The last surviving pilot from the Dambusters Raid.
Recorded in Tauranga, Sunday 26th September 2010
JH: Do you mind if I ask you first of all where you were born and brought up? I know you were born in Gisborne, is that right? Over the other side?
LM: I went to the war from Gisborne and went back to Gisborne after the war. What were you doing over there? You said you knew Gisborne?
JH: A few years ago I did a book… Before I did the Italy one, I did a book on North Africa and Italy together, well not together. One after the other. I have always been interested in the fact that the British Army wasn’t the British Army; it was full of all sorts of different people. I was always particularly taken with the Maori (symbol) Battalion. I got in touch with the guys who look after the Maori history, they put me in touch with various Maori veterans and one of them lived in… toughh guy. He was talking about the war one minute and the next he was talking about some Maori land dispute and he was telling me about how he got into this argument with a guy on the council. He grabbed him by the neck and his eyes were bulging. I said, “When was this?” He said, “Oh this was a couple of weeks back!” The other guy.. Where was he? He wasn’t far from Gisborne, but he had had a leg blown off in Vedaville up in Tunisia. God they were tough, f-ing and blinding the whole way through the conversation, but they were great characters.
LM: 02:05, great experience?
JH: It was fascinating!
LM: I just remembered last night, you said you knew Gisborne. I thought well I wonder what he’s doing in Gisborne! 02:14 battalion that book.
JH: Well I have just incorporated those guys into the book I was writing about North Africa. Actually the guy who I said was doing the strangling, he’s in that one, a guy called Tinney Glover, he was a.. I lost touch with him but he was a funny bloke but all sorts of trouble..
LM: I was reading an article the other day that I obituary about up on the hill?
JH: Yeah, this is where this guy lost his leg..
LM: I was reading about that, was that the same place as the German’s saw reportedly, the German’s surrendered and the Maoris’ didn’t take any notice of that and most of all..
JH: There were mainly Italians up there, but yeah that’s um.. The Maori Battalion guys are.. I am sure you know all this? They basically did their companies according to tripe. I think it was ‘B’ Company was in that area.. In the Gisborne area..
JH: Exactly and you know they had to keep them fighting otherwise they would just fight each other. There was one point after 03:48. They were all stationed and not a lot was going on. There was just fights all the time because 03:45. They eventually had to completely separate them. But all volunteers no constraints at all. So where you.. Am I right in saying yours was a farming background?
LM: Yep, yep, yep.
JH: So you had a farm up in…?
LM: No my Father worked on a sheep station as a shepherd. We were born.. I was born in Gisborne..
JH: Gisborne Town?
LM: Gisborne Town, yep , what do you call it ? Somebody’s nursing home. But that was sixteen miles from where we lived, yep on this sheep station and we had to go five miles from there to school.
JH: And did you walk every day to school?
JH: Did you have a truck?
LM: Horse… My brother and I started school together we rode and then when my sister started, she’s younger, we combined with the neighbour, their horse and our buggy. We used to go to school in the buggy, until eventually later on 05:01 five or six onto a bicycle.
JH: So there was you and your brother, and how many siblings were there?
LM: My younger brother and then my younger sister.
JH: So you are the oldest?
LM: Yep I was the oldest.
JH: What was your parent’s background? Were they… When did they come over to here? Were they born in New Zealand as well or were they…?
LM: No my Father worked in the woollen mills at Glasgow and Aberdeen, then got TB through mouthing too much fluff and dust from the wool processing . He came onto New Zealand about 1903 for health reasons. My Mother was born in 05:03 in the South Island and eventually they met.. I don’t know, I don’t know when they met, but they married in 1918, yeah. My mother worked as a house help on a property probably three or four miles away from Marsham Station and eventually they married and I was born 1919.
JH: Marsham Station, was that in land or was that on the coast?
LM: No that was in land sixteen miles from Gisborne, a place called 06:35 on the Western side of Auckland there was a pub there, school, general store, that was the area really.
JH: So basically like a small Village really?
LM: Yeah small village, the school shifted, a new school was built during the War.
JH: And your Dad didn’t get caught up in the First World War or anything?
JH: Was it a good childhood? I mean careering around the country side?
LM: I mean it, you must remember it was during the slump. I was bought up in hard times and er, I had great respect and admiration for my Mother the gardening she did and she made her own clothes, made her own garden until we were old enough to help, that sort of thing.
JH: It was a hard life?
LM: It was a hard life, she bought us up and made our own clothes and when we got home school we had to take our school trousers off and move into trousers made from sugar leaves and lined with 08:04…
LM: Yep and that sort of thing.
JH: But was it a happy childhood? Or you didn’t think of it in those terms?
LM: I think it was a reasonably happy childhood , yeah.
JH: You had freedom presumably living out in the country, you had freedom to do the stuff that boys do and ..?
LM: Yeah, no one’s ever asked me that question before, was it a happy childhood? I think as far as circumstances go, we had a good childhood, yeah. Never got into trouble or anything like that.
JH: And schooling, what was that …
LM: But we had no… Well there was neighbours not far away, we didn’t mingle, we very much accepted that we had to come home from school.
JH: Yeah, yeah, yeah because you are five miles away from the Village? So its pretty isolated?
JH: I suppose not in the terms of those days it probably wouldn’t be..
LM: No, no, no there were two journeys, well one journey 09:23 and another further on from us where my brother worked after he had come back from the War. Isolation.. In today’s concept, no it wouldn’t be isolated.
LM: But people further up that road had thirteen miles to go to school..
JH: It’s a long way isn’t it !
LM: I would say they were isolated, yeah. But we didn’t have near neighbours that us kids could go and play with..
JH: No, so you had to make your own fun?
LM: We had to make our own fun, yep, yep.
JH: And did you at school, I mean did you..There can’t have been that many of you in the school can there?
LM: There would be, we had two/three classrooms…
JH: Oh did you?
LM: Three classrooms, were a fairly big room and they went up to.. I forget what now… then they had a lower standard, standards two and three, three and four and then five and six and they were the seniors room and yeah I was good at numbers ! As good at numbers as I could be, one hundred/one hundred and twenty?
JH: Really ? OK, gosh I thought you were going to say thirty or something?
LM: Oh no we had.. there was three teachers, for the early kids sometimes there were two there.
JH: Right.. I had a friend who is um in Northern New South Wales and um, she was on a farm comparatively out in the middle of no where and certainly by british standards anyway and er, I remember when she was first at school, her Primary school, there were six kids…that’s pretty small! Did you leave at fourteen?
LM: I went to high school… I.. it was coming back to the slump times again or very depressive times. My Mother and Father couldn’t afford to keep me at High School. When I finished Standard six, I went to High School and they could only afford to keep me on for a couple of years, I did an agricultural course and um, didn’t do mathematics and that sort of thing, algebra and that sort of thing .. did the agricultural course. I managed to get through the next two years in High School.
JH: So that’s like the equivalent of a scholarship is it?
JH: It means you don’t have to pay for it..
LM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, and um expertise wise, it permitted me to qualify for form two three four, forms four and five.
LM: Standard.. see in those days, I didn’t have.. Primary School’s all had the same sex, whereas today, you go to.. Each individual High School you go to form one, form one or two…
JH: So it’s all changed a little bit?
LM: It’s all change a bit, yeah and I boarded with an Aunt in Gisborne..
JH: Oh OK.
LM: I boarded with an Aunt in Gisborne, she was pretty strict. She was Dad’s sister. Dad was a very quiet Scotsman and Aunty Jenna was a bit the same she believed in towing the line and all that sort of thing, you got a clip across the ear if she didn’t approve! But they couldn’t afford to keep me at High any longer, my parents.. so my Mother got a job for me on a small dairy farm and I had no say in that.
JH: So how old were you then?
LM: Ah.. That would be thirty four/thirty five, so thirty four I would be…
LM: Yeah, sixteen.
JH: It’s young to be out in the big world really, isn’t it?
LM: Yeah, it was hard work, it must have been because I had left by the end of thirty five.
JH: Right.. So then you worked on the dairy farm?
LM: I had about a week on a small dairy farm..
JH: What were you doing there? Herding and milking and ..?
LM: Just helping in the shed, working around the farm, harrowing, harrowing with the horse, horse drawn harrows and I suppose we used to do metal the plough and the gateways and all that sort of thing..
JH: Oh really?
LM: Most things like that yeah, um, when you said “What did you do?” I have got to put my thinking cap on ! …I don’t know !
JH: Don’t worry !! I am just interested in the .. It’s a world of …
LM: It was a good example of pretty efficient farming in those days, it was only twenty six and a half acres..
LM: We ran twenty eight cows, milking cows, but I am not quite sure where the dry stock was? Some of the dry stock was kept on the farm..
JH: And the guy who owned it could get a living out of that?
LM: Well yes and no, between eight and nine thousand pounds 15:30 which is pretty good by today’s standards. The old bloke who owned it, he was also a wool classer and during the summer months, he would go up the East Coast, up the North of Gisborne and wool class.. wool classing on the big stations up there. I forget how many stations he used to wool cast at. He always rented his income through wool classing.
JH: Hard life though! Isn’t it? Long hours I guess?
LM: When he was away wool casting, I had control of the farm 16:07 make sure it was on the right track.
JH: So literally, there was two of you? So a sixteen/seventeen lad was left on the farm?
LM : Yeah that’s right, yeah.
JH: That’s amazing isn’t it? I suppose you grow up with animals around you, don’t you? So handling beef and things is just daily life?
LM: Of course my Mother, my father and her, she used to milk four, five sometimes six/seven cows. As soon as I was old enough, I took over the milking and so I had some experience of.. she ran a few pigs and so I had that background experience in life.. so cows weren’t strangers to me when I took up the job.
JH: Presumably, always having these animals around and your mother growing vegetables and so on.. I mean you never went hungry then, even when times were hard? You always had something to eat? It was a different life then wasn’t it?
LM: Oh yes, that’s right. I have got great admiration for my Mother, unfortunately she died when I was in England in the War, that was my tragedy of the War.
JH: I am sorry….
LM: One of the un-answered questions was what was she doing up in the Gisborne area when she was born and brought up. We have never been able to….
JH: How she came to meet your Father in the first place?
LM: Yeah, Yeah. Even though the family ask that question, that was after my cousin.
JH: What distance is that? I mean it’s quite a way isn’t it?
LM: In those days you would go by train or boat, one boat to the other. There was a train or service car to Napier and then catch a boat to Lynington. You couldn’t just got up and er….
JH: Jump on a plane?!
JH: Yeah, well, it’s frustrating isn’t it? All these unanswered questions.
LM: 18:50 that’s operating?
JH: Yeah but …
LM: In the year 2000, or was it 1999? 2000, I discovered that my Mother had a daughter in 1912. Five years before she married my Father. The baby was adopted people.. Moody.. were the adopted parents. The adopted Mother died about a year after my half sister was born, and he in the mean time he had a job.. I think he was a school teacher.. I am not sure? He took a job in Toggery Bay which is North of Gisborne and we suspect that Mother still had a hankering for the baby.. went up to.. not immigrated but went up to the Gisborne area.. and um.. to be near her child. We suspect that may have been the reason why. He re-married and his wife wouldn’t have any thing to do with the baby and she went through quite a succession of homes.. foster homes.. and she grew up to have eventually eight children herself. Unfortunately by the time we found out all about this, she had died. in about 1972, but her eldest son who lives in Canada.. he had done a bit of research and eventually found out.. they couldn’t find any trace of the Father, even to this day they don’t know who the Father was they actually found out that my Mother was a Wilson and had married a and eventually tracked .. that she had a son.. a Munro which is obviously me. It was a bit of a shock.. certainly a shock to me because I still can’t to this day reconcile my Mother as I knew her.. having a sexual relationship with a man.. so that’s how coming back to the original question of how.. when did they marry and that sort of thing. They were actually married in farm.. and so we surmised a lot of things.. that my Mother and Father.. she was working as a home help on the property some three or four miles away, my Father was on this station.. I think the owner of the station’s 22:23 built the cottage for my Mother and Father..
JH: Where you were brought up?
LM: And that is where I was brought up, you wouldn’t know but a lot of 1910 surrounding village cottages, just there were the sort of the roof comes out like that.. you still see them around.. little cottages.. that is what they were like.. they’re still there.
JH: So not a big house?
LM: Oh no, no , no.
JH: So would you and your brother.. would you all be in the same room to sleep?
LM: Possibly, yeah, there was one small single room. I was in that for a while, but I moved when my sister was born, she occupied that room and we slept in the lounge.. there were beds in the lounge.
JH: Amazing isn’t it?
LM: Yeah !
JH: So what happened to your Father? You were saying that your Mother…?
LM: He died.. I was in Auckland….. in 1957..
LM: I was working at Auckland and he died.. my Mother died 1944 and my Father in 1957. I came down from Auckland to.. I managed to see him before he died. So he was what? 86..?
JH: Oh OK… Good age.
LM: Oh yeah.
JH: So you were working on this.. looking after this twenty eight acre farm? And presumably you did this right up until War broke out didn’t you?
LM: No, eighteen months, two years on that small property. I was approached by another bloke, he was not my age he was older than me, to.. suggested that a job was on offer at a place called Patatuki/Patathai..
LM: Just out from Gisborne..
LM: There was a mixed sheep, cropping and dairy farm and I thought it was a good opportunity .. I went and they interviewed me. I was interviewed by the owner and took that another corn machine and I.. that was thirty seven/thirty eight/thirty nine…
JH: You’re still only eighteen, nineteen?
LM: What did I say earlier? But I will have to check that about.. It might have been thirty five/thirty six rather than thirty four/thirty five.. I will do that over night. I took that and after couple of years, I was looking on my own, I didn’t really enjoy it….what I did, after about a couple of years, I took a job with the Government Department and left me in charge, I said “ 26:32“ at the same time. So we got rid of the cows and I managed the company as a sheep and cropping farm and I had maize and grass.. that’s when I went to the War.
LM: I enlisted in 1940, I waited until I was twenty one..
JH: Can you remember the War breaking out?
JH: I mean, what was your….everyone was .. in Europe the storm clouds were brewing, but, were you expecting it and did you.. when War broke out did you think “I am going to have to be a part of that?” Or did it seem quite remote?
LM: Well yes and no, I think most of the young .. most of us in New Zealand when the War broke out were conscious of the War, conscious of the fact that New Zealand was going to become part of it..
JH: At some point..
LM: In support of the old country or the Mother country.. which ever name you like to use.. there was a strong degree of allegiance to England.
JH: There was?
LM: There was very strong really, everybody felt it was their duty to go and fight for England.
JH: And you felt that the King was your King?
LM: That was very pronounced that attitude. Very pronounced in those days. There was no question to breakaway from the Royalty today.
LM: So Ian my brother had already hit his age for War. That is the disappointment for my Mother and Father, he went overseas. He was overseas when he became twenty one.
