Interview with Harry Algar


Interview with Harry Algar


Harry Algar worked as an office boy at Hay’s Wharf in London before the war. He entered the Air Training Corps before joining the RAF when he was seventeen. Started his training on Tiger Moths but was then sent to Canada to remuster as a bomb aimer. Remembers travelling on the Queen Mary, where he was assigned to escort Winston Churchill, and his training in Canada on Ansons and Blenheims IV. After completing his training, he was posted to 463 Squadron (RAAF) at RAF Waddington. Describes his role and his duties as a bomb aimer. Remembers some of his operations: coming back from an operation to Poland targeting the German fleet, they encountered heavy fog and managed to land safely at Carnaby airfield thanks to the fog dispersal system; taking part at the Dresden operation on the 13th of February 1945; operation to Nordhausen on the 4th of April 1945 to disrupt V2 rocket launches on London. He took part in Operation Exodus. At the end of the war, was posted to India. After the war, he trained as a navigator and flew on Neptunes, B-29s and Shackletons. Remembers fire-watching as a little boy during the Blitz in London and tells of a bomb dropping a few hundred yards away from him, leaving him unscathed.




Temporal Coverage




00:55:27 audio recording


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AAlgarH170520, PAlgarH1701


DK: [unclear] So, this is David Kavanagh for the International Bomber Command Centre interviewing Harry Algar at the Dambuster’s Inn on the 20th of May, is it the 20th today?
HA: [unclear] we’ve been discussing that this morning, what the date is [laughs]
US: I think it is, yes.
DK: Ok, [unclear], I can always amend it later. If I keep looking down at this, I’m just making sure that it’s still working cause I sometimes get beaten by the technology and the battery runs out or something
HA: Yeah
DK: So if I look down that’s all I’m doing. So, just leave that there. So, what I wanted to ask you Harry was first of all, what were you doing immediately before the war?
HA: Well, at that time I was working in London right next to London Bridge, working for Hay’s Wharf and I used to go up there every day, because in those days I went there on Saturdays as well as the other days of the week and I was what they called an office boy in those days, I don’t suppose they have them these days, but I worked in the engineer’s department of Hay’s Wharf [unclear] on the river front right from London Bridge down to Tower Bridge and part of my job was to walk from there to there and put in the time cards for the various [unclear] cranes and all the equipment they had on the wharf and then we’d take them out at the end of the week, work out their wages, that was my job then
DK: Right, so, what made you then want to join the Air Force, is there anything in particular?
HA: Well, yeah, in those days, it’s any different now but I did realise that there was gonna be trouble with Germany again and so I thought if I joined the RAF now at least I’m in the Air Force, not in the navy or the army
DK: So, the navy and army didn’t appeal to you?
HA: Not really, no, and so I joined the, what was it called? The
HA: ATC, yes, I was one of the first to join the ATC, I joined the Woolwich Squadron, cause I lived comparatively near to Woolwich
DK: So how old would you have been about then?
HA: Sixteen,
DK: Sixteen
HA: Sixteen, seventeen
DK: Yeah
HA: Yes, I actually joined the Air Force when I was seventeen and I got called up when I was eighteen
DK: Yeah, right. So what did you feel when you were called up into the Air Force, what were you?
HA: I was expecting it, you know, it’s no great surprise
DK: No. And what were you hoping to do once you joined?
HA: Well, when I was in the ATC, I took the [unclear] leave for navigators, pilots and bomb aimers and that was sufficient actually to get me into aircrew
DK: Right. So you were tested then to see what your best sort of role
HA: Yes, well, when I actually joined the RAF the first thing I did was to go to the Elementary Flying Training School on, what the heck they called them?
DK: Is it the biplanes, the Tiger Moths?
HA: Yeah, Tiger Moths, on Tiger Moths, yeah. So, I was on Tiger Moths but I wasn’t specially able to, I didn’t progress quickly enough and so I came out of that particular scheme and got sent to Canada to do an air bomber scheme.
DK: So, when you were trying to fly the Tiger Moths, did they tell you quite early on, no, this isn’t
HA: I did about ten or twelve hours flying on Tiger Moths and after that they said, we think you’re more likely to kill us than kill Germans [laughs] so I was taken off the scheme.
DK: So, you then went off to Canada.
HA: Yeah.
DK: Can you remember much about the trip to Canada?
HA: Well yes, at the time, Roosevelt was in charge of the scheme and Churchill was going out to Canada to meet him and to discuss the state of the war and so Churchill was on the Queen Mary and I was on the Queen Mary as well.
DK: Oh right, Churchill was on the ship at the same time.
HA: Yes.
DK: Oh, right.
HA: Cause in those days, but most people don’t realise it that you couldn’t fly to Canada, not directly, you could only go by in small hops you know, so he went on the Queen Mary and I went on the Queen Mary
DK: Did you see him?
HA: Yes, I was outside his suite supposed to be guarding him, unfortunately I was rather sick [laughs] I could only go out and say [unclear]
DK: Were you a bit seasick then?
HA: Oh yes.
DK: So you were supposed to be actually guarding Churchill.
HA: Yeah.
DK: Oh right. Did he speak to you?
HA: No, I never saw him.
DK: You never saw him, oh, right.
