I was 19 at the time, and volunteered for RAF Aircrew duties. This was March 1941, after various interviews I reported to Blackpool on Sept.3rd.1941,two years to the date of the declaration of World War 2. There I did my initial training of Morse code and square bashing, from there to Herefordshire for more Morse code, and then to Ringway(Manchester Airport now) flying as wireless operator in Whitley aircraft,dropping Paratroupers in training, over Tatton Park. In August 1942 I was posted back to Herefordshire to finish my wireless operators course , and then to Scotland for my gunnery course, then passing out as a wireless operator/air gunner in November 1942 (Sgt. Hill R.M.).
19.12.42 embarked on the Queen Mary for an unknown destination, but with khaki drill shorts in my kit bag, landed in Egypt in January just after El Alamein. Down to Kenya in February where I was crewed up with a pilot and navigator at an operational training unit, and then we were sent back to Egypt in May 1943.
From there we ferried a fighter bomber (Bisley Mark 5) to India, it taking us from Cairo West (LG 224) on the 19.6.43 to 19.8.43 to do 18.45 hours flying time, through a series of mishaps (2 new engines) flaps unserviceable, new wheels, a pilot with sunstroke, and a twisted airframe. After transit camps I was eventually transported to Bengal, the other side of India, and put on a conversion course for four-engined bombers and then to 159 Squadron liberators.
I remained on this squadron until November 1944, doing 32 operational sorties over Burma,Siam,Malaya, mine-laying,bombing,and my last operation as a pathfinder over Bangkok.My last flight on 159 squadron was a test flight on a B24 (liberator) to check if it was airworthy.
My two pilots were Wing Commander James Blackburn DSO and Bar,DFC and Bar, and second pilot was Group Captain Cheshire VC.
Distinguished company indeed.
My next posting was to Bengal/Burma Communications Squadron at Comilla in November 1944 (BBC SQDN).
This squadron dropped and delivered supplies to the 14th Army in Burma. We had various aircraft at our disposal DC3's Warwicks (Wellington Conversion) Beechcraft, Spitfire (that was the C/O's aircraft!). As the 14th Army moved south down Burma, we dropped the SEAC newspaper to the forward troops, twice weekly, delivered ammunition, ferried prisoners, delivered food, cigarettes, and a tin bath to one company.
Landing at an airfield on Ramree Island off the Araken coast with food and cigarettes, I expected a warm welcome from the Army, opening the side of the DC£ that we were in, I couldn't see anyone about, and then from the bushes a voice said "TAKE THAT BLOODY WHITE SHIRT OFF, THERE'S JAPS AT THE OTHER END OF THE AIRFIELD". I always wore a khaki shirt after that.
At the beginning of March 1945, three of us, Jimmy Fortieth, Tommy Goldsmith and myself picked up George formby and his wife Beryl, with a piano, his ukelele's, stage manager and comedian, and took in Akyab, Ramree Island, Sadaung, Shwebo,Alipore. We finished in Calcutta, where George introduced us to Wee Georgie Wood who was then going out to entertain the troops. The three of us ended up having a bath and then dinner at George and Beryl's suite in the Great eastern Hotel in Calcutta. I was a Flight Sgt. by this time and had completed 33 operational flights.
In March 1945 I was promoted to Warrant Officer and was posted as an Instructor to A.S.T.R. School Calcutta (Aircrew Signals training Refresher).In October 1945 I was posted to Chaklala-N India until my demobilisation in June 1946.
Written by Rowland Hill