Interview with Ken Beard

Title

Interview with Ken Beard

Description

Ken Beard served as a rear gunner during the Second World War. He has been a member of The Salvation Army all his life and his faith played a huge role in helping him through the horrors of war. Awarded a scholarship at Retford Grammar School, he left it with the benefit of a first class education. He had several jobs before enrolling in the Royal Air Force. He was visiting Sheffield and upon seeing the recruitment office, walked in and enlisted. It took him several days to pluck up the courage to inform his mother what he had done. After enrolling, he was soon selected for a commission. Air gunnery training at RAF Bridlington followed, before being posted to RAF Melbourne where he served the majority of his Air Force career as a rear gunner on Halifax aircraft. He flew 31 operations, including seven to Berlin. He describes approaching Berlin at 30,000ft and being lit up by searchlights. He recalls only once being hit with anti-aircraft fire, when they received slight damage. At no time was his aircraft attacked directly by Luftwaffe fighters. On D-Day, Ken and his crew set off on an operation at 02:30 and were surprised to see the English Channel covered in a vast armada of vessels of all sizes. Nothing had been mentioned to them at the briefing before take-off. On his return to civilian life, Ken became a probation officer in the Worksop area. In November 2015, Ken attended a ceremony at Retford Town Hall where he was one of three recipients of Legion D’ Honneur.

Creator

Date

2017-08-07

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

01:20:10 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.

Identifier

ABeardKC170807, PBeardKC1701

Transcription

KB: He’s very qualified.
SP: Yeah.
[recording paused]
SP: So, this is Susanne Pescott and I’m interviewing Ken Beard today for the International Bomber Command Centre’s Digital Archive. We’re at Ken’s home and it’s the 7th of August 2017. Thank you first of all agreeing to talk to me today, Ken. So, just like to chat through first of all what you did before the war.
KB: Yeah. I went to, I was one of the few who went to Grammar School.
SP: Right.
KB: When we was, got then to Retford Grammar School there were very few of us because you went in by it was a fair, a fair fee but we didn’t pay because I got a scholarship.
SP: Right.
KB: There were only a tiny few of us from Worksop.
SP: Right.
KB: Ever got there at all. And so that’s, I made a good start in life. Yeah. So that that did make a difference starting with a Grammar School beginning. You know the beginning. Very well. Yeah. So, that I was very privileged about that. I had to work hard though and whatever.
SP: So, after Grammar School. What did you do after Grammar School?
KB: Well, one of the things about what’s it now, you don’t get it now we were, we were the last course to do Latin. Yeah. We were. Yeah. I got interested with it because we, they had sort of things about what in, all the terms of people, soldiers and what not from that period and whatever like Rome and everything about so that was, that was always interesting. Yeah. I enjoyed that like. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
SP: Did you go into a job after school or —
KB: Yeah. I, first of all, I was a privileged really because I’d passed all my examinations. I could have chosen pretty well lots of things but I I did advertise for a bit and I finished up which turned up very good, apprentice to a chemist shop. I started mixing medicine and everything else eventually. So that, that was quite a unique sort of thing to do. I enjoyed that. It was only because partly of my Grammar School background you know. Because, yeah it was obviously very, I learned a lot of things really. Yeah. Yeah. I enjoyed it there. Whatever. That was at Timothy, Timothy Taylor or, White and Taylor in Worksop. Yeah. A shop there. But then before when, when I went in to the war I lashed out a bit because I got a bit fed up and this was another unique job because I went to Shire. My dad was down the pit at Shireoaks Colliery and I got a job in the office. But I moved about a bit rather than the office. Whatever. I had a great freedom. I could wander anywhere in the pit yard. I got to know all the men. All the trades. Three times I went down the pit you know so they could, so I could have a look down. Down there. And so that’s I benefited very much by that really. It opened my eyes because I wanted, mind you when your dad had been a miner all his life I knew everything. I knew everything about the pit when I went down and yet when I got down to the bottom there it was all lit up and everything. Before you got further in to the place it was all quite big like that and that they used to send me down and bring me back up and so things like, all illegal I’m sure. I got to see people down the pit. They took me to the coal face where the hacking coal out. You probably don’t realise what it was like because coal grew up like that and then you broke through in to it. The men were broke you know to get it out and so that’s one of the things that I used to do. Very heavy going. Very heavy going really. What is more, little things about it in pits like it or not they got rats. They did. And often when, often I went down three times to see my dad. Not when I went down. I went down but dad wasn’t there then. I went down because I went down with the management and I always remember these right through odd ones were still running about here and there and when you talk about rats you’re not talking about little rats you’re talking about big rats. Yeah. And you got, you got to live like this. ‘Oh, I’ve seen the rat’s down there.’ ‘Oh, big deal. You’ll get on with the work but you see big rats.’ They were. They were frightening and my dad worked amongst them you see. And of course, for working on the, on the coal face the man was, my dad was getting the coal out and they virtually stripped off altogether it was so hot. Desperately hot I used to find it and sometimes I would. I immediately got a job in the pit yard and I got a bit of promotion because I got on to special duties. Recording all sorts of things about and having to move about through they all knew me on the pit top because I moved to pick up records and things. Yeah. It was a marvellous sight really. And then of course one of the real things was that I got, every month I got a ton of coal delivered to my house. Yeah. And that was great because we had three pits altogether and when I got started to get coal free I could, I could choose which pit I wanted to get the stuff from. And there was one particular one at Whitwell they had, they called it a hazel because it was shone It really shone. And that’s how I had that sort delivered. Delivered to home. Mind you the only trouble in those days they tipped it on the yard outside and off they went and I got a neighbour to do it. To put in to my door. I had a proper coal house. Yeah. I had to watch him though. I noted, he started, he only lived across the road, I caught him out once taking. I was intending giving him some but when he’d finished but I didn’t because he was, I found him taking this one. He only lived across the road but I caught him that day and I thought it’s bad isn’t it? You know, you trust people and you, sometimes I lose trust in people. I shouldn’t do as a Christian but I do because they exist don’t they? And I find them, I find them threatening.
[recording paused]
KB: Quite unique.
SP: So, Ken, what made you decide to join the RAF?
