my wings on 3rd September ’46, quite a long process wasn’t it?.
CB: What were you flying then?
GP: Harvards. That was in Harvards.
CB: So all three of those you were flying Harvards were you?
GP: Harvards yeah.
CB: Right.
GP: [Indistinct]. Kirton-in-Lindsay, oh I flew everything then, doesn’t go on there. I flew Oxfords, Hansons.
CB: So how did you convert to twin engine?
GP: No problem at all.
CB: Yeah, but where?
GP: Gosh, where’s my logbook, where’s my logbook?
CB: OK, we’ll look at it in a moment.
GP: I can see in my logbook —
CB: But you had a good time with these other ones, flying single?
GP: Oh yes, excellent time.
CB: Yeah OK, we’ll stop there for a moment. So, from Kirton-in-Lindsay which is in Lincolnshire you went down to Oakington?
GP: Oakington yes.
CB: And what did you do there?
GP: Oakington? I think I did a little bit of local flying.
CB: On what?
GP: What was that in? Gosh, um, has it got it there Pete?
CB: But what was happening at Oakington which is in Cambridgeshire?
GP: Yes it was a flying training school and um —
CB: For? ‘Cause you went on to Yorks there?
GP: Yes, I went onto Yorks there. Gosh it’s difficult to think of it all now.
GP: How it all pieced together now.
CB: OK, well never mind. So you went onto Yorks?
GP: Yeah.
CB: And what position were you flying there?
GP: Second pilot on Yorks.
CB: But you’d never been converted to twin-engine or four-engine?
GP: No, no, I just sat in the right-hand seat and enjoyed myself.
CB: Yes. And what did the captain get you to do as the second pilot?
GP: Well, keep an eye open, [laughs], I used to go back, I used to leave my seat and go back in the back and fill in the logs ‘cause you always had this great big log to fill in. I used to keep the logs in the aircraft and then when I finished that I’d sit back next to the pilot again.
CB: Yeah.
GP: But it was a bit of a swansong really.
CB: And the pilot what was his experience before being on Yorks?
GP: Well, he’d had been on Lancasters.
CB: Had he?
GP: Yeah.
CB: And a Lancaster only had one pilot so he was quite happy?
GP: Flt Lt Horry, ‘Horrible Horry’ they called him.
CB: Did they?
GP: And he flew the last York into the museum.
CB: At Hendon?
GP: At Hendon, yes. Horry, I got on well with him, they used to call him ‘Horrible Horry’ but he wasn’t, quite a nice chap, I had a very easy time.
CB: And where did you go in the Yorks?
GP: Oh, we went route flying. You flew across alongside the Andes, the um, —
CB: So you went down through France?
GP: Yeah, through France, and then you turned left along the Mediterranean and you called in at various places.
CB: Would you stop at Orange?
GP: I stopped at several places there.
CB: In France?
GP: And what amused me at the RAF stations there in North Africa, we still had German prisoners of war, and the German prisoners of war would be given a big stick to keep the natives from coming in and robbing the things on the station, that was his job, yes, he had a big pole and that would keep the natives out, and he used it too [laughs]. ‘Cause they’d come, they’d pinch anything, they’d pinch anything. Oh dear, yeah.
CB: So your re-fuelling stops would be how long?
GP: Oh, sometimes we’d have a night, sometimes we wouldn’t have a re-fuelling on the gain, and we’d get as far as India, go up to Karachi and we used to land at Suez down the bottom there, and I used to love it there ‘cause you could hire a boat there and go sailing on the big lakes down the bottom there, and I used to go up to Karachi, we used to fly up to Karachi.
CB: Did you fly via Aiden?
GP: No, I don’t think I went to.
CB: So you went to Iraq did you, through Habbanya?
GP: Yeah, yeah Habbanya. Cor, it’s all a bit of mist at the moment.
CB: That’s OK and this was doing what?
GP: I was second pilot.
CB: Yeah, but what was the ‘plane doing?
GP: Yorks. Carrying freight.
