Interview with Ray Worral

Title

Interview with Ray Worral

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2015-06-03

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:40:41 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

Worral, JR

Transcription

My name is Raymond Worral, I am usually known as Ray and I joined the RAF in nineteen forty three as an Aircrew Flight Engineer. Sorry do you want more information about my name?
MJ. No, just that you are doing and interview for the Bomber Command thing .
RW. I am doing this recording for the Bomber Command, Historical Centre is it? And em em this is what my career is. I em joined the RAF in nineteen forty three, I was an Aircrew Flight Engineer, I volunteered, and I em I went on training. I joined up at the RAF Receiving Centre in January nineteen forty three and from there on I began my training as an Aircrew Flight Engineer. I stayed at the receiving centre for a few weeks, then after that I was posted to an ITW Initial Training Centre, Initial Training Wing at Bridlington in Yorkshire, where I stayed for about three months I think. From January, from the end of January until the end of March and we were kept busy at the Centre there. Square bashing em on parade, learning all the things we needed to know about, basic morse code, we had to know about the Aircrew discipline procedure and everything to do with the RAF. We had a lot of marching up and down the front, it was in cold weather. We were on parade at half past six in the morning on the front at Bridlington towards the end of January in freezing cold weather and then we marched about and did some square bashing and then we went to have our breakfast. Then after breakfast we were on parade again and then we went on various courses which we were told about in em, various places in Bridlington. That continued for about three months I think, em, I should think until the end[pause]. I should think it was till about the end eh, probably lasted about six weeks, so that would take me till about April, when I went down to St Athen on the Flight Engineers training course. This was all ground training and we learned all about aero engines. There was a big RAF Station there, a very big RAF Station in St Athen in South Wales. We went to lectures every morning in the workshops and we learned all about the construction of an aircraft, the framework and the engines. We learned particularly because I was designated to go onto Lancaster aircraft, we learned about the Lancaster. We learned all about the engines and all about the framework. That course lasted for about nine months I think. In the middle of it we were sent on a week’s course to Manchester to the Manchester factory at Ringway just outside Manchester to have a weeks course there. We were talked to by the people who actually worked on the aircraft. After about nine months on the course we were given a test and we graduated in November about the middle of November nineteen forty three.
From there I was posted to RAF Scampton which was a waiting centre and em, eventually I was posted to em, I think it was, Winthorpe which was a Lancaster Conversion Unit. There I met the rest of the Crew, the rest of the Crew had completed their training just as I had completed mine. The Crew of a Lancaster consisted of the Pilot, the Flight Engineer, the Navigator, the Bomb Aimer, Rear Gunner, Mid Upper Gunner and the Wireless Operator. We met in the Mess at Winthorpe and got to know people. Eventually we got together in a room and we got ourselves Crewed up. The others, apart from me had already been Crewed up and already done some training so we sat about and talked to each other and one of the Pilots came up to me and asked if I would like to join his Crew. He seemed a nice sensible sort of Chap so I said yes I would like to join his Crew and so I came to join his Crew. He was an Australian and I met the other members of his crew, the Navigator, an Australian, the Bomb Aimer and Australian and then the em, Wireless Operator, two Gunners were Englishmen and then we started out training at the Conversion Unit at Winthorpe. I think we were there for about two months doing cross country flights, practice bombing flights and em, all the other things we needed to do and getting to know the Crew. After we had done about two months, probably a bit more, probably about ten weeks we were then posted to what they called an RAF Finishing School, sorry a Lancaster Finishing School which was at RAF Syerston near Nottingham. Posted together from the time we were crewed up at Winthorpe we stuck together as a Crew completely. Did everything together even very often went out together to the Pub together and that sort of thing. So we left Winthorpe and went to the RAF Finishing, Lancaster Finishing School which was at Syerston near Nottingham. Continued out training there, special training as applied to a Lancaster Bomber. We had about six weeks there probably a bit more where as a Crew we were posted to the RAF Station at Dunholme Lodge, just outside Lincoln. Dunholme Lodge to 44 Squadron, Bomber Command it was a Rhodesian Squadron in those days and it was RAF, 5 Group Bomber