HA: No. And of course when we went because we had him on board we had a squadron of Spitfires with us going down the Irish Sea and then we got down to the Irish, through the Irish Sea into the Channel, then it would be full steam ahead and then go down south into the South Pacific, South Atlantic so that you would avoid the submarines and then come up the coast of
DK: So, you weren’t actually in a convoy then, you [unclear]
HA: No, just a single ship
DK: Just the Queen Mary
HA: Yeah. It could outrun submarines
DK: Alright, so [unclear]
HA: And of course the submarine could, if it was very lucky, happen to be [unclear] our position to torpedo it but [unclear]
DK: Yeah, so are going at quite a speed then on the
HA: Yes, it could do thirty knots, twenty eight to thirty knots something like that but they were quite a quick [unclear] away but because of the length of the trip going down into the South Atlantic it took us best part of a week, I think
DK: And whereabouts in Canada did you dock, you remember?
HA: Well, we docked at New York
DK: Alright.
HA: We docked at New York and
DK: Was this, would this have been the first time you’d been over to another country in overseas?
HA: No, in, before I left school, I went on a school trip to Holland and Belgium and France
DK: Alright. Obviously the first time to America then
HA: First time to America, yeah, and then from New York we went up to Moncton in Canada which was via Boston and Providence and then we waited in Halifax until there was this place in a school for me to go to and then I was sent to Picton in
DK: In Picton
HA: Picton, yeah, in Ontario and did a bomb aimers course there and then after that I did a short navigation course
DK: So, what did the bomb aiming course involve then? What did you have to do?
HA: Well, it involved a whole of the theory of bombing, also all the things to do with the bombs and the components, so that you knew exactly what the bombs would do and what sort of fusing they had on them and pyrotechnics as well, so a lot of it was more or less, more armament than anything else and I’d be responsible for the bombload on the, on whatever aircraft I was flying at the time
DK: Can you remember what type of aircraft were training there?
HA: Yeah, yeah, Ansons
DK: Ansons, yeah
HA: And then we had Blenheim IVs,
DK: Right.
HA: Blenheim IVs we used as towing targets and also we were going to the turret of another one and fire at a drove that
DK: [unclear] being towed, yeah
HA: Yeah
DK: So, what did
HA: They were towed by Lysanders
DK: Lysanders. So, what did you think of Canada then, was it?
HA: Oh, it was fine, I mean, it was [unclear] really I suppose because when we went there it was still more or less summertime I think, I can’t quite remember when I went but
Dk: [unclear] people were training in winter [unclear] it was very cold
HA: Well we, when I’d finished training I went back to Halifax to wait for a boat, to take a ship to bring me back to England and that was in the winter and we had several feet of snow and I took the opportunity to go to Montreal and Quebec and also I took a couple of trips down to New York because we had a fair amount of time spare you know, it wasn’t something you [unclear] [mimics a bombing sound] that’s how you’re going to work, it was done over a period of time cause you never knew exactly when you were going anywhere
DK: No. So, what did the training actually involve? What are you also dropping dummy bombs as well or?
HA: Yes, yes, that’s in
DK: Is in one of the logbooks
HA: One of them, yeah, first of them
DK: That one, that’s, is that the first one?
HA: Right at the beginning
DK: So, I’ll read this out just for the benefit of the recording here, so you were with 31 Bombing and Gunnery School
HA: Yeah, that’s right, yeah, so, Picton
DK: Picton, Ontario, Canada,
HA: Yeah
DK: So, you’re going, you’re flying on Lysanders, no, you’re not flying, sorry, you’re flying on Ansons
HA: Yeah. Doing the bombing
DK: Yeah, flying on Ansons and the [unclear] which is the Blenheim.
HA: Yeah
DK: Yeah. So it’s got example here is six bombs, there’s quite a number of flights on the Ansons then
HA: Yeah
DK: And the [unclear], yeah, and the Anson again
HA: And I went to the navigation school
DK: Alright, that’s
HA: At Mount, Mount Hope, Mount Hope is still in use in Canada as a major
DK: Funny enough I’m going there next month
HA: Oh yeah?
DK: Hamilton and Mount Hope, so this is, so then you went onto number 33 ANS
HA: Yes
DK: So that’s the Air Navigation
HA: Air Navigation
DK: Air Navigation School, yeah. And that was at Mount Hope,
HA: Yeah
DK: Hamilton, Ontario.
HA: Yeah
DK: So then you’re back on Ansons again
HA: Yeah
DK: And that was purely navigation training
HA: Yeah
DK: Yeah. So it’s got where you had to fly from and to then
HA: Yeah, various cross-country trips
DK: Yeah. And then, so you’ve come back to the UK then
Ha: Yeah, then we went to Penrhos
DK: Penrhos, so that was number 9 AFU
HA: Yes, Advanced Flying School
DK: Number 9 Advanced Flying School
HA: And that was really to get you into, you know, into with the sort of weather that you would have in England which was obviously quite different to Canada, so that was an introduction to English weather
DK: So that was all air bombing training again
HA: Yeah
DK: Rather than navigation and that’s all on Ansons. What did you think of the Anson as an aircraft?