CB: Freight.
GP: Freight, yeah we didn’t carry, well we carried a few, odd people who wanted to fly back, in fact we brought my brother back from, on one occasion, from Cairo, he came back in the aircraft with us.
CB: And what, what, you delivered freight to Karachi?
GP: Yes.
CB: What did you bring back?
GP: Freight came back as well. I can’t tell you what came back I suppose they were packing up the stations, and the important stuff we would fly back home. Then they moved us from, God where we flying from then?
CB: ‘Cause we’re talking now about the time of partition aren’t we?
GP: Yeah.
CB: Between Pakistan and India?
GP: It’s all in the distant past now for me.
CB: We’ll stop there a mo’. So, this delivery system you were operating was from RAF Lyneham?
GP: Yes.
CB: In Wiltshire.
GP: That’s right.
CB: In the aircraft could you just describe what was the crew? This is a transport version of the Lancaster so what did it carry in crew terms?
GP: We had a first pilot, we had me second pilot, and I was sitting in the right hand seat really as a lookout in a way, and we had a wireless operator and a navigator, that’s all we had and we’d fly down, call in at various places in North Africa.
CB: But you had an engineer?
GP: Flight engineer.
CB: Yes, flight engineer.
GP: We’d stop at various places in North Africa and unload freight, or load freight, a lot of freight came home because they were closing the stations when we came back, they were loaded with all sorts of stuff, stations, getting rid of it, getting it home.
CB: What sort of accommodation did you get on the route? So your first stop is Castel Benito?
GP: Well I’m thinking about Malta, ‘cause we went into Malta, I went into Malta.
CB: Yeah.
GP: I had nice accommodation there, very, very hot and humid in Malta, I didn’t like it at all when I was there, very humid, terrible. In fact one day I spent the whole day sitting on the edge of the shower it was so blimin’ humid, it was awful. On other occasions Malta was very nice, we just happened to get the weather that’s all. I did nothing but act as second pilot really.
CB: In North Africa, were you in tents or were they proper buildings?
GP: Oh I’m trying to think, trying to think. No, we were in proper buildings, we were in proper buildings, hard to place it now.
CB: Um.
GP: Yes, we were in proper buildings there, I don’t remember being in tents at all, I don’t remember being in tents.
CB: And how busy was the route? And you’re the lookout how often did you see?
GP: Well it was pretty busy because really because there was a lot of freight coming back. Some, little bit going out, but a lot of freight coming back from closing stations and so forth, so we used to have a lot of freight on-board. I would be up with the pilot and then once we got airborne I’d go down the back and fill in the log, we had a great big log to fill in, what we’d got on board and everything else, I used to do, keep the log. Then come back home, it’s all misty parts [laughs] —
CB: Yeah, yeah. So after flying in Yorks without training on twin or multi-engine.
GP: Yeah.
CB: Where did you go after that?
GP: Oh crikey.
CB: Did you go for twin-engine training?
GP: Where’s my logbook?
CB: So you went to Valley?
GP: RAF Valley.
CB: In North Wales?
GP: Yeah North Wales, that’s right it was very nice there.
CB: So what did you do there?
GP: [Laughs] Skive most of the time on the beach. [Laughter] because we had um —
CB: This was September ’46?
GP: The airfield was quite near the beach.
CB: ’47?
GP: Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
GP: Yeah, was nice there. Cor gosh, it’s a job to remember it was a long way back.
CB: But the flying training was twin-engine training was it?
GP: Twin-engine training.
CB: In Oxfords?
GP: In Oxfords and Ansons yeah.
CB: So how did that go?
GP: And Ansons yeah.
CB: How did that go?
GP: It went very well really ‘cause there were a bunch of us, there’s a photograph of us in there I think, all pilots and navigators. Or is it in this one?
CB: Well, we’ll have a look in a minute. And the point of the question is you’d had experience on multi-engine?
GP: Yes.
CB: So I wonder how well that prepared you for twin-engine training?
GP: Fine, ‘cause I went onto Wellingtons.