Command. We joined this Squadron as a Crew, all in the same bus, we went in, and we went into the Mess, we were all Sergeants and we went into the Mess and em, It was just before lunchtime on a day before February, I forget what day it was. About the ninth of February and we got into the Mess. I can remember what happened then, it was the day after the well know Nurenberg Raid and eh,the Squadron had been out on that Raid the night before and there had been very heavy losses. When we got into the Mess they were all very, all the people there were silent and quiet and not very friendly and rather gloomy because there had been serious losses. It was not a very bright start to our joining an Operational Squadron. Anyway we had to continue and it was probably I should think, a month to six weeks until we had to do an Operation. We continued to practice doing cross country flights, air tests, bombing runs out on the North Sea off Skegness off the Coast there and a large number of cross country flights day time and night time.
Then at the beginning of April we got our first Operation to do. We were [Pause] I’ve got plenty of notes, I just need to look them up.[long pause] I’m sorry, Winthorpe I was sent to to meet up with the Crew, or did I say it was?On the thirty first of March nineteen forty four and over the following five months em. We entered the Sergeants Mess the atmosphere was cold and unfriendly, little was said. When the one o’clock news came on the Radio we discovered why people were so quiet and so unfriendly because the Squadron had taken part the previous night in the Nurenberg Raid.One of the Bomber Command disasters when seven hundred and ninety five aircraft were dispatched and ninety four were shot down and many others severely damaged. And em, had serious losses and em[pause].
We were briefed for our first Operation. It was a month or six weeks of non Operational flying at this stage and then on the twenty sixth of April we were briefed for our first Operational Target which was Swinefurt in Germany. We went to our briefing and we were told all about what would happen over, on the flight.Went through all our checks. I as Flight Engineer went through a detailed selection of checks. There was the aircraft, before we moved out and em straight and level to the Target and then we dropped our bombs and came back, so we had quite a good trip.
Then two nights later we went on a Bombing Trip to Oslo, in Norway. It was a long trip but it was quite a safe trip because we were flying over firstly the sea. Then on the night of the nineteenth of May nineteen forty four, I came back from leave we’d been on leave, and I came back and we went on a Bombing Trip to Amiens in France, then to on the twenty, no the twenty second of May we were off to Kiel in Kiel Bay to drop mines. Know as a Gardening Operation and so we carried on through our tour. We did twenty five trips successfully. Slight damage on some occasions, we got back. We had done twenty five trips, which was pretty well a record for the Squadron. The average losses, the crews lasted about ten trips so we done pretty well. Then we were briefed to go to Stuttgart on the night of the twenty fifth,twenty sixth of July Nineteen Forty Four. We set off for Stuttgart, it’s a big industrial town in Germany and our target was the Mercedes works, aircraft works in the centre of Stuttgart. We had been the night before, there were heavy losses but the raid had not been a success so when we set off on the twenty fourth, twenty fifth July, we were, I was going to say something. We were on our second trip in twenty four hours back to Stuttgart. On this trip we set off and normally we would fly over the Coast, the French Coast across the anti aircraft defences. All along that Coast was absolutely deadly and we always lost an awful lot of aircraft crossing the Coast. On this particular occasion the Allies had already, as I say this was the twenty fifth, twenty sixth of July,by then the Allies had landed in Normandy and they had built a Bridgehead in Normandy. So we didn’t have to cross the Coast on this particular occasion we were able to go over the Normandy Peninsula and miss out the anti aircraft defences all along the Coast. So we able to go over the Normandy Peninsula and missed out the anti aircraft defences all along the Coast. So we crossed over onto the Normandy Peninsula, flew up the Normandy Peninsula and then turned because we were flying over allied territory for about half and hour or so and we turned and headed for Stuttgart, unfortunately on the way to Stuttgart we were hit, bombs from another aircraft, so the Rear Gunner said. Aircraft got out of control, Skipper said “bale out,” we had to bale out, we had proper procedure for bailing out. The Bomb Aimer was first, he took the hatch of and em, em, baled out into space, then the Flight Engineer, that was me and then the Navigator and finally the Pilot and the Bombers and Radio Operator baled out from the rear, the rear exit. So we got the Bomber, the Pilot decided when we were hit, he asked me to help him with the flying controls. The Control Column was jammed, two of us pulling of it, pulling on it didn’t