Interview with Jack Warner


Interview with Jack Warner


Jack Warner grew up in Huddersfield. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force and trained at RAF Filey and RAF St Athan. He completed a tour of 37 operations as a flight engineer with 428 Squadron from Middleton St George. On one mine laying operation the bomb doors on his aircraft Halifax stuck and they had to do a second run despite the heavy anti-aircraft fire. His crew were part of the attacks on coastal gun emplacements during the Normandy landings on D-Day. He remembers seeing the invasion fleet moving across the channel. He spent his twentieth birthday on an operation to Leipzig.




Temporal Coverage




00:49:02 audio recording

Conforms To


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GR: Hello. This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre. I am with Flying Officer Jack Warner DFM, a flight engineer on 428, Royal Canadian Air Force Squadron. We’re at Jack’s home near Huddersfield and it’s the 1st of April 2016. Right then, Jack. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
JW: That’s good.
GR: Was you born in Huddersfield?
JW: Yes. I was born and bred in Huddersfield.
GR: Yeah.
JW: My mother was matron at the local hospital and my father was the village blacksmith at Lindley. And they met at a dance.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Down here at Mill Hill. Got married. And she went to live with the village blacksmith. The life you see. And I was born in 1923.
GR: 1923.
JW: So she would be a matron in the 1920s really.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So that’s how I came to be in Huddersfield.
GR: Yeah. Brothers and sisters?
JW: Yeah. Two brothers. Younger brothers.
GR: Younger brothers.
JW: But we were all quite close. We never had anything wrong with each other. At fifteen I became interested, well earlier than that, I became interested in model aeroplanes. And myself and Brian Wilkinson who is in that book there were interested in making aeroplanes and flying them from Golcar. So we made the most of several years and in that time I joined the Cadets in Huddersfield. The Air Cadets.
GR: Yeah.
JW: When I was about fifteen. From then I was interested in —
GR: Had, had you left school then?
JW: Oh yeah.
GR: Yeah. You’d have left school about thirteen, fourteen. Yeah.
JW: About fourteen then.
GR: And was you working or –?
JW: I should just be working maybe.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I was interested in flying with the Cadets although we never got to fly. The tuition was very good and interesting. All to do with aeroplanes. Anything to do with aeroplanes I used to like. And I used to read them out of the library in Lindley and I remember the name quite distinctly of the pilots I was interested in in 1914/18. And the most impressive one was a chap called Billy Bishop who got eighty kills flying with the Royal Air Force in 1916 to 18. And from then on I became very interested in it and I joined the Cadets in Huddersfield. And they taught us all sorts of things which you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So, I became very interested in that as well. And when I got to seventeen I felt well I can register in the Royal Air Force.
GR: You can volunteer at seventeen.
JW: Volunteer. RAF volunteer in the Royal Air Force when I was seventeen. So I joined up and went home. They said, ‘We’ll call you when we need you.’ Mind you the war was going on all this time and I just went home and carried on with my work and my reading and everything about the air force and then when I was eighteen they called me up to serve in the Royal Air Force as air crew.
GR: Right.
JW: I passed as aircrew by the Cadets and I joined as aircrew after going out to Cardington.
GR: Where did you go first of all then? So you got your call up papers.
JW: Yeah. Then they called me up to Cardington which was the aircrew selection board at Cardington. And I went in my Cadet’s uniform which was a mistake because it was right uncomfortable. I went there and I passed as a wireless operator/air gunner. I wanted to be a pilot. Which everybody did.
GR: Everybody wants to be a pilot.
JW: I passed for wireless operator/air gunner and they sent me home. They said, ‘When we’ve got a vacancy we’ll call you.’ So I went home. It was maybe a few months later. Not very long. And they called me over to say that I could train as a wireless operator/air gunner if I reported to a certain place at a certain time. I forget where it was. It might have been — was it Cardington? Where they dispersed aircrew.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Where you picked your uniform up and joined the air force. Simple as that. You’re in when you’ve got your uniform aren’t you?
GR: That’s, yeah.
JW: So I did that and I got in the air force and went to, first of all we went to Filey for what was, I considered to be the best six weeks I had in the Royal Air Force. It was six weeks square bashing. Intense cross country. Shooting. All sorts of things imaginable. But the best part of it which I thoroughly enjoyed was the square bashing. And our instructor were a chap called Flight Sergeant Gamble. He was an all in wrestler and he had us on the, on the parade ground which was the tennis courts at Filey and he really gave us rigid instructions. No messing about with Flight Sergeant Gamble. And it did me a hell of a lot of good being subjected to that type of discipline initially as I went into the air force and I still think it did me good.
GR: Yeah.
JW: All that time since. Everybody said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t do that Jack.’ I said, ‘Well I will do it and that’s it.’ You know. And my daughter said, ‘You can’t do it dad.’ ‘I will do it, Francis.’ And she’s amazed that I talk like that after all this time. The discipline is still there. You tell me to do something and I’ll do it. [unclear] So I was in the air force there.