CB: From?
GP: Middleton St George.
CB: Oh right.
GP: And flying UT navigators, they were all UT navs, I used to end up with sometimes one, sometimes two or three navigators in the back, and a wireless operator. Used to fly every day or every night.
CB: And then you went to Swinderby?
GP: RAF Swinderby.
CB: 201 AFS?
GP: Yes.
CB: So were you instructing there or what were you doing?
GP: What was I doing in Swinderby?
CB: ‘Cause you were on Wellingtons?
GP: Yes.
CB: And you were on familiarisation for a while, but what was the purpose of that?
GP: I did a bit of flying there. Can I have a look at —
CB: Yes, we’ll stop there for a minute. So, you went to Swinderby to the advanced flying school for Wellingtons?
GP: Yes.
CB: Then you went to RAF Topcliffe, which is clearly a nav school and you’re flying on Ansons?
GP: Yes.
CB: So.
GP: I was learning to be a staff pilot then.
CB: Right.
GP: So I could fly anything, Ansons, Oxfords, Wellingtons.
CB: Yes. OK.
GP: Used to mix it up.
CB: Right. So, um, at Topcliffe you were doing what?
GP: Topcliffe?
CB: So this is the No1 Air Navigation School and you’re flying on Ansons so.
GP: I think I was a staff pilot.
CB: You were a staff pilot OK.
GP: Yes.
CB: So you’re flying in an Anson, who else is in the Anson?
GP: Um, wireless operator.
CB: Um.
GP: And probably a training navigator to train, [unclear].
CB: Yeah.
GP: They were UT navigators.
CB: Right.
GP: So they used a couple, they used UT navigators, sometimes two UT navigators and one staff navigator.
CB: OK, who was the instructor?
GP: Yeah.
CB: Yeah, and were you being trained at the same time?
GP: No, I was just flying.
CB: Right, OK, right. So from there you then went onto Wellingtons again?
GP: Wellingtons.
CB: And this time you were at Middleton St George.
GP: Middleton St George, yeah I spent most of my time there then.
CB: So talk us through that, what was that, what were you doing there?
GP: Flying UT navigators all over the place, every day, every night.
CB: Right.
GP: I was a staff pilot there so.
GP: I had my own wireless operator.
CB: Um.
GP: Forget what he was called now. He’s there somewhere.
CB: But the practicality of it is that that kept you busy for quite some time?
GP: Oh yes it did, until I finished I think.
CB: OK. So, when you, you were the captain of the aircraft, except when you had to be checked out occasionally?
GP: Yes that’s right.
CB: So that takes you to the end of your flying training by which time you’d done eleven hundred hours?
GP: Yes.
CB: So your biggest, where was your biggest hour accumulation, flying hours?
GP: Probably flying out to India.
CB: And on these Wellingtons you put in a few hours?
GP: No that was on, not Lancasters, on —
CB: On the Anson, on the Wellington?
PP: Yorks?
GP: No, Yorks.
CB: Yorks to India. Yeah, no, no, but this.
GP: Second pilot of Yorks.
CB: But at the end you were doing the training of navigators?
GP: I was training, UT navigators, in the back. Usually a staff navigator and UT navigator.
CB: Yeah, at Middleton, OK. ‘Cause you started there at six hundred and eighty four hours, and you finished up with eleven hundred hours.
GP: Yeah.
CB: That was pretty good going.
GP: There was a lot of flying see.
CB: And how did you feel about flying like that?
GP: No problem I loved it, I did, I enjoyed it, I really enjoyed it.
CB: And the navigators were telling you where to go so sometimes it wasn’t right.
GP: Which course to go on. I dozed off one night, I’d been on nights, I dozed off and got a tap on the shoulder, ‘Excuse me sir’.
CB: And to what extent could you fly on auto-pilot, or was it just trimmed for stability?
GP: Oh you could, almost entirely, almost entirely you could fix it.
CB: But you did have auto-pilot?
GP: We had auto-pilot, yeah.