KB: Ah, I always wanted to join the RAF. Yeah. Always wanted to join the RAF so made no more about it. In fact, to do it my mum, my mum weren’t very pleased really because I went out one day. I went out to Sheffield and by a coincidence I used, in the Army we’re talking about. The Lord and I couldn’t believe about the [unclear] and the fact is that oh, I remember it well. I went to Sheffield. I don’t know why. I went to Sheffield and that’s I was, I was walking through the Sheffield and I saw the Recruiting Office so I went in and joined up. When I got back I was in trouble at home, I’ll tell you. I was. I just went up like that. ‘Where have you been?’ ‘I’ve been to —’ ‘What have you been to Sheffield for?’ ‘Well, I happened to going by the recruiting office. I went in.’ And it was as simple as that really. Well, it was to me. So, I made a start right at the bottom. Yeah. But because of my, rather strange but perhaps not slightly because I were one of the few who had been to Grammar School so I could get jobs. And I [unclear] I went to, have I already said I went in to a chemist shop as an apprentice. Yeah. And I was really getting up, working up because I started mixing. You know, when people brought what’s in I used to mix it and I had a, I had a supervisor though, whatever, obviously. But that’s how they made me work up there and eventually I would have gone through in that trade but then of course that’s, I’m trying to get towards the sort of when I joined up. It’s as simple as that. I was at Sheffield and no intent. Why I was at Sheffield. I never went to Sheffield. But I must have been there for something and that’s, that’s went at home, I just went. What, in Sheffield. Found the Recruiting Office. Somebody told me where to go and I signed up and went home. I didn’t dare tell my mam for two or three [laughs] two or three days and that’s, I started right at the bottom.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. So that, that the thing did get tedious after a while as I started. I say I did menial jobs in the RAF first of all and I quickly, very quickly I got my commission. Virtually straight because of my background at school. Retford. I got, I got my commission straight away and I commend and because of my background I never, in the Salvation Army we don’t, we don’t drink. Well, we can have water and tea but nothing else and that that’s never been a problem to me. Well, it was nice for me in the war. In fact, at times, I never had any trouble because usually now when I went to aerodromes there was always a Salvation Army Centre. Always for the men and that’s there. I used to go immediately. I was back in the Army again and that’s kept me going through life. But I never, I always remember, oh, I know. One, one nice thing about it was that often before take-off we’d all line, they were all waiting to take off. All kitted up ready to climb aboard and at the very first start I always remember right at the, when we first started we had an Irish pilot and they were talking awful filthy language and he was right on the ball. He was ignorant with them. He was. He really did fiercely with them. ‘Don’t,’ you know, he said, ‘If there’s ever cursing that there’s going to be some problem. You know Ken’s background and what he does and what he doesn’t do.’ And it worked out really so I didn’t have any more bother. You had to be like that sometimes, I think. If you wanted it you stuck your neck out and that’s what they did. There was never any scene about it but I never met it again. Yeah. That was nice.
SP: So what about your crew then? You’re talking about your crew there. What can, how did you crew up?
KB: Yeah. What happened, went first of all, you went to a Receiving Centre and strangely, now this was marvellous I thought like somebody had that sort of idea. You joined up Sheffield and went and then when we were called up to there sort of thing is that for the first day they just unleashed us. From everywhere they came. We all piled into this whatever. Little school I think it was for what and that’s all, that was how we met. And it was as simple as that because mind it’s surprising within a day how you can, you can work people out. I would never fly with him, you know. Language sometimes really. Yeah. So that you really chose. You went around and what it got rather amusing in a way because suddenly a pilot in front of you and, ‘Have you a rear gunner yet?’ And so it went on and I thought how lovely it was and very thoughtful I thought in a way because they could have done it in all sorts of ways couldn’t they? But that’s how we knew. And what it did occasionally somebody made a bad move or what. He was replaced. So, there were no bad feeling about it at all. So, you didn’t know what they had done or what they did and what they and gradually we got to be a family because we were going to be killed the next morning, you know. It was as simple as that. And that was a real family. To me I’ve always been ever so keen about looking through words and things to see what they mean and that he got a new, I set off at the bottom of this family thing and I built up a family. In my mind mostly but it worked there and so we were a family. You died, well in our case we could truthfully say we would die for each other and we did. I mean sometimes you use that loosely don’t you? I’m going to die. Big deal. But no. That was it. And it made a difference. You were fighting for each other as well as whatever. I enjoyed every minute and of course because of my, I know what I never applied to become an officer but one day I got a, a word in my billet. I’d got to go and see the top man and there he was. He was offering me a commission. It was so nice really and he knew about my background. Whatever. And that’s as quickly I became an officer that way. Yeah. So, you got very well-spoken people. You were doing the job. What’s that? But it did influence me that. The fact that. Mind you my Grammar School background. There weren’t many of us you know at that time went to Grammar School and that all came through. All my records and whatever. Yeah. So that’s how I got my commission and quickly worked up.
SP: What difference did it make getting your commission with the crew because [pause] did it make a difference?
KB: Well, with the crew.
SP: Yeah.
KB: There weren’t many of us with a commission, you know. They flew. They were all the tradesman what and that we flew as a gun and never was there any discrepancy or fighting because we’d got this, that and the other. You fought together. You did. And when people you can’t tell people whatever especially bad raids you know and we went seven times to Berlin and we that really got a hammering there because they soon found you coming in. Whatever. You were flying about twenty thousand feet. At no time at all the first searchlights. I’m in Germany by now. The first searchlight comes on and then the big ones. Oh, we were at thirty thousand feet and they suddenly shot out of the sky. This vast vast vast light and it was it. One of those. They really got you. You know, you couldn’t and in fact often to get out of it the pilot we were carrying bombs sometimes. We’d a full bomb load and just, the pilot just stuck the nose down and went down you know, and things like that. So we survived all these things. Yeah. Yeah. I never I never bothered. Most of us did. We were a good crew. No doubt about it. Yeah. And we bombed Berlin seven times. That was some record. It really was because it was hectic there. Oh dear. Long before you reached the target you could see anti-aircraft or the searchlights came and then these heavy guns could fire up to thirty thousand feet from the ground and you can imagine what shells were like and that. And you flew through it sometimes and you were just lucky. We did once get one hit our tailplane but it didn’t make much of a hole so that we got away with it but, but that’s how it was. I enjoyed every second. I shouldn’t say that but I did really.
SP: So obviously you talked about there was quite a lot of trips to Berlin but you also were involved in D-Day you said. So can you remember —
KB: Oh yes, that —
SP: Can you remember that from start to finish?
KB: I can. I can remember.
SP: From the first day.
KB: Every minute of it.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Every minute of it because we knew it was coming up anytime.
SP: Yeah.