GR: So six weeks of square bashing.
JW: That was good. I enjoyed that.
GR: Get you in shape.
JW: That was good.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I thoroughly enjoyed that. In the air force at Filey. And we were stationed in the Victoria Hotel, right on the, a massive hotel, right on the seafront at Filey.
GR: I know it.
JW: Yeah.
GR: I’ve stayed in it. Yeah.
JW: I was in a front bedroom, three storeys up for six weeks. You can’t get a lot better than that can you?
GR: You can’t.
JW: And square bashing initially and then rifle shooting. PT on the sands. It was a good six weeks that. I don’t think a lot of blokes enjoyed it but I did. So I was in the air force then at Filey.
GR: So after Filey square — yeah.
JW: And then. Yeah. We went to flight mechanics course. They had us down as wireless operator air gunners.
GR: Yeah.
JW: But I got a note from Cardington saying that there were no vacancies as a flight operator —
GR: Wireless operator.
JW: Wireless operator air gunner but you could immediately come in to the service as a flight engineer.
GR: Right.
JW: If you were so inclined. I said, ‘Yes, I’d like to do that.’ I wanted to get in. Get going, you know. So I went in and took a flight mechanics course which all flight engineers did and then I took a flight engine — that was at St Athan which was a very big station. Packed with people. It’s now making cars there now.
GR: Right.
JW: Jaguar are making cars there now. But it was a very big station and a good station. And I took a flight mechanics course there. And the fitter’s course. And the flight engineer’s course. And the training was excellent. And from there we were able supposedly to fly. So we’d had no flying experience at all. So after that I passed as a flight engineer which is another sort of section in this story.
GR: Yeah. How long did the training take to be a flight engineer? Can you remember how long you was there for?
JW: It was, I was about six weeks at Filey.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I should say the mechanics course was about six or eight weeks. It was a long course but mainly it was the mechanics course was the main course. We took that and passed. Passed them all alright.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And then took a short flight engineer’s course and from there we were classed as aircrew. In other words you were, you were going to fly and that’s it.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And with that knowledge you got enough knowledge to suss anything out out that might go wrong. Supposedly. So I went to, posted then to Croft which was a Conversion Unit. There were three, all in a row. From the A1 there’s Topcliffe, Croft and Leeming. Leeming was the army intake. I went to Topcliffe or Croft because it was a Conversion Unit for people who had flown Wellingtons as a crew.
GR: Yeah.
JW: To pick up a flight engineer on the four-engined aircraft. And they’d never seen one before and I hadn’t seen one before.
GR: And I’m just checking your logbook.
JW: Yeah.
GR: And I think it was 1659 Conversion Unit.
JW: Croft. Croft or Topcliffe.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: Yeah. One or two. There were two Topcliffe and Croft.
GR: Yeah.
JW: You want one or the other.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So I was then in the air force and then subject to flying. And the five lads which I joined —
GR: Because they were already a crew weren’t they?
JW: They were a crew.
GR: They’d trained on Wellingtons.
JW: That’s right.
GR: And they would have been missing a flight engineer.
JW: That’s right.
GR: And a mid-upper gunner.
JW: That’s right. George.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: And they picked George and me up and we got on alright. The pilot was a Canadian called John Sinclair. He was a very nice chap. He was twenty four years old and we thought he was an old man. The crew were all nineteen. We did. Honestly. You wouldn’t believe it.
GR: Yeah.
JW: But at the time we picked him up. Twenty four years on. God he’s ancient. Ancient. But he was a nice chap was John Sinclair.
GR: Yeah.
JW: He was a teacher. Canadian. From Vancouver. And I met him in Vancouver since and we got on like a house on fire. He was a teacher. Very down to earth. No shouting or bawling or bossing about like that.
GR: Yeah.
JW: The only thing about him was that he used to insist on carrying a gun in his flying boot. Loaded. In case he was shot down and he had to meet a German. He was going to get the first shot in. [unclear] of a German. But a really nice chap.
GR: Because you were allowed to carry guns weren’t you?
JW: Yes. You were. They were issued.
GR: They were issued.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Yes. Yeah.
JW: Stuffed them in your flying boot.
GR: That’s a bit later on when you joined the squadron so —
JW: Oh that’s later. Yeah.
GR: So you’re still at Conversion Unit at the moment.
JW: Conversion. Yeah.
GR: And I’m just again checking the logbook and I think it’s around about the beginning of August 1943 that you started doing your training with Sergeant Sinclair.
JW: Charles.
GR: Oh yeah.
JW: Charles was first.
GR: Yeah. Your first pilot on training was.
JW: They were instructing John first.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Instructing the pilot first. Then they put the crew in with the pilot after he’d been trained. After —
GR: Yeah.
JW: The pilot had been trained. So he did his training and we then joined him as a crew. We got on alright together. We just stood and sat where we had to do and did what we had to do and did the job we were taught to do as a flight engineer and everything went fine. No problems at all. You’d have thought there might have been but there wasn’t.
