Interview with Andy Andrews

Title

Interview with Andy Andrews

Description

Andy Andrews worked in a gentleman's outfitters shop and volunteered for the Air Force in 1941. He trained at RAF Cardington and Blackpool and after crewing up he flew operations with 10 Squadron from RAF Melbourne. He discusses the members of his crew and describes being shot down by a Ju 88 on his 19th operation during a mine laying operation. His pilot and navigator were both killed and he discusses how he and the rest of the crew baled out before their aircraft exploded. He landed in a field in Denmark badly wounded to the face and hands and was taken to a hospital. He had met some members of the resistance and was preparing to evade when he was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war. He discusses his medical treatment and interrogation and witnessing the lynching an American airman during a forced march away from the advancing allied troops. After he was liberated he returned to Great Britain on board a Lancaster as part of Operation Exodus. His family had believed he was dead. After being demobilised he started his own business. Towards the end of the interview he talks about a visit to RAF Melbourne by the actor James Stewart, nights out in York, and Wing Commander Shannon, his Commanding Officer. He also sings a song about 'Shiny Ten Squadron'.

Creator

Date

2017-09-11

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:48:09 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

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.

Contributor

Identifier

AAndrewsPF170911, PAndrewsPF1701

Transcription

SP: This is Susanne Pescott and I’m interviewing Peter Frederick Andrews known as Andy Andrews, today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We’re at Andy’s home and it’s the 11th of September 2017. So, first of all, thank you Andy for agreeing to talk to me today.
AA: Quite alright. Yeah.
SP: So, Andy, tell me about life before the RAF.
AA: I left school at fourteen years of age which was the time that you left education in those days and I went to work as a, in a tailoring, a tailoring shop in Tunbridge High Street. And I was there until such time as I got an interest in flying and I joined the Air Training Corps and they brought my education up a bit by giving me more maths training than I’d had before. And I, in, in those days at seventeen and a quarter you could volunteer for the flying duties in the RAF because it, all air crew were volunteers during the war. And I was, I went into the RAF. As I say I was in a gent’s outfitters and I was there until such time as I went into the RAF at seventeen and a quarter which was the end of 1941, and started. Kitted out at Cardington. Went from there to Blackpool and at Blackpool we did Morse training in the Winter Gardens. And we were there in the winter period and if weather was too bad for physical training we did it in the Tower Ballroom which was quite an experience because the organist on the big organ was usually rehearsing and it was quite, quite an experience. And once we finished at Blackpool we, we went to Lossiemouth in Scotland which was the Operational Training Unit. And the method of crewing up in the RAF in those days sounds a bit chaotic really because you were all in a giant hangar. Air gunners, navigators, bomb aimers, air, wireless operators and pilots and a pilot somehow collected the people that he had spoken to and well, you knew briefly. And he knew one of the gunners because he had, he had been an instructor when the gunner was, James Petre when he was trying for his pilot’s licence which he didn’t manage. Hence the fact he ended up as an air gunner and he picked up him and his mate up as crew. And then they latched on to me and got me as a wireless op and the navigator, whose name was Berry he had red hair so he naturally got nicknamed Red. Plus the fact that the red beret, I mean it was quite obvious why he got the name but, and we formed a crew. We were flying in Wellingtons, training in Wellingtons and we completed, completed our OTU training and from there we went down to York and we went to a Conversion Unit just outside of York called Rufforth. 1663 Con Unit, and we converted on to the Halifax Mark 2 with, with the inlined engine and once we’d, we’d converted successfully on to the Halifax we were sent to a, the squadron which was 10 Squadron. A little village called Seaton Ross or Melbourne and we, we flew in the, they were equipped with the Halifax Mark 3 which was a marvellous aeroplane and we converted on to that. And we had one little hiccup. The bomb aimer that we’d picked up was, he got cold feet and he, he told our pilot Johnny that he wasn’t going to be able to go on ops. So, John told him to go to the medical officer and state his case which he did and he was classed as LMF which is lack of moral fibre and he had his insignia, RAF flying insignia and rank taken away and he was posted off the squadron. But we were very successful in his replacement which was, I’ll be eternally grateful that he came to us because he was so useful to me at a later date when we were prisoner of war. But he was, he come from Liverpool and his name was Stan and he was an ex-docker built quite solid. Again, which I was very grateful for at a later date and he had, he had done a tour in Wellingtons in the Middle East so he’d already done thirty operations when he came to us. He slotted into the crew quite