CB: Yeah. How reliable was that?
GP: Very reliable, yeah, very reliable.
CB: So this is how you could catch up on your sleep?
GP: We kept an eye on things, you just sat there, you were just a passenger on the aircraft. Aircraft flew itself really.
CB: Yes. And where were the sorties, because Middleton St George is on the north east, close to the coast, did you fly?
GP: Well we used to come right down over the country, down to the, down to Cornwall and the Isle of Wight and up, up again up the east side, yeah we did all sorts of trips.
CB: By then we’re talking about peace time, so everything’s illuminated so to what extent could you check where you were without the navigator helping you?
GP: Well you could ‘cause you, as a pilot, you kept a check on where you were. You knew what course you were flying, or you knew the main places you could identify on the route and it was normally anti-clockwise, you’d go down across Wales and then across to the east coast then up, nearly always that way round.
CB: Right.
GP: For some reason or another, I don’t know why.
CB: So that was No2 Air Navigation School at Middleton St George?
GP: No2 Air Nav yes.
CB: So you come to the end of your time?
GP: Yes.
CB: What rank are you then?
GP: Pilot three.
CB: Right. As what rank?
GP: Well it’s equivalent to a sergeant pilot really.
CB: Right.
GP: But um.
CB: What had they done to the ranks?
GP: I was a pilot four, that was equivalent to a corporal ‘cause they changed it all you see.
CB: Right.
GP: And when the SWO found out I was still in the sergeants, I’d been in the sergeants mess, but because they changed the ranks he said ‘You can’t come in here now, you’re only a corporal’ but I went to the airmans mess and had a far better time in there I can tell you.
CB: At what stage was that?
GP: God only knows.
CB: Was that close to your leaving the RAF or many years?
GP: Yes a couple of years I think.
CB: Yeah.
GP: Yes, you can see from my logbook.
CB: OK. So, you’ve come to the end of your RAF term, how many years had you signed on for?
GP: Three years and four years reserve I think it was.
CB: Right. So, you came out of the RAF in ’49.
GP: Yes.
CB: What did you then do?
GP: Farming, [laughs], took a farm. Then what did I do then? I went in the Observer Corps didn’t I?
EP: ’61 you went in the Observers.
GP: Royal Observer Corps.
CB: OK, what prompted that?
GP: I became a commander in the Royal Observer Corps and —
EP: You went full time ’66.
GP: What was that darling?
EP: You went full time in ’66.
GP: Yes I went full time in ’66 yes.
CB: Fine. And how long did that last?
Unknown: [Indistinct]
GP: Three years was it?
EP: No until you retired.
GP: Until I retired yeah, yeah.
CB: Aged what?
EP: Sixty.
GP: Sixty, when I was sixty.
CB: And while you were in the Observer Corps what was your task?
GP: What was?
CB: What was your task? What were you doing?
GP: Pilot.
CB: No excuse me, I’ll stop it.
GP: Oh sorry, Observer.
CB: So as part of the history here —
GP: Yes.
CB: How did you come to meet your wife Evelyn?
GP: Well —
CB: And when did you marry?
GP: I met Phillip, her brother, first and we had motorbikes, and he took me home.
CB: What was he doing?
GP: He was um, he was in the RAF still, and I was in the RAF, but he took me home, and I met Evelyn then, and oh gosh, it’s a long story isn’t it?
CB: Go on.
EP: That was in ’45.
GP: ’45. 1945.
EP: When you came back from Rhodesia.
GP: I’d come back all sunburnt from Rhodesia, yeah. [Laughter]. Yeah that right, and we got, we just clicked didn’t we, we just got on so well. I think, never had any arguments.
CB: Well there you are.
GP: And her family were very nice to me, your father was very nice to me. He was a funny old chap her father but he was very nice to me indeed, in fact he gave you away, came up the aisle with you to me.
CB: Lovely. And he was a farmer was he?
GP: Oh no.
CB: Oh no, what did he do?
