Interview with Reg Payne. One


Interview with Reg Payne. One


Reg Payne was born in Kettering, he left school at fourteen and worked for the British Legion. He volunteered for the RAF when he was seventeen and a half and trained as a wireless operator and air gunner. He describes his training learning Morse Code, gunnery practice, and how the crew were chosen, before taking part in operations over Germany where on one occasion a bomb dropped from another aircraft straight through his aircraft's wing. On another occasion whilst on a training exercise his aircraft caught fire and the crew had to bale out sadly four crew were killed. He met his first wife Ena whilst at RAF Skellingthorpe and they married shortly before the end of the war prior to him being posted to 56 Forward Repair Unit in South East Asia Command and sent to Burma. After the war he worked in an engineering factory and still resides in Kettering where he enjoys painting watercolours.







01:15:18 audio recording

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TJ: My name’s Tina James I’m here with Reg Payne at his home in Kettering Northants today is 3rd July 2015. So Reg you were with Bomber Command but let’s go back to the beginning and er where were you born and when?
RP: I was born in Kettering on on the 11th March 1923 which.
TJ: So you’re back to where your home town then aren’t you.
RP: Well um.
TJ: Your back in your home town now?
RP: Oh yes where I was born yes yes I was born probably only a couple of hundred yards from here really.
TJ: Really.
RP: The other side of the town.
TJ: And your parents um was your father in the First World War?
RP: Father yes he was in the army of course in in France.
TJ: Yes
RP: In the First World War yes.
TJ: Did he have a bad time?
RP: He I don’t think he had such a bad time because I think he was a cook he did a lot of cooking and I think because of that he wasn’t in the front line quite so much as he as he would have been.
TJ: So good yeah and then you went to school in Kettering?
RP: Pardon.
TJ: You went to school in Kettering?
RP: I went to school in Kettering yeah I went to school when I was fourteen when I left school sorry sorry.
TJ: You left school you left school at fourteen.
RP: Sorry I’m getting confused with when I went to work.
TJ: Yes.
RP: I went to school until I was fourteen.
TJ: Yes.
RP: I went to the er St. Mary’s both church schools St. Mary’s Church and then the Parish Church School.
TJ: And what were you good at at school?
RP: Er if anything art I think yeah.
TJ: Okay and you’re still doing art and we’ll come to that later. So what was your first job then when you left school?
RP: Well when I left school er oddly enough er I worked for the British Legion the er the British Legion Midland Region Department they they just moved into a huge house in Kettering and er and so far they had another British Legion they didn’t have an office in Kettering at the time but they took over this big building and er and members of the staff moved from er Bristol to come to here to work and it was the British Legion Midland Region Office in in Kettering and.
TJ: And what was your job with them what did you do?
RP: I was I was in the registry office looking after all the files all the all the people writing in to the British Legion for advice and help I had to I had to once they got involved with the er British Legion we had to make a file out for them they had a file with a reference number and from them on when they wrote again they had to quote their quote their name and address and also their reference number and er and er all their files were like a big library and I used to climb up to these racks and and get the er file connected to this person that was claiming benefit.
TJ: And how long did you work for them?
RP: I worked there until I until I was called up you see by eighteen you see you had to you had to go into the forces when you were eighteen the wars on you see you you had.
TJ: And were you called up straight away for the RAF?
RP: No the er I volunteered for the RAF when I was about seventeen and a half because if you waited at the age of the eighteen if you waited until you were eighteen and you were called up during the war you could be sent down the mines if you waited until you were called up the the authorities they did what they wanted with you they they could do anything with you so if you if you wanted to join the RAF especially to fly you had to go volunteer when you were seventeen and a half.
TJ: And that’s what you did?
RP: And that’s what I did yeah.
TJ: And then you went in at eighteen then?
RP: That’s right I went in just before I was eighteen yeah they called for me yeah.
TJ: So what was your first first experience of the RAF what were you doing?
RP: Er I was training as a wireless operator wireless operator and air gunner yes.
TJ: Where where was the training?
RP: The training was in Blackpool.
TJ: How long?
RP: Er I was in Blackpool I should think for er six months six months in Blackpool most most of that was er learning Morse Code we had two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon Morse Code and that was in the and that was in the tram sheds in the winter.
TJ: Not a lot of fun then?
RP: Mmm.
TJ: Not much fun?
RP: Well it Blackpool near near the coast in bitterly cold winds and every so often a tram used to come into the tram sheds and the doors had to be opened absolutely wide to allow it to come in or to go out and we used to get the horrible cold winds coming in from the sea and we were sitting at tables there lllistening to Morse Code all the time the instructors were ex Naval er Fleet Air Arm wireless operators naval people and they all sat there with great big overcoats on and helmets [laughs] sending Morse out to us but they used to send out articles from the newspaper stories of course as we were writing it down we used to read at the same time so it made it a little bit more interesting but that but that we used to have as I say we used to have about three hours in the morning or three hours in the afternoon and then in the afternoon we had to go to Stanley Park for gymnasium lessons and running PT and that sort of thing and also we used to have to go into er the Tower Ballroom and learn how to march we had we had to wear slippers we had to wear plimsolls for that and we were taught to march about turn, right turn you know about turn saluting to the front saluting to the left we had all that you see at Blackpool.
TJ: So at the end of that time you could do Morse and you could march and you could salute so where did they send you next?