HA: [laughs] Well of course it was, well the first Anson I flew in you didn’t, you, to get the undercarriage up you had to
DK: Wind it up
HA: Wind it up [laughs], so you had the pilot sitting there, I was sitting here and I’d be winding up the undercarriage [laughs]
DK: So, how many of you would go on, roughly on one of these training? Was it you and a couple of other
HA: Yeah, just, yeah, yeah.
DK: So you also used the gun turret as well.
HA: Yes, yeah
DK: So you’re trained in air bombing, gunnery and navigation
HA: Yes
DK: Yeah. [unclear] the training there so then you’ve gone to number 29 Operational Training Unit at Bruntingthorpe
HA: Yeah, yeah, yeah
DK: That’s 29 OTU Bruntingthorpe
HA: Bruntingthorpe
DK: There you’re on the Wellingtons
HA: Yeah, this was crewing up with the idea of eventually going onto a squadron.
DK: So, how did you meet your crew then, was it at the OTU?
HA: Yeah, yeah. All that happened was that they would have enough people from the various trades to make up about eight or ten crews, something like that and you’d all be put into one room and told to mingle and sort yourself out in your crews.
DK: And through that you found your pilot and
HA: Yeah
DK: Navigator. How did you think that worked, cause it’s a bit unusual. Because normally
HA: It worked very well actually because I never knew anybody who was dissatisfied with the people that I picked up to fly with.
DK: Because it’s quite unusual really, it’s not normally how the military worked
HA: Yes
DK: You’re [unclear]
HA: That’s right, yeah.
DK: But you think that worked well then
HA: It did, yeah, I was crewed up with, where I found my pilot, he was an Australian, that’s how I got on the Australian squadron
DK: Can you remember his name?
HA: Yes, Hyland, Frank Hyland, H-Y-L-A-N-D
DK: Frank Hyland.
HA: Yeah. His name’s in there
DK: Yes, his name’s in there, yes, so he’s Flight Sergeant Hyland
HA: Yeah
HA: Yeah. Then later on when we were going, I’m not sure whether it was when we were there but he got commissioned
DK: Right, ok.
HA: And we weren’t very keen on that because in those days the, well, do you know the, if you were commissioned, you were a bit [unclear] from the people who weren’t commissioned and it tend to break up the crew so we weren’t keen on that
DK: Would he have been the only officer on the crew then?
HA: Yeah, he was
DK: So, once he was commissioned then, did that mean you didn’t socialise at all?
HA: That’s right. Well, that’s not true because we did, it was against the law, but you know, you’re not supposed to socialise with your lower ranks but we used to meet up in pubs, we already did you know, because at that time was when things were beginning to break down when it came to the, you know, the iron fist in the services, you know, became easier to meet with
DK: But on the station itself you’d be living separate
HA: That’s right, yeah
DK: You’d be in the officer’s mess
HA: That’s it, that was why we didn’t like very much, I mean you couldn’t talk as much as you would like to about what you’d done or what you expected to do
DK: Which I would imagine would’ve been good for you, your job if you got to know each other better
HA: Well, it is, yes, it is, yes
DK: So, at 29 OTU then you were flying Wellingtons?
HA: Yes.
DK: And what did you think of the Wellington?
HA: They were marvellous aircraft really, they were geodetic construction which means they were as you probably know, teaching the conversion [laughs] but you know it’s like [unclear] with the canvas outside but they were remarkably strong and no, I thought they were great aircraft
DK: Right, so, so after 29 OTU then, gone on
HA: Then we started getting onto the Heavies
DK: Right, so
HA: And you didn’t go onto Lancasters straight away because all the Lancasters at that time were being used by frontline squadrons
DK: Alright. Ok, so then, just read your logbook again, you went to 1660
HA: Heavy Conversion Unit
DK: Heavy Conversion Unit and that was
HA: That was on Stirlings
DK: Right, so that’s at Swinderby
HA: Yeah
DK: [unclear] 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit, Swinderby and you’re flying Stirlings
HA: Stirlings, yeah
DK: What did you think of the Stirling?
HA: Not a lot [laughs], they were heavy, cumbersome things and they were all like, I think they got their design and that from people who worked on ships
DK: Right.
HA: I mean they were, they came from Ireland, Belfast and they’d been more used to work on ships than on aircraft
DK: And what was it like as an air bomber then? Because you’re at the front, are they quite high up?
HA: Oh yes,
DK: [unclear]
HA: Oh well, you don’t sit on the front for take-off
DK: Right, ok
HA: You come back and then you go down the front when you’re airborne
DK: I noticed you’re not having your coffee. [unclear]
US: [unclear] forgot it. He hasn’t brought it, has he?
DK: Right, ok, so, you’re
HA: I just done
DK: 1660 Heavy Conversion Unit
HA: That’s right, yes. And now next thing is the Lanc Finishing School which means that you go on to Lancasters and get tuned up on what’s happening before you go on the squadron.
DK: So that was, just for the benefit of the recording, making sure it’s working, is number 5 Lancaster Finishing School at Syerston
HA: Mhm.
DK: So you, so the idea is then you’ve gone from the Heavy Conversion Unit to then [unclear]
HA: To the aircraft you’re gonna fly on Bomber Command. And you know, you get used to it before you actually get sent to a squadron cause obviously when you get to the squadron you’re expected to be [unclear] with what’s going on
Dk: Alright. So what did you think of the Lancaster then when you?
