Interview with Hugh Parry. Two

Title

Interview with Hugh Parry. Two

Description

Hugh Parry was a member of his local ATC and was awaiting the time when he would be able to volunteer for the RAF. His slightly older friends had qualified to train as pilots, navigators or bomb aimers, but because of a backlog of trades they were given deferred entry. Hugh saw this and decided to train as a gunner. Hugh took the position of mid-upper because of his height and being more comfortable. He was posted to 75 Squadron, RAF Mepal. On one operation as Hugh was scanning the sky he looked upward and saw a Lancaster was about to drop its bombs and they were right in its path. He was able to warn the skipper to take evasive action and the bombs narrowly missed their aircraft. On another occasion when Hugh was scanning the sky he heard a bang behind his head. There was a hole in the Perspex where his head had been.

Creator

Date

2018-07-23

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:53:40 audio recording

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This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

AParryHP180723

Transcription

GT: This is Monday the 23rd of July 2018 and I’m at the home of Mr Hugh Price Parry known as Hugh, born 25 err 22nd of May 1925 in North Shropshire, England. Hugh joined the RAF in December 1943 at the age of nineteen during training to become a chartered accountant. Hugh was also in the Air Training Corps and volunteered for the RAF as an air gunner as there was a shortage of gunners at that time. Hugh became the mid-upper gunner of the Paddy Goode crew from February to June 1945 completing thirteen war ops and one Manna drop on 75 New Zealand Squadron, RAF from Mepal. After VE Day Hugh was posted to 90 Squadron, then to RAF accounts, demobbing in May 1947. Hugh, thank you for allowing me to interview you in your home in Abingdon, Oxfordshire for the IBCC Archives. Please tell me why and how you joined the RAF in 1943.
HP: I was a member of the Air Training Corps because there was a general feeling that there was a bit more excitement about becoming, about becoming air crew. There was no real publicity about the potential casualty rate. There was a glamour which attached to air crew which were, from the point of view of meeting girls was alright. And of course, it was acceptable there was good, always good publicity. At the time my friends were just all slightly older than I. They all wanted to be PNB, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer as a general recruit. But when they went to volunteer and they got to the Aircrew Reception Centre they were all put on deferred service for at least eighteen months and in practice none of them actually got to serve on the squadron. When I went to the Aircrew Reception Centre knowing this I found that they were still accepting air gunners so I volunteered for air crew as an air gunner. All air crew of course being, being volunteers and as a result I got on to a squadron and became operational and looked down on the, my friends who were called up and all served as aircraftsman second class, general duties.
GT: When abouts did you begin your training then, Hugh?
HP: Well, the Reception Centre was in London and from there moved to Bridlington on the east coast of Yorkshire for Initial Training Wing in January which was a little chilly. And I’m not referring to the very mild curries which they had there. From there to Bridgnorth for Elementary Air Training School. Thereafter Pembrey, Number 1 Air Gunnery School which was, which was on the south coast of Wales, flanking the Bristol Channel. From there passed out as air gunner at the end of June 1944.
GT: And did you have an option of where to go? Fighter. Bomber Command.
HP: No. No. You were posted.
GT: And you then were sent down to Westcott with 11 OTU. So, how long did you spend there and where did you crew up?
HP: Well, you crewed up either on the first or second day. All the, all the trades, aircrew trades were put in the hangar. The hangar. And they evolved in to crews. There was no compulsion. No discipline. It just happened. And I think we were at Westcott which was an OTU Operational Training Unit until about the end of September. We then went to a holding unit on the, and we were training then on Wellingtons. We then went up to a holding unit because of the, we had to be posted somewhere until we went to Woolfox Lodge which was a Heavy Conversion Unit where we moved over from Wellingtons on to Lancasters.
GT: So, so you didn’t, you didn’t go in to Stirlings at all? You just went straight over to Lancasters.
HP: No. No. We went in to, in to real aircraft.
GT: So, your holding base in your logbook states Stradishall. So, you were at number 3 ACS in Stradishall for most of October ’44.
HP: Yes. That was just, that was just a holding unit where nothing happened.