GP: Well I don’t know, [laughs], practically nothing I think. He’d um —
CB: So when did you marry?
EP: ’48.
GP: 1948. Twenty sixth of August, was it? 26th? 1948. Yeah, and he gave her away.
GP: Doesn’t sound right somehow does it, how can he give you away?
CB: Well I’ve just done it twice.
GP: Yes.
CB: It relieves the financial pressure you might think.
GP: That’s right, that’s right.
CB: Doesn’t work that way at all.
GP: We’ve always got on, never had any upsets as far as I can remember.
EP: Show you the letter.
CB: I’m just stopping a moment. Now here we have a letter from the Queen which ‘gives her great pleasure to send you her best wishes on your sixty-fifth wedding anniversary on twenty-sixty August 2013’.
GP: We’ve got, we’ve got two haven’t we from the Queen? The other one’s hanging up there behind the lamp.
CB: Yes. That’s really nice.
GP: We’ve met the Queen.
CB: Yes.
GP: She’s very nice.
CB: You went down to Buckingham Palace did you?
GP: Yeah.
CB: Was there a garden party?
GP: Garden party.
CB: How did that go?
GP: We went to the garden party. At one occasion my nephew drove us there and the car conked out going down Whitehall [laughs] and we walked into Buckingham Palace. [Laughter].
EP: But we met her at Bentley Priory, that’s where you met her ‘cause we went to [?]
GP: Oh yes, I was in charge at Bentley Priory so I had to meet her didn’t I?
CB: Right. So now what we need to do if we may is talk if we may about your time in the Observer Corps.
GP: Yeah.
CB: So how did you come to join the Observer Corps and where?
EP: Because we were farming.
GP: Yeah, we were farming —
CB: Where?
GP: In Cornwall.
CB: Down in Cornwall, yeah.
GP: Who did I meet?
EP: You met, you went haymaking at next door neighbour.
GP: Next what?
EP: You went next door neighbour, helping with the harvest.
GP: Yes.
EP: And a ‘plane flew over and you went over to have a look didn’t you?
GP: That’s right yeah, ‘Are you interested in aircraft?’, I said ‘Yes, I was a pilot’.
CB: Yeah, and how did the conversation go after that.
EP: He said he had a post on his farm didn’t he?
GP: Yes that’s right he did. Who was that? That was um —
EP: Stevens.
GP: Stevens yes. Yes, he said ‘I’ve got a post on my farm’ that’s right. Um, he had these underground posts every, every four and a half, or five miles.
CB: Right. OK.
GP: They’re still there most of them.
CB: Yeah, hang on. So, this chap’s farm was where you started was it?
GP: That’s right down in —
CB: Where was that?
GP: Down in Cornwall, Pelynt in Cornwall.
GP: And there was an underground post there. Um a bunker.
CB: Right.
GP: And we had a crew of ten.
CB: Right.
GP: So we’d man it with three at a time so you had a succession of people manning the post.
CB: So what did this compromise, the underground?
GP: The underground, you had a bomb power indicator, you had a battle assembly pipe outside which would record the over pressure of a bomb if it dropped and you would record it on a dial, BPI. BPI - bomb power indicator.
CB: Right.
GP: And then outside you had a pin hole camera, 360 degree camera with a cover on it and you had to load up sensitive papers in that, take it up, put it on its stand outside. If a bomb went off then it would record the height, the size of the weapon and the angle from the post, so you knew exactly, you know you could pass all this information onto your headquarters which were down Truro and they could plot it all on a big map and knew exactly what was going on. It was quite clever really.
CB: So this was with a landline reporting?
GP: Yeah. Landline.
CB: On a landline?
GP: We had radio back up but mostly landline, but um —
CB: So this is Observer Corps, so people were out observing how did that work?
GP: Royal Observer Corps, and they’re from down underground. You had a bomb power indicator underground so if a bomb went off immediately you had, the bomb power indicator would show you how many pounds pressure there was.
CB: Yes, right.
