Interview with Bill Moore. One


Interview with Bill Moore. One


William Moore was born in Dunoon, Scotland in August 1924 and joined the Royal Air Force after spending some time in the Air Cadet Defence Corps and in the Air Training Corps. He volunteered for the Royal Air Force at the age of 17 and completed his training in Canada, after which he qualified as an air observer. William flew Ansons and Cranes and learned navigation in America on Catalina flying boats. He also tells of flying Lysanders and transporting agents for the Special Operations Executive into France. He also tells how he provided Polish airmen with different information to keep them safe if they crashed. William flew various aircraft including the Lancaster, Stirlings and Halifaxes at different locations and was on 36 operations with Bomber Command, taking part in Operation Manna. He served with 138 Squadron and 161 Squadron. He also tells of his life after the war, when he went to live in Rhodesia where he helped to run the family business before returning to Great Britain in 2003.

[Please note: The veracity of this interview has been called into question. We advise that corroborative research is undertaken to establish the accuracy of some of the details mentioned and events witnessed.]







01:10:53 Audio recording


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This is Andrew Sadler interviewing Mr. William (Bill) Moore at his home in Woking on Tuesday 28th July 2015 for the Bomber Command Archive.
AS: Thank you Bill for allowing me to come and interview you.
BM: You’re very welcome indeed.
AS: Can I start with some background information, where and when were you born?
BM: I was born in Dunoon in Scotland on 26th August 1924
AS: And um, can you tell me a bit about your family background?
BM: My, my father was a regimental sergeant major in the Invergyle Southern Highlanders, my grandfather was a chief petty officer in the Navy, we’d twenty two children, I am one of a family of five and, um, I first got in touch with the, err, Royal Air Force as a cadet with the Air Cadet, Air Cadet Association, which was the forerunner of the Air Training Corps.
AS: And presumably your father, was your father involved in the First World War?
BM: Yes my father and my grandfather was in the First World War, my grandfather was also in the Boer War and he was also in the First and Second World War, and my father was in the First World War and he was called up for the Second World War to the Colours and, um, later stood down when the BEF went to France, and he later took over the, what became the Home Guard for the whole of the County of Argyle in Scotland.
AS: Did he talk about his experiences in the First World War?
BM: Yes he um, he was a Royal Scottish Fusiliers and um, he was in quite a number of the big, of the big battles, and, um, then he was taken, he was taken prisoner in late 1917 and he was shipped out to Poland then and, he was wounded in the legs, he was given very good treatment by the German, um, medical people at that time.
AS: And how did you come to join up into the Royal Air Force?
BM: Oh that was through the, the Air Cadets which was the forerunner of the Air Training Corps. The reason for that was I had been a drummer boy in the band of the Argyle’s and um, I fancied the Air Force after having two flights at a place called Montrose quite a long time before the war started.
AS: Can I just stop what, - okay we are restarting now after closing the windows
BM: Right
AS: Noise outside, sorry you were telling me about how you came, you joined the Royal, the Air Cadet Force.
BM: That’s right the Air Cadet Defence Couriers
AS: And why did you do that, what made you interested in?
BM: So it was after I had two flights we’er with the Argyles as a drummer boy in the Band at Montrose on the east coast of Scotland.
AS: And that made you want to fly?
BM: That’s quite correct.
AS: So what year did you actually join up to the Royal Air Force?
BM: Well for the, well it was 1940-41 when I was in the Air Defence Cadet Corps and then of course when the Air Training Corps started I joined that immediately and, err, on the Monday night I joined up and um, of course naturally I had no rank and then the Friday night of that week I was made a flight sergeant in the Air Training Corps, within one week.
AS: And can you tell me how that came about?
BM: Oh the experience of the Air Defence Cadet Corps, that was why.
AS: So can you tell me about your training?
BM: Oh the training in the, in the Air Training Corps. Yes the Air Training Corps we, um, we attended night school classes in the school along with students who were actually full time students of the school, also members of the Air Training Corps and this was taken by Mathematics teachers and English teachers all the way through, and they had become officers in the Air Training Corps, and one gentlemen Mr. Ozzy Broon, he was the maths teacher and very good in navigation and um, he made it all very, very interesting for us and, um, later on I met up with him but that will come into this later on, um, but he was a person who really gave us the foundation in navigation and bringing us up through math and made it interesting for us.
