Interview with Mary Ward about her husband Roy Ward


Interview with Mary Ward about her husband Roy Ward


Roy Ward joined the Meteorological Office when he was 18 and served as a Meteorological officer with 517 Squadron. He returned to the Meteorological Office as a civilian after the war and his final job before retirement was as a weather forecaster at Heathrow Airport.








00:54:30 audio recording

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CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Tuesday the 26th of April 2016 and we’re having our third meeting with Mary Ward but the topic is her husband — Roy Ward. And the reason that Mary’s doing it is because he is suffering from dementia and is in hospital and so this is a proxy interview with Mary. Right. So, we’re starting with Roy’s earliest time. So, he was born near Halifax and his father was a wool mill manager so they —what do you know about the family?
MW: Well, they lived —his father had been in the war. The First World War. He’d had malaria and he wasn’t in a terribly good health but they lived there until Roy was roughly five or six, I would say, when they moved to Ardsley. His father died when he was five —
CB: Yeah.
MW: Or six. Something like that age and their circumstances changed and they had to move. They moved to Ardsley. His father, his father had become — I’m getting this wrong. I’m not going to be able [unclear]
CB: It’s alright. Don’t worry about it.
MW: His father had an upset with the owners of the mill and he left the wool industry and bought a house in Ardsley with a sub-Post Office which he managed. He then, he died when Roy was eight and his mother continued to operate the post, the sub post office with his older brother Nory.
CB: So where did he go to school?
MW: He went to school at the local primary school. Let’s see. Yes. Until he was ten when he passed a scholarship to go to boarding school. Crossley and Porter’s in Halifax. This was, this was a boarding school. Very similar to Wellington College. Which was provided by the local woollen manufacturers for boys, boys only, who had lost their fathers in circumstances to do with the First World War. He stayed there until he was in the sixth form. Only six of them in the sixth form and he was heading for university with maths and science. And then the war came. He decided he would skip university and join the RAF. This wasn’t possible at the time and he then decided to go into the Met Office. He got a job in the Met Office as an assistant and was sent, after a few months, he was sent to Ismailia. He went all around the Cape in a convoy. He got lost in the convoy at one stage and got left behind but they did catch up and they ended in Durban and then went to Ismailia. And this was for a course with the Met Office which, I understand, lasted about three months and then they sent him back home because there was no need. They didn’t need them there apparently. So, he came home a more direct route than the Suez Canal. You know. That way around. And when he arrived back in this country the Met Office said that he’d, he’d been accepted for the RAF. And the RAF told him to go and buy himself an officer’s uniform and report to — I’m not sure where he had to report but he, from then on he was in the RAF as a flying officer and doing — I’m not sure exactly where he was stationed until he came to Brawdy where I met him at Brawdy.
CB: Which is South Wales.
MW: South Wales. Pembrokeshire. Yes. Yes. Then I, after that we went Brawdy. He was attached to 517 Squadron and flew with Steve Hughes in a Halifax. Steve being the pilot. And Roy was known as, what was known as the Met observer. Now, all this other information regarding what he did is down here. In 1939 this was where, when he joined the Met Office and he was stationed at 4 Group at Linton on Ouse. [unclear] This was when he was in Linton on Ouse. And then in 1940 he was at Headquarters, RAF Linton on Ouse at Heslington Hall. Which is where we’re going to see George Smith. George is at Heslington Manor.
CB: Yes.
MW: This is Heslington Hall. The manor house where George lives in. He then went to Pocklington. Headquarters at Pocklington. He was then posted to Queenstown, South Africa. And RAF [pause] Ismailia in Egypt.
CB: Yeah.
MW: Then from RAF Ismailia, he went to training school at Kilburn in London when he came back. And then from Kilburn to Marston Moor. That was back up north again, you see. And then from — in ‘44 he went from Milham to Aldergrove and then to Brawdy.
CB: Right.