GR: No.
JW: They were an experienced crew of five of them and we joined as a flight engineer as an extra. And George was the mid-upper gunner and he was extra as well. So we all got on fine as a crew. I’ve got pictures of them in that.
GR: I will — we’ll come to the pictures in the scrapbook in a bit.
JW: That’s right. Those are good. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I’ve got photographs there.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And we got on fine at Topcliffe. I think we did six weeks about, at Topcliffe or Croft.
GR: Yes.
JW: That was just off the A1 in Yorkshire.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And all of Yorkshire, if you could draw a map, is all 6 Group Royal Canadian Air Force and we were 428 Squadron and joined the 428 Squadron at Middleton St George as a crew of a Halifax.
GR: Yes.
JW: Able to fly and control a Halifax aeroplane.
GR: And I’m just checking again and I think you’re first trip there was on the 8th of September 1943. You did —
JW: [unclear]
GR: You did yeah.
JW: Yeah.
GR: An air test.
JW: A long trip.
GR: An air test.
JW: Yes.
GR: With Pilot Officer Eaton.
JW: Yes.
GR: And then a few days later you did your first air test.
JW: Yeah. As a crew.
GR: As a crew.
JW: Yeah.
GR: So —
JW: We were soon up in the air after that. Flying operations after that.
GR: Yes I can see that you arrived.
JW: No big gap there. We just —
GR: You arrive in squadron at the beginning of September.
JW: Yeah.
GR: 428 Squadron. And so tell me a bit about that first day — 15th of September 1943.
JW: Yeah.
GR: You did your first operation to Montlucon.
JW: Montlucon. It was right down in the south of France. Almost bordering Italy. And really there didn’t seem to be much activity at all to me. Just easy.
GR: But how did it all start? So that day you were told you were on operations.
JW: Yeah. We all got our life jackets and parachutes issued. When you know you’re on ops they tell you to go and get your parachutes and your Mae West which is hung up in a separate place to go. So we picked those up and went down to, the briefing was at a certain time and you had to be there as a team or as a crew of a Halifax. And we went to briefing and they told us where we were going, what we were going to do and what the target was. But it was a hell of a long way. About ten hours I think.
GR: Who was in the briefing? Was it just yourself and the pilot?
JW: Oh no.
GR: The whole crew.
JW: The whole crew. And the squadron.
GR: Right.
JW: Altogether.
GR: Yes.
JW: In a big room. There could be a hundred or two hundred people in there depending on how many aircraft were flying.
GR: Yeah.
JW: But usually it was quite packed with every crew that was flying in an aeroplane that night were at the briefing. So they showed you where we were going, where we were going to do, what the bomb load was, which overall was about twelve thousand pounds depending on whether they were incendiaries or high explosives. Or the really big one. The four tonner.
GR: Yeah. How did you feel when you knew?
JW: Alright.
GR: Yeah.
JW: No problem. I thought it was a nice trip.
GR: Yeah.
JW: John Sinclair, he said, ‘The trouble with you Jack you’re flak happy.’ And that’s it and I was like that all the way through. I used to enjoy getting to briefing and listening to everything they were going to do.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I thought well I can go again and have a really good flight. Not enjoy myself — but it was exciting.
GR: Yeah. So no nerves. You were —
JW: None at all.
GR: Yeah.
JW: None at all and none of the crews was nervous.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We never had any problem in that direction.
GR: And I’m just checking your logbook again and obviously the 15th of September was your first op and you were back up the next night.
JW: Yes. Modane.
GR: Modane.
JW: Which was another long trip.
GR: Nine hours.
JW: That was a long trip you know.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: Once again it was in France. It was the south of France area. Towards Italy.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I think they might have been picked as an easy one for us to start with again.
GR: Yeah.
JW: It was so easy. There were no problem. Hardly any flak or searchlights.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Or anything over France.
GR: So at this time you were probably thinking quite easy this job.
JW: Oh yeah. No problem. Just enjoy my flying with I did. I thought it was great. Flying. You know.
GR: Right. But what happened a few days later when you went to Hanover?
JW: Oh that was in the German Ruhr valley which was a string of targets. There was Hanover Castle, Dusseldorf, Berlin, Leipzig all clustered around an area which is called Happy Valley.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Because there was some searchlights.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Flak. General goings on that made it very, very exciting. And once again, I thoroughly enjoyed myself because I was flying. And everybody was quite happy in the crew. We’d no problems with any over-eagerness at all. We just did our job that we were taught to do and we got through all right.
GR: Excepting you’re — I am quoting.
JW: Hanover.
GR: I am quoting from your logbook. Hanover. Coned for five minutes. Nose of aircraft holed by flak.
JW: Yes. It was.
GR: The pilot was very lucky to recover.
JW: He was. We were lucky to recover at all.
GR: Yeah.
JW: That’s Hanover that was. There was two Hanovers. I thought that was in the second one.
GR: No. That was the first one.
JW: In the first.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Hanover Castle, Hanover.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I can remember them off by heart.
