This is a true story, enjoy it and remember, these are true words.
How I Didn't Win The War
By David Golding
Some years ago my younger son Paul became a vociferous critic of the "A" bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so much so that I got rather fed up with him. At the time of that bombing I was serving in transport command, flying from Ceylon to Australia - in fact I spent VJ day on top of a hotel in Perth rather worse from wear for alcohol. I said to Paul "If the Japs had not been "A" bombed into surrendering I'd have been back on operations and possibly shot down over Japan and you my boy would not have existed so please 'Shut up'".
However this started me on a chain of thought that whatever I did in the RAF had not the slightest effect on the wars outcome compared with say, the invention of radar, Winston Churchill, the battle of Stalingrad, Lease-Lend etc, etc.
With this in mind this story must revolve around a series of inconsequentialities. As most discussion of events at that time in a typical mess was generally centred on sexual exploits and consumption of alcohol half the things I would have spoken about are debarred by the presence of the fairer sex. But here goes for the other half.
In 1939 I was at school in Hendon. My father was a schoolmaster at a school in the east end of London and when war broke out his school was evacuated to Cambridgeshire and I went with him transferring to a school in March. I was then seventeen. It was there I first prepared to defend king and country by joining the LDV a sort of forerunner of Private Pike of 'Dads Army'. It had been the family intention that my future career would be that of a research chemist (contrary to my own wishes of being an explorer). I had taken my matric under the aegis of London University so when June 1940 came round I had to go to Battersea Polytechnic to take my inter BSC which I did on July 17th (Incidentally I passed in three subjects and failed in one).
I had relatives in North London with whom I stayed and on July 20th I took myself to Edgware recruiting centre and told them I wanted to be a pilot. They gave me a brief medical and sent me to Uxbridge where I was further examined and given an intelligence test, which consisted of two questions.
- What countries border the Black Sea?
- I have to drive two miles at an average of 60 mph, I do the first mile at 30 mph; at what speed must I do the second?
I answered 'A' correctly but failed 'B' can you get it right?
Anyway it was decreed that I should become an observer (whatever that was) and be paid one shilling a day (5p) until I started training. I was given an uncomfortable and itchy uniform, a pair of indifferently fitted boots and a travel warrant to Blackpool where I spent two weeks drilling under a Corporal Ormerod. At the end of this fortnight I had learnt to drill and drink beer, I don't recall the price of a pint but on seven shillings a week (and I smoked twenty Woodbines a day at a cost of 4d) I couldn't have drunk an awful lot.
The Air Council then decreed that I went to Hooton Park aerodrome (nr Liverpool) to defend it against his majesties enemies. I lived in a tent with five other chaps, next to me slept a public schoolboy from Malvern, I'd never knowingly met one before. He was very posh and was going to be a W/OP AG and who subsequently became very famous - Denholme Elliot. Being in neighbouring beds I'm glad to say that he wasn't then apparently of unorthodox sexual habits - you may recall he eventually died of aids. It was at Hooton Park that I had my first frightening moment. Some cows had strayed into the flying field, which I was patriotically guarding. A sergeant said, "You, get those cows out of it." "Sergeant." I replied and walked towards them and they all but one wandered off. The one just stood there. I shouted out "Shoo" but it just stood there. Mindful of the sergeant instructions I moved nearer and repeated my shout. Instead of retreating it commenced to advance on me and bonked me with its head and horns on my hip, knocking me over - then, slowly walked away leaving me feeling like a failed matador - a bruised one at that.
After a few weeks I was given leave and went off to see my father at Chatteris and to Alesbury to see my mother and sister. On returning to Hooton Park I found I was posted to Number 10 ITW at Scarborough to commence my training. On arrival there I was put in a hotel (whose name escapes me) with two of us to a room. It was done alphabetically and I was roomed with a chap called Alan Grossmith, who was also a trainee observer, and who was later killed on Manchester's - a two-engined aircraft that was the forerunner of the famous Lancaster. I was there for eight weeks in mid-winter and I have shivering memories of 8am each morning where there was a choice of PT on the seafront, a swim in the sea or cross-country running through snow on the hills. I chose to run, which, believe it or not, I rather enjoyed.
It was at Scarborough that a very important part of my life occurred - I learnt to play bridge which I have played with great enthusiasm ever since. The two chaps in the room next to Alan and I were both players, as was Alan, so for convenience sake I had to make up the four. I'd never played before and so they decreed that I'd have an hours instruction then we would play - but not for money the first week but thereafter 1d a hundred. On pay which was, by then, was two shillings a day I learnt quite quickly.