AS: So what age were you at this time?
BM: By that time I was sixteen.
AS: And um, when you joined the Air Force could, you were immediately made a flight sergeant and what sort of work?
BM: No that, no that was just the Air Training Corps I’m talking about, and that was made immediately. Now what happened was that um, we um, when I was, um, seventeen and a quarter I actually volunteered for the Royal Air Force and um, because of my background in the Air Training Corps I, um, had all certificates following examinations that was, um, especially orientated towards air crew, and with that I was selected at Edinburgh to actually join air crew formally and I was given the silver badge and um, became a member of the Royal Air Force on reserve which was actually the, um, Auxiliary Air Force.
AS: And what year would that have been?
BM: That was, that was beginning, the beginning of ‘42, ‘41-‘42 yes.
AS: And can you tell me how you came to be in Bomber Command?
BM: Well that’s quite a story, but I’ll cut it short as much as possible, we, we were invited to London to Lord’s Cricket Ground where we were given the medicals etcetera and passed all these things and tests, various inoculations etcetera, etcetera, and um, we were billeted at Avenue Close, um, and fed at the, at the Zoo there, and of course, um, after a few weeks we actually were sent to Scarborough where I, I joined number 17 flight, of the air crew selection, and um, that was at, that was the beginning of our formal training with the air crew, Royal Air Force, the Royal Air Force. They, um, that was when we conducted drill, navigation, signals, um, engines, everything that you had to do in preparation to become a member of air crew, but not a specialist at that time, you were given that particular course so that you could be able to fit in somewhere along the line, we were actually called PNB, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, at that time. That’s what we were, PNB. We um, I had at that particular time I had a flight and that flight, it was a mixed flight of British, French, Belgians and we graduated, we graduated from there and were given various jobs around Scarborough until I was posted to Scoon, now at Scoon in Scotland that was where we got, we got training on Tiger Moths, and then from there, after that was we, we seemed to be doing all right, we were sent to Brougton in Furness where we, where we did a commando course on, in other words it was an escapees course. If anything happened and you were on the other side then you knew what to do to try and get away, and that was where my army training had come in very good and I was appointed a section leader. After that we were posted to, to Heaton Park, Manchester and that is where we were either billeted on homes around the perimeter of the park or actually in the park. Firstly we were actually on the perimeter with a family and, um, that lasted for about two weeks, and then for about three weeks we were actually billeted in Heaton Park in Manchester, and um, then of course we were given various courses etcetera, etcetera, and, um, during that , during that time you got selected for, for to go for training in different parts of the Commonwealth and Empire. At the beginning I was actually getting posted to go to Rhodesia and the reason we knew that was because of the kit that we were getting, not South Africa but Rhodesia. We got on board the ship in Liverpool and um, on the Mersey, and we got on, we got on board the ship there and, um, it happened to be a ship that I knew very well which was brand new at the beginning of the war and I’ve actually got a model of it here, and um, we, we set sail and, um, one evening I, I was presuming that we near the Bay of Biscay, I turned round and I said to my friend, Alec Kerr, I said ‘Alec this ship is going the wrong way’, he said ‘you and your [inaudible] navigation, how do you know?’ I said ‘I’m looking at the stars’ and we landed back up in Liverpool again, we presumed then of course that the word had got out, that was probably a fleet of U-Boats hovering round about the Bay of Biscay and um, they changed their mind about sending us on that ship, which was called the Andes [spells it out]. We got back into Liverpool and we were there about um, two days on board the Andes, and the next thing we were told that we were being transferred onto another ship and um, I looked across and there was a three funnel boat over there, and, I said to this chap Alec, Alec Kerr, I said ‘Alec that’s a five, three, four over there’ he said ‘what’s a five, three, four?’ I said ‘I’m not telling you that’s a secret’. Well the five, three, four was the Queen Mary, the five, three, four was the number that the Queen Mary had in John Brown’s yard in Scotland, in Glasgow when she was getting built. Anyway we got on board that ship and the next thing we knew that we were in New York and we were there overnight, and the next thing we knew we were on the train and we were bound, bound for Canada and we went all up the, the East Coast of Canada and we arrived at Moncton, New Brunswick, and that was the home station in Canada for air crew who were going to be training under the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme. We were there for ten or twelve days, um, not in winterwear as it was six months of the year in Canada, you get a lot of cold weather and um, they just said ‘oh we don’t know anything about you, we’ll get a message one of these days and we’ll give you some uniform’ , so we walked around there um, at one time I used to say like a [inaudible] nanny, but as I say, in Canada there we walked along like squaws because we covered ourselves in blankets to keep warm, but that was only, that was only a gimmick, once you were inside you were nice and warm. Eventually we got kitted out we with Rhodesian Air Force kit which was very good indeed, it was far superior and a lot more modern than what we had previously, for items like shirts the collars were attached instead of getting two collars with a shirt, the great coats were extremely different and the average cloth was a lot finer, anyways that was one of the good points that we had there. The next thing we knew was that we were, I’d say sent across country and um, that was to be going on to various stations now – this was where our actual training began and we had landed in Moncton and then from there, as I say, we travelled by train across to Dauphin, Manitoba, and Dauphin, Manitoba was just a little bit bigger than a village at that particular time but it was really getting populated with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, and um, that is where we had bombing and gunnery courses on Ansons and Bolingbrokes. The Bolingbrokes, of course, was the Canadian/ American version of the Blenheim Mark IV which was a very good aircraft. We graduated from there and we went from there to aye, err, Portage la Prairie, Portage la Prairie, I’ve got photographs here and there we are at Portage la Prairie which is, and was, and still is today, one of the major stations of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I said today because I have met wing commanders and group captains who have just recently been in charge of Portage la Prairie, and that is where we did the Air Observer School, that was Air Observer School Number 7 which is navigation etcetera, etcetera, and that was on Ansons and Cranes. We, err, we had a mixed bunch there of New Zealanders, Canadians, and British and we actually graduated from there and um, that is the photograph of it there see.
AS: And you’re on the front row, second from the left.
BM: That’s right [laughs] yeah. That is when I became an air observer, the air observer, of course, has got another name but in this interview I won’t say what it was called.
AS: You told me before.
BM: [Laughs] that’s exactly what it was, yes. Anyway, as far as we were concerned we err -
AS: I think could I, could I maybe I could say it
BM: Yes
AS: For the record you were known as the flying arseholes.
BM: That’s quite correct [laughs], that is quite correct, yes. Now um, with that, we were, we were given our wings there and that was a great occasion because we were made up to sergeants which was, the lowest rank by that time that you could have as air crew. Quite a lot of people don’t understand and don’t know was that right through, for a couple of years the war was on, there was fellow air crew were either AC2’s or AC1’s or LAC, leading aircraftsman and it was only after a while that the rank of sergeant was introduced for minimum rank for aircrew, there’s quite a number of people never knew about that but um, having come through the air cadets etcetera, etcetera, we knew people who were actually flying in operations who were leading aircraftsman and had done quite a number of operations as such and were never recognised as anything else. If they got shot down they never got promotion, they were still at the end of the war leading aircraftsmen. Then um, from Portage la Prairie, um, we got a jaunt down, down to America, I think it was just a matter of, they didn’t know what to do with us for a while and we went down to Florida, and we were flying on Catalina Flying Boats and doing maritime navigation which, from a place called Pensacola. We were there a few weeks and the next thing we knew we were back to Moncton, New Brunswick in Canada, and of course there wasn’t six feet of snow this time, it was a lovely spring cum summer day in Canada. We, we were there for just a few weeks and um, we were told we could have two kit bags and we said ‘why two kit bags?’, ‘well one kit bag you can travel with and if you get a flight back to the UK then that other kit bag will be sent on to you later on’. I was quite happy in one way, I didn’t need to fly back, I got on board a ship and then we were taken from Moncton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia. And when we got to Nova Scotia I recognised the ship and I said to my friend, I said ‘oh I don’t like that one’ and he said ‘why is that Bill?’ I said ‘because that’s the Empress of Japan’, he said ‘what!’, I said ‘yeah that’s the Empress of Japan’. Anyway we got on the ship and by that time it was called the Empress of Scotland, they had changed its name during the war from the Empress of Japan to the Empress of Scotland, and we boarded that and we were put onto D deck which is a long way down and um, when we, we tried to get up for the, for the boat drill for emergencies we found that we were only halfway up, so anyway we thought of a plan. If there is going to be an emergency and they want us up on deck why don’t we try and get a place to sleep on deck because it was summertime, anyway we weren’t allowed that. Anyway we eventually landed in the Clyde and from the Clyde we, we got on the train and we went to Harrogate in Yorkshire, and we were held at Yorkshire, in Harrogate for a short time and um, from there I was sent over to Halfpenny Green. Now Halfpenny Green was a mixed unit it was, a normal navigation advanced school for navigators so and there was also an advanced school navigating on, what will I say, um, yeah, this was to become a specialist on map reading, not just normal navigation a specialist on navigation by map reading and that was the section that I was detailed for. When I asked the ‘chiefy’ why I was a chosen, he said ‘why’ he says ‘because we found out that you’re a country boy’, ‘Oh,’ I said ‘that’s nice’, he said ‘also you’ve been around quite a bit’, I said ‘oh thank you very much’. Anyway, ‘chiefy’, the reason I called him ‘chiefy’ was because he was a flight sergeant and the reason you called them a ‘chiefy’ was because when the Royal Air Force and the Naval Service had been amalgamated during the First World War, a lot of the people from the Naval side came across and they were Chief Prison err, Chief um, Chief Petty Officers and they were the chaps who became the first flight sergeants in the Royal Air Force and the name ‘chiefy’ has been there ever since, ‘cos’ if you called someone a ‘chiefy’ today they wonder what the hell you are talking about, but anyway we could often make a few bets on that one, that’s on the side. But Halfpenny Green, we were flying there on the advanced Ansons, Mk V Ansons, which um, had completely closed bombing doors etcetera, etcetera, and of course it was ideal for map reading because your maps weren’t getting thrown about in the lower part of the cockpit when you are trying to do the map reading, but we didn’t realise why it was done, but in the Air Force, once you joined up, you volunteered ever after that, you did what you was told. Right now, I managed to go through that course, came through with very good marks and um, I was then posted to Desborough, um, at Desborough. We were crewed up and that was part of a Wellington crew and um, also flying there I was flying as second dickie, in other words we only had one pilot and um, I got the job within the crew of being the person to be able to, err, take off and land and of course do a bit of flying in between, in case of emergency I could always land the Wellington. That was because of the position and the type of training that we had got in the past. Now from, from Desborough we um, we were transferred to various stations and where I went to, I went to a place called Tempsford. Now Tempsford was one of Churchill’s most secret aerodromes, airfields, when you got there you had to, you had to sign the Official Secret Act which was slightly different from the one that you normally took. In other words this was top secret, anything you said outside of that aerodrome you could be held responsible, and taken into custody, or shot, if it was got the wrong way. The reason for that that came up during your last week of being at Tempsford. Now at Tempsford we, we were crewing with various people, the reason I say that is because being an observer from time to time I wasn’t with the, the same, same pilot, although for some time I was with a chap called Neil Noble and also with err, a young PO who was a chap called Murray, anyway that was very good indeed. Noble was from New Zealand, and err, he was an excellent chap and he was also a country boy and he was excellent for the type of flying that we were doing and likewise was Murray. Now what happened was that during that time at Tempsford that is where we did flying of taking people out and into France, quite often it was on, it was on Lysanders and you didn’t have much room in Lysanders because err, it being a small one engine aircraft and you were flying low and you were actually taking these people into France. It wasn’t the first time that we had to bring people back from France and on various occasions, the group had actually brought back four gentleman who later on became Premiers of France and they actually also were leading lights in the resistance movement, what we called the Maquis. Now one of the things that happened at Tempsford was that um, we later on had an aircraft and this aircraft was called a Hudson, now that Hudson was an aircraft, American one, which was designed to land on the prairies in America. It was heavily undercarriaged and it was ideal for what we did, it was a way from the Lysander with the single engine and was a twin engine aircraft and what was happening there was that we were carrying a lot of heavy goods for the Maquis. That was the bombs, sticky bombs, all sorts of bombs like that, grenades, ammunition, weapons, oh up to medium sized weapons which they could use without using vehicles to carry them about. Now there was one particular trip when we