Interview with Derrick Stubbs


Interview with Derrick Stubbs


Derrick Stubbs joined the RAF at 17, after lying about his age after previously being told he was too young by the army recruiter. After training at Catfoss, Derrick was posted to Egypt and was attacked by U-boats on route. Derrick did some training to become an air gunner. He worked as an armourer’s assistant in 73 Squadron servicing Spitfires and Hurricanes and then became a full armourer. Derrick then joined 40 Squadron as a rear gunner in Wellingtons partaking in 22 operations over Germany, Italy and Yugoslavia flying from Foggia. Derrick talks of the living conditions whilst stationed in Tunis and Italy and how being an air gunner was a dangerous place to be. Derrick also talks of boxing in his off time and a match between the RAF and Army and recalls being in rest and rehabilitation in Catonia. Concludes with being Dereck talking about being demobbed, working as a clerk in the stock exchange in London, and his promotions. Finally speaks of his admiration for Churchill and the legacy of Bomber Command.








00:46:52 audio recording


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 and


AStubbsD150930, PStubbsD1501


AS: Ok. Well I think we’re, I think we’re ready. I think we’re ready to go.
DS: Ok.
AS: Fine. So –
DS: Should I start off by how I got in to the air force?
AS: Yes. That would be very useful. I’ll just introduce it. This is Andrew Sadler speaking to Derrick Stubbs on Wednesday the 30th of September 2015 for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive. So, yes Derrick.
DS: What happened?
AS: Tell me how you got into the RAF.
DS: I had two older brothers who were both called up for the army. And at seventeen years of age I was very jealous of them and rather silly but I decided I’d like to get into the forces. So I joined the Royal Fusiliers Cadets and I did training with them from the age of — age of fourteen. After two years I decided I really wanted to go into the army properly so I went to Croydon to the recruitment centre and lined up to join. And the guy said, ‘I’m sorry but you’ll have to come back when you’re eighteen.’ Well, I wouldn’t be beaten so as I left the army recruitment centre, I walked across the road and the Royal Air Force were recruiting. So, I went into their recruitment centre and told a lie and told them I was eighteen and they didn’t check up at all. I just signed. Therefore, much to my parent’s annoyance, a few weeks later I got my calling up papers to go to Catfoss. Up north to recruitment. So that’s how it all began.
AS: Tell me what, what — tell me about your parents. Was your father in the first war?
DS: No. My father was in Canada during the first war. He was asked to go out there and do some armament work. No. He wasn’t in the forces at all.
AS: Ok. So you were in the RAF at the age of seventeen.
DS: Absolutely. By telling lies. They thought I was eighteen. So [laughs] so I was young and stupid.
AS: So, so what about your training?
DS: So, after six months at recruitment they posted me to Egypt via the South African route during which we were attacked by the Germans. U-boats. And we had to call in at Durban for six weeks while we were hiding away and then we came out again and continued our journey to Egypt. Then I got off the boat at Egypt, in the Suez Canal and they posted me to a centre for the RAF just outside Alamein. So, I stayed there and did some training to become an air gunner.
AS: And what year was this?
DS: This was 1942. ‘41/42. Yeah. 1941. And so I did some training at a centre for — to become an air gunner and then they posted me to a squadron of Spitfires and Hurricanes. 73 Squadron, which was a Spitfire and Hurricane squadron and I was there as an armourer’s assistant for a while. Then I passed the course and became a fully trained armourer. So, they used to go on dogfights and come back and I’d re-arm the various planes. So, we went all the way with the 8th Army. From Alamein right up to Tunis, North Africa. Step by step by step by step stopping at various airports on the way. And then after being at Tunis for a while they decided they wanted to invade Italy. So, we landed, our squadron landed at Foggia in Italy and from there we went to an airport called Foggia which is in the middle of Italy. And we landed there. So, I was there when they were doing raids over Yugoslavia. Not called Yugoslavia any more. But various raids. So, after a while they were looking for recruitments for air gunners so I left 73 Squadron and joined 40 Squadron as a rear gunner on Wellington bombers. And so, I stayed at 40 Squadron in Italy for a period of time during which I did twenty two operations over Germany, Italy, Northern Italy, Yugoslavia. That area. So, I was overseas for four years. Four years for a single man and three years for a married man was the sentence you got. Sentence is the wrong word isn’t it [laughs] but that was the word. They told me I had to do four years. So, after four years I came back to England for a year and then of course I was demobbed.
