Interview with Dick Tinsley


Interview with Dick Tinsley


Dick was from a farming background and joined the Royal Air Force in 1944. After going to Bedford, he was sent to Lord’s cricket ground. Those passing as a pilot went to a flying school near Coventry to be assessed for pilot training on a Tiger Moth. Canada followed, where Dick went to a personnel reception centre and then an airfield in Regina. He did a course on a Cornell and then went to a senior flying training corps on a Crane.
After returning to England, Dick did a flying course at RAF Burnaston. In February 1945 he went to 1669 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Langar with Lancasters. He helped to put out an engine fire on a training trip over Wales. Dick then joined 115 Squadron at RAF Witchford. He recalls a daylight operation to an oil refinery in the Ruhr. A target was also missed in Heligoland. There were two operations to Kiel. He was involved in Operation Manna to The Hague. Dick was sent to RAF Leicester East after the war had ended and flew C-47. He was sent to Cairo. Dick left the RAF in Spring 1947.




Temporal Coverage




00:29:29 audio recording


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DK: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre, the interviewer is David Kavanagh the interviewee is Dick Tilsley the interview is taking place in Mr Tilsleys home on the 4th June 2015.
DK: So can you remember which year it was, that you joined the Airforce?
RT: Yeah, it must have been 1944 I suppose.
DK: how old would you have been then?
RT: Mmm 20
DK: So what were you doing prior to that? Were you in education?
RT: Education I suppose and Public Schooling so yes i was.
DK: So what school was that?
RT: In Northampton, one of the public schools [pauses] we farmers were often sent to these public schools.
DK: And what was your reasoning for wanting to join the airforce?
RT: Well I knew I was going to mmm I had....errr my family had always been in farming and we lived at Moulton, do you know where Moulton is?
DK: Yes, yeah
RT: Near Holbeach and my Mother came from Northamptonshire as a Farmer's daughter and they got married had three sons, and I was the third. The eldest one had got set into Farming before the war started, and when the second one came in he'd already joined the Territorials
DK: Right
RT: Only assuming only being , mmm what do you call it [?] patriotic I think and of course they were the best people, you know, the go getters, they they wanted to do something like that. We went to Lincoln and they just paraded around a bit once upon a [unclear] that sort of thing. So when war declared they were called up straight away.
DK: Yeah?
RT: I was at home ,still at school I think then I remember the local err army [what do you call it] Anti-aircraft unit?
RT: Arrived in our park which was was just a field that's all, and they set up shop and searchlight and I thought it was wonderful, good old war, as I was about 16 or something but i think we had all heard so much about the first war and the blood and guts of the trenches anything to get out of that or get into what soppy thing there was going at school, anything was soppier than trenches.
DK; had your Father been in the First World War?
RT: No
DK; No?
RT: I lost an uncle
DK: An uncle ok
RT: In other words his brother-in-law he got in perhaps he was drafted, or...I never knew him and he was sent to the front and they were resting in a barn behind the line as the Germans dropped a shell on them and he was wounded in the back and died.
DK:Oh dear
RT: Yeah that's the second time....and emmm it might have been the other.....
DK: So you've decided to join the airforce then, yeah?
RT: Mmm I was at school it was quite a rough military day bolshing you bossing you , so I had a rifle for the day you had had one err you had one year, day a term which they did sort of military exercises.
DK: Right.
RT: And erm and so and of course when they started the air force thing it was much more lexid to go out to aerodromes and in [unclear] and all that and err when it came to been called up and then we were eventually called up and went to grading [?] station.
DK: Right.
RT : That was in Bedfordshire somewhere and then we were sworn in and all that, then we went to London and Lords cricket ground where they did injections for you and all that sort of thing. After that I decided , [unclear] decided what are they going to do with you, I don't know how well we passed, I don't think we knew but it was good enough.
DK: Yeah, err you went in immediately then for err pilot training, was that …..?
RT: Well everybody was yeah
DK: Everybody together right
RT: Yeah
DK: So….
