Interview with Ted Peck

Title

Interview with Ted Peck

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-07-08

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:23:23 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

APeckE150708, PPeckE1508

Transcription

MJ: It’s on.
ETBP: The name is Edward Peck. Everybody calls me Ted and have done ever since I was fourteen years of age so I’ve got used to it by now. My family called me Eddie which I didn’t like very much so I’m quite happy with Ted and I’m an ex RAF warrant officer who flew in Lancaster aircraft. Thirty operations without a scratch that’s showing. I’m ninety years of age and still fairly active which I’m very thankful for and I do get to meet some nice people in talking about my days in the RAF and Mick just happens to be one of them. I suppose the first thing that worried me when I was introduced to flying in the Lancaster that the engineer’s handbook says that all flight engineers should be taught to fly straight and level. So once we were on the squadron, 622 squadron I reported to the link trainer section and I had ten hours, not every day, ten hours just straight, a couple of hours a day maybe in the link trainer and eventually I was, I didn’t have to have an examination or anything it was just the fact that the instructor was satisfied that I could do what it said in my handbook and that was fly straight and level. So at the first opportunity we were flying on a a course at, over near Skegness on the bombing range and coming back from the bombing range the pilot said, ‘Right. It’s your turn in my seat and I almost froze but bravado being what it is he got out of his seat and I got back in it. He watched me for a little while and after, after perhaps about five or ten minutes he just gave me the thumbs up to tell me that I was ok, doing fine and he started to walk to every other crew station in the aircraft. So he started off with the bomb aimer in his, in the front, the navigator just behind me, wireless operator, mid upper gunner and they all said, ‘Who’s flying and the answer came back to them, ‘Ted.’ And then he went down to the rear gunner and he was a lad from Gibraltar and he was a little bit, he’d got a little bit of, I think, Spanish flare in him somewhere because the skipper banged on the back doors of the turret and the turret door, they slid them open from inside and said to the skipper, ‘Who’s flying?’ He said, ‘It’s Ted.’ And I can’t put on this tape what the, what followed because we understand from the skipper that it wasn’t printable. Anyway, he came back, back up the fuselage and he was giving me the thumbs up again and I got out of the seat and let him do his own job but I’d done the part of the training which was, which I was detailed to do. I could fly straight and level. So that was done so that at least somebody was close to the skipper. The pilot. If he was injured I could have taken over and flown straight and level but for how long I don’t know.
[machine paused]
ETBP: I suppose my interest in the RAF started when I was just turned sixteen and I wanted to join the Air Training Corps so I asked my father’s permission to go and volunteer in the, in the ATC and he refused and I was rather put out. But through the good offices of one or two uncles I managed to get them to talk to my dad and they, he afterwards said that I could join so one Sunday morning I joined the 1014 squadron ATC who were based at North Weald airport, air, air airfield and we used to go up there perhaps on a Sunday and if there was any flying going on it was great to see the squadron of Spitfires often taking part in the Battle Britain, taking off from this particular airport, airfield, all in vic of three formations, shining in the sun and you never knew how many came back so that was, that was a good sight. But the ATC did me, did me proud they really tuned me up for joining the RAF to the extent that I didn’t have to think twice when it came to drill parade or putting kit out for inspection so I had no problems at all with that. The only problem I had was if there was a swimming lesson going on somewhere and the ATC were involved in it because I was a non-swimmer and I didn’t like the water. I had an unfortunate thing happened when I was at school. In the swimming baths we were all sitting on, around the edge of the swimming baths and we got the order to jump in. I wasn’t the biggest of lads so I was a bit slow in jumping in. The instructor came behind me with a bass broom and pushed me but I don’t have many last laughs but I had the last laugh then because he had to come in to get me out.
[machine paused]
ETBP: We were talking about swimming a few minutes ago and I can remember, my wife was an ex-WAAF and, my late wife was an ex-WAAF and I can always remember the unit that we were on we used to have a little meet at one of the local pubs and all the lads and the lasses got together for a few drinks and back to, back to camp again but the route back to camp was, on this particular station, the quickest way was to go by the canal tow path and I’d had as many drinks as I could carry satisfactorily and I was at the end of a great big long queue all walking single file down the tow path and there was a young lady behind me and all of a sudden she came up beside me and said, ‘You’re not very steady and if, if you fall in the canal I will have to come and pull you out so I’d better get hold of your arm.’ And that belonged, that started something that lasted for fifty eight years.
[machine paused]
MJ: It’s on now so.