JH: And what did he join?
LM: Went in the army.
JH: Did he?
LM: He was captured. Prisoner of War for I don’t know how long for..
JH: Was he captured in North Africa?
LM: Yep. He was captured.. Prisoner of War for two and a half years. I was conscious of…
JH: Where was he? Was he in Italy?
LM: He was captured in…
JH: No, but was he sent to a POW camp in Italy or Germany? A lot of the North Africa Veterans ended up in prison camps in Italy.
LM: I think he may have gone to some and moved.
LM: Where was I?
JH: Sorry, joining up and the War breaking out !
LM: Yeah, So um, I delayed my volunteering.. enlisting to when I was twenty one, so I wouldn’t upset my parents. So um, twenty one came and I volunteered for the Air Force.
JH: I know you were twenty one in 1940 but when is your birthday?
LM: Fifth of April.
JH: So April 1940 you joined ?
LM: 1940, yeah, I joined up and I got a letter back saying “Sorry old chap,” or it wasn’t in those words! “I don’t qualify you to be a pilot!”
JH: So you just wanted to be in the RAF?
LM: Yeah, I had never given it much thought. I didn’t think about.. joining the Navy didn’t appeal to me as I used to suffer from car sickness in those days, as a youngster. I thought I would be the same in the Navy. I didn’t really shine into the Army, so I thought, I used to take an interest in the commercial airlines at the time.
JH: Yeah, beautiful, beautiful machines.
LM: They used to fly past the farm regularly when we were at work. So..
JH: So it wasn’t like you grew up reading Biggles or anything like that, or you had an obsession with flying?
LM: No, no, I had a preference to be a Pilot and then they said you know, but you can be a gunner , I thought, No, I really want to be a Pilot. He said “You can do an educational course in mathematics, trigonometry and algebra!” and I said “OK” It took me a year to do that..
JH: So where was this? Where did you go to join up? Did you go to join up in Gisborne? Or did you….
LM: Yep, Yep, I joined up in Gisborne and on the farm.
JH: So was it a recruiting station there?
LM: I guess so yeah..
JH: If you wanted to go and join up where would you go?
LM: Gisborne, I can’t remember the procedure.. they gave you a form and you sent it away. I can’t remember what happened there. But I joined up and I did this education course in mathematics and um.. travelling to Gisborne to do that morse code and that sort of thing.. once a week or something and after about twelve months, I was a bachelor in those days, living on my own, I had nobody… to call on to a wife to say “ What the hell have you chosen” and all that sort of thing. Eventually I got through and was accepted as a Pilot and went into the airforce on the 7th July 1941.
JH: Gosh !
JH: And when you were excepted where did you go? Was that in Wellington?
LM: No that was in Levin, the initial training school for about six weeks.
JH: So that was over here in New Zealand?
LM: Yep, Levin is down on the.. between Palmerston North and Wellington.
JH: OK, I know where.
LM: Then after about six weeks we went out…
JH: And that’s all square bashing and that sort of thing?
LM: Yeah that’s right, just that sort of thing.
JH: Because they had a terrible reputation in England.. for being.. the accommodation being terrible and the Parade Ground drill guys were sadistic?
LM: I wouldn’t describe the men as being in that category, they were a bit more civilised. From there, I went to New Plymouth which was over in 33:17 and trained on Tiger Moths for ten weeks or something….
JH: Right an elementary flying school?
LM: Yeah, yeah, that’s right.
JH: Can you remember your first flight?
LM: Vaguely, I can remember.. after my first flight I remember 33:42 Tom Webster..
JH: Tom Webster?
LM:I had him… it might actually tell me. He was very, very impressed with the squad with the taking off. Managed to maintain a straight and level flight without any difficulty, he thought we got out of the box ! It took me about six and a quarter 34:09 about ten hours and I did it in six and a half hours.
JH: OK, so you did have a feel for it.. you just had a natural feel for it?
LM: Yep, yep. I had it alright all through my service career. I took to flying quite well.
JH: You must have been.. even now its quite exciting going up in planes when you first do it and everything. But in those days where you don’t have to worry so much about traffic control, health and safety and all these sort of things. Because flying is so new in those days, it must have been an incredibly exciting experience?
LM: It was, flying Tiger Moths. You had no radio…anyone call up and ask permission to land …
LM: I just 35:02 regulate your landing and without beating someone else and all sorts. I enjoyed flying at New Plymouth. In fact, I enjoyed my flying all through my career. We did the first day, I went up for my solo flight test….after about five and a half or six hours….something like that, there was pretty rough weather and I started to get.. I was only up for a few minutes. I started to get air -sick. My Flight Commander who took me up for the test… I wasn’t especially doing what he wanted.. I was too busy trying to stop from being sick! When I got down, Tom Webster said “ What went wrong there?” and I said “ I got flaming air sick !” Tom said “ Why didn’t you tell him?” I said “ I didn’t want to admit that I was sick!” Shortly afterwards, not the same day, we were in a matter of … not many hours and I went up again without any trouble!
JH: There must have been a fair bit of theory as well wasn’t there?
LM: Oh yes. You did your theory….
JH: So were there a number of you on the course? What were there? Sixty or so?
LM: There would have been sixty, thirty or something, thirties I suppose?
JH: And did you….accommodation on the airfield and that sort of thing?
LM: Yeah, I can’t remember that sort of thing, you probably had a reasonably modern hanger. What the building’s were like…. Accommodation and that’s.. I cant remember.
JH: But you were in the RAF blue and all that sort of stuff? Or should I say RNAF? RNZAF !?
LM: RNZAF, stayed in there as Flight 2. But once we got to England we were attached to the RAF. Directional postings.. fine where we went and all that sort of thing. It was still paid by the New Zealand RNZAF and promotions 37:44. Promotion was whilst we.. during the.. promotion was decided by the RNZAF rather than the RAF..
JH: Got you, got you. So when you were under training, you were just a Pilot?
LM: Leading Aircraft..
LM: We used to have 38:06 flying aircrew under instruction. So we all had to have that right until passed out as a Pilot. We went from New Plymouth…
JH: And that course was what? Six weeks you say?
LM: About two months, about ten weeks, do we have to talk about dates? I will go and check..
JH: Oh great, you still have the log books !
LM: Yeah, you can have these ! For about twenty five thousand !! That’s what I have been offered.. from and Aussie !!
JH: Twenty five grand !!
LM: Well we come up to twenty two thousand Aussie dollars… !
JH: I hope you said No?!
LM: This was a while ago now. But he started off at about ten.. I said no and he said “ I was only joking, I will give you twenty thousand?” I said no and he said “What about twenty two thousand?” Went to Plymouth for sixteen, eight and nine, well that’s not ten weeks is it? That’s not very long.
JH: That’s about three weeks isn’t it?
LM: That’s only three weeks. Then we were posted to Canada..
JH: Oh were you? Gosh. So you went across the Pacific?
LM: Yep went on the SS Mariposa, which was an American passenger ship.
JH: Was that your first time overseas? Must have been?
JH: First time on a ship probably?
LM: It was….well, as a kid we had been on one. I said earlier on to get to South Island we would go via Ships.
JH: Oh OK.
LM: That’s what I vaguely remember, only vaguely. That’s another point. My Mother would take us as kids down to South Island to her family. My Father very rarely went on those trips. I remember travelling in service cars, open you know with the.. open.. not closed.. what we call service cars, perpex side windows in it and that sort of thing. The weather would change on over getting to Napier and getting a boat and that sort of thing. So yep, that would have been the first time I was really on the high seas.
JH: Was there a.. I know it was a long time ago, but was there a sense of excitement or apprehension or did you just take everything in your stride?
LM: Certainly not apprehension, but it was a new experience a new phase of our lives and that sort of thing.
JH: Presumably you had made some quite good mates, so its not like you are going on your own is it? You are going with friends?
LM: I forget how many went to.. um… yeah. The Mariposa was as I said an American.. what’s the main line?
JH: Was it an American one?
LM: Yes an American one, and because they were’nt in the War we travelled as civilians.
JH: Oh really?
LM: There were only two us to a big cabin, we had our beds turned down for us, in the morning and at night time. Beds made stewards waiting on us for meal time..
JH: Brilliant !
LM: Brilliant, yeah ! So there was civilians on the same ship and there were quite a lot of Aussies, so that was an interesting experience.
JH: But obviously war.. where are we? 1941?
JH: So the war had started and America’s still not in the war then.
LM: That’s right. So we went.. from there we went to 42:48 and Canada.
JH: OK so you didn’t land in America.. USA and train it up?
LM: We trained.. we went from.. landed at Los Angeles.. I think and then turned up to San Francisco, went up by train to Vancouver and then across the Rockies to Saskatoon.
JH: What a journey !
LM: I always remember the trip from Vancouver to Saskatoon, we had these slatted seats, and travelled right through the night, the train, or the driver was blowing the whistle all the time !
JH: So you could never get to sleep?
LM: Yeah, couldn’t get to sleep for ten hours, they were blowing the train whistle to scare the deer off the track.
JH: Ah, of course!
LM: Doing it all the time ! Then we arrived in Saskatoon and of course it was the middle of winter time.
JH: So, you had gone from Los Angeles, which is lovely, hot and sunny !
LM: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah ! We must have spent a day or two days in Los Angeles, because we took the train up to Hollywood and spent the night in Hollywood..
JH: Looking for the film stars!?
LM: Yeah, well I can always remember watching Alexis Smith, I don’t know if you have heard of her? She was a star in those days, I never kept a mental note of her leading man, but they were acting a scene and we had the opportunity of watching them being filmed.
JH: How amazing!
JH: In one of the big studios?
LM: Yeah, Warner Brothers, I think, I cant remember. Anyway, we went by train to Saskatoon 44:46 and it was the middle of winter time so the ground was covered in snow and we 44:53 trains and ..
JH: What type of.. are they ?
LM: Twin engine, fabric covered..
JH: OK, they weren’t 45:10 ?
LM: Yeah, 45:21 twin engine though.
JH: And they were fully enclosed cockpit?
LM: Oh yes, two, I am not sure they took more than two anyway.
JH: God 45:32 Do you know what, that’s a plane I have never even heard of. I will have to look that one up.
LM: Unfortunately, I haven’t even got a photograph of one.
JH: That’s fine I can look one of those up, no problem at all.
LM: We arrived.. seventh November I think..
JH: November forty one?
LM: Yep and then…
JH: So the fact that you are on twin engine’s, does that mean you are already geared up for bombers?
LM: Yeah, well, yeah come back to New Plymouth, we are in New Plymouth on another 2EFTS. At some stage, we were state our preference..
JH: Oh OK..
LM: Bombers or Fighters.. Those that chose ‘Fighters’ stayed in New Zealand and went to Wigram or Duneaden. Those that said ‘Bombers’ went to Canada.
JH: What made your choice?
LM: Well, I had been offered my last 46:30 and I think probably my more conservative nature.. Fighters 46:40 those blokes got publicity because ..
JH: Getting big fighter 46:50
LM: Through the planes and round the air and all this sort of thing. It didn’t worry me too much.. an unconscious decision that I made to be a Bomber Pilot, that’s why 47:06.
LM: I was there from, 6th October not November and from the 27th February 42 on the 28th February or the 27th, I was… got my wings and was commissioned on the same day.
JH: I have never quite got to the bottom of why it was that some people were commissioned and some people remained as MTO Pilots?
LM: Yeah it’s an interesting…
JH: It’s a really hard one, it doesn’t follow the same rules as it does in the Army of the Navy ?
JH: Is it just a sense of instructors…whether they think you are going to be the responsible type?
LM: I think so, yeah yeah. I can’t explain it.
JH: But obviously you must have been pleased?
LM: Oh yeah, I was. To compare them with those that weren’t commissioned, I can’t remember… any blokes that I was familiar with… I had quite a few friends there at Saskatoon, but I can’t remember any of those not being commissioned. I can’t remember any of those… anyone who expressed disappointment at only being promoted to Sergeant.
JH: I am not trying to over romanticise this, but it’s a hell of a journey isn’t it from being…working on a farm in the North Island to getting all around the world to Canada and being commissioned to be a Pilot? It’s a big thing isn’t it? And a big thing in those days, when travel.. even then the distances were so vast? Now I can jump on a plane and twenty-four hours later I am here, but it is not quite the same in 1941 is it? You must have been quite proud.. weren’t you?
LM: I was, I was very pleased, yeah and all my immediate associates that I spent a lot of time with, there were only half a dozen or so. You get into small groups and you make friends. Although most of the other blokes on the course you wouldn’t describe them as your friends. Those that were close friends would go out together and spend Christmas day with their family and all this sort of thing. That wasn’t a very broad based situation.
JH: It the perfect place to go training isn’t it? You have all the vast skies..
LM: It’s miles and miles of flat country with snow covered.. the only 50:23 smoke coming up from the chimneys!! Except for the city itself 50:29
JH: But it’s not like flying around fog covered Pennines is it ? Or something like that?
JH: It’s safer place to fly?
LM: You were never worried..likely to run into a hill!
JH: No, that’s right ! So what did they do? Clear a runway from snow and away you go?
LM: Yeah, I cant remember.. I think.. I can’t actually.. I can never remember an occasion when they had to put sweepers on.
JH: But you wouldn’t be taking off in snow because it would be too…?
LM: Oh no. The days would have to be fine, we didn’t go off in snow storms or anything like that. There must have been occasions like when there was three or four inches on the road. What happened to that snow on the run ways?
JH: Just shovelled off?
LM: Well yeah, not manually..
JH: You just put salt down and that sort of thing?
LM: Snow plows and things..? there must have been. But I only remember only seeing one on the 51:31
JH: But it’s amazing isn’t it when you are so young, certain things just are and you just take them for granted don’t you? You don’t think oh that happened.. it just did.. the road is clear, you don’t think about how it happened, you just except it.. the run way is clear. I think that is an attribute of being a young man isn’t it? You just take certain facts of life for granted.
LM: I was thinking about that the other day, I.. we took that for granted, this or that 52:10 operated we didn’t have a bloody clue ! We just took it for granted..
JH: Of course.
JH: But when you were at Saskatoon, there was time to go off and go to town, have a few beers, that sort of thing?
JH: And you must have done night flying as well?
LM: (Pause, get up to get something) I must have it surely?
JH: See this is one of the great advantages of talking to pilots. You have that fantastic resource…
LM: I am going to find out if we did night flying… we must have done. Right here we are, yep.. bit of night time, not a great deal about it.
JH: In this time did you any hairy moments or was it pretty seamless for you? You are growing in confidence…?
LM: In Saskatoon?
JH: Yeah. Did you have any moments where you got lost on navigation exercises or anything…
LM: No, not really.
JH: You were OK?
LM: I don’t sort of… disappear into the horizon….cyber space or something. What thoughts I had or how to go and do this and that sort of thing.. certain things I suppose I remember quite vividly other things that are like the norm, day by day it doesn’t seem have.. serve my memory very vividly.