RP: Well that that only took us until probably about ten or eleven words a minute in Morse we we had to in increase our speed quite a bit after but after that after that we er went we went down into oh gosh it’s it’s in that list somewhere in it er Yatesbury Yatesbury and that was a radio school.
TJ: Where’s Yatesbury?
RP: Yatesbury is in Wiltshire it was a big school that taught you all about radio about the the valves the different grids and elements you know the different er the way a valve worked and and how radio worked and and we were taught there to assemble our own radio sets and er and then get in touch with people in the next room once you got your radio all connected and working in working condition you could then call up you know to er the call sign and and people would hear you perhaps two or three rooms away and they were sending messages back again just to just to the valves there’s there’s tetrodes, pentodes, diodes you know all all different grids on valves and so forth we had to learn all about chokes and resistances and and er and er electricity and er.
TJ: Did it come easy to you?
RP: It was it wasn’t it was complicated really you know but the thing is we used to study at night school a bit you know ‘cos in the in the base itself there was no entertainment much there at all so er so at nights you’d probably go through what you were taught in the day time but I was lucky really because er er er one of the men one of the men who he did my training with he was a Kettering man and he worked for the he worked for the Evening Telegraph and he knew shorthand he was very good at shorthand and he could he could when the instructor was explaining things to us he could he could jot a lot of stuff down with shorthand so at nights when we got back into the billet at night we would get together in the bedroom and go through what we’d been taught in the day and I perhaps explain that I couldn’t understand what they were saying about the chokes and the different grids and things and the anodes the tetrodes and pentodes and er and er what he would do he would he would explain it all to me again you know he was quite quite good.
TJ: Great, so how long did that last?
RP: That that would be about four months about four months.
TJ: And then take us through what happened next after that?
RP: Well after that after that I went to Northcotes and and actually I think this was mainly this was mainly a break I think to get away from school room work and I actually started doing some er listening out there was a coastal command aerodrome in in use on the on the on the er on the er it be on the Lincolnshire coast up near Grimsby and and it was the coastal command aircraft going out and I used to have to sit and er listen out on frequencies and pick up any messages that came through I had to I had to write them down and take them into the flying control tower like I was like a contact between the aeroplanes that were flying over the North Sea and the base at Northcotes and and so being able to read the Morse I could I could take messages down and put them through to the operations room and they could er and they could go through with that but then later I had to go back to London then and and to the Albert Hall and I and we had er by that time the RAF had im improved all their radio equipment being used in the aircraft and and the stuff I was taught on was all obsolete so I had to go down to London to the Albert Hall there the Albert Hall was a training centre during the war for RAF and and we had to go through it all again all the different up to date radio it was.
TJ: How long were you in London?
RP: I was there for about four months.
TJ: So what so about when was that then?
RP: It was from September probably till till after Christmas.
TJ: Of Thirty Nine?
RP: Er no er you know it could be Forty I think.
TJ: Probably yes.
RP: Yes yes.
TJ: So while you were in London what was going on there in London?
RP: Well it we were lucky really because there there was there were one or two alerts but we never had any bombs never had any bombs at all there we were we were quite lucky that way.
TJ: Indeed in fact when you think what went on in London you were very lucky weren’t you?
RP: Yes yes it was all it was all it was all training you know we did a lot of PT, square bashing and er PT and er in er er is it Stanley not Stanley Park that’s Blackpool isn’t it well where are the big parks in London?
TJ: Regents Park.
RP: Regents Park yes and
TJ: Hyde Park?
RP: Hyde Park yeah that’s it yeah used to play football in there quite a lot as well in there.
TJ: Did you ever venture out in the evenings on the town in London?
RP: We we were we were living we were living in in Albert Court they were luxury luxurious flats just next to the Albert Hall when when at nights when we were in our bedrooms about five storeys high and there was queues waiting to go into the Albert Hall for concerts at night and we used to make little aeroplanes and fly them through the windows and the people down below used to watch them gliding down and that that we used to but we had to be in we had to be in every night at ten o’clock we weren’t allowed out after ten o’clock at night that was the same at Blackpool and when we were at Blackpool if er if your landlady she’d lock the doors at ten o’clock and if if and the RAF Police you see used to be patrolling the streets and if you were caught out there after ten o’clock you were on a charge you were punished on there yeah it was very strict.
TJ: So you finished in London you’ve got you were up to date with the new machinery new wirelesses um what was next?
RP: Next was gunnery we had to go to a gunnery course down on the South Coast to learn about Browning machine guns and er and we had to start flying then and shoot shooting at air at aircraft towing drones we had to learn how to strip a Browning machine gun and er put it together again and fire it and we had er we had a firing range on the sea on the seashore and it was where a lot of sand dunes were on the seashore and they had er an aeroplane they had an aeroplane on a little trolley a little electric trolley and this this er trolley used to go in and and out in and out these sand dunes and you were you were in a gun turret and RAF gun turret aircraft gun turret you’d be watching and all of sudden you’d see this aeroplane it come from behind as it come from behind a a sand dune and go across a short distance you had to get in there quick and fire a burst of machine gun fire and then it would go behind another sand dune and you wouldn’t see it so you’d be scanning round with with your turret like this all the time and then all of sudden you’d see it again and fire another burst at it it gave you a good idea of what it was like to be shooting in an aircraft yes that was part of the gunnery course.
TJ: Did you enjoy that bit?
RP: It was well it was much better [laughs] than just listening learning Morse Code all the time yeah.
TJ: So take us on to what happened next?
RP: Mmm?
TJ: Take us on to what happened after that?