MW: And then from Brawdy to Chivenor. From RAF Chivenor — a detachment to Mountbatten. And then from RAF Mountbatten to Shawbury and his last station was Waddington.
CB: Right.
MW: In the RAF.
CB: Right.
MW: Then he got transferred back to the Met Office and we were [pause] we were in Dunstable.
CB: Ah, so —
MW: From Dunstable he came here to actually open the — Bracknell. Bracknell was built —the Met Office was built in 1960. We came in. He came, in charge of the computer at Bracknell in 1961. Well he came actually in ‘60 but we didn’t move until ‘61. From Bracknell he went to Gan. For a year in Gan.
CB: The island in the Pacific.
MW: The island. Yes.
CB: Yeah. Well Indian Ocean.
MW: The Indian Ocean. That’s right. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. When was that? When was that?
MW: That would be in about 1968 or ‘69. It doesn’t say here. This is what I’ve to use.
CB: Ok.
MW: ‘Cause we moved here by then you see. He was away a year in Gan and he came back to Heathrow. And from, on and off, until he retired he was Heathrow or Bracknell.
CB: So, he was moving up the ladder all the time was he?
MW: Yeah. He, he was forecasting at Heathrow, of course. Not doing computer work.
CB: Right.
MW: And he was forecasting again at Bracknell when he came back. He came off the computer. Of course it was as big as this bungalow.
CB: Yes.
MW: I don’t know if you want this in here.
CB: No. No. That’s fine.
MW: It was all, it was all big. The valves. And now it’s reduced to this size of course.
CB: Extraordinary isn’t it?
MW: But in the latter years he was forecasting. He was a senior forecaster.
CB: What did he do in Gan? When he was in Gan what was he doing there?
MW: He was the forecaster.
CB: Oh. That was the same.
MW: Yes. It’s a main, it was mainly a dropping off station for refuelling on the way to Singapore.
CB: Right.
MW: But no women were allowed there. Hence, we didn’t go.
CB: No. And where was he working when he eventually retired?
MW: In Heathrow.
CB: Oh, was he? And after he’d retired — what age did he retire?
MW: He was retired quite early. Well a couple of years before normal because he’d done overseas duties.
CB: Oh.
MW: You could do if you’d done overseas duties, you know. You got a special concession to do.
CB: Right. So what age was he?
MW: Hmmn?
CB: What age was he when he retired?
MW: He would be — is sixty the age for retiring? I think it was. So he would have been about fifty eight then.
CB: Ok. Ok. Now, casting your mind back when you first met him under what circumstances were those?
MW: That was at Brawdy. Yes. We were, Brawdy was quite an isolated place on the coast in Pembrokeshire. And he was flying with 517 Squadron doing reconnaissance flights and this is when he was attached to Epicure. These were doing the high level, taking readings for the weather. I should have a map somewhere.
CB: So, what was Epicure?
MW: Epicure was the name given to that.
CB: It was specifically –
MW: Here we are. This is all in here.
CB: Right.
MW: And RAF Brawdy. Now this is all listed. The people with whom he flew and for what purpose. But you wouldn’t want all that. It’s — Epicure’s were all normal except for — remarks 44. 30th of November. Normal track 215 to position 9, 450.
CB: So, these are the sorties you’re reading about.
MW: Yes.
CB: In the book.
MW: I think you’d better have this Chris because there’s some — you may –
CB: Ok. Well, we’ll look at that. Yes.
MW: Yes.
CB: Thank you very much.
MW: These are, these are the other squadrons. There’s one called –
CB: This is where they flew.
MW: Yes.
CB: So, we’re looking at a map that’s the Atlantic.
MW: This is — this is from Brawdy and this is where Roy flew out of.
CB: Oh. I see.
MW: And Epicure. These are the other squadrons that did different — had different names you see.
CB: Right.
MW: And went to different places on here.
CB: So, this map is showing the areas in which certain squadrons operated.
MW: That’s right. Yes.
CB: According to these. So, we’ve got Bismuth, Mercer, Ella, Sharon.