GT: Nothing happened. Ok. So, so moving on to the Lancaster at 1651 OCU you spent pretty much that of November December there at Woolfox Lodge. So, the differences between the Wellington must have been huge between the types.
HP: Yes. The only thing which, which was the same was the rear turret. Otherwise, all other facilities were different. Including the position of the elsan.
GT: What position in the crew did you take up as a gunner?
HP: I was, when we got to the Lancaster I was mid-upper because there was just marginally more room there because I was six feet tall officially and the reason that was, that was official was when I was actually measured for my medical I made sure I made sure I wore baggy trousers.
GT: So, during your training the Gunnery Schools did they have moving targets? Were you flying in different aircraft for that?
HP: We were flying in Ansons at, at the air gunner, at the Air Gunner’s School and taking as the airborne targets drogues, drogues towed by Miles Masters. Or they might have been Miles Magisters as well but certainly Miles Masters and we were doing our air to air firing based on on those. We were also obviously doing ground firing and that was relatively simple and the, the drogues were towed behind the aircraft. There were four trainee air gunners in each Anson. Each supposed to be firing two hundred and fifty rounds out of the thousand which was in, in the ammunition tank. Of the, the two hundred and fifty of the rounds at a time had dyed, dye on the tips of the bullets so that you could count the holes going through and see what the dye mark was on them. The fourth one obviously didn’t need any dye because it just made a hole. So when the drogue was dropped on, on the runway they, it was taken back to the armoury section, laid out on a long table and the number of holes caused by each dye was counted and then divided by two [pause] because there was a hole where it went in and a hole where it came out. You may find that a little subtle.
GT: Interesting. Ok, so, and you were a good shot?
HP: Enough. Enough to get through and qualify.
GT: And what was the qualification grade for gunner?
HP: I don’t know.
GT: Well, were any chopped along the way that weren’t any good.
HP: Oh yes. You, you could you could get chopped for all sorts of reasons, you know. Inadequate theory, inadequate practice, indiscipline, incompatibility. Any particular reason. You weren’t necessarily explained to you.
GT: That’s something perhaps many don’t understand is that everyone sees you in a turret shooting guns but you actually went through quite a bit of paperwork and classroom training to become a gunner. So what kind of things did they teach you in Gunnery School?
HP: Well, you, you had to recognise very early on that you never fired at the target. You fired at where you had worked out the target would be by the time your bullet reached it and this was a question of relative speed, deflection, angle and so forth. That was the fundamental skill which you needed as an air gunner. Where to point the gun so that the bullet would get to the target when the target reached the bullet.
GT: The gun you used, the 303.
HP: 303.
GT: Explain about that gun for us and its capabilities.
HP: Yes. Well, the Browning 303 fired at the rate of twenty rounds a second which was quite fast and quite loud. And the ammunition tanks on for the mid-upper turret on the Lancaster were for a thousand rounds for each gun. Four, in the rear turret there were four of the same guns and the ammunition tanks were up just about the centre of gravity of the plane. And the bullet tracks came down through tracks along the side of the fuselage, four tracks and entered the turret from underneath the turret and fed up to the guns so there were two thousand five hundred rounds for each of those. Now, you couldn’t use anything like that for the mid-upper because the mid-upper would circulate through three hundred and sixty degrees or keep turning in any one direction. With the rear turret it would turn a total of a hundred and eighty degrees.
GT: And we’re talking about the Lancaster aircraft in that situation.
HP: I’m talking about the turrets. Not the aircraft.
GT: The [pause] in that situation for you did you have a choice because you did your tour as a mid-upper. Did you have a choice in being either or? Or a front gunner perhaps?
HP: No. No. The bomb aimer was, occupied the front turret. So as far as the other two turrets goes the two gunners sorted it out between themselves.
GT: Did you ever swap? Do the —
HP: Only once.
GT: And, and that was enough?
HP: Oh yes. Quite sufficient thank you.
GT: We were talking about how hearing loss was a huge thing throughout many of the crews during the war.
HP: Sorry?
GT: The hearing loss that was —
HP: Yeah.