RP: Well the next after that after that I had to go up to er er well [shuffling through papers] log book.
TJ: Good idea get out the log book.
RP: [Looking through log book] I think the first part the first part of my flying it was with we didn’t had it recorded we hadn’t got log books at the time er.
TJ: So can you remember where the airfield was your first experiences?
RP: Yeah its even that’s not in here no.
TJ: Well never mind just go from your memory then. Which planes were you on first?
RP: Mmm?
TJ: Which aircraft were you on first?
RP: We were on on Proctors Proctors they were really tiny little tiny aircraft er.
TJ: How many.
RP: Oh here we are yes I was I was flying in Dominies Dominies and Proctors and and er and all it was is learning how to transfer messages you know back to base and also DF routes using direction finding routes there’s a whole page of it there look on there [pointing out in log book].
TJ: Oh yes.
RP: On there on there I mean even even they put on they filled this in for us and they’ve put one hour, one hour, one hour ten, one hour ten, one hour, one hour, one hour, one hour, one twenty, one ten, I mean they’re not the correct times I mean obviously there’d be odd minutes wouldn’t they yes this is er the using the direction finding aerials loop aerials they were circular aerials and you by turning them round you can get you can get the direction of that of that er transmission that they sent to you so you could plot a position from that you see using the direction finder aerial ‘cos that was all very handy when we were flying in Germany there er yes checheering [?] codes, frequenty changes, calibration codes its all to do with direction finding you know with er using your aerials and that was that was flying in er in Proctors you had just like a little two seater aircraft and it wasn’t very and the Dominies that was like a classroom with about with an instructor in it and about five pupils in it and so that he used to he used to let you have ten minutes at a time on the radio and then another one he’d have ten minutes and then somebody else but when we went in the Proctors we went for about an hour with just the pilot and one wireless operator and then everything we did then you had to do on your own you see and we even had to he used to er fly somewhere over in Wales over the hills you know and er and and he you you had to bring him back to the aerodrome again using your your direction finding experiences that that was all part of the training er you’d two signals there back tuning er frequency changes and bearings it’s all look you see look one hour, one hour, one hour, one hour, one hour, one hour but I mean obviously they filled that in you see but I mean with your flights it could be one hour twenty five minutes or one hour thirty minutes the real times.
TJ: So when was it that you things started to get serious and you went out on actual missions?
RP: Well to start with you see we had to um I had to go where was the place here [looking through papers] this is this this an operational training unit here I was here there and this is where I started flying on Ansoms Ansoms they were twin engine aircraft you know bigger aircraft and er and and I I flew with different different pilots I mean I was with Sergeant Hamilton, PO Bess, Flight Lieutenant Mugridge, Flight Sergeant Gray, Sergeant Parker, Sergeant mm nn Carrow or something, Sergeant Briggs, Sergeant Hollingworth, Sergeant Farrow, they were all and and er I was doing QVM’s, loops, and frequency changes, loops, fixes, QVM’s, MTB’s that’s messages to base you see, yeah, ten loops, two QVM’s the QVM is a course to steer you know so if they pilot if the pilot in an aircraft and er and er and the pilot wanted to go to Lincoln he say to me ‘Reg get me a QVM get me a QVM yeah to Lincoln’ and I would call them up you see and ask for a QVM ‘da da di da da da da da da’ you see QVM [laughs] and er and they would give me a K you know K carry on and I would simply press my key then keep pressing my key then press me key there pressing it and the go ‘ddddddddddd’ that’s enough and I’d say QVM ‘da di da la la da la da dd da’ you know that’s one two five you know and I’d give that to the pilot you know course one two five and then and then er after a while he’d say ‘get me another QVM Reg just in case’ so I’d call them up again and ask for another QVM ‘da da di da da da da’ [laughs] and er and then perhaps this time perhaps be one two eight something like that.
TJ: So when was your first encounter with the enemy?
RP: Well that’s when you see that er that was er this was when I was flying on Ansoms and then and then I got to er to operational training unit OTU that is and that’s where that’s where I joined up with a pilot then you see on there not this one this is er this is an OTU but but I wasn’t actually crewed up I wasn’t actually crewed up ooh I was I was crewed up here with my pilot PO Beetham yeah PO Beetham yeah.
TJ: Oh yes.
RP: When we got to an OTU an operational training unit er er the pilots the pilots and the navigators they all had to go in a hangar there’d perhaps be twenty pilots and twenty navigators and they all had to go in a hangar and then got to sort themselves out into pairs they used to go round looking at each other and say ‘oh excuse me you know I’m a navigator are you a pilot? Have you got a navigator yet?’ you know and the pilot would say ‘no I haven’t got one’ and he said ‘would you like to fly with me’ you see and they’d say ‘yes yes I would you know I’d like to fly with you’ fair enough and as I say that’s the pilot and navigator and in another hangar they’d have wireless operators, and and air gunners and bomb aimers and the and the pilot the pilot and navigator they’d perhaps say look at the wireless operators they’d come up to you and say ‘excuse me but but your’e a wireless operator? Have you been are you in anyone’s crew yet?’ you see and you’d say ‘no not yet’’ so ‘would you like to fly with us?’ and you’d look at them you know two officers and you’d think er well they looked all right you know and I’d say ‘oh yes I’d love to’ and that’s how fair enough and that’s you with them then they’d be looking for a bomb aimer then you see and and that’s that’s how the crews got together they never they never sort of er er wrote them all down on paper like you know pilot so so Tom Jones, Alfred Smith and all that sort of thing you know it’s er it was all so I mean you went more or less by the looks of people whether you fancied you know when these two pilots came to me two officers came to me you know they looked they looked two smart friendly sort of smiles on their faces while they talked to you and er I was pleased to join them like and that’s er operational training unit er see I mean we only did er twelve hours fifty five minutes flying in the daytime here but once we got to er once we got to operational training unit there we er we were on Wellington bombers then you see and that’s when the crew the pilot and navigator and the bomb aimer and the wireless operator and the rear gunner that’s a crew of five then that’s when we really started training then you know doing two and three hour flights and.