MW: Yes.
CB: Epicure and Rhombus.
MW: Yes.
CB: And also, Nocturnal down, out of –
MW: Yes. These are all the details. These are the details of what he —
CB: Ok.
MW: Who he flew with. This is all with Epicure.
CB: Yes.
MW: All down.
CB: Yeah.
MW: And the flight. The pilots that he was with.
CB: Who he flew with. Yeah. Right. That’s really good. And then out of Iceland is Magnum.
MW: Sorry?
CB: So he —the aircraft were always Halifaxes.
MW: Halifaxes. Yes.
CB: Right.
MW: Yeah. Do you want to —
CB: If we can borrow those. We’ll have a look at them. May I look in just a moment. Thank you. So, the practicality of this really is that we’ve been talking [coughs] excuse me, to people. Bomber Command very largely but in order to go on the operations they needed to know what the weather was.
MW: That’s right.
CB: So, the reason that we want to know about Roy and what he did —
MW: Well they started off from zero and I think they moved up to five thousand feet. Took the readings. He took the readings. The Met readings then. And then they’d come down a bit and then they went up a bit higher and in those days the Halifax could only do eighteen thousand feet. That’s the height they went to. And then took these, and then these readings were [terms]. They could send them from a Halifax. I can’t remember that bit but anyway they were used then for — to forecast the weather for the flying.
CB: So, in practical terms they had a crew in the normal way but they had one extra person who was the meteorological observer.
MW: That’s right. Yes.
CB: Is that right?
MW: Yes. The Met observer.
CB: Yeah. The Met observer.
MW: Yes
CB: Right. So that made eight people.
MW: In the crew.
CB: In the crew. Yes. Do you happen to know where his station was in the bomber?
MW: In?
CB: In the aircraft. In the Halifax. Where was the Met observer? Do you know?
MW: Oh. I’ve never thought of that. No.
CB: No.
MW: He would, he would probably tell me on a good day.
CB: Yes.
MW: Yes. He would have done yesterday.
CB: Well we can pick up with that later.
MW: And then of course we became very friendly and I was moved from Chivenor. He was at Chivenor with me. 517 moved from Brawdy to Chivenor.
CB: Right.
MW: And then I was –
CB: In Cornwall.
MW: Ah. Yes. Devon isn’t it?
CB: Cornwall. Oh well it might be Devon on the north. Yes.
MW: No. No. No. It’s Devon.
CB: Devon. You’re right. Ok. Yeah. I take it back.
MW: Getting my maps wrong.
CB: No. You’re right. You’re right. Yes.
MW: And we, we became friendly and he was at Waddington and I was at, still at Chivenor and then I moved to Northwood. To headquarters. Coastal Command. To try and tidy up their map office. And we met frequently up and down in London. Concerts and things. And then we, we were married in ’47 in Lincoln because he was then at Waddington and I was working at the Post Office. I managed to get a job in the Post Office and —
CB: Because you had left the RAF by then.
MW: Hmmn?
CB: You had left the RAF by then.
MW: Yes. I was demobbed in 1947.
CB: Yeah.
MW: Because I did an extra year, you see. I could have come out earlier but I did an extra year because I didn’t really know what I needed. What I wanted to do. From being a nursery governess on civvy street the RAF didn’t really want me. So I re-mustered to being, and was promoted to acting sergeant to become a telephonist and I was training as a telephonist and then decided that I would do an extra year but after that I came out. And then we lived in Lincoln — Navenby, for a while and then we moved. Roy was moved to Abingdon. And to Upper Heyford and we moved in to Oxford and I was working for the Post Office then. And after then [pause] he was posted to Aden. That must have been 1948. We were married in ‘47. In ‘48 he was posted. He was posted to Aden for two years. I didn’t go immediately because the RAF were very difficult [pause] fussy about where you, where you lived. There wasn’t really much European accommodation in Aden at that time and you had to find somewhere that was vetted by the RAF if you had a wife or somebody going out there. So I went later and we were out there in Aden for two years. Came back to Abingdon and he, and we managed, we bought a house in Radley.