KB: And how we came we were on an ordinary flight over the Channel and suddenly we realised, we’d read about it coming but we didn’t hear much more than anybody else and we, we flew over and you couldn’t see any water for ships. I’m not going to talk about ships I’m talking about us going to them to fight with well you know vast ships. Vast warships and whatever else about them scattered. You could hardly see any water in between. So we flew over them and we knew obviously that was the day. Yeah. Aye it was a marvellous experience really. I relive it at times. Never worries me really. No, it didn’t really. Good skipper. Good pilot. Makes a difference. Whatever yeah.
SP: So, can you remember what your trip was day on that day? On D-Day morning?
KB: Yeah, because we took off at I think half past, no. Half past two in the morning when we took off and that’s of course we saw, couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the armada going out from this country. You know. Couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t been told it was. It was rather strange that because we’d been to a special whatever before we went and they never mentioned it. I think it was a device really to keep us away from whatever. Getting worked up beforehand. But so then I saw this. Oh, couldn’t see any, one harbour we were going by. Couldn’t see any water because it were full of warships. Ours. Yeah. Marvellous sight. Marvellous sight really to see and what and you knew about the third day of that there’d be millions of men dead. Dead. You know it were, you had to turn. In fact, there was one of the main things we used as a, sort of thing in Bomber Command it helps if you’re thick. I mean it didn’t sound comical but it wasn’t comical at all and, because it was true. You had, you had to be. You couldn’t worry. I mean, I climbed in my little turret and aside from being attacked no time at all and German fighters made to remove me if they could in the first place. Yeah. Mind you that it didn’t happen very often like that but of course we ran into German fighters all over the place. But a good luck amongst it I’m sure but a good pilot that made the difference yeah. Because he never hesitated. With a bomb, with us full of bombs just stick the nose down and I disappeared up in the air there still with all the bombs inside. Whatever. Yeah. You learned to live with it. I used to say it was like learning to live with marriage isn’t it, really. You soon recover sometimes. Oh, dear me. I’ve lived. I love life. The lord sent me a life and he’s kept me alive this long and whatever and so I liked it. I don’t like being here. I can’t say that but at the same time I live by the rules and I get on well with everybody here and whatever so that that’s it. And my dad not only was the band master of the Salvation Army band and I played under him. Mind you I were treated like everybody else because he was my dad and he wrote Salvation Army music. Yeah. So we played his music and my dad, I played in the band and my dad was bandmaster. I treated, he treated me like everybody else, you know. So there was no, there was no about that. Yeah. In fact, when I look back I’ve had a marvellous life really when I come to think about it. A lot of it I’ve made myself because my mother couldn’t [laughs] that day I always remember going to Sheffield for the day for no reason and passed that Recruiting Office. I thought I’ll pop in. Pop in there which I popped in. I I daren’t tell her for about two or three days. I didn’t know how to say it. But anyway she, she was a good support then. Yeah. Oh, dear me. Oh dear. ‘Where have you been today?’ ‘I’ve been joining up.’ Oh, big deal. But I’ve loved life always. Whatever. What a state. I always met, during the war with Bomber Command I met quite a nice lot of young ladies. WAAFs. Looked after me and we went out together. Nothing else to it at that. We got to know a bit about each other. Yeah. And so that was it. Made life a lot better. Especially when they, when they on the cookhouse they mostly they did all the cooking and everything and we got to know the oh pull their legs and all the time whatever. Everybody was happy I think. Never think about going later, later in the day and get shot down. I didn’t. I think some people did you know. I think they were terrified from the start but no. in fact, I went, once went and the Germans fighters were about, a lot of them that night. They did. And they wandered sometimes to pick you up. But I never, never saw one on top of me. You know. We never saw them so close as that. Whatever. Otherwise, we should have. We had a mid-upper gunner you know as well as me in the back. So that was my experience of the war.
SP: So, you went twice on D-Day you said. So, your first trip in the morning.
KB: Half past two in the morning.
SP: At half two in the morning. And then you, do do you know where you were? Obviously, you saw the armada of ships then. Do you know the final destination was on that day?
KB: No. First of all it was difficult but from where they first went. When I first went they were like a fog over them by and large. And then we saw them in their glory they were leaving you know working towards light and we actually saw them leaving. These great convoys. Yeah. Big ships and I used to, I used to get worried about I know a lot of them were going to be killed. Thousands and thousands and thousands. I thought about their mothers and their children whatever. It got to me some times but I still flew. The Salvation Army, we’re sensitive. It’s part of our religion really. Yeah. Yeah. But having said that and it was nice when I went for my final award for that. That’s the top one there. That’s quite, not a lot of us got that.
SP: So you’re talking about the Legion d’Honneur which is the special medal that you’re showing me there. Yeah.
KB: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what it is. Yeah.
SP: Yeah. So where did you get awarded that?
KB: Well, it was quite unique. Well, not unique but enough because to get, to get that I forget where it was. The French president. The French president presented me with that. So, it was in Britain or whatever. I can’t, I couldn’t if I thought enough I’d know where I went. I can’t quite remember where I went.
SP: So you’ve got Retford Town Hall.
KB: Aye.
SP: You got awarded it.
KB: That’s right yeah. Aye that’s it.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. I remember. Fancy I didn’t remember that. Yeah. That was quite, quite a ceremony really because it went, it went very well. Why? The president, French president he was very unique to what was happening and whatever because there was a lot of people there. And I always remember how well he handled it somehow because he came and had a little chat with you. In French of course. No. He was friendly but that’s he just did it so nicely. Not, because there was a lot there and so they, he did it so well. I I went, we had to go up and we had to bow before him. He bowed to us back and then that’s it. He presented me with that. ‘I’ll pin it on for you.’ Yeah.
SP: And it's fantastic.
KB: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: Awarded a medal. Yeah. So that was obviously for your services to support France during the war. And you were saying the D-Day raid and then on the second night was St Lȏ.
KB: Yeah. That’s right.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. That’s right. That’s where I was. Yeah. So, yeah, I never feared. I’m a God-fearing man and never, no. I didn’t. And with the, so nicely the WAAFs were very kind to us really because once I do remember this we took it, we were due to take off and we usually, you went early before you climbed in to your aircraft. You used to lie on the grass and what not and that’s, on that this particular night out of the blue we should be taking off at a certain time and suddenly we had to go early and so the girls they were amazing. We were actually taxiing out and suddenly racing from inside from the cookhouse was the girls. They’d made some, slapped some together and threw them firstly in to the turret. It was lovely of them really when you think about it. So, you were chewing your sandwiches as you were taking off. They were lovely people. Lovely girls. Yeah.
