Interview with Frederick Harold Shepherd


Interview with Frederick Harold Shepherd


Frederick joined the Royal Air Forcein 1941. After going to Cardington, he was given deferred entry and studied for a year at university. He was invited to London for initial training, followed by the Initial Training Wing at RAF Newquay. He did basic flying in Tiger Moths at RAF Clyffe Pypard before going for 15 months to different stations in Canada. He trained mainly on Ansons.
On his return, he went to Harrogate and was then posted to RAF Dumfries where he did a specialised bomb dropping course for Pathfinders. Frederick crewed up at RAF Chipping Warden and trained on Wellingtons. He did one operation, dropping leaflets over France.
Frederick then went onto Stirlings at RAF Chedburgh before Lancasters at the Lancaster Finishing School at RAF Feltwell. He carried out several operations with 218 Squadron at RAF Methwold. Frederick then moved with his captain to RAF Mildenhall when the latter was promoted. He carried out several operations on major cities. Frederick was appointed as bombing leader for 15 Squadron as well as the squadron adjutant.
Frederick was chosen to accompany Arthur Harris, flying with Charles Calder as a co-navigator. The crew were all section leaders. Frederick describes Harris’s personality and the leadership challenges he faced, expressing his sympathy and respect. Having refuelled in the south of France, they went through Africa and on to South America and the United States, arriving in Washington on VJ Day.
Frederick signed on for another six months and went to RAF Marham in the experimental unit for Manna before leaving the RAF.




Temporal Coverage




01:11:50 audio recording


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This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre the interviewer is Claire Bennett the interviewee is Mr. Frederick Shepherd, the interview is taking place at Mr. Shepherd’s home near Kings Lynn on 25th May 2015.
CB: Good Morning Frederick
AS: Good Morning

CB: Perhaps you could start by saying your date and place of birth please

FS: The date of my birth was 8th March 1921 and I was born at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Manchester

CB: Do you remember very much of your early life

FS: That’s either very detailed or very shallow, I was, put it this way, I was the first child of my mother and father, and my next brother, Douglas, was born in 1926, and my second brother, Ronald was born in 1934, at the moment all my family have departed this world so I am the only one left in the Shepherd family.

CB: And your early life until you joined the air

FS: I was schooled in Manchester and on leaving school I joined the company of South American Shipping Association and stayed with them until I went to the Air Force when I was twenty years of age.

CB: What made you join the Air Force

FS: Er, basic inclination was to fly and in that connection I applied to join the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm but I was assured that entry into the Fleet Air Arm was via the Royal Marines, and no one would give me any indication of the gap period between joining and possibly being transferred to the Naval Airforce so I immediately applied to join the Royal Airforce.

CB: And this would have been 1941 something like that

FS: 1941 yes

CB: So where was your first posting to

FS: Ah, I need to qualify that a little bit, I was accepted by the Royal Air Force, er, took physical and mental examinations at Cardington, er, was sent home on deferred entry and I went to Manchester and Salford University for extra schooling on mathematics, geometry, Royal Air Force Law and the Morse Code technique, and that covered the period of time ‘twixt me being accepted and actually being invited to join in London at my, at um er, for the entrance into the Royal Air Force proper.

CB: How long would that have taken about

FS: Twelve months, the training took twelve months

CB: Right, and then

FS: I went into London for initial training, and then to Newquay for what they called ITW that was the initial training wing, before being selected to go into flying which I did immediately I left Newquay I went into basic flying at place called Clyffe Pypard which is in Wiltshire. I’m curious by the by are we being recorded now?

CB: Yes we are

FS: That happened to be the initial training school for flying happened to be a private training school and one or two of the previous employers at the school were still there until young ex flyers that’s not Bomber Command but Fighter Command came to do the training and they were young men of nineteen, twenty, twenty one, and the next part I would not like recorded its purely of interest but not I don’t think it is for the record, I mean these sorry

CB: Would you like me to pause it

FS: Yes, just for your [pause]. So I was taken under the wing metaphorically of a young man who was nineteen/twenty years of age who obviously shown how good he was a flyer and then been sent on to this training base and I found him excellent as a flyer but virtually useless as a trainer because he had no tolerance of my ineptitude for flying [slight laugh] at all and he got all these various flying techniques slow rolls, shuffles, turns and all the rest of them and I was just clinging to the side of the aircraft hoping I wouldn’t fall out [laughs].

CB: What aircraft were you in

FS: Tiger Moths [laughs]

CB: Tiger Moths I see

FS: You’d sit there next to him doing slow rolls and you’d catch everything that was coming out the cigarette ends and everything else that was in there would hit you in the face you know and you weren’t supposed to hold the sides of the aircraft you were supposed to have your hand on the joystick and I didn’t, that’s all part of the fun [laughs], er um, from then what happened next, er yes, I had um, I was taken off all training because playing rugby I had a scratch on my right eye across the pupil and there was a danger that I might not be able to fly at all, so I was admitted to the hospital at Swindon and I was there for a while and finally I was released unconditionally the repair had been affected as far as my eyes but meanwhile I was taken off the training for weeks on end and I wondered whether I was going to go back again but I did, but of course I lost all the people I was with they were well on their way to Canada, shall we go on now?