CB: How long were you in, was he in Abingdon? RAF Abingdon.
MW: Quite a while actually. Until he went to Dunstable and then he went to Dunstable and we moved to Aylesbury.
CB: Now what was the significance of Dunstable because this is, he’s now out of the RAF?
MW: The Met officer at that time had various little places. There was Harrow and Dunstable and somewhere else but no, no proper headquarters as such. And then they built the Met Office headquarters at Bracknell and he moved with everybody else from Dunstable and Harrow. Everybody went. Came to Bracknell.
CB: So —
MW: Yes, well he then, after being at Aylesbury we came to Bracknell and he then, we all, we moved here in 1960.
CB: ‘61.
MW: And we’ve been here since and as far as —Roy retired and he did a little bit of work with the Met Office after he retired but nothing very much and he spent most of his time gardening and going for walks and that sort of thing really for his retirement. But he didn’t play golf or do anything like that particularly.
CB: At what point did he leave the RAF? Was that after being stationed at Abingdon?
MW: What time?
CB: Yeah. So, you went to Aden.
MW: Yes.
CB: And he was still in the RAF then. Was he?
MW: No. He was back in civvies.
CB: Ok. So, when did he come out of the RAF?
MW: It must have been. It was — when we were married in ‘47 he was, he was still, he was back in to the Met Office so it must have been early ‘47 when he came out.
CB: So, by then the RAF had forecasters who were civilians and Met Office employees.
MW: Yes. You see they were civilians because — that was the difficult thing in the RAF. And I had difficulty with one on one occasion at Linton when I went into the briefing room with the maps and I found a civilian in there. A civilian man who — everything was so secret. So spot on with security.
CB: Yeah.
MW: And I said to him, ‘What are you doing here?’ And he said, ‘Well, I am the Met Officer.’ And I didn’t know that the Met officers were still civilians you see. Of course this was a problem in the RAF at that time. Some of the cooks were civilians. And one, one or two of the map people were civilians but not to do with intelligence. That was a different section. Navigation maps. Anything else there?
CB: Yeah. So he, in practical terms, if the Met observers were flying then they were part of the RAF is what you are saying. As I understand it.
MW: Yes. Exactly. Yes.
CB: Is that right? So, the war ended in Europe on the 8th of May 1945. Where was Roy then?
MW: He was still at Brawdy.
CB: Right. Oh at Brawdy still. Ok.
MW: And he was in the RAF at Brawdy. Yes.
CB: Yes. Then he went to Chivenor and he was still in the RAF.
MW: That’s right. Yes.
CB: So, after Chivenor then? Is that when, because the war had now finished, did he come out immediately then or was it only at a later —
MW: I can’t really remember that but he I think he came out quite soon and then he was, he went to Waddington.
CB: Yes.
MW: And he was certainly by ‘47. In April ‘47, when we were married, he was out of the RAF.
CB: Yeah.
MW: And back in civvies. [pause] You’re tired. I was doing that at church
Other: A short nap.
CB: Forty winks in church doesn’t do you any good does it? No.
MW: I know. I know. I get so tired.
CB: I know what you mean. Anyway, so that’s really useful because you’ve prompted me ‘cause I remember the point about the Met officers on airfields tended to be civilians. And so what you’re saying is –
MW: It was confusing.
CB: When the war finished.
MW: Yes.
CB: Then he wasn’t flying any longer. So he was flying from Chivenor still? Was he?
MW: From Chivenor?
CB: Yes.
MW: Oh yes.
CB: Yeah.
MW: Yes.
CB: Right.
MW: What were they doing in Chivenor? I can’t quite remember that very well. It might well tell you in there. It will. In the back.
CB: Yes.
MW: [unclear]
CB: We’ll have a look. And you talked about on the sorties then they were flying at different heights.
MW: Yes.
CB: What affect, what sort of strain were they under as a result of this sort of operation?