SP: That was at Melbourne Airfield. So, what can you remember about your airbase at Melbourne?
KB: I [pause] it was pretty orthodox. You, you lived to fly and that’s what your job was. Often of course you could get home and whatever a lot in between so that I can’t think any more than we did anything like. Oh, I always got to the nearest Salvation Army if it was on a Sunday. Always. And so that kept me in touch with what, what was happening. And then its rather strange but I’ve told you already that it was my crew, how sensitive they became. Because at first they were cursing and swearing most of the time. Not most of the time but they were bad. And I only had a word with the skipper and it were like magic. They were, mind you they were a new crew. Yeah. Yeah. The way they treated me and looked after me. Yeah. Dear me. I never regret. I shouldn’t say I loved it but I did really. To be a hero. Whatever. So that’s how it went through and of course to do all those. How many? Thirty one times. The, I got something ridiculous and survived. Yeah. And often of course we didn’t see any fighters. We just went to drop bombs and that was it. And of course, the thing about, well you don’t know about bombing but the fact is how it worked they put, the navigator was to get you, get completely get you there, you’ve got to be. And so the pilot had to fly straight and level and everything else to drop his bombs. And so that’s how it got you. You had to be very careful there because the Germans knew that that we were steady and they sometimes [unclear] really but that’s, that’s the pilot. That’s how we dropped our bombs. Yeah. Came away. A lot of men died. Thousands of men died I’m afraid but that’s warfare isn’t it? I never regret. People say, used to say to me about we’re peace loving in the Salvation Army. All over the world the Army is now. And the fact is that but we I felt we had a job to do. Why should I let other people you know, losing their lives or what for the same, for the same thing? And I got very settled about that. Yeah. And we got to be a very good crew. Well, we were a senior crew eventually because we had a squadron leader as pilot. Yeah. He was.
SP: Can you remember the names of your crew? Who was your, who was your pilot?
KB: Yes. Kennedy. Dick Kennedy was the pilot. Yeah. He came from Ireland by the way. Irish free state, I think. Whatever. And so that was, Dick. Dick Kennedy. Yeah. And we had a navigator. He was even more unique because he’d come into this country. I don’t know I don’t know how he came in to and he was a marvellous navigator. Unbelievable. To get you an, to get you within an inch of somewhere and that. He’d got a German background. Somewhere in the family it was a Germans bit. Whatever. I never found out much about it but we knew that. He’d say. He told me at times about it. Yeah. Yeah. So he had a sympathy with the Germans really I suppose in a way. Yeah. But that’s it. It was quite unique I think really. Yeah. A very fine navigator.
SP: Do you remember what he was called?
KB: That was Dick Rath. Dick Rath. Yeah. And the pilot was Kennedy. Yeah. He was a good navigator. In fact, he used to cut corners off sometimes because you got one set up for the journey from the office or whatever they did. And that’s they largely followed but he did quite a few times alter it a little bit really. He knew what he was doing. He was taking you, we knew for some areas that there were vast amounts of German anti-aircraft fire and he didn’t want to fly through it which we didn’t. He got round it. Hardly lost any time. So that was a bit of a, I think that was a bit of a benefit we had really to have Dick look after us. Never portrayed his partly German [unclear] We didn’t want to hear about it.
SP: Yeah. And your mid-upper gunner. Who was, where was he from?
KB: I were rear gunner.
SP: Your mid-upper gunner.
KB: I was rear gunner.
SP: You were rear gunner but your mid-upper gunner. Who was he?
KB: In the middle.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. That’s right.
SP: Do you know where he was from? Can you remember?
KB: Let me see now. Dick. It’s difficult really. I got them mixed up a bit. No.
SP: No. No worries.
KB: I can’t really. Oh, the one, I always remember this because he came from Manchester and he was always, he swore a lot and blah blah. And after the war, straight away after I’m going, I’m going to Manchester about something and I’ll pop in. But oh, I regret going. He was dirty and ugh. Lord above. I thought, fancy him flying with us. It was that bad really. And in a way I was sorry. Fortunately, there was nobody in. So when I saw it I knew what it must have been like. It must have been such a sight. The house and whatnot so that’s it. Still, he did his job. He did his job and that was it. In fact, when when I come to think about it being a Salvation Army officer and moving about everywhere that I was, my eye was open to how some of them lived. You know what I mean. I came from Salvation Army. Immaculate. Everybody came out the Army and we don’t, we abhor bad language of any sort. That sort of thing we live by and so sometimes I couldn’t believe what I saw. I’d never been in the slums before. I mean, they were in Manchester. I’m not being unkind but it was that bad at times really. Well, you know about places like Manchester and I felt sorry for them. Some of them. I did. I come back from, in the first place I didn’t have much. My dad was a miner but I got to Grammar School. The first one in my family. I traded on it. I did well in examinations. Yeah. So overall I think I’ve had a very rewarding life. I can’t ask for more that and in the Army, we talked in the Army we had a, in the Army we had this expression. Getting people saved. Now, rogues and vagabonds, anything that came in to the Army’s sphere eventually ever so many became top salvationists they were nothing and we made something of them. In fact, we we had a sort of system. It was a confession thing really and some of them were oh so down and filthy and I used to go and pray with them and as I say in no time at all we got them in to the Army some times. Got them washed and bought them new clothes. In fact, I got them into uniform and some of them learned to play and got them in the band. My dad was bandmaster for thirty years and I took over immediately when he retired. I was bandmaster for seventeen years. Had a good band at that time. Enjoyed. Took the band out a lot and that so I got that reward a little bit. Yeah. Couldn’t have done better. I’ve had a life that’s been marvellous really. I make what it is now, I think. I think I how I was saying I’m blessed about I’m blessed in here. But where could else could I have I have gone like this? You know it’s true. I’ve been such [unclear] really over the years being a probation officer I loved that but for the first time ever when I must be fair about he retired. I took over from him when he retired. And he’d got old and whatever and when I came and took over I couldn’t believe my ears, my eyes or anything how badly he’d, how badly he’d been. They’d got away with murder.
SP: So, this was your job after the war.
KB: Yeah.
SP: You went to be a probation officer.