HA: A marvellous aircraft [unclear], very strong and quite fast and a good altitude, the defence wasn’t so hot, it was on any aircraft
DK: No. You say the defence, was that a problem with the machine guns or?
HA: Well, they were too light, you know, they were 303s and people were firing at you with rockets and whatever, well not rockets but heavier, heavier
DK: Calibres
HA: Calibre
DK: Yeah. So, as the air bomber then, on Lancaster, was not too short [unclear], were you responsible for both dropping the bombs and the front gun turret?
HA: Yeah, I was responsible for all the armament really on the aircraft and we would go up before a raid and we used to harmonise the guns on the turrets, they would be harmonised the four guns in the rear turret, harmonised at about four hundred yards, in other when I say harmonised all four came to
DK: Came together
HA: Yeah, at that point and in the front you just had two guns and you harmonise those for probably about a hundred yards something like that
DK: And also, so did you have any other roles as the air bomber besides that, so you’re looking after the guns, dropping the bombs and
HA: Well, as soon as you went out to the aircraft, I was in charge of the bombs and so I would have to go round and inspect all the bombs and remove every safety devices that weren’t used once we were airborne so the rest of the armament would be made live once you got airborne and once the aircraft got to target and started to drop the bombs as the bombs came out of their holding and the last safety devices would be removed and the bomb would be live
DK: So how could you remove the last safety device when you’re in the air?
HA: Well, they would [unclear] electrically
DK: Ah, right
HA: You had the, how can I put it? You had something that was locked in and when you switched on the electrics the [unclear] would work and clamp onto that thing and hold it in position till the bomb had gone
DK: Right, and you could control that from
HA: Yeah
DK: Something in the, the bomb aimers area
HA: Yeah
DK: So you had a control panel who did that
HA: That’s right, yeah
DK: Alright.
HA: And you could, if you got into trouble, you could drop all the bombs at once [unclear] panel showed that you could drop a salvo of bombs all at once so if you put it on that you could get rid of the whole immediately so if you were in trouble, you could lighten the aircraft by several thousand pounds you know
DK: Very quickly
HA: Yeah [phone rings]
DK: Ok. So, after the Lancaster Finishing School then, you’ve gone to number 463 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force
HA: Yeah
DK: Based at Waddington
HA: Yeah
DK: So we [unclear] that for the benefit of that and that was in first, so, November 1944 [unclear]
HA: That’s right, yeah
DK: What did you think of Waddington when you got there?
HA: Well, we were very lucky really cause it’s a pre-war aerodrome with buildings, got accommodation as I said in my book there, some people were in Nissen huts you know in winter it was terribly cold and in summer they were really hot so they were quite uncomfortable, but we had permanent buildings to live in, we had a decent mess, we were really lucky
DK: And you mentioned you went to this particular squadron because your pilot was Australian?
HA: Yeah, we had an Australian wireless operator as well
DK: Right
HA: So we had two Australians on our, on our crew
DK: Can you still name the crew?
HA: Yes, Frank Hyland was the captain and the skipper
DK: Yeah
HA: I was the bomb aimer
DK: Yeah
HA: Navigator was Keith, what was his name?
DK: Listed in here?
HA: Yes, it is. Cause I was his best man
DK: Right.
US: [unclear]
DK: Frank Hyland, wasn’t that?
HA: Frank Hyland, yeah
DK: So, that’s your crew there
HA: Yeah
DK: So, you got Bob Stewart
HA: Yeah
DK: Eric
US: No.
HA: No, Eric is the only one that I, we couldn’t keep in contact with
DK: Alright
HA: After the war he just sort of disappeared and I found unfortunately, I’ve also forgotten his name as well
DK: Yeah, right. And then Ken Richardson?
HA: Yeah. He was the rear gunner
DK: Rear gunner. Keith Jenkins?
HA: Yeah, he was the navigator.
DK: Navigator.
HA: Yeah
DK: Frank Hyland
HA: He was the pilot
DK: Pilot. And then you got Max ?
HA: Yeah [unclear] I don’t remember his name, he was the other Aussie.
DK: So, he was the wireless operator [unclear]
HA: Wireless operator
DK: Yeah
HA: He was a great sportsman actually, he played for Australia after the war, rugby
DK: Alright. So I’ll, just for the benefit of the recording again, I’ll read this out again, so, from left to right you got, [unclear], Bob Stewart, he was the
HA: He was engineer
DK: Flight engineer
HA: Yeah
DK: Eric somebody, who was
HA: The mid upper gunner
DK: Mid upper gunner, Ken Richardson
HA: He was the rear gunner
DK: Rear gunner, Keith Jenkins,
HA: He was the navigator
DK: Navigator. Frank Hyland, pilot
HA: Was the pilot
DK: And the Max somebody
HA: Wireless operator
DK: Wireless operator and he was the Australian
HA: Yeah
DK: So, was 463 a good squadron, do you think?
HA: Yes, well, the thing was that you were only on the squadron for about six months really, in general you know, you don’t, you’re not gonna be on it for years and at that time you don’t get to know people all that well but because you’re, not really with the other squadron, the other crews, your, it’s your crew you were interested in
DK: Yes, yeah. So, you didn’t mix too much?
