Interview with Raymond Barrett

Title

Interview with Raymond Barrett

Description

Raymond Barnes worked in factories before he joined the RAF. He trained as an engine fitter. He was posted to the Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Far East. He was servicing Spitfires and Dakotas for 242 Squadron and then 267 Squadron. He was present at the arrival of the Japanese delegation to sign the surrender of their forces. When he was expecting to be posted home from Burma he was told he would be flying out to a new posting in India. After protesting he returned home and was told that the flight he would have been on to India had crashed with no survivors.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-05-15

Contributor

Julie Williams

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

01:30:17 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ABarrettR170515, PBarrettR1703

Coverage

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is the 15th of May 2017 and I’m in Little Chalfont with Raymond Barrett who was an engineer. And he’s going to tell us about his life and times in the RAF. What are your original recollections of life, Raymond?
RB: It really goes back to when I was just over three and I had scarlet fever and was put in an isolation hospital at Cippenham near Slough. And my first recollections really is I remember mother and father, because it’s isolated, looking through the window at me. And the second one was sitting on the nurses lap in front of a fire. A roaring fire. And third was after I was first allowed out and we’d had heavy snow and the snow came up to my shoulders. And that [unclear]. I then went on to school at a Church of England School in Slough at the age of five and was there ‘til the age of fourteen. I attended the Church of England church at Slough as a server there. And the first occupation was my brother put me into [pause] there was the question that cream was illegal during the first part of the war and it was only goat’s cream which was around the West End. And his managing director had arranged goat’s milk collection areas in all the different counties and all the massed sold on the open market. And it was there where I remember that I was put in to sort out all the payments etcetera. And I found that on hot days some of the collectioneers had missed them and collected up cream which turned, well completely maggots. A mass of maggots. So, I got out of there. And I then went to another brother’s factory where he worked which was a jam factory. Also on the trading estate. And I was a general runner there. And I always remember my first fright of my life I think was at [pause] there were ten pound, the five pound notes, the big ones and the fifty pound notes. I was sent to do a pay in at the local bank and I thought — oh well, what was it? Eighty pounds short. And what I didn’t realise was that some of the ten pound notes were fifty pound notes. My then third experience in employment was at R&O Processes which was again on the trading estate at Slough. And there I was with a production manager, a hundred and twenty eight girls, or women and I remember them all singing. A new programme. A special programme. What was it called?
CB: Music As You Work.
RB: That’s right. Yeah. All singing as you did your work. We were there making the self-sealing, the neoprene covering of the petrol tanks for fighters. The K-type dingies, the M-type dinghies and the L-type dinghies. Rubber dinghies. And on reaching the age of just over eighteen, having working with, experience with, for the air force I then decided to volunteer at High Wycombe. Was accepted. Reported for duty at Bedford. The airship —
CB: Oh, Cardington.
RB: Cardington. Yeah. Reported for Cardington. And from Cardington I was posted to Skegness where I did all my field training.
CB: At the Initial Training Wing.
RB: The Initial Training Wing. Yes. And from there I was posted to St Athan in South Wales on my Merlin training. Engine training. And at the end of the training we were all asked where we wanted to be posted. And obviously everybody put near home. And those that put the south got posted North. North — south. And twelve of us got posted overseas of which I was one. And was posted up to Morecambe, and Morecambe posted up to Gourock where I got the troopship. The old troopship in that number somewhere. Sorry to be. Could we stop for a moment?
CB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: So, when you, when you left Cardington you went, you said to Skegness.
RB: That’s correct.
CB: What did you do in that training? What were the tasks?
RB: Well, I mean, it was on the rifle range. Marching. Parade. Firing sten guns. Unarmed combat. And well it was mostly marching and training nearly every day. Every day on that.
CB: P.T.
RB: Oh yes [laughs] Certainly, PT [laughs] Over the promenades.
CB: Every day?
RB: Virtually every day. Yes.
CB: So, Skegness is at the seaside. What sort of accommodation did you have?
RB: Well, I was in a, in a boarding house. In fact, it was called Bright Side. And I went back about twenty years ago and couldn’t find it. And then there was a person looking out, sorry came out, he said, ‘Oh, it’s been renamed.’ It was the one next door. So, I went in there and where we slept on the floor boards about. Lovely carpeted rooms.
CB: So, you didn’t get beds.
RB: No. Not there.
CB: What about the food? What was that like?
RB: Reasonable. Most evenings when we used to march down to the cookhouse with our mugs in my fingers. And somebody got it in the wrong one and they crashed thinking they were level [laughs] Half a —
CB: Only had the handle.
RB: Yeah. Only the handle.
CB: Wasn’t much good. So, then you moved to St Athan. What happened at St Athan? What was that site? What did it do?
RB: Well, it was mostly, mostly you know taking apart the Merlin engine and putting it together and working out certain problems which had happened. To readjust and correct them.
CB: At what —
RB: Malfunctions. Yes.
CB: At what stage was your trade selected?
RB: Sorry?
CB: At what stage of your training was your trade as an engine fitter selected?
RB: Well, you didn’t get selected ‘til the end.
CB: No. I meant before you went to St Athan you might have gone somewhere quite different. So, at some stage you must have gone for engineering.
RB: No. No. No. I didn’t. I didn’t. I don’t remember saying I wanted to go in. I think I was detailed by somebody. I must have been detailed. I never. I don’t remember ever wishing to go into the engineering.
CB: And before the war you’d been in the company that made fuel tanks and dinghies and things.
RB: Well, I was. Well, yes.
CB: Well, early in the war.
RB: Yes.
CB: Before you joined up. To what extent do you think that contributed to the direction of your training?
RB: Well, I think that more or less wanting, wanting to go into the, really wanting to go in to the Air Force. But not with any trade in view. I think they selected. They detailed that I went into the engineering.
CB: Right. So, what got you in the Air Force in the first place rather than the Navy or the Air Force err or the Army?
RB: Well I think, you know I think it was the pre-dealing with items for the RAF because I suppose I could have [pause] because the first six days of work was actually in an engineering company making firing pins for incendiary bombs. And that was before the war. That was in, that was, yes fourteen. That’s in ’36. ’36.
CB: So —
RB: But I always remember all covered in oil from the machines each day and mother got fed up with me coming covered in oil every day. So, I gave my notice in after six days [laughs]
CB: All because of the dirt.
RB: All because of the oil.
CB: The oil.
RB: Oil on my clothes which my mother didn’t like that.
CB: Did they not issue you with —
RB: No. Yeah. But it still penetrated.