were on the Hudson and we were on one of the airfields that had been selected by the Maquis, now what had happened was the Maquis people, quite a number of them, had been brought over to the UK and they were given special training as to get airfields that we could land in, the idea being was that the drop zones or picking up and laying down of agents, and it was essential that they were kept on this secret list ‘cos only a few minutes normally that we were on the ground. On this particular occasion what happened was that we came into land and we landed very well, we got to top of the, I call it run section, we turned round and as we turned round we began to sink in the mud, well it felt like mud to us, I suppose it was only a wet piece of ground, and we sank down, and um, I said to the skipper, ‘oh were in trouble’, he said ‘oh we’ll get off all right’, so anyway the Maquis arrived and they got all their stuff out and um, the leading agent there was a lady and she cleared an area, got all the Maquis away and we were ready to take off and then we realised that we couldn’t get out the mud, or whatever it was. So anyway we were about ready for to put the bomb in the air trap and blow it up and then get the hell out of there, but anyway she said ‘no’ she said, ‘we think we’ll get you out of there all right’ and she got the people from a nearby village to come to try and help us out because they were on their way up they met what they call the German sergeant who was in charge of the village and he said ‘right where are you people going?’, ‘oh your big black aircraft, your big black aircraft is on the ground there and if we don’t get it out of the mud the Gestapo is going to shoot us and they’ll shoot you as well’. So his retort was back to hers was that he would look after the village, they could go and get the aircraft out, so anyway the people got all sorts of equipment and we managed to take off again, that was the longest that we were ever on the ground until a few years later, it certainly felt like hours and hours and hours but was, it was just over an hour and a quarter on the ground which was an extremely long period and we got away.
AS: Was this work part of what was known as part of the Special Operations Executive?
BM: We were working with the SOE, yes that’s exactly what we were doing. Now that was one of the moments where various escapades like that but that that was the one of the longest times on the ground. Quite often we landed in a field and of course one or two of the fields had been used in the past for gliders but of course nobody had been near them in years, not even the Germans had used them and that was why they, the Maquis, had actually selected them for us, and they had um, they hadn’t done any work on them as such just hoping that the odd tree stump or that, that we landed in was, would be avoided which they were quite good. There was quite often a brush, as we called it, on the ground but we managed to sweep that aside when you are landing and take off. Now the thing about that was that um, the area dropping and picking up and laying down of agents was essentially an extreme secret list and only a few minutes were allowed between knowing the target area and the take off and only the crew members concerned knew exactly where. As little contact as possible was allowed between any agents and the crew, I don’t care what people say, Americans and different books nowadays I will call them ‘Joes’, as far as we were concerned we had as little contact as possible so that if anything happened to them or happened to us we couldn’t divulge anything and neither could they, because later on Hitler had said that anybody with knowledge of the situation would be shot as spies, so as little contact as possible was allowed between any agents and the crews. The airfield contacts or landings were seldom used again and again, although there were one of two were very suitable among them was Paris and Chateauroux and various other ones, these were the favourite ones that they were ones that were used quite a few times.
AS: When you were working, when you were on those flights you were acting as an observer?
BM: An observer yes.
AS: And what was the role of the observer?
BM: An observer was, it was a navigator but also you did everything, you did everything.
AS: So, you were a backup if something?
BM: That’s right. The observer learnt to fly, that was one of the other things an observer did, later on of course that was taken over by, on the bigger aircraft, by the flight engineer, but in the early days that was the observer that did that, aye. Now later on, later on during the war once it became apparent with the advance of the allies in France, the role of 138 Squadron and 161 Squadron was diminishing so what happened then was that 138 Squadron we went back to Bomber Command and with that we went to Langar where we actually um, we actually flew on Lancasters and then the Lancasters and then of course we were, I’d say we were part and parcel of the Bomber Command operations and that was from Tuddenham, and at Tuddenham we lay alongside 90 Squadron which was one of the main, main squadrons that occupied Tuddenham right through during the war.