HA: Not all that much, no, we, as a crew we always stuck together and when went out socializing we always stuck together, we all had bikes you know, we just cycled down the pub, the Horse and Jockey at
US: Coningsby?
HA: No, The Horse and Jockey at, quite close to Waddington, Bracebridge Heath
DK: Bracebridge Heath. Yeah.
HA: Yeah
DK: Is it still there?
HA: Yeah
DK: Oh, right, I’ll have to go along to it at some point
HA: Yeah [laughs]
DK: See if they remember you [laughs]. So, looking at your logbook again then you got your first operation to Heilbronn?
HA: Heilbronn, yes
DK: Heilbronn, just for the benefit of the recording, H-E-I-L-B-R-O-N-N
HA: Yeah
DK: So, your bombs then are thirteen thousand pounds
HA: Yeah
DK: So, one
HA: One four thousand pounder
DK: Six
HA: Six one thousand pounders
DK: And six five hundred pounders
HA: Yeah
DK: So how did you feel after you’re done, after all this training and done your first operation?
HA: Oh, relieved I suppose, I managed to do one without getting shot down [laughs]. I mean the thing is lots of people joined the Air Force, they never managed to do very much because they got shot down on the first trip, you know, but to survive one tour [unclear] was very fortunate but Dinah’s father, he also was a navigator
DK: Alright.
HA: And he did eighty-three operations, oh, eighty-eight operations, he got, he was ordered a DFC and bar.
DK: What was his name?
US: Mayson
DK: Mayson, alright.
HA: M-A-Y-S-O-N.
DK: M-A-Y-S-O-N, I’ll make a note of that. Alright, so and he flew how many operations?
HA: Eighty-eight, I think it was.
US: I think it’s eighty-six, for all he said.
HA: Oh yeah, it’ll be eighty-six. Yeah, eighty-six.
DK: Can you recall which squadron he was in?
HA: Yes, [unclear] somewhere
US: I am not as old as Harry, so
HA: Not many are [laughs]
US: During the war, we stayed at home, he went and I didn’t really know an awful lot about it
HA: So, he was on Pathfinders as well, he flew on Lancasters, he flew on Mosquitoes,
DK: And so he was a pilot or?
HA: No, a navigator
DK: Navigator, sorry, navigator, yeah
HA: Actually I think he had the same sort of introduction to the RAF as I did, I think he used to wear an O badge, observer, observer was the same sort of thing as bomb and navigation which I did so I think we both did the same sort of course initially and then he went back onto navigation before I did
DK: Alright, and did eighty-three ops
HA: Yes, eighty-three ops. I think he did about thirty on Berlin
DK: Wow!
HA: [laughs]
DK: Ok, just for the benefit of the tape again, just going back to your logbook, so your second operation then, 6th of
HA: Giessen
DK: February 1944 to Giessen
HA: Yeah
DK: And there you got elven thousand pounds of bombs
HA: Yeah
DK: And that was twelve one thousand pounders
HA: Yeah
DK: An interesting one next so, the 8th of December, operations to the Urft Dam
HA: Yes
DK: U-R-F-T Dam
HA: Well, that’s in green, it’s daylight
DK: Daylight
HA: But it was clouded over, we didn’t
DK: Cause you got, it says here, eight thousand five hundred pounds, no bombs dropped
HA: Yeah
DK: And that was because it was
HA: Weather,
DK: Weather
HA: Couldn’t see the target
DK: No. Would that be normal then, if you couldn’t see the target you’d bring the bombs back?
HA: I don’t know if it would be normal, but we probably got recalled and it was probably said in the brief [unclear] did not jettison or something like that
DK: Oh, ok. And what was it like flying at night compared to day? Did you prefer one to the other?
HA: Oh yes, night flying was always a bit hairy because we went, you take off say from Waddington and it’s probably dark when you take off, you may well have seen the odd aircraft crash you know and you knew that it could be a bit dodgy taking off at night time with all that load of armament on board
DK: Yeah, and the petrol as well
HA: Yeah. Yeah
DK: Ok, so just going through this again then so you had another operation recalled here, so that’s the 10th of December 1944, operation recalled and then,
HA: Where was that to?
DK: It doesn’t actually, it just says, operation recalled
HA: How many hours did it do?
DK: Two hours forty-five
HA: They got started
DK: And then on the 11th of December 1944 it’s the Urft Dam again
HA: Yeah
DK: U-R-F-T,
HA: Again
DK: Ten thousand pounds, no bombs dropped
HA: Again [unclear]
DK: Ten tenth cloud. Ah, and then 18th of December 1944, operations to Gdynia. That was
DK: It’s in Poland, isn’t it?
HA: Yeah, bombing the German fleet which had taken position in Gdynia and we’re bombing them
DF: And that says thirteen thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds of bombs
HA: Yeah
DF: And it does actually say in pencil here, Poland bombing German fleet
HA: Yes, right.