CB: Protective clothing.
RB: Slightly was but it was very light.
CB: Right. So, fast forward now to St Athan.
RB: Yeah.
CB: You’re firmly on a training programme for engines.
RB: Yeah. Engines. That’s correct.
CB: So, what did that actually entail?
RB: Well, as I say taking apart engines. Apart in sections. Rebuilding. We never did the, never actually put them into aircraft there. That came later. And when we did that we did engines changes and things like that.
CB: Now, with the Merlin it was updated later but how did you get trained on changing the plugs and more importantly the valves?
RB: Well, I mean we were shown. I mean, obviously it was demonstrated and each in turn had to go through certain processes.
CB: But the block and the head were integral to begin with.
RB: That’s right.
CB: And then they were separated.
RB: Separated them, yes. Yeah.
CB: So, it’s quite —
RB: Very complicated. Yes.
CB: And how did they assess your competence?
RB: I don’t know, quite honestly. I’m not sure. You know, there’s no grading here is there? I don’t think there is any grade on training.
CB: So, during this training what rank were you?
RB: I was still LAC then. No. This was only a release isn’t it?
CB: Ok. So, at the end of your training at St Athan.
RB: Yes.
CB: What happened to your rank, what happened to your rank?
RB: Still stayed the same.
CB: Ok.
RB: I don’t —
CB: And what sort of passing out parade did you have?
RB: Well, it’s, well I trained —
CB: Of the training at St Athan.
RB: Oh, I don’t remember actually much of it. We were, we were released home for home leave and then straight reported back.
CB: Did you get a photograph of all the others on the course with you?
RB: Not on the course. No. But on the training which I got with it but not on the St Athan one.
CB: Ok. So, you then went up to Gourock to get on a troop ship. What happened there?
RB: What —
CB: So, you got on a troop ship.
RB: Troop ship.
CB: At Gourock you got on a troop ship.
RB: Troop ship. Yes.
CB: Where was that going? Did you know?
RB: Oh, no. We didn’t know. No.
CB: Right.
RB: We didn’t know much I remember, I think we were supposed to have so many aircraft carriers and there were about seven of them anchored in the Clyde.
CB: Were there? Yeah. So, you got on the ship. Then what?
RB: Well, they more or less, well as I say we had a few days. We actually, where are we? Yes. We sailed on the 19th of July and virtually zigzagged. I’m sure we zigzagged virtually, virtually to America. We came up and went into the Mediterranean because it took us from Gourock to [pause] where are we? Yes. To the sea. Yes. Nine days to get to Algiers.
CB: Via America or via Canada?
RB: Well, I’m sure it was nearer to America where we zigzagged.
CB: And then you went to Algiers.
RB: Went to Algiers.
CB: Ok.
RB: Of course we were escorted with, well it split because some half of the convoy went down to go down to the Far East.
CB: Yeah.
RB: Split and then as we neared.
CB: So, when you got to Algiers then what was your role?
RB: Well, we missed, well [coughs] Well we had to march God knows how many, how many miles. And then we eventually got transport to Fort de l’eau. This MAU. Number one base. Personnel department. And we did various works on escorting prisoners of war and one thing and another while we were there. And clearing military items. And —
[pause]
CB: What about the engineering training you’d had?
RB: It wasn’t put into use at all. No. [pause]
CB: So, what were you doing with the — so you looked after the prisoners of war. And the other tasks were what?
RB: Well, as I say moving, loading and off-loading equipment and transporting.
CB: And how long were you at Algiers?
RB: Well, we — right up until the 23th of November.
[pause]
CB: This is 1943. So, the allies had consolidated their grip on North Africa.
RB: On North Africa.
CB: On that part of North Africa.
RB: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah.
CB: Then what happened?
RB: I was on a lorry across the Atlas Mountains through Constantine to an army transit camp in Setif. S E T I F. That was just one day. The 23rd to the 24th of November. The next day it was an army transit camp in Phillipville. That’s on the 24th of November to the 5th of December.
CB: And where were you heading to?
RB: Well, going on to, on to a ship. A troop ship. SS the Oran. Sailed on the 6th, Passed off Bizerte at sea and the island of Pantelleria. And then sea and dock in Syracuse, Sicily. We ended up in Sicily. That’s the 7th of December.
CB: And what did you do there? Because you’re an engineer so you’re still not —
RB: Yeah. That was rather funny because I went there to join 242 Squadron but when I got to Taranto they were, they were moving out. So, so we were joined to them at, so we went from one boat to another one which was the SS Neuralia. And then we went to sea with the squadron via Port Said. No 247, that’s right.
CB: 247 Squadron.
RB: No. 242 Squadron.
CB: Yeah.
RB: Spitfire squadron.
CB: Yeah. So, Port Said is in Egypt.
RB: Egypt. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And you caught up with the squadron there did you?
RB: No. I caught at at Taranto.
CB: Oh, you did. Right.
RB: Yeah. As I got in they were moving out [laughs]
[pause]
CB: So, where did you go from there?
RB: Well, then we were on, on cattle trucks. No. Sorry. No. No. We were, what do you call it?
CB: We’re talking about Port Said now, are we?
RB: Yeah. It was train then.
CB: Train. Right.
RB: The old cattle trucks trains.
CB: Yeah.
RB: Went to Kibrit after a sixty mile journey. Palestine and Syria on the train. Cattle truck through Haifa, Beirut, Tripoli and Gaza to [unclear] aerodrome, North Syria. Which is near Aleppo. I mean Aleppo was a wonderful, wonderful city in those days.
CB: Was it? Yeah.
RB: I mean, now it’s absolutely —
CB: Devastated.
RB: Yes.
CB: So you settled in. The squadron settled in Aleppo did it?
RB: Aleppo. Yeah.
CB: Yeah.
RB: Of course, at that time Turkey was coming in to the war.
CB: But it never did.
RB: Well, of course Turkey thought we were going to hand over all the # aircraft and the guns and we wouldn’t.
CB: Oh.
RB: You know we were far out, is it during the day all the guns and transport used to go up towards the border. Come back during the night. And the same lot went up the next day for German recognition. What did you call it? Thinking we were going in there. So we never never were operational from there.
CB: How long did that go on for?
RB: That was the 24th of December ’43 ‘til the 14th of February ’44. The coldest New Year’s Eve I’ve ever spent in my life.
CB: Really.
RB: We ended up on the aerodrome. Just a little compound. Sleeping on the, on the frozen floor.