GT: That happened.
HP: Yeah.
GT: That the aircrew had. So you were a that point —
HP: Well, I think, the mid-upper air gunner was in the worst position because he was sitting between the two guns and very close behind four thirteen hundred horsepower unsilenced engines. So, there was, there was a lot of noise and I think we all suffered that to some extent and fortunately with hearing aids I’ve been able to cope with the rest of my life. My hearing is not much worse now than it was fifty years, fifty years ago. Sixty years ago. There was an initial loss.
GT: Many also suffered, suffered tinnitus as well.
HP: Tinnitus you mean. Yes. I didn’t. Which was a repeating of the noise within the ears.
GT: That’s good. That’s good. So, with your gunnery then did anybody especially during your training did they miss the, miss the odd drogue and get the other aircraft? Was, was there any accidental shooting of friendly aircraft?
HP: No, because your fellow Air Force people were in that. Not all the training was with guns and live ammunition. A very considerable amount was with cameras. Camera guns. And in the camera guns the film would be processed and from that you were were able to be assessed on the probability that you would have hit the target with live ammunition. And with that of course the target aircraft could be manoeuvring a lot more violently than when it was towing a drogue. So the camera gun was quite a tool to be training air gunners.
GT: The, the role of, of the mid-upper gunner and tail gunner during a lot of sorties was to warn the skipper of, about, of aircraft and the like. Did you ever have to tell the skipper to do a corkscrew or take evasive action at all?
HP: Once. When we were [pause] no I’d better start. We were practically all on daylight operations to synthetic oil plants because at that far end of the war the Germans were running out of fuel for their aircraft and for their tanks and this was because we were doing daylight in flying in formation with, in a V formation with the leader of each V of three being equipped with special radar which was GH. Not Gee. GH. And you bombed, the leading aircraft in the V had that when he opened his bomb doors the other two did and when he dropped his bombs the other two did. And we would be going after small targets with precision. Not, not area bombing as such.
GT: Or other people call it carpet bombing I suppose.
HP: The [pause] the town and city devastation bombing that was, that was largely done on night time raids over large target areas where high explosive bombs would be dropped first followed by incendiary bombs which would set light to the debris caused by the high explosives. We were mainly with that. But the one time which I remember was that I remember looking up because as a mid-upper gunner you didn’t sort of gaze around in a random manner you did a regular pattern of search of all the way around in a circular direction and up to a hundred and eighty degrees vertically down as a routine. And I remember once seeing a group of aircraft above us open their bomb doors so my immediate reaction was, ‘Mid-upper to skipper, dive port, dive port.’ Which we did, and I was told by the navigator who looked out that some bombs missed our wing tip by about ten feet. I was not allowed to buy a drink that night.
GT: You saved your crew and your aircraft. Awesome.
HP: That was what you were asking for —
GT: Yeah. It certainly was. So, from your Heavy Conversion Unit we’ve established that you moved to 75 New Zealand Squadron at Mepal in February of 1945 and throughout the next few months you completed thirteen daylight war operations. Did any one of those trips stand out to you? That, was anything special or anything that was of memory to you?
HP: No. There was, they were fairly routine because they were to, as I say daylight trips to synthetic oil plants and on those we didn’t have a great deal of trouble with American, sorry with German fighters because we had close escort of Mustangs and high escorts of Spitfires. Other than of course they moved away when we were over the target area so we got the full benefit of flak.
GT: Was flak extremely heavy during the day?
HP: Yes. The Germans knew that they had to well, very well defend these synthetic oil plants because they were totally dependent on it for fuel for their, for their Army and their Air Forces.
GT: Your bomb loads. Did, did you have anything to do with the loads that are carried and did you know what the aircraft were carrying each day?
HP: No. No. Normally speaking we, we would carry twenty, twenty two thousand pounds. Say five tonnes for each aircraft and the bombs would be dropped from roughly twenty, twenty two thousand feet.
GT: As a gunner were you responsible for the cleaning of your guns and the mounting of them or was that the armourer’s responsibility?