AS: As I, I understand that the rear gunner was the most dangerous place to be.
DS: It was. Yes. It wasn’t a [pause] it had its moments. Yes. I was, I was very lucky to survive but then I didn’t go over Germans as often as some of the other planes did. So, we were train busting in Yugoslavia. We used to dive low and then strafe the trains as they were bringing the Germans in. The German troops were coming in. We used to strafe the trains. So that was the most — most the jobs were there. Obviously used to come back and there were bits of shrapnel here, bits of shrapnel there. It was amazing really. It was only a — the Wellington bomber was fabric covered so shrapnel used to go pfft pfft and go straight through. And it was a bit draughty [laughs]
AS: I mean what sort of losses did your squadron sustain?
DS: Quite, I would say, whilst I was there there must have been — just go by the sergeant’s mess. I would say there were sometimes as much as forty over a period of eight weeks. Six weeks. You know. Probably about forty. Used to go into the sergeant’s mess at night and say, where’s so and so and they’d say, ‘Oh. Won’t be back.’ That was a bit heart rending because you made, we were such close pals. The comradeship was amazing. We were such close buddies you know. It was really like a family. It was [pause] tears come into my eyes when I think what happened.
AS: When you, you said you did about twenty different sorties?
DS: Yeah.
AS: And how far apart were they?
DS: Sometimes about a week. A week at a time. We just got back and waited for the call to come again and we got to do another raid.
AS: But you were there four years.
DS: Yeah. Yeah.
AS: So –
DS: I was in the air force for a whole four years.
AS: Oh, I see.
DS: Yeah. But actually flying was for about eighteen months. Yeah.
AS: Right. So perhaps it wasn’t quite as dangerous as the, some of the British bombers that were going from Britain.
DS: It wasn’t like the thousand bomber raids that they used to have over Germany.
AS: No.
DS: We didn’t have the amount of casualties they had because, you know, train busting was one way traffic although they did fire at us of course ‘cause they had machines on some of the trucks so that’s why we sometimes got hit. Fortunately, we survived that. So –
AS: Can you describe what the preparation was when you went out on a mission?
DS: On a mission. All the aircrew. Bill Murphy was the pilot and he was an absolute gem. He would give me a call and he’d say, ‘Oh Stubbs,’ because they always, they always never called you by your Christian name. ‘Oh Stubbs. We’re taking off tomorrow. So whose side are you going to be on this time?’ He was a hell of a joker. So, I said, ‘Well, if you behave yourself I’ll be on your side.’ So he said, ‘We’re taking off tomorrow. We’ve got to be ready. Out at the — the liberty truck will take us out to the plane. We’re going to leave at 6.20. So make sure you’re all ready and have you checked your guns the night before to make sure they’re clean and everything spotless?’ ‘Oh absolutely.’ He gave us the instruction and then the following morning the, well one of the, not the, one of the helpers woke us up and said, ‘Hey, you’re off today.’ One of the actual airmen that used to wake us up.
AS: How many of you were on the crew?
DS: There was seven altogether. Yeah. So, there was a front gunner, rear gunner. There’s a picture outside of the Wellington bomber that I was in. Quite interesting. If you look outside here.
AS: Yeah.
DS: There’s a picture there.
[pause — leaves the room]
DS: That’s me. I haven’t changed at all. That’s a twin engine. And I used to sit there. And those were all the medals we got.
AS: [unclear]
DS: Yes, you could. Yeah. That means with the various bullets people fired — that’s a twenty millimetre. That’s a fifteen. And that’s a 303. Yeah.
AS: Can you — what sort of living conditions did you have when you were there?
DS: Not too bad. In Italy it wasn’t too, wasn’t too bad. On the desert campaign at Alemain up to Tunis food was a bit short. So, we lived really on corned beef. Corned beef. Corned beef. Corned beef. And dry biscuits. So, yeah and, of course, the Germans when we got to a place where we were going to have an oasis to drink they’d put poison in the water so we couldn’t. Never had any water. Had to go about a hundred miles and get some water in the bowser to come back but they flooded the blooming oasis with blooming poison. Dirty trick isn’t it?