CB: Yes yes please

FS: From then we were all posted, all prepared for despatch to Canada because they had set up this empire [?] air training scheme which was part in Canada and the other part in Port Elizabeth in South Africa where all this training for all all aspects of flying all duties were going to be covered and we were sent up to a waiting station in Manchester a placed called Heaton Park where the maximum holding of manpower was for two odd thousand and it built up to ten thousand and we had individuals who actually were finding homes to stay in in proximity to Heaton Park this was all because of the big problems in the Atlantic we were going to be sent off by the Queen Elizabeth first boat and because of the submarines and so forth they were diverted they were slowing everything down for obvious reasons and it came to a point there was a terrific overflow from Manchester and they sent a company of us down to the south coast just to deposit us for a while we had only been there for four days and the Germans had obviously been advised and they sent across a fleet and we had a lot of casualties because they caught one flight coming back from training exercise and we had suspected that when we heard the roar of these aircraft that they were English aircraft when in actual fact they were German aircraft who were attacking us and from there that we had only been there for three days and that night or following morning at about two o’clock in the morning we all paraded we went right along the full length of the promenade on both sides of the promenade to the railway station onto a train and we didn’t get off the train until we got off at Harrogate, and from then on we were there for a short period of time despatched to Scotland and for one night only and then onto the Elizabeth the following day and away to Canada.

CB: How long did it take to get to Canada

FS: Four and a half days.

CB: What were the conditions like on board

FS: What with twenty thousand, we ate twice a day and we heard about when we were going to eat and whatever when we got on the boat by having these tickets and mine said two o’clock in the afternoon and two o’clock in the morning and from two o’clock until six o’clock afternoon and evening I was on special guard duty for the whole trip and we were allotted that sort of guard duty from two until six two until six.

CB: And what did that involve

FS: Parading all round the ship like in the daytime, not so much from two am in the morning until six am in the morning round the decks and that was the job its not everybody who had that sort of assignment but when I got on board I was given that ticket which advised me that I was one of twenty one in the bridal suite and that I had these duties from two until six two until six [laughs].

CB: Were you on your own in this bridal suite

FS: No [emphasis] twenty one I was one of twenty one in the bridal suite.

CB: In the bridal suite

FS: Oh yes, seven three tier bunks.

CB: Oh I see

FS: Great fun [laughs].

CB: So you got to Canada docked at Canada

FS: No no we went into New York, we went into New York and then a train travel [?] the likes of which I had never experienced before on the train for about three days off to Canada and we ate and slept we slept on the luggage racks which you could pull down for luggage but we had to sleep on them we couldn’t sleep at all we went up to Canada a place called Moncton which was the assembly point at the beginning of our trip to Canada we went to several stations in Canada for different aspects of training of course.

CB: So from Moncton you went to

FS: Er, one two three four different stations and then the last station was a place called Ancienne Lorette which was outside Quebec City and from there the majority of them were six of us were commissioned out of the thirty six on the flight six of us all went to Prince Andrews Island for this GR training and the rest of them either went straight away into operations in the Far East, as one or two of my friends and colleagues did and the rest of us went to Prince Edward Island for six weeks and then came home and that was it, we were there for about fifteen months all told.

CB: And you were being trained on

FS: All aspects

CB: And you settled for and you ended up where

FS: I had nothing to do with it you were directed I came back here one of the after that they differentiated with you between your badges I got an observer badge fully qualified afterwards that changed to either air gunner or BA which is bomb aimer or N for navigator they split it.

CB: Just to go back to Canada a minute what was the accommodation and the food like from what you had been used to in the UK

FS: No comparison vastly superior because they had no restrictions there in actual fact and that meant either in the camp or going out into the town for dinner I mean the prices were very realistic and the food was superb because it was free choice so when we went into Quebec City itself in actual fact you could dine for silly prices and you had fantastic meals and that’s what it was.

CB: What aircraft did you learn on
FS: Mainly Ansons, mainly Ansons and we had one or two gunnery [?] trips on Beaufighters which I haven’t mentioned before Ansons and Beaufighter

CB: What did you feel about your time in Canada was it happy memories

FS: Oh it was superb long time we had we worked eight days and then had a day off that was the standard eight days and one day off until we arrived in Prince Edward Island surprise surprise there was a weekend we finished work and we had Friday and Sunday off we used to go oyster fishing off Prince Edward Island [laughs].

CB: What were your other recreations apart from oyster fishing

FS: Gymnasium and squash that was about it and walking of course did a tremendous walking lovely particularly from Quebec one amusing incident we a bunch of us went into Quebec to the cinema and when we came out at the end of the show there had been a five foot fall of snow which meant we couldn’t even get out of the entrance of the theatre there so we ultimately got out and one of us went into the the hotel there which I have got a photograpgh of and booked a room and twelve of us occupied the room for the night then we got back to camp the following day the camp was about fourteen miles so I mean it was either snow shoes or horse drawn sleds took us back the following day but that was one of the amusing incidents.

CB: So happy times in Canada

FS: Oh absolutely in the main yes great fun and then coincidence I suppose we came back on the Elizabeth again

CB: Same sort of routines

FS: Yes not quite as cramped [laughs]

CB: How did you feel going across the Atlantic I mean were you frightened you were going to be torpedoed

FS: I don’t think it entered any of our minds at all we changed course getting slightly technical we changed course every seven minutes on that boat which you could realise in actual fact if you were up on the bridge because you could see this in the water purely as a safeguard and we diverted as well south and then turned back again up into New York.