At the end of the eight weeks we went our separate ways, pilots to EFTS, observers to B&GS. I was sent to Dumfries in Scotland. There I was issued with flying kit, a white flash to put in my cap and an LAC's badge, a propeller to put on my sleeve. Bombing training took place both in the classroom and in a Fairy Battle aircraft. Training consisted of learning about bombs, their individual purposes, the fuses that set them off and what to do when they didn't release from the aircraft. The types of bombs were
- General purpose
- Semi armour piercing
- Armour piercing
For instance, in attacking a battleship an armour-piercing bomb was used so as to break through the decks. The fuse had to be delay fuse cause if it went of the moment it hit there'd be no time to pierce the decks. If dropping a bomb on troops there'd be an instantaneous fuse so that as soon as it hit the blast would be maximised. This was the world of theory; the skill lay in dropping them.If a bomb were dropped from a stationary target balloon through windless air it would fall directly below the balloon. A bomb though is normally dropped from a moving aircraft. At the precise time of leaving the aircraft it is travelling in the same direction and speed as the aircraft is, but as soon as it starts falling the wind and air resistance affects it. The higher the aircraft is the longer these effects have on the bombs course. These factors are set on the bomb aiming apparatus, known as the bombsight. The bomb aimer has to place the 'sighting point' on top of the target. He as to guide the pilot so as to achieve this which he does by saying "left, left" or "right" or "steady" and when this position takes place he then presses a button and the bomb is released. Believe me, its far easier said than done.
The gunnery course had to teach you how to aim a gun and what to do if it went wrong. If you pointed the gun at a moving target and fired by the time the bullets arrived at the target, the target will have moved on - even if it stayed still the bullets would be dropping down and thus you would miss it -the gun sight would help you allow for these things. SO what you do is fire a where the target will be when the bullets arrive. The practical gunnery training took place in a Whitely in which both 'free' guns and turret manipulation was involved. The free gun was a Lewis gun which incorporated a round magazine with 50 .303 bullets. It was also very important to be able to identify which aircraft was friend and which was foe for very obvious reasons. I turned out to be a good bomb aimer but only a so-so air gunner.
At the end of this course I was sent down to an aerodrome called Bobbington in the Midlands, which later with the arrival of the American Air force was renamed to Half Penny Green. Here I was to learn the noble art of navigation amongst other things. The flying part of the course was carried out in Avro Ansons. The things to learn as auxiliary skills were Morse code; we had to be able to send and receive eight words a minute (a proper W/OP could de twenty), which I could just do, and also to learn about meteorology. This included recognition of different types of cloud and their significance to the weather.
Aerial navigation differs form marine navigation as everything happens a great deal faster, but whereas nautical navigation has to be correct to within yards aerial navigation is a lot less precise. All that is needed for accuracy (assuming your instruments are in good order) on the water is knowledge of sea currents affecting your boat, which in general terms remain fairly constant; but in the air it is winds, which affect the plane, and they are changing all the time. When an Aircraft is in the air its path over the ground is determined by its speed and direction through the air, and the direction and speed of the wind moving that air. The skill of the navigator is thus determined by his ability to judge these factors. In say, a five hour flight with a wind blowing at 30 mph (at 10,000ft that is quite slow) you'll be 150 miles away from where you would be without wind. The navigator always wants to know where he is. This is simple over land and in daylight with no cloud beneath him - he just looks at the map; but above cloud; at night or over the sea other methods must be used. These are
1. Direction finding radio
2. Astro navigation
3. Dead reckoning
Direction finding works by using a loop aerial to find the direction a radio beacon lies in. DO this to three beacons, plot on a map the three directions and where they intersect is where you are, in practise they rarely do but the three lines form a 'cocked hat' and the middle of this is taken as where you are.