have any effect, he decided to bale out and it is a good job he did. If he had taken another thirty seconds to bale out we would have all been killed, he made up his mind very quickly and gave us the order to bale out. I went down into the Bomb Nose, saw the Bomb Aimer bale out, I baled out and fortunately my parachute worked and I landed, I don’t know, might have been about ten thousand, I don’t know between eight and five thousand feet when I baled out. When I left the cockpit I could see the altimeter and it was at about seven thousand feet, so it was probably about five thousand feet by the time I got down into the Bomb Bay, and em I saw the Bomb Aimer bale out into space and I hesitated a bit, I got scared, fortunately the Navigator came down behind me and said “bloody well get a move on” and gave me a push, so I had no choice and baled out. So I reckon it was about five thousand feet when I baled out, parachute opened thank God and I landed in Enemy Territory. I landed in a ploughed field, and em, I was in the parachute for a few minutes and em, landed in a ploughed field. I was lucky because it was fairly soft. I didn’t hurt myself. There was a road running alongside the field if I had landed there I might have broken a leg or back or whatever, so I was lucky. I picked myself up [garbled] and I was ok, I had a few bruises and scratches and that was it. So I hid my parachute as a drill, first of all em, first of all, the parachute is a tremendous thing on the ground and there was a gust of wind and it caught my parachute, a parachute as big as an English Bowling Green, filled with air, pulled me right across this field and I hang onto this parachute, it pulled me right across this field, got very grazed across one side of my face and when the wind dropped I managed to haul the parachute in and collected it all up and did as I was told to do, hide it, which was to hide it in a ditch. Then I, I well before that I had to of course hit the button which released the harness, the harness and the parachute went into the ditch.Then I was left, there I was in enemy territory all on my own, don’t know where the others had got to, very scary but I done as I was told and run off as fast as I could. Had to run off as fast as I could because I’m afraid you would do nothing. It had been found that after you had gone through that experience when you landed and did nothing you didn’t do anything until someone came and found you, until they collected you and you finished up as a Prisoner of War. So act quickly and get moving, so having buried my parachute I ran as fast as I could, don’t worry where you are going to, just get away from the scene of the crash, from the scene of where you dropped as quickly as you can. If someone has seen the parachute come down and they get there, you are some distance away and you have a chance of hiding. So I ran, I was fairly fit then, ran for nearly an hour I think and I was eventually tired, got down and began to walk. All very quiet and eventually I came to a little village and em there was a church in the village. I was fairly tired then I thought “I will get into the church if its open and collect my thoughts” So it was well after midnight I should think, don’t know what the time would be. Think it was about midnight when we were hit actually, it would probably be about one o’clock in the morning. I walked into this church and the door was open, so I went in and sat on a pew and collected my thoughts and rested, rested for about half and hour and then I thought “I had better get away.” I moved out and continued my walk right through the night and em, er just walked and then as dawn, well just before dawn I heard the sound as I was walking back, walking the sound of heavy bombers. They must have been our bomber squadrons going back having bombed Stuttgart. Anyway I continued walking and as it came to daylight I crept under a hedge and fell asleep er, Daylight came and I thought I had better hide myself. I hid under this hedge on the hard ground and er, early dawn just come daylight. I fell asleep, I was very comfortable and I slept until about one o’clock. I remember waking up at about one o’clock looking at my watch, I was woken up, slept all that time. When I woke up I could hear voices in the field next to me, so I didn’t show myself, I thought they might not be friendly. So I stayed where I was wondering what to do. I thought that the best thing I could do was to stay here hidden all day and when it gets dark will continue on some sort of a journey. So I lay all day under the hedge, could hear these voices in the field and then when it was beginning, it was late afternoon, beginning to get a bit dark and the people left working in the field. So before it got dark I thought well, “it’s no use staying under the hedge here, I’ve got my escape kit, got my escape map I have no idea where I am but I might be able to find it with a map. So I will get out before it gets dark and see if I can have a look at my map.” So I, before it got dark I walked out, the people in the fields had stopped working and gone home. When I got onto the road, just a narrow country lane I walked along and there