CB: You were you part of a convoy

FS: Oh no, oh no nothing could keep up with that boat that’s why it was superior to the submarines they ain’t got that speed so we got away with it just changing course every seven minutes which is standard procedure and it can be set up by equipment in those days so every day of courseyou can see it so later on in the day you can see where you are crossing because you had left a stream there purely to indicate you changing course and that was entirely automatic until we got into New York and we were only there for a short time but there again talk about hospitality when we got off the boat we were given a little bunch of cards with names and addresses on and [?] please give us a telephone call and it would be an automatic invite to their houses if they were in proximity to where you were and we used to go out while we were there until everything was ready or the onto the train and up into Canada but that was a very nice experience went to big shows called Sons of Fun at the gardens there and they made fun of us course but it was all lighthearted stuff yes but we were one of the early contingents obviously across there into the states and they made a fuss of us while we were there which we accommodated very well and they did it in Canada in Canada the same arrangement the first Christmas we were there two of us David and I went to stay at a family they called them Driscolls and they lived in Montreal they had three children and we were invited there to stay there as long as we want over Christmas they took us up in the mountains up to the top and had Christmas dinner up in the Laurentian Mountains as part of there hospitality suite it was really good.

CB: Wonderful

FS: Oh yes it was no it was and they were also wonderful they used to send parcels to my family in Manchester the Driscoll’s Mr and Mrs Driscoll used to send parcels to my family in Manchester and saying jumping ahead a lot now on our way back from South America when we landed in Washington on VJ Day imagine what that was like and then we flew on to Montreal and when in Montreal I phoned the Driscolls you’ll never guess within ten minutes they said you’re not staying at the Windsor Hotel they picked me up and took me home I had to have five [unclear] with them of course and that was an indication of the hospitality I phoned them and within minutes they were there with the car and I renewed acquaintance with them after several years in Montreal.

CB: How wonderful

FS: More about that later

CB: So you arrived back in Liverpool

FS: Um, no we arrived back in Scotland.

CB: And then what was the next stage of your

FS: Down to down to Harrogate and then on to – down to Harrogate posting to Dumfries where I did an extensive course of specialised bombing for Pathfinders not that was any indication that we were going to [unclear] but that was specialised in training in Dumfries with a Polish pilot by the by very good we used to do specialised bomb dropping as required in these aircraft which I suppose was a Wellington and then down to, er um, down to pick up my crew, yes that’s where I met Mcfarlane and the rest of my crew before we went into mess halls.

CB: And where did you do your crewing up

FS: At um – Chipping Warden near Banbury.

CB: Right

FS: Yes because then in actual fact we were [unclear] break of through Wellington so before that in actual fact we crewed up at this place called Chipping Warden that was Banbury that was a sub station for Banbury we did our crewing up and then went to Chipping Warden and then started flying on Wellingtons purely training didn’t do any operational flying from there I tell a lie we did one operational flight that was on VJ night we flew over France dropping thousands of leaflets.

CB: Would you like to explain the crewing up

FS: Yes certainly we would assemble there was no assembly you just went into a huge hangar and you just wondered around I suppose so that was in the main the captain of the aircraft and in my case that was Squadron Leader McFarlane and he had met one person of the crew at the railway station at Littleport and on the railway station before they got there the two of them had decided that Captain McFarlane would have this other fella and then we got into this hangar and we wondered around and picked up and are you crewed up would you like to join us and we gathered up the crew the two gunners, and then wireless operator the bomb aimers as was then the navigator and the captain and that’s how we formed up and from there we went on to Wellingtons and then Stirlings and then on to Lancasters.

CB: So you first OTU operational training unit

FS: That was at Chipping Warden yes

CB: And your first training your did you know your first training was it leaflets

FS: First training or first flight the first operational flight

CB: Yes

FS: Was on VJ night and on landing night when we dropped thousands leaflets over France

CB: Right

FS: Then from then onwards we went on to Methwold and then Mildenhall ah I am telling lies we went to – Chedburgh that was on to Stirlings no we did no that’s right we went onto Stirlings but before we did any operational flights on Stirlings we transferred to Lancasters so went to Lancaster Finishing School LFS which was at a place called Feltwell just down the road from here.

CB: What date would this have been

FS: I’ll have to check with my

CB: Roughly

FS: Forty end Forty Three beginning Forty Four as near as makes no difference.

CB: So you went from flying on Wellingtons

FS: Yes only the one trip

CB: Only one trip on Wellingtons

FS: Then we went on flying Stirlings but we never did operational flying then we went on to Lancaster Finishing School at Feltwell and then on to operations at Methwold.

CB: What did you make of flying in the Stirling

FS: We didn’t but we had no choice I mean as far as we were concerned when we went training on Stirlings that was the aircraft we were going to fly in operations it so happened coincidentally happily that the Lancaster was coming in and replacing the Stirlings and whateverother aircraft we got and that was going to be the aircraft in this part of the country as opposed to Halifaxes in the Lincolnshire area which was a different group as you realise here we were 3 Group Lincolnshire were that’s what 4 Group glorious place.

CB: So we are now on to now in Lancasters

FS: Right operational flying the usual now what details would you like then I would have to refer to my flying log book.

CB: Certainly lets know some of the targets you went to.