TJ: And how long was it then before you went onto a unit where you were actually.
RP: What what?
TJ: You were actually dropping bombs?
RP: Oh yeah well that was er that Saltby Saltby that was one OTU we were at then there’s another one the big one er the big one was at Cottesmore at Cottesmore and and Market Harborough, Market Harborough is quite close to here you see look all this flying look here you can see on here look that’s all flights er er one here Beetham a cross country flight you see in Nineteen Forty Three cross cross country er on frequent change base, three QVM’s base, a fix from M group [?] a fix a fix is er is er what they call a group you call you call this group up and you request a fix and er and er you call a central station up and ask for a fix but there’s two more stations and they they can here you as well and when they when they tell you to press your key down you press your key down and this person he takes a he takes a er er bearing on you there that one takes a bearing on you and that one takes a bearing on you and where the three of you join in the map that’s that’s nine degrees forty five something east and so many degrees so and so west and they’d send that to me lllatitude and longitude so I can give that I can give that to the navigator so he can plot it so he can plot it and he gets his position exactly where he is that’s that’s what a fix.
TJ: So when did you go operational then about what?
RP: Operational?
TJ: Yes when was that then?
RP: Yeah see there was loads of training about two years of training you see.
TJ: Yes.
RP: Yes yes. You see even at heavy conversion unit at Wigsley that’s when we trained to go from a two engine aircraft to four engine aircraft you see and that’s that’s all flying you see learning to fly the four engine aircraft the bombers the big bombers you see yeah [showing picture] that was they were all Lancasters look there you see Lancasters.
TJ: Bearing in mind the people who are going to listen to this Reg can’t see you book.
RP: Yes but er but here we are look 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe now now these were the operations look in red.
TJ: In the red yes.
RP: Now look at the flying we had to do look before even we were on operations.
TJ: Lots of.
RP: Yes.
TJ: Lots of outings?
RP: Yes yes cross country, base, Thetford, return, cross country, base, Deb Deb Denham, return, and then cross country as briefed, air sea flying, cross country as briefed, formation bombing, yeah, cross country, base, Thetford, return, cross country, base, Debden return wherever that is, cross country as briefed.
TJ: Yes but it’s the one’s in red we are interested in so when you actually flew?
RP: On the first raid?
TJ: Yes.
RP: Well it surprised me because the very first the very first raid we did we expected something a bit simple but there’s the first raid look on the twenty.
TJ: What’s the date?
RP: On the Twenty Second of November Forty Three Flying Officer Beetham, wireless op, operations Berlin the first raid we did Berlin yeah, also as well look the second the second raid we did look there that was the next night.
TJ: The very next day?
RP: Twenty Third yeah Beetham twenty seven missing ops Berlin again landed at Wittering flaps US the flaps they wouldn’t let us land because the flaps were frozen and they were afraid if we crashed if we crashed on the runway there would be another twenty odd aircraft that wouldn’t be able to land you see so they divert us then you see divert us to Wittering you see then that’s on the Twenty Third on the Twenty Six again you see there operation Berlin again that’s three Berlin raids diverted to Melbourne Melbourne there’s fifty five missing on that raid fifty five aircraft missing on that that third raid we went on you see there’s thirty two missing on the first raid there’s twenty seven missing on the second raid so fifty five on that so that’s fifty five and thirty two that’s seventy seven that’s seventy seven in it seventy seven that’s ninety seven ninety seven that’s hundred and four aircraft lost in the first three raids we went on.
TJ: How many planes would go out at one time?
RP: Um well about five hundred six hundred yeah [laughs] oh yeah yeah yeah six hundred, seven hundred even eight hundred.
TJ: So were most of your missions over Berlin?
RP: I did ten.
TJ: Ten over Berlin?
RP: Ten ten altogether yes yes.
TJ: Anywhere else?
RP: Er
TJ: Any missions anywhere else?
RP: Oh yeah er [looking through log book]I did er I did er Frankfurt, Leipzig, Berlin incendiary through starboard outboard tank that’s with another bomb dropped from another aircraft that went straight through our wing coming back.
TJ: That must have been a hairy moment?
RP: Mmm?
TJ: It must have been frightening?
RP: Well it was in a way because because er if it had gone through it went through it went through the wing and but it also went through the petrol tank but the petrol tank was empty if it gone if it there’s three tanks I one wing and there’s three tanks in the other if it had gone through the one next to it that was full of petrol well even if even if it didn’t burn we wouldn’t get home ‘cos it that was the petrol and that we were going to use to fly us back to England you see yeah so.
TJ: Did you get back okay with that hole in the wing?
RP: Not not we got back alright with it yeah because because it just tore a whole straight through the wing.
TJ: It was still flyable?