AS: So where did you sleep? Did you —
DS: We were all under canvas. Four in a tent.
AS: And was that —
DS: Four in a tent.
AS: That must have been quite hot.
DS: Hot and cold and wet. Yes. It wasn’t very comfortable. No.
AS: And tell me about the relationship between the officers and the others. You were a sergeant I believe.
DS: I was a sergeant. Yeah. There was a good comradeship amongst us all but when we were in Foggia there was an American squadron on the other side of the airfield. What a difference they had with the names that both senior officers you called Joe or Bill where you had to say Mr Murphy. But they were so casual with their sort of friendship from the senior officers to the lowest ranks. Much more casual. It was much nice when we were invited over to the Americans because they were better fed than us. Yeah.
AS: So, the, your captain — what rank was he?
DS: Bill Murphy was a flight lieutenant.
AS: He was a flight lieutenant.
DS: Yeah. Yeah.
AS: So, he was an officer.
DS: He was an officer. Yeah. Yeah. So. He came from York. They’ve all passed away.
AS: Did you, so I mean, would, did the officers, did they live separately to the ranks?
DS: Oh yes. Very much so and food was a bit better than ours.
AS: Was it?
DS: Oh definitely. Yes.
AS: It sounds extraordinary.
DS: Yeah.
AS: And when you had, I mean when you were billeted you’d obviously got a lot of time there when you weren’t actually flying.
DS: Yeah.
AS: And what did you do then?
DS: Well, I used to walk out into the country and there was boxing. There was physical exercise and everything. In fact, I went in for one boxing match and I remember there was an Irishman called Bunty Doran in the army and it was the RAF versus the army in a boxing match. So, the boys said, ‘Derrick you ought to go up for this, you know. They need a middleweight.’ So, I said, ‘Oh, well, I’ll have a go at it. Yes. Ok.’ So, I did training for about a week or so. The boxing match came up. This Bunty Doran came out. An Irish guy. And as we were shaping up I just hit him a couple of times. I thought this is going to be good. And with that he took a whack [laughs] I was out in ten seconds. Didn’t know any more. And on the way back on the liberty truck the guys said, ‘Oh that was bad luck. Wait till next time.’ ‘I said, ‘There’s not going to be a next time.’
AS: So, when you [pause] can you describe what it was like actually being in the, in the aircraft when you were out on a mission?
DS: I will try my best. First of all, your stomach used to turn over as you took off. And then you had perhaps three quarters of an hour or an hour. You could sit there and relax and be ready. And then over the target you never knew from one minute to another so it was really nervous all the time. Eyes like this. Everywhere. In case there were fighter planes following or something which happened on a couple of occasions. A fighter plane came and I strafed it, you know. And it dived away. Whether I got it or not I don’t know. But that was a bit spine chilling when you had to sit there ready for anything could happen. You never knew from one minute to another. I’m telling you more than I have ever told anybody else.
AS: How did you, I mean how did you cope with that emotionally or psychologically?
DS: As soon as you got back in to the billet all your shivering and — it just disappeared, you know and it helped with all the other guys all blooming laughing and joking. They were. It disappeared. And then they would announce that Number 4 Squadron was going to take off at 0700 hours the following day and you’d think oh here we go again. So, it’s amazing how quickly you recovered. One because I was young. Young and stupid but amazing how you recovered and went back quite calmly when the lorry came to take us around to the various planes to climb through. You’d think oh here we go again.
AS: So, when you, when you left Egypt you came back to Britain. That was before the end of the war.
DS: So, I did a whole tour. They sent me back to Sicily after I’d done quite a few operations because it was affecting me physically. You know. It was knocking me to pieces. So, they sent me back to Catania. To a rest and leave camp and so I was there for quite a while recovering because I was getting a bit shaky. And then, then they sent me back to Tobruk for all reasons which was right in the blooming desert. They sent me back there ready to join a Lancaster squadron but it didn’t happen because they posted me back to Cairo because the war was finishing. So, I finished up back at Cairo driving a lorry of all things. After doing all the aircrew stuff I had a three tonne lorry we used to drive from the actual city to the airport. City to the airport. So, I was an DMT driver. Motor Transport. While I was waiting to get back to England. And then of course we got the boat from Egypt by an Italian crew. The actual boat was packed with soldiers, sailors, air. Absolutely packed with troops. It ran into an island off Sardinia so we were all, we were shipwrecked. The boat began to sink so the HMS Ark Royal came and rescued us. So we all had to get off the boat, go on a little boat out to the Ark Royal and then climb on the Ark Royal and we finished up back in Egypt again.