AS: And what year was that, that you became part of Bomber Command?
BM: That was beginning that was the beginning of ‘44-‘45 and that was from, we started there, the actual squadron according, according to the history, was that everything came into being in March of 1945 but of course it was long before that we were [inaudible] but that’s just from the history books. Later the events all changed and we were sent to Langar to receive conversant to Lancasters, which turned out to be the light of my life as the aircraft which was the one that I favoured best, and from Langar we went to Feltwall, Mildenhall, Methwold, and Stradishall for other special duty training and eventually to Tuddenham. We took part in many of the operations but on the big one to Potsdam our Wing Commander Murray took over as captain of the night. Now that Wing Commander Murray was a pilot officer that I flew with, aye, early in my career with 138 Squadron and he became eventually the, the squadron leader, wing commander for 138 squadron, he took charge of that. Along came the Operation Manna which gave us great pleasure in being part of and likewise to Juvincourt where we brought home many of our fellow air crew members who had been prisoners of war, and after a few weeks of PRDU work at Tuddenham we were allowed to transfer to RAF Benson where we took over our own Lancasters and became part of the operating across Europe and photographing the whole of Europe for um, the secret stations that Churchill had wanted when he was Prime Minister. So that was there crew there, the other air crew in Bomber Command where we did all our operations.
AS: And were you still working as an observer at this stage?
BM: Yes, yes
AS: You were still an observer?
BM: Aye
AS: And this is your crew next to a Lancaster?
BM: Yes, that’s the crew that we eventually had, yes.
AS: And which one is you Bill?
BM: [laughs] Probably go with the height you’ll maybe get me, [laughs] can you recognise me?
AS: I think you are the one on the left on that side on the right.
BM: Yes that’s me [laughs], that there the tallest one actually became the rear gunner .
AS: And were you always with the same crew?
BM: Once we, once we got to Tuddenham we were all with the same crew yes.
AS: So these are the same, so this is the same people?
BM: That’s right yeah.
AS: And obviously you all made it through the war?
BM: Oh yes.
AS: ‘Cos a lot did not.
BM: No, that is quite correct we were lucky.
AS: So when you were on the bombing raid can you tell me exactly what your role would have been?
BM: Oh we were, there were two things so we acted as a full navigator and sometimes as an electronic navigator and also a bomb aimer as well ‘cos we were qualified to do all these jobs.
AS: So you moved from one role?
BM: One role to another yeah.
AS: To another.
BM: In our crew everybody could do everything else except on the Lancasters. The skipper Neil Noble and, and myself were doing the flying, and also our flight engineer ‘cos he only joined us on the Lancasters ‘cos when we were flying in the Wellingtons and that we didn’t have, we didn’t have a flight engineer. The flight engineer were only brought on when we started with the Stirlings and Halifaxes and then the Lancasters.
AS: Can you tell me what it was like to fly the Lancasters as opposed to the Wellingtons?
BM: Oh yes, it was a much easier aircraft to fly than even the Wellingtons and the Wellington was a good one to fly.
AS: In what way was it easier?
BM: Well the, the, the controls were simpler, it was easier to control them than it was some of the former aircraft.
AS: And can you describe the procedure when you went on a bombing raid?
BM: Right, well what happened was once you were crewed and once you had done a few operations like mine laying and things like that, minor operations and then of course you were selected by crews that you moved up the ladder a bit and then of course you were formally taken on to the, I would say, the senior strength of the squadron, but our squadron did not like to put rookie crews onto the heavy stuff at first, you got a baptism of fire by, as I say, doing the mine laying jobs and various other ones which you weren’t so likely to have been involved in heavy enemy fire etcetera, etcetera. We were thankful for that because you were given that training and there was actually training in the actual thing. So what happened was that once you, once you were there then of course you had briefings where the whole crew was together, then of course you had briefings where there was selected sections of the aircrew, mainly the pilot, navigator, and quite often the flight engineer and radio operator were involved. When we were doing special duties with Lancaster’s we had the whole crew together ‘cos we felt as if everybody should know exactly what’s going on and not be a surprise to anybody with what we were doing because quite often there was raids that was known to only a section of a squadron and sometimes a full squadron, whereas if it wasn’t a joint operations with the other squadrons, or the other squadron are out and you lay down so that was how it went, but you were actually given as much information as possible about the targets, about where you were going, the flight, the enemy aircraft etcetera, etcetera.