JH: So once you got your wings, is that when you were sent over to Britain?
LM: We were given leave to start with, three of us 54:44 and we all went down to New York for that leave 54:56 meeting up with 55:04 who was 55:06 not organising entertainment and all that sort of thing…
JH: And looking after you and making sure you were OK?
LM: Yeah. She actually got us an invite to dinner raising funds for Quentin Reynolds. Quentin Reynolds was a leading war correspondent…
JH: Yes, presumably now, America was now in the War at this point, when did you end, beginning of forty two ?
JH: So America is in by this time.
LM: Yeah, were they forty one?
JH: December forty one.
LM: third of December forty one?
LM: Seventh of December forty one, they would be in the war then . It was a white tie…black tie dinner, except more than.. there was a fair number.. I’ve got a picture somewhere of the..taken at the dinner, it was raising funds for 56:14. And then we went back to Halifax across on the Cape Town Castle to England, arrived at Liverpool….
JH: No U Boats on the way?
LM: The only boat we went in was the convoy. She was a fast ship, relied on her speed I think.
JH: Well, If you can go over twenty knots you are fine…
LM: I cant remember.
JH: Not fine, but you have a pretty good chance of..
LM: We got off at Liverpool and then went down to Bournemouth where we…. In a holding camp for some time.
JH: Yes those holding camps at Bournemouth.. I’ve heard about those…
LM: Yeah that’s right and another one….spent a week at Harrogate, waiting for a transfer to Shorebury where…
JH: So this is when you were….you hadn’t done your OTU or Heavy Conversion?
LM: No, we did a refresher course on 57:12
JH: Right, those two little engines?
LM: In Shorebury, we did a lot of instrument and number…What do you call them? Length Trainers?
JH: Oh yeah.
LM: A lot of practice on Length Trainers and instruments flying in the air 57:34 screens put across the cock 57:39 and then flying..
JH: It’s a good way to get to know England !!
LM: Oh yeah, you can see it!!
JH: Flying up and down and travelling the length and breadth !!
LM: I don’t know….we were there for not that long I suppose..
JH: I suppose if you have that kind of.. that sense of affiliation to the mother country.. it must have been interesting to get to Britain wasn’t it?
LM: That’s right. Shorebury, we were there for nearly two months, from there we were posted to twenty nine OUT…
JH: Where was that?
LM: North Lutheran..
JH: North Lutheran, where was that?
LM: In the county of Rutland..
JH: Leicester way.
LM: Leicester way is it?
JH: Well Rutland is still in the county, I know exactly where it is.
LM: Smallest county in England isn’t it? Is that right?
JH: Yep that’s right.
LM: North Lutheran, there for.. that was on Wellingtons, I was there for…
JH: What did you make of the Wimpey?
LM: Yeah I thought the Wimpey was alright. It was quite a good aircraft to fly. I tell you, I had a little bit of an incident.. a bit more than a little bit I suppose ! I was there for two months, two and a half months. I quite enjoyed flying a… I picked up my Navigator and my mid upper gunner and my 58:59 I think..
JH: So the guys.. I know who your crew was on 617, are these the same guys? Did you all come home from 97 straight on to 617?
JH: Because there was Appleby wasn’t there? And….
LM: 59:13 I picked up my Navigator who was 59:17 picked up my mid upper gunner who was Bill Howard, picked up a Bomb Aimer who only did a few trips with me 59:32 He passed out on the morning of.. he only lasted a couple of trips. Was that three.. maybe it was three when we went to…
LM: I had to wireless up.
JH: There are only five on a Wellington aren’t there, is that right?
LM: More, I think, there was seven on them then.
JH: That’s right.
LM: Then I picked up the Heavy Conversion, I picked up a Flight Engineer, Rear Gunner, that’s it isn’t it?
JH: Yeah, I remember some other guys have told me about how they got to OUT and everyone was shoved into a room and told to find a crew?
LM: It was very hard.
JH: Is that what it was like?
LM: Yeah, it was very difficult actually, because you had never seen some of them before.
JH: I should imagine.
LM: Yeah, the Navigators and the Gunners and the 1:00:26 all have their own training there. Amazingly academic.. mainly that sort of thing. How the hell did they expect for us to know these people? I ended up with Jock 1:00:42 who was.. In retrospect, I was lucky to get Jock. 1:00:51 survived it.
JH: And the other blokes?
LM: Percy Pigeon the Canadian, wireless operator and the bomb aimer he didn’t last long once we got to 97… and Bill Howard.
JH: It’s a very ad hoc way of doing it isn’t it?
LM: I thought it was too.
JH: What about all your New Zealand mates you had been in Canada with?
LM: They were all Pilots and went.
JH: Of course, of course, so that’s why you don’t have any New Zealanders in your crew?
LM: That’s right, yeah. The New Zealanders that trained, went over seas and trained as Bomb Aimers and Navigators. They were at different stations.
JH: Got you.
LM: 1:01:38 places you see?
JH: Yeah. Its incredible really, you think about it. For your lives you would have only ever mingled with New Zealanders and Canadians have only ever mingled with Canadians and Brits with Brits. Suddenly the War comes along and you are all meshed together and although, obviously you all have got similarities in age and things you are interested in, but you have come from quite different backgrounds and cultures ?
LM: It’s a bit like a game of lotto, as far as you went up and asked somebody you had never seen before.. would you be my Navigator or something like this…
JH: You have no idea if it is going to work or not?
LM: No idea at all.
JH: And presumably sometimes it doesn’t?
LM: Yeah, sometimes it wouldn’t, yeah. So we trained on Wellingtons. That was round about the time of 1:02:41 September?
JH: Yes, when Bomber Commands really beginning to…
LM: Bomber raids have already been and gone, I think..? When we were towards the end of our training on Wellingtons. Harris wanted to build up numbers again for a couple of raids on Dusseldorf and 1:03:11 where we..they carved us all on Wellingtons that were fifth in total to go on these raids and the first one I went on was without any incident..
JH: Had you joined 97 at this point? You hadn’t joined 97 Squadron at this point?
LM: No, I was still training..
JH: Wow !
LM: Yep, I was still training.
JH: Wow, wow, wow, that’s amazing.
LM: The first one I said was..
JH: God, I am sorry, I hadn’t appreciated that. That’s incredible!
LM: No problem, nothing happened. On the next one lets have a look…
JH: So where were you based when this was happening?
LM: Still at Saskatoon.. oh sorry, North Lutheran.
JH: Can you remember a sense of surprise when you heard….?
LM: September tenth we went to Dusseldorf and then 1:04:28 on the thirteenth where 1:04:32 I was out 1:04:36 a Wellington 1459 it happens to be. I was a bit concerned about what was an apparent lack of power in the 1:04:54 nearly all his Wellingtons had been on operations..
JH: Right, right, right.
LM: 1:04:57 and seconded to these operation trainings.
JH: Yep, so they are not in the first flush of youth ?
LM: I was most concerned that the ability of this perfected plane to take off and fly with about two thousand pounds worth of bombs on board… I complained about the lack of power when I got down that night…. After the night time test. On the night in question I pulled off down the runway, full power, never got above twenty to thirty three. Try as I might, I couldn’t get it to climb. Eventually, I left the end of the run way, the bomb aimer said “Trees ahead” I just clipped the top of those trees, after another one hundred yards.. probably four hundred 1:05:57 probably the softest landing I made through the air force ! Stretched back, couldn’t see a bloody thing ! Didn’t even know I was going past the 1:06:05 just settled on the ground in the middle of the patty.
JH: Really? So you weren’t even on the runway?
LM: I had gone past the runway.
JH: Straight over the trees and then down again?
LM: Yep, well not down again, the ground might have risen! The left foot engine caught fire, we scampered out of that and the plane burned and the four of five others 1:06:34
JH: Oh my word !
LM: They took us off next day and had to do that one.. you had to crash or something like that instead of loosing your confidence. To retain your confidence they made you fly a plane the next day, which I did do. 1:06:53 crash and we passed these trees and went across an area of swampy ground and then landed….Settled down right in the middle of a patty…. Another four hundred yards further on was trees and…not trees….buildings and… that sort of thing. We all got out without a scratch. That was the first…in retrospect, probably that was the first indication that luck was going to be on my shoulder.
JH: That’s incredible !
JH: That must have been a pretty hairy moment wasn’t it? Clipping the trees, you must think this is not good !?
LM: Yeah, I was cursing to myself anyhow ! What the hell are you doing ! Some suggest that afterwards that the flats had crept on.. which probably was my fault…. I don’t know? It might have been the 1:07:49 crept on it made the plane incapable of rising. But nothing was ever certain. I was never quizzed about it.
JH: No one ever said “Your instinct was right, we should never have sent you up?”
LM: No, whether that was the fact that I had complained about lack of power during the day may have had some… been the reason why I was never quizzed 1:08:28
JH: Did you find that that actually you kept a pretty cool head?
LM: Yeah well, yeah.
JH: A couple of years ago. I went out to Helmand and I had been doing all this writing about War and Second World War and stuff, I always wondered, if anything happened, how would I react to it? Would I go into a blue funk or would I keep pretty calm. As it happened nothing serious did happen apart from a bomb did go off pretty close to where I was; Actually I was pleasantly surprised that I was pretty calm about it! Some people are better equipped to…. Some people their brains just addle don’t they? Other people can keep a cool head and can keep calm. This is your second operation of tour, you have the operational sorter, you haven’t even finished your training and this happens to you. This is the kind of thing that knocks people off kilter, but you obviously kept your wits about you OK?
LM: OK, I suppose lets get running
JH: So, yes. You had this first accident?
LM: That was my first year of incident
JH: I mean, were you a bit shaken up by that, or were you OK?
LM: No, I was OK. We didn’t hit the ground with a crash or anything. Settled as I said, just as smooth as one thing, probably the smoothest landing I made right through my service career! Very hard to understand. What happened of course was that it was loaded, flying straight and level, and gradually the ground met come sighted.
LM: There was no buck, no anything.
JH: Right, presumably you hadn’t retracted your undercarriage at this point?
LM: No, no, the undercarriage was up
JH: It was up was it? So it was a belly landing?
LM: Yep, yep, belly landing, yep that’s right. It’s a wonder that, mind you the bombs weren’t …
LM: Live or fused, but there was no jolt or anything like that.
LM: So that was..
JH: So it must have been a… running from the plane and bombs going off?
LM: We took off, to start with, a bit um, we didn’t know where the hell we were. Headed off in one direction and took off at fair speed until we realised that we came another way. Then one day, started going on after, one would go off and about five minutes later another would go off, and all the time these planes, the rest of the planes were taking off and almost over the top of the, where um, I crashed.
LM: That upset me more than anything. The fact that maybe one of them would fly over the top of us, co-inciding with the time that the bomb was going over the top of us.
JH: Right…yeah, yeah.
LM: That worried me more than anything.
LM: So yeah, in retrospect, I think that was a first indication that maybe I was going to be lucky. Told you about the sums going to be later! Then we went to … six lee…
JH: So sorry to go back to that. So they put you up the very next day? Straight in a plane, and that was all fine?
LM: Yep. No, I had been instructed by the instructor, I flew the plane again….
JH: And he came with you?
LM: He came too, yeah.
JH: That was probably a good thing to do wasn’t it?
LM: yeah, yeah, yeah.
JH: I mean, did you feel, feel by that stage that you knew what you were doing? I mean did you feel ready to go on operation?
LM: I never, I don’t think, the first trip to Düsseldorf on the tenth of September 1942. I don’t think I accepted that OK, they wouldn’t be sending us on an operation, unless they were satisfied that we could cope. I think that we.. I accepted that as a fact of life and OK, I think once through, of course my service career, if I was asked to do something, I didn’t question it. I didn’t challenge it. Except on this occasion when I challenged, I questioned the ability of the plane to fly with a bomb loader.
LM: Because, I crashed out
LM: Flatly, So that was it.
JH: So how much longer did you have after that on, in Rutland ?
LM: Not long, I moved to there and Laugherton, yep. Two and a half months, 29th September, I went to 1654 conversion, the Hibby Conversion Unit, Winkleigh..
JH: Where’s that?
LM: It will be up North somewhere, Northern Boundary, wouldn’t it? Middle boundary of Lincolnshire.
JH: Oh, OK
LM: Yep, went there for, um, three months
LM: Just on …
JH: That’s quite a long time isn’t it?
LM: No hang on, yeah, twenty -ninth to the ten, eleven and four, nearly ten weeks.
JH: OK, and were you doing that on Sterling’s and Halifax’s?
LM: So the standard was seven and a half I did on the Manchester’s.
JH: How did you find that?
LM: It was interesting, it was very similar to flying a Wellington, but eh, they were underpowered.
JH: They were always seen as a dogs breakfast…
LM: They were underpowered for the size of the….for the fuel engine, they were underpowered for an operation vehicle carrying bomb loads.
JH: Right, but I suppose when you are training you haven’t got bombs on, have you?
LM: No, only did about seven hours on those, then I switched to Lancaster’s.
JH: Did you?
JH: So you didn’t do Sterling’s or Halifax’s?
LM: No, No
JH: So presumably by being in Lincolnshire, doing Lancaster’s, that’s already ear marking you for Five Group isn’t it?
LM: Um, say that again sorry.
JH: By virtue of the fact you’re in Lincolnshire and training on Lancaster’s, that means you’re almost certainly going to be going in a Five Group rather than one of the others?
LM: I don’t know whether 1654, because it’s two of three Hibby Conversion Units.
LM: I am not sure if 1654 was the training and conversion unit for Five Group, I am not sure about it.
JH: No, I shall try and find that out
LM: It might have been that one of the other groups… it could well have been just a training group for my group
JH: Yeah, because of course by the end of 1942 not every part of the R.A.F…. by any stretch of the imagination, bomber commanders got Lancaster’s ?
JH: There’s a hell of a lot of Halifax’s and Stirling’s about ?
LM: Yeah that’s right, interesting question, ah, after the Dams Raid, this is digressing a little bit, 57 Squadron ?12:10 and one day some Flight Commander somewhere came to me and said, “ We’ve got a spoilt crew here, can you take them up in the first trip in the Lancaster?” Later on, why the hell… how hadn’t they been through a Conversion Unit before? interesting isn’t it. OK go towards the cockpit drilling me, took off and we’re about two thirds of the way up the run way and I said “ Right o start easy Rob” and the bloody Flight Engineer pulled me out the co jump 12:47.” I said, “What the hell happened?” I had a quiet advice from somebody who said, “If you get asked to do that again, refuse!” Yeah, if it hadn’t been for the collaboration of the Flight Engineer or something. When I said “start heating her off,” he said “I thought you were talking about the other gage!
LM: Yeah, so it settled down, the wheels were a nightmare. Well he pulled the wheels up, then we landed, caused a little bit of a pat. Why didn’t that bloke ever go through the ?13:38 how come he went through to the Squadron Heavy Conversion Unit.