RP: It was still flyable yeah on there yeah it it yeah incendiary through starboard outboard tank there and then it was Berlin, Berlin, that was on the First January we went to Stettin, Brunswick, went to Berlin again and then Berlin we did a spoof attack on Berlin that was er just a few aircraft there you know to let them think it was a Berlin raid then I suppose the main force went somewhere else, then Berlin, Berlin again we did ten Berlin raids altogether and they were all about eight hours you see the yeah you see take off here take off here look on the Twenty Eighth is was 00.21 so that’s twenty minutes after midnight take off and we didn’t er [unclear] yeah and we didn’t land until five minutes to eight the next morning so we were flying we were flying from midnight to five minutes to eight on that raid you see and and the Berlin raid before that er we took off at er 17.17 that’s round about five o’clock in it?
TJ: Yes.
RP: Five o’clock there and er and that we were flying for eight hours fifty five minutes so that’s nine hours in it pretty well eight hours fifty five minutes and er vyou see some of them Stettin you see that was a long journey Brunswick.
TJ: And all this time you were based at Skellingthorpe right?
RP: We were based at Skellingthorpe all the time yeah yeah we did a lot of operations at Skellingthorpe yeah you see this month look February look we only did two operations in February it must have been terrible weather I’ve got the er on the on the Eighth February here we we did a searchlight searchlight cooperation and fighter affiliation exercises all training all the time er and this was here of course er on the Twelfth of February it was a fighter affiliation exercise it’s got aircraft aircraft caught fire baled out at six thousand feet that’s when I had that’s when I had to bale out yeah and er.
TJ: What about the rest of the crew?
RP: Well there was ten of us in the aircraft there was six of us managed to bale out alright but four were killed four went down with the aircraft yeah they were all killed.
TJ: Where did you come down on your parachute where did you land?
RP: We we landed we landed we landed luckily er er we were we er we were going to fly up to up to Yorkshire fly up the Humber Estuary and and go up into Yorkshire and we were going to pick a Spitfire a Spitfire was waiting for us up there and the Spitfire the Spitfire was going to er attack us it it was going to dive on us and attack us you see but we but our full crew of seven Norman[?] Beetham and his full crew then we had another pilot he was an Australian pilot and we had his two gunners with us as well so there was ten of us ten of us in the aircraft altogether and er.
TJ: So that was nothing to do with enemy fire?
RP: Oh no no.
TJ: A misadventure.
RP: No no no and er we had er we had er we flew up into Yorkshire and we saw this Spitfire the pilots could talk to each other you see they called the Spitfire up and said you know ‘were already for you you can start attacking us anytime’ and my pilot you see he was flying the aircraft and my two gunners they were in the turrets you see they were in the turrets and er and the Spitfire as it came in they had cine camera guns as well they had cameras in there so so while they were while the guns were supposedly firing they were turning a film over so they were filming they were filiming the Spitfire so when they got back oh sorry yeah yeah yeah when they got back when they got back they could show the films they could show the films and they could say to the to the gunners you know your not not allowing enough deflection ‘cos when a planes coming on like that it’s no good firing at it because by the time the bullets get there the the planes gone you got to aim in front of you all the time that’s the way that’s the way it was and er our two gunners they did they did their operation first with my pilot and then after about after about quart fifteen minutes twenty minutes something like that we called the Spitfire up and told him to hold on we told him to hold on we were changing pilots and changing the gunners and er and then of course when er when er you know that’s right its when this other pilot he went in next you see and his two gunners and they called the Spitfire up and they told the Spitfire that he could come in and commence the er the attacking like but the thing is while we were flying while we were flying er we’d been up to Yorkshire and we were coming back again and er it was lovely sunny weather but the cloud was solid solid three thousand feet below us we were at six thousand feet and all you could see was cloud all the way over there at six at three thousand feet and you see we didn’t know whether we were still over the North Sea or not because you couldn’t see it you see there so when so when er you know when this other pilot was ready he called the Spitfire okay you can carry on now commence attacking and er and the Spitfire came in to attack us and the gunner shouted out a warning you know that’s what they do they have to say ‘fighter fighter port er port stream port stream go [unclear] ‘ and the pilot put the plane in such a dive such a steep dive I’ve I’ve never been in a Lancaster that dived as steep as that and I think the strain on the wings there it must have severed one of the coolant pipes for the Rolls Royce Engines and it must have spewed like spewed petrol all over the wing and the whole wing caught fire and the wing was a mass of flames and they the levelled plane out you see and Mike Beetham like he was the senior he was the senior officer like on board and he said ‘the whole wings on fire’ he said ‘right everybody out everybody bale out’ you see well I knew my flight engineer he hadn’t even got a parachute he hadn’t brought his parachute I said ‘Don where’s your chute?’ he said ‘oh he said it’s only a training flight I’m not bothered it’s only a training flight’ he said ‘I’m not gonna I’m not bothered’ you see he was a married man as well with a little little lad as well yeah and of course we er all started baling out well when I when I got in the rear door you had to sit on the side like that and the doors only a little thing you had you had to get your head down and you had to get your head right down otherwise you’d hit the tale and I crouched down and and I I when out and the wind pushed me back in I was trying to get but I think somebody just went just went like that.
TJ: Booted you out.