GR: So what happened when the aircraft was hit by flak?
JW: Well it was hit. Normally I think it was a big bang in front of you but it isn’t. Its pieces of iron that’s –
GR: Shrapnel.
JW: Shrapnel coming off the shell.
GR: Yeah.
JW: After the explosion.
GR: Yes.
JW: And the explosion itself doesn’t do much damage because the flak is out and it’s flying all over the place if it was anywhere near you. And a piece of flak went right through the dome and it injured the bomb aimer who was laying flat like that. And I could see most of the things out of my astrodome. And generally I helped John Sinclair, who was the pilot, to keep an eye on everything that was happening outside because he was looking to fly the aircraft all the time. And I thought it was good. We enjoyed that apart from being hit. It didn’t affect us at all. We were just hit and a piece of flak went through the front dome and it shattered the dome.
GR: So was the plane difficult to control?
JW: No.
GR: Or did you just keep on going?
JW: No. No. We just kept on going.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Without the astrodome. It knocked most of it out.
GR: Yeah.
JW: There was a bit there.
GR: Was it before the bombing run or afterwards?
JW: Before.
GR: Before.
JW: Yeah.
GR: And you kept, did you carry on with the bombing run?
JW: Oh yes. Oh yeah. We just carried on.
GR: So even though the bomb aimer was injured.
JW: Yeah.
GR: You all carried on.
JW: You were disciplined to do that.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Which is why I say the first six weeks of my air force career was the best thing that ever happened to me.
GR: Yeah.
JW: It really was.
GR: Yeah. ‘Cause that was only your third operation.
JW: Yeah.
GR: And hit by flak.
JW: Hit over Hanover castle, Hanover.
GR: But you carried on.
JW: Hit by flak.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We just carried on. We’d been trained to do it. We’d been told to do it. We were disciplined into doing it. Not that that mattered anyway. You just did it.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So a lot of people said, ‘It must have been awful Jack.’ I said, ‘No. It wasn’t.’ It was exciting but that was it.
GR: Yeah. And again just taking you through your logbook a little bit. You went through October in to November.
JW: Yeah. Castle we went to.
GR: What about your first Berlin trip?
JW: Yeah. The Berlin trip.
GR: So you went in the briefing in the briefing room.
JW: Yeah. In the briefing room.
GR: And the thin red line was going to Berlin.
JW: Yeah. And a lot of people said there was a shout of, ‘Oh’, but there wasn’t. There was not a word said. On the television they say, ‘You’re going to Berlin, lads,’ And the Americans said, ‘Oh.’ We didn’t. We just sat there and said, ‘Right. We were going to Berlin,’ and that’s it.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We’d no problems going to Berlin and back. It was just a long way. And a hell of a sight because all the lights were, it were all lit up.
GR: Yeah.
JW: With previous raids. The fires were still burning over Berlin for a period of a couple of months.
GR: Because you attacked Berlin right in the middle of Bomber Command’s big push.
JW: That’s right. We happened to be flying in a Halifax aircraft but the English 4 Group were flying Lancasters.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And they took over Hamm of the Berlin raids. I know one chap who was, I know him very well, he was the father of my son in law. He was flying a Lancaster from 4 Group in a well known station and he did twelve operations to Berlin. In Lancasters.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And he got away with it.
GR: Yes.
JW: And I’ve read his scrapbook and he was a beggar.
GR: Yeah.
JW: He was a farmer from Alford in Lincolnshire. And he came from Lincolnshire and Patrick came from Lincolnshire. My daughter married him. That’s him there. That’s his son. And he was renowned for being a risky little beggar, you know. It says, in the book I read, the chunky little farmer from Alford. He was, he was flying Lancasters from —
GR: Yeah.
JW: It was a famous station in 4 Group.
GR: Yeah. It could have been — I think —
JW: I don’t — and the name of the station. They do a lot of specialist work and did a lot of —
GR: Yeah. Could have been Waddington, Scampton.
JW: It wasn’t Scampton.
GR: East Kirkby. Coningsby. There was twenty seven bomber bases in 4 so —
JW: That’s right. Yeah.
GR: But so your first Berlin went ok.
JW: No problem. Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We just did an ordinary trip to Berlin and came back. No trouble at all.
GR: Yeah.
JW: There was all this talk and there was a lot of action there. Which we hadn’t seen in [Montclus?] or Modane but a lot of anti-aircraft fire going on.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And we had to keep our eyes open all the time. Without fail. For the aircraft. Fighter aircraft.
GR: Yeah.
JW: You had to do. That was your job.
GR: Was you aware of the casualties at the time?
JW: No.
GR: Because sort of November.
JW: No.
GR: December ’43 into early ’44 was bad for bombing.
JW: It were appalling. It were appalling.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I’ve read accounts —
GR: But you didn’t know that at the time.
JW: No. No. You just carried on. It was just another raid. Berlin. It was a pretty picture all lit up with pointy flak. We didn’t see any fighters but the experience was quite illuminating you know.