KB: Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
KB: And they, yes I did a bit of training and I trained some of these people. They were getting away with murder. It were awful really in a way. They reckoned to be in charge or whatever. They didn’t last long when I took over. But I really, I got people, parents from Manton a lot of them I got them into court straightaway because I wasn’t prepared to mess about with them and they soon fell into line and I, because of my Salvation Army background I always felt I did well in Manton for all sort of reasons. They were all working people and they say what they mean [laughs] and I had to get used to a sort of collection of languages. I soon absorbed them. They had. I’ve got a million. I wish I could sit all day. I went to one house and I had a chap before me who was retired and he didn’t do anything they got away with murder. Hardly any of them went to school at Manton. And then I took it on I went for about a week. I thought there’s only one way here. Get them to court. Get their parents to court which I did. For a long time courts were opening for me. For my clients to go in and that, that worked really because I never stopped going to their homes, you know and I always dressed well when I went. And when [laughs] some, some of the houses I went to were not just filthy and I used to plonk down in a mucky settee with the springs coming through. I never bothered a scrap because I’d got a Salvation Army background and people are people aren’t they? Whatever. And so I loved, loved doing that job but they knew very well not to mess about with me. The parents. They knew better and that worked out. Yeah. Of course, it worked, I did it on a bike and then we got cars after then and made it easier for me. And there was, one [laughs] I’m not quoting names in Manton but they were notorious and I had one family. They were rough and ready and I got to liking them. They just needed a bit of help. Whatever. I could arrange for food to go and clothing for the kids. I was a big man for that immediately. Poor little things because I see the parents had no money. Except when I learned that they boozed as well so they didn’t get any more money. But that’s how I dealt with them and I got respected in Manton when some people weren’t because they knew what sort of person I was really. And one house that I did used to like to go because where as soon as I got to the gate usually the man, he was a miner and I seemed to click for that shift he was on that week and he were virtually naked when he came. Big man. Big man. He real, he were real tough. And that’s strange about that man. I thought, now how am I going to deal with them best. The best way for them? And so, what I did I suddenly thought I can manoeuvre this man because he used to come shouting and bawling at me. And when he came to the gate I think I know. I know can sort him out and oh I know he came [unclear] up and I pretended to faint on the, on the gate. And he said, oh it were amazing. ‘What’s, what’s wrong with him?’ He said, ‘Owt, owt wrong with thee mister?’ I says ‘Well, to tell you [laughs] to tell you the truth I’m not, I’m, I’m really not so very bright this morning. And it worked like that. Took they took me. I got going to that house afterwards and it were nasty. I got them money. I could get money for anybody from the education. They were marvellous the education command, whatever, you know. I could get money for any, for them. All of them. In fact, there is, in Worksop in the centre of the town the whatevers they were what was the firm? A firm called [unclear] or something like that. Now, they were very cooperative because what I would do I went to them. Told them I was going to the boss man and went in and take the mother of these lads and measured. Measured. She’d tarted herself up a bit and the like and went and she got quite a [unclear] she got, she broke out of her bad background and into a new one really because she saw me. I got to know [unclear] and I just went in. He said, ‘Are you alright Ken?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, who are you sending in?’ I said, ‘I’m sending this family in and I want them equipping.’ And that they were, just did that. I went and joined them when got. They were delighted really. The women couldn’t believe their eyes and with these kids. Mind you I’m afraid to say that often they didn’t last long these lads. No. No. they were [laughs] Yeah. I love life. I love life. I really do. And I, I’ve done so many things really. I’ve got relatives in Australia. I went twice to Australia. Flew there. I loved that. I got talking to the pilot one day while we were actually airborne and I sneaked behind him and had a little chat with him. He didn’t turn a hair. He was flying along to Australia and that was his job. And I did, I got, I met, I went for people they’d got something I want you know and they makes a difference. I’m not a paragon of virtue or anything like that but I’m a Salvation Army man and I had that background always where ever I went. Well, of course during the war I went to a lot of places and I would get, first thing I found where the Salvation Army was and I was fortunate because I was, went to some cities and the Army was big. Big band. Everything about them and I played I usually would be able to play with them for a while and that’s, that’s how I got through the war.
SP: Where was the one near to Melbourne where you were based? Where was that one? The Salvation Army.
KB: At Melbourne? I can’t quite remember.
SP: York was your big —
KB: York.
SP: Town that was near you.
KB: York. Yeah, things like. I did go to York, yeah. Seems like I did go to York. Somewhere else around that part of the war. It’s beyond me.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Mostly it was with the band and things like that and I enjoyed it.
SP: I was just wondering how you got there? How did you? You know, if you were on based on Melbourne and went to the Salvation Army on a Sunday. Did you have transport? Did you —
KB: Well, often from most aerodromes they had a Liberty body. Not a Liberty body. Oh dear. That’s given the [laughs] No. I don’t know about Liberty bodices [laughs] It’s just a phrase I use. Oh dear. Give over, Ken. You ought to be shot. They used to say. ‘Time he were shot really.’ I made a lot of good friends and my crew would have been far worse if immediately, immediately the skipper picked it up. He never allowed bad language yet he used plenty himself and he was Irish but he didn’t and it worked and they got to be much more sober. Whatever. Some of them drank heavily when they were not flying of course. When they were not flying. Yeah. But very little drunkenness I found began.
SP: So, they had a Liberty bus was it that went into York?
KB: Sorry?
SP: They had a little bus that went into York.
KB: Yes. Liberty. A Liberty bus. Yeah.
SP: So, you went on the bus into York sometimes did you? What was —
KB: There was one available every day from the aerodrome.
SP: Yeah. So, did you ever go in?
KB: Nearly all the time because I could get to the city and I could get to the Army and I could get, I even went to the pictures and things like that. Filled our lives really without any problem. So that, that, that’s worked out well really when I come to think but most places my first thought when I got to a new ‘drome was to get to find the Salvation Army, which I did and they were lovely people. They used to take me home quite often. They took me to sleep at home. Yeah. it was, the Army’s like that really and that’s how it worked out that during the war very much really for me the Army was a sanctuary really. Yeah. At Brid. At Brid, yeah.
SP: So, Brid was Bridlington where you did your air gunnery training. Yeah.