HP: You seldom fired of them but if you did you, you could leave five shillings which was the best part of a day’s pay for the armourer to clean up but you did make sure yourself that the guns were coupled up directly with the reflector gunsight so that it did reconcile where the bullets would be going for the sight and the barrels.
GT: And they were removed after every sortie and taken back to the armoury?
HP: No.
GT: Was there normal?
HP: No. There was, there was, if they hadn’t been fired there was no need to remove them and they were seldom fired for the reasons I’ve said. The fighter escort. We got, we got largely the benefit of the flak over the target areas because the fighters knowing that there would be no German fighters over the flak ridden areas could, could keep on the outskirts as well quite properly and be ready for us, to escort us back.
GT: Did you see any of the German jet fighters at all?
HP: Just remember seeing the vapour trail of the odd one going very quickly up through the formation and then back down through. I think it was the ME 163. I don’t really remember. It was a few years ago. But not, not regularly.
GT: You then did an Operation Manna food drop.
HP: Yes.
GT: And were you given any heads up on that? Training or, and how did it eventuate for you?
HP: No. This was on a Sunday. We were, we were told at a briefing that the Germans had stopped trains delivering food to the, to the Dutch and that twenty thousand Dutch had died of starvation and a vast number more were suffering from malnutrition. The food we delivered was mounted in jute sacks. There weren’t any panniers, panniers or special equipment available on, on the first few trips. The bomb doors were nearly closed but enough room in between to let these sacks in and resting on the bomb doors which were closed of course when the total load was there. The food was dried. Dried eggs, dried milk, flour and essential ingredients like that and we went in at a designated route. The route, the place we dropped was on a racecourse just outside Den Haag or the Hague as, as it’s called. I think the dropping height was between three and five hundred feet. The Dutch knew we were coming, this, because the Red Cross had been involved in this. It was towards the end of the war and the Germans were getting a little worried about war crimes. And on the route which we took there were Dutch people out in the streets waving flags and table cloths. I mean, it was, it was a wonderful occasion because we were dropping something which was food which would keep people alive and not bombs which would kill people.
GT: The Dutch were always very thankful for for the food and they’ve always commemorated.
HP: Yes.
GT: The Operation Manna. For the likes of what you chaps did for that.
HP: Yeah.
GT: Were you told to empty your guns of ammunition?
HP: No.
GT: Did you, you went over there fully loaded.
HP: Yeah. But, but you weren’t expecting to have to fire but just in case because we weren’t told that the Germans had agreed to this. It had been agreed through and with the Red Cross so we were ready in case there were any attacks and there weren’t. I think the subsequent trips that they didn’t bother really much with guns because the trips had become fairly routine.
GT: Did you go in single file or did you go in as a squadron or a gaggle?
HP: As a gaggle. On, on, on a designated route at a designated height.
GT: And with, with the war closing to a finish was there much talked about on the squadron as to what would happen once the war had finished? What you were going to be doing.
HP: No. We had no idea what we would be doing because it was the war in Europe which was finishing. There were wars elsewhere.
GT: Who, who was your commanding officer of 75 Squadron at that time you were there?
HP: Wing Commander Baigent. Or it might have been Group Captain Baigent. B A I G E N T. He was a very ancient warrior. I think he was, he might have been twenty four, twenty five.
GT: And what did the crew think? What did all the crews think of Wing Commander Baigent? Cyril Baigent.
HP: Oh, he was, he was a leader who was respected and when, he spoke obviously at every aircrew briefing and he had everybody’s respect.
GT: Did, did he get to see all the crews at a time or was the CO kind of out in the background?
HP: No. No. When we first went there I think this may show in the logbook and I think it could have been on our first, first trip his crew was on leave and I think he acted as our pilot. Have a look at our first trip. He acted as our pilot. Now anybody who would do that with a raw sprog crew gets all the respect he deserves.