GR: Yeah. And what about the squadron? Was the squadron suffering casualties at the time?
JW: Yeah. I mean 419 was taking heavier losses than us. That’s 419 Squadron was the other squadron at Middleton St George.
GR: Yes.
JW: And then the same, we’re in the same mess and everything and we just separated at briefing times. But we got together at briefing so we were all going on the same raid. They were just the same land. It was a Canadian squadron. Like all 6 Group were Canadians.
GR: And. Right. So after Berlin.
JW: Yeah.
GR: You were getting ready on the 3rd of December to celebrate your twentieth birthday.
JW: That’s right. I was.
GR: And what happened to you then?
JW: Nothing. I went, I went before we went I went to the mirror where we were stationed at Dinsdale House and I went up in to the bedroom there. We hadn’t gone on to the operations station then. I went up to the washroom and there were a whacking great mirror and I just thought I’m going to look at myself. Now. And when I come back. See if there’s any difference. It’s one of those strange things isn’t it?
GR: Yeah.
JW: I remember looking in this bloody great mirror at myself and seeing, you know, a normal bloke that’s going flying on his twentieth birthday to Leipzig. And we went and we flew it and it was near Berlin.
GR: Yeah.
JW: It isn’t far away but it were a good trip.
GR: To celebrate your twentieth birthday you were flying a Halifax over Leipzig.
JW: Over Leipzig. Yeah.
GR: Happy birthday.
JW: Yeah [laughs] You wouldn’t think it’s possible now but that’s what happened.
GR: Yeah.
JW: You know. But when you reckon up when we looked upon John as being pretty old. He was only twenty four was John Sinclair.
GR: Yeah.
JW: He was a pilot but we thought he was bloody old.
GR: Yeah. The old man.
JW: The old man of the crew.
GR: Yeah. Now then. We’ve got a few so we’re in to January 1944.
JW: Oh yeah.
GR: In January ‘44 was two more to Berlin.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah. And then —
JW: I did two or three Berlin but chaps like Harold Blow they called him he was — I’ll show you on Dusseldorf, Berlin, Leipzig. Harold Blow was in the same, I put a star opposite the operations.
GR: There’s one there.
JW: Berlin and Leipzig.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Harold Blow was —
GR: We’re just looking through the logbook.
JW: It was on the same operation as I was. Flying his Lancaster.
GR: Right.
JW: And I was flying in a Halifax.
GR: Yeah. Right then. So into 1944 and what looks like a very interesting gardening operation to Oslo.
JW: Oh yes. Yeah. I’ll never forget that. Never forget that. Yeah.
GR: Yeah. According to the logbook and you can tell me a bit more about it. Oslo. First run bomb doors stuck.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Pilot decided to go around again. Hit by flak over target.
JW: That’s right.
GR: Port engine put out of action.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Had to return on three engines.
JW: We did.
GR: And as we passed over the dock the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were in dock.
JW: They were. And we had a hell of a big mine. One big mine. One of the electronic mines and we dropped this right in the harbour at the old wharf. And we did it. We went around once and the bomb doors were stuck and John Sinclair said, ‘Come on Mick. Get the bloody thing out.’ He said, ‘I can’t. The bomb doors are stuck.’ And the flak was coming up like God knows what. We were right over it at Oslo. So we went around again but we had to go a big circle to get right around and in to line for a run in onto the target. And the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were down there and we were flying dead above them and that time Mick got the bomb doors open and said, ‘Ok Sinc, get a run now.’ So we did a run on in and dropped it successfully. As soon as we dropped the bloody thing all hell were let loose with the flak. And it was coming up like nobody’s business but the bursts weren’t exactly on us but we weren’t at twenty thousand feet. We were about ten thousand because of the weight of this thing. So we dropped the thing from what’s considered a low level and we dropped it in exactly the place they wanted it which was right in the harbour. And as soon as we dropped it we were hit on the port engine side by a piece of shrapnel on the port inner engine. And I was looking at the gauge, had to look at the guages all the time. If you’re in trouble like that. That’s your job to look at them and I could see the port inner engine temperature was going up and the pressure was going down. The oil pressure. So I could see there was something radically wrong with the port engine. It was still going and I said to John, I says, ‘Feather the port engine Skip. The port inner engine Skip.’ ‘Ok Jack.’ Just like that. No messing about [pause]
GR: So, and it just says here returned on three engines.
JW: We did.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We came back and it was a beautiful night. It was snow covered all over Sweden and Norway. And after we’d feathered the engine, he feathered it ok did John by himself. I’m supposed to help him a bit there but I was looking at my gauges and —
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I said, ‘Feather port engine,’ you see. Just like that. And he did it. Just like that.
GR: Yeah. And not many operations in March.
JW: No.
GR: For some reason. Just did a couple. And then moving on into April 1944 and May 1944 I presume this was the big build up to Normandy.
JW: That’s right.
GR: And the D-day operations.
JW: Yeah. Now, you’ll see from the list of operations.
GR: Yeah.
