Tales from the Boys

Below are some tales and memories that I have been priviliged to hear during my researching. My sincere thanks go to all those who took the time to share them with me. More please!

Taking one back to Christmas 1941. In November 1941 the Squadron moved to Dalton while runways were being installed at Topcliffe. Dalton was a new dispersed camp, meaning that it was spread all over the countryside, and we were all issued with bicycles in order to get about. The aerodrome was just that: flight offices, crew rooms etc and of course the aircraft dispersed all around the field. Living quarters were in various locations, being a few huts surrounding the ablutions and one main camp for the various Messes.

Christmas Eve, and we were told that we would not be operating if the other side stayed at home. So, on Christmas morn we were all in the Mess for breakfast, you know, bacon and eggs and all the trimmings, dreamers, more like porridge and a slice of toast with pilchards on top. After breakfast we were sitting around reading the papers etc until the bar opened at 10.00am and then of course we had to do a little celebrating. Someone must have answered the phone about 11.45 as a big shout "OPS ON, report to the flights" went up.

We all put on our greatcoats, mounted our trusty steeds and off we went, being joined by the officers from their Mess, over a hundred bods cycling through the village singing Christmas Carols. By the time we approached the airfield I think the songs had slowly swung around to Air Force ones (Lullabies etc!), we all turned left into the camp and there was W/C Bintley standing outside his office. He took one look at us and roared "You drunken bums, you are not flying my aeroplanes today" so we all saluted as we went passed, did a U turn on the tarmac and headed back to the Mess.

During 1941 when the Lease/Lend Agreement was signed with the USA, the Squadron received a consignment of small arms and we were told that there was sufficient to supply one to each crew. I was in 'A' Flight, flying as Wireless Operator with Flight Commander Squadron Leader J G Walker, and he was issued with a .38 Smith and Wesson with an eight inch barrel. He said that he didn't want any part of it and gave it to me to carry, so I asked him where the rest of it was as at least it should come with a stetson and a pair of cowboy boots!

A gang of us went to the range for small arms instruction and target practice where I soon learned that I was no Tom Mix and was lucky to hit the target. Flight Lieutenant Williams took a fancy to the .38 and I swapped him for his .45 Colt automatic - that fit my hand much better and I did a far better job of hitting the target.

When we converted to Halifaxes we were given strict instructions that should we land away from base we were not to let anyone into the aircraft because Gee and other new equipment onboard were on the secret list. For the last trip of my tour, some 'kind' person elected to send me on a nursery with a new crew. Usually this was to the channel ports, but at briefing it was found that it was to Vichy with a load of 'bum fodder', leaflets to you, what a waste as I'm sure bombs would have got their attention a lot better, but maybe the leaflets being shiny was a new weapon as the paper was glossy, anyway, there were three of us scheduled to go.

We took off from Topcliffe at 2230 in 'G' George with Sergeant Berry as pilot and after being airborne for about ten minutes the IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) detonated. The Skipper was a little concerned and wanted to turn back, but I said carry on and I would notify Group on the way back. A short while later he called me to say that the DR (Direct Reckoning) compass was on the blink and I said "So what you still have the P4 and that's all we had in the Whitley's" Then, to top it off the mid upper gunner said that he could see fuel running out of the starboard wing, so I stuck my head up in the astro-dome and shone my torch on the wing. Sure enough fuel was really running out. Someone hadn't put the filler cap on properly and we had better turn back or we wouldn't have enough fuel left to get home again.

We landed back at base at 2340 and in interrogation Wing Commander Binkley played hell, but calmed down when I told him about the fuel then said we could go on our own the following night.

Tuesday night, July 14th was a beautiful night, full moon and unlimited visibility. We took off at 2225 and set course, everything was working find and I spent most of any spare time with my head in the astro-dome looking out for fighters. Approaching the target, the Alps could be seen in the distance, our target was the first town I had seen illuminated with anything other than fires. We delivered the 'morning papers' and set course for home. The Skipper and Engineer decided that we wouldn't have enough fuel to get us back to base, so they elected to land at Cottesmore where we touched down at 0600 hrs. As Sergeant Berry signed in at the tower, I called the Orderly Officer and asked for an armed guard for the aircraft. The four RAF Regiment boys arrived and off we went to the Sergeants Mess after telling the Regiment boys that no one was to enter the aircraft.

After having breakfast, I found the sergeant in charge of fuel and after getting him and Sergeant Berry together off I went to relieve the boys around the aircraft where I retrieved the .45 and stuck it in the top of my flying boot. Standing there enjoying the beautiful summer morning and thinking how lucky I was to complete a tour (being only the third Wireless Operator to do so since joining the Squadron in May 1941), a car pulled up and out got this Group Captain. I came smartly to attention as he approached and said "Goodmorning Sir". He replied and said that he would like to look through the aircraft, and I explained to him that we had strict instructions that nobody was to enter the aircraft. He didn't take too kindly to my explaination and pushed past me to enter where upon I drew the .45 and jacked a round into the breech. The Group Captain heard the noise and turned around, looked at me with his face going white and strode back to his car with not one word.

We took off at 1005 and arrived at base an hour later. On entering the interrogation room, Wing Commander Bintley roared "Cooke you are in trouble again". I asked him what I had done now, and he said that the Commanding Officer at Cottesmore had called and told him that one of the crew had threatened to shoot him and he knew it could only have been me! Then, he laughed and said "Good show". All in all it wasn't too bad a way to complete a tour.

The setting for this chestnut is a pub.
It was inevitable that the next day after a raid that the boys would tramp off to the nearest local where we knew we would be greeted by the locals.

The locals came in all sizes and sex, but of course the boys were mainly interested in the fair ones. After we had quaffed down a few, a cute little thing would pipe up and ask just where we had been the night before and what it was like.

Charlie the tailend gunner, he was always Charlie although his Mother had him christened Bertram and he had been called many other less appropriate names, would pipe up "What do you want to know?"

Before she could reply, Paddy the bomb aimer chips in and says, "How about giving her a demonstration of what it is like on a bombing run!"

Now we come to the Oscar winning performance of the crew of 'A' Apple who were now facing their 10th op before a panting audience.

So without any further ado, P/O Simple, we called him that because his father was actually Lord Simon, yelled for two chairs to be brought forth. He was the chap to do that because he was our pilot and beloved 'Captain' and promptly had the chairs put down one behind the other and plonked his delicate rear end on the one at the rear.

At this stage the star of the show, Paddy, took his position on the front seat and bent forward as if to be looking through the bomb site at a town in Happy Valley.

You say these nuts went to Happy Valley? All the Bomber Boys in '40 had christened the Ruhr Valley this.

Now the plot begins.

Max, the navigator, slouched at the bar holding a half finished pint yells "Target Ahead"

Paddy then yells to the Skipper "I see it, hold her steady"

Now the whole crew are silent and see the search lights sweeping around trying to get a bead on Good old 'A' Apple and some one at the other end of the bar, actually Charlie, gives it a good thump. He chirps up "well, you have to have Ack Ack!"

The tension is almost destroyed when Paddy continues with his fantastic performance.

"Left, left - right - steady" Good old Simple holds his course.

"Left - steady............"

"BACK UP!!!!!"

A hush hits the bar and the crew rushes up to the bar and with great glee order another round.

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©Linzee Druce 2001-2004