RT: On the whole the navigator was the second most err posetic and brightest then you get the wireless op ,then the bomb aimer then gunner. They hadn't got me on on to being a pilot yet because then they sent you, if you passed that pilot you went to a grading school just near coventry, it's not too far from here, where you did twelve hours flying, and err they assessed you as to whether you were fit for pilots training.
DK: And that the first time you were at the controls?
RT: Yes.
DK: Flying?
RT: Yes it was a Tiger Moth.
DK: Tiger Moth yeah.
RT: Then they sent you home and waited until they wanted to call you up to go to Canada. So they sent us to the Queen Mary which was docked at the Clyde and we cruised across to Canada, you might say this was a dangerous trip I suppose they were getting away with taking these fast liners and risking getting in the old....errrr caught up in the German submarines.
DK: Mmmm yeah
RT: Which how they got away with it I don't know but they did get away and they filled them full and on the return journey they were full of American troops absolutely jammed full bringing them over for D-day which was quite a lot we did, anyway .....and then what happened?
DK: You've got to Canada...
RT: And err [coughs] forgive me muttering but i've got a very weary brain.....I don't mind the weary brain....but....
DK: That's ok take your time.
RT: It's... errr….
DK: You've arrived in Canada then?
RT: Yeah there was a PDO a personnel reception centre.
DK: Right.
RT: Which was a whole aerodrome full of personnel, err personnel huts where they held you, and kept you amused, held parades, this, that and the other until they got an airfield to send you too, and that you didn't get any decision on that at all you just do when you're told that was about four days out to Regina that's roughly where we were at, dead centre of Canada, in the Prairies.
DK: Right, right.
RT: You got contact with them then ?
DK: No.
RT: Oh... then they had a course on a single engine plane which was a thing called a Cornell.
DK: Cornell yeah.
RT: A Fairchild Cornell yes.
DK: It’s listed in your logbook. Cornell
RT: it there?
DK: It's in there are doing aerobatics there.
RT: Mmmm...
DK: Did you like the Cornell?
RT: Yes, yes.
DK: Doing acrobatics there.
RT: Yes, then some went down to America.
DK: Right.
RT: The Americans were helping us out you see, then they went over to single engine planes but I never went on that.
DK: So how long were you in Canada for then?
RT: I was there 10 months.
DK: Really [emphasis]?
RT: Yeah well that was because, well that was a good do because I was out of the war for 10 months and things went by and .....[laughs].
DK: Do you remember much about Canada?
RT: Yeah yeah.......didn't matter to me it was as cold as could be in winter [laughter]and er that whole...that whole aerodrome belonged to the British, well it belonged to the the Canadian air force but that where the RCAF came in.
DK: Oh right I see yeah yeah.
RT: Then, then after we finished that we went on to what we called Senior flying training corps which was fast that one,er.... it was err was what do you call it, sometimes I think of these things and sometimes can't, Richard doesn't help as he wasn't there?
DK: There's an aircraft called the Crane here....
RT: Yeah that's it, the Cessna Crane.
DK: It seems like you were flying Ansons and Cranes.
RT: Ansons were British aeroplanes, if we did anything in training, in training Cranes then after 6 months, can't think what would take all that time but it would...
DK: Looking at the log book there are a lot of flights on the Crane right through February 1944.
RT: Yeah that would be.
DK: Nearly everyday.
RT: Yeah that would be, that was a twin engine plane they were sort of the general idea that was for Bombers.
DK Then the Anson from March 1944?
RT: I don't know, I don't remember that, I honestly don't remember the Anson, there wouldn't be many they were British versions...........they come out of date as far as a Bomber came they were our efforts for getting the war to have a good bomber Avro, Avro [emphasis].
DK: Avro Anson yeah?
RT: Yeah.
DK So you've then come back to England?
RT: Yes I came back.
DK: Was that on the Queen Mary again?
RT: No, it wasn't
DK: Arrh another ship?
RT: Yes, I can't remember the name of it, but it will be on there I should think, [pause] it could have been any of those but it will be on there I'm sure.
DK: Yeah, I can't find it at the moment. It says here you went to Derby then?
RT: What for?