AS: How did you come to be on a boat with an Italian crew? Weren’t they the enemies?
DS: No. The war had finished and the Italians, you know, then became our friends. The Italians, you know, I met a lot of Italians. Their heart wasn’t in the war from day one. You know. They really, you could tell by their defeats that they were so easily beaten. Their heart wasn’t in it. Mussolini forced them in to it of course. But yes, it was an Italian crew. But that was, so, that was I thought oh God I shall never get home. It was called the Medlock Route. So, what we did — you leave Egypt, you go to Southern France and then you get a train from southern France right across France and then a boat would pick us up and take us across the channel. So that was quite an end. After four years I thought I’d never get back.
AS: So how, how long were you out of England altogether?
DS: Three years.
AS: Three years.
DS: Yeah. Over three years. Yeah.
AS: So really pretty well most of your time.
DS: Yeah. Really all the time was overseas. Yeah.
AS: And when were you actually demobbed? Was it after came got back to England?
DS: Yeah. After we got back I was posted to Reading and in the MT section. Motor Transport section. And just waiting to get demobbed which took about six months before my number came up. So, I was stationed at Reading waiting to get demobbed. Yeah.
AS: And how did you, how did you acclimatise back to civilian life?
DS: Not too bad because just before the war, before — I worked at the Stock Exchange as a clerk at the Stock Exchange. That’s how I became a Cadet for the Royal, Royal Fusiliers. Because they had a recruitment centre there. I went back to the Stock Exchange and adapted to becoming a clerk again in an office. Adapted fairly easily. Yeah.
AS: And did you, did they keep your old job for you?
DS: Well, I was only the office boy. Yeah. So, the job was open. Yeah. I could go back. I didn’t stay there long. I went from one stockbrokers to another stockbrokers for more money. Yeah. I heard of another job going at a bigger stockbrokers who were paying more money and I left and joined that other one. So, I stayed at the Stock Exchange for quite a few years and then I heard that American banks were opening in London. So, I got a job with the Chase National Bank which was then one of the largest banks in the world. So, I worked for Chase for quite a few years. Picked up a lot of experience because I didn’t have the, I left school at fourteen. I didn’t have a very high education but I did pick up things quite good. And I’d been at The Chase for about ten years and another American bank came in to London. City Bank. And one day I had a telephone call. ‘This is’ — I’ve forgotten his name now. So and so of City Bank. ‘Derrick would you like to join me for lunch one day?’ So, I said, ‘Well yes. I could do.’ So, I went and joined him for lunch. He said, ‘How long have you been with Chase?’ And, I told him. So he said, ‘Well, what a job?’ ‘I do international financial loans for companies.’ You know. Running in to millions sometimes. So, he said, ‘Would you be interested in joining us?’ I said, ‘Oh I don’t know.’ He said, ‘What’s your salary?’ So, I told him my salary. ‘Supposing I doubled your salary?’ And said, ‘Do you get a company car? I said, ‘No I don’t.’ He said, ‘Well, you get a company car. Would you be interested?’ [laughs] ‘When do I start?’ And when I went back to the bank. The American bank — what was his name but he was a [unclear] He was from Dallas. But I went back. I said [pause] Why can’t I remember his name? Oh, Mr Felder. Oh, Mr Felder. Dean. We used to call him — being an American they always their first name. ‘Oh, Dean. I thought I’d tell you that I’ve decided I’m going to leave.’ ‘Oh, Jesus Christ. How much do you want?’ I said, ‘Oh, Dean, I wouldn’t do that because I’d given Chase my word that I would join them.’ You know. So, he said, ‘Ok. Well tell the messenger, the head messenger to, when you go out the door to lock the door so you can’t come back.’ Silly bastard. So that was, I suddenly — I went right up. I became a vice president.