Astro navigation is an art. It uses the position of the stars to determine your position. At any given time there is a place on Earth directly underneath any star, this is known as the sub stellar point. If you are at the sub stellar point of, say, Sirius, you would have to look up at an angle of 90 degrees, or vertically, to look directly at it. The further away from the sub stellar point you are the lower this angle becomes; thus given a book which tells you where, at any given moment the sub stellar point of Sirius is, it is, given the angle subtended from the earth's surface possible to fid out how far away you are from the sub stellar point. You thus know that you are positioned on a circle. On a map this circle appears to be a straight line (in the same way the Earth appears to be flat, or straight, to the eye although you know its really round). Perform this operation to three stars and draw the three straight lines on your map so as to have a cocked hat. You find the angle subtended (or altitude) by means of a sextant, which is held level by utilizing a bubble to give the true horizon. At the same time as you read off the altitude from the sextant you read off the time from your watch. For every four seconds your watch is out your line is out by a mile. By ingenious devices the sextant averages sixty readings in a minute. There are twenty-two 'navigation' stars, some only usable in the south and other north of the equator. There is also Polaris, the pole star that is rather different from the others. The navigator must be able to recognise these stars of course to be able to work out his position. The sun can also be used but only to give you line of position.
Dead reckoning comes into use when you can't see anything and can't use the radio. It consists of drawing your course (or direction the aircraft is heading in), distance travelled through the air and then adding in what effect the wind has had on you.
From all these positioning finding systems you then work out what direction you have to fly in to get where you want to go and when you want to get there. Nowadays all this is done by radar and computers, but in my day there were none available for me to use.
At the end of this course I became Sgt Observer Golding and was paid 13 shillings a day - oh! Untold wealth. I even made an allowance of 14 shillings a week to my mother, which she saved up for me. How I swanked about with my three stripes and my flying arsehole beret. All that remained for me to do was to go to an operational training unit to be welded into a complete crew ready to strike at the foe. The OTU selected for me was No 13 at Bicester in Oxfordshire - this was a Blenheim OTU. A Blenheim has a crew of three, pilot, observer and W/OP AG. There were two sorts of Blenheims - short nose (mark 1) and long nose (mark 4). Whatever marks 2 and 3 were I know not. On arrival at Bicester the three trades milled about forming themselves into crews, no one knew each other except for me and a chap called Les Hill who had been in my year in Hendon County School. We still see each other now and again and for several years after the war we played cricket and football together for the old boys. The third chap was a midlander called Graham Wright. Les Hill was a great catch as a pilot as he had experience as an instructor. We took part as a crew in all aspects of operational flying. We bombed targets at both high and low level; fired guns at targets, Graham from the turret, me from the front, flew to various destinations and generally prepared ourselves for warlike duties on joining a squadron. Come December and we were finally ready, so to do. Our first duty was to take a Blenheim to the Middle East preparatory to joining a squadron there. The plane was collected from the Bristol factory at Filton, then via Gibraltar, Malta to Cairo. In between Gibraltar and Cairo I saw my first enemy plane in our own airspace. It was a FW119 (the Zerstorer) a twin boom job. It was flying west whilst we were flying east. I presume it was as eager to avoid us as we were it so were able to continue on our way.
When we arrived in Cairo we were sent to join 211 squadron at Helwan. By now the Japs were well stuck into the Far East and the air ministry decreed that they were, and I quote, "to be confronted by a vast aerial armada from the Middle East." This consisted of the thirty-six Blenheims of 211 and 84 squadrons. The emperor however shrugged of this threat with equanimity and pressed on with his attack. Our crew of three was enlarged by Wilf Hillman a ground crew corporal as were other crews, he had to sit on my lap all the to Singapore, which, incidentally fell before we got there. Our route was via Jordan, Iraq, Bahrain, and Sharjah, India where at Allahabad disaster struck the Hill crew. Blenheims have both inner and outer fuel tanks. In India there was a shortage of 100 octane fuel (which is needed for take off) so it was only put in the outer tanks and lower (87) octane was put in the inners to cruise with or, that's what should have happened, but it didn't because the Indian ground crews muddled it up so on take off the engines cut out and the aircraft dropped down and was damaged a bit. No one realised why, so after repairs we effected we tried again and the same thing happened. This time Les realised what was wrong so more minor repairs and off we went, two days later having lost the rest of the squadron, which was now five days ahead of us, then on to Burma, Sumatra and Java. When we eventually caught up with them (we had further problems in Sumatra because of the Japs.) fifteen of the squadron had been shot down, so like as not the ground crew at Allahabad had saved our lives!