AS: How many missions did you fly with Bomber Command?
BM: About thirty six.
AS: That was quite a lot wasn’t it?
BM: Yes it was quite a lot.
AS: It sounds as if you were lucky to pull through because?
BM: I was extremely lucky, I was extremely lucky, because with 138 Squadron we had, we had quite a [long pause, shuffling papers], with 138 Squadron, 138 Squadron had taken in nine hundred and ninety five agents, they’d taken in twenty nine thousand containers and they’d taken in over ten thousand packages. We lost seventy aircraft and three hundred aircrew, our motto was ‘for freedom’, that was 138 Squadron you know.
AS: Yes you had different people on different stations?
BM: Right, now also what did happen was that with 138 Squadron we had a flight of Poles, Polish chaps. Now what happened with them was that they was declared by the German forces that if the Poles were shot down they were to be treated as spies, so I didn’t like the idea of that and all the ones on our flight I taught them a bit of Gaelic, I gave them little addresses from on all the outer isles on the west of Scotland and I gave them Scottish names, and I told them if they got shot down they would have to use them as identification plus their rank and number, and I, ‘cos I do know that quite a number of them actually survived like that because they pretended to be Scottish, Gaelic, and where they pointed to on the map was where they came from and it was a real island but I gave them all different islands, and of course when they were on the squadron if they spoke to anybody they had to say who they were and not who they were in Polish.
AS: And why the Poles singled out for special harsh treatment?
BM: Oh because their country had been occupied by the Germans. They took it that they were, if they did that they were actually against them that was the end of it.
AS: Mmm, when you um, when you were flying with Bomber Command how often, you said you had thirty six missions, how far apart were they, were you?
BM: Well sometimes you might be on three nights in a row, sometimes it might be two, two in one week, but it was surprising just how much, just how of course some operations like mine laying and things like that were considered quite minor ones so you probably fitted them in in between times.
AS: And went you weren’t actually flying when you were on the ground how did you occupy your time?
BM: We kept ourselves fit, we played a lot of squash or we played a lot of rugby that was the two things we did as a crew because we could play together, and we were together, we were a crew.
AS: And when you were not flying you stuck together as a
BM: As a crew yes. We used to have, in the Nissen huts, we normally had two crews to the hut and we pretty well stuck together.
AS: And what sort of conditions were you living in, was it, were they good conditions or?
BM: Well, well when we were one squadron there was err, there was a Nissen hut set of accommodation which was two crews, as I say two crews about fourteen men to a hut and a potbelly stove in the middle and then of course your, your, your mess and that on the squadron was a Nissen type building. There was one or two squadrons which were peacetime ones, the RAF Benson was a peacetime one and there’s still peacetime one, but Methwold and quite a few of these other ones were established pre-war and the accommodation was slightly better, but anything that was rushed up during the war time was normally the Nissen huts.
AS: Now after the war, what, how did you, what happened after the war?
BM: Well what happened after the war, like what I said earlier on, was that we did some PRDU work from Tuddenham.
AS: What’s PRDU work?
BM: That’s Post RAF Reconnaissance.
AS: Ah.
BM: What we didn’t realise it was like a programme to see if we were suitable to do the job and there was three crews were picked, three, with their aircraft and we were sent over to RAF Benson and we then came under PRDU people there and, err, we photographed the whole of Europe, north to south and east to west, and we photographed the likes of the city of London, and other big cities from two thousand feet. Towns like Woking and this area would be from about five-six thousand feet and um, then the general countryside was anything from ten to twenty thousand feet, and we did that for the whole of Europe. We also had bases all over the country and also had bases in Norway, bases in South of France and various places like that, so what we actually did was that at one time, one time we landed at one, one particular station and it had been used as a transit camp and we woke up in the morning scratching like hell and we found out we had scabies so of course that was us isolated. We go back to our own station and we were isolated by the, by the medical people until we got rid of it, and then we, what we said, wherever we went after that we took our own kit with us so we didn’t get scabies.