[pause]
CB: So, from there —
RB: Well, we were on the train again. Homs and Tripoli. Syria, Lebanon, Beirut and Haifa, Palestine and on to the transit camp, El Marsa in Egypt.
CB: Oh, back to Egypt.
RB: Yeah.
CB: This is with the squadron.
RB: Yeah. With the squadron. Yeah. That was the 17th of February to the 20th of March.
CB: Then what?
RB: Well, then rumours had it that we were going up to Port Said. Going on a troopship to Sicily. Transferring on to a larger boat and going home for the Second Front.
CB: Oh.
RB: Oh, right. Port Said after [ninety nine day?] journey. 20th of March. That’s true. Sea on the SS Acacia which again was true. 21st to the 27th of March. Anchored in Augusta Bay, Sicily. Change ships. Which was all coming true. Then at sea on the SS the Oran. And of course didn’t go home. Dumped off in, in Corsica.
[pause]
CB: Ok.
RB: We landed on the beach. Camped in the open air for five days ‘til all the transport up there because at that time I think the front line in, we were a hundred and seventy miles behind the front line in Italy then. And then we went from [pause] where were we? Ajaccio. South of Ajaccio. March the 30th to the 5th of April. Then we went across the mountains to North East Corsica on the 5th of April.
[pause]
RB: To Alto Airport, North East Corsica. Ten miles south of Bastia which is the capital.
CB: And is flying going on all this time?
RB: Well, we’ve only —
CB: Squadron flying.
RB: Well —
CB: This is just moving about.
RB: Just moving about yes. We didn’t, it’s where we, that’s where our flying started. At Poretta airfield.
CB: Right.
[pause]
RB: Yes. Poretta Airfield which was the 19th of April to the 11th of July where most of our [pause] Just there really the Mitchell bombers came up from Sardinia. Rendezvoused at the north of Corsica where we escorted on all our bombing raids down in Italy. Then from the front line in Italy we didn’t want them to come up to the Brenner Pass where there could hold it with a few troops. We kept an eye on there. Across. And then we flew over to the other side of Corsica which was [pause] where are we? I’ve lost myself now [laughs]
[pause]
RB: That’s right. We went to, then we were flung across the other side to Calvi Airport, north west Corsica 11th of July to 23rd of August and that’s where we covered the invasion. We covered the Americans for the invasion of the —
CB: South of France.
RB: South of France.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
RB: Then once they got a runway through the vineyards in south of France our aircraft took off and landed the next day. So, on the 25th we were at sea on the tank landing craft and landed at Frejus Airfield in south of France the 25th of August to September. And there we covered the, up until the meeting for north and south.
CB: So, all this time you’re moving around but the squadron is flying later on.
RB: Yes.
CB: To what extent are you using your mechanical engineering skills in that time?
RB: Well, there, well there’s the daily, there’s a daily service of course.
CB: Ok. So, an aircraft goes on a sortie. It lands back. What do you do with it?
RB: Well, immediately we service it. Yes.
CB: Which means what?
RB: Oh, there’s a daily service. Checking all the, checking all — I’ve got. Somewhere I’ve got details, complete details of a daily service written out.
CB: Ok. That’s good. So, just so that the listeners can understand what’s going on the aircraft lands. What’s the process as soon as it lands?
RB: Well —
CB: Because it’s used its ammunition. It’s hot. What what what has to be done to it?
RB: Well, we, well we used to wait for it at the end of the runway. Sit on the wing. Guide the pilot back into the dispersal point. And then the engine fitters would do their maintenance. The armourers would rearm. And we used to, as I say more or less repeat of the daily check to make sure everything mechanical was complete as far as the engine was concerned.
CB: So, in a car you dip the oil. What do you do with an aero engine?
RB: Well, we checked the oil, the water.
CB: The cooling is with glycol so —
RB: The glycol. Yes.
CB: Was it entirely glycol or was it a mixture?
RB: Oh no. No. Glycol. It was all glycol.
CB: Right.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Ok. And after a flight would you expect it necessary to top up the glycol?
RB: Well, you always checked but occasionally slightly. Yes.
CB: And what about the engine oil?
RB: Quite often. Yes. Yes.
CB: And how often would you do an engine oil change?
RB: I forget now [pause] No. Because they were all listed for the maintenance checks.
CB: So, there’s —
RB: Some, some were so many flying hours.
CB: Right. So, the particular tasks are based on flying hours for a, for a particular job.
RB: For maintenance.
CB: So —
RB: For the maintenance job.
CB: Right. Apart from reloading the cannon and machine guns then what would be the most frequent task that you’d do on an engine?
RB: Well, most frequent would be the daily check.
CB: Which is?
RB: As I say, it’s checking on what as I say I’ll turn that for you. As I say I’ve got it written down.
CB: Yeah. But it’s oil.
RB: Oil.
CB: Glycol. Plugs.
RB: Plugs. Yes.
CB: Yeah. Did the plugs break?
RB: The magnetos.
CB: Or what would they do? Magnetos.
RB: Check the magnetos. Yes.
CB: Ok.
RB: And starter motor of course as well.
CB: Yeah. So, how did the engines start? Was it assisted by a cartridge or was it straight on the starter motor?
RB: Well, the ones we had were straight on the starter motor. Yes. Because when we were in Aleppo we had to keep it engine readiness so we were going around one in turn. Revving it up to make sure it was available for immediate take off if the occasion arise.
CB: Right. So the pilot isn’t in the cockpit in that case.
RB: No.
CB: Who sits in the cockpit?
RB: Well, one of, one of the, one of the crew. And of course two of us on, two of each on the tail as well to make sure.
CB: It didn’t lift. Yeah.
RB: Yeah. I remember at Aleppo once I got on the back tail with my glasses on not realising. My glasses were whipped off. Found them about a hundred and twenty yards away. Unbroken fortunately.
CB: We’ll stop there temporarily.
RB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: We’re back on again now and we’ve talked about dealing with the basic points and you run up the engines so you have to sit on the tail. What does running up the engine entail exactly?
RB: Oh taking it full revs.
CB: Through the gate.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Do you go through the gate or just up to the gate?
RB: Virtually up to the — well, yes. Yes. Yes. Up to the —
CB: Yeah. And these Spitfires had how many superchargers?
RB: I’m not sure how many. You know, I don’t know.
CB: So, the ones you used in North Africa had sand filters, did they?
RB: Yes. I think they did.
CB: And by the time you get to Corsica you’ve taken those off have you?
RB: Yes.
CB: Right. Giving more power.
RB: Power. Yes.
CB: Apart from the weight. So, you’re, you’re going through the various engine revs when you’re doing the test are you?