JH: But it makes no sense does it? To do a Heavy Conversion Unit on a Lancaster and then send you to a Halifax Squadron?
LM: No, No
JH: And vice versa?
LM: This is a Lancaster of course.
LM: So that’s, how um, that’s how I got my Flight Engineer, Heavy Conversion Unit. Got my Flight Engineer, my Rear Gunner…
JH: Was your Flight Engineer an Appleby?
LM: Yep, then I got my Rear Gunner, or was that the extra ? 14:11 Yeah I got Flight Engineer and Rear Gunner, I will have to look up.
JH: But can you remember when you went to put up your Heavy Conversion Unit?
LM: Beg your pardon?
JH: When you got sent to your Heavy Conversion Unit, I mean did the Lancaster already have a reputation, I mean was that the first plane of choice?
LM: It was a relatively new aircraft and recognised as the be all and end all of bomber 14:48
JH: So you were hoping you would get Lancaster’s rather than Sterling’s?
LM: Yeah, that’s right, yeah, I did the Sterling, I don’t think we probably had a knock, I don’t know whether we had a choice, it just so happens that went to 1654 and from there I went to 97 Squadron.
LM: I worked on 15:15 which was 97 squadron then, and the on the 7th December 42….
JH: Oh really, the year after Pearl Harbour
LM: Yep, yep
JH: And were you aware that 97 already had quite a reputation?
LM: No, no, no
JH: You didn’t know anything about it at all?
LM: I didn’t know anything about all the squadrons, no, we didn’t… there was not much reports or literature of other squadrons
JH: Right, because I guess that is a post war thing isn’t it really?
LM: Yeah, yeah, we never, I didn’t know the fighting comprised, whatever it was ten squadrons 57 and 83 and all these squadrons until much later on
LM: But no, I was not aware that, it wasn’t long after I got onto 97 Squadron, that I recognised that OK, it was a fairly 16:17 squadron
JH: Yeah, I wonder if you can remember anyone talking about the Augsburg Raid?
LM: No that had already happened…
JH: Yeah that was earlier on in the year
LM: No, I don’t know that, I don’t remember it being discussed in the Mess, I can’t remember whether the surviving crew from that were still on the Squadron when I arrived. It was interesting that the very first operation I did on 97 Squadron was a mining trip at the mouth of Jeron River (The Rhone River?)
LM: That was the one, first, and only time I felt fear.
JH: So what prompted it?
LM: Well, I have difficulty explaining that even today. It was a really innocuous operation, we arrived there 17:16 circled to get into position, I will tell you where when I have thought of that; It was pitch black, you could see the outline of the hills , they looked dark and ominous, I started to worry; are we in the right spot, is somebody going to be fired at by a plag? Not for long, but I suddenly.. I felt fear. Just trembled through, it was the one and only time right through my 17:50 tight spot, I was always too busy trying to get the plane out and away from the plags, sort of thing to worry about; maybe loosing my life, or being hit, or the plane being hit there is no explanation for it, everything looked dark and ominous, no lights on the land, I don’t know.
JH: But actually you dropped your mine, no problem.
LM: Yeah, oh yes, it disappeared after all, half a minute or something
JH: Its funny, you know this thing about fear, because, I talked to a lot of guys now who lived through the war, pilots, air crew and naval guys, army guys and people are very different about fear and some people say “anyone who didn’t feel fear is a liar, I can promise you everyone felt fear.” But actually, some people just didn’t, some people were just better equipped to deal with it. Probably in your situation, in a bomber crew, it’s probably an advantage to be a pilot as you are always busy, whereas if you are an Air Gunner, there is lots of time when you are just sitting there, aren’t you, thinking about it. You are not it control of your destiny in the way that you are.
LM: That’s right
JH: So yeah, it’s interesting isn’t it? It is so.. some people just really struggled and some people didn’t, its amazing isn’t it? Well I think you were lucky.
LM: I was lucky yeah, it was middle of winter of course when we got there, when we got to 97. Ten inch cloud over Europe, a lot of the trips we made were over ten inch cloud and that is when the PFF were dropping 19:49 over the clouds and problematic results were when they achieved any damage, the objective of 20:02 was to keep the German population awake at night and effect their morale. I never found out, never found out whether these raids, any of these operations dropping bombs on the 20:16 clouds, ten inch clouds achieved any, any distraction, never ever knew that, but I presume we might have achieved the objective on effecting the morale of German people, I did quite…. several trips 20:37
JH: Did you
LM: Yeah, but then….
JH: So it was a particularly wet and cloudy winter wasn’t it ?
LM: Yes, yes
JH: It never stopped raining that winter forty 42/43?
LM: The first five trips I did, I mean I did two in 20:53 and two in Berlin
JH: Berlin, I mean that’s a heck of a long way even in a Lancaster isn’t it?
LM: Yes, I always remember, that was the last trip I did on .. there’s two instances I can relay, on Berlin we bombed the city in that stage, by the time we came to bomb, the city was a Mess of blood, fires 21:27 and the aircraft guns firing everywhere, we just almost got away over the edge of the 21:38 “Jesus Christ” and he comes through there…21:49
JH: The pilot, so you can still see pretty clearly can you, you’re kind of on top of the plane?
LM: Yes, Yes
JH: So, but you can see down below?
LM: Oh yeah, yeah 22:02
LM: I can always remember this operation, looked down, looked back and saw the city bathed in flames and search lights waving in the air, 22:19 exploding in the air. Jesus Christ, we had come that 22:24 what you can’t see, you don’t worry about
JH: Yeah, I suppose so, suppose so. It must have been an extraordinary sight. Flashes going all over the place?
LM: It probably wasn’t until much later on early April 45, I saw a similar 22:54
LM: 23:01 That was a similar sight to what I saw in 23:08
JH: Did you think much about what was going on down below, or were you just…
LM: No, no…
JH: Just busy doing what your doing?
LM: It didn’t pay to worry really
JH: No, I am sure it didn’t. But incredible, when the back goes off presumably the plane’s being lurched all over the place?
LM: Yeah, yeah, well, not unless one jumped fairly closely, you can… I never had one close enough to effect the stability of the aircraft.
JH: Really, never, not one?
LM: Those that come close to you, thump, just a thump, much closer than that…if they were much closer than that, you would have been in trouble.
JH: But, flying through all that going on, I mean was it, did the skies get turbulent at all ?
LM: No, I don’t remember so…
JH: When you were pouring the front level and about to drop the bombs you could maintain that whole lot?
LM: Yeah that’s right, yeah
LM: Yeah, you know it would have been turbulent if you had been close behind another aircraft in the slip stream or something like that
LM: Generally speaking, I never ever had a close shave or close brush with any other aircraft 24:27
JH: But you never had someone nearly drop bombs on you?
LM: Some up above me and that sort of thing 24:35
LM: Yeah, but ah, fortunately not a big one !
JH: And where did they hit?
LM: It jumped through about the middle of the 24:45, which in memory went straight through, um , I am not sure there were, it must have been coming after
JH: Because you’re not going over… a kind of formation are you?
LM: No, no, just flying … assembly
JH: It’s amazing that more people didn’t crash into each other?
LM: Yeah it is, it is
JH: I mean I know it happened, but ….?
JH: So when you are flying over Berlin or whatever the target might be, you can see other planes can you? That suddenly get caught in the line or…?
LM: Well, ah, they have got to be fairly close. Yeah and of course, its constantly raining on the instruments and that sort of thing, of course the bombers would see more and the gunners could probably see other planes flying around. I never, I could see planes up above and in the distance and I never saw one that was then 25:40 over.
LM: Oh yes
JH: And from your point of view, was there a technique to keep out of other people’s way? Do your own thing?
LM: I don’t think it was that, it was just a thing, you were in the lap of the Gods as to whether you were in a same flight path as another aircraft. You had a, once your in target, you had to head to the target on a given bearing…
LM: And then when you’re, once you’re on the edge of the city, in sight of the target, you’re in control of the bomber then. You just abided by his direction, left right, centre and um, it was, it would have been mostly .. I think other, some blokes would quite clearly, well not clearly would have had the occasions when they were close to the aircraft. It didn’t happen in my… I don’t remember being dangerously close to any other aircraft, over the target. I mean its another… you know luck being on my side. Not luck in the sense that I 26:57
JH: So when you joined 97, you felt very comfortable in a Lancaster, you knew as a pilot, by this time you got quite a lot of hours presumably?
JH: Got a little bit of operational experience, I mean from doing those two or one and nearly two trips, from the Wellingtons?
JH: I mean that…you’re pretty well prepared aren’t you? I mean there’s being quite a lot of investment in you as a pilot up to that point?
LM: Yeah, that’s right, oh yeah, around about eight or nine hundred hours before I got my first operation
JH:I mean that’s a hell of a time…?
LM: Ah, sorry, that’s before I went in 97
JH: I mean that’s a good amount isn’t it, I mean…?
LM: 27:46 on the 7th December 42, I was posted to 97 Squadron onto an Operational Squadron and to achieve a… to justify the reason for which I am listing. There’s the heroes that suddenly, well, not suddenly eventually have an aircraft as an operational squadron to take place in actual operations against Germany
JH: Was there a sense of relief? Don’t know why, but you had got there?
LM: A sense of completion of.. satisfying.. sense of satisfaction.
JH: Yeah, but you felt up for it, you were ready for it?
LM: Yeah, I never… yes I didn’t have, I might have pretended in my outlook or something, I never ever felt that I was in incomp…well incompetent’s not really the word, well that I was in sufficiently trained
JH: Well, you know if you are going to do this stuff, you’ve got to have the confidence in your ability haven’t you ? You know, if you’re not confident in what your doing, then you’re onto a …. Its only going to go one way isn’t it? I mean you’ve got to have self confidence and belief and back yourself I suppose ?
JH: So how long were you um, how long was it until you… after you joined the squadron that you..I mean what was the gap between joining and going on your first op?
LM: It was about a fortnight I think.
JH: So you were given a bit of time to acclimatise?
LM: Yeah within the first bit of training and um, er, we had taken on various things, it was the 7th December and I think I had the first, um, first operation in January I think, yep, maybe I was already in 29:48, 29:52, we arrived on the 7th December and I did my trip on the 2nd January.
JH: OK, so about three and a half weeks.
JH: I am thinking about, just going back to the crews all crewing up together and that ad hoc nature. I suppose though all of you are volunteers and you’re all going to have a certain, um, you are going to be like minded to a degree aren’t you? So there’s always going to be a good chance you’re all going to get on? I mean you’re young guys all doing something you volunteered to do. But you got on well with your crew? I mean did you all socialise together?
LM: Yeah, bear in mind that 30:43 Jock and I were the only Officers to start with, so the opportunity to socialise between the other crew as a whole, unless you had made arrangements to go out for dinner 30:55
LM: There was opportunity..
LM: Unless you had made particular arrangements to meet them, so I can’t say that we ever became very close other than Jock and I, eh, eventually the rest of the crew 31:27 commissions and eh, shared the Mess at Petworth? Probably…. generally they came to socialise a bit more 31:40
JH: So did you find at Woodhall’s Spa You would spend your time with Jock or would there be other guys you would…?
LM: I spent a lot of time with other guys we had a big four at one stage we used to play croquette with one of two of the blokes, 32:05, some of them I … although Jock was 32:10 he wasn’t.. Jock wasn’t one to spend time at the Bar.
LM: I wasn’t either in any way.. although I did!
JH: Yep, but you didn’t go out boozing or stuff?
LM: No, no. Yep I wasn’t in the habit of spending time in the pub before I … even though I was eighteen, nineteen or twenty, I didn’t use to go to the pub 32:43, I used to go occasionally on prize. A small group of first world war veterans who farmed 32:55 I became quite friendly with them and I joined them 32:59 having drinks with them, but it was only Friday nights…
LM: That I would be chatting 33:14. So I wasn’t in the habit really …I don’t know I had visions of drinking in the little bar at Woodhalls Spa I was 97 Squadron and then subsequently 617 33:31, but it wasn’t common preference on my part…
LM: To spend time there except.. when I was in need of a drink or something!
JH: Yeah, but would you ever get off the station and go to the movies or …
LM: No, I was peculiar little bloke! I was quite happy to stay in the Mess , um, I don’t remember going off the station, um, very much at all, except when I went on leave ..
JH: Right and when you went on leave if you are in England, presumably you would go down to London or something ?
LM: Definitely London, I regret, later on in the War , I regret the fact that I didn’t go up to Scotland to…Jocks Family , I regret that um, I always.. for some reason I .. leave always meant going to London any 34:35 club or going to the pictures there.. and that sort of thing.
JH: You didn’t get bored when you weren’t on ops? I mean, because actually there is quite a lot of time in between isn’t there? There is always big gaps…
LM: Depending on the weather, it could be a couple of weeks, but normally speaking no. But you didn’t get bored, well I didn’t get bored, some people might have.
JH: But what would you do? Write letters and read and play bridge?
LM: That’s a difficult question, how did I occupy my time? Can’t say with any degree of certainty, I did this or did that . I used to socialise in the Mess and 35:34 the frontage of the lawns and that sort of thing 35:41 relaxing and it would take the afternoon to relax ..
JH: Would there be any sport on ?
LM: There was a bit of sport played, cricket. Went to the swimming pool at.. Woodhalls Spa.. you know that sort of thing
LM: When you started in retrospect when you’re dealing with 36:10 other than sleeping what are you to do with the other waiting hours of the day?
JH: All sorts of things?
LM: I know my two Canadians, they used to go to Boston and get up and row and that sort of thing, but I was always up and out 36:26
JH: It probably paid off not to!?
JH: Yeah, you would be daft not to, were you a smoker?
LM: Yep, I used to smoke quite heavily during the War, I had never smoked until I went overseas, and um, I was a smoker and then six months I would knock off and for some reason I would start again , I actually smoked a pipe for a while, but I would smoke a packet of cigarettes a day..
JH: There was no shortage of those sort of things, I guess they were compensation for all the danger you were put in to, you were looked after when you weren’t flying ops weren’t you?
JH: Well fed and comparatively? What was the accommodation like at Woodhall? Did you get a room to yourself or were you sharing?
LM: Ah, I shared, until I became a Flight Commander, I was sharing. Normally speaking, you shared with your crew, Jock and I 37:28 we moved into a bigger room, there was five or six of crew and eventually when I was promoted to Squadron Leader, I got a room.
JH: Yep, and it was perfectly comfortable and bed alright?
LM: Ah yes
JH: And wash rooms and bathrooms down the corridor or something?
LM: Yep, that’s right, I don’t think we had … the same room today have got hand basins en-suite and all that sort of thing. I don’t think we did in those days?
LM: I think we went down the corridor to a communal bathroom
JH: Right, so how many ops did you do with 97?