ETBP: Yeah. I suppose that the one of the things that in my flying days, in the early flying days we were still under training and we were flying a Stirling with 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit. That was immediately before we went on to training with the Lancaster and we were doing our final training flight. We went down to the south coast, along the south coast and up the coast of Cornwall and we got a little way up the coast and we were hit by a most terrific storm. It was really, it was black, the lightning was horrible. We’d got was what was known as st Elmo’s fire around the propellers and some of the instruments weren’t working too well, the flying instruments and we were in real difficulties and there’s, so much so that all of us were looking out for some reference point to get our bearings again but it was very very difficult and the rear gunner suddenly piped up on the intercom that he could see a red light in the sky and this was amazing. Why is there, why can we see a red light in the sky? And without, without having told the pilot what to do he, he absolutely put the engines in full power, pulled the stick back and we just, I don’t know what speed we were doing but it was a good speed for a Stirling and we gained some height and when he, when we got to the top of the climb he called Mayday which was, it’s a call for immediate help and we got a call back from St Eval which was an RAF base in Cornwall and we flew in to St Eval and found out that we must have been within feet of being in the sea. It was so, this red light was actually on the top of a cliff.
[machine pause]
ETBP: During the course of training the pilot had got another pilot with him who was a trained bomber pilot who was doing a course of instruction and we were, we were flying within the, within the bounds of UK. It was my job when the pilot was wanting to land was to make sure that the undercarriage was down and also the tail wheel was down, that used to, that used to be my job when it was coming in to land, or in the circuit. So one day we were up there going through the drill, coming in to land, the skipper calls for wheels down so I put the wheels down and then I had to run as the aircraft was coming down. I had to run back to the tail and wind the tail wheel down. Now, that took about twelve turns on a crank handle and I chased back up the aircraft, called up on the intercom again, ‘Three wheels locked down skipper.’ A voice came back which wasn’t the pilot’s voice, it was, it was the instructor and it said, he said, ‘You’ll have to be quicker than that engineer. I’m just about to put the wheels on the tarmac.’ [laughs] It’s surprising that perhaps not many people realise how a bomber command crew is made up and how ad hoc it can be. When, when I was ready for joining a crew the station that we were based on took you through final crew training for each of the, each of the crew stations but when it came to forming crews it was just completely ad hoc. We were all, everybody was told to mingle outside of the room where we were taking our final tests and we were outside in the nice June sunshine and everybody was talking to everybody else until somebody came, one of the officers came along and said, ‘Right. It’s time to form crews. Please do not re-enter the building until you have a crew of seven. Will all pilot’s start to form their crews.’ And from that on, that point on it was, it only seemed like minutes before there were little bunches of seven people all together. You never knew whether you were going to get on with everybody or whether everybody could speak, basically speak the same language and it was, it was completely hit and miss and it worked wonderfully well. Nobody could understand it but it was done purely on the choice of the first man. And when I, when I was selected our wireless operator was chasing around looking for an engineer who was spare and wanted to be part of a crew and he spotted me and the first thing he said was, ‘You looking for a crew mate?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Come on I’ll take you to meet our lads,’ and that’s how it started.
[machine paused]
ETBP: During my time on 622 squadron we had a change of squadron commanders. The, the group the wing commander that was in charge for most of the time I was there was a chap called Wing Commander I C K Swale. S W A L E. And he was, by all reports, one of the finest wing commanders that they had at Mildenhall in war years. He would make sure that all the newcomers, air crew newcomers were ok and that his officers knew that he was a chap that would stand no shilly shallying and wanted the job done according to the text book and his attitude towards us was that he immediately got his wish. Unfortunately, or more fortunately for him he’d reached the stage where further promotion took him away from the squadron and we had a new wing commander come who was a totally different kettle of fish altogether. We were sorry to see him go so the only way we could express our gratitude for the way he’d looked after us was by giving his time to attend a little party that we set up and he agreed to serve all the drinks. So one of the, one of the mess halls was decked out with decorations. Union Jacks. Blondies. His name, he was, he was a fair haired chap so we called him Blondie and he’d got a big blonde moustache to go with it. So that, he turned up in his full dress uniform and was immediately it was immediately suggested that he might go back to his quarters and dress more comfortably. So he came back in, still in, still in reasonable dress but with his shirt sleeves rolled up and he stayed until everybody had drunk enough or [laughs] or nobody else wanted serving with drinks and then he went back to his quarters but he was, he was a great man and the pictures show that there was a lot of feeling, a lot of big smiles that didn’t indicate that they were glad to see him go but they were happy for him.
MJ: On behalf of the International Bomber Command Archive I’d like to thank Warrant Officer Ted Beck for his recording on the 8th of July 2015 at his home. My name is Michael Jeffery and this is another thank you from us all.

Collection

Citation

Mick Jeffery, “Interview with Ted Peck,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8895.

Item Relations

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