FS: Shall I get my book

CB: Yes that’s fine, Frederick if we could talk about your start the start of your Bomber Command experiences in the Lancaster, so could you tell us about well your first operation.

FS: Yes now lets just have a look and be precise that’s Lancaster Finishing School 208 Squadron Methwold operation was destination was Boulogne can’t imagine what that was about um daylight visit to Boulogne doesn’t mention anything about bombing at all, um then there was a four and a half flight to Dusseldorf that was a straightforward bombing exercise now that would be the one [unclear] Calais [unclear] Duisburg bomb target so it must have been that trip to Dusseldorf when we came back the following morning that we noticed several technical people were busy standing underneath our aircraft gazing up underneath the right the starboard wing of which there was a hole between the second and third petrol tanks [laughs].

CB: And that had been caused by

FS: That had been caused by a bomb being dropped from one of our aircraft above which had gone straight away through between the two tanks without exploding which it should have done on impact.

CB: Incredible

FS: Absolutely absolutely incredible and then we did several trips and – that’s [unclear] that transfer date [pause] ah there we are yes the transfer date to Mildenhall see how many trips we did there, Stuttgart Essen Volks[?]

CB: So you are bombing the major cities now

FS: Yes that’s up to about October forty four

CB: Were you involved in any of the Berlin raids

FS: No not one no scheduled for but cancelled what had happened in actual fact, [coughs] pardon me oh sorry lets go back please to Methwold again because that was I had been talking about our first bombing raid when we actually arrived at Methwold as a crew the previous night they had sent out twelve Lancaster aircraft and five came back which is a heavy loss for one station and we became part of the quite pathetic exercise of moving into accommodation which had previously been occupied by friends of ours and you know when anybody is lost they have a special committee set up particularly with officers and these officers were doing all their duty work and we were moving in the following day so it wasn’t a very good start as far as we were concerned but still we obviously we accommodated it but that was a heavy loss they sustained that night and then the this was the first operational operational job we came back and found that incident the following morning in our aircraft yes so going on now what more

CB: So you went from Methwold to

FS: So we went from Methwold to Mildenhall I’ll tell you about why there had been a loss at Mildenhall there was a vacancy for a new squadron commander and they appointed my captain Squadron Leader McFarlane and they agreed which was unusual they agreed for him to take his full crew so we all went so we were all transferred our affections to Mildenhall and then onwards

CB: And this was with 218 Squadron

FS: From 218 to 15

CB: Right [unclear]

FS: And here we are 15 Squadron at Mildenhall and when there was a loss our captain was a squadron leader so when there was a loss of a senior officer the group captain no it wasn’t a wing commander over they appointed our captain McFarlane to take over from him as a wing commander so he lost his crew for obvious reasons and that crew was taken over by a Squadron Leader Percy and at that point I was appointed I was taken out of the crew and appointed as bombing leader for 15 Squadron and I also I became squadron adjutant at the same time reporting again to my previous captain McFarlane so I was taken out of my crew at that time.

CB: What does being adjutant involve at that time

FS: All the clerical work on top of which I was the leader of the bombing section so I was actually the bombing leader which you had to have in every squadron he’s the guy who goes to all the early meetings to take advice for onward transmission to the people of what was going to happen that night so that was so I had those two jobs I had still when I was so I was then whipped out of my crew and another individual appointed to the crew which was then being handled by Squadron Leader Percy who had taken over from McFarlane so I lost my crew because of my other involvements and I stayed in that situation until surprise surprise I was advised that I had been selected to accompany Harris now the reason how they did that they obviously they wanted an aircraft and I will show the aircraft that had been modified afterwards they wanted what was I going to say, how they chose who was going to do what they chose 15 Squadron because it was the oldest squadron in the air force to do these flights for Harris and having chosen the aircraft from 15 Squadron they took out the leaders from each department bombing section navigation section [unclear] section and those leaders all were part of the crew that’s the crew I have got in the photograph next door so from that point onwards I was involved in away to Africa America Canada and everything and left the crew behind.

CB: So your operational life stopped

FS: It stopped

CB: How did you feel about seeing your crew going off and having been given these new duties

FS: Well I was immensely proud because I mean it was quite an assignment we were going to go on we had no idea at that time we’d only got the shadow of what was going on we knew he’d been invited I’m talking about Harris because he’d been in Africa before he came to England he was been in South Africa he’d been invited to various places and the South er the Brazilian Government had invited somebody out there to commemorate the arrival of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force which had gone to Italy and not fired a shot and got back home again and they declared a national holiday [laughs] and coincidentally we were due to be arriving in Rio de Janeiro before they arrived back and that was what that was all about.

CB: There must have been a terrific sense of comradery on you know when you were flying with your crew that you had been with such a long time.

FS: [laughs] of course yes but it had to be severed the initial severance was when I was appointed the bombing leader which immediately took me out because only on rare occasions I had one or two rare occasions when a particular crew would be short of a bomber for one reason or another and I stepped right into their jobs that was quite harrowing to be a foreigner so to speak with a crew because you get used to your crew their attitude their application and even their reaction to situations but to go with another crew I found that quite tough going yes I flew with a Canadian crew on one occasion and they’d had several very rough experiences with I’ll mention one a decapitated bomb aimer came back in the aircraft and there were others now the crew in relation to my crew which were far more disciplined but with respect they hadn’t gone through the sort of operation now that crew with whom I flew on their twenty second operation were very little discipline there at all I think they were very concerned about what had happened on their previous operations they bailed out and they had done lots of other things and I flew with them as the air bomber for them and I found that the disciplines were very sadly lacking which was reflected on the chattering that goes on over the telephone the intercom which was fairly evident but still that is by the by and you ride that situation which I did.