LM: Other than the two at Woodhalls.. Laugherton..I did twenty one altogether, when um, Five Group circulated all the, I don’t know whether they circulated all squadrons, they certainly seemed.. I mean circulated quite a number by letter calling for volunteers for the Bomber Special Squadron, they were carrying out a special operation and special 38:39 it was 38:42 and they were near the end of their first tour or commencing their second, there was a rumour that there had been a lot of arguing about Gibson selecting crews, but it didn’t.
JH: I was going to say, I mean, he couldn’t have possibly have done?
LM: I often say he wouldn’t have know me from a bar of soap. Arguments still go on today because I was reading the uncensored version of his book where he talks about assistance from the Five Group Personnel 39:16 truthful he may of selected some of those crews that he knew 39:25
JH: Hopgood and Maudsley and these guys ?
LM: Yeah, he could have easily said “well I wont have one?” 39:35 but in the main I think they were nearly all volunteers.
JH: So what was it, a notice went up on the notice board?
LM: A letter from five group went up on the notice board, I quite distinctly remember this and calling my group together and said “Look there’s been a call for volunteers for bomber special, special squadron, to form a new squadron” and discussed with my crew whether I should volunteer on behalf or the crew as a whole and they really did ?40:08
JH: So what was it about that that caught your attention? What made you think ?
JH: Sense of adventure, excitement?
LM: Yeah, I think so
JH: Testing yourself?
LM: The fact that I had done twenty one trips, it was a new adventure that I would liked to have tried.
JH: I mean if you had done twenty one trips for 97 plus two others, are you feeling like you’re an old hand by this stage? Do you feel pretty experienced ?
LM: I was feeling a lot more confident that er, things were going well for me, I had no near, close shaves..
JH: Really none at all ?
LM: Not on, from the point of view of flack or night flights.
JH: Really? No having to do corkscrews or anything like that?
LM: No, ah, yeah I had the occasional one. I went straight off course on the way home one day close to hand, and all hell broke loose, we landed with flack and I had to put the nose down and corkscrew out of it at a fairly high rate until I got clear of the flack. It was a close call I suppose..
JH: So what trip was that?
LM: Err, one on Berlin I think.
JH: Oh right, OK.
LM: Coming home I think.
JH: It’s a hell of a way isn’t it?
LM: Yeah, yeah, I think that’s probably the closest, I got a little bit of small fragments of flack in the aircraft.
JH: So I mean, you know, you read accounts of guys and they come back and their saying “ There’s barely a time I came back without my flank being riddled with bullets and bits of flack and stuff, but that’s not your experience?
LM: No, no, although occasionally I did, like later on.. I did, I got a bit of flack damage, but er, after that stage, no, um. Each time I went on Berlin, we didn’t have any of those, Berlin wasn’t one of those places where it was covered in 10 inch cloud in the air, and the PFF dropped coloured flares and bombs. Generally speaking those early trips I did to Essen? And Berlin were in clear weather and you could see the target below you.
JH: I mean did you ever have a feeling “I’m over the capital on the third right?” I mean did that ever hit you or did you just think this is Berlin ?
LM: No, I am afraid I just listened in, I just …
JH: You just take it in your stride?
LM: The Major sitting on your rear “Oi” ! Yeah it was a matter of books? Operational decent was OK so be, it its going to be everything in front of the target …
JH: Presumably the flack over Berlin is considerably worse than most places?
LM: Yeah, yeah, yeah
JH: It must be mad absolutely mad, absolutely mad place to attack, you just concentrated on your job and just flew through it?
LM: Once you were in the hands of the bomb 43:17 you stuck to his instructions, whether you move left or right.
JH: Did you ever have to have a sort of dummy run going round again and all that stuff?
LM: No, never did,
JH: Never did?
LM: Never did,
JH: So you had good faith in your part.. which one was your bomb aimer? Was that Appleby ?
LM: No, Jimmy Clay.
JH: Jimmy Clay was your bomber and he was a good guy?
LM: Umm, I had reservations about him, yeah..
JH: Are you able to say why?
LM: Ah, well yeah, while I was on.. no sorry, Jimmy came when I volunteered, I go back a bit ! The bomber I got from, when I was on ATU
LM: The first couple of trips, high level trips, he passed out over the 44:18 he passed out on the bomber run twice so he was taken off operation for medical reasons and then from then on until I volunteered, where there was a succession of bomb aimers, but bomb aimers on their loose end they were sent through to crew up and appointed..allocated into my aircraft and amongst those at one stage was a Lt in the Navy getting bombing experience he did about five trips with me as a bomb aimer a bloke called Bill Lethy, a kind of nice bloke.
JH: And he was from the Navy!?
LM: Yeah he was from the Navy, yeah, and when I volunteered, I had no bomb owner, so Jimmy Clay was appointed at Skampton and on one of two occasions, Jim was.. had difficulty and I would hit the flying targets and one thing and another. He was reported as saying that the after being 45:32 in the Dam’s Raid he said I consulted all the crew, I don’t know when or where 45:39 and advised the crew we would be returning and Jim said after a vote was taken by the crew.. well there was no flaming vote taken by the crew.
JH: Yeah, give the position, yeah OK, so..
LM: He was alright
JH: He was just a bit of an odd fish ?
LM: He was alright , I didn’t have one hundred percent confidence with him, put it that way
LM: Certainly on 616 he wasn’t on 97 46:13
JH: Oh OK, what about your bomb aimer at 97?
LM: That’s what I am just coming to, I had a succession of bomb aimers, seven or eight in that..
JH: That’s amazing isn’t it, that must be quite unusual?
LM: Yeah, I don’t know why it didn’t .. what’s the point of the 46:35
JH: So the navigator..
LM: Jock was..I only had one when we were on the trips to Berlin, when I was coming out of Berlin, last trip I did on Berlin, which was later on, I think. I asked Jock to..for the course to steer home and he gave me a course of one forty, and I thought that’s funny doesn’t sound right to me, I said, “Jock can you check your calculations” he came back and said “its one forty” I said “I think you better check them again!” This was the third time and he came back and said “No, one forty is the correct course” I said “ This is going to take me further than the South East of Germany” I knew it was something over two forty and after a while this voice came back to me and said “ Sorry skipper I made a mistake, the course should be whatever it was two forty, it was the only time I ever had to question Jock’s ability.
JH: Did he give you a hard time for that or did he just nod?
LM: No, no, we must have talked about it afterwards 48:03 or something.
JH: It strikes me the navigation must be ..if not the pilot that’s the most difficult job isn’t it? It’s a hell of a job with the.. by today’s standards; very primitive means of getting from A to B, I mean in the dark, I mean its incredible..?
LM: Yeah Yeah
JH: I would have thought dead reckoning isn’t it?
LM: It was the next and foremost important crew member to the pilot ..
LM: You could never get close to them, you relied on him to get to the target and home again
JH: Yeah, yeah, you’ve got to have trust in him
LM: You had to trust in him, yeah, that episode did not effect my confidence in Jock’s ability, its just something that just happened on that day.
JH: Yeah, yeah, and thankfully you managed to get out of it and you were all OK.
LM: Yes fortunately, I was worried when this one plane.. I kept.. this one plane flying down 49:04 easy week for a night time…. To get onto it.
JH: Always lucky, did you ever… It always strikes me about the Lancaster, I mean everybody always talks about it being such a lovely plane and you know, I can completely accept it was and very versatile and easy to fly and all those sort of things and very forgiving, but it always strikes me awfully under armed, I mean brownie machine guns were pea shooters, what you wanted was some 50 kals or some canons, I never understood why you didn’t have canons on? They’re not that heavy are they ? Was it the weight or what?
LM: That’s a good point actually..
JH: Why wasn’t there anything underneath? I mean if all the guys were being mashed by night fighters coming up underneath you and just firing up…
LM: I think the reasons for lack of armour was to enable the bomb.. Lancaster carrier as big and long bomb load as possible, certainly the back of our seats had armour plating.
JH: What was it.. was it quite comfortable, your seat?
LM: Oh yes…
JH: Sort of soft and …
LM: I sat.. I did a twelve hour trip once, I don’t know where it was some where in East Germany without getting out of the seat or without having a pee too!
JH: I was going to say, what happens? I mean there must be times when you need a pee?
JH: So what do you do?
LM: You have to hose of course ! By that I mean unzipping your trousers and you get your penis out..
JH: Not easy !
LM: Not easy no, I probably didn’t have much to drink anyway because.. prior to taking off, but yeah, twelve hours was the longest trip I did without getting out to have a pee !
JH: Because presumably if you do need a pee, you cant just get out of your seat and just wander off? You’ve got to just..
LM: If you wanted to do that you have to go down to the tail of the aircraft and use the 51:10 later on I had enough confidence in my Flight Engineer to let him take controls, I would wander around the aircraft 51:22
JH: Really, wow and it was perfectly warm enough in the cock pit?
LM: Well yeah 51:35 trousers and you could plug those in to the electric system, to be honest, I never suffered from the cold.
JH: And did you always wear gloves?
JH: And what would they be.. silk gloves or leather?
LM: You had your silk gloves on first and then your leather gloves over the top of that.
JH: The armoured plating, I have seen , I haven’t been in a Lancaster cockpit, but I have seen it, its pretty good. What did it smell like in there? Did it have a distinct.. I have got a really old car, I drive around in a 1949 Citroen and you get into a modern car and its got a modern smell. But when I get into my Citroen it smells of rubber and petrol and oil, its got a very distinct smell ..
LM: I don’t remember the cock pit smelling at all except the starting up of the motors and if you had your side windows open, which you would do if the weather was alright outside, you get the smell of the smoke..start fumes, petrol fumes..
JH: Because they would come in ?
LM: Seeping into the cock pit, other than that I don’t remember a smell.
JH: But presumably the oxygen mask rubber, you have that? Was there much.. I mean did you.. presumably.. did you ever chat much when you were flying over? Or was it pretty much…
LM: Some crews did, I always felt 53:13 and if everybody was chatting, the Captain couldn’t give orders and that sort of thing. To my my mind of thinking, it was not a good sign of discipline if crew members started chatting to each other and I.. my aircraft was a silent aircraft except for when were discussing aspects of the operation or what we had to do.. and this sort of thing. Whether I was too stringent or not in that respect I don’t know? A lot of crews were the same I didn’t encourage chat.
JH: Better to concentrate on the job in hand I guess?
LM: See the first.. I will give you an example of that is on the first.. or when Cockerent decided he would try.. we were bouncing a little bit in time. Cockerent would carry or send to do a trial introducing 617s low marking techniques in the main bomber force and we were expected to go in to Brunswick and eighty three and two PFF Squadrons were going to do the marking, I was certain that PFF were going to do the marking course presumably, or the flares anyway, 54:39 mark the targets and I was just shooting 54:57 on Brunswick and I was in charge, obviously 55:04 overseeing the bombing force 55:09 and when I was crossing.. flying towards the target, somewhere in Holland and the plane had not.. one plane had not.. one pilot had not checked his transfiller, and you could hear this chatter. Then we stopped, I don’t know why, I couldn’t get over it and eventually, the crew and I decided there was a PFF plane and we didn’t know who or which one. So I asked Percy Pigeon 55:57 to send a VF.. an RT Message to all PFF aircraft to check their transmitters and one part of 56:11 was transmitting everything that was going on in the cock pit. That didn’t lead to… it wasn’t very successful that night because the PFF’s not in the right place and the weather was not good and as a trial it was a bit of a failure.
LM: But two nights later we went to Munich and that was a complete success, quite a difference.
LM: So er, yes, so, other than.. no incidents in 97, um, I think that was the only case I didn’t have any close shaves from memory other than the sudden burst of 57:02 close to Hamburg I think.
JH: Yeah, so were was it? Hamburg? Where did you get to close too?
JH: And did you have any superstitions or mascots? You didn’t have anything like that? Peeing on the tail 57:18?
LM: I was a plagiarist, I still am a plagiarist, I went to the war and knew that OK if I got hit, so be it, there was nothing I could do about it. I had two of us operating, it didn’t worry me the fact that we were flying into danger, risking my life.
JH: Really, you just didn’t, you just thought what will be will be?
LM: What will be will be
JH: I mean that is clearly the right attitude to have isn’t it? Not everyone else is capable of that kind of.. sort of pragmatic approach, I suppose ? Because I always think, you start having superstitions… you are kind of a hostage to.. because the one time you don’t get to do it, then you are in a state. You are in such a state about it through the whole of your operation, that maybe you are too tense or not concentrating enough; Of course there is a massive proportion of people who get shot down the one time they forget their mascot of whatever, and of course its all nonsense. But its just that maybe, the fact that you are worrying about not having your mascot is making you under perform, or your not quite so sharp?
LM: Quite a few blokes did have their mascots, and wouldn’t fly without it. I didn’t know whether it was going to help me..
JH: You didn’t have religion or anything ?
LM: No, no. But then people.. individuals did have superstitions for sure.
JH: My point was just, I completely understand why people would, but I am sure its better to be like you and not have them, because you are attempting… it always seems to be the one time you don’t adhere to that superstition that it goes wrong.
LM: Yeah, that’s right.
JH: I know that a lot of people did… do a lot more praying than they might normally have done, but obviously that wasn’t your way.
LM: I wasn’t in to that ..
JH: But there was parterres wern’t there? Around the station? And churches and things that you could go to, if you wanted to?
LM: Oh yeah, if you wanted to yeah. If you felt so inclined, or you felt that you had to go to church and cleanse your sins and all that sort of thing.
JH: Yeah, yeah.
LM: I suppose it was the way I was bought up. In a way I never thought I’m wrong there, Mother had.. she, she… I don’t know was before she married my Dad, she became a member of.. something like the Jehovah’s Witness’s or the Seven Day Adventists, I never known to this day what particular branch of religion it was. Every Sunday we would be gone.. not every Sunday in the horse and buggy and off to the.. we had these services in private homes.
LM: There was only my.. and when I boarded with my Aunt when I went to High-school I had to go to Sunday School. I had no option. I had to go with strict materials..
JH: I was going to say being Scottish !
LM: I had to go to Sunday School.. that was my only.. once after I had left High-School my attendance at Churches was almost… non existent! It hasn’t been until this day ! I went to Church service in the air force and I go to a French funeral today and a wedding.
JH: Weddings, funerals and christenings !
LM: Yeah, probably I should be ashamed to say that, but eh..
JH: Oh well, not everyone’s bag is it?
LM: No, no, no.
JH: So the whole of the.. when you suggested to the rest of the crew, that you should take up this offer of volunteering, they were all up for it were they?
LM: All happy for me to do so, except for my Rear Gunner, and he decided he wanted to finish. So.. and that meant when I arrived in Skampton, I had a new bomber aimer-Jimmy Clay and the rear gunner- Harvey Wicks 1:01:36. So Jimmy Clay left me, I will have to have a look back then, two or three months before we finished 51:01:53 and Harvey Wicks stayed right to the end.