RP: Booted me out I’m sure they did ‘cos it was either that or once I got outside the slipstream you know a two hundred mile an hour wind hitting you you know it’s like a but the I went out I went out slipping out all I could see all I coul see was cloud that’s all and I didn’t know I didn’t know whether the sea was there or not it was February and we hadn’t got Mae West’s we hadn’t got Mae West’s on so it meant that if I went through the clouds and came down in the in the North Sea and I was even a mile from the coast with the sea would be bitterly cold wouldn’t it in February and er I doubt I doubt that I would have survived but I went I went I was [laughs] I was pulling I was pulling the wrong handle I was pulling one of the carry handles there’s four parachute handles on the parachute one, two, three, four then there’s the that metal one that’s in the middle and I didn’t get hold of that metal one I got one of the canvas ones and I was pulling that course my chute my chute wouldn’t open and I went through the clouds and my chute still hadn’t opened and I certainly thought good god Reg and I got this metal one and gave it a pull and it’s in there isn’t it.
TJ: It’s hanging outside in the hallway yes.
RP: And of course me chute opened me chute opened and I and I looked and I thought ooh good gracious and I and I looked about a mile away from me I could see the coast I could see the coast and I was quite a height you know still and er the wing from the aircraft that came down like a big leaf and I thought I thought it was going to hit my parachute as it came down but it was coming down like a big scythe like a big leaf but that went that went by me and I and I drifted luck luckily I drifted towards the coast and I landed about three or four miles inside the coast there.
TJ: In open countryside where you?
RP: Yeah in in a lovely big field yeah and I no sooner I no sooner landed like you know and sort of picked meself up and I looked and I saw another parachute coming down but he was going a little bit farther than me and there was a spinney with trees and I saw him go through these trees and all these branches going crickle crackle crickle crackle like as he went through these branches and that was that was the other pilot [laughs] but he his memory was er he lost his memory because ‘cos when I picked myself up er an airforce van was coming across the fields towards and and they said to me ‘are you alright?’ I said ‘yes officer I’m quite alright’ I said but I said ‘but another chap here he’s just come down in that spinney down there’ and they said ‘yes we saw him come down we’re going to see how he is’ well when they brought him out his mind had gone he was saying ‘Where are we? What happened? Where’s everybody? you know ‘Where have they all gone to?’ you know and he was talking like that and we realised that it had played his memory up and er so they but luckily we landed quite near to East Kirkby Airfield I’ll show you it East Kirkby Airfield [looking through book] yeah.
TJ: So you baled out so when did you next did you have a few days off to recover?
RP: Er well I don’t think so with a thing like that I I they never sent you on leave or anything like that you didn’t you didn’t get a leave no because I think the next night the next night ooh you know what messed us up as well you see I should have been seeing Ena er.
TJ: This is your wife?
RP: Yeah.
TJ: Were you married at the time?
RP: Oh no we we hadn’t known one another that long these two ATS girls they had to be in by ten o’clock at night you see every night so when we there’s no hanky panky like by the time we came out the er pub we used to walk them back to their billets.
TJ: In Skellingthorpe?
RP: Yes then we used to get on our bikes luckily luckily their quarters were in the er were in the Lincoln City Council they they took the Lincoln City Council Offices over the RAF took those over.
TJ: What in Lincoln?
RP: In Lincoln yeah and they had they had these rooms there you know where they used to supply all the food in the Royal Army Service Corps and they used to supply all the food to the aerodrome you know Scampton, Waddington, Bardney, Fiskerton you know all the all different places there.
TJ: Yes and you went on to marry Ena what year did you get married?
RP: Er it it was it was whilst I was still in the air force yeah.
TJ: Was it after the war?
RP: No no yeah the war had finished yeah ’cos I said I said we wouldn’t get married whilst he war was on yeah yeah and I was due to come off flying and take a ground job and I went oh that’s right they when I was at er er when I was at er Silverstone I was instructor there at Silverstone and when the war was more or less coming to an end we had a chance er the people that had done tour of operations and a tour of instructional duties ‘cos I’d had a year at Silverstone training wireless operators you know flying with them there and the one’s that had done a tour of operations and a tour of instructional duties could come off flying altogether and take a ground job they they advertised it to say that er you know if you take a ground job and they said and you’d be given you’d be given a choice of posting to where you would go and when you chosen the job you wanted to do you know a ground service job you could er er er you were given a posting and I put I put Desborough the first choice that’s that’s only about four miles from Kettering, Market Harborough which is about eleven miles from Kettering and I put that second choice and I think I put Cottesmore I think as the third choice so that’s like three choices of er posting if I if I was If I came off flying and took a ground job and I I chose I chose this job er er well it was a stores job it’s to do with er to do with RAF equipment that you know that a surplus of RAF equipment as the aerodromes started to close down the re was all of the equipment left behind and it was disposing of it and and er ascertaining whether it’s whether it’s in serviceable condition or whether it can be repaired or whether whether it got to be scrapped like what to do with it it’s all the paperwork you know attached to like vans and things and tractors you know aircraft and so forth it was all the official paperwork because in the RAF er if a thing if a thing is going to be repaired there’s always a form goes in an official form to allow it you know to allow it to take place you know everything had to be done with a form official notification like you know and er this was the course this was the course that I did I chose to do because as they said ere r you know I was given a choice of posting either three miles from home or seven miles from home or perhaps twelve miles from home and I did this course it was up near Blackpool the course I had to do and er and after that after that we got married we got married you see in fact we spent our honeymoon in Blackpool because I’d spent so much time in Blackpool and I knew one or two people up in Blackpool and we spent our honeymoon in there and so when I went back there again after you know you know after that er we were told we were going to go on the North Pier at night on that particular night and we would be told we would be told where our postings were going to be where we going to be posted to you see and I thought oh crickey you know let’s hope its somewhere close near to Kettering like you know now I’ve married Freda, Ena.