MW: What sort of —?
CB: Because —well they were sometimes high and low. And sometimes low. Did that put a strain on them?
MW: Absolutely. It did. Yes.
CB: In what way? How did that manifest itself?
MW: Keep going up and down. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
MW: And those were twelve hour shifts usually.
CB: Were they?
MW: It was very long. It was a long trip out.
CB: And what do you remember about the crews of these —?
MW: Oh, quite a lot.
CB: Go on.
MW: They were a very cheerful crew.
CB: Were they?
MW: We kept in touch until Steve died two years ago. He was the pilot. We’d been in touch all those years. Bob Hockey was the navigator. He was an extremely good navigator. In fact, in later years Bob navigated on Morning Cloud for Edward Heath.
CB: Right.
MW: Yes. He was very good. And Taffy was the rear gunner I think.
CB: So, on what circumstance — you met Roy originally.
MW: Oh, probably at a mess dance or something although probably more likely it would have been at the music club because he wasn’t in to dancing. He would be at the music club. Or we used to go down to the coast. We could walk from Brawdy to [unclear] and there was a café down there. We used to go down there in sort of bunches of us, groups of us and have a cup of tea and a chat.
CB: Did the whole crew move around socially together?
MW: Yeah. Most of the time. Yes. Yes. They were always — they were always together at private functions and things. They were. You found that with the bomber crews. They all, they were always, if one came in to the office then the whole lot would be in. They would follow.
CB: They were the family.
MW: They were like a family. Yes.
CB: Their bond was extraordinary.
MW: It was. Yes.
CB: And it was just interesting to know about what it was like in the Met flights as well because that had a different danger.
MW: Oh, you read about this bond with the crew. They were like brothers really.
CB: Yeah. So, the Met flight. The squadrons like 517 that were collecting the Met information had the task of flying high and low. Twelve hour flights. To what extent was there a danger of enemy aircraft?
MW: Enemy aircraft.
CB: Interception.
MW: Very little.
CB: Right.
MW: Yes. I don’t think they had one. They did have one or two tragic things happen but it’s not worth going into those.
CB: What sort of things would happen?
MW: Well, one of them they were diverted because the weather was notoriously bad in Brawdy. You could be flying on the circuit ready to come in and the mist would just come down just in a sheet and you couldn’t land. You’d have to be, you’d be diverted somewhere. And this aircraft got diverted and didn’t know the area presumably and crashed into [pause] whether it was, I think he must have mistaken the, mistaken the cloud base for the, for the top of a cliff and they were all killed. I can’t really remember a lot of the details of that but it was quite tragic because Roy had actually flown with that pilot.
CB: Oh, really.
MW: He was a chap, I think he was either from New Zealand or Australia and he was called Skinner but I’m not [pause] they did have some — one or two near shaves. I remember Roy saying they went around three times trying to get into Brawdy and they bumped three times. It was all a bit — they made a bit of fun of it but it wasn’t funny at the time. They really weren’t. They had one or two. What else?
CB: Sorry.
MW: Anything else you want to —
CB: Yes. So as, meteorological observers — meteorological observers — Met observers were they trying to find good weather or bad weather?
MW: In the Met Office?
CB: Normally. When they were, when the squadron was going on its flights.
MW: Oh, they went. When it was good enough they went. It had to be very bad — they couldn’t take off or something. Otherwise they always went. Yes. Yes. As I say Brawdy was very bad in as much as it didn’t, it didn’t give you much, much time to get because the low cloud would come in very quickly. Within minutes. And you couldn’t manage.
CB: And at Chivenor where he moved to next what was that like for weather?
MW: Chivenor was better. Yes. Yes. Brawdy was unusual. I suppose along the Welsh coast you might expect that to happen really.
CB: Why did the squadron move to Chivenor? Do you know?