JH: Who was your CO in 97?
LM: 97? I think a bloke called James.
JH: OK, so did you have to get permission from him or did you just…
LM: Oh no, no, no just advise. Just advise. Presumably we advised the editor that we.. we responded to the invitation or to the request. It was actually a request rather than an invitation to volunteer for the…
JH: So having done, made the volunteer, there was no question that you wouldn’t then be asked to go over?
LM: I don’t know whether it was something that.. it question marked in my mind as to whether the…
JH: There must have been a process? It might have been more crews volunteering than were required?
LM: There must have been a point at which the group.. the Officer’s responsible for the creation of the Squadron, had a look at the volunteers and decided that OK.. I am not sure whether or not.. this is what I am not sure of .. that they were suitable or otherwise. My impression would be that all the volunteers had excepted.
JH: Yes, because there were some guys who only had a bout ten ops, didn’t they? So they are hardly experienced?
LM: And the other point, relevant to the theory that Gibson selected all the crews, a Sergeant Crew arrived on the Squadron and Gibson said “ That’s the next stage.”
JH: He was a bit of a…
LM: Now why would he pick a crew on one day and say “No, he is no good” on the next day?
LM: 1:03:38 volunteered you.
JH: But also you have to remember, when he is writing enemy codes ahead, he has been asked to do that by the airman to a certain degree its going to be nothing but propaganda isn’t it? I am sure that most of it is fine, but it is still going to be still part of the Dam Buster myth isn’t it?
LM: So we arrived in what.. Joe Mc Carthy ..
JH: He was from 97 wasn’t he?
LM: And 97, David Walby. But I am pretty sure that they volunteered to join 617, to for go to this new Squadron.
JH: Yeah, yeah, but most of the.. Gibson, where was he? I know he was 106 CO and I think he was 57 if I remember rightly or 43 or something. But most of the Squadrons, most of 617 was made up of crews from about four or five Squadrons wasn’t it?
LM: Yeah, I never really followed that through..
JH: But I think that’s correct.. all Five Group. So Gibson is not going to… you wouldn’t even if you were a Squadron.. I mean he was only just made Wing Commander, as a Squadron Leader, you’re only going to know people who you have served with. You’re not going to know guys from other Squadrons who you have never flown with before?
JH: So the Chermans and the Hopgoods and Maudslays.. I mean he may have known them and said “ It would be great if I could have them, because I know they are good” and Nick Martin and people like that. You can count them on one hand cant you?
LM: Incidentally, Henry Maudslay was my instructor in 1:05:36.
JH: Was he? Good guy?
LM: Oh yeah, he was nice to .. what I would describe as a rather nice “pom!” He was a nice bloke, Henry, and very polite and very easy to get on with and he was a Flight Lt tenant then. By the time I arrived, at Skampton, he came in as a Flight Commander, Squadron Leader.
JH: And you had been promoted to Flight Lt. by then?
LM: Yeah, yeah.
JH: So when did that come through?
LM: I will have to look that up somewhere..
JH: Don’t worry, don’t worry, but anyway in a month or so presumably
LM: Yeah, I arrived, I must have been..
JH: You must have gone up the ranks reasonably quickly as you came in as a Pilot Officer then Flying Officer…?
LM: Yeah that’s right, I was Pilot Officer and arrived in.. yeah that must have been the system operation with the RAZA because, certainly my promotion was more rapid than a RAF, both of the equivalent time in the service. But if you want to know, I can look it up?
JH: Don’t worry, its just if you had it at your finger tips..?
LM: We arrived on the.. all three crew drove up on the.. in one of these longer bigger buses. It was used for taking the crews out to the planes and operations. I think we all.. all three of us arrived at Skampton on the same day. Some authors say 24th I was checking on something on John Sweetman’s book and he says the twenty.. a different day again. My log book says we arrived on the 23rd of March. Quite a variation in what day the actual Squadron was formed. Interesting.
JH: Well it’s indicative, the fact that it was all.. it wasn’t precise was it? I mean .. we’ll start mustering guys now, I mean not everyone’s going to be able to pitch up on the same day?
JH: I mean was it literally, one day you’re in 97 Squadron and the next minute you’re…
JH: X Squadron, yeah ..
LM: I remember arguing with some author, it wasn’t all X Squadron to start with, D- Day, I was wrong there because it was a week or something before they all got their…our Squadron numbers?
JH: Yeah something like that.
LM: It relates to my theory that OK, how can an author be accurate some sixty five years later? I hear three different dates by three different authors?
JH: Yeah, I know, sometimes you get .. I can tell you when I was doing my book on North Africa, and had three different Battalion diaries. Which are supposedly written up on a day by day basis but because of the heat of war sometimes they are done a week later or ten days or whatever. Even on the day in question some people may just get the date confused, they might think it’s a Wednesday when actually it’s a Tuesday and actually they have just lost track of time because they are in the middle of a battle. I had two separate accounts, verbal accounts, I had two written accounts and I had several diaries as well. I was trying to make sense of this one tiny episode and just none of it added up.. I could just not work it out. One person was swearing that he was on a particular spot and he could actually describe it as clear as yesterday and he was telling me this is what had happened, it just did not tally up. It didn’t matter how many times you looked at it and worked it out, tried to surmise what was going on, it just didn’t work. Occasionally you just have to hold your head up and go “I don’t know what happened there” “I cant work it out” you just have to say that. But what you do have there is obviously contemporary archives and bits of paper, memos and reports which are written at the time. You just have to piece it altogether. Occasionally you just have to take a punt. What you are striving to do is to make it as accurate as you possibly can with the material you have got. I think that’s the way. But yeah you are right; sometimes it’s hard to piece together. But I’m not going to get too hung up on things like that.
LM: My log book says and that was written on the day..
JH : I don’t doubt that
LM: I arrived on the 23rd May
JH: I am sure you did
LM: Sorry and John Sweetman is saying that.. his chapter starts that training was formed on the 24th March. We were there before. I have got a great deal of respect for John and his research. He has sent me very detailed research on facts and things and yet he is quoting a different day to other people and what I know.
JH: Could you have arrived at Skampton on the 23rd but the Squadron not been formally formed until the 24th?
LM: Yeah, I think.. I have got to concede that..
JH: There must have been a..
LM: But their were a fair crowd that night. The first night that we arrived..
JH: There were a fair amount of people there?
LM: There were a fair amount of people in the lounge, all chatting and waiting to hear what they were here for..
JH: Everyone must have been…
LM: A whole crowd of them..
JH: Gibson keeps banging on about that he thought it was going to be the Turpitz. Was that a popular… ?
LM: As time went on, that was a thought of a lot of the crews, that this was going to be the Turpitz or Captainship. Coming back to you..that was not something I gave a lot of thought to, I said “alright.” See in a way that sort of thing didn’t seem to worry me, as to what the hell are we training for ? I suppose it did in a way. But I didn’t loose any sleep over it. The fact “ are we going to attack a Ship or are we taking the U boat 1:13:05 or what the hell are going to do? It didn’t worry me too much.
JH: No, so you were up for the challenge?
LM: Yeah, it’s not for me to question why, what to do and die?
JH: But presumably the only guys you knew were the guys from 97 Squadron were they?
LM: Yeah, yeah.
JH: Had you heard of any of the others? I mean had you heard of Gibson?
LM: Well, apart from Henry Maudslay who was my instructor, I had never heard of them. I didn’t know any others, I had never met Gibson..
JH: Had you heard of Gibson?
LM: I hadn’t even heard. I think I heard of Micky Martin, he was a bit renowned for being..
JH: What for being a page pilot?
LM: Low flying …
JH: He already had that reputation?
LM: So yeah, you will believe me from now on?
JH: What was Skampton like? Was it bigger than Woodhalls Spa?
LM: 1:14:21 57 Squadron was still there when I arrived, was 49 there? 49 Squadron had left not long before in preparation for sealing.. preparation of sealing the run ways. Then of course they used that, because they had been taken away and then moved else where, it was.. so happened that the station.. immediately the 1:14:56 this new Squadron was being formed. It was pre-war station, so you had the big hangers and head quarters in brick and stone and all that sort of thing and Messes. It was a pre-war station and their such a big 1:15:12
LM: No Nissan huts.
JH: And good accommodation ?
LM: Good accommodation. I cant remember going.. whether I had a room to my self or I shared a room?
JH: So you are not sure whether you are with Jock or not?
LM: No, no.
JH: I know the film is nothing to rely on, but I remember in the film they always seem to always be sharing.
LM: Yeah, certainly later on, we are talking about Skampton now, certainly Woodhalls Spa , we shared. I just can’t remember sharing a room a Skampton? I may well have done, I am leaning towards the thought that I had a room to myself. But I can’t guarantee.
JH: What I meant to ask you was, about.. not about superstitions about that kind of rituals of.. I mean if you knew that you were going to.. a typical day when you knew that you had been on a raid, you would be doing an operation. When would you find out you were going to be flying that night?
LM: Fairly early, generally nineish, eight or nine o’clock in the morning.
JH: So you would get up when?
LM: You would get up and you would have breakfast and go up to your flights. By that time…
JH: And what’s flights? Flights is what? A room? When you say you go up to flights? Is that a …
LM: That’s where the administrative head quarters was..
JH: And there would be a room there saying..
LM: The CO would have a room there, the Flight Commander’s would have a rooms you would have your crew gear.. what do you call them?
JH: Parachutes, jackets..
LM: Where you changed from your ordinary clothes into your flying gear and that sort of thing. Flights, yes crew flights..
JH: So you would go from what? You would wander around the Mess in tunic and trousers..
LM: You would be wearing your battle dress..
JH: And then you would go into battle dress?
LM: You would be wearing your battle dress, you get up and get straight into your battle dress.
JH: Oh would you, OK.
LM: Battle dress was your common form of dress.1:17:43 or something on or you’re going out or something like that. But you would normally be in battle dress, tunic and if you are on the ops you would have to.. well you would still say in your battle dress. You would fly in your overalls and that sort of thing. You would report to the Flights after breakfast and at that stage you would be rised and ops were on. Your Flight Commander would say “Right, ops tonight, do your flight test, do your night time test.” You were told whether you were on ops; or maybe it was the type of operation that wanted to half the mastering Squadron. You would be told whether you were all on or who was on, who was not,1:18:33 your usual. I stuck to, mostly I was.. tried to let the crews have the same aircraft all the time, some times it didn’t happen. You might be able to 1:18:55 myself something along 1:18:58 1:19:05. So the Flight Commander would advise you: You were on, do your night flying test , what time the op was on, what time.. if you would have an early tea, all that was advise.
JH: So what would the night test be?
LM: You would take your plane up you would check your flying with the motors, Gunners would check the turrets the 1:19:28 would check his gear all that sort of thing. That would extend up to about half and hour. If there was something that needed doing you would advise the Ground Staff, Ground Staff Sergeant, whatever needed to be done. They would re-check the plane and then the 1:19:55 would start the bombing op.
JH: Up at Flights, would there be maps on a wall and that sort of thing? Or would it be a basic administrative office?
LM: They would have come when you were briefed, also you would be advised as to what time briefing was.
LM: When you first got up there, briefing may have been say half past four five o’clock..
JH: And that would be in a big room?
LM: Yep, a big room, with all your 1:20:23 you would walk in at briefing time and you would be taped from base to coast and then across to 1:20:33.
JH: Would you take notes?
LM: Ah, yep, if you thought you needed to, certainly the navigators and the bomb aimers would be taking notes, I relied on the extent of my memory and what the.. and like the episode with Jock and doing us a long course. I knew just from memory that it was wrong.
JH: Not right
LM: It was wrong.. wrong..
JH: Yeah, yeah, yeah
LM: So, I don’t remember taking much notice anyway. They had given us the facilities to check your own flight compared with the Navigator they had a little dish..
JH: You’re job’s just to fly
JH: So you would have your briefing and then ..
LM: You do your night time test, normally in the morning
LM: Then you would come back and probably relax and go back to the Mess. Sometimes you had other work to do and then you would go off for briefing and you would be briefed on what time to take off, what time your bombing 1:21:55 and any aspect like that as far as.. and briefed on what defence you usually expect.. that sort of thing. You then go back and have your operational tea, bacon and eggs.
JH: That was always bacon and eggs was it?
LM: Generally speaking.
JH: I wonder where that tradition came from?
LM: I don’t know?
JH: Bacon and eggs you have for breakfast; and what did you get with that? A cup of tea?
LM: Tea or coffee, I.. maybe additional.. I can’t remember whether there was an additional treat or something like that . Certainly bacon and eggs, toast and then you would go back ? And then if there was an earlier take off you would just wait for the buses to pick you up.. ?
JH: So when you say buses, where they really buses or were they..
LM: They came from the transport section..
JH: And it would be a bus?
LM: Generally speaking, or in some cases, my Flight Commander at Woodhalls Spa, tried to make us all have Jeeps.. what do you call them?
JH: Little Jeeps or something?
LM: Yeah 1:23:16, but ah, there would be buses going to our Sergeant’s Mess and..
JH: A bit like a shuttle bus at an airport?
LM: Yeah, that’s right, yeah. They take you up and you go to side Crew Rooms, get into your flying gear. Pick up your parachute and then be taken down to the aircraft.
JH: Would the bus again take you out there ? Or would you just walk across?
LM: It depends how far you were away from your hardstand from the blocks.
JH: Would your plane always be in the same place?
LM: Yeah, generally speaking, each plane had it’s designated hardstand and they stayed stuck to that and you had the same aircrew, same Ground Staff looking after your 1:24:04
JH: And did you get to know your Ground Staff?
LM: Up to a point you did, yeah, I tried.. you dealt mainly with the Sergeant in charge of each main group. Each group would have two or three lanks, depending on the cluster of hardstands. They would be responsible and look after those particular planes..
LM: When you come back from testing and you wanted to discuss some problem, you would talk to the Sergeant. Then he would instruct Ground Staff to.. any questions1:24:45
JH: You have go to trust them haven’t you?
LM: Yeah, yeah , yeah.
JH: It’s funny you know, Fighter Pilots talk about their ground crew a lot more.. I don’t know.. I have always noticed Fighter Pilots always talk about their 1:25:05 and always say “they were marvellous” and “you had to trust them implicitly” and all this kind of stuff. You never get quite the same …. voluntary
LM: I never ever had lack of confidence in the Ground Staff, they were pretty good. I tried to make practice on my flying test to take a couple up every time I went up.
LM: Yeah, and they would say ”jumped it” 1:25:28 approval of course for the absence of the 1:25:33. Once the planes were up on night time, they didn’t have anything to do with the planes anyway.. there was no planes to work on. I endeavoured to take them up every now and again.
JH: So then you would wait for word to .. I mean how would the word “take off?” Would that come over the radio? Or would you be in your plane? Or would you just wait? Would someone come round in a little Jeep saying “ Get going?”