RB: Yeah. Yes. Yes. To make sure. Well, well actually it’s up to the temperature. The take-off temperature.
CB: Right.
RB: That was the point.
CB: And then do you close the engine?
RB: Down.
CB: Quickly or just gradually let it down.
RB: Well, not straight —
CB: Don’t close it immediately.
RB: Not immediately. No.
CB: Ok. And then what happens?
RB: Off. And it’s left until the temperature’s gone down again.
CB: Right. So you’re in a group. You’re in a section that looks after — how many aircraft would you look after as a section?
RB: Well, we looked after two actually. Yeah.
CB: And what’s the —
RB: Yes. Mine was LEP and LEQ.
CB: Right.
RB: You see it’s got LEQ on there.
CB: On there. Yeah. I saw that. So, who runs the group? Is it the chief? What rank would he be?
RB: He was —
CB: The crew chief
RB: Corporal. Corporal.
CB: Corporal crew. Ok. And then how many of those units would there be? The next one would be a sergeant running how many of those groups?
RB: There was only one sergeant per wing.
CB: Right. Because the squadron would have how many aircraft in it? Roughly?
RB: Well, sixteen.
CB: Sixteen. Ok. Right. So that’s eight.
RB: Two eights.
CB: Eight crews to deal with two aircraft each.
RB: Two aircraft each.
CB: And one sergeant over that.
RB: That’s correct. Yeah.
CB: And then corporals running those.
RB: Two.
CB: Right. What level of servicing could you do on the flight line?
RB: Oh. Well, we actually done engine changes there.
CB: Out in the open or —
RB: In the open. Yeah.
CB: Right.
RB: Yes. We had no hangars I think at, in Corsica. No. Definitely.
CB: So, with the airfields you were using were they made by the airfield construction people? Or was it —
RB: Yes. Yes. One. Two. I think the one at Calvi was, oh no we were on a satellite of it. No. The main airport was a civil what do you call it? But ours was a satellite. So, it was just —
CB: So if there was a major fault with the aircraft you’d take it.
RB: Well, in, in Corsica it did go to the — we didn’t do the main service. The engine change there. Went back to the airfield.
CB: To Calvi.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Right. So, the Americans have landed in the south of France. What happens next?
RB: Well, as I say we were operational until the link up and of course when the link up came they didn’t want us anymore.
CB: And the link up was between the forces came from Normandy.
RB: That’s right.
CB: And the ones that came from the south.
RB: That’s correct. Yeah.
CB: Right. So had you moved to the mainland of France by then? Or were you —
RB: Oh, yes. Yes. We were in the mainland.
CB: So you flew from Corsica to where? Where did the squadron get based after Corsica?
RB: Well —
CB: In France.
RB: In France. It went to, where are we? Frejus Airfield.
CB: Oh, Frejus.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Right.
RB: Then we eventually went. After the link up we went up to Montelimar which is a hundred and eighty miles by road and horse. Where the old famous nougat is.
CB: Yeah. So, you were converted to eating nougat. Converted to eating nougat then were you?
RB: Yeah. That was the 6th to the 22nd of September. And then of course they decided to disband the squadron.
CB: When?
RB: While we were at Montelimar.
CB: Oh, did they? So was, what date was that?
RB: Well, the, where are we? Well the, yes the 22nd of September it was disbanded. Had to say goodbye to my pilots then.
CB: Yeah. So, what was the relationship between the engineer people, the crew, the ground crew and the pilots?
RB: Well, I mean I, well I mean I spent hours with my pilot bees-waxing the machine to try and get a few more miles per hour out of it. He was very cooperative. Yeah.
CB: So, which part would you beeswax?
RB: Well, the whole of the, the whole of the Spitfire.
CB: And because of the airflow would the front, the leading edge of the wing need it more often?
RB: I don’t think so. It didn’t appear to. It didn’t appear to wear off.
CB: Which, which mark of Spitfire are we talking about here?
RB: Let me see. I’m not sure now. [pause] We got up to 14 didn’t we?
CB: Were they? Yeah.
RB: I’m not sure what the last ones were.
CB: So, we’re at 14th of September ’44 with the disbanding of the squadron.
RB: Disbanding, that’s right. Yeah.
CB: And that’s 242 Squadron. So, what happened next?
RB: Well, there’s a hundred and twenty, a hundred miles by road to Lavone. L A V O N E airfield. Forty miles north of Marseilles. That was the 22nd of September. The 1st of August. But we took no part in active in any flying there. And then it was to Septémes Staging Post. Six miles north of Marseilles.
CB: What happened then?
RB: On leave at Marseilles. Recalled after one day. Marseilles in dock on that United States LST number 210. This is the 6th of October. Anchored the 6th 7th. At sea on the 7th to 8th Leghorn Bay, North Italy 9th 10th. At sea along the Italian coast past the islands of Elbe, Monte Cristo, Pianosa and Capri 10th 11th and slept by the roadside at Naples on the 11th to the 12th of October.
CB: So, when you got to Naples were you waiting for a particular role or? —
RB: Well, no. We were waiting to be re-posted.
CB: Right. Ok. Where did you from Naples?
RB: To a transit camp in Gragnano which is in, near Pompeii. And there I got my next posting.
CB: Which was?
RB: To 267 Squadron.
CB: Right. Where was that?
RB: That’s from Gragnano across the, had to leave from train from Naples. Bar in south east Italy.
CB: B A R.
RB: Towards the end there.
CB: Yeah. In southern Italy.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. And they’d got — what planes did they have?
RB: Dakotas.
CB: Right.
RB: Yeah. We dropped about two thousand tons of supplies over to Tito.
CB: Oh, is that where —
RB: [unclear]
CB: Right.
RB: Yugoslavia.
CB: And were they flying high or low or — how did they transport their arms?
RB: Not, not that high I don’t think.
CB: Were they vulnerable to attack?
RB: They were vulnerable to attack. Yes. But —
CB: Any losses?
RB: When we were, I don’t —not by enemy action [pause] because we were there from —
CB: Now, while you’re looking at that the Spitfire is a straight engine whereas, a V12, whereas the — is a radial.
RB: Yes.
CB: So how did you get adjusted to the radial engine of the Dakota?
RB: I think we just stuck straight in. I never had any training on it.
CB: Didn’t you?
RB: No.
CB: Right.
RB: Yeah. Pratt and Whitney.
CB: Pratt and Whitney radial.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Was there anybody there who had been trained beforehand?
RB: Well, I think [pause ] Do you know I don’t believe there was.