AS: Oh God.
DS: Amazing. With a fourteen year old education.
AS: Excellent. Did you, did you keep in touch with your comrades from the RAF?
DS: For a long time but they, they’ve all died. Not, not one left.
AS: No.
DS: But Bill Murphy invited me up to York and it was touching really. Almost brings tears to your eyes. So when, and he had a big house. He was a monied man and, ok, he said, ‘Come up for the weekend. To York.’ So, I went up there. One night there was a knock at the door and he said, ‘Answer the door Derrick can you, because I’m busy.’ I answered the door and there was little Jock. He was the rear, he was the front gunner. And there was little Jock there. ‘What are you doing here you arsehole?’ [laughs] So he was the only one left. So, the front gunner and I was the rear gunner and the pilot was there. So –
AS: How long ago was that?
DS: Oh, a long time ago. Oh, years ago. It was soon after we came back. Yeah. All gone.
AS: And were the rest of the crew, were they all British or were there Canadians and –?
DS: Yeah. All British
AS: They were all British.
DS: Yeah. Yeah. All British yeah. Yeah. Wouldn’t be now though would it? In fact, you know, on 73 Squadron, the Spitfire and Hurricane squadron, it was all white. There were no black people at all. Not one black person. Wouldn’t be these days would it?
AS: No.
DS: If you leave the front door here and you’re outnumbered almost immediately.
AS: How did you, I mean when, I mean you must have had — what sort of social life did you have when you were in the –?
DS: Oh, very good. Yeah. I used to sing a song, “Nobody loves a fairy when she’s forty.” When we were in the mess they’d say, ‘Come on Derrick. Give us a song.’ So, I used to sing, “Nobody loves a fairy when she’s forty. Nobody loves a fairy when she’s old. She may have magic power but that is not enough. They like their bit of magic from a younger bit of stuff.” And they used to make me sing that when I’d had a few drinks. And there were other guys that would get up and there used to be a real comradeship. It was amazing.
AS: But you couldn’t have had any girlfriends out there.
DS: No. Not one.
AS: No.
DS: Not one.
AS: When you went overseas did you get any choice about where you went or did they just decide?
DS: They just told you where. You had no choice. No. No. You just finished up where they said.
AS: So, you just did as you were told.
DS: Yeah.
AS: And why? Do you think there was any particular reason why they sent you overseas rather than — rather than stay in the UK?
DS: I can’t think of a reason. It just, just your luck. I suppose 73 Squadron decided they wanted to go to Alemein and they started recruiting. And so, the guy, the air force head office — him, him, him, him, him, him. And that’s it. yeah. Just how it happened
AS: And was all your work in Halifaxes?
DS: It was the [pause] the Wellingtons to begin with. The twin engine Wellingtons.
AS: Yes.
DS: And then the [pause] not Wellingtons. I’ve forgotten the name of the other plane now.
AS: Lancasters.
DS: No. Lancasters were too big. It’s out there. No. The Wellingtons was a twin engine bomber.
AS: Yes.
DS: That which is out there. I’ve gone. Gone to pieces. I can’t think what it was now. But it was a Wellington to begin with. Yeah. Oh, because on the desert campaign I was just an armourer on the Spitfires and Hurricanes.
AS: Oh right.
DS: Yeah. Yeah. It was only when we got to Italy they asked for volunteers to become air gunners. That’s when I joined the Wellington bomber squadron. Yeah. Amazing.
AS: And why did you volunteer for that?
DS: Because I’m stupid. My dad used to say —
AS: I mean if you were, if you were arming —
DS: Yeah.
AS: The planes on the ground that would seem to be like a fairly safe occupation.
DS: I know. I know,
AS: But the rear gunner was the reverse.
DS: I know. It was a sort of [pause] I don’t know. I was a bit bored and I put my hand up.
AS: I mean was it considered a bit more glamourous to be flying?
DS: I suppose it was. The money was a bit better. But really, you know, that silly age. You didn’t, didn’t think about the danger. You think you’d be.
AS: Did you get increased rank for it?
DS: Yeah. They made you acting sergeant. Just a temporary. Temporary sergeant while you were flying but immediately you’d finished flying they’d take the sergeant’s stripes off so you become a leading aircraftman again. Yeah. So, it was only a temporary, temporary thing.