GP: How big a bomb was, and then you waited about three minutes and you went up the ladder, got outside, lifted the lid of the ground zero indicator which was a pinhole camera.
CB: Right.
GP: With four pin holes.
GP: And you’d lift the lid off, took out the papers to come downstairs and then sent the readings through to headquarters and they could plot that bomb and you had several posts call the same bomb and you’d get several angles they knew exactly where the bomb was, if it went, if you had one.
CB: So what sort of bomb was this supposed to be?
GP: Well a —
CB: A nuclear weapon or an ordinary bomb?
GP: A nuclear weapon probably yeah.
CB: But the Observer Corps itself during the war.
GP: Yeah. The eyes and ears of the RAF.
CB: Were doing something different was it? Was that doing something different?
GP: Eyes and ears of the RAF.
CB: Yes. They would be working above ground during the war.
CB: Right.
GP: Spotting aircraft, saying where they were going and what they were doing, and then we went to the nuclear phase where they built all these bunkers, they’re still there ‘cause they’re solid concrete underground, most of them are still there.
CB: Right.
GP: One or two of them have been excavated but most of the are still there, if anybody’s got the keys they can go down them.
CB: So what distance are they apart?
GP: It’ll be eight miles.
CB: Right, and where are they in the country?
GP: Eight to ten miles. [?]all over the country.
CB: Right.
GP: Everywhere. There was one at Pelynt, where was the nearest one to Pelynt?
EP: I’ve no idea.
GP: Oh, um, trying to think now. They were about every eight, between eight and ten miles apart.
CB: So you were doing this part-time to begin with were you?
GP: Um.
EP: Yes.
GP: Yes I was to begin with.
CB: At what point did you change to full-time?
GP: God.
EP: ’66.
GP: ’66 was it?
EP: Yes.
GP: Yeah, she would know [laughs]. 1966 – full time. Yes I became an observer commander so I had quite a responsibility, then I got posted to Preston, Lancashire but I still kept my home here.
CB: Yeah.
GP: Came home on Friday nights, and went back on the two minutes past seven in the morning to get into the office before anything started happening, yeah.
CB: So at Preston you’re now a senior man, what were you doing there?
GP: Preston, well we had, I had a headquarters there, quite a big headquarters, longer than this garden with offices all the way up with staff, ‘cause you had a local area, had a whole area. There was an area Commandant who was a spare time who didn’t really do very much except have a rank but he didn’t do anything, I was the, I was the one that did the work at Preston.
CB: How long did that last?
GP: ‘Til I retired didn’t it?
EP: Five years.
GP: Five years.
CB: Yes. And from Preston where did you go?
GP: Home.
CB: No.
GP: I was sixty then.
CB: Oh you were sixty. So how does the Bentley Priory part fit into this?
GP: Oh, Bentley Priory.
CB: I’m just going to stop a moment. So, from Preston you came to Bentley Priory?
GP: Yes, I did.
CB: Before you retired, what did you do there?
GP: Well I was in, oh what was I, I was in an office there, and I’m trying to think what I did there, cor dear.
CB: The Queen?
GP: Queen’s visit, we had a Queen’s visit to Bentley Priory.
CB: What did you do about that?
GP: We have observers from the whole of the country down there, bought them all down by train and we had a big garden party at Bentley Priory and I remember I went round one way with the Duke and somebody else went round the other way with the Queen, ‘cause we criss-crossed just to introduce to one or two extra people, special people on the way round, that sort of thing, Bentley Priory.
CB: And what was the significance of the event.
GP: [Exhalation of breath].
EP: Wasn’t it the closing down of ROC was it?
GP: I think it was.
PP: Anniversary?
GP: I don’t know, yes I think it probably was that we were anticipating being closed down, the ROC, and we had just this royal garden party and we invited the Queen.
CB: Yes.
GP: And the Duke.
CB: Right.
GP: The Queen, the garden party was split in two places with the, if you know Bentley Priory out the back is a fountain. One half was that side and we were the other side. So the Queen went round one side and we took the Duke round the other and he was hilarious [laughter], he really was the old Duke of Edinburgh, but we got a lot of fun, a lot of fun with him [laughs].