KB: Yeah. Parts of it.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah, because the thing that whatever, you know a turret? Well, for the training ground I was, am I taking up your time love? The training ground was all laid out and thinking of my turret what it consisted of was a mock one that worked on lines what’s at side and that’s so he did so long in there. Now, the beauty of that place was that there was an RAF man. He was proper scruffy. Never, never put you on the spot because he was, he ran the place, a cookery thing so he had this big fire outside where he made fires for us and what. And he charged though. He charged and, and we paid gladly. But he never had uniform on and he had a big furnace thing he had to look after. He said it was like hell. That’s how he envisaged hell and that he was, he were a good lad though because he produced beautiful food. He really did. It was so nice. And we paid and in fairness he did use RAF stuff but he didn’t charge us and he, he spent it again within the set up because he never had uniform on. Proper scruffy and we loved him. We loved him. Yeah. When he, when he came the first time I went to his first meal. By gum. It didn’t cost him much. I mean, we could have done RAF food but he didn’t do that. He did it for us privately really. So that was nice. So, whatever. Dear me. Oh, the things I’ve seen. Nobody’s been better blessed than me. If I died tomorrow but the doctor says I’m not doing. No. I’ve got full health. It’s amazing isn’t it really? Immaculate blood pressure.
SP: Yeah. And how old are you now?
KB: Eight hundred thousand [laughs] Have a guess.
SP: Ninety.
KB: Ninety five.
SP: Ninety five. Wow.
KB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. But age is a comparative thing. It’s what you make it. And of course, I broke away in some ways. In the Salvation Army we don’t drink. We don’t go to public houses but at the same time I, one or two people met me from one pub and said, ‘Why don’t you bring us —’ They knew something about Army, Salvation Army papers you know. He said, ‘Why don’t you come in the pub, Ken.’ I saw the boss man. Now, he said, ‘No, you come in Ken.’ And it got to be a big one. About five hundred people in and they waited for me to come to take my papers and they, and they paid. They paid generously and I never deplored it. I thought this is what, let me think there are so many things of these I could tell about the pubs actually. My brother. No, my son worked for a big firm and he could dispose at his own leisure, whatever he could dispose of. They only had a car for a year and they could, he disposed of them in any sort of way and I always remember him saying, ‘Hey ‘up dad,’ he said, ‘You’ll have to pop in.’ I said, ‘What for?’ He said, ‘Do you know that we’ve got that new —’ Oh what car was it? Oh, it was superb. I forget what it was. It’ll come later. And he said about these. What’s the name? He could dispose of them however he wants. He said, ‘Would you like one?’ And I said, ‘Well, if it’s —’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘It’s all above board,’ he said, ‘I could sell them to anybody.’ And it was a Princess. A Princess. Did you ever see the Princess cars? Oh, they were marvellous. Immaculate. Beautiful. And he got it. He could charge what he wanted really in some ways but I paid properly and everything and it was a Princess. You’ve probably seen pictures of them many a time and they were superb. Absolutely superb. I used to lie back in it and oh you could do ninety mile an hour before you moved and in that way I liked, because I liked speeding and that’s how I used to go in this Princess because my, my son worked for the place and he disposed of them whichever way they wanted to. And he always made sure I got this. He had, I’ve got, ‘Hey Ken —’ Oh, Ken, I’m dad, I’m Ken though. ‘I’ll tell you the truth. I’ve got some cars coming ready. You pop around if you like.’ And I did and that’s how I saw I saw it for the first time. This Princess. You’ve probably seen them. They were superb really. And so I got my Princess. He charged a reasonable price. He could charge what he liked but I paid like everybody else. And to drive them they were heaven. Oh, dear me. You could stop, oh you had, I don’t know what that side of the street was. I don’t know what you did by that. Perhaps I never got around to that but they were so beautiful to drive. Yes, they were. When I see. Am I rattling on? I went to this pub. I got, because I was a Salvationist I always had full uniform. Never drank or whatever. No trouble for me and the other men got to know it well. Straight away they knew me. My background. And when I got that Princess I wish you could have seen it. It were beautiful. To drive it oh it was luxury. And so when I went to, do you know I used to, Salvation Army officers we used to visit pubs to take Salvation Army papers. And the men liked something to, because some of them were comics that the kids, that they could take home for the kids and so, I went to that. And so this particular, when I got this new Princess I went to this pub and I knew about this pub because this bloke would shoot his mouth off. So, I’ll show him. So I parked it some way away from the pub. And oh, I know. Another man picked up on that from inside the pub and he said, I could tell you his very words. Educated British man said, ‘Hey up, skipper.’ He called me skipper. ‘Hey up skipper.’ That’s, that was the introduction. Stood up in the middle of the, eight hundred people in those pubs and he stood up in the mid of this, ‘I’ll tell thee something,’ these were his words, ‘I’ll tell thee something skip.’ ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘I’ve seen thee.’ And this was this was in front of everyone. Eight hundred people in that pub. ‘I’ll tell, tell thee something skipper,’ he said, ‘I’ve seen thee. I’ve seen thee.’ He said, he said what, what did he say like this? That I’d parked it away. ‘I’ve seen thee.’ He said, ‘I’ve seen thee taking that blinking great —’ oh he called it a blinking great car or something like, abusive, abusive sometimes [laughs] ‘I’ve seen thee with the what sort of [unclear] car.’ He said, ‘Parking at the back there,’ he said. And he used a bit of swear words to complement. And they never worried me about swear words. You know, I’ve never sworn in my life but having said that I got used to it. I got on well with everybody in pubs. As an Army officer I went fully kitted with my Army uniform and I was, I went to, I went to one, it was in a village outside and it was a top class place that place was. And I was so busy that I had to get there at 11 o’clock and I thought they, because I’d been to others that it would be odd. No, it was very refined. All of it exactly refined. Beautiful people I talked to and that. They get so game and I didn’t, wasn’t prepared for it but I’m coming up towards Christmas and whatever. They were always good to me and I couldn’t believe that the last one before Christmas they’d set me up something very special for me. And I went in and it was marvellous really. They’d laid it all out. Oh, I knew what they’d done mine you I’d a job to get it home. I never knew this but they had this penny thing. You know if you got a copper they hadn’t had, it was mobile and great big what’s the name so they had to carry it out to my car and then I had to set off. When I got home later that week, it was nearly all coppers my hands were red, you know. Oh dear. But I loved them in that pub. They were very caring. In fact, my last visit to them the landlord had prepared a meal for me in his own home. Yeah. I did. It shows you if you did things right people responded don’t they? And they love the Army. Most people. Yeah. So that’s how it is.
SP: Just looking as well, you were showing me photos you met your wife during that.
KB: Oh, I met my wife.
SP: You met her during the war, didn’t you?