DK: Barniston?
RT: Burnaston.
DK: Burnaston, sorry.
RT: Burnaston yes, that was a flying course within UK conditions, Burnaston.
DK: So was it a big difference, flying in Canada than flying in the UK?
RT: Mmmm I remember one of the Australian, Canadian he was in charge of us on the area, he said "yous boys in the old country, say you'll get lost" [laughter].
RT: Then of course at that time we were relying on the Canadians services far more.
DK: Then you come back to Burnaston?
RT: Mmm.
DK: Then you are flying de Havilland 82. Do you remember much about that?
RT: I don't, I'll see if i can recall it.
DK : It's the Dominie I think?
RT: Oh dear, DH yeah....[pause] flying around training again.
DK: It says its number 22 EFTS is that familiar?
RT: It's familiar but....
DK: I've noticed you.....
RT: I rather think it was a twin engine.
DK: A twin engine yeah, and then you got the Dakota here.
RT: Ah that….
DK: RAF Leicester East.
RT: The war had ended.
DK: Arrh ok.
RT: Leicester East was the Transport Command place, and...
DK: Sorry I'm jumping ahead of myself here.
RT: And, they sent us out to Cairo, in these Dakotas but they were going to have to organise what they conquered in the Middle East, so one fine day they flew overnight to the centre of Cairo airport.
DK Really?
RT: And, err...
DK: So just going back a little bit here, February 1945 you’re with the Heavy Conversion Unit.
RT: Yes.
DK: At Langar, 1669 heavy conversion unit, err, was that the first time you saw the Lancaster?
RT: Well it wasn't in my case, but ........ but it was really but from somewhere I just had a day out with them , we just had a trip.
DK: What did you think when you first saw the Lancaster, laid eyes on it first saw it? Did it fill you with confidence?
RT: Yeah i think so, i don’t I can't remember anything about that bit or the bit we did, then until the war ended or rather until the ...err.
DK: Do you remember much about Langar and the Heavy Conversion Unit?
RT: No,no we just arrived and we were got into crews, we were all old soldiers at that time.
DK: I’m just noticing here you have got a mention of an engine fire.
RT: Yes I presume that there was.
DK: You help put out a fire, do you remember that? [ laughter]
RT: No i don't at all.....
DK: Come it down....poke him, poke him [laughter].
RT: I do remember it now, but I can't say I'd remember otherwise.
DK: Do you remember much about the incident of the engine fire?
RT: No, not at all it was over Wales.
DK: Over Wales?
RT: It was on a training trip over Wales I'd forgotten all about it.
DK: You landed ok though?
RT: Yes, and that was it no doubt it was only a scare, or something but anyway well whatever it was the fire extinguisher put it out and it wasn’t long till we got back to the airfield.
DK: So following the log book then you then joined 115 Squadron at Witchford.
RT: Yeah.
DK: Do you remember much about Witchford?
RT: Yeah it was 3 miles outside Ely typical wartime airfield built in 19....built just near where I went to school, where I went to school is.
DK: Coincidence [laughter].
RT: Witchford, I gathered from reading books later that there was two squadrons stationed there, so obviously they built airfields, bomber airfields as fast as they could.
DK: So I'm looking at the logbook here it's got March the 18th, would that have been your first operation there? Its Buschstrass?
RT: Bruchstrasse.
DK: Bruchstrasse, sorry.
RT: Apparently it was an oil refinery in the Ruhr, we weren't told very much about about it, except that we missed it.
DK: Oh [laughs].
RT: Apparently the beam was set, they had got it wrong.
DK: Right
RT: But anyway plenty of them missed, yep.
DK: Well, it says here it was a daylight raid, got in brackets there day, so you were flying in the day?
RT: Yeah a bit of both.
DK: Right ok.
RT: They were were night and….
DK: Right.
RT: What does that say?
DK: Thats green.
RT: what does that say?
DK: That's err Heligoland?
RT: Yeah that's an island south of Hamburg somewhere.
DK: So there was two operations to kill on the 9th and 13th April.
RT: Yes i suppose so, yes.
DK: Do you remember much about those?