CB: Did you just fly the one operation with them

FS: Yes yes yes just the one

CB: And did your crew your original crew did they survive the war

FS: Yes they did yes yes yes they did, no they did yes in spite of all the losses yes yes

CB: So you are now given these new duties and the next thing you hear is that you are going to be flying with Harris

FS: Right

CB: And when did you first see him when did you first meet him

FS: At the first place before we were going to, let’s get the dates – where I finished up [flicking through pages of flying log] – it all started in July Forty Five.

CB: Oh so

FS: Yes July Forty Five it started that’s when I met up with Wing Commander Calder a scots ex dambuster and he came down and I started flying with him as a co-navigator and then that was just before the trip started now the actual trip do you want to go on to when the trip started.

CB: Well if we can go back to Calder what would had been your you know your trip tours after the war in July Forty Five what were you doing with Calder.

FS: He was the captain of the aircraft taking Harris around the world.

CB: I see

FS: Yes.

CB: Right so

FS: Calder was ex bomber no ex Dambuster Squadron yes that’s Wing Commander Calder double DSO double DSC no seriously he was only twenty one brilliant.

CB: Yes so he was the pilot

FS: Yes he was the pilot

CB: So you would be the

FS: I flew with two navigators on this

CB: So you were the navigator on this because obviously we weren’t this wasn’t any hostile flying involved.

FS: None at all

CB: It was just

FS: Hardly, hardly

CB: It was just taking Harris around

FS: Yes quite literally and all that went with it.

CB: So what did you make of Bomber Harris

FS: I found him most of all to if I used the term a gentle person obviously a very strict disciplinarian but in actual fact on a personal basis on the occasion when I was talking to him he was much a very relaxed bearing in mind with what he had to contend as I mentioned before it wasn’t an easy life for him at all he had to virtually fight for possession for his own force and he had the big people in government who were contesting him in many instances I could name names but there is no point until he finally bearing in mind as I mentioned before the junior service the first being the navy the second being the army were very much the junior service and he didn’t find he’d get his own way at all in spite of the plans he had laid and the proposal view put before the big people like Portal and others who didn’t entirely agree with him that getting behind the German war machine by tackling in reducing to ruins their equipment factories that were providing the aircraft and all the aircraft parts was what he wanted to get at he didn’t find it easy until apparently he did get his own way and that’s when the war then moved to the German armoured factories which was part of the beginning of the end so to speak so the rest of that in actual fact is devoted to flying we did the whole of Africa and then started off we should have gone we went to a little aerodrome in the South of France for refuelling then we should have gone to Crete but we got to Crete and they said on no condition that you land because we have got a fever that is sweeping through Crete which could be dangerous so we didn’t drop off at Crete at all our next port of call was Egypt and then we went right the way down Africa staying at various places until we got to Cape Town.

CB: What was the purpose of Harris’ travels

FS: There was really no purpose these were just invitations from these people overseas to express their appreciation of what he’d done for Bomber Command and in the longer term what he had done in the country in terms of accelerating the close of the war and I suppose a thank you for the fifty five thousand who died during the war because this came out in all his little addresses that he gave in actual fact he was conscious of that fifty five thousand he dropped it in quite loosely everywhere so that was the trip and we came back only for a short period of time and then went on to the South American trip flying down the west coast of Africa to a place called Bathurst and then flying across from Bathurst to North Brazil and down to Rio de Janeiro and then all the way back calling in at various places British Guyana etcetera etcetera etcetera up over Florida and landing on VJ Day in Washington for the big celebrations which we joined in and at that time met big people like General Arnold and General Eaker with whom he Harris had been negotiating years before for the Americans to come into the European war instead of devoting their care and attention to the Japanese which was arguably their main drive force in actual fact he was one of the individuals we had dispatched to America to talk it over and in fact these two individuals were present when we landed in Washington so it was quite a gathering quite a gathering yes.

CB: Do you know if Harris knew that they were going to drop the atomic bomb in August

FS: Oh yes

CB: He knew so was it timed that he would be in Washington at that

FS: No

CB: No

FS: He didn’t we did our trip across South America Rio de Janeiro Sao Paulo addressed the British community in Sao Paulo this is where the fifty five thousand came up again and purely by coincidence I met a young man there an Englishman who had completed his course at [unclear] university when I went there and he had transferred his affections to the equivalent of our administration organisation and he had joined that in Sao Paulo and as he mentioned he said if you ever thinking about coming over here do get in contact with me and we will see what we could do this was in Sao Paulo South America and we had that closeness in that part of our education of being in the same place at slightly different times we got round to discussion this and he said well wait a minute I was there too when were you there and I realised I had gone there when he’d left in Manchester quite astounding yes quite astounding [laugh] we kept in a bit of correspondence for a while but I had no intention of going to South America in actual fact at that time well by that time I had left [unclear] and was working in Mareham I had met the lady who was going to be my future wife who’d had a little girl whose husband had died and any thoughts of going out of England had gone she came from Kings Lynn in actual fact.