AS: And this would have been after 1945 you were doing this?
BM: Yes
AS: And how long did you stay in the RAF for?
BM: Middle of 1946.
AS: And, and what did you do after you left?
BM: Well I went back into the building industry, and um, it wasn’t that long before I went to Rhodesia where I was supposed to have gone with the with the Royal Air Force and the idea there was that a federation was starting up between Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia, and um, I went out there and I went out as a general building foreman, and instead of staying four years with the company that I worked for I stayed fifty years. I built schools, universities, colleges, hundreds of local houses, all over the territories, and then of course gradually it worked out that Rhodesia was the only one that didn’t get its independence, Nyasaland 1963, Nyasaland was given independence then and became Malawi, and more or less at the same time Northern Rhodesia, which had been a Crown Colony run from Britain, they also had theirs, but Southern Rhodesia, which became Rhodesia, had been a self-governing colony since 1926 and they were not granted independence. And what happened was in 1926 there had been a vote there to say if whether they were going to pick up as a province in South Africa or stay as Rhodesia as an independent self-governing colony and the vote was to stay as Rhodesia self-governing colony, so if they’d had went the other way it would have been a province of South Africa.
AS: So what year did you come back to the United Kingdom?
BM: I only came back twelve years ago.
AS: Oh gosh. So have you, after the end of the war have you kept in contact with your crew mates?
BM: Oh yes, well I’ll tell you what, Jimmy Dugg, his great grandson is Israel Dugg who played full back for the All Blacks against the Springboks on Saturday and various other ones.
AS: So you kept in contact with them?
BM: Oh yes.
AS: Did you, um, I mean after the war?
BM: What happened in Rhodesia, put it this way what happened there was that I had, in the short term, I had reinstated the family business in the building trade, I found out that the contracts were not being run honestly as far as I was concerned and that’s when I said to my brothers ‘you can have the company I’m going abroad’, I had thoughts for Canada, I had thoughts for Australia, I had thoughts for New Zealand, and at the time they wanted people to go to what was going to become the Central African Federation, um, and that’s where I decided to go to. I had no regrets, no regrets at all. I was there from 1952-53 right up until I came here, came back here and that was in 2003, but during that time, as I said before, I built schools and hospitals and other things all the way through. I even, in 1960 the Queen Mother had come out previously and laid the foundation stone of the hospital in Blantyre, Nyasaland which she named the Queen Elizabeth Hospital then she came back in 1960 and declared it open, now of course it wasn’t just a hospital it was like a major township around the hospital that we built that what took us so long, anyway what did happen when we had a ball at Zumba, the capital, after she had declared it open etcetera, etcetera, and the following the morning the Governor, Glynn Jones came to me and said ‘I’ve got a job for you’ I said ‘No, no, no I don’t need no freebies sir’, he said ‘it’s for the old lady’, I said ‘what’s that’, he said ‘I want you to build a racecourse for her,’ I said ‘what! I don’t know anything about building racecourses’, he said ‘go and find a plan somewhere’ he says ‘I want you to build a racecourse for her’, I said ‘all right how long have I got?’ he said ‘you’ve got ten days’. So anyway I got my own crew which was about fifty-sixty chaps and I went along to Zumba Prison and I got hundred bandits from there, short term bandits, and I asked for all the ones who had been Queen Victoria men, or King George men, or Kind Edward men, people like that and I got volunteers and I looked after them. I said they would be rewarded which they were, properly and kindly, etcetera, etcetera, and we did the job, and instead of what you do today, putting up things in canvas, I did it all in pole and thatch, and um, she, what happened is that she went on the Ilala which is the ship that plies up and down Lake Nyasa, and Lake Nyasa is three hundred and sixty five miles long and fifty two miles wide and there are various ports along it that the Ilala used to either go into or stand off and it used to take cattle, people passengers, VIP’s everything, there were ten or twelve cabins on it so it wasn’t a small one. It was actually built in, in Scotland and taken out in pieces to a place called Monkey Bay where it was put back together again and floated on Lake Nyasa and she has been going there ever since [laughs].
AS: Excellent. Can I um [end]



Andrew Sadler, “Interview with Bill Moore. One,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 12, 2024,

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