By now the Japs had arrived in Java so what little was left of the squadron made for Tjillatjap and embarked on a tramp steamer (Kota Gede) which sailed for Ceylon with 2,800 aboard. Rations consisted of a cigarette tin of stew and the same tin filled with water once a day, this lasted for ten days. The last memory I have of Java as the transport taking us to the port of Tjillatjap was of an American wireless operator air gunner of 84 squadron named (improbably) Folliot Foster. He had two Smith & Wesson revolvers and declared "I'm not running from those yellow bastards!" and strode back along the road we had just come along. Goodness knows what happened to him. At Colombo we embarked on a troop ship for Karachi. After hanging around for five or six weeks we went to Peshawar to join 20 squadron (lysanders) and two weeks later the squadron went to Jamshedpur in Bengal. The Lysander had a two-man crew of pilot and WOP/AG. My duty was to teach the WOP/AG's to map read.
Stationed in Karachi
I digress at this point to tell the story of one WOP/AG Chunky Lyons. His aircraft was flying just below cloud when a hurricane dropped below cloud level; Chunky to whom aircraft recognition was an unknown science saw it and fired just one bullet when his gun jammed but the one shot bought down the hurricane, luckily the pilot survived.
20 squadron then converted to hurricanes and thus I became redundant. I was sent to 221 groups HQ in Alipore, a Calcutta suburb. Here I became an assistant to a squadron leader Leedham-Green. I can't for the life of me remember what he did and thus what I assisted him to do. It so happened that my cousin Leslie was in charge of a factory making uniforms so I thus had a home from home, which was rather nice for me. The other good thing was that pre-war the squadron leader played cricket for Warwickshire second eleven and so ran the 221 group cricket team. His first question was "Do you play cricket?" and by wildly exaggerating my prowess I was put in the units team as opening bat. In my first game on the Maharaja of Cooch Bechars ground an Indian gentleman called Banerjee bowled the first ball of the match to me. As I started to play forward my middle stump shot out of the ground. Mr Banerjee later came to England to play for India in a test series. The squadron leader was not over pleased with my performance and henceforth I batted rather lower down the order.
In April 1943 I was sent to Peshawar to another Blenheim OTU. This time I was crewed up with a sergeant Palmer. We were posted to 42 squadron at a place called Kumbirgram in Assam. Here I went, or nearly went on my first offensive operation. There were two pilots on the squadron called Ernie, nicknamed "effing" Ernie and "turn back" Ernie. I temporarily joined his crew and soon found out why. AN hour into the air and he said "There's something wrong with the port engine" and promptly returned to base. The Palmer crew just hung around for months and at the end of the year I was posted to a Liberator HCU at Salbani in Bengal. An HCU is like an OTU except the aircraft are four engined ones. Whilst there I actually attacked the enemy for the first time, dropping 5,000lbs of bombs on a Jap supply dump near Prome in Burma, I flew as navigator and bomb aimer.
With typical RAF non-logic at the end of this course I found myself on a Wellington squadron, number 215 at Jessore in Bengal. By this time in the wars progress observers were no longer being trained, replaced by navigators or bomb aimers. This squadron was going to be Liberators later and the senior flight commander, later to become the CO, wanted someone who could do both jobs and thus he took me into his crew so at last I became a real live operational crew member of a wimpy squadron.
On April 5th 1944 a temporary fame was thrust upon me for on that day the first 4,000lb bomb was dropped outside of Europe and I dropped it on port called Akyab, then I dropped a second on Mandalay. Both of these operations were at night. Later that month I flew as a screen navigator cum front gunner in a daylight operation to a target called Kalewa. A screen navigator is used when an inexperienced navigator makes his first trip as a back up in cast things go wrong.
In May I became a warrant officer and did a couple of bomb ferrying trips with a flight sergeant Nixon, the Wellingtons being used to transport 250lb bombs to a forward aerodrome cut off by the Japs, they were used by Hurricanes operating from there.
July and the squadron gave up its Wimpies and moved to Kolar in South India to convert to Liberators. This heavy bomber with four engines has an eleven-man crew, pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, two W/OPS, navigator, bomb aimer and four gunners. A lot of the crew at the HCU at Kolar were Australians. Many of them greatly enjoyed gambling at poker. I enjoyed poker as well but (And I use the words correctly) I wasn't really a gambler. To me it was a game requiring common sense, for instance, to try and fill and inside straight wasn't common sense, but the gamblers tried to. We played poker endlessly and by dint of common sense I finished up very well in pocket and didn't touch my pay for the whole period. On the subject of gambling I tell the tale of an Aussie Sergeant called O'Malley. A lot of us used to go to Calcutta race track on Saturdays which included O'Malley. I don't remember the precise amounts involved but lets say he went in with 100 rupees, about £7.00. All of which was put on a horse in the first race, which won. He put all of his stake and winnings on a horse in the second, which won, All his winnings went on the third, which won and so on until the seventh and last race of the day when his horse lost. Up till this point he had been several thousands of pounds ahead. "How could you lose all the that money?" we said to him. All he said was "All I Lost was 100 rupees." That's gambling!. After two months training we went to Digri in Bengal to recommence ops.