GT: 22nd of February 1945 war operation to Osterfeld. Five hours. Daylight raid. He, he went on to be one of the potential leading officers of the Royal New Zealand Air Force but he died of cancer in the early 50s so it was —
HP: Yes. I think he died in the early 50s or [pause] Yeah. But you know various things happened over the target area with flak. One experience will always be with me. If you were in the mid-upper you didn’t get, I think I’ve said this, you didn’t look around in a random manner you did a regular search of the sky. And on one particular trip I was looking up and being rather tall my head was pressed hard against the Perspex. At the back of my head there was a loud bang. I looked around and where my head had been there was a hole about the size of, about an inch across. So I immediately felt the back of my head, put my hand in front of me. There was no blood. Looked back. There was the hole. The only possible explanation for that and no blood was that I was dead. And it was some, some moments before I realised that what had happened was a piece of shrapnel had ricocheted off. You don’t, you don’t forget an experience like that.
GT: That was from an ack ack shell exploding nearby was it?
HP: Yeah. But you know normally speaking you would come, you would come back with a number of holes in the fuselage. We came back one time with two engines gone on one side and on that particular day the North Sea seemed about as wide as the Pacific which was [pause] it was not a healthy occupation.
[pause]
GT: With your time at Mepal, Mepal was a big station. It obviously had three flights of —
HP: It only had one squadron.
GT: One squadron but three flights.
HP: Yeah.
GT: So you would have had something like thirty plus aircraft. So, so what things around Mepal did you guys get up to during your off time? Pubs? Dances?
HP: Well, Ely was the best place to get to. It was about ten, twelve possibly miles to to the east there and they had restaurants, pubs. And generally speaking there were so many aerodromes within East Anglia, and this was 3 Group that you were made pretty welcome where every you were because the local inhabitants knew what you were up to, had an idea of of casualty rates so there was, there was friendly stuff everywhere. And that’s what it was. Leave was compulsory every six weeks which was a terrible thing to happen. To have to happen.
GT: One of the major things that some of the aircrew faced was lack of moral fibre or LMF. Was that something you were aware of or that was talked of amongst the aircrew?
HP: All aircrew were volunteers and you could not be charged with a refusal to fly as such. What, what happened was that the refusal stimulated the impression of a rubber stamp with the letters LMF on all your documents and this was a mark of shame. Lack of moral fibre. But you could not, you could not be charged. You could be sent to a disciplinary school which I think was based somewhere up in Yorkshire and have a fairly tough time but you could not be charged with a refusal to fly. So LMF was that. But you had the other symptom which was known as being flak happy where perhaps the odd member of a crew in the mess would sit on his own in an armchair just not communicating and he would be referred probably to the medical officer and he would be taken off flying on medical grounds. That was different from LMF.
GT: Did you get a chance to see them before they left or they just disappeared and another person replaced them?
HP: They disappeared very quickly. As I say it was not what, nobody wanted it to be contagious.
GT: Your, your skipper, you joined the crew with was Flight Sergeant Goode. Paddy Goode, you say. And the first part of February he was a flight sergeant and early in March he was, he was commissioned to flying officer.
HP: No. At that, at that time an instruction went out, presumably from the Air Ministry that all pilots in squadrons in Bomber Command should be, should be commissioned. So, at that stage instead of being the seven of us in the same hut and in the same mess he got sent off to be in a different hut and a different mess. And neither he nor we were over enthusiastic about it but but we recognised that it was a, well a recognition of his duties as the pilot and skipper of the, of the crew. And this was something we had to tolerate.
GT: You got on already with all of your crew really well?
HP: Yes. We were all, all a bit different but we all trusted each other which was, that was the part that was essential. We had —
GT: Was it something that was taught, told to you, or it just gelled when you all got together?
HP: Well, it happened and it had to happen because if you became an untrusted member of the crew. No. It was not acceptable.
GT: And all of your crew were British.
HP: Yes.
GT: And did you follow any of them up during, after the war?
HP: No. No. After I, we got posted to 90 Squadron as a crew after the war in Europe finished and we understood although we were never told officially that in September we would be sent out with Tiger Force to Okinawa to take part in the Japanese war. Fortunately, two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we never had to go. And when those bombs were dropped and the news came across on the wireless in the mess a cheer went up.