AS: Right. So, there was no great increase in status.
DS: No. No. Not really. It was just you had better quarters to sleep in as a sergeant. There was only like two in a tent whereas usually other ranks was four in a tent. So, different. It’s difficult to say. Why the hell did I put my hand up to become aircrew? But there we are I was surrounded by thousands of other aircrew. You did silly things in those days.
AS: And you were obviously very young. You were. How old were you then?
DS: Eighteen and a half. Nineteen.
AS: Yeah. And presumably you were a year younger than they thought you were.
DS: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was quite an experience. Four years. A long time.
AS: What do you think about the legacy of the, of the Bomber Command? Because the Bomber Command — many people think they weren’t given sufficient credit for the work that they did after the war.
DS: I think. Well I think, I think they were given credit for it. I mean, it’s difficult to say really. Difficult to answer that question. You had a certain amount of pride to say that you were a rear gunner but I don’t know. But it was a amazing time. You know. You’d go in to the mess at night and there would be half a dozen missing. And you would say oh so and so. ‘Oh he got it today.’ ‘Well I saw him. His plane landed. Would I hear from him again?’ ‘Maybe.’ You know. It was when you got back and talked it over it became sort of a lump in your throat because the night before you were laughing and joking with them. So it did hurt.
AS: What’s the —
DS: Amazing blokes though. They were really amazing blokes. You couldn’t believe in the mess the night before we were flying off how they were laughing and joking and playing all sorts of tricks. Climbing up the posts. Absolutely daft as anything.
AS: Presumably it wasn’t a good thing to go flying if you’d got a hangover.
DS: No. No. But then it certainly — well we were drinking Vermouth and Italian wine of course. There wasn’t any beer available but we used to get a bottle of Italian wine from the local people. To knockback Italian wine.
AS: What, what did you think of Bomber Harris before or during the war?
DS: I have a certain amount of pride for him. Yeah. Yeah.
AS: You thought he was a very —
DS: Yeah. Yeah. He was. He was very good. He had a rotten job to do. A rotten job. I mean he was sending people to their deaths wasn’t he? But there was no way of — it had to be done. Had to be done. I don’t think you could criticise him for the way he acted. Had to send so many people to their deaths. Yeah.
AS: And Churchill. What do you think his —
DS: Lovely. I love him. My father was with municipal works in the Strand and quite high up as a builder and Churchill used to come around the West End and look at various buildings that had been bombed. And my father had to show him around sometimes and he said that Churchill was rather blunt in his language. And things like that. But he said — my dad liked him. Yes. He was a man’s people. And troops liked him as well. Liked his style. Yeah.
AS: And is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
DS: Well. Not really. I mean, just general chit chat. And of course like everything else. An American stayed here because working for the Bank of New York I’d still got contacts in America. So, this guy came over and stayed with me for a couple of weeks and he gave me this note. He said, ‘When you were talking to me in New York at my house. I had to write down what we was talking about.’ He said, ‘I hope you don’t mind but I’ve written down what you told us.’ I didn’t realise that he’d kept a note of everything I’d said to him.
AS: Yes. You enlisted in the cadets at seventeen.
DS: That’s right. That was the Royal Fusiliers and of course I couldn’t get into the regular until you’re eighteen.
AS: When shipping out of England the Yanks were coming in.
DS: That’s right. That was. As our troop ship went out so the Yanks were coming in [laughs] and so we all cheered and booed as they came in.
AS: Everyone was raising up the other troops. You first landed in South Africa because the Mediterranean Sea was blocked.
DS: That’s right. Yes. That was at Durban. We landed at Durban where we hid away for a while.
AS: The lady that took you in had you give a talk about the irrigation of the Pyrenees.
DS: Oh yes. I went [laughs] I went to a party with the South Africans one night and I was so embarrassed and so she said, this was a big audience there, and, ‘This is Derrick Stubbs. He comes from London. He’s on the way to Egypt. He would like to talk about the irrigation.’ Well I never knew anything about irrigation in the Pyrenees. So I said, I had to make some excuse. I couldn’t answer. I said, ‘Oh, I’m afraid I’ve lost the material.’ Oh, how embarrassing.