L For London / M for Mother Liberator crew.
Jock day that died during a raid is positioned back row third from left.
I am front row second from left
L For London Crew
Pilot - Jimmy Sindell
Co-Pilot - Bill Waddington
Navigator - David Golding
Bomb Aimer - Smokie Williams
Flight Engineer - 'Jock' Forbes
Wireless Operator - Roy Nicholls
2nd Wireless Operator - 'Lucky' Cooper
Ball Gunner - Bernie Deacon
Front Gunner - Charlie Higgs
Mid-Upper Gunner - George Duncan
Rear Gunner - 'Jock' Day
Generally bombers had two tasks to perform.
1. To bomb Jap troops
2. Cut lines of communication (between ammunition dumps and forward troops/ arms dumps.)
The bombing of enemy troops was generally a safe proposition from our point of view but the arms dumps were very heavily defended with AA batteries and quite a few fighter aircraft. The Jap fighter was not much of a match for a formation of sixteen Liberators each with 10x.5 machine guns. Apart from navigating I had to undertake the duties of fire controller when we were the lead aircraft (which we generally were as we were the CO's crew). This consisted of putting my head in the Astro dome and broadcasting to the squadron's gunners the position of enemy fighters, e.g., fighter 11 o'clock out of range, 10 o'clock high out of range, 10 o'clock level in range, with the words "in range" my voice generally rose an octave and ended with a gulp. In February 1945 my own crew notched a success when our second wireless operator "Lucky" Cooper manning a beam gun shot down a navy Zero in flames.
The actual aircraft we flew in, and as noted "Lucky" Coopers success in this issue
Of 'The Royal Air Force'
Around this time a horrid rumour started circulating that the fighters were adopting Kamikaze tactics reckoning that if they crashed into the lead aircraft the resulting crash would bring down a few others. Being generally in the lead aircraft I was not over enthusiastic about this tactic, however, I suspect it was no more than a rumour. Incidentally the word Kamikaze means 'divine win' Its origin goes back to the 13th century when Kublai Kahn set out to attack Japan but his ships were driven back by a divine wind.
One of our goals as I said was to disrupt communications and one of our main targets was the Burma railway and the line ran through a series of narrow valleys so attacks had to be made at low level and a Liberator is a pretty big target at 200 feet. We lost our rear gunner Jock Day on 10th December 1944 (see picture two) on one such attack as his head was blown clean off his shoulders (We had that day machine-gunned the Burma-Siam railway, bombed Kanchinabruy, attacked two trains and a gunboat). We also lost two engines, first one then another and had to fly back to base, five hours away, the aircraft (L for London) was completely written off as on our return the undercarriage would not come down. Few, if any, other aircraft would have stayed up for five hours in such a condition.
Also in March as you can see, the longest raid of the war to date
Took place. It was my privilege of leading that raid as navigator.
The formation bombing of Jap troop positions led to one amusing story, which gives a lie to newspaper reports, it did not concern our squadron. Concentrations of troops were reported to be in the large walled grounds of a Buddhist temple complex. The temple itself was slap bang in the middle of the complex and was thus given as the squadrons aiming point. The operation was a success, nearly all of the bombs landing within the complex walls. However, not a single bomb hit the aiming point, the temple. There were always photos taken so that intelligence could judge the efficiency of the raid. Such photos were frequently published in the papers. Following this one the Times of India published the photo with the words "superbly accurate bombing by the RAF ensured that no bomb hit the temple and thus there was no upset to the Burmese Buddhists."