JW: That this were from the Ruhr Valley which had been battered heavily anyway.
GR: Yeah.
JW: To about here.
GR: Yes.
JW: Where you could see they were going to use Bomber Command as much as they could towards the invasion of Europe. And they did and a lot of people don’t know it but that period there we were bombing and —
GR: This is April and May 1944.
JW: Yeah. We were either bombing or mining. It’ll be listed as gardening.
GR: Yeah.
JW: That was mining but a ruddy great mine on like we did at Oslo.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And we were, Bomber Command were instructed obviously to get the ports mined. Every single port had to be mined from right up Narvik right down the Norway Sweden coast.
Right down France. Germany. Right to Southern France. All those ports had to be either attacked by bombing or by the use of mines.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And beggar the Ruhr and Berlin and all that sort of thing. So that was our job and the job of all 6 Group to mine the whole of the coastline so that no German ship could get out of port.
GR: No.
JW: At all.
GR: Yeah
JW: Not the slightest chance. They hadn’t the chance to get out.
GR: And we’re looking at during that period. Going to Lisle, Le Havre.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Rostock, Cherbourg, Villeneuve, [Morleau?] Morlay, Brest.
JW: All to keep the German.
GR: Yeah. Dunkirk.
JW: Yeah. Otherwise they’d have come out and shot the invasion fleet to bits.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
JW: The could quite easily.
GR: And again in so one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. So nine operations in April.
JW: To drop mines.
GR: Yeah. And again in May — one, two, three. Another eight in May.
JW: Yeah.
GR: So that was building them up.
JW: During the daytime the 8th Air Force were under Eisenhower. He was in full command of the 8th Air Force and they didn’t half use it as a hammering force of bombers.
GR: And what about the 5th and 6th of June 1944?
JW: Oh yes.
GR: Actual D-day. Because you went to —
JW: Merville.
GR: The Merville Batteries
JW: That’s right. Yeah.
GR: Which had to be taken out.
JW: That’s right. They were covering the whole of the beaches from right up to Pointe du Hoc? Where the other gun placement was.
GR: Yes.
JW: Pointe du Hoc and Merville at this side and there was Merville village or town there. And all the invasion beaches were stretched from Merville right up to Omaha and beyond. Up to Cherbourg. Well towards Cherbourg anyway. Those were all covered with troops and they were all instructions from the navy and army. When to move, how to move and do it. We went in about a quarter or a half an hour before the actual invasion. We were supposed to, oh we did our best to bomb all the beachheads from Merville and our target was a Merville gun emplacement. And I don’t think we hit it. It was mainly a good attempt. As best we could with the stuff. There were no lights at all over Merville. And the beach was just a flat beach. You couldn’t see where you were. But we were only maybe five or ten thousand feet up so we should have got it but if it had been lit up previously we could have hammered that gun right out of action but it wasn’t lit up. Or no indication where it was. I mean they said, ‘Right. You’re going to Merville.’ Oh right. To Merville. Yeah. But to attack a gun emplacement like that you want it lit up and illuminated.
GR: And it wasn’t.
JW: Nothing at all. And I think they missed that part.
GR: And did you see the invasion fleet?
JW: Yeah.
GR: Flying across the channel. What was that like?
JW: Coming back. We came back and it was just fantastic. All the ships. Hundreds of them. And I saw all that because I had nowt else to do. I was looking at it and you could see all the ships down there. It was a blaze behind you. And we saw all the ships coming in and we were just going out. It was quite an experience actually.
GR: It would be. Yeah.
JW: There was very little opposition.
GR: No.
JW: Not much opposition at all. But and we flew back to Middleton St George. Right. We went to sleep. We went to bed after us bacon and eggs. We went to bed and halfway through the day they called us out saying, ‘You’re out tonight.’ We said, ‘Right we’re going tonight as well.’ So we did.
GR: [unclear]
JW: [unclear] which was a railway junction south of the beach head.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And that was a railway junction for German troops enforcements and ammunition. Anything the Germans wanted. Had to go through [unclear] to feed the invasion beaches which stretched for about five or ten miles.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I’ve been there and it’s a wonderful holiday. To see all the beaches and to go up to Omaha. And see the American Cemetery.
GR: Yeah. And obviously that brought back memories.
JW: Yeah.
GR: So —
JW: It did.
GR: It did. And all this time your crew, was it the same crew?
JW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
JW: No problems.
GR: So you all got through.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
JW: No problems. We all got through. After [unclear] we did a couple, I think it were Brest.
GR: Brest. I’m just looking. Yeah.
JW: But you see you’ve still got to keep the invasion fleet away from the Germans. So we still had to hammer the ports all the way up. We kept bombing the ports to stop the German boats coming out to attack the invasion fleet which would have been easy meat for them really. And it was successful because we didn’t have any reports. Anything bad about it. It was successfully done by Bomber Command.
GR: And how did you feel a couple of days later. The 10th of June, going to Brest was your last operation.
JW: Hammering the docks again to keep the boats —
GR: Yeah.