LM: At briefing.. this aspect of it, I just can’t remember how it was dealt with what.. honestly it wouldn’t have been satisfactory or every plane taking off, going to get to the take off point at the same time so there must have been an order of which you started your motors and that sort of thing. But generally speaking, at briefing you would say” OK start up is at this given time for such and such an aircraft” otherwise you.. ..yeah.
JH: And then once you start up you’ve presumably got your headset on and you are waiting for someone to say “Right off you go !” ?
LM: You’re runner would run up and check the motors and then.. OK. Then you would.. I don’t know how the sequence of leaving your hard stand and getting to the edge of the runway was worked out? Whether it was first in, first out? Or anything like that.. I can’t remember. Interesting thought. I know I.. later on in 617, we went in formation and you had all the planes lined up there must have been a definite order or pre-eminence there because I led my flight on a formation on 1:27:37and my flight goes and the other planes in my flight follow in order and that was all checked because we had a former formation once we were in the air so the last plane and the last vic of three would have to be last off. It must have been an order of take off there.
LES MUNRO 2
JH: So are they still making this film? The Peter Jackson film?
LM: I don’t think he’s started !
JH: I keep hearing conflicting things, sometimes its been abandoned then its….?
LM: I don’t know. I spent half a day with him three years ago when they first mentioned it.
JH: Who? Peter Jackson?
LM: Peter Jackson and Christian Rivers, who was going to direct it. Since then, I have only seen him to go through 0.44. about.. what.. last year some time. He has got his own factory where he builds 1480 vintage aircraft. With the intention of flying them all.
JH: Peter Jackson?
LM: All his own. He doesn’t do it for commercial reasons.
JH: So he just does it because he likes flying?
LM: He does it because he likes it, yeah. I said “are you selling these?” He is still building them, sometimes he starts….he must have thirty in his factory. I wonder what kind of return he gets on it? I said “ are you selling these Peter?” He said “No,No,No!” He puts motors in them. He did a film a while ago with some of the flying ones. He has got a museum at 01:41, where there is sixteen of them, different types.
JH: All First World War?
LM: All First World War, yep. A couple of them are pre war…
JH: So they are effectively brand new? Or are they restored?
LM: Built from scratch. He bought, I forget how much ah what’s the wood he imported? A load of um, ash from Washington State in Amercia which he uses for the wooden frames and that sort of thing. And he said when I asked him what the intention was “No, what I do is if I am doing my travels around the world and I see something that I think would be ideal for a particular film.. I ask them to swap them, I swap them with that.”
JH: Wow. He must have a lot of money !
LM: I think he has somehow!
JH: But he hasn’t started building Lancasters ?
LM: Yep, he built a… Richard Taylor’s workshops, who got all the Oscars for the special effects for the Lord of The Rings series….He’s got a big workshop in Wellington and he supplies a lot of special effects for other films… films from other film makers and he built a full scale Lancaster. Some how or other they got hold of the original specifications and even to the situation of the last rivet, they copied this…produced a proto-type and they….
JH: What, that could fly?
LM: No, they got a company in Levin New Zealand to mould and a Chinese firm were contracted to produce another eight replicants from those moulds. They were all in containers 04:01. What they have done, they got them to sell them and all that sort of thing, they have got small propeller and a small motor in the engine…where the engines would be. They can taxi round the area with them. He’s gone to all that trouble, I don’t know what else he has done. He is having problems one with Stephen Fry and the script. I know that they have sent it back three times to him.
JH: Well I can tell you the answer to that… don’t get a comedian to write the script! Stephen Fry is not a historian! He doesn’t know anything about script writing. He has got many skills, but….
LM: Even the Squadron Association Executive expressed concern to Stephen Fry!
JH: He is a very funny man!
LM: He hasn’t got the feel or is the right man to write a script, and I think Sir David Frost who owns the film rights is putting his oar in. He doesn’t want the dog to be called Megan because it will upset to many people! That sort of thing. One report from an English Newspaper that I saw one week said that he had told Stephen Fry to go and come up with another name for the dog….
JH: I have heard that it’s been called blackie?
LM: Yeah, 05:40
JH: It seems sort of silly though doesn’t it as that’s what the dog was called?
LM: Yeah, the code name… one of the code names on the operation was nigger.
JH: Wasn’t that the breaching of the Merner?
LM: Yeah it was, brief. As far as I know, he had a court case with MGM or one of them, that he wasn’t getting his royalties from the films and creology…?
JH: Yeah. Maybe.
LM: Also, whether it was Universal or another, one of them was having financial troubles.
JH: It is either Universal or MGM, I can’t remember, I think its Universal?
LM: Yeah. That’s why the James Bond’s have stopped.
LM: Oh is it?
JH: Yeah, because they can’t finance it, so it’s just been put on hold. So it sounds like it might happen, but no time soon.
JH: It’s amazing how things can get green lit and happen immediately and other things take forever.
LM: He’s just built this massive bloody house, massive place, god knows what it’s costing. What the hell he needs a house like that for, I’ll never know !
JH: Well yeah ! He must be a very well off man!
LM: And he has just bought a new… what’s the name of it? A new twin engine jet, sixty five thousand, sixty five million he has just paid for it.
LM: That’s not right, it would be sixty five million, more like six and a half million. He has got one already, but he has to stop twice to get to Europe to the UK, he has to re-fuel twice. He is not happy with that, so he bought a new one. Is it Golf Stream?
JH: Yeah, maybe, or a Lear or something?
LM: Yeah, six and a half million, I think it was. He can fly all the way now without re-fueling to the UK.
JH: It’s amazing isn’t it? But is he happy?
LM: Ah yeah, I think so!
JH: Yeah, he is having the time of his life !
LM: I saw him last year, we had a 8:17 memorial at Auckland War Museum for New Zealand Bomber Commanders who had been killed in the War. I saw Richard Taylor…. there, I was speaking to him and he said next time I wanted to come up, he would take me through his workshops. It wasn’t long after, I sent him and email and he said “By all means, give me a ring.” So we arranged to go out and he took me through… he took Christine and Christine’s son and daughter in law which was a revelation to them…. through the workshops, just absolutely amazing what they do in those workshops there….absolutely amazing. He said “Oh I will arrange for you to go to Peter’s Workshop too.” So off we go. There they are building these….. I asked him how many staff he had on with the manager who was American I think? He said “I think we have thirty working at the moment, that take a wage home alone.”
JH: Something else isn’t it? Wow.
JH: But he’s a nice guy is he?
LM: Oh Yeah, we must have been there about half an hour and quite a nice bloke, who was a pilot and he test flies them when they are finished. So after about a half and hour, Peter turns up and I am sure he was in the same clothes as he was three years ago.
JH: He is a bit woolly looking isn’t he?
LM: Oh yeah, same old…. Same shirt and jersey!
JH: How funny! But he is a good guy?
LM: Yes, very nice, very nice wife, very nice. But what he is going to do with those flaming 10:28, I don’t know.
JH: Has he got children?
LM: I don’t think so?
LM: I don’t think so. I don’t think either of them were married before? I know 10:50 lives in Tazmania and she is a close friend of my cousin how lives over there too….. Right, let’s get cracking.
JH: Thank you very much. What’s that up there?
LM: It’s a Fijian club…
JH: God, you wouldn’t want that round your head would you?
LM: Given to me on the occasion of either the Fijian or Samoan football…rugby club ream league on a tour they had over here. It was presented to me 11:37 and they presented it to me 11:43 they presented me with that.
JH: Looks pretty…..
LM: Yes, you wouldn’t want to be hit round the head with that!
JH: It looks pretty vicious!
Small talk re clearing and washing up and wives!
JH: So apart from the view, do you miss the farm?
LM: Not really. I suppose I miss working with dogs and Scott and that sort of thing, but I don’t really. As I said my mother worked for steel…. I kept thinking about what I was moving to and had not regrets about it. I don’t…. I’m too old anyhow, well not too old, there were things I had to give up….
LM: Physical work anyway.
LM: Well, I’m still fit enough to do it if I needed to. OK where were we? Where do you want to go from?
JH: We were….we had got to Skampton and we were debating over when you got there and stuff.
LM: Oh yeah.
JH: And, we had just done a day in the life of a Bomber Pilot when you were at 97 Squadron. We had got as far as the take off. You had been talking about the briefing and getting up there and…..
LM Running up terms?
JH: Yes, absolutely. Generally speaking. After you’ve done your raid, would you….. after you have done your operation and you land back again, presumably you have got the briefing haven’t you? A de-briefing?
LM: Yeah, you have a de-briefing, you go to through a de-briefing process, yeah.
JH: Was that OK? Or was that a pain?
LM: Not really, I recognised that there was a need for the de-briefing. New gun positions, new flack positions or what happened at the raid…. The failure, what happened? Was it miss-timing, was the route wrong? All those sort of things, which were all taken into consideration on major operations.
JH: And how long would that take? Did it depend?
LM: De-brief would be….depending on the magnitude of the operation and the importance of the target would take a good half hour.
JH: Would you have to wait in turn?
LM: Generally speaking you would arrive back….drive back to the ops room after you have landed and normally speaking you would have two or three Intelligence Officers…..
JH: All lined up ready?
LM: All lined up ready at your different tables and most probably you would have to sit around and wait to be de-briefed.
JH: Would it be the whole crew?
LM: Yes. Well as far as I can remember unless there some particular navigational problem or something where they wanted the Navigators and those closest for a de-brief. Generally speaking the main crew were all de-briefed together. So if you had a discussion about something or what went wrong, all the crew would participate and expand their views on what went wrong.
JH: Right, right, right. After that….it’s bed?
LM: 18:17 a long time before you got back 18:33 a long period.
JH: Would you ever take things like a fast good coffee with you?
LM: I didn’t, I don’t think any of my crew did.
JH: But you could do if you wanted?
LM: Yes, you could if you wanted. I don’t know what would happen if we were twenty two or twenty five thousand feet 19:04. But I suppose if it was hot. I was just wondering about the possibilities of it freezing up….. you wouldn’t be allowed to do that.
LM: A thermos 19:20
JH: I suppose so, yeah.
JH: Anyway, you didn’t?
LM: No, no, no.
JH: So you never got….Sometimes you can be in a car and driving along and you are tired and you can find yourself nodding off…. That never happened in a flight?
LM: No, no. For some reason, that never happened.
JH: I know that the Fighter Pilots used Benzedrine tablets to keep them going, but there was none of that?
LM: Yeah, no.
JH: So when you were at Skampton, can you remember that first get together?
LM: Yeah roughly, yeah. Chatting and trying to make sense of what we were there for which was a pretty….. non forthcoming in the sense that the targets was unidentified around here…. I guess.
LM: But it wasn’t until….when Gibson…..altogether in Brisbane 20:34 we had to undertake low level flying and a briefing on security which was 20:49 we were on for a special operation which was not possible to 20:57 but he did say “well OK, you are going to be training at low level,” and then went through the areas of low level training and what you had to do and all that sort of thing and there wasn’t very much for us to do there except fight and 21:19. So then we proceeded trying to take low level flying across…..
JH: So what was the process? Would you do it individually, or would you go off in 21:27 or what?
LM: No we did a bit of formation, but it was individually. You took different routes each time and sometimes….. most of the time most of the cross country routes were led across the lake district.
JH: Up the Lake District?
LM: Up the Lake District, up to Scotland and down the North Sea.
JH: Right, How was it decided? Was the up to you or was that up to the Flight Commander?
LM: It was up to the Flight Commander…..
JH: And he would say “Today we are going to do this?”
JH: Off you go?
LM: He would give you the routes anyway.
JH: Presumably he decided having discussed it with…..
LM: I presume that Gibson… the Wing Commander received his instructions from grid.
LM: Then he would pass them on to the Flight Commander who organised your flights.
JH: And then off you go!
JH: Did you enjoy low level flying?
LM: Oh, I did !
JH: There must be quite a lot?
LM: Oh yeah. Most pilots did. Some were a bit more professional than others. I took the low flying like a duck !
JH: Did you? And you found it all OK ?
LM: Yeah, the phrase exhilarating might be a little bit of an exaggeration but I…. it gives you a strong low fly and you try and become like…. You try and get down to a lower level of spotting as it were and still maintain safety height.
LM: And they originally…. The original instruction was to fly at tree top height. It wasn’t long before most guys were flying below tree top level.
LM: 23:18 the trees of course !
JH: But if you are flying through the Lake District you have to watch it with all those hills don’t you?
JH: I mean you have to watch it with all those hills and mountains, you don’t want to go slap into the side of one of those?
LM: Yeah, well you didn’t sort of follow the contour in heavy country.
JH: No. I should think it must have been quite good fun.
LM: It was !
JH: Could you see people on the ground below, pointing and looking?
LM: Oh yeah.
JH: And what did you make of Gibson? Did you have much to do with him?
LM: No I didn’t have. I didn’t have much to do with him on the whole. In the main Gibson was pretty well involved in whole design and trials of the upkeep so in a way quite a bit.
LM: But he still had to do his own flights and training, but er, I don’t remember apart from the first couple of periods…. I don’t remember being in close contact with Gibson at all except in the Mess afterwards.
LM: He would take part in social gatherings in there.
JH: He seems to have such a mixed press. Some people think he was a bit of a pillock and some people think he was marvellous.
LM: He wouldn’t suffer fools gladly and he wasn’t prepared to argue a point with anyone. If you said “Right I want to do this or do that and this is what happened to this and that is what happened to that” he wouldn’t except somebody disagreeing with him.
JH: OK. Do you think that is a bad thing or is that a….. ?
LM: Ah, well, I don’t think so. I just 24:58. At the in celebrations in the Mess afterwards, he came up to me and said “what happened to you Les?” He hadn’t a clue you see, I said “I got hit by flack when I was crossing the Island of England.” “Oh” he said, “You were too high” and then walked away. At that stage I…. what I would have said was “I had to gain height to get over the dunes.” I could see the dunes ahead of me, boats at sea… you could see the boats on the coast…. The foam on the water…. The waves hitting the beach and then the terms behind it are, I gained height and was going down the other side down to 25:52 and that’s where I was hit.
JH: And he had just made up his mind…?
LM: He had made up his mind, he wouldn’t let me explain.
JH: That’s a bit annoying?
LM: Yeah. But other than that, I had never….after that I had no…. Of course he was taken off and sent to America for his major tour and that sort of thing. He never really came back to the squadron as CO. He never really came back.
JH: And that was it? So, his time on 6 and 7 was pretty short really wasn’t it?
LM: Pretty short, yeah, that’s right. Training six weeks, March, April, May two months, for all intents and purposes, he was no longer CO. Or heir to the CO.
JH: That’s interesting. I know when you were doing the training, you were trying to simulate night operations as well by putting this material over the Perspex?
LM: Two stage Amber and what did they call it? Two stage Amber and synthetic something or other !