Paper cutting: I love the 'nonchalant yet Audacious' statement
There was also the occasional operation that was outside our usual duties. Such a one was to Vinh in what is now North Vietnam. The cloak and dagger people wanted to land someone there and wanted cover in the shape of a bombing nearby. The only dodgy thing about this operation was the need to fly at 17,000ft a lot of the way in monsoon season. The CO decided to do this trip himself. We had to refuel at a forward aerodrome (Chittagong) and could only take 1,500lbs of bombs. Going there presented no problems but coming back we ran out of oxygen. Its deficiency produces an effect like to much alcohol. The higher you fly the more disorientated and sleepy you get. It starts after a while at 10,000ft and gets quite severe at 16,000ft. The usual cure is to descend but the clouds were stuffed full of mountains so this was impossible. The CO who was the oldest member of the crew handed over to co-pilot Bill Waddington. He and I were fortunately possessed of good lungs and so kept more or less sensible until I was sure we were clear of the higher mountains but all the others were variously worse for wear.
All commissioned officers on flying duties are categorised (for instance) Flying Officer General duties and in addition to being a pilot or whatever often had some other task to perform. By now I was a Pilot officer and because I had a smattering of Hindustani and because of my Calcutta based cousin knew that city a bit I became unit flying rations officer. The air force does not provide food in the air for aircrew but made an allowance of eight annas a man for all flights over eight hours. I used to have a van and driver to take me into Calcutta to spend this money at intervals. A lot of food was then on ration and had to be bought on the black market which I enjoyed doing. When it got back to the camp it was turned into sandwiches and the like. It was hardly Haute cuisine but at least it was fairly fresh. In order to supplement our ground food Smokey Williams and I used to shoot paddy birds to help out. We used to be utter cads and shoot them on the ground rather than flying so as to conserve ammunition for our squadron's two shotguns. When I used to go to Calcutta to buy flying rations I had a rather nice girl friend called (would you believe) Gloria Solomon's, a Jewish girl. She lived at home with her parents and family. The only name I can remember was her dad's Charlie. He used to sit in a big armchair in the sitting room, which the front door of their apartment opened onto. On this occasion when I called he wasn't there and neither was Gloria. Her mother opened the door
"Hallo" I said, "Gloria in?"
"No" she replied.
"Where's Charlie?" I asked
"He's gone away."
"Where he gone?"
"He's gone away."
"Yes, but where's he gone to?"
At this point she burst into tears. "So where's he gone?" Suddenly the penny (or rather the Anna) dropped. Since my last visit a month or so ago he had passed away. The floor did not open up beneath me unfortunately.
When we flew on formation trips we used to take off separately and then rendezvous over a pre-selected place out at sea, generally an island called Ramree then get into formation on our way to the target via an identification point. We occasionally did joint operations with the USAAF's flying fortresses. Their navigators, other than the leaders, were not over competent and they normally flew by day in formation and just followed the Number one aircraft. So they not infrequently followed the odd RAF Liberator. The normal squadron formation was a box of boxes (see below) from whence comes a true story.
One of our squadron pilots was a chap by the name of 'Dizzy' Neville, I've no idea why he was called 'Dizzy' and it doesn't really matter. On one of the Rangoon raids Dizzy's co pilot was not available and one of the new inexperienced chaps took his place. Dizzy was in Number four box, so his co-pilot was very busy adjusting the engine throttles to catch up or drop back a bit. There was a knurled knob at the side of the throttles that had to be loosened when an adjustment to the engine revs had to be made. The new boy was getting a wee bit agitated when the flack started flying and when Dizzy called for a reduction in revs he forgot to loosen the nut. He got a bit carried away and tugged on the four throttle levers cutting power to the four engines. Dizzy didn't realise what had happened and so through his intercom called "Skipper to crew, prepare to bail out!" In the ball turret that hangs below the aircraft sat Willy Reeks. To get out of the turret it had to be pumped up manually into the belly of the fuselage. A beam gunner, generally the second W/OP who having done this would take up his position back to the open air of the beam hatch, did this. Willy's position was likewise on the other side of the aircraft. The W/OPS helmet was still o his head but Willys was still in the ball turret. In less time than I've taken to recount this Dizzy had realized what had happened and got the four engines going properly again and called "skipper to crew, resume positions, alls well." The second W/OP of course heard this and gave Willy, who hadn't, the thumbs up sign which Willy construed as 'this is it," and went out backwards' Think of him on the way down "Hey, wait for me chaps." Some months later when Rangoon fell he was released from a POW camp and was court martialled for desertion in the face of the enemy he wasn't punished of course.
On 2/4/45 I finished my operational tour having completed 38 missions for a total of 300 hours 30 minutes operational flying. I was now a flying officer and was awarded the DFC, The skipper received the DSO.