JW: The German boats away from the invasion fleet which was still pouring across. Eisenhower poured tonnes and tonnes of stuff in to that fleet you know. When it was going over there for weeks and weeks on end.
GR: And talking to you I should think you were disappointed because you weren’t doing any more operations.
JW: No more flying. It’s a damned shame really. I applied for another tour of operations to follow it.
GR: Yeah.
JW: To go on straight away. I would have gone on another tour of operations. But they said, ‘No. You’ve got to take at least three months leave.’ I said, ‘Right then. That’s it.’
GR: You didn’t want to do it.
JW: No.
GR: You’d have gone back flying.
JW: I would have gone back flying straight away.
GR: So was you on three months, was you on three months leave or did you do some training?
JW: No. They just posted me to Training Command.
GR: Yeah.
JW: At Wymeswold which was a bloody awful station. Training Command after being on an operational bomber squadron.
GR: And that was just helping train people basically.
JW: Train people.
GR: Yeah.
JW: On the Douglas Dakota.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I did that for several months and one of the squadron commanders. I remember him distinctly. He was older than me but he wanted to get back flying like I did. He said — I got a call from him, Flying Officer Warner report to squadron leader so and so I reported to him. ‘Sir.’ ‘Would you like to join me to go back flying, Warner? ’ I said, ‘Yeah. Yeah I would.’ So, ‘Well I’m going to apply for a flying permit to go back on to operations.’ He were fed up with it and all and I was so, you see you have to wait a couple of months to see what they say. And they got a rejection. Both of them. Both rejected. Do you know why? Because they were all flying bloody Lancasters then.
GR: Yeah.
JW: There were no Halifax flight engineers wanted. And I were right disappointed I’ll tell you ‘cause Wymeswold were just dead.
GR: Yeah.
JW: It was awful.
GR: You did a bit of flying in January 1945.
JW: Yeah. We took a Halifax over to Maison, not Maison Blanche er Morocco.
GR: Oh right.
JW: A station in Morocco. We took a standard Halifax over. They dropped me. I were having my dinner one day and somebody came up, tapped me on the back, and said, ‘How would you like to go to Morocco, Jack? ’ I said, ‘Flying?’ he said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Oh I’ll go. I’ll go.’ Yeah. I’ll go so we joined a crew down at the big base down in Cornwall. Where the big aeroplanes go from. St Mawgan.
GR: Yes.
JW: We flew from St Mawgan, it’s in my logbook, with a chap called Flying Officer Pearson who was an ex- First World War pilot. And he was old. He must have been sort of sixtyish, you know.
GR: Right.
JW: Well he was studying the aeroplane up and down.
GR: Yeah.
JW: He said, ‘Would you be my flight engineer, Jack? ’ I said, ‘Yeah. That’s what I’m here for.’ So I hopped in this Halifax and we took it to Maison Blanche. I think it was.
GR: Yeah. Which is good. Now then. Obviously you were awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal.
JW: Yeah.
GR: And this was awarded in August 1944. So awarded after your operations.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Yeah.
JW: It was. Yeah. I was at Wymeswold when that came through. It went up on the notice board at Wymeswold.
GR: Yeah. So the war finished. And what happened to yourself?
JW: Well I wanted to stop in the air force. I applied to stop in the air force but they didn’t want me. I was a flight engineer. Halifaxes. Nobody wanted me.
GR: Nobody wanted. No
JW: No.
GR: No.
JW: I was very disappointed. Some of the other crew stopped in. The navigator stopped in. George stopped in and got a second tour of operations. George. The mid-upper gunner. George.
GR: The mid-upper gunner. Yeah.
JW: He applied for a second tour of operations. And he was a mid-upper gunner. He could do a bit of rear gunning as well. He wasn’t bothered. He was quite a nice bloke was George.
GR: Yeah.
JW: Next to me. I was in the same billet as him.
GR: Yeah.
JW: In the same room on the billet on operations as George. And he used to play the trumpet. And he went and he got a second tour of operations. I said, ‘What was it like George? ’ he said, ‘Like bloody hell,’ he said. He said, ‘You know what they did, Jack?’ he said. I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘They put me on Pathfinders as a rear gunner.’ I said, ‘Blimey.’ He said, ‘That was a right bloody easy job that you had.’ I said, ‘We got through George.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but it were — you should see what they’re doing now on Pathfinders.’ He said, ‘It’s like a bloody lunatic asylum. All the flak coming up. Fighters coming up and especially on the run in you know because the Pathfinders were dropping the markers.
GR: Yes.
JW: And if you got the Pathfinders out they buggered the operation up straight away. So he got, he got another tour of operations. But a tour of operations on Pathfinders was only twelve operations. Which you don’t normally get through them anyway. He got through them anyway and he got the DFC. George.
GR: Now, we’ve talked all about action over Germany and France.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Tell me a bit about your love life during the war. Because I know you met your wife during the war didn’t you?
JW: No. Just after.
GR: Just after.