DF: And it says landing FIDO
HA: Oh yeah, FIDO, that was, yeah, when we came back it was
DG: Fog
HA: Fog everywhere and we didn’t really know where we were too well and we were told to fly on dead reckoning and wondering whether we would be able to find anywhere to land because you couldn’t get in contact with people without the aerodromes like you could today, there was no VHF or UHF, it was HF, HF was short range communication and so, you know, it was sometimes very difficult to get in touch with people that could help you, so we were just flying along wondering what was going to happen whether we’d have to bail out or [unclear] because we couldn’t find anywhere to land when in the distance we saw a glow in the sky and we flew towards it and then when we got there we realized it was FIDO which is a method of dispersing the fog and we were able to get down and land
DK: That was petrol set like each side of the runway
HA: Yes, petrol, clean burning petrol which dispersed the fog
DK: I bet that was an impressive sight
HA: Oh, it was
DK: [unclear] [laughs]
HA: This was at Carnaby
DK: Carnaby, right, ok.
HA: And the
DK: Was it a bit of a relief to see that then?
HA: Oh, it was, yeah, and there were lots of other aircraft already managed to land on it, the whole aerodrome was covered in aircraft that had managed to get in
DK: So then, next operation then, 12th of December 1944, operations to Politz
HA: Politz, that’s an oil refinery, a big oil refinery
DK: And that was twenty thousand two hundred and fifty pounds of bombs
HA: Yeah
DF: So, one four thousand pounds and six one thousand pound bombs. So, then we’re into 1945 here, so 13th, I think that’s just 13th of January ‘45
HA: Yeah
DK: So, Politz again
HA: Yeah
DK: One four thousand pound bomb and fourteen five hundred pounds of bombs. And then 14th of January 1945, Wurzburg
HA: There’s an oil refinery
DK: Oil refinery again and then 1st of February ’45, Siegen
HA: Siegen, yeah
HA: I don’t remember much about that
DK: And then 2nd of February ’45 operations to Karlsruhe
HA: Where? Karlsruhe? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah
DK: And then 13th of February 1945 operations to Dresden.
HA: Yeah
DK: So that was, it says here supporters,
HA: It means that we went around twice
DK: Right
HA: Because what it means is that you go in, drop your bombs and then to give support to those who were still coming in after you go round again, so that [unclear] far ahead [laughs]
DK: Alright. So that’s saying thirteen thousand seven hundred bombs, one four thousand pounder and elven, can’t quite read what that says,
HA: I’ll have a look
DK: Yeah. Is that incendiaries?
HA: Eleven cans, be eleven cans of incendiaries
DK: Eleven cans of incendiaries, right. Do you remember much about the Dresden raid?
HA: Well, yes, I suppose, I remember more than the rest because I suppose I probably brought it to mind because people keep talking about it [laughs]. As far as I was concerned, Dresden was just another town. I mean, I left school when I was fourteen, so I wasn’t all that well educated and Dresden, you know, was just another town
DK: Yeah, just another operation
HA: Yeah, another operation. I remember it because it did burn, I mean without a doubt it was a hell of a burn but
DK: So then 3rd of March 1945 operations to the Dortmund-Ems Canal
HA: Yeah
DK: So then, 5th of March ’45, operations to Bohlen
HA: Bohlen?
DK: B-O-H-L-E-N.
HA: Bohlen.
DK: Bohlen. And then 7th of March Harburg, 12th of March Dortmund, 14th of March Lutzkendorf
HA: Lutzkendorf, that’s another oil refinery
DK: And then it’s got, I notice you landed back at Alconbury
HA: Oh yes, yes
DK: Which was
HA: Oh, is an American base again was being in the fog or something like that we were being diverted there. I remember that because we were eating in the, I remember the soup in there was full of pepper [laughs] couldn’t possibly eat it and I said to this chap, why did you put that much pepper in this? He said, because I like it [laughs].
DK: Making taste, isn’t it?
HA: Yeah
DK: And then 20th of March ’45 Bohlen again, B-O-H-L-E-N. Then 22nd of March Bremen and then 27th of March Farge, F-A-R-G-E.
HA: Farge
DK: Farge, F-A-R-G-E. The war’s ended, are we? So, 4th of April Nordhausen.
HA: Nordhausen.
DK: Yes, 7th of
HA: Nordhausen was where they were firing the rockets from on London
DK: Oh, right. Would you, would you tell, can you recall if you were actually told about that, at the briefing
HA: Oh yes.
DK: What the target was?
HA: Oh yes. We were told what we were looking for, because these rockets that they were firing at London, they were coming out of woods and that sort of thing so they were extremely difficult to find, what we were looking for but they weren’t anywhere else you know and London was really getting a pasting with bombs and rockets
DK: The V2s
HA: Yeah
DK: Yeah
HA: Yeah.
DK: So, 7th of April, the operation seems to be recalled and then I can’t quite, it’s something 8th of April I think it is, operations to Lutzkendorf again
HA: Yeah
DK: And that’s a supporters as well
HA: Yeah
DK: So would that mean you’ve gone round
HA: Yeah
DK: Twice again
HA: Yeah
DK: Then there was fifteen thousand two hundred and fifty pounds bombs, one four thousand pounder and fourteen five hundred pounds. And then 23rd of April Flensburg, and it says no bombs dropped
HA: Yeah, well, the war was very nearly closed then, very near to close and I think that was probably the last, one of the last targets that were nominated for
DK: And then I see the next few flights then was Operation Exodus
HA: Yeah, that was
DK: After that
HA: Yeah, that was picking up prisoners of war, British prisoners of war and bringing them back to England.