well as one of the senior crews but he was senior to all of us as far as operations are concerned but we started our operating and we did German targets which consisted of the Ruhr which we did a couple of dozen operations. Well, no about twelve operations on the Ruhr which was known to aircrew as Happy Valley and the flak was quite extensive over those areas. Anyhow, we got through nineteen operations and we were feeling confident that we were going to be able to complete our tour without any bother. We’d done a couple of mine laying operations which was code named gardening and was given a, a code name. The one we were on, on, we were briefed to go on was, “Forget Me Nots.” And it was just off the coast of Denmark in the shipping lanes. We were due to drop mines and we took off about 5.30 on the February the 14th, St Valentine’s Day and headed over the coast of Yorkshire heading for, we flew out at five hundred foot to get a bit below the radar so the Germans didn’t pick us up too quick. The, the rest of the squadron, there were just three aircraft on the mine laying which we were one of and the rest of the squadron went to a target called Chemnitz on the 13th of February which was to drag some of the fighter opposition away from Dresden which was the target that night. And they were going to Chemnitz. We were going to drop mines. We took off, flew across to the mainland of Denmark and then climbed to a height of eighteen thousand feet. Headed towards Copenhagen which we were due to, is the island of Zealand and a little farther on we came to the, we would have come to the coast to drop the mines. The bomb aimer had come down to the front to prepare the mines for dropping but unfortunately a JU88 fitted with all the latest equipment had latched on to us. He’d been vectored on to us and once, the method of attack is once they’ve got visual contact with a bomber they flew to the rear of it and slightly underneath so it made the rear gunner couldn’t get a, couldn’t depress his guns far enough to reach them. And then he had a fixed firing .5 gun which actually targeted the front part of the plane. And the part that always fascinates me is the fact that his first burst caught the port wing which was fully alight and the flames were trailing out behind and he he he had another burst which must have killed the pilot because he was sitting immediately above me and I had blood on my battledress which must have been his. And the navigator who sat by my right knee almost within touching distance he had been caught by a cannon shell as well. So, they were both dead. I was in the middle and got away with it apart from superficial cuts and bruises. I stood up, clipped my parachute on and the aircraft was all over the place because the pilot was obviously dead or dying and there was no control and it was flying all over the place and as everybody knows if you’re all over the place in an aircraft it’s difficult to do anything. I was making to move forward to the escape hatch by which time the pilot and the navigator were dead. The mid-upper gunner, the flight engineer and the rear gunner got out of the main escape hatch or the one that you normally come, come in to the aircraft on and they’d gone out. They baled out and just after they had baled out the aircraft blew up and we figured that the nose must have separated from the main fuselage and Stan, who was the bomb aimer he was up in the nose and myself who was about six foot from him must have gone through a gap. And fortunately, as I say I was unconscious and I came to in a silent world because your ears have blacked out. You fall at a hundred and twenty miles an hour. And I looked up and saw the parachute pack but the parachute hadn’t been deployed so I reached up and pulled it. It appears to be in the nick of time because it was only seconds and I hit the deck and in the middle of a field in Denmark. And as I say the, the exiting from the aircraft the flight engineer and the mid-upper gunner got out without any problem at all. Jim, the rear gunner, Jim Petre he turned his guns to, to port because there was, the flames were, were streaming back on the port side and he jettisoned the back doors and fell out backwards. But unfortunately one of his flying boots got caught in the guns so he was trailing out the back and in, with his parachute pack and he realised that he’d got to get away from the aircraft because it was burning and so he pulled the ripcord which yanked him out like a cork out of a bottle and opened the chute. It took him a long while to get down because from sort of eighteen, sixteen thousand feet, whichever we were to the ground takes quite a, quite a number of minutes to get down whereas I was the last one out I reckon and Stan and I we were the first down. And as I say I approached some houses that were alongside the field where we were and I approached some people that were standing out at their gate. They had maps and torches and things to illuminate and whatever, and the first group that I got to said they didn’t want to know because obviously if the Germans, if, if you were a Danish citizen and you helped English aircrew or allied aircrew then you were shot. You were killed. So, they directed me over to another house and I went and knocked the window and that’s when I knew that my hands were quite badly cut and bruised and the blood was running down the window. And they, they took me in and sat me in the chair and dressed my head wounds with paper bandages and I got the escape kit out and the silk map and the currency and all the stuff that goes with it and they pointed, they pointed out where we were in Denmark. And whatever plans I’d got, I was forming in my mind was to get out. Anyhow, they sent for an ambulance and they came along and they picked me up and took me out in a stretcher. Put me in the back of the ambulance. We went down the road, hundred yards not much more I shouldn’t have thought and the back doors opened and Stan was wheeled in. He looked a shocking sight because he was, where Perspex is embedded into his face. It looked a lot worse than what it was. It looked like he was, his whole face was blooded and I suppose mine was must have been the same and I said, ‘You look a shocking sight.’ And he said, ‘Well, you don’t look much better.’ They took us to a hospital which they changed, they put us in an examination room with two benches where we’d laid there and the doctors were checking us over and doing what was necessary and they brought a couple of members of the Resistance in who the doctors interpreted for. One of the doctors could speak really good English and they had said that if we were fit to travel the next day they’d got, they would get us away and we’d get across to Sweden which the other three members of the crew managed to do and they got back to England quite quickly. But unfortunately, somebody in the hospital had blown the whistle on us and said there was two fliers and although they were changing us from ward to ward to keep us out of the way the Germans marched in and took us. And they took us both out on stretchers and they put us in some unbelievable dungeon like place and Stan was one, there was a couple of bunks in there and Stan was in one and I was in the other. And later on that night they brought their girlfriends down to have a laugh at our expense. And as I say Stan was a very forthright ex-docker and he gave them some Liverpool [laughs] swearing which if you, whether they recognised it but they must have known that he wasn’t very happy. And he’d got broken ribs and fortunately the next day the Luftwaffe who had heard that we’d been taken prisoner by the Wehrmacht came and claimed us as their own which they were in the habit of doing because, and they took us to an airfield in Denmark and put us in sick quarters where we were quite well looked after for a few days. I had [sunray] treatment to take the bruising which I was black from just below the thighs up to the chest where the harness was a bit slack and with my delayed drop it did cause quite a bit of damage. But, and Stan also with his broken ribs he had, he had quite a lot of attention and anti-tetanus and all kinds of things and the doctor who could speak, the Luftwaffe doctor who could speak good English, him and Stan had long conversations and argued against the merits of us fighting the Germans and we should never have got into a situation where we were at war with Germany and Stan was saying just how, giving his version of it and it got quite heated. At that particular time Stan had noted or we’d both noted that there was a JU52, one of their transport aircraft was parked not far from the window and they used to take it up for an air test every, every day. And Stan come out with the bright idea that if he could get out to it he’d get us off the ground which I thought might have been a good idea in, in boy’s books but it didn’t sound very convincing to me that he was going to do all that with him with two broken ribs and me strapped up with severe bruising. Anyhow, it came to nothing and we were transported by ship from [pause] from Denmark across the, going over the shipping lanes where the mines had been dropped by other aircraft and we were right in the bowels of this ship and we, but we got away with it. We got to Rostock on the north coast of Germany and then we entrained from there. I had a dodgy experience as we went in to Hamburg. The compartment was reserved just for us and two guards because we had two guards with us and, but the civilians had pushed their way in. In other words, they’d have probably done the same in this country, why should enemy aircrew have a reserved when they were standing in the [laughs] Anyhow, they got that they piled into there and one of them had got me against the door and we were looking out at a part of Hamburg where there wasn’t a stone on a stone. I mean it had been completely obliterated and he was saying, ‘Your comrades,’ and he was trying to undo the door to push me out. Fortunately, the guards with their guns forced them back and put Stan and I up in the corner out of the way and we didn’t have any more trouble from them. But we went from there down to Dulag Luft near Frankfurt which was the Interrogation Centre for all allied aircrew and we were immediately shoved in to solitary confinement and taken out. I think we were there for four days before they were convinced that we’d got no useful information to give us. But we were taken out and chatted to by, or interrogated by German officers who could speak perfect English and offered us cigarette and, ‘Would you like a sandwich?’ And were very nice to us but they had got so much information about 10 Squadron they even knew we’d got a new CO which we’d only had for three weeks, Wing Commander Shannon and they even knew about that. And once they realised that they knew more about 10 Squadron than what I did they released us on to the main camp where we were, I inherited a pair of GI boots which were quite comfortable and we were kitted out and the biggest tragedy as far as I’m concerned we were given a shower and they came along and said I’d got lice so they shaved my head right down to the bone which is the customary mode of hair cutting nowadays but it wasn’t in those days and I was very proud of my mane of hair. And being as we were only short-term prisoners we weren’t there that long. By the time we got back I still only had about half an inch of fuzz on my hair. So, I wore a glengarry all the time, indoors and outdoors. Anyhow, the whole point is that we marched from Dulag Luft down to Nuremberg and that’s where we, we had the unpleasant sight of a B17 had been hit and one of the crew had landed quite near our [pause] we were stopped at that particular time. There was thousands of us but there was also a lot of guards with guns. We couldn’t do anything about it but they’d, the civilians got this American and strung him up to a lamp post. And it’s something that I’ll never forget because I remember his feet twitching as he gave in to the rope and he was killed. But as I say we carried on down to Munich. A big prisoner of war camp called Moosburg and we, night after night if you were lucky you had some kind of accommodation that you stopped at where you had a roof over your head. Apart from that you just slept where you stopped. And we eventually got to the prisoner of war camp and there was far too many people. They were erecting tents, big marquees for people because they had run out of legitimate places. The huts to put us in. And I think there was more people there because they were funnelling in from all over Germany. There was some talk at the time that, the general gossip on the, on the march was that Hitler was going to use us as, as [pause] some kind of reckoning with the allies to get better terms for ending the war but it didn’t happen. But it was one of the things. The funniest thing I ever saw was we had people, guards approaching us with bits of paper saying they’d committed no atrocity. It was that near to the end of the war that they wanted us to sign. And we was, this was at the very end of the march and there was a group of Yanks had got what bits and pieces that they’d got and they’d found an old pram and they piled it all in the pram and they’d got the guard that was guarding their part of the march to put his rifle on the pram and push the pram. And as I say it was that near the end of the war you could get away with quite a lot although things weren’t that good because we were attacked. Fighter Command was sending the American’s Thunderbolts and Mosquitoes and they were having a go at, they were having a go at anything that moved in Germany in those days and when we were on the march they just attacked us and killed five people I believe and wounded quite a few before they realised that we were ex-POWs. But from there we [pause] we were liberated by General “blood and guts” Patton who came in on a jeep with his pearl handled revolvers and we were flown by, after a wait of two or three days at an airfield we managed to get aboard a Dakota and we were flown to Reims in France where Lancasters were coming in nose to tail and we were just piling aboard. We looked a disgusting sight because we were filthy dirty. We wore the same clothes that we were shot down in and I’d had dysentery and we weren’t very nice people to be near. But anyhow, I got aboard a Lancaster and I managed to climb in to the mid-upper turret and as he come over the Channel it was quite a sight to see the white cliffs of Dover. Although we hadn’t been prisoners of war more than three months it was three months that I could have done without. Anyhow, we landed at Cosford. They deloused us which sticking, which is sticking a gun of DDT powder down the front of your blouse and firing it off so that you got white DDT powder coming out of everywhere. And then we had showers, medical examinations, they, they had tables loaded with food which I’d got down to seven and a half stone in that short period and we weren’t able to eat a lot. But we did start to eat again and they gave us money to take on leave and also food coupons which we were told to take home to your family so they could fatten you up a bit and travel warrants and they just sent to the railway system and go home you know. We’ll contact you when you’re ready which was quite a few weeks. I think it was about five weeks and we, I got back to Tunbridge and by which time they hadn’t, they didn’t know that I’d made it and so when I walked down Priory Road, Tunbridge the last communication my father had got was a telegram saying that I was missing from night operations and there would be a letter to follow which he didn’t appear to have got. But they, they were quite convinced that I’d had it and then I put just put in an appearance. And it was the usual kind of festivities. My sister, two sisters were cooking and sitting me down and trying to stuff me with food that I couldn’t eat. Not that vast amount. But over a period of time I got back to normal and went back to the RAF and I ended up as understudy wing warrant officer at Cranwell College which was quite an experience. And that was it. From there I was demobbed and came back. There was no way that I was going to go back to being gentleman’s outfitters so I started doing, learning upholstery and started a business in Tonbridge which is still going to this day. As —