CB: But the squadron had been going for a while.
RB: Oh, the squadron had been operational.
CB: So there were people who were experience.
RB: So they were there. Where they’d worked on for —
CB: So, was your corporal with you or did you get a new corporal?
RB: Yes. Yes, I think I was supervised during the first few.
CB: By a new corporal was it? The same one.
RB: Well no. No. A new. It would be a new corporal. Not from the old squadron. No.
CB: No.
RB: He’d gone.
CB: So you got a new corporal —
RB: A new corporal.
CB: Who was experienced in the aircraft.
RB: The engine.
CB: Ok. So here the servicing is different. How did that work?
RB: Well, very much more restricted. I remember trying to change a generator. You had a little tiny vent with the old pins and threading this what do you call it through. You knocked your knuckles and God knows what there. It was much more difficult really than the Pratt and Whitney engine. The restriction for room.
CB: So, how would you rate the reliability of that engine compared with the Merlin?
RB: I think pretty the same. We had very few few, very few engine, double engine changes. More, more when we got to Burma funnily enough.
CB: So, how long did you stay in Bar, southern Italy?
RB: Where are we? We went to the, to the 2nd of February ’45. So, from the 7th of November ’44.
CB: To the 22nd of —
[pause]
RB: To [pause] to the 2nd of February.
CB: 2nd of February.
RB: 1945.
CB: ’45. Ok. So, then what did you do? Embark on a ship or go in the aircraft?
RB: No. We flew from there. Yes. Because it was, you know just before that time [unclear] in the House of Commons no serviceman will go to the Far East without prior leave in England. The next week we were flying to Stockholm err not Stockholm [laughs] To, to India. So, we were, RAF landed near Tobruk in Libya for dinner. Then on to Cairo West Airport the 2nd to the 5th of July where we had to service our aircraft. Shaibah in Iraq the 5th to the 6th. Over the Persian Gulf. Landed on Bahrain Island off the coast of Persia 6th of February. Then Karachi Airport. Mauripur Airport, 6th to the 7th. Then onto Bilaspur in the central provinces of India. We were there from the 7th to the 22nd of February. Then it was on to Imphal, north east India.
CB: Right.
RB: That’s where we started operations.
CB: Because at that stage the war was still going in the East.
RB: Oh yes. Yes.
CB: So, what action were the aircraft experiencing?
RB: Well, we were all, pretty well everything, everything had to be dropped in by supplies over the, over Burma.
CB: Yeah. Because Imphal was the scene of a lot of battles.
RB: Beforehand, yes.
CB: Yes.
RB: Before we got there.
CB: Yeah.
RB: Yes. There was a siege. Siege of Imphal.
CB: And Kohima.
RB: And Kohima. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok.
RB: Yes. I went back there. I’ve been back.
CB: Did you?
RB: Tour history. Yes.
CB: So, you’re now going to Burma from India.
RB: That was Imphal 22nd of February to the 23rd of March.
CB: Ok.
RB: And as, as the front for, then we went down to the Mawnybyin Airfield. Akyab Island.
CB: And all this time you’re following on the ground or are you being flown between airfields?
RB: Being flown. We were flown between airfields.
CB: And what’s your role during that time?
RB: Well, as a, well engine mechanic still. Pegasus. Akyab Island 23rd of March to the 13th of May [pause] And then we moved to Akyab main airfield 13th of May — 23rd of August.
CB: Ok. By which time the war had finished.
RB: That’s it. Then of course we then flew to Mingaladon Airfield which is thirteen miles north east of Rangoon.
CB: Right.
RB: That’s where we —
CB: So, you get to Rangoon.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Then what?
RB: Well, I was there when the, when the Japanese generals came in to surrender.
CB: Did they walk in, or driven in, or did they fly in?
RB: No. They flew in in a top —
CB: In British aircraft?
RB: No. Topsy. Topsy.
CB: What, the Japanese transport?
RB: Yeah. Six, six Spitfires escorting them in.
CB: Oh right.
RB: Because I was about six feet away when they came off the aircraft.
CB: But these were transports were they? Or bombers?
RB: No. No. No. They were a very small aircraft.
CB: Oh.
RB: Oh dear.
CB: Ok. Well, we’ll pick that up in a minute.
RB: Yeah.
CB: So they fly in. Where have they coming from to go to Rangoon?
RB: I’m not sure. I think I’ve got it in the report.
CB: And at Rangoon what’s organised for their reception?
RB: Well, it was the Civic Hall, I think.
CB: So, the generals come out and they’re treated with respect.
RB: Respect. Yes.
CB: Right.
RB: That’s it.
CB: And they’re driven are they? To the village. To the Civic Hall.
RB: Driven in to the —
CB: Right. And there did you see what was going on?
RB: No. No. I was still based on the airfield.
CB: Right. So, at this time what are you doing on the airfield at Rangoon?
RB: Well, we more or less went to civil duties. I mean as the British officials came up to set up the, to because I went up to have a flight with them to [pause] Where are we? Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Singapore.
CB: Oh yeah.
RB: And dropping them off. I remember one of the first air hostesses after the war showing them to their seats.
CB: Yeah. But you didn’t change your dress.
RB: No.
CB: Right.
RB: And of course we just, you know still had to service, you know the aircraft to do.
CB: So, you ran a shuttle did you?
RB: Yes.
CB: And how long did that run for?
RB: Oh, quite a few weeks.
CB: And the passengers were who? They were the civilians or —
RB: Actually, mostly well —
CB: British civilians.
RB: There were a few military among them but mostly —
CB: Ok.
RB: Setting up the administrations. And then of course my demob number came up.
CB: Yeah.
RB: And I was hoping to go home.
CB: And then?
RB: Went down to Mingaladon Airfield and of course we had the platform up to each engine top. And of course the servicing then was the, they had the cowlings off. So they said the last thing I had to do in the squadron was put the tarpaulins over the engines. Set them. Coming down the steps my foot slipped, knocked my leg there and that night I thought I had malaria. And the next day they dropped me off in to the local RAF hospital. And then they started pumping Benzalin into my bottom every four hours.
CB: Jeez.
RB: That was because —
CB: Because, what had happened to your leg?
RB: Well it poisoned it. Poisoned something.
CB: It had broken though had it.
RB: Not broken. No.
CB: No. Just gashed.