GT: With 75 New Zealand Squadron at Mepal once VE day occurred there was pretty much the mass posting of all others than New Zealanders, and 75 New Zealand Squadron moved from Mepal to Spilsby. So your whole crew, being British you were shifted to 90 Squadron. What was your role then and what did you achieve from, from VE Day onwards with 90? Because your whole crew moved, didn’t it?
HP: Yeah.
GT: Yeah.
HP: Oh, it was just another, another squadron. We were, we were new in there. It had been an operational squadron. The other aircrews knew that we had been on operations so there was no antagonism or anything else like that. You just went and you fitted in. No problem.
GT: What was the role of 90 Squadron for that time then? What did you do specifically for them?
HP: After [pause] after the war one of its principal duties was taking part in Operation Review which was a photographic survey of the whole of Europe taken with two large cameras and lasting many many hours.
GT: 90 Squadron at that time was at RAF Tuddenham.
HP: Yes.
GT: And where was —
HP: Which was Suffolk.
GT: In Suffolk. Ok. So, with the cameras what did you have to do to achieve the shots they asked of you?
HP: Well, you, you had to make sure that they were correctly positioned in regard to the drift of the aircraft as, because the line of the photographs had to be in a direct line. Not the curving line of that. And the other thing you had to do was to reflect the speed of the aircraft either in one direction or the other according to the timing of the exposure.
GT: Did you review your photographs after or were they just taken away and —
HP: They were taken. They were taken away and developed and very often they would be posted as a whole series of them in a very large room which showed whether there were any gaps or not.
GT: Did you have to go back and do some that you’d missed?
HP: That had to be done. If there were, if there were gaps.
GT: Was that 90 squadron’s sole role at that time or were there other squadrons doing the same thing?
HP: I don’t know.
GT: The use of the camera when you got to 90 Squadron, was that something that you’d done before or you had to be taught it?
HP: No. No. If you have a look in the logbook you will see that just after the posting to 90 Squadron I think there is a reference to training for use of the camera. [pause] Yes.
GT: Yeah.
HP: You found it.
GT: Yeah. Yeah. Ok. So once, now was the camera hard mounted in to the floor of the Lancaster? Did they cut a hole and then hard mount the camera or just hold it?
HP: In in the floor of a Lancaster there was space for a downward firing gun which would be mounted on a bar over this and it was that particular area where the bar was and the cameras were fitted down there.
GT: Were there any ventral gunners on 75 Squadron during ops that you know of?
HP: Any?
GT: Ventral gun position and a under, under gunner they called them.
HP: No. I don’t remember. I think that the, you either had a ventral one which had a .5 Browning mounted on the bar like that or alternatively it was where the HTS radar device was mounted and H2S radar devices were not popular with the aircrew because the Germans could home on the signals.
GT: Making you rather vulnerable. 75 Squadron did have a under belly gunner on, one on each flight. I’ve interviewed a chap who was one of those gunners and he was just dropped off and said, ‘You’re in it.’ So I was wondering if you’d seen that and that was only a modification made to one or two aircraft. So on 90 Squadron the whole fleet or the whole squadron —
HP: Yeah.
GT: Had that modification.
HP: Yeah. Well, all the Lancasters had the hole. Sometimes it was with a ventral turret. Sometimes it was with a .5 machine gun just mounted on there. Sometimes it was H2S. Most of the time it was just blanked off.
GT: Ok. Going back to your firing 303 rounds compared to fifty cal rounds. So half inch versus three point three.
HP: I never fired much. I never really fired any .5s.
GT: That must have been a bigger lead with a bigger bullet heading off to the enemy. Yeah. The target.
HP: Yeah, but yeah, and of course, with more noise and more kick but a slower rate of fire.
GT: So, once you’d completed your flying and review camera work on 90 Squadron in October 1945 that was the last of your flying time was that right?
HP: It was. Yes.
GT: Where did they post you from there?
HP: Because of my occupation before going in to the Air Force I I was posted to a school for RAF accounts equipment and pay because that was my civilian trade. And that’s what I did for the rest of my time until I was demobbed.
GT: Had you completed your accountant programme there before the war?