CB: So how long was this flight with Harris
FS: Oh right –

CB: Right Frederick so you have started with going around Africa and so on in July Forty Five and you actually came back in August Forty Five so do you look on that time as a pleasurable month did you enjoy doing what you did with Harris

FS: Oh fantastic I mean these places I had never visited before I’d never been to Africa before and we I say we just went to these various places in Africa stopping for two or three days and at each place from Cairo to Cayga [?] I mean as far as I was concerned that was fantastic we did all these wonderful things in the Sahara into the jungle at night time you name it we did it of all the places to stay in Nairobi we stayed at the Norfolk Hotel in that location and to things like seeing all the African workers sitting on the steps making things like I’ve got those forks knives and forks actually making them and selling them to us in actual that was a new experience going out on night time safaris going out on night time sing songs in the jungle and all that sort of thing we did going to moth and butterfly museums quite absolutely incredible.

CB: Did Harris join you for any recreations

FS: No, for some but mostly he was at a much higher level than we were and were concerned with our I mean we went to Mombasa we went down we did the big things like going down a gold mine for instance going down a gold mine and you go down a gold mine instead of going straight down there you go about seventy five degrees and six of you go down at a time two two two and you go down at a fantastic speed at about that angle that was the Wanderer Gold Mine and I’ve still got specimens I joke not I’ve got specimens of gold that they gave us at the gold mine fifty sixty years ago I’ve still got them I don’t know what they are worth but these are specimens inside that you see petrite [?] it’s called inside the petrite[?] is pure gold.

CB: Gold that would be worth now these days

FS: Oh bound to I might take it to see that fellow who does gold in Lynn he’d say oh thank you I’ll have this bit its worth a couple of pounds couple of pounds sorry I joke but no it showed I had a fantastic experience in those places we went to a place in Bathurst on the West Coast of Africa from which we flew to South America and we went they took us down to a cellar where the native bunch were all sitting on the floor making filigree and we could buy it and we could buy it for ridiculous prices I mean low low prices and we all bought our specimen as few of but actually to sit there and watch it being made that was a fantastic experience that followed not quite such a fantastic experience when we were landing in Bathurst a place called Halfdie [?] which has taken its name from the fact that they had a plague which wiped out fifty percent of it and thereafter named it Halfdie [?] and the last few hundred yards in we encountered a terrific sandstorm and we couldn’t see a thing out of the aircraft it was kind of landing by instinct and we got out of the aircraft and it was torrenting down and we were absolutely saturated and they persuaded us to strip off and put clothes on and they put all our clothes on to fast heaters so we went in there was a crisp uniform standing up in the corner which you had to break to get it on [laughs] like this crack crack crack it was quite ridiculous and we had a function an important function that night and there was our stuff we had to wear everything shirt vest and pants was rock hard [laughs].
CB: I assume Harris’ stuff wasn’t

FS: No he had six spare uniforms in his luggage that was incredible we had that photo they had just taken all our clothes away and woosh we’ll dry these for you [laughs]

CB: Now after the war if we can just conclude with Harris he didn’t wasn’t treated very well

FS: No no he wasn’t

CB: Nor was Bomber Command for that matter

FS: No no no

CB: Did you have sympathy with Harris at this time about how he was treated

FS: Oh yes I think we all did I yes I suppose even then the realisation of what sort of if I can put the wording in the battering he had to get his own way and the fact and even the fact that it was proven beyond any doubt that what that the plans he had put forward and etcetera which had met so much opposition at one time and then finally he got his own way and got the power behind his throne that he wanted to do what he wanted to do with Germany in spite of [unclear] and all that I suppose we all had a tremendous amount of sympathy and a tremendous amount of respect for his dogmatic approach in actual fact to get not his own way for words sake for getting his own way for the benefit which would be derived in him getting permission to do what he wanted to do and the result was the war came to an end so I suppose at that time we thought a great deal of him.

CB: And did you all think you know a great deal of him during the war when he was he had this programme

FS: Yes that was the general the general sentiment yes he didn’t mean admire he wouldn’t expect to meet any opposition at that it was patently obviously what we had to do and one was certainly not send the trained crews to handle the Atlantic war in spite of how vital that was I mean we talking about hundreds of thousands and when you look at the figures of what was going down ‘twixt and ‘tween American and where they were delivering the goods to place like Archangel and Murmansk North of Russia and then there was all those goods coming through Russia into the European war in spite of all that and the tremendous demands which were made upon him by as I say the Navy to send to have some trained forces so they could handle the Atlantic war well of course that wasn’t realistic in anyway there was nothing that we were doing in Germany to identify with anything to do with the Atlantic war that was something quite different admittedly they wanted the aircraft and unless they could have the aircraft and they could have the armaments to be able to drop bombs on submarines which was a bit wild gesture anyway that might have been might have made a contribution towards the more positive influence of all the shipping that was coming across the Atlantic than it did because we wouldn’t I remember the speeches in parliament by Churchill ex hundreds and thousands and thousands of tons of zinc had gone down and then the humanitarian aspect of how many they had lost at sea I don’t suppose any of us could identify that with sending trained Royal Air Force crews into the Navy to do what you know one of the things you were supposed to do to have a fleet of aircraft over the Atlantic dropping bombs on U-boats bearing in mind we had U-boats out there trying to blow the air out of the Germans anyway but that was I suppose that could have taken a different more important role entirely had that shipping gone down a more I mean with these vital elements that were arriving from America in Russia well it was a contributory factor obviously and hundreds of thousand tons going down in the Atlantic meant nothing at all to that building up that war coming down from Russia through Germany etcetera so we had a great deal of respect for him and he was a person who you had a great deal of respect for anyway not because of his position and his number of stripes in actual fact his dogged determination to get his own way for the benefit of not he for the benefit of the war.