CB: Well he had a lot of background with the military.
GP: Yeah, yeah, he did.
CB: OK. Thank you. Now in the Observer Corps the people needed to be trained?
GP: Yes.
CB: And what did you do on an annual basis?
GP: On an annual basis we would have a big camp at an RAF station that was being closed.
CB: Right.
GP: And um we’d have a week, I think it was a week there, and observers come from all over England to do training there, which was quite good, but I used to go as a full-time staff and help do the training. It was quite good fun really.
CB: What was the training that they had?
GP: Aircraft recognition, mostly aircraft recognition, God, it’s hard to think.
CB: ‘Cause we’re talking about the Cold War time aren’t we?
GP: Yeah, we are.
CB: And um, so aircraft flying very high that’s no good, but so what were they looking for?
GP: They were still looking for aircraft, I’m trying to think.
CB: No more.
GP: Trying to think. There was still low level flying as well, you know it wasn’t all high level. Um, gosh.
CB: Because as well as recording the data.
GP: Yeah.
CB: About nuclear blasts they had to have training for that presumably?
GP: Yeah, we, trying to think about it now. Yes, we used to have exercises which were all planned, co-ordinated so that a post which was perhaps ten miles away would have a reading and a time, and a post which was ten miles away would have details of the same blast but different timing and different angles, you know the whole thing was co-ordinated as if the real attack had come, nuclear attack had come. Massive, massive, awful, awful to contemplate really, but the whole thing was planned nationally so that all the posts, all the stuff fed in would have co-ordinated properly you know? Quite a big job really. Quite a job, a lot of planning went into it.
CB: And where was this information fed to?
GP: Fighter Command, Fighter Command mostly I ‘spose, yeah, and local defence. Surprising we had scientific officers at each group headquarters, they would work out the fall-out, the radioactivity levels and so forth as if a bomb had really dropped and so we had scientific officers there, they weren’t in the Corps but they were scientists recruited to do that job. Great big screens, two big screens. Long range board and another big screen, and you’d plot on the back and the scientific officers would read the front but you’d plot on the back.
CB: Like fighter screens, and where were these regional headquarters located?
GP: God, all over the place. Oxford, big one at Oxford.
CB: On airfields or separate?
GP: No, separate from airfields.
CB: Right.
GP: One at Oxford, there was one here at.
EP: Watford had one.
GP: Here at Watford, the bunker is still there at Watford, and it belongs now to the vets doesn’t it? They use it down below ‘cause I went down it one night, I used to, when I was down at Horsham I used to come home and I used to go and check on the headquarters here at um —
CB: At Watford?
GP: Yeah. And I went in one night, a bit on leave, I came and couldn’t understand a light was on. So, I went in to put the light out and I could hear noises, der, der, der, der and I thought hello, I said ‘Somebody’s here’ so I walked on and there was a bloke there and what he was doing, he was preparing training material for his crew using all the tape and everything you see. So, I crept down there and I didn’t let him hear me coming and I walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. I’ve never seen a bloke jump so high in my life [laughter]. He didn’t think anybody could get in you see, because he had the key. He was using it, he shouldn’t have been using it really, using it to prepare all his training stuff for his crew. That was very funny and I was able to creep right up to him and tap him on the shoulder, I’ve never seen a bloke jump so high in my life. Frightened him to death [laughs], yeah, and that’s still there, that building. If you went to see the vet she’d probably let you in, if you said you’d — gosh when you think the money that was spent on it all.
CB: Yeah. Well this also linked in with the RSG’s didn’t it, the Regional Seats of Government?
GP: Yes, yes it did, that’s right the RSG’s. Yes, it was an interesting time really, in another few years it will all be forgotten nobody will know what it was all about will they?
CB: We’ll have to do research into that as well.
GP: [Laughs].
CB: Thank you.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Geoff Paine,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 23, 2024,

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