RT: No i dont, we were just told by the bomb aimer afterward that we didn't hit the target presumably we couldn't see it, we weren't told much, then the war ended.
DK: So then into May then, so there's 1, 2, 3, 4 so that looks like about 5 operations.
RT: Yeah.
DK: Does that sound about right?
RT: Yeah.
DK: So five operations and then three operation Manna operations?
RT: Yeah.
DK: Does that sound about right, so do you remember much about Operation Manna? How did that make you feel knowing you were dropping food rather than bombs?
RT: I’m sure it made you feel very good, we didn't know what we was in for first time, we was going to Germany with bombs at 20,000 feet and the next day we were going ten hundred feet or whatever it was over the Hague or Dane Hauger [?] whatever the Danes call it.
DK: The Hague , so the food drops were at low level then?
RT: Yes well as low as they dare because it mustn't burst they were either in double sacks or whatever they chose.
DK: Do you remember seeing the people on the ground?
RT: Yeah.
DK: And what were they doing?
RT: Waiting for something to happen, to see what they could get.
DK: Were they waving?
RT: Yeah.
DK: So you could see all that?
RT: Oh yes I can clearly remember one plane flying nearly along side us they got a sack a sack of food stuck in his bomb bays when he came back no doubt it got dropped in somewhere.
DK: So at that point then the war in Europe had ended?
RT:yeah just.
DK: Just yes.
RT: I think you will see that's there the.....
DK: What were your feelings at that time then were you.....?
RT: Without a doubt very pleased now that's thing that's quite interesting coz those crew members there about three of them so bored with things presumably they were somewhat aware it wasn't really dangerous anymore, they wanted to see the their names up on the list… I was one if I had a job to do I'd do it, I probably wanted the job but didn't want to be the end bit the end bit of meat.
DK: So how long after the war then did you stay in the air force? Was it another…..
RT: As little as possible.
DK: You wanted to get out did you?
RT: Yes yes, I never wanted to get in and I just was a good boy did as I was told and passed exams as I was supposed to.
DK: So can you remember what year you actually left?
RT: Oh, now that would be, it will be in there somewhere [refers to logbook].
DK: You are still here, 1947.
RT: It would be then, it was the Spring.
DK: So you left in 1947? Thats after a period in the Middle East?
RT: Yeah we were sitting about the helm a lot doing nothing, because they over calculated the amount of aircraft they had to keep in the Middle East to keep things working.
DK: They had to find you something to do.
RT: Yes find us something to do, pity really it was a stage of one's life when you wanted to get on with something.
DK: Just going back to the end of war in Europe, at that period was there any mention to you about perhaps having to go out and fight in the Far East?
RT: No.
DK: You didn't no.
RT: No the others who went back, straight away and they split us all up, no doubt I'd go for a longer leave at home, but they kept very strictly to this, what do you call it? Code of release by time and… when your number came up because you had been in for so long, and you were so old or so I’d got out.
DK: So how old would you have been when you left?
RT: Forty Six [?].
DK: And after that did you go back into farming at that point?
RT: Mmm, yeah all that time sitting in the Middle East for about a year, sitting on my bum really. It was in the desert I got jaundice, nothing apart from a waste of time for everybody, I could see what the plan was, it was just they wanted things to be able to go to North Africa someone to go down to Nairobi and do this or that. [pause] Have you seen any other log book?
DK: I have seen some, yeah quite a few.
RT: They are all pretty similar.
DK: Yeah they are more or less the same yeah, so how do you look back on that period now?
RT: A waste of my youth and pretty boring, I was stationed at Ely, there wasn't much at Ely. It wasn't even far from home that wasn't.
DK: Did you used to pop back home when you could?
RT: Mmmm.
DK: Yeah because it down the road, that was something.
RT: Well there wouldn’t be the transport for it but I got home somehow, if you had a motorbike you'd be home in an hour or so.
DK: You had a motorbike then did you?
RT: I didnt no, there wasn't any petrol for one thing.
DK: That's true, ok well thanks you very much for that I will stop this now.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Dick Tinsley,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 28, 2024,

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