CB: Well

FS: Sorry to interrupt but this came out in his speeches that he gave overseas in South America and the particular one we all attended in in Rio to the British contingent he was quite emotional about [unclear] the losses that had been sustained doing what he wanted to do.

CB: Of course Churchill after the war distanced himself from Harris.

FS: Oh yes yes

CB: His strategy and Bomber Command what do you feel about that

FS: We had a very strong feeling extremely strong feelings the war was over then we could say but wait a minute we succeeded but it wasn’t that easy in actual feel there was a tremendous amount of ‘oppo’ of course a lot was caused by the Dresden business that manifested itself too I remember that we haven’t touched on it yet Joy and I were specially invited to the memorial service the unveiling service for the house you’ve got all the details for that

CB: Yes

FS: Because I’ve got all the details just digressing for a moment only because of my association close association for a short period of time I had special dispensation to attend the church we had seats you had to pay for them but we had seats reserved at the church for the unveiling ceremony which was the Queen Mother of course.

CB: Yes

FS: And that was sorry to be digressing just for a moment and when we got the invitation it was a question of where it was so forth how you get there so forth and I said ‘oh there’s no point taking a car there’s thousands going there’ having a contact at The Savoy I phoned my contact and got a reservation in their garage for my car and again realised you come out The Savoy turn right and there’s the church so Joy and I went up there I was in full regalia medals and all chat chat chat[?] and went in there and had breakfast in The Savoy [laughs] there were people coming up and whats going on oh yes we’ve got something special going on down the road and then walked out the front and walked out and there was the church and we had reserved seats that was packed to capacity as of course the Queen Mother was there of course she performed the unveiling ceremony and again there was a terrific uproar in the background on her lefthandside at the back it was subdued but in actual fact it started off being very very rowdy and she continued on with her little citation for the opening and it came very interesting from Joy and I point of view my group captain from Mildenhall was then the chairman of the Bomber Command Association and his duty on that particular day was to escort the Queen Mother round and into the law courts where we were having [unclear] or teas coffee whatever I mean so he took and upside in his wheelchair was Cheshire so we could shake hands with Cheshire that’s purely by the by and we got inside and we wondering how difficult this is you’ve got two hands a cup in one hand a plate in the other one said help yourself and we were in this sort of situation and a voice boomed out it was my group captain ‘Shepherd would you bring your good lady over’ and we were introduced to the Queen Mother as spontaneous as that no preparation at all so Joy went across and was presented on the spot that was a lovely instance and that was my group captain.

CB: Yes

FS: From Mildenhall so where have we got to as far as your concerned

CB: I know that you were involved even on a slight degree with Operation Manna

FS: Oh yes on experimentation that’s right

CB: So how did you come to be involved in that

FS: There wasn’t much and I signed on for an extra six months no I’m getting things out of timing I came back to Mildenhall and everybody had gone all the bodies had gone all disappeared and there was [unclear] bombing leader who would need a bombing leader after the war [?]

CB: This is April Forty Five Right

FS: That’s absolutely right and I had come back I had finished full of my trips overseas America and everything else and that was excitement at the tail end of when we arrived in Washington of course it was madness and from there we flew up to Duval which is Montreal in the Lancaster of course in preparatory for coming home and we flew off from there and landed in Newfoundland and took off for the trip back to Prestwick which the navigator and I the two of us that was going to be an entirely star navigation back home as an experiment two three thousand miles so we dropped all the mechanics we concentrated on star shooting with our cameras and moon charts and we got a freak tuning from Prestwick two thousand three hundred miles from Prestwick so that pointer came there and we had a beam it up so that we could tell exactly where we were coming over the county it was fine we had a fire on the outboard engine on the starboard side of the aircraft a fire no problem just press the button to extinguish it, press the button to extinguish it, nothing happened so we had a fire in the starboard engine so the only think that Calder could do we were probably about twelve fourteen thousand feet high was to put the aircraft into a very steep dive and it worked it blew the fire out the engine so on investigation we found that when we dropped into Duval for final check up they had not put the fuses back into the system so [sighs] it was a toss up shall we turn back into Newfoundland rather than risk anything and that’s where they confirmed there were no fuses in the fire system whatsoever so we thought we’d choose this got airborne and came back to Prestwick [laughs heartily] but these things what happen we could have gone down there and had no well they wouldn’t know well they would have had a rough idea of where we’d gone down but fat lot of good that does [laughs] well yes that was the spot yes you can see it no can’t see any bubbles a simple thing like that happen yes and that was on the return flight. So back now Manna

CB: Right Manna

FS: So when I came back to Mildenhall there was no job for yours truly but they had a vacancy up the road in Mareham in the experimental unit for Manna and not much alternative I had my service to do and I wanted a job so I was posted in actual fact to take over this Manna thing now that involved researched into a sort of canister that we were handling that had to go on board laden with goods and lifted up into the bomb bay and writing up a report and making recommendations and so forth and on one could be tragic as far as I was concerned we got everything ready we got a pannier fixed inbetween these two containers with whatever to make weight and upstairs one of the armament people was controlling the hoist and halfway up the hoist gives way and I am standing with my hands on the edge of the thing and I took my hand and the whole of the thing crashed down into the pannier it would have just taken it off at the wrist and we looked at the hoisting gear it was clearly marked ‘US’ and they had used it oh there was a terrific stink because the person actually totally responsible was the person doing the mechanical winding upstairs was clearly marked anyway but that’s the time I could have easily lost my two wrists so I continued on my balance on my extra six months writing up reports and so forth and then I left the Air Force.