HP: No. No. You had five years articles. I started at sixteen. I would have finished by the time I was twenty one but war service of course interrupted that. As a concession for war service you could serve as an article clerk three years instead of five and you could get consideration in the final examination on two subjects or exemption from the intermediate. I went for exemption on the intermediate knowing that I would need to do the finals.
GT: And you completed your accountancy. Your chartered accountancy.
HP: Oh yes.
GT: And that gave you your future.
HP: That was my trade for life.
GT: And what companies did you work for for that? Is it a whole myriad or one or two you stood out for?
HP: Well, yes. Having, having been articled in a small country town I then worked in, in London, in the City of London for three years. And in 1952, by this time we were married and had a child my wife and I we went and lived in Calcutta, Dacca, Chittagong for five, for five years and came back and got a job with a construction material company which was taken over with various successes but that lasted until I retired at the age of sixty.
GT: And where did you meet your wife? During the wartime or was it post-war?
HP: We met, we met in April 1945. Yeah, and got married in October 1946 and, can you stop a moment?
[recording paused]
HP: We met in April. April 1945 and we got on well together but by about the end of May 1945 she gave me a photograph of herself which in those days was, didn’t necessarily represent a commitment but meant she wouldn’t really mind seeing you again and that photograph I have now and it is in my bedroom and it overlooks my bed. And that is it and you can see it for yourself.
GT: That is wonderful. It is special. Thank you for showing me. And her name?
HP: Elaine.
GT: Elaine.
HP: E L A I N E. Yeah.
GT: Yeah. And how many children did you have between you?
HP: We had three. Three children of whom you’ve met. We had three children. We have seven grandchildren and so far only seven great grandchildren. But no doubt there will be more.
GT: Fascinating. And you retired from your accountancy work and did you do anything special after that?
HP: No. Well, I was involved in all sorts of odd things you know in relation to sport, fisheries and in relation, and in relation to work. I was on the London and South East Regional Planning Committee you know for about sort of five years after I retired and various other oddments, you know. Yeah. But I was on the National Fisheries Committee and that was a very interesting one. You may have heard of a rugby player called Gareth Edwards who was in the Welsh team in the early ‘70s. I was the representative of Thames Water Fisheries and he of the South Wales Fisheries and at the meetings we used to sit next, next to each other. Gareth was a lovely man.
GT: Fascinating. And you retired here to Abingdon. How long have you been living here?
HP: We [pause] we lived in Abingdon from 1959 when we came back from India and stayed in the same house until my wife died in 1999. And I now live in this block of retirement flats alone and solitary. Yeah. But with the, with the family fortunately daughter and two sons all within ten miles.
GT: Fabulous support.
HP: Yes.
GT: In 2012 there was a special Memorial unveiled in London.
HP: It was. The Bomber Command Memorial and I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to that through the Bomber Command Association.
GT: And that’s where you and I met for the first time.
HP: Yes.
GT: You were in a crowd and you met Denise Boneham from 75 UK Association.
HP: Yeah.
GT: And she came down and she said, ‘We’ve found another 75 Squadron chap.’
HP: Yeah.
GT: That was wonderful and there was a photograph of you and I and for years I wondered who you were. So it was, it was fabulous to meet up with you again Hugh a couple of years ago. So, so you were also a member of the UK 75 Squadron Association for a while. Was that right?
HP: I was but that finished years ago.
GT: They, they moved from being totally for the veteran side to to become Friends of the 75 Squadron UK Association so, so you’re still a member.
HP: Yes.
GT: But that’s fair dos to you.
HP: I have no connection with it. I don’t receive anything from them, from them —
GT: Well —
HP: And you know time goes past.
GT: Well, I know you’re on the mailing list so obviously it’s the mailman is not delivering the right parcel here. But so, so if you have a look at your wartime service, the volunteer side of things it’s something that you decided you had to do. You wanted to serve your king and country. Do you feel that you did your bit?