TJ: Ena.
RP: Ena [laughs] Ena yeah.
TJ: For the record Freda was wife number two.
RP: Anyhow on the pier they started reading these names out it was getting dark actually as well at the time about October time and they called my name out warrant officer Payne and they looked at the list and said warrant officer Payne posted to 56 FRU FRU and I thought to myself FRU and I thought to myself that’s nothing like they said I In fully expected them to say you know one of these aerodromes so I went up after they finished I went up to the people there calling them out I said ‘this 56 FRU’ I said ‘that’s not where they said they were going to post’ I said ‘where’s that?’ they said ‘we’ve got no idea’ they’d got no idea they’d got no idea where it is you see and er so I asked they said ‘somebody one officer there when he comes he’ll know’ so I went up to him and said ‘been posted to 56 FRU’ and they said ‘FRU that’s the forward repair unit’ and I said ‘where will that be then forward repair unit?’ he said he had a look he said ‘well it’s in SEAC SEAC’ I said I said ‘what do you mean by SEAC?’ he said ‘South East Asia Command’ so I said ‘well where are they?’ he said ‘well we don’t really know we’ll send you to Karachi’ he said ‘and they’ll know when you get to Karachi’ you can’t understand it can you terrible in it.
TJ: So what happened?
RP: Mmm?
TJ: What happened?
RP: Well when I got to Karachi they said well they said it’s near Rangoon in Burma and they said ‘they’ll tell you when you get to Rangoon they’ll they’ll take you there’.
TJ: And what was your role there what job did you do?
RP: I was I was investigating all of the equipment left behind in these aerodromes you know vans, tractors, aeroplanes, typewriters, and er you know radio sets and things and and ascertaining whether they whether there fit for reply or whether they’re going to be struck off charge because with the with the RAF every piece of equipment was on paper and you couldn’t and it was and it was er like in an office work they’d perhaps have seventeen typewriters or thirteen machine guns like and they’d all have numbers and er if if one was er and they were all located in filing cabinets like you see and if you wanted to er if say one was a motorbike and it got smashed in a in a crash er the paperwork a form had to be filled in stating that it had been destroyed and that form would go into the office where there was a filing cabinet and there’d be a card in the filing cabinet connected to that to that motorbike or whatever it was and and then that form that form would be responsible for deleting that item like you know nothing could be thrown away until a form was made out and filled in you know authorising you to throw it away.
TJ: Very different weather in Burma to Skellingthorpe?
RP: Oh good gracious yes.
TJ: Was it hot and steamy?
RP: It used to be a hundred hundred degrees yeah yeah.
TJ: How long were you out there?
RP: I was out there from er before Christmas until August yes I was there for about ten months altogether yeah er they flew me to start with er I flew from Tempsford that’s in Bedfordshire somewhere there and we flew to Cairo to start with we flew to Cairo and then from Cairo we flew then to Tripoli that was lovely there I slept in a tent in the desert that night in Tripoli and I was only there for about three nights but there was a lovely big harbour there and there was no end of Italian warships you know in the harbour but all they were all sunk and all you could see was their masts sticking out the water you know there, there, there, all these warships Italian warships that had been sunk but anyhow from there they flew us then to Cairo and we stayed in the Heliopolis Palace Hotel lovely place there and er and er the next morning I got up and I looked out on the on the balcony and I could see The Pyramids.
TJ: Wow.
RP: Yeah the Heliopolis Palace Hotel yeah and and er I hadn’t had a bath for ages and there was a lovely bath there and I was just enjoying this bath and a lady came in she started cleaning the taps [laughs] when I was in the bath she didn’t take a bit of notice of me [laughs] it’s terrible in it [laughs] yeah amazing isn’t it and then of course we went out then to see Cairo and er I didn’t fancy that at all I’d never ever want to go there the kids the kids because we were in RAF uniform and the kids had got a a jam jar a pound jam jar and it was half full of er black black shoe polish liquid shoe polish black and they’d and they’d come on you saying ‘shoeshine pal shoeshine boy’ you know and in other words if they didn’t give them something they’d throw this pot of black shoe polish over you over your uniform yeah but luckily we were armed we had revolvers yeah and we just we just fetched the revolver out and just cocked it and said ‘you throw that and your dead we’ll shoot you’ we said that to them and I think we would have done [laughs] yeah for you to get a revolver out and point it revolvr ‘we’ll shoot you if you throw it’ yeah yeah amazing [laughs].
TJ: So at the end of your time in Burma you came back to where?
RP: Er well I came back to er a place near near Blackpool a demob centre and er and er I was I was issued with a demob suit and paid you know owed me a lot of money ‘cos I was a month on the boat coming back I was thirty days on the boat coming back from Rangoon and that’s a month’s pay you see there yeah and I think I was still paid for about another month or two months.
TJ: Did you choose to come out or would you have liked to have stayed in?
RP: If if er if I hadn’t have been married I think I wouldn’t have minded staying in ‘cos Mike Beetham you see he stayed in.
TJ: Yes he’s still in.
RP: Yeah yeah he wanted me he wanted me to stay with him because er er after after the end of the war he took a squadron of Lancasters to America on a goodwill tour and er and I’ve seen I’ve seen some of the film that er I can’t think where I’ve seen it I’ve seen some of the film that was shown that was taken like when they were in there they even went to places like Hollywood and he sent me a photograph of himself in I think in Hollywood and he’d got his arm round I think Bette Davis I think [laughs] something like that you know I saw this photograph of him with his arm round her so he I mean you know he did well that way he er but he’s er at the squadron reunions we used to see him regularly you know and also at the Bomber Command reunions we used to see him there.