RB: Just gashed. I was in there for a few weeks and I think I told you when I came back I reported to the orderly room back on duty and I was told that the squadron was disbanding and the aircraft I’d been posted on was to Bombay. So I said, ‘Well, I don’t want to go to Bombay. I should be home now with the family.’ So, he said, ‘Sorry, you’ve got to go.’ So, I said, ‘Well, I’d like to see the CO please.’ He said, ‘Well, you can’t see the CO.’ I said, ‘Well, I want to.’ So he said, ‘Go. Off you go.’ About twenty minutes later I got a call to go back to the orderly room. And he said, well it wasn’t the CO of course, it was him again, ‘I’ve got you on the last troopship leaving Rangoon.’ And of course I came home eventually on the [pause] where are we? We should be the last thing here.
[pause]
RB: The 19th of August ’46, in the English Channel.
CB: That's when, what happened on that date?
RB: Oh, nothing. I just got home.
CB: That’s when you got home. Right.
RB: But no. It was about a month later when, and also somebody else from Slough was on the same squadron, suddenly met him coming along the High Street in Slough. And chatting about old times he ended up saying, ‘Well, you were lucky weren’t you?’ I said, ‘Well, why?’ So, he said, ‘Well, you were posted on the flight to Bombay weren’t you?’ He said, ‘It crashed and there were no survivors.’ So, if I’d have not complained to see the CO we wouldn’t be talking. That is a sign of fate.
CB: Yeah. What was the aircraft?
RB: Oh, it was a Dakota.
CB: A Dakota.
RB: Yeah. One of our one of our own. The Dakota was posted to different stations.
CB: Right. So, do you know what had happened to it?
RB: No. I didn’t know.
CB: Because pretty hilly and jungly there. Right. Ok. We’ll take a pause there.
[recording paused]
CB: Did you, did you only run a diary when you were coming home?
RB: Oh no. No. No. I wrote.
CB: How many diaries did you have in the end?
RB: August 4th. Oh four or five I think. I don’t know. Well, some were larger. August. Four hundred miles to noon. I’m mess orderly. ENSA concert in the evening.
CB: This is up from your diary.
RB: It’s coming home. Yeah. August the 5th — played Bridge in the evening. Three hundred and fifty seven miles. August 6th raining. Into Galle, three hundred and sixty miles. Bridge in the evening. 7th of August everything looked ready for another big storm. Arrived at 4am in the morning whilst I was asleep. 8th of August passed rock of Aden at 6am in the morning. Entered the Red Sea. So —
CB: It’s a good thing you did set to write all these things down.
RB: Yes. We’d sailed. Sailed for Rangoon on the 29th of July.
CB: 1945.
RB: And didn’t get back ‘til the 19th of August. That was a long return out.
CB: Oh, 1946 this is —
RB: Yeah. Yes. So virtually a month.
CB: Yeah. And when it stopped at ports did it, did the ship tend to stay several days or what happened?
RB: No. No. I think one night was about the most, I think.
CB: Of course these are hot places so what was it like in the ship?
RB: Well, if you were on duty below, pretty hot.
CB: And what duties did they give you on the troop ships?
RB: Well, sometimes getting the food and distributing the food because that was all. We had about twenty to a table. If you dished out too much you’d have not enough for yourself and if you dished too little they complained.
CB: So, you didn’t want to be the table head.
RB: No.
CB: What sort of accommodation did you have for sleeping?
RB: Well, leaving Gourock when I went out we were in hammocks. That’s fun getting in and out.
CB: Soon get the knack of it. But then after the—
RB: Then the toilet for water flushing.
CB: Everything was flushed with seawater. How many people on the ship? Roughly.
RB: Well [pause] well on the one out where are we?
CB: From Gourock.
RB: Gourock. Yeah.
CB: Were they all a mixture of Air Force and Army, or was it just Air Force?
RB: Oh yes. Oh yes. I mean. Where are we?
[pause]
CB: Just looking at the booklet.
RB: Yes. Yes. In the afternoon we arrived at Gourock. Near Gourock, Greenock in Scotland. On descending off the train and on to the platform we were lined up and roll call was given to see if anybody was missing.
CB: Right.
RB: We were then each given a berthing card. That’s a berthing card before we boarded a large steamer which was nearby. Carrying our kit once more so I stepped off pretty sore. In peacetime the steamer did pleasure trips to Ireland and back. I soon wished it had only been a pleasure cruise that I was going on. As soon as were all aboard off we steamed until we were in the centre of the Clyde. We drew up alongside and were transferred to a large troopship named the SS Volendam. It was approximately seventeen thousand tonne. It was a Dutch boat. Most of the crew were made up of Dutchmen. Early in the war the ship had been torpedoed. One torpedo landed on the bows but failed to explode. But unfortunately another one hit and did go off. But the damage was repairable and here she was still doing a useful job. With the aid of my berthing card and after a long search I at last found the correct deck that I was to live on and the correct mess followed by the correct table. Our next move was to, and everyone else’s was to stow away all our kit on the racks that were above the table. Two from each table in the mess went down to the galley to fetch back the meal for the respective tables. And they spilt the lot in to fourteen portions. However many they felt there would have been at our particular table. Two different fellows fetched the meals each day and did the washing up and cleaning and sweeping etcetera. That was the only duty that I got caught during the voyage. Some of the other chaps got caught for many jobs. By the time we finished our first meal on board everybody began to think of sleep as we all had a very tiring day. There were a hundred fellows in the mess and five tables. Some had to sleep in a hammock slung on hooks above the tables. Others on mattresses on tables and on the floor. I had a hammock. What a time I had putting up, putting the blankets in and climbing myself in that first night. After about four attempts I finally managed to get in and stay in. Just like a comedy act. Time everybody got settled there was not much room to spare as the mess was only approximately thirty foot by twenty five foot. As I said before I was feeling very tired and consequently soon fell asleep. After breakfast while the other chaps were cleaning up the mess decks ready for the ship’s daily routine inspections carried out by the captain one of the other fellows had to help out in the cookhouse bakery etcetera. I used to go up on the deck and hide myself along with a book in some obscure corner. And our first thoughts were the first morning whether we’d moved during the night. So after dressing and folding up my blankets I went out and took a stroll along the promenade deck before breakfast. A very pretty sight met my eyes when I reached the open air. We were still anchored in the middle of the Clyde and on both sides the green hills of Scotland dotted with small woods, houses, sheep and the cattle rose up to meet the sky. On the left to the water’s edge was the town of Gourock where we had embarked. Three or four destroyers were tied up alongside the jetty. Anchored in front of us was the giant liner the Aquitania. At the stern were anchored the great mighty battleship Howe, a large cruiser along with two aircraft carriers and six converted ones. All had aircraft on their decks so you could see how crowded it was.