KB: I don’t know whether I’ll reveal all but I will reveal all. I normally don’t. Bit too louder mostly. No. Now, this is, now talk about this I mean I’d love you to record this because it’s superb really. What [pause] I know when I first got there at, I think Saturday night when we used to go somewhere but I’m thinking of the first time. Oh, I know how I met her that she took me too her house, whatever. Oh, by the way she worked in a big factory and she were not very big and when to move on I used to meet her. I used to take her every morning to work and mostly pick her up at night. She was so, she had a [laughs] she had a pair of overalls about ten sizes too big. I said, ‘Don’t you dare come any more.’ I used to meet her out. Yeah. I used to meet her out from work and take her home. But I said, ‘If ever you come, if I come to pick —’ Oh she had a bike so I had to push her. I went to her home straight. They accepted me in to the family. Marvellous. Straight away in to the family. So when I saw her with this bike and these overalls and I said, ‘If ever you come again like that I’ll forget. I shan’t be coming anymore.’ But she were lovely, lovely, lovely person. Well, you’ve seen my photograph. She was like that really, and beauty queen thing one year. Yeah. You can imagine what sort of person and what she was chased by a lot of airmen but I always stood my ground. What happened then? Oh, I know. She went to help in the [unclear] or something at that time and she, voluntarily and so she went there and I used to pick her up afterwards to take her home. Yeah. And, but you know I went Salvation Army and that sent, I went to homes everywhere in the country. Always. And if I was staying overnight in the church accommodation they just took it that, these didn’t even ask me if I was staying. Marvellous that you know because it means you’ve got unique, it’s unique absolutely in that way. Yeah. And with being, Brid a seaside and so one thing I did when I got to Brid I always remember, oh I know, she went to chapel and I’d seen her come out of chapel and so when I went to the Army I thought one night, one night I’m going to catch her when she comes out. And one day it was all over. It was. Just like that. Actually, just like that. She were a lovely person really. Very lovely. Well, you’ve seen her picture.
SP: So, you met her in Bridlington.
KB: At Brid. Yeah.
SP: Right. Where you did your training. Yeah.
KB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s the —
SP: And when did you get married? Was that during the war did you say?
KB: Well, did you want to hear my story about getting married? What happened was that I got to know the family. I went to everybody’s family. They always took me to bed. Or they’ve always got a bedroom spare. Can’t people believe it? It’s telling a story again. My family says so. No, I’m not. Honest. And so that was Brid. I loved Brid partly because I should have, I went for training. Part of it was to train but first of all when I got there the course hadn’t started so I had the first six weeks before it opened virtually living at their house and I used to go and meet her. She worked in this factory and I went to meet her each time. Mind you I had to walk her home because she had a bike and I hadn’t got a bike. I did later on and so I walked, she walked with me home or whatever and she always had [laughs] she always had overalls twenty sizes too big. She had. I says, ‘You’re [unclear].’ That’s me going off you so. She was lovely. She, I used to say how pretty she was. Always winning what’s the name or whatever but, and her parents were very gracious in those days you know. Somebody comes like me, goes to somebody’s house and they ask questions and they find you a bedroom. You know, it was, that’s wartime. One lovely thing about wartime I found it had got a lot going for it. Mind you, millions were being killed I know that and whatever but that was typical one. Mind you it was a big difference because she was chapel. And so I was Salvation Army and so initially that our times were different but I picked her up or whatever or when she’d been to chapel. Then gradually she fell in love with the Army and then eventually got into uniform and you know made the pattern nice for me. She got she loved the Army. As a lot of people do with the band and this choir and things that are going on and all sorts of things going, going on in the Army. Still do. So that was how, how we, I think [pause] I know we, but we had a lot of lovely walks. Lovely from the start. There was no question of anything about it or whatever and that’s, and her parents. In fact a lovely thing with am I holding you up because I went to her house all the time then and stayed and because do you know what, do you know what I stayed and not in a bed, I had a half bed because they in their big front room had a perfect one you could get during the war you know, steel things in the house. Yeah. And so I had my little bed in this steel because of air raids.
SP: Yeah.
KB: And so that I was, I was like that. So that’s how I added in to the family. People were like that in those days and that’s how I get used to that but I loved that girl. And well, she brought up a lovely family, you know.
SP: So how many children do you have?
KB: Five hundred [laughs] Do you mean around a morning or the ones that are real. You mean the ones that I met in a war? There used to be a line of them that.
SP: Your own family. Yeah. You and your wife. I know you had a huge family, didn’t you with all your friends.
KB: Well, you think yeah but think in a way she were lovely, knew how to handle children. The family. My lads, they really did and I had no problem about that. She was so thoughtful about anything and that’s how it came into the family and then well I’ve nearly got, don’t get worried about time. Is that yes I know what I want to tell you. That oh this came out. I was posted to the south of England out of the blue and I’d got to move within three days and we both cried ourselves to death. And then do, well do something sensible so she got my lifestyle right now. So do you know how we went? It was down south somewhere. We both jumped on the train. Both. And went. And do you know it was a little village we went to and when we, when we got there we were knocking on people’s doors. Too beautiful and no trouble at all. I could have had half of those houses to say, they loved it because it was a village setting. They were beauty. I could have had as many as we wanted and we had a lovely home. Yeah. Oh, and it was on a farm. That was beautiful because they I had a little dog at that time and my Jack Russell we took around with me and he loved that farm because the farmer was ever so good because he was a bit temperamental whatever. So, the farmer says, ‘Leave him with me, Ken. As long as you’re here leave him with me.’ So, he could go around the farm and he got real nifty. A little Jack Russell terrier yeah. I saw when the farmer he’d got him under his arm. ‘Leave him with me, Ken. He’ll be alright.’ So, I met these. So many people I met really in that. I mean for that I was on the farm and so he loved the farm because he let him run anywhere.
SP: Do you know where that was? What town or village. Where were you going down to, was that —
KB: Going down south aye. I’m going south again so I won’t be worried I went to some.
SP: Do know which RAF base you were going to? Is that where you were going down? Yeah.
KB: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Initially yeah. Yeah. That was it yeah that I went. Yeah. But when he got Jack under his arm at first and then he let him loose and off he went chasing the sheep and whatnot. Nearly getting shot. And a lovely dog. Lovely. I can’t tell you the story because I [pause] He died in my arms eventually. My family say I’m too soft but I’m not. Poor little thing I’d got it in my arms. I like to think that there’s a lot of God in me to know what to do in those sort of things and then of course only occasionally I’d got somebody in prison waiting to appear in court and I used to visit them. I went to prison. To Lincoln I went to twice to see two men that were coming up. I didn’t need to do that but I felt I got to know them a little bit and they were in the cell. I stayed in the cell with them nattering and what not. In fact, usually because of my influence as a probation officer I got the staff to bring him a cup of tea along with mine. Oh lord, I love life you know, love. And doctors, I’m going to live forever and that would be unique wouldn’t it? Life’s what you make it. I’ve got a marvellous family. Look how well they’ve all done really. I mean aye because I forgot to tell you, you perhaps know anyway that Jim went to Grammar School. The first one in my family. Then, then I went after that to Grammar School at Retford. So, we were a bit unique at that time. And it was, it was largely fee paying you know but I got the County paid everything for me.