were a few people about and I walked along and to my surprise, to my great surprise they took no notice of me. Well what was I wearing at this stage? Well I was wearing my Battle Dress over the top part of the Battle Dress I had a linen, sort of a brown linen jacket which you could plug into the aircraft and it was electrically heated but I didn’t need to use it, but I thought I would just use it as something to wear in the aircraft. It covered me from the hip upwards so it was, it covered the top part of my Battle Dress and the only bit of my Battle Dress that was showing was my collar and tie. But in those days the French farmers wore a grey shirt with a black tie invariably, so that was ok. My Battle Dress trousers well they were like a pair of scruffy overalls. The boots, the flying boots were made that so that you could cut the fitting off round the ankle, through the leg part away and to all intents and purposes it was just like an ordinary shoe. Very clever I thought the Air Force were pretty good at doing these things. I passed people looking like that and they took no notice of me, in fact I thought I heard one say “alez mons” I think that’s German, I think they thought I was a stray German that got in. They took no notice of me, I was very impressed, I thought this is good news. So I walked in, walked in, kept walking and passed people and it was ok. Then I came to a village, there were a few people in the village, and em and I thought well. Another thing is as I walked into the village there was a sign post, what a wonderful give away. I remember thinking at the beginning of the War when we had the invasion scare in nineteen forty all our sign posts and and everywhere, all the names of the villages were sealed off. If you went into a village and it had Fulford Post Office on it, Fulford was crossed out because they were scared of German Parachutes’ in nineteen forty four we didn’t want to give them any help and of course the Germans didn’t have time to do this during the War. So there were these sign posts, so I thought “right I will have a look at this sign post and see where it is pointing to.” I picked one name and see if I can find it on the map. So I walked through the village and got into a quiet field, got the map out, and sure enough this village Langur was marked on the escape map, pretty good. So I could see where I was and roughly where I wanted to go, so em, er I had done fairly well so far and so I thought I will continue to walk. I em, I felt as it got dark as it began to get dark I felt rather sick, I think it was reaction, I felt rather weak and so I saw a haystack and I crawled into it and I spent that night in the haystack. I was quite comfortable and woke up at the break of dawn next morning very, very cold and I decided to walk on. So I got out of the haystack and I must say I hadn’t had anything to eat since the time we had left Dunholme Lodge in Lincolnshire I had nothing to eat. I couldn’t do anything, there was an escape kit, very well done but I didn’t but I hadn’t, I didn’t there were things in it, chocolate, bars of chocolate, sugar sweets all that sort of thing. I got out of the haystack and I walked on The next period of excitement was when I, it was early morning and I came to another village and there was a road leading through it, all was quiet, very early in the morning. So I thought em, well I have two choices, I don’t want to be seen in the village so I will walk round it but it was a long way round. I wanted to conserve time and energy, I’ll risk it I’ll walk through the main village street, there is nobody about. So I began to walk through the village street, when it got to the cross roads in the centre to my horror I heard the sound of very heavy vehicles and I thought to myself “this isn’t good news” [Laugh]. One thing it could be; Germans. So I thought “well” I turned round and a few yards behind me was a walled garden with a gate so I managed to run like mad and jump into a bush inside that gate. I looked out from the bush and eh em, no sooner had a got there than one big German lorry packed with troops, came up to the cross roads, turned right in the direction I had wanted to go and it was followed by about five others all packed with German troops so I’d only just missed being caught so I had been very lucky. When they’d gone and disappeared I thought best thing now is to get out of this garden and get moving on my way. I didn’t know if the occupant of the farmhouse or whatever were friendly or not. So being a pessimist I thought he will probably be. Oh they were at great risk these civilians I mean if they were help to them they would get shot. So em there was a great temptation to hand us over to the Germans so I walked on through the village. I got to the other side of the village and to my horror I saw, I heard the sound of heavy lorries again. I thought “goodness me not again” well again I was lucky, there was a farm building across the fields and no hedges, so I run like mad and hid behind this farm building. When I looked round it I could see there were several lorries, I think they were the same ones, there were no troops in them this time. There was