AS: The convoy you were in, that you were moving into passed another one that was coming back and you came across your brother Stan.
DS: Yes. That’s right. Yes. Stan. My older brother Stan. He’d been called up by the army. Been out to Egypt. Did his service and came back and he was on the same. So, we exchanged some friendship. It was amazing.
AS: The night before the battle the big guns blasted all night.
DS: They did. Oh at El Alemein the night before. And the sound of the bagpipes. The sound of bagpipes. You had goosepimples on top of goosepimples. The sound was. Then it went quiet and suddenly the barrage started.
AS: They sounded the bagpipes before the battle.
DS: Yeah. They did and then the battle began. And the sound of it. Of course, our squadron was quite behind the lines. You could hear it so clearly. Oh and it — the barrage went on and on. Bang bang bang all night and that that was the beginning of the turning of the war, I think. The Alamein battle.
AS: And the Wellington had fabric sides and when a shell hit it it would make a popping sound.
DS: That’s right. It did.
AS: On the ground they would glue a patch on it.
DS: Yeah. That’s all they did. You got back and they’d put a patch on. They were called riggers. The riggers came and they’d put, ‘Where’s the –?’ ‘Oh there’s a hole over there.’ Patch.
AS: And then in bombing supply trains sometimes the train would go faster than the Wellington.
DS: Yes. That’s true. It wasn’t very fast. A Wellington. About a hundred and twenty, a hundred and thirty. Something like that.
AS: And then one mission Bill Murphy said, ‘Give them everything you’ve got,’ so you did and he then said, ‘We have to go around again,’ and was mad when you told him you were out of ammo.
DS: Well, of course, what did he want to go around twice for. No. He wasn’t quite happy with our first raid and decided he wanted to go in again but I had no ammo left. So, I had to sit there with nothing. With no guns. No ammo at all. And he went around just the same.
AS: Murphy often asked whose side you were on.
DS: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah.
AS: He thought you might win the Iron Cross.
DS: [laughs] He was a sod. He was always teasing me.
AS: And then in the barracks you would swing on the rafters by your feet saying, ‘I’m a bat,’ until one night you fell off.
DS: Oh, if I got a bit pissed. Yes. I used to climb up on the rafters and swing backward and forwards. Yes. Yes. After I’d had a few drinks.
AS: Yes. And in Foggia the Yanks would invite you over for dinner.
DS: That’s right. Yes.
AS: And once in a while you were surprised by how informal the officers and enlisted men were.
DS: I really was. They were, whatever rank they was always first names.
AS: When you went to Catonia for —
DS: Catania. Yeah.
AS: Catania. For R&R. That’s rest and rehabilitation.
DS: Yeah. That’s right. Yeah.
AS: You met Maria. Your first love.
DS: [unclear] The first girl I ever had an affair with. I was absolutely saturated in love. Oh, she was lovely too.
AS: You told her you would see her the following evening.
DS: Yeah.
AS: However, you were given orders to ship out.
DS: Absolutely.
AS: To North Africa and couldn’t even say goodbye.
DS: No. Bastards. There was just a few hours’ notice. ‘There’s a plane waiting for you to take you back to the desert.’
AS: On the boat back to England it was operated by the Italians and it ran into something.
DS: That’s right. Yeah.
AS: Yeah. In the Mediterranean.
DS: Yeah.
AS: And began to sink and you were rescued.
DS: He’s done it well. Yeah.
AS: By HMS Belfast.
DS: Oh, Belfast was it? Yeah.
AS: Four men died trying to transfer to the Belfast.
DS: Yeah.
AS: On one mission your navigator died of gunshot wounds.
DS: Yeah.
AS: And Murphy said the way he laid on the cockpit floor was quite inconvenient.
DS: It was horrible. I had to go down and, he said, ‘Go down and see what’s happened.’ And I went down there and there he was. Blood everywhere. Horrible. Horrible. Laughing and joking with him the night before.
AS: Yeah.
DS: Oh, would you like a coffee by the way?
AS: Well, let me just — can I just say thank you then and I’ll just switch off?
DS: Yes.



Andrew Sadler, “Interview with Derrick Stubbs,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 29, 2023,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.