MW: We all moved. I don’t know why but we all moved there really. I moved into a map office that was [pause] I think, yes, the girl I took over from was being demobbed ‘cause she’d been in earlier but I worked quite a lot with the navigation officer at that stage rather than intelligence because at that stage I was really clearing up. The map offices were closing down. They didn’t need them at that stage, you see. They didn’t need maps and charts like we had done during the war. During the actual activities. So, and then when I came to Northwood from Chivenor it was equally the same. But I haven’t said about being at Shawbury and I was at Shawbury before I went to Brawdy.
CB: In Shropshire.
MW: I’d forgotten about that because I wasn’t really concentrating on me.
CB: No. No.
MW: We were concentrating on Roy. I was at Shawbury and we were doing a lot of work with — what was that aircraft?
CB: With the Halifax?
MW: No. It’s not a Halifax.
CB: I’ve got it here. I’ll pass it to you. Hang on. I’ll stop the tape for a mo.
[Recording paused]
CB: Now if we may just go back on Roy’s activities. You’ve got out the album and we’re looking at pictures in the album. This is showing low level pictures of ships that they photographed here. So were they, were there weather ships as well as aircraft gaining Met intelligence or was it only aircraft?
MW: I’m not sure but I think, I don’t think it was only aircraft that were involved.
CB: Right. Yeah. So, what was Roy’s attitude to his job flying as a Met observer?
MW: Oh, I think he enjoyed it. Yes. I think he enjoyed the company of being with a crew and being —he always wanted to fly because as you know they were all volunteers anyway.
CB: Absolutely.
MW: But he — the Coastal Command is quite different from Bomber Command and also with Fighter Command. They’re all individual flights and don’t really relate to each other very much [pause] but equally they were all doing their —
CB: So, there, 517 Squadron was his squadron flying out of Brawdy. What were the other squadrons there because you weren’t supporting 517 were you?
MW: Yes.
CB: Oh, you were.
MW: Yes.
CB: Right.
MW: By that time, Bomber Command, I’d moved from Bomber Command to Coastal.
CB: Yes. But there were several squadrons at Brawdy were there?
MW: No. Not really. I don’t think. There was 517. I can’t remember any other squadron.
CB: Ok. Right.
MW: Mind you we were running down you see.
CB: Yes. Because we’d got to the end of the war.
MW: This was late on, you see.
CB: And Roy was commissioned in the RAF in the war. He started as a flying officer. What rank did he progress to?
MW: He didn’t go any further than flying officer.
CB: Right.
MW: But he really didn’t, I said to him yesterday, ‘Do you know where your log book is?’ And he said he didn’t know exactly. He thought it might be in one of the top cupboards which I can’t get in to now but he said there isn’t a lot of information in the logbook but you are welcome to have a look at it.
CB: It would be useful to see.
MW: Right. Yes.
CB: Please because —
MW: I’ll get Richard to go up there.
CB: Yes. Thank you. It would set the scene really well on what’s going on. So, now we’re getting to the end of the war so the requirement for Met observers is different. Did he ask to transfer back to the Met office or was he just instructed to do it?
MW: No, he wanted to come back. He needed to. He wanted to get out of the air force to come back in to the Met Office because that’s where his work was, he felt. The work he needed to do.
CB: Then you went to Aden. So what was it like being in Aden?
MW: In Aden. It was very hot [laughs]. It was quite enjoyable really when you got used to the heat but being, in younger days you did get used to the heat and it’s — [pause] We lived in the Crescent Hotel which was, because he was entitled to RAF accommodation but not for a wife. So, he came out. There was very little accommodation for Europeans. We couldn’t really — it was very difficult and expensive to try and find. I went out by boat on The Windrush. It took fourteen days, fifteen nights to get there.
CB: Through the Suez Canal.
MW: And Roy said, ‘You don’t need to bring any wellie boots because it never rains here.’ It was pouring when I arrived.
CB: So, what other families were there?
MW: I hadn’t any family then.
CB: No. But other families. There were other wives there. Were there?
MW: Oh yes. Yes.
CB: And what did you do because it was hot and no house?