a driver, machine gunner on the running board, on the running the board the chap had a machine gun pointing to the sky and there was the driver, and em. I saw this from behind this farmhouse that I’d reached and they hadn’t seen me, there was about another four or five of them. They disappeared and I walked back onto the road. Until this day I cannot understand why they did not see me running across that field to the farmhouse, it was just one of those miracles. So I continued walking and em, it was quite amazing that they did not see me. I can only think that the driver had his eyes on the road, machine gunner was looking up to the sky, don’t forget there were RAF patrols flying over that area at that time of the War and em they might have been straffed, so I think they, he was watching the sky and just didn’t see me. So I walked on, I continued my journey getting hungrier and very tired and I passed other people and they did not take any notice of me, I thought this is marvellous and then em. The next worrying part was having walked most of the morning, I came up to a tee junction and the tee junction was about quarter of a mile or more ahead of me. Everything was quiet except that up to this tee junction came a Vaux wagon camouflaged German army car. I could see it had four soldiers in it and when it turns and goes in the opposite direction I’ll be lucky. If it turns right and comes towards me I am bound to be caught. So no chance to hide, they could see me from where they were. Just carried on walking, put my hands in my pockets, looked miserable, kept my eyes on the road. We were warned in escape drill don’t make eye to eye contact and this car came towards me, I thought the games up, comes to me, if I had put my hand out I could have touched it, it was travelling at twenty five thirty miles per hour and it came past me, waiting for it, expecting it to stop to come and get me. Didn’t stop, didn’t dare look round, looked round about ten minutes later, the car was gone. How they missed me I can’t imagine, I just can’t imagine, it was absolutely wonderful they just didn’t see me. I can’t believe it now when I look back on it all it was tremendous. So I carried on walking. The more I think of it these incidents are absolutely incredible. I continued walking until about lunchtime as far as it would be. I was getting rather desperate actually and I was walking along, em, just outside another village when a lad on a bicycle passed me, “Oh dear” I thought “what is he going to do?” Take no notice of him again, but he passed me and I heard him get off his bicycle and stop, I continued walking but I heard him call, so I thought “I have no alternative, I can’t run now” so I went over to him, he said “are you RAF” I said “yes” he said “well I can help you, follow me.” So I followed him, he took me off the road and led me up a bridle path and said “hide under this hedge, I’m coming back, I’m going to get help for you.” So again I lay under the hedge and waited, not quite sure what was going to happen and em, after about half an hour. Anyway it might be interesting to say why he say me when others didn’t and this was because I was foolish enough to be chewing some gum. The French didn’t get chewing gum during the War we got it in our escape packs and we were given it when we went out on a Bombing Mission, so we had chewing gum and I shouldn’t have been chewing it, he saw me, gave it away, gave the game away. So I waited and then a car, after about half an hour a car came up the bridle path and stopped and the lad, he would only have been about fifteen I suppose was in the drivers seat, was in the passenger seat and the driver got out. He was a tall man and he got out and he shook hands with me, spoke perfect English and said hello and all that and shook hands with me. He said put this overcoat on and get in the back of my car. So I did as I was told and he backed out and we went and backed out onto the road and drove off. The driver explained to me, he spoke very good English that he was the local Doctor and was aloud to have some petrol so that he could see his patients and occasionally he was able to pick up and help and Airman, I was one. He told me his wife was English, they got married in Brighton before the War and em, they came to live in France. We drove on and came to another village and the lad who picked me up left the car, thank you very much and all that sort of thing and I never saw any more of him. And that’s the way the Resistance works, I don’t think that lad would know where the driver, the doctor was taking me. If he was caught he could not give any further information away. That was the sort of way SOE and the Resistance worked. And em, drove on and I came to a farmhouse. Excuse me I must take a break.
MJ. This is the first recording of Raymond Worrall on the third of June two thousand and fifteen for the Historical Unit.

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Citation

Mick Jeffery, “Interview with Ray Worral,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 17, 2019, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/8930.

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