CB: A great target.
RB: Spent the first day watching supplies being taken aboard from small ships drew alongside. Also during the afternoon we had a singsong among the troops made up of RAF men from, men from the Royal Artillery, The Argyll and Sutherland, and the Black Watch regiments. There was also an ENSA concert party on board, a full Royal Artillery band which consisted of sixty players. Then came a music concert every afternoon on the top deck. Every evening prompted either members of the RAF and army officers turned competition and brains thus was also allowed during the voyage. A dance band was formed from among the troops.
CB: So, how long was your journey to America and then across to Algiers?
RB: I did say, didn’t I?
CB: Yes. Well never mind.
RB: I wrote that.
CB: Yes.
RB: What number was that?
[pause]
RB: The 9th of July to the 28th. Yes.
CB: Ten days. Yeah.
RB: The 23rd we changed into our new tropical khaki kit. Fitted as usual. Not very funny at first with our Persil white knees showing. Soon got used to it. It was sunny during the day. I used to sunbathe and go to sleep on the deck. The last time I was attending an evening service out on deck on the 23rd and the convoy split in two. We changed our course eastwards and the rest of the convoy continued steaming southwards. We were left with a cruiser, six destroyers and fifteen ships. A NAAFI canteen on the ship but if we wanted to purchase anything it meant queuing up for at least two hours.
CB: Was the convoy attacked during that period?
RB: Yes. Somewhere it does say [ pause] Where was it?
[pause]
CB: Well, never mind. We can come back to that. What do you remember about it?
RB: Well, I mean, they dropped, they dropped depth charges at one time.
CB: So they detected a submarine.
RB: Yeah.
CB: But it didn’t actually attack.
RB: Didn’t attack. No.
CB: Right. Ok.
RB: In all we put the clock back two hours and then on two hours. At one time we must have gone half way to America. The ship zigzagged continuously during the trip to fox any would be submarine. Completely changed course on two occasions because an enemy U-boat was following us. And at three separate times depth charges were dropped by our escort destroyers. But whether or not they sank any U-boats I do not know. We could see the destroyers circling around with great spurts of water shooting skywards. Also, once the cruiser opened fire at an unidentified aircraft but it soon made off.
CB: Fascinating [pause] Just stopping for a mo.
RB: Yeah.
[recording paused]
CB: So, you’re repatriated. Effectively from Burma. What happened when you got back to the UK?
RB: We went to a staging post and there again we were met with the question, ‘Where would you like to be posted?’ And I thought well dare I, dare they do the nasty on us again? I thought, well no. So I put Buckingham, near Buckinghamshire. And lo and behold I later learned that I was posted to RAF Bomber Command, Naphill, High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.
CB: Now, that’s not an airfield and they had no engines for you to work on.
RB: No.
CB: So, what did you do there?
RB: So, I was a, I was put into the officer’s mess. Showing the new arrivals to their quarters and helping out where, where necessary.
CB: Were there a lot of people in the mess?
RB: Quite. Yes. Quite considerable.
CB: So, there was a flow in and out?
RB: Well, yes. Yes. Yes. It was quite a very palatial mess it is.
CB: So you got back to the UK in August ’46. And when did you start at High Wycombe? A bit of leave and then —
RB: I don t — yes. Yes. I was in — a bit of leave. Yes. The paybook tells me leave. Yes. So I got the take the day I arrived in, I arrived back and then my [pause]
CB: Your service book’s got all these details in. So that’s what you’re looking at now.
RB: Yes. I’m just looking because it’s got my discharge date. I’m just wondering if it’s got the date I went to high Wycombe. I don’t think I recorded it.
CB: There you, and that was where you were demobbed from was it? So that was, you had four months at High Wycombe.
RB: Yes. I was discharged on the 29th of the 1st ’47.
CB: Yeah.
RB: I think I had about at least a months’ [pause] Yes. 19th of August. So, I imagine it would be towards the end of September when I was posted.
CB: They gave you a month.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Leave.
RB: Yeah. Leave. A month.
CB: Yeah. Right. Ok. So, when you were in the officer’s mess did you have the same role all the time or did you do other things?
RB: Well, more or less. Yes. It was.
CB: And what sort of senior people did you meet?
RB: Well, I mean, more or less well I suppose, I don’t think I met any air vice marshals but wing commanders down I think. Mostly.
CB: Ok. Good. So you were discharged in January ’47. What did you do then?
RB: I then [pause] Oh yes. In the building trade then.
CB: This is because of your engineering background.
RB: Well, more or less, because, well after I met my wife I went back to we’d done all the rebuilds of the bombing. The houses that had been bombed.
CB: The bombed houses.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Yeah. For whom?
RB: That was Addiscombe Garden Estates at Croydon. I was more or less costings then. They were not engineering. I looked after the company accounts.
CB: Right. But just going back.
RB: I suppose we’d better go back to where I met my wife.
CB: I was just going to say what about that? Tell me about that.
RB: Well, the booklet, the booklet on the [unclear] yeah. Virtually, virtually says it word for word actually.
CB: Right.
RB: Well, I almost could quote.
CB: On there. But in your own words where did you meet her?
RB: Well, in the WAAF. It’s all in here.
CB: At, yeah I know but if you could just say what it was.
RB: Oh. Yes, I mean.
CB: So, at High Wycombe.
RB: I was, yes, I was having a few drinks with friends at the RAF friends at the Red Lion at the bottom of Bradenham Hill. And on the way, on the way back one of them said, ‘Oh, would you like another drink?’ I said, ‘Why?’ They said, ‘Well, there’s a dance going on in the WAAF mess, the WAAF NAAFI. And on arriving there the dance floor was concrete with chalk on it.
CB: Make it slippery.
RB: Making it slippery. And there was a small dance band playing. And we all had to, all the airmen had to throw one of our boots in the middle of the floor. When the music stopped, all the WAAFs had to pick up one and find its owner.
CB: Yeah.
RB: If Brenda had picked up somebody else again I wouldn’t be here talking with you today.
CB: You hit it off immediately.
RB: Yes. And, well she had no intention of going to the dance but a friend managed to persuade her at the last minute. She was only going to go for the first. Stay for the first dance which happened to be the boot dance so —
CB: It was your lucky day.
RB: Yes.
CB: How old was she then?
RB: Twenty.
CB: And what was she doing in the RAF as a WAAF?
RB: Statistical clerk.
CB: And had she been at Naphill all the time or had she been elsewhere?
RB: No. She was at Sand, she went to Sandtoft and then to Scampton.
CB: What was she doing down there?