HP: Yes. I think taking a risk did because you didn’t know totally what would be involved when you did it. It was, it was not pleasant being operational but as operational aircrew there was a certain caché about it and you know being around with a brevet and so forth you had strange privileges. As I say, leave every six months, sorry every six weeks and possibly once a year when you went on leave in addition to your normal pay you got five shillings a day from the Nuffield fund. And since your pay was eight shillings a day the extra five shillings was a substantial addition. Particularly when beer was less than a shilling a pint. So yes, there was a certain glamour attached as well, as well as the dangers. There were privileges but you had to, you had physical and mental stress. The mental stress obviously from that but the physical stress from, from the cold and the discomfort and general cramp of not being able to move for five or six hours perhaps. Yeah.
GT: When you did your review flying and you were flying across Germany and France to across all the bombing sites did you concentrate on your job or did you notice what had been happening?
HP: No. This was a review. A geographical review. A photographic review of the whole of Europe to get a photographic map of the whole of Europe. Anything to do with bombing areas that would be done by sort of Bomber Command doing that for the purpose of getting damages but there wasn’t a great deal of difference between damages at Hamburg and damages at Dresden, you know. You got buildings destroyed and you could, it didn’t take much to imagine the very unpleasant consequences for that. One occasion which did stick in my mind is in April ’45 there was a publication of photographs of the concentration camp at Belsen where there were literally piles of corpses and Jewish survivors, very thin and skeletal and seeing those photographs certainly as far as I was concerned and I think as far as many others were concerned removed any thought of guilt about having dropped bombs on German civilians. It was not a pleasant experience.
GT: Bomber Harris was your initial or ultimate boss.
HP: He was.
GT: Could he have done it any other way?
HP: No.
[pause]
GT: Given the equipment you were given and the tasks you undertook.
HP: Don’t forget that quite apart from the area, area bombings and B) the ones we were after which were specialised on the synthetic oil plants he also had the precision bombings of, if you like the viaducts with the ten thousand pound bombs and the bouncing bomb against the dams. They were part of his job as well to look after those. But the bulk of the people and the aircraft involved were more or less mass destruction of one sort or another but he did have the specialised ones as well.
GT: What was the talk of Bomber Harris after the war?
HP: Oh, he —
GT: Did he deserve accolades or peerage?
HP: Yes. He took the blame for every German civilian killed. He was the one who said yes and it, there were a whole lot of British people who looked after that. They saw the bomb damage in say Dresden and Hamburg which was a lot greater than the bomb damage of Liverpool and London. But it was proportionate to the time when the bombing was done because the Germans were unable to continue their bombing raids. They would have been very happy to do so. Instead of having live aircraft with live people on they had the V weapons. The V-1 and the, and the V-2 which were totally indiscriminate.
GT: There’s obviously in the last ten years been much talk of a campaign medal for those of Bomber Command. The men that survived and did not survive.
HP: Yes.
GT: What is your opinion and thoughts on that?
HP: Well, yes. That there should be recognition because of the high proportion of casualties. Let me just say the numbers involved for the record. I’m sure you got it everywhere else. Bomber Command were all volunteers. A hundred and twenty thousand went in to Bomber Command. Of those fifty five thousand were killed, ten thousand taken prisoner and seven thousand wounded. So it was not a healthy occupation and there was good cause and good reason for some sort of recognition. Yes, a medal was campaigned for but you have to remember now that we now have a clasp to fit on to our medals which says Bomber Command which was the recognition of the Bomber Command contribution. It specifically says so on it. Bomber Command. Now a medal you know would be another way of doing it but it is, it is recognition.
GT: Is there anything else that you can think of that would be of value for those people who are going to listen to this recording in the future that you might have thought of that could be of value?
HP: Well, the trouble is as you become less young it’s not too easy to recall things. In fact, I do have a problem with this. Sometimes I forget I’ve got amnesia [pause] And that might be a good note to finish on.
GT: Hugh, it’s, it’s been marvellous to have a chat with you. Thank you very much for talking with me on the interview. I certainly appreciate your company and it’s great to drive all this way today to see you and I’ll go back to New Zealand very soon but it’s been a pleasure to know you and thank you very much. I’ll give you the last word, Hugh.
[pause]
HP: Ok. Thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Glen Turner, “Interview with Hugh Parry. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 3, 2024, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/9641.

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