CB: So for Operation Manna the supplies couldn’t be dropped by parachute so they were in these cannisters.

FS: Yes they were an oblong framework and supported with release gear [unclear] by the pound in actual fact these are the continued developments experiments if you like that we were conducting and it was changing fairly rapidly what was being called for because we were getting reports back from Holland and Belgium on how things were landing and what sort of degree of damage occurred etcetera and what was the ideal height for dropping and they were putting up these tremendous haystacks I suppose you could call in actual fact them to cushion the thing and they worked then I came away from the operation so they built these fields with twenty foot haystacks totally soft so they cushioned everything so the percentage of damage incurred by the contents was minimalised and that was when I came away came out.

CB: So you really finished with the war with Operation Manna and taking Harris out two positive ways to finish the war.

FS: Oh very much no question about that I assure you

CB: Rather than finishing it off on a bombing mission

FS: Yes yes absolutely

CB: And how did you feel when you you know

FS: Well tail end of course the humanitarian thing came in and it was the most simple thing in the world in Kings Lynn at the Dukes Head throughout the war every weekend every Saturday evening throughout the war they had an officers invitation dance at the Dukes Head Hotel and they meant officers and it was at one of these occasions at the officers dance I went along there and surprise surprise I met Joy who was on about her second time out having lost her husband who was a bomber pilot university bomber pilot straight from university straight in.

CB: They had their own squadrons didn’t they

FS: Absolutely yes he did complete his first tour of thirty trips came out unscathed was sent to train pilots who were going to be involved in the dropping of a bridge too far sort of thing he did all his training and he was called back to do his second tour of operation and on his second trip on his second tour went down coming back from Cologne and left Joy with a little girl she was then three and I met her and got married.

CB: What did you do after the war

FS: I worked for a company called Nestle on the sales side and I became responsible for recruitment and training and development for the whole organisation I was with them for thirty years wonderful company international of course head office in a lovely place called Vevay in Switzerland on the banks of the lake and I was with them for

CB: Did you live out there

FS: No went but no lived in England moved about England when Nestle moved their head office into Croydon and had this twenty two storey block the first one they had seen in Croydon and they occupied the whole of the building because they brought in all the associated companies into one building the associated companies being the likes of Kieler, Crosse & Blackwell, Toblerone, Findus all the associated companies which were dotted around that all came into the head office twenty two storey block in Croydon so I was there until I retired and then I started work.

CB: How would you sum up your time in the Second World War and Bomber Command

FS: Well it’s tough I mean apart from being revolutionary of course which it is to my mind I don’t know what would have happened if I had stayed with the South American Shipping Association which was involved obviously in shipping goods to South America and that came to an[unclear] end at the start of the war because you couldn’t expect boats to go out there so there was no job so that’s a bypass so answering your question because it’s obviously so revolutionary and so different to what it would have been and I couldn’t imagine what I would have done had I not gone into the Air Force well I suppose life would have been fairly steady progressing with an organisation and at some stage deciding I wasn’t going far enough fast enough and getting out but I mean that was wiped off by going into the Royal Air Force.

CB: So you obviously had to volunteer so did you

FS: Ah you can’t go into the Air Force Royal Air Force without being a volunteer.

CB: No

FS: As you know

CB: Yes

FS: So I had to volunteer I had to go into the Air Force after I had tried to go into the Navy fortunately the Air Force they said yes please thank you rather than the Navy did no no no [laughs].

CB: So well a time really of excitement danger new experiences

FS: A mixture of all of those I mean the new experiences were embodied in the African trips and so forth and at the end when we were coming home from Africa we spent some time in Greece in Italy on the way back so it was really a very comprehensive trip and whilst we down in particularly Rio de Janeiro that was absolutely fantastic I mean you have seen pictures of it Copacabana Beach but we went out to place called Quichaninnia [?] about seventy miles out we had never ever I had never in my life seen a hotel like that out there it had its own everything I mean I mentioned things seventy pianos for a concert seventy pianos indoor and outdoor ballroom indoor and outdoor swimming pools and it was situated actually on the banks of a river so you could get out at night time and go right the way up the river which were all lit from this Quichaninnia [?] Hotel all lit right up into the hills fantastic place.

CB: So these are all experiences that you wouldn’t have had.

FS: I could have afforded it we were honorary members of everything when we arrived there golfing club swimming club the lot they’d opened everything and across the bay from the statue you know it’s the English quarter and that was fantastic a bit of England on the opposite shores of Rio de Janeiro.

CB: Wonderful it’s been fantastic and interesting to hear all your experiences so thank you very much Frederick.

FS: It has if it identifies with what you are looking for fine yes.


Clare Bennett, “Interview with Frederick Harold Shepherd,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 2, 2024,

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