MW: Well, we — [pause] Yes. We had coffee mornings together and because we didn’t have any people like hairdressings or manicure ladies or anything it was quite a big social life. We were either dining out or dancing or something practically every night. And so we, if we had any skills at all we helped each other out with hairdressing and those sort of things. Roy had — Roy had to wear, in the mess, and when we were dining out, always white shirts and cummerbund. Black cummerbund and for the ladies it was always evening dress. You couldn’t go anywhere without evening dress. It was really quite formal in that respect.
CB: So, he was a civilian by then, and — but the circle of people was RAF.
MW: Yes. Officer class because Roy was then classed as an officer although he wasn’t in the RAF.
CB: No. No. He had officer status. And was there a link with the navy and the army as well?
MW: Possibly, that I really didn’t know about. But I had a small job and I worked for British Airways. Or BOAC as it was then.
CB: Right.
MW: And I was, I suppose you would call it an air hostess but possibly not quite that strong. I went on the aircraft as they came in to land and told them — checked all their documents. The ones that were staying overnight — got them into the hotel. And the rest of them — told them where they were and what date. What the date was and what the time it was and made sure they were going in the right direction. And then I brought the other ones — anybody else back to the hotel. Collected them again in the morning to get them onto their flight. So, I did that for quite a while.
CB: So, when Roy went to Gan did you come back to the UK?
MW: Well, we came back from Aden.
CB: Yeah.
MW: Yes.
CB: Oh you did come back from Aden first. Yes.
MW: We came back from Aden to Abingdon.
CB: Right.
MW: And then we started the family and then we came here. It wasn’t until we came here that he, he went to Gan.
CB: Yeah.
MW: Roy went to Gan on his own.
CB: Yes.
MW: Because we couldn’t take families to Gan anyway.
CB: No. No. So what do you think Roy’s recollections of his flying times were?
MW: His?
CB: When he was flying as a Met observer.
MW: Oh very good. Yes.
CB: Yeah.
MW: They were a very happy crew. Yes.
CB: But he, he progressed well in civilian life and went around to all sorts of different places.
MW: Roy’s not ever been a very social person. This is his problem now. That he won’t socialise. Any socialising I’ve had to do and he had hardly any friends when he really left the RAF, the Met office, for that simple reason. That he doesn’t, he doesn’t know what to talk about other than the Met office or his family or perhaps the garden. Politically yes. He knows. If you want to know something he will, he can tell you the answers but he’s not a social person at all. Now, he’s having difficulty because he won’t socialise in the home. Yesterday, he was sitting on his own. But he’s got to be alright.
CB: Good. Thank you.
[Recording paused]
MW: His achievements.
CB: So, you said that Roy always wanted to be in the RAF but he was a clever boy at school.
MW: I mean his maths and science were exceptional and [pause] but the fact that the war was already on. Started. Decided, decided that he would miss university and go into the RAF but he couldn’t get in to the RAF at that time so he took the Met office.
CB: Do you remember why it was the RAF wouldn’t take him at that moment?
MW: I think it was, it was possibly due to age because he was only eighteen when he left the boarding school.
CB: Right. And had he identified that in going in the RAF he wanted to do Meteorology? How did he get into that?
MW: No. I think he was sort of, he was rather pushed in to that.
CB: Right.
MW: But his degree he was going to do on geography he did actually, started to do an Open University type of course. But he didn’t continue with it. The pressure in the Met Office was quite a lot really.
CB: How much do you know how he came to be guided towards the Met Office?
MW: With?
CB: How did, how did he join the Met Office?
MW: How did he? His job.
CB: How did he join it? Who persuaded him that that was the –
MW: I’ve no idea really.
CB: No.
MW: No. I think his leaning towards science had always — well I mean I think he would, if that’s where your strength was, in other words, wasn’t it?
CB: Now we spoke earlier about the situation of D-day particularly and the controversy about the forecasting there. Now, was Roy to some extent involved in the forecasting for D-day?
MW: No. Not really. No.