DK: That must have been quite [unclear]
HA: Oh yes, yeah
DK: Yeah. What sort of shape were the POWs in?
HA: Oh, very poor shape, yeah. And then of course, I didn’t actually do any, but they were also dropping food to Holland at that time.
DK: So, you didn’t do any Operation Manna flights?
HA: No, no.
DK: And then you’ve got Cook’s Tour.
HA: Well, that was just a sort of swan around Germany to see what damage [unclear] you caused [laughs].
DK: And presumably that would’ve been the first time you’d seen the damage then, was that
HA: Well, you could see it in daylight, if you did the odd daylight trip, as we did, you would see [unclear]
DK: And did the Cook’s Tour event involve taking the people on the aircraft?
HA: Yeah
DK: The ground staff
HA: Yeah, yeah
DK: So you had a circular flight there
HA: Yeah
DK: Munster, Dusseldorf, Essen, Cologne, Munich, Glad, sorry, Monchen Gladbach, then back to base. So the war has come to an end then
HA: Yeah
DK: What did you do at that point then?
HA: I went to India
DK: Oh, right [laughs]
HA: In India they were going to demilitarize the Air Force there and most of the aircrew were [unclear] obviously they were the war [unclear] at a close but on the other hand there was, the fight was still going on with the Japanese so to some extent they wanted to have aircrew out in the Far East to take over bombing of Japan if
DK: Right
HA: If it became necessary. And we went to India with that intention but in fact what we did was to demilitarize the Air Force and we had to, the way we did it was to get the [unclear] in groups and take their uniforms and that sort of thing from them, pay them and organize transport for them to get back to home
DK: Alright. So it’s quite a different
HA: Oh, quite different altogether, yeah
DF: So, you weren’t considered to be flying out operations against Japan then?
HA: No
DF: No
HA: No. The only aircraft that we had that could possibly have done that was a Lincoln at that time
DF: Right
HA: But the Lincoln hasn’t actually been put on the squadrons at the end of the war, they never flew during the war on operations in England or in Europe rather.
DF: So, the war is ended, so it’s 1948 now and you’re
HA: I’m back from India
DF: India and then you’re going to number 2 ANS
HA: Yeah
DF: At Middleton Ste George. Was it, did you make a decision then to stay in the Air Force?
HA: Oh yes, yes, I applied to join before, I forget what years it was but eventually I was signed on till I was fifty-five. I didn’t serve until I was fifty-five because there was a Labor government in and they decided that they wanted to reduce the number of people into services and so there was a redundancy scheme offered and because we had three boys, we didn’t really want the family split up which would’ve been if I had carried on the Air Force, they’d had to go to school, [unclear] live in the school somewhere and I’d have to [unclear] somewhere
DK: And can you remember what year it was you left then?
HA: Yeah, I left in, what year was that?
DF: [unclear], ’49, ‘53,
HA: What year I left the Air Force? Oh, ‘69.
DK: ’69, right, yeah.
HA: Yeah, ’69.
DK: So, you’ve now trained as a navigator then
HA: Yeah, at Middleton St George
DK: Yeah. Let’s go through this, so, number 201 AFS
HA: And I was back then on Lancasters
DK: And Wellingtons by the looks of it
HA: Yeah was, yeah that was to crew up again
DK: Yeah
HA: Cause I’d been on a different crew
DK: And then 1949 Lancasters again with 149 Squadron
HA: Yeah
DK: At Mildenhall. And by this time, you are a fully-fledged navigator
HA: Yeah
DK: Yeah. So these, some of the last Lancasters built, aren’t they?
HA: [unclear] what?
DK: Some of the Lancaster here, they’d be quite old by this time
HA: Oh yes, they would, yeah
DK: [unclear] crew here now, 1949 so Lancasters
HA: And
DK: So you’re with 149 Squadron for quite a while then.
HA: Yeah
DK: ’49. Then to the Central Gunnery School
HA: Yeah
DK: Lancasters again
HA: That was to get a qualification as an instructor on [unclear]
DK: So 1950 then you’re now on the Avro Lincoln
HA: Yeah
DK: What did you think of the Lincoln compared to the Lancaster, was it?
HA: It was bigger, better armed, cannons on the front, machine guns, but I don’t think, they were just a bigger version, that’s all [unclear] Lancaster I suppose
DK: So, then it was number 44 Rhodesia squadron at Whitten
HA: Yeah
DK: That’s Lincolns again
HA: Yeah [unclear]
DK: And then the 149 Squadron, the Washington conversion unit
HA: Yeah
DK: And that’s August 1950
HA: Yeah
DK: And that’s at Marham
HA: Yeah
DK: So, what did you think of the Washington then?
HA: Oh, they were marvelous really cause they were, you fly unpressurised in them and they had a tube which ran from the front down to the back and you could actually bomb using radar equipment that was at the rear and you could actually guide the aircraft from the back
DK: Alright
HA: Using the radar target that you could see
DK: And that controlled the aircraft
HA: Yeah
DK: Is it true that B-29s had ashtrays?
HA: We didn’t [laughs]
DK: The Americans put ashtrays in the [unclear]
HA: I remember, we did use to smoke in there
DK: They had ashtrays. Were you impressed by the Washington then?