DFC Press release from the London Gazette
At this time a new unit 232 Squadron was being formed to fly from Ceylon via the Cocos Islands to Australia using the Liberator Express, A transport command version of the bomber used to carry passengers and a little freight. Flying time to the Cocos from both Ceylon and Perth was about nine hours flying and was all over the sea. As the Cocos were about nine miles by two in size, it was not that easy to find so only well-experienced navigators were allowed to join this unit, there were six of us all told.
I was sent to Delhi where the squadron was based and there crewed up with a Canadian pilot, Bud Manchester. For a while we flew from Palam (Delhi) to Ratmalana (Colombo) and back to gain experience and then flew the Australian leg. One of my Hendon County school friends was Johnny Fuller; he joined the Fleet Air Arm when I joined the RAF. We maintained a very occasional correspondence. When I was in Ceylon I had a note from him, he was based at the time in Madras, I phoned his base and spoke to him and he flew down to Ratmalana and took me back to madras for a couple of days and then bought me back staying overnight in my hut. That evening we walked out onto the veranda to go to the mess. At the end of the veranda was a snake, quite a big one, coiled with its head about three feet of the ground. I nipped back into the hut, came out with my .38 Smith and Wesson and fired from the hip. I blew its head off. In 1998-99 Johnny Fuller appeared in my antique shop, my wife Pat was there and Johnny said, "Do you remember shooting that cobras head off?" I hadn't recalled that incident for years and years.
Me in 1945 with DFC
After a while a new aircraft joined the squadron, the DC4 or Skymaster. These were all B flight whose CO was squadron leader Baggy Sach. Some said this nickname was a corruption of Bacchus, the god of wine, others said it was due to his shape. At that time I had a large drinking capacity and Baggy had me transferred to his unit where I teamed up with F/Lt Kenny Bettles. Kenny had been a soldier then transferred to the RAF. He had flown cloak and dagger operations taking people in and out of occupied Europe. We did a few more trips to Australia and then the USA decided they wanted the DC4's back, the war ended and thus lease lend finished. These were dotted around the east and as there were only two Skymaster crews left in service it fell to us to collect half of them and take the back to England to be put into first class order and then to Norfolk, Virginia. Now, when the Hill crew had originally set out for the Middle East, the aerodrome we left from was Portneath. The evening before we left I went to the sergeant's mess and fell into conversation with another sergeant. Conversations frequently included questions about where one lived. Our conversation ran thus.
Him - "Where do you come from?"
Me - "Hendon"
Him - "My brother lives I Hendon"
Me - "Whereabouts?"
Him - "Greyhound Hill"
Me - "My mothers cousin lives in Greyhound Hill, Number 42"
Him - "That's where my brother lives"
Me - "He's married to Sophie then?"
Him - "That's right"
When we arrived in Lyneham on our return to England we went into the officers' mess, there was a chap at the bar who looked slightly familiar, we looked at each other and it clicked, "You're Bob Brickers brothers" I said. He was the last person I saw before leaving England and (to all intents and purposes) the first I saw on my return.
When I was evacuated to Chatteris and went to March Grammar School I went to lessons in the afternoon. In the mornings an evacuated London School, Tottenham County, occupied the school. I became friendly with one of their pupils, Betty Hermes. On one of my visits to London she went home as well and I went to her house and met her mother. After I joined the RAF we wrote to each other for a short while. The wheels turned. On our return to the UK in the Skymaster we had a few days off whilst it was serviced. On Saturday four of us decided to watch Spurs, after the game I recalled that Betty lived only five minutes walk from the ground so I suggested we called round. Her mother answered the door and greeted me.
"Is Betty home?" I asked
"No she's at work"
"She's on the stage at the Windmill."
Off to the Windmill we went and round to the stage door, to wait for her, sh was one of the nudes there. OH, was my stock high!!
It was left to us to which way we took them back so we went via Newfoundland, Bermuda and the Azores. When they were all back that was the end of my RAF service but as I had served abroad for so long I had four months paid leave and was finally demobbed in November 1946.
In 1948 I joined the RAF volunteer reserve and flew about practising navigation from a place called Panshanger (In Herts.) in case another war started up.
In the RAF volunteer reserve
In 1953 I was put on the inactive list then in 1958 I was finally referred, so THAT'S THAT.
I still see Les Hill about twice a year but its many years since I've seen anyone from those times. He married a cookery teacher and so we eagerly accept his invitation to Christmas dinner most years.
Certificate of service