TJ: How did you feel after the war about the way that the Bomber Command wasn’t recognised?
RP: Er
TJ: Did it were you upset about it were you really aware of it?
RP: What leaving it do you mean leaving?
TJ: No the way that the Bomber Command wasn’t recognised in any speeches.
RP: Oh that yeah.
TJ: And Bomber Harris wasn’t knighted with everybody else did that really strike a chord with you.
RP: Well I we all thought it was a disgust you know and not allowing us this not allowing us that you know we thought you know but the thing is you know you see in the forces your under strict your under strict rules all the time and I think you got so used to er not being able to do this not being able to do that you know I mean you weren’t allowed on an RAF aerodrome to walk about without a hat on you know and I mean if you if you walked across at an airfield where there was huts and things and you hadn’t got a hat on an RAF policeman would put you on a charge straight away you’d be improperly dressed you see.
TJ: So this centre they hope to build just outside Lincoln I mean it’s been a long time coming hasn’t it and it seems a shame it wasn’t done a long time ago why do you feel have you got any theories about why Bomber Command wasn’t recognised as Fighter Command was and all the other services have you got any thoughts on why?
RP: Well not really because because for about for about ten years I was I was saddled with the fifty and sixty one squadron memorial at Birchwood at Skellingthorpe I mean for about two or three years we were collecting money for that you see and we were having to go having to go to Lincoln about ooh at least once a month and er and meet up with the Lincoln City Council people because they helped us a lot with it you know with the er we we used to have a meeting ourselves in the morning just the about four us but mostly the people responsible for raising the money for it we had to raise twenty seven thousand pound for that you see.
TJ: So what was your first job were you out of work for very long after you had demobbed?
RP: Er well after the no no not I I er er when I got when I got demobbed and came home you see I I had about two months leave due to me you see because being in Burma being in Burma we didn’t get any leave at all there I mean I I think I spent six months there without any leave so I think when when I got when I actually got demobbed and you know and given a demob suit and all that sort of thing I was given you know about a month’s backpay and then probably then probably another month’s you perhaps wasn’t going to be demobbed for another month so therefore I was given another month’s backpay.
TJ: So you had time to look around for some work?
RP: Oh yeah when I when I came back home yeah.
TJ: What did you do?
RP: I went I went in er engineering engineering factory and took up engineering.
TJ: Did you stay in that field for the rest of your working life?
RP: Pretty well yeah because er er I it was my my brother he worked he got to work in this engineering factory it was called Timpsons and they made er they made swings and roundabouts and things for parks and so forth and jazzes[?] and all that sort of thing there but er but er I went I went to work there for a short while and learning a bit about engineering learning to work on drilling machines and lathes but er then the pair of us we were offered a better job at a firm only about two streets away from it and they made shoe shoe machinery you know er stitching machine and er sewing machines you know and presses and all that for boot and shoe manufacture and we both went to work there because they said they would pay us more money than what we were given at this other place you see.
TJ: Did you find it easy to readjust to civilian life did you have any dark days after the war you know where you know thought a lot about things?
RP: Yeah er well not really I suppose I mean in the forces you had such a variation of different jobs to do you know that er.
TJ: So you settled back down quite well?
RP: Oh yeah.
TJ: And you got married after you were demobbed did you?
RP: No I I got I got married because they because they said you know er
TJ: So you got married before you went to Burma?
RP: Oh yeah because you see they said that er you get you get you’ll be given a ground job that you wanted to do and you’d be given a posting as near home as you require and they gave you a choice of three different choices.
TJ: So there’s poor Ena married and you were off in Burma?
RP: That’s right yes she was still in the ATS.
TJ: Yeah so you had you went on how many children did you have?
RP: Mmm?
TJ: How many children children?
RP: Me I only had David David one son that’s all.
TJ: When was he born?
RP: Well about Eighty Eight no wait a minute no wait a minute.
TJ: How old is he?
RP: Do you know he’s he’s about seventy now he was born he was born about Forty Four about Forty Six only about two years you see after we were married yes.
TJ: Yes.
RP: Yes but that’s just only one son that’s all yes.
TJ: Okay so.
RP: Oh he he he’s never been never been really interested in my RAF flying days till this last two or three years but now now he loves to come up to our reunions with us you know at Skellingthorpe yeah he loves to come up there.
TJ: You’re a great artist Reg you’ve shown me a lot of pictures here today that you’ve done some of them are buildings or landscapes and quite a few of them are of planes and such like is this something you have been doing all your adult life or something fairly recent?
RP: I was I was I did quite well at school with art I never had any trouble with passing exams and things at school with art I did a lot of artwork at school yeah.
TJ: Yes and have you when did the painting start?
RP: When?
TJ: When did you start painting these wonderful pictures?
RP: Oh right it it it must be twenty years ago.
TJ: Oh so that’s fairly recent actually in the scheme of things.
RP: I did a lot of watercolours.
TJ: So well look you’ve just handed me a great lot of watercolours well I’ll certainly have a look at those but I’d just like to say thank you very much for sharing your memories.
RP: Yes.
TJ: With us today and it’s been an honour and privilege to meet you thank you very much.
RP: Yes.



Tina James, “Interview with Reg Payne. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 19, 2024,

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