HA: Yes, yes, it was a big aircraft and carried a big load
DK: So, 149 Squadron again with Washingtons, right into 1951, so it’s mostly all training then
HA: Yeah, you could do the sort of flight you could do in a B-29 would last about sixteen hours
DK: Alright.
HA: When, there’s one in there, I think, sixteen hours we went there onto Africa and back non-stop
DK: You flew on the Washingtons for quite some time, didn’t you?
HA: Yeah.
DK: And this was all from the UK
HA: Yeah
DK: And then I see, so it’s 203 Squadron Coastal Command, then 236 OCU at Kinloss on the Neptunes
HA: Yeah
DK: So, what was the Neptunes like?
HA: It was good aircraft too, it was only two engines but it had [unclear] endurance, it did one time hold the record for endurance flying, the aircraft was called the reluctant turtle [laughs]
DK: That’s up to 1954 then when you
HA: Ah yes, I got commissioned in ‘54
DK: Ok, that’s, just one final question, just looking back at your time specifically with RAF Bomber Command in the war, how do you look back on that period now?
HA: I don’t think it ever, I mean, never, I don’t know, it never bothered me, you know, I read of some people getting bothered [unclear] about what you did and that sort of thing, it never bothered me, I mean, I was, I went through the Blitz in London, I was in the, we used to do fire watching and I remember London burning and when I was at, as a boy, you know, doing this office job as it were, we used to do at least one night a week fire watching and I can remember bomb was falling and terrific fires and we were putting these fires out, you know, and I remember one particular incident where sticker bombs fell into the water about a hundred yards away from us I think, but because they fell in the water there was no damage was done, you know, we didn’t get hurt but I mean, I had to [unclear] quite a lot from the Germans so I didn’t feel I was doing anything I shouldn’t do as far as I was concerned, I was defending my life and the life of my family.
DK: Ok, that’s great, we’ll stop there
HA: Ok.
DK: You’re absolutely marvelous. No, thank you very much for your time. It’s been wonderful, I think we covered everything.
HA: Ok [laughs].
DK: Just for the benefit, thanks very much for that.
HA: Do you
DK: There’s a notice here in the book. I thought you left the service at the time of the Neptunes but you went on, did you go onto the Shackletons after that?
HA: Yes.
DK: So you went to Guyana?
HA: Went to Guyana, yeah.
DK: And that’s cause it burnt down.
HA: Sorry?
DK: You said it was burnt down.
HA: Well the [unclear] Georgetown in Guyana was set on fire, yeah but the government decided, the British government decided they’d have to send troops out there
DK: Alright
HA: And so we carried the troops out there that meant these chaps we were taken out, had a very horrible journey because they had been taken from Ireland where we were based to [unclear], [unclear] down to Bermuda, Bermuda then out to Jamaica
DK: Right
HA: And then Jamaica to Guyana, all they had was a hard floor to lie on
DK: And that was on the Shackletons
HA: Yeah, you know, they didn’t have anything decent to lie on
DK: So what was the Shackletons like as aircraft [unclear]
HA: Well, they were really good aircraft, they did the job
DK: Yeah
HA: But I mean this was, they weren’t made for that sort of thing
DK: Yeah
HA: Carrying troops
DK: So, what was your normal role in Shackletons then?
HA: Again, I was first navigator on most of these trips.
DK: Alright. And that’s through the Cold War, isn’t it?
HA: Yeah
DK: You’re keeping an eye on the Russians.
HA: That’s right, yeah. And our sort of flying was, flying training was locating submarines and practice bombing them, that sort of thing
DK: Oh, right. Did you actually identify Russian submarines?
HA: Oh yes. Yes, you’d pick up a contact on radar and then you’d home into the contact and if you were lucky you’d probably find the submarine at the end, probably just diving, you know, realisng that it’d been found
DK: And would you make a dummy attack on it?
HA: Yeah
DK: Trying to go down
HA: There’s one trip we did in southern UK we came across about, well, I think there must have been about twenty Russian ships, a whole fleet in the Atlantic
DK: They didn’t ever fire on you then, did they?
HA: No, but they always turned their guns on us
DK: Alright.
HA: They were always pointing their guns at us.
DK: And you could see that [unclear]
HA: Yeah. We would never actually overfly them knowingly, just, we would just [unclear] round them
DK: So you went out to Rhodesia, was it Rhodesia then, wasn’t it?
HA: Yeah, we went down to South Africa
DK: Yeah
HA: And then I did quite a lot of flying from the Middle East when the [unclear] on
DK: Oman
HA: No, I’m sorry, my mind isn’t quite as quick as it should be. Cyprus
DK: Cyprus, yes, yeah.
HA: And then, there was some other in, where was that? Anyway, if you, it’s in that book
DK: Yes, it mentioned Oman here, yeah
HA: Yeah
DK: Yeah. And then later the government came along and [unclear] the redundancy
HA: Yeah, I joined Barclay’s bank then [laughs]
DK: So, you did almost twenty-seven years in the Royal Air Force
HA: Yeah
DK: And then ten years in Barclay’s?
HA: Twenty years
DK: Twenty years in Barclay’s. Oh right, ok. Good bank Barclay’s. [unclear] Ok, that’s great, I’ll [unclear], but thanks again for that.



David Kavanagh, “Interview with Harry Algar,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 19, 2024,

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