RB: General duties, I think.
CB: Yeah. But she’d been posted to High Wycombe, had she?
RB: From Sandtoft she went to high Wycombe.
CB: Yeah. So, what date are we talking about here? This is before Christmas ’46.
RB: ’46. Yeah.
CB: Because you came out in ’46.
RB: We came back in ’46.
CB: Yeah.
RB: That’s right. Yes. That terrible winter. We were snowbound at High Wycombe for four days.
CB: Really?
RB: Yes. Coming. Blood running thin in Burma and then coming back to the cold.
CB: Just right wasn’t it? So, you left the RAF in the January ’47?
RB: That’s correct. Yeah.
CB: When did Brenda leave? Roughly.
RB: Got her discharge in that [pause] where are we? In there.
CB: Ok. I’ll pick it up.
RB: In that book. In there. That book.
CB: Of course being posted to High Wycombe as you came from Slough was quite convenient wasn’t it?
RB: I used to nip home overnight without them knowing sometimes. I was born in a pub in Slough.
CB: Oh right.
RB: Where’s that paybook then? We had it. I’m sure I had it.
CB: It’s probably there. In that pile, isn’t it? Let’s have a look. Get John on it. So, let’s go to the — you left and went into the building trade.
RB: Yes.
CB: And so this was to do with work in Croydon you said.
RB: Well, yes because eventually when we got married which was the 10th of January ’48. Then we went to live with her parents in Croydon.
CB: Yeah. How long did that last? Was it quite difficult to find accommodation?
RB: Yes. That was number one thing. Yes, because then went to work with another builder in Epsom.
CB: So bomb damage repair was brisk business in those days.
RB: It certainly, certainly was. Yeah.
CB: Yes. So, how long did you keep going there?
RB: When would it be? This is, should have been about five. Must have been about seven years I should think.
CB: Was it? Yeah. Then what?
RB: Then we found accommodation with a job with another builder in Epsom.
CB: Oh right.
RB: Well, Hackbridge actually.
CB: So, the job had the accommodation with it.
RB: With it.
CB: And you stayed there how long?
RB: Oh. Then went to [pause] then went to Greenford.
CB: To Greenford next.
RB: Yeah.
CB: Right.
RB: Must have been at least eight years, I think before —
CB: And it’s all, you’ve always been in the building business have you?
RB: Well, building. Yes.
CB: And you were rising up the —
RB: Yes. And then I was, there I was chief buyer and plant manager. I was made a plant manager.
CB: In Greenford.
RB: Well, it was in [pause] where was it? Oh, near, near Wembley. Oh dear, my brain’s gone black.
CB: Was it further out from Wembley?
RB: Yes. It’s not Wembley. Yes.
CB: Park Royal?
RB: Very near Park Royal.
CB: Anyway, in that area.
RB: North Circular. The North Circular Road.
CB: Yes. Yeah. And then you retired from there did you?
RB: No. No. No. No, as chief buyer the company secretary was friends with a builder’s merchant. He used to come in and ask for, go over enquiries. In the end I found out I could buy it cheaper than he could his materials as a builder’s merchant. So the company then bought out the builder’s merchant and I was transferred as managing director to the builder’s merchant trade.
CB: Oh. And that was the end of your working career was it?
RB: No. No.
CB: Oh.
RB: So, then we operated four depots in, four or five depots in London. Then we found that the big boys like Sandell Perkins and one thing and another could buy cheaper materials than we could as a what do you call it? So we sold out to Travis Perkins.
CB: Oh really?
RB: Became a property company then, which we are now.
CB: Yes.
RB: Having been established in 1840.
CB: But you have retired now.
RB: Well, semi-retired. Yes.
CB: Yeah. Brilliant.
RB: My son more or less runs it now.
CB: Does he? Yeah.
RB: We have company meetings every so often.
CB: What’s the company called?
RB: Lawford and Sons Limited.
CB: Northwood.
RB: Lawford.
CB: Oh, Lawford.
RB: L A W.
CB: Yeah. So, its one of your sons runs it. Not the other.
RB: It’s the youngest son. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Brilliant. Right. I think we’ve done very well.
RB: I was going to say —
CB: Thank you very much.
[recording paused]
CB: Just quickly on the Imphal Rangoon bit there’s a Memorial. What was the Memorial to and what were the numbers?
RB: Well, it’s these, the War Graves Commission Grave.
CB: At —
RB: At, well I mean —
CB: Rangoon.
RB: Yes. At Mingaladon.
CB: Right. And what, what are the numbers of people buried there? Roughly?
RB: Oh I can, now in there I’ve got a map of each of those Rangoon Memorials and the number of dead.
CB: Oh right. Ok. So around Rangoon there are quite a lot of Memorials are there?
RB: Well, no. There’s one. There’s one. A small one in Rangoon.
CB: Right. But the main ones are elsewhere are they?
RB: Elsewhere.
CB: Ok. Right. You mentioned earlier about the pilots, the Spitfire pilots.
RB: Yes, I —
CB: They didn’t all come back. How did you feel about that?
RB: Well, I was going to say we lost two in Corsica. They were both Dutch brothers funnily enough.
CB: Were they?
RB: So whether they hit each other or not I don’t know. Rather coincidental that both brothers were killed at the same time.
CB: And how many other loss, pilot losses were there?
RB: Only two. I think there were two others.
CB: How did the ground crew feel about the loss of a pilot?
RB: Well, I mean especially if they were your own I mean I didn’t lose either of my own pilots at all. But I mean it must, must affect them. I mean, well it would if I’d lost mine. It would certainly.
CB: But then with the Dakotas. DC3, C47 how many losses did you have on those?
RB: The only one was Anthony, it wasn’t on our squadron but he was at Akyab was Anthony Eden’s son.
CB: Oh.
RB: Touched down in the water on the, I mean, you know you used to get in the, in the monsoon weather they hit in the runway, the water came rolled over. I stood on the end with a verey pistol, on the end of the runway trying to get them in quite often.
CB: Because in the monsoon rain you couldn’t see.
RB: In the rain. They’d never have taken off in this country. They were heroes.
CB: And they were supplying the army.
RB: Virtually. Well, even the beer ration we had to drop.
CB: Yeah. Important run. Right. So how many did you lose there?
RB: As I say I think Anthony Eden’s son was the only one.
CB: Only one. Yeah. So what was the reaction of the crews to that?
RB: Well, I mean you know — so yes I think he was the only one. Yeah.
CB: Yeah. Ok. Good. Right. Thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Raymond Barrett,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 1, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/9282.

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