SP: Yeah.
KB: So that made it handy. Yeah. I did. I had to get used to, you know cap and gown and everything and all the rest of it so I was a bit scruffy but the lads never bother do they? Lads don’t bother what you are. Yeah. I made some good friends. Quite rich some of them.
SP: So, lots of friends at school. Did you keep friends with your crew after the war at all?
KB: For a while.
SP: Yeah.
KB: For a while. Yeah. And then it became monotonous in a way because you’ve nothing else to talk about. You were going your own way and whatever so by and large not a lot I agree because you could say it wasn’t working out. You were going out to do your best for a while but it fizzled out peaceably. Quite peaceably. Yeah. And I tell you the navigator was part German. It was interesting really with the war on in this country. Marvellous. Marvellous navigator. Unbelievable. And sometimes coming back he’d take shortcuts to make it less for us. We had to do that but he’d say, ‘We’ll nip around the back —’ of such and such a city. I’d say, ‘All right, Dick. Carry on. You’re in charge.’ Did, how we broke the rules. Well, I don’t suppose it were rules really.
SP: Just looking at your logbook you were talking about you did a trip to Paris as well. So, I know you did Berlin seven times didn’t you but you actually you went to Paris on one of the trips as well.
KB: Yeah. I did.
SP: So yeah.
KB: I did go to Paris.
SP: Yeah.
KB: And I always because I did actually go to the presidential place. I got some lead for somebody who was in the palace and to get some conversation or what. So that, that made a difference really.
SP: Yeah. One of your flights here you’ve got a night operations at Paris.
KB: Yeah.
SP: And then you’ve got night operation at Essen.
KB: Yeah.
SP: As well there.
KB: We got shot at, you know. Shot at.
SP: So, were you ever under fire? I know you were under flak and that but were you ever shot at by fighters?
KB: Well, yeah but, yeah. No. Very rarely ever, you ever met a German fighter. But long range once. Never even saw him. Didn’t approach us anyway. When he saw what we were he didn’t approach. So, yeah that were no problem there. Yeah.
SP: Yeah. Because Essen, was quite, quite a main area wasn’t it? I think you were there —
KB: Yeah. Yeah.
SP: A couple of times.
KB: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t bother. Just climb in my turret. Well, we went for a briefing. Whatever.
SP: What happened at the briefing? What sort of thing happened when you went to the briefings?
KB: That was the important thing. First of all it was kept secret until the very last moment and when it suddenly appeared in the mess where it was. And that’s when we, when we started to go for briefings and things. Of course, the navigator, it was a big job for the navigator because he’s, he’s going to take us and bring us back and so that was quite demanding for him really. But for everything else we went, as gunners we went to this, our own little thing or whatever because sometimes we had new guns or all that sort of thing. Yeah. And I had a, I was very lucky a ground staff who lived for looking after my aeroplane and polishing windows all the time. All sorts of thing. I think it kept him from doing anything else perhaps he didn’t like. It was the ground staff. Yeah. And then of course they had DI inspection before take-off. Oh, I know, and we had carers who looked after us all the time. You know, every bit. What they came around and so I often go and used to join them while they were doing things what they did. Whatever they did. Except that once we got a new aircraft and they got me because I was little. You could get in to the belly of it but it’s only a little hole to get in. About that. Yeah. And they conned me of course obviously. I didn’t fly like that but that was when we was on the ground. Yeah. Some great fun really especially they knew we’d be shot down that night. In fact, once we landed away out of necessity. We were running out of fuel and some aerodrome, I don’t know where it was and we just we just landed and to get some petrol of all things. And that’s how we, we just flew out again afterwards or whatever so it’s not recorded anywhere. But that’s how we got fuel to get back. We wouldn’t have got back because we were quite running out of fuel eventually you know it’s a long way. A long way to Germany. Four engines especially. We had one, once we had an, one engine wasn’t very good and occasionally it misbehaved itself. When you’ve got four though you have to alter the trim when you’ve got only so many working. Yeah.
SP: What was the impact of that when there was one engine not working properly?
KB: Well, usually they could. They, we were inside, of course. We had a mechanic. Whatever. But he couldn’t do for anything outside but he often did things from inside sort of things connected with the aeroplane. Oh yeah, because they, we had, what was it now? I forget. But he, he had a monitor. The, the petrol tanks. Of course, they were spread about the aeroplane and his job was keeping a careful eye on because he had to redirect it from one that was going empty because he had to be careful because it altered the trim of the aircraft. Whatever. But yes, they got, they were fitters. They were very good.
SP: You got some photographs of you with your ground crew. Did you, did you get to know your ground crew quite well?
KB: Oh, very well. You were living with them.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. I mean you didn’t all go. The ones on the ground. Oh yes. They, they got very very attached to us.
SP: Can you remember any of them? Any of the names of any —
KB: Not really.
SP: Yeah.
KB: I expect they were with us a long time I know that.
SP: Yeah.
KB: But I can’t remember as much as that.
SP: Do you remember where your dispersal unit was at Melbourne?
KB: Sorry?
SP: Do you remember where your dispersal unit was at Melbourne where you had to go to to your plane? On the —
KB: Yeah. Yeah. For operations we trained a lot beforehand.
SP: Yeah.
KB: From different aerodromes.
SP: Yeah.
KB: Yeah. Quite a few different aerodromes when I did my flying business.
SP: And did you have to travel quite a long way to your plane before operations or were you quite close to the briefing area?
KB: Well, we were basically, basically on top of it.
SP: Right.
KB: Yeah. Because you were living there.
SP: Yeah. Some people say their dispersal unit where the plane was kept was quite a long way away and they had to cycle to it.
KB: A long way away.
SP: Or get on a little truck.
KB: A long way away.
SP: Yeah.
KB: I had to go around, right the way around the aerodrome.
SP: Right.
KB: And everywhere to get to it but we were lucky at that we were parked very near to the runway.
[recording paused]
SP: So, Ken I just want to thank you on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre for your time today and your stories. So, thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Susanne Pescott, “Interview with Ken Beard,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 25, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/9283.

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