JW: Yeah.
GR: Right.
JW: I had a girlfriend called Dorothy Crossland at the time and she were only eighteen and I was nineteen. I used to write to her all sorts of different ideas and George gave me a lot of what to write. I said, ‘What shall I put next, George?’ Tell her this, tell her that, tell her everything Jack. I said, ‘Right. I will do,’ because there’s nought else to do at night you see.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I used to write to Dorothy Crossland. She were a nice lass. But I were only nineteen. She were eighteen. I got a bit fed up and I packed it in. And her mother went to see my mother to see why Jack had packed Dorothy in. She said, ‘How the devil do I know that? You’ll have to go and see him yourself.’ So she didn’t do. But she were a nice lass were Dorothy.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And I met my wife much later. I made a foursome up at tennis with Margaret. My mate Brian Wilkinson was in there. Rang me up. He said, ‘Can you make a foursome at tennis Jack? ’ I said, ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘Who with? ’ ‘Oh Barbara and Margaret.’ I said, ‘Aye. That’s alright.’ So I went down to Green Head Courts from Lindley. We all four went down. I knew Margaret. I’d played tennis with her. Watched her play. And Barbara was a cousin. So we took the two girls out to see a film at the Ritz Cinema. And that’s how I first met Margaret.
GR: Right. And Margaret had been a WAAF.
JW: Yeah. She’d been a WAAF. Yeah. She was in the WAAFs abroad. In Algiers.
GR: Oh right.
JW: So she’d been around a bit had Margaret.
GR: Yeah.
JW: She were out there a couple of years. And she showed me photographs.
GR: Were you both still in the RAF then or had you come out?
JW: I came out.
GR: You came out. Yeah.
JW: And she came out about the same time.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So we met actually at a game of tennis. They wanted a foursome so I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll be the foursome.’ And that’s how we met. She’d been in the WAAFs two years. Mainly in Algiers and Morocco. She unfortunately got attacked by the mosquito and got [pause] what do they call it?
GR: Malaria.
JW: Malaria. She got malaria and she were very poorly with malaria which flew back in later years which finished her off. She got malaria but she got through all her jobs alright. She were a bright lass were Margaret. She was.
GR: Yeah.
JW: A really brilliant as a typist. Mainly as a secretary. They all wanted Margaret as a secretary. Well anyway we got married but later on she got very poorly. I mean much later. She were eighty one when she died. And we’d a damned good life together.
GR: Good. What did you do after the war, Jack?
JW: I went straight to Brook Motors. I said, ‘Have you got any jobs?’ I had no job. Just went there and they said, ‘Yeah. You can be a balancer. Balancing rotors.’ I said, ‘Right. Show us what to do and I’ll do it.’ And I was there for about a couple of years. Ten pound a week. That’s what I got then. Ten quid a week.
GR: Ten pound a week.
JW: That’s what I got for being up in the air [laughs] It was the biggest come down really. Not in a lot of respects but I didn’t mind.
GR: Yeah.
JW: I’d do anything just to get going again.
GR: Yeah.
JW: So we both got going. Unfortunately in later years she got, she was a right little worker Margaret, a real good little worker. That’s her there.
GR: Yeah.
JW: We ran this place. A half an acre of ground there. We ran it as a nursery in my spare time and her spare time. Chrysanths, buddy roses, conifers, bedding plants. Everything like that.
GR: Yeah.
JW: And we made quite a bit of brass.
GR: Well done.
JW: And it’s a good old house is this and a good living cellar down below. Used to fill it with tanks of water and put all my flowers in and everybody came on a Friday night for them.
GR: To buy flowers.
JW: It’s down there at the bottom there. The shop at the bottom took most of them but everybody took them.
GR: Wonderful.
JW: I’d sell them for a half a crown a bunch.
GR: Yeah.
JW: When a half a crown were a half a crown.
GR: Yeah. How long have you lived here Jack?
JW: Sixty years.
GR: Sixty years.
JW: Yeah. Two acres at the back and I grabbed it. Nobody else wanted it.
GR: No.
JW: No. This is an old house.
GR: Yeah.
JW: There isn’t a brick in it.
GR: Yes.
JW: It’s a stone built house.
GR: Yes.
JW: The walls are solid like that. It’s cold and it’s all stone all over. Right into the cellar. Which is like a living cellar. You could go — the chap who owned, he used to live in it. And it was three flats. And when I came to buy it he said, ‘Well it’s three flats.’ I said, ‘I don’t mind.’ I didn’t want. I took out all the central heating plant out and threw it away. Now I wish I had central heating put in but nobody had central heating.
GR: No.
JW: But nobody had it in those days.
GR: No.
JW: Sixty years ago nobody had it.
GR: Nobody had central heating.
JW: They put all those semis up. None of them had central heating but they have now.
GR: Right. I will, on that note I will bring this interview to a close. Thank you very much.
JW: Been very interesting. Thank you very much.
GR: No. No. Thank you.



Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Jack Warner,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 18, 2024,

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