SP: What’s that called? What’s your business called? What was it?
AA: It’s called Botten and Andrews. I had a partner called Botten. Well, he, he’d, he’s died. His son is running the business now and he’s making quite a success of it and. Apart from the fact that I have no financial interests in it he still kept my name over the door. And that was the end of it.
[recording paused]
SP: Ok, Andy. Thanks for, for all that information there. So, you were talking about your base was Melbourne in Yorkshire. Do you want to tell me a little bit about —
AA: Well, yeah, we were a wartime airfield dispersed with huts all, all the way around the perimeter of the airfield and we as a crew had a small hut which we, our two gunners who were senior in age to me, I was the youngest in the crew and they used to forage for fuel for the stove. And the local farmers they bartered their way into getting some eggs and stuff like that and we could do a bit of toast on this tortoise stove and one way or the other where you, as young men we had quite big appetites and although we were fed quite well in the mess but anyhow, we subsidised it with whatever we could get from local farmers and what have you. But as I say Melbourne was one of the few airfields that had FIDO which was fog dispersal and we used it because the two previous mine laying expeditions that we’d been on we’d taken off with the aid of FIDO because it was quite foggy. And the other big experience we had with FIDO was in ’44 just before Christmas lieutenant colonel, the film star, James Stewart came in with a flight of B17s and they had quite a time in the mess with us which was primitive by their standards but they thoroughly enjoyed it. And we used to go out to, if we had a stand down we’d, and there was time there was transport provided to go in to York which was round about twelve and a half miles from Melbourne to the centre of York and we’d chat up the local girls. And we went to a place, we used to go to a place called De Grey Rooms which is still there and they had dances and you used to totter in there after drinking in the local hostelries all evening and subject the local girls to our drunken whatever. Anyhow, the point is that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and at the end of the evening there was a small hut by York Station that used to keep open all night I think and you could get a mug of tea and a wad of, of roll with cheese in it and sit there and wait for members of your crew to turn up so that you could share a taxi to get back because you’d missed the last transport. The other thing was, talking of transport Wing Commander Shannon who was the CO of 10 Squadron he, somebody had picked up a bus from York and managed with their information which they must have gained through being either on the buses or mechanics they got it started and took everybody back to 10 Squadron which was quite good. But they parked it outside and he was, he had us in to the main briefing area and he said that he would get to the bottom of it and in the meantime he was going to smarten up the aircrew. No more would they be coming in to the mess for breakfast in their pyjamas underneath their battledress and he was going to have us trotting around the perimeter track to get fit. To make us a lot fitter than what we were. But anyhow, it didn’t really work and he had to give it up in the end. Hence the fact that one of the songs of 10 Squadron was a song that went to the best of my knowledge, “There’s A Flight and B Flight and C Flight you see. But the best of them all is the WT. Fly high. Fly low. Where every go, shiny 10 Squadron will give a good show. Now, old Wingco Shannon he raves and he shouts and he talks about things that he knows nothing about. Fly high. Fly low. Where ever you go, shiny 10 Squadron will give a good show.” And as I say, I think it goes on from there but that’s as much as I can remember and I can’t think of any more that I can tell you. I’m very glad that I got in to Bomber Command although I look back and think that we did a good job and it was great I won’t admit, I won’t admit to saying that I said a lot more religious prayers just before take-off on ops than what I’d ever thought that I would get around to and the feeling in the stomach before you got aboard was unbelievable. Anybody says that they flew over Germany and faced flak and night fighters and weren’t scared I don’t think they were ever there. But it was an experience that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Well, I couldn’t have missed for the world. I was there and you did it. But I was very glad in hindsight that, that Bomber Command was the place where I’d like to be. So, thank you very much.
SP: Yeah. Well, Andy, thank you on behalf of International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archives. I’d like to thank you for your amazing story and also we got some singing on there.
AA: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: Some amazing singing as well.
AA: Yeah.
SP: Ok. Well, thank you very much.
AA: Yeah.
[recording paused]
SP: I’ll just check it rather retake it than drive all the way back down.
AA: Well, quite.
SP: But we’ll be fine, I’m sure.

Collection

Citation

Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Andy Andrews,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/9225.

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