CB: Not directly.
MW: That was later you see and Roy was — I don’t think so. But I’m saying no but I wouldn’t be absolutely sure what he [pause]
CB: The reason I asked the question was because he was flying Epicure which was down in the Bay of Biscay. The concentration of shipping and air was based would be having weather from that area because on balance the British weather comes from the west. So that’s why I was asking the question.
MW: Yes. He may well have done. I wouldn’t be sure. I don’t know how I could — I could ask Brian Booth. He might know.
CB: Well we might pick up on that later.
MW: Yes.
CB: Yes. So, what was the — what would you say was the highlight of Roy’s career in the Met Office? Or associated activities.
MW: I have to tell you Chris if I wanted to wind Roy up I would say, ‘You didn’t want a wife. You’re married to the Met Office.’ And quite honestly, he was. He enjoyed it. I think. Enjoyed the forecasting.
CB: Right.
MW: And he, he was involved in quite a few special things that went on and he had his picture in The Telegraph and The Observer on occasions when they were doing special things. But I don’t know [pause] it’s —
CB: This was Met office activities rather than the RAF. Yes.
MW: Yes. Since we’d been married but where those cuttings are I would have to get the boys to find them.
CB: Yes.
MW: You can’t reach them. You really can’t.
CB: What would you think in his mind was a particular low of his activities in — either in the RAF or in the Met Office?
MW: What?
CB: A low point.
MW: A low point.
CB: Yeah. That he didn’t like, in other words.
MW: Well, he didn’t like, in fact a lot of them didn’t like the fact that the civil service were not progressing or not keeping up with, with the scale of pay until well after we came here. I can’t remember the year now but the pay was very poor compared with industries. In fact, he did, when we’d been married nine months when he was posted to Aden and he seriously thought of giving it up then and applied to the various firms that dealt with the sort of jobs he felt the jobs he could do. In fact, he was offered various jobs but in the end the pension plus the wages — one outweighed the other, you see. And he decided he would stay with the Met Office. But it wasn’t until quite late on that the pension scheme and the salary came into line with the rest of the people. You probably remember.
CB: I remember that the civil service pay was a bit of a challenge some years ago.
MW: It must have been — it must have been about ‘62 when we did get a rise. And now of course the Met Office pension — well, I don’t know what I’d do without it.
CB: No. Quite.
MW: It is a very good pension.
CB: Yeah.
MW: On his on his grade.
CB: Yes. Ok. Did he have any inhibitions about his activities in the war? Were there things that he particularly didn’t like?
MW: I don’t think so. No. I don’t think. We were all very young you see I think.
CB: Yes.
MW: We didn’t really — and we went into the business of young men who decided to be conscientious objectors at one stage and I think we did go into that didn’t we?
CB: Yes. Yeah.
MW: But you had to be a certain type and I — very few of the boys that I met and knew who were [pause] well they all wanted the war over. Yes. They all wanted to be back in civvy street and doing the things they wanted to do but on a whole it was, it wasn’t a sad story at all.
CB: No.
MW: No.
CB: That’s really interesting and helpful. Thank you very much Mary. So, we’ll stop there and we’ve got the album so we’ll pick up various bits, if necessary, at another time.
MW: Ok.
CB: Thank you, Mary,
[recording paused]
MW: You may find them of interest. Otherwise —
CB: So, we’re talking about Brian Booth who was a Met Office colleague.
MW: Yes.
CB: And do you want to just describe what the key issues there are?
MW: This?
CB: The main issues associated with what Brian has said.
MW: Well no. I think, I mean Brian would be happy to talk to you.
CB: Yes.
MW: If you wanted to.
CB: Yes.
MW: But these are lectures that he’s given.
CB: Oh right. Ok.
MW: Over the years. Over the last few years. He’s still very much into doing the –
CB: Yes. Ok. So, we’ll —that’s a separate issue. I think I’ll start with this.



Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Mary Ward about her husband Roy Ward,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 26, 2024,

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