JH: I can’t remember what it was called.
LM: Actually they put… to start with they had…..
JH: Didn’t they try you out with dark glasses?
LM: To start with they had amber screens with blue goggles and that didn’t prove to work and then they switched to blue screens around the aircraft and amber goggles and that worked out better.
JH: That was like being in moonlight?
LM: Yep, yep.
JH: Was that a bit disorientating to start off with?
LM: No, not really.
JH: How do they put that on the Perspex? What was it a sticky sheeting?
LM: Something like that. I am not sure how it was attached, whether it stayed attached right through the cockpit… inside.
JH: Right, so its done on the inside rather than the outside?
JH: And that worked quite well?
LM: Yep, as a simulation of the night conditions.
JH: So first of all it was low level training?
JH: Then it was the night-time flying? When did you start going over Derwent? Water and all that?
LM: In day light we started straight away.
JH: Did you? Flying over water?
LM: Then the synthetic two stage 28:38 was over water, then we went to night time. We didn’t do many trips. Didn’t do many training flights with that synthetic equipment.
JH: Oh right, it was only 28:53 was it?
LM: Yeah, then we progressed to night then we were doing bright moonlight and hazy nights. The problem of the horizon disappearing 29:12, moonlight, haze and about the horizon disappeared and there were one or two close misses where I flew unconsciously low then they should have… well not should have but unconsciously flew lower 29:32 safety moment.
JH: So was Maudslay? Your Flight Commander? I can’t remember which flight you were in?
LM: I was in B Flight, Henry Maudslay.
JH: How much of did you discuss operations and training with other pilots in the flight? Would you sit around a table together and discuss it?
LM: We discussed it socially, when you were off duty.
JH: Did you have much to do with Maudslay when you were there?
LM: No I didn’t really. They were pretty busy themselves, so they were either flying when we were flying…. That sort of thing.
JH: I suppose what I am driving at is was there as sense of squadron unity and that you are a team and part of it, or did you still feel me and my crew.. we will do our own thing?
LM: No, that didn’t evolve really, sense of purpose really, that didn’t really develop until Cheshire’s day.
LM: Where he achieved change in attitude, a sense of reason for being, as compared previously when we didn’t know what the hell we were doing now. But no, at that stage it was pretty intensive training we did the long, flying all low level on cross country flights, two of those flights we had close shaves…
JH: Did you? What happened?
LM: It was at night time, 31:14 night time coming down the North Sea on a moonlight night with slight hazy conditions. We must have been flying about 50.60ft or something. All of a sudden in the murk ahead, I saw this convoy of ships. I quickly yelled out to the 31:34 and the light of those flairs, I arrived very close to the ships, hearing below the 31:44 up in the sky. I get to the ship’s 31:47 and I pulled back on the stick and by the grace of god, I went flying up between two ships with out hitting anything, so that was the second occasion where luck was on my side!32:03
JH: But even for a pretty cool character like yourself, that must have been pretty heart stopping?
LM: It was a shock, yeah !
JH: So what happened ? There were balloons on the ship?
LM: Aero balloons on the end of cables.
JH: On the boats themselves?
LM: Yep, attached to the boats themselves.
JH: And so you went between the two?
JH: So you suddenly saw…..?
LM: A whole string of convoy… they might have been…. I don’t know, all I saw ahead of me was a series of balloons… barrage balloons flying. There was an anti aircraft device…..
JH: That they had to use…. Yeah I know, they have to have them.
LM: It happened that I went through…. Some of the were on the right and some on the left without hitting anything. It could have been either way.
JH: That would have paused out and ripped your wings off.
JH: I mean that is what would happen isn’t it? If you hit one of those what would happen?
LM: I think it would have, I don’t know if you would have been able to recover.
JH: Yeah, because you are not very high off the water are you?
LM: I think it would have been crashed aircraft.
LM: Although Micky Martin when he was flying in his Hampton days, he hit a cable attached to a balloon, either over Germany or Holland somewhere and he didn’t…. broke off and he flew back with a cable over his wing.
JH: So that was the first one, what was the second one?
LM: The second one was with daylight this time, we were flying 33:41 and we were flying over East Anglia, not East Anglia…. East Lincolnshire, the Fenn country, which was inhabited by sea fowl and sea gulls and that sort of thing. If they heard these planes approaching, they would take off in big swarms and on this occasion, one of them was a bit slow in getting away and it hit the window screen just to the left of the centre and hit the wind screen, came through the wind screen like a bullet 34:20
JH: Wow, as you were flying?
LM: Just a heap of feathers and fish 34:28 and hit me in the head.34:39 So that was yet another 34:44 the sea gull.
JH: Do you know what kind of bird it was?
LM: A sea gull I think.
JH: Sea gull, wow, that’s some force isn’t it? Going right through the Perspex?
LM: Yeah, so that’s another case of proving to be lucky. Very lucky !
JH: It sounds like you were quite lucky on the raid itself?
LM: Oh yes, yes.
JH: So you were doing practicing dropping bombs on Derwent Water weren’t you? Not actual bombs, but practicing precision targeting?
LM: We did, yes.
JH: There seems to be some debate over when people either use hand held Heath Robinson catapult thing or had pieces of string across the cockpit ?
LM: 35:46 I don’t know…
JH: You must have practiced it before hand didn’t you?
LM: I can’t remember what would have been used in practice.
LM: Some of those damns were there when 35:59 got towers….
LM: I am not sure about being visible… I cant remember that.
JH: You were aiming for the 36:04, weren’t you?
LM: Yeah 36:11 attack was quite different to Gibson’s
JH: Because you weren’t doing the rotating of the…. So did you just not have that mechanism on your Lancaster?
JH: You did have it?
LM: Well they all did then. On the trial op I used it. I spun down a platoon way.
JH: Oh did you?
JH: So that must have been just before….so when did you that?
LM: That was about 11th or 12th May, we 36:46 they talked about trials taking place over three days, I thought they took place so that they were all on one day. I think it was on 12th May that I….
JH: And you still hadn’t been told what the target was at this point?
LM: No, I took part in these trials and I was one of those where either I was too low or too slow 37:12 quoted as too low to slow with question marks. When I talk about it, I was one of the culprits probably ! My plane was hit by 37:26 was hit by 37:27 and my Rear Gunner was 37:31.
JH: So what had you got wrong on that do you think?
JH: What had you got wrong? You say too low or too slow?
LM: I cant remember, I might have been too low.
JH: Presumably it is easier at night to get your…. Those little lights and things ?
LM: This was day light.
JH: So its almost impossible to get it right?
LM: The trials all took place in a…. I call them trials, some people call them practice. That was the first time we ever had them, a few of them. I call them the trials to see how they worked and that sort of thing.38:12
JH: So you had your upper turret… mid upper turret taken out?
JH: So what happened to that gunner?
LM: He flew in the front turret.
JH: So you, OK
LM: He took the place of the front gunner who was 38:31 bomb aimer objecting to this gunner’s feet dangling in his face or something, so they put stirrups38:44 so he could put his feet up in front of the stirrups. 38:51 with the front turret on.
JH: Right, right, right, got you. So it wasn’t like leaving a man behind or anything?
LM: No, no, no.
JH: So at that point, the newly remodelled Lancasters have all turned up? By the time you are obviously on 39:13 because you are doing the trial? Can you remember the modified Lancasters arriving at Skampton?
LM: Yeah, vaguely, not…. Yeah. They didn’t arrive altogether so one would come in one day, two or three the next. I don’t have specific recollections of them actually arriving. We saw them afterwards after we were going round to the planes.39:48. We were going from conventional aircraft to modified aircraft.
JH: And did it make any difference in the flying?
LM: Very little. Certainly did when the 39:56 was on it made a slight difference, but more so when it was spinning.
LM: It made a hell of a difference from not spinning
JH: What difference does the spinning make?
JH: OK, but nothing major?
LM: No, no, no nine thousand pounds 40:20 juddering effect, but not unduly so.
JH: Can you remember the actual briefing itself? Presumably 44:33 you saw him for the first time?
JH: You saw 40:37 for the first time?
LM: Yeah, I remember walking into the briefing room and looking at the plan… looking at where the tanks were going and I think the fact that there was there was the dams on the40:52 did not cause undue concern. The main concern of the crews was the routes in and out of the target….effective. The routes into the target 41:08 it was the most heavily defended area in Germany. I think it caused more concern the fact that we were going to attack the dams.
LM: And of course there was a briefing on one 41:21
JH: Can you remember 41:26 being there?
LM: Only vaguely.
JH: Yep, it didn’t make a huge impression on you at the time?
LM: No, no.
JH: And, can you remember how it was decided as who went in what wave and when? And why you were in the second wave?
LM: I wonder sometimes about Gibson’s selection of the nine aircraft that he led the three 41:52 of three. I wonder sometimes whether, the final selection was based a little bit on the results of that trial gone. 42:05 although Henry Maudslay was a flight commander, his aircraft was so badly damaged, they couldn’t repair it in time, so my feeling was there was he still went on the main force with Gibson as a leader.
JH: But he was a Flight Commander wasn’t he?
LM: He was a Flight Commander, yes. Some of the others were on reserve, were right on my wave, the northern wave of five aircraft 42:45 were suitable to go on the reserve wave with two 42:49.
JH: I mean did it feel like a massive occasion? Did you just treat it like just any other raid or did you think this is something special?
LM: I think we… well I certainly did think it was another raid, although, I was conscious of the fact it was an extraordinary…. Going to be an extraordinary raid and that this bomb spinning at five hundred revs a minute was something quite different to what carrying an ordinary bomb load was. I was conscious of those factors, but not to the extent that it caused concern is this achievable? Are we going to get back? What’s going to happen?
JH: Were you happy with the route that you were given? Over the coast that is?
LM: Yeah, we went 43:44 due East from England, right due East until we had a point North of the Island 43:49 then turn 43:53 across the Coast to 43:58 in order to go down.44:00
JH: So where you did cross was exactly where you planned to cross?
LM: I think so.44:08 came in later 44:10. But I saw one of the other shot down way over 44:17.
JH: So he was further South?
LM: He was further South where he shouldn’t have been.
JH: I wonder why that was?
LM: Whether he was ahead of me and 44:25 and the other one Barlow he was shot down, he hit cables or something.
JH: I think he hit a pilon? Or he might have been hit by flack? I don’t know? I know Gibson and Co crossed about six miles further south than they should have done. I think they were hit by.. they got struck by a low lying jet… weather pattern that just happened to occur in that particular stretch. You wouldn’t know about it, but it pushed him off course. But, I mean taking off, for you it was just another…..?
LM: Just another operation. At the end of which I could change the number from 21 to 23, or 21 to 22 ! I didn’t approach it with any intrepidation.
JH: Or think that seventy years on there would be …..
LM: The fact that I got hit by flack, probably in some ways, it may be a good thing, if we got to the target… I might have never come back.
LM: On a broad base picture, that bothered me, never mind being a possibility. If I hadn’t been hit crossing the Island of 46:04.
JH: Yeah, I suppose its flack, its all along the Dutch coast.
LM : No, no, no. There is an argument about that, Jimmy Clay said, I don’t know how he knew, we were hit by flack from a gun ship. Little Al and I both say no land based guns. We were so close that I was going down the sand dunes and that was it I saw he 46:32 coming in a single line of 46:35 if it had been a flat ship, it would have been a multiple line.
LM: Of gun fire. I only had one 46:44, you might say 46:48 in a multiple, I would say four guns or something likely.
JH: Yep. So when you get hit by flack, what is it? Can you hear a big crash?
LM: Just a bit of a thump, the most notable thing was everything went blank. You couldn’t hear a thing.
JH: Right. You can still hear your instruments OK?
LM: I mean, as soon as they got down onto the water, 47:22 going to check the Rear Gunner and see if he was OK and then have a look at the damage and see whether it was possible to restore the communication 47:43 and in the mean time I was 47:46 when he came back and said “No its not possible” There was no point in going on 47:58 to follow the route in, if we did by any chance get to the dams themselves, I had to be able to communicate with the Bomb Aimer and follow his instructions.
JH: And without it you cant.
LM: So I decided to go home. Jimmy Clay said I 48:21 by the crew.
JH: I wonder why he said all that?
LM: I don’t know? 48:29 that.
JH: I have got to say, I cant see what other course you could take? I mean if you cant communicate?
LM: Then I had these, you probably read, where I disobeyed orders bringing the 48:46 back to base. Sore point with me. There were no such orders given. 48:56 that I disobeyed orders for 49:04 if we had to return and no such orders were given and infact when I came back, I was one of the first to come back with a 49:12 on and Cyril Anderson who was in the last wave, he brought his back too. So why would he as a Sergeant Pilot disobey an order?
JH: But what’s the argument to that? Presumably you brought it back because you don’t need to 49:30 in it?
LM: Ah well, the other thing was that it was common practice when 39:35 providing they aren’t used. Why the all up weight on landing was infamous 49:48, it was the only proviso. I had no problem to some and he said “ Was it difficult to land?” No I didn’t find it difficult landing without one.
JH: So what was the mood like back at Skampton? Did you just get back and do your normal thing?
LM: Yeah, by that stage, I was back early and we sat and waited all together in the Mess, waiting for the…. I think at that stage we were conscious of the fact that some were not coming back, but when they started trickling in, it wasn’t long before we realised that OK we lost 50:32 and two Flight Commanders in the 50:36. It was a bit sad in a way, there was criticism in about ninety eight/ ninety nine, question asked, was the raid justified, in relation to the number of ops? I say well, there are two aspects to that, one is that the more moral boosters in the English combination 51:17 at that stage and that was a terrific booster in English moral. 51:27. The other one was the operation justified from an operational point of view? I say it definitely was. The two major primary 51:44 was breached. The only…. I am not sure if you say criticism? The only downside of every tour was the fact that the 52:02 when deciding to go ahead with the attack of the Dam, we didn’t really visualise…. anticipate that the Germans would repair the damage so quickly, you know substantial breaches about the moment, and the Germans repaired those within four and a half months.
JH: But they never…. They only repaired them to a level. The didn’t repair them properly until after the war. So it meant that they couldn’t have as much water in the dam as they had before hand which meant the could.. you know. The latest that I understand on this, is actually it caused a lot more… the initial thought was that it caused lots of damage and since there has been this retrospective, oh we didn’t cause that much damage any way. The latest thoughts and of course, what you have to remember is as we go through time, it is easier to access German records than it ever was before because of… its easier to research now as you can travel much easier, use digital photography, you can look through stuff more easily etc, etc. So you can be more thorough than people have been in the past. The latest thought is actually that economically of course….absolute mayhem and was in terms of war damage and economic mess it made… more than justified its raison d’etre. I mean that’s what I have read so far and as I have told you, I am at the beginning of this, but that’s very much my line, this was not…. This caused a huge amount of damage.
LM: I agree with you there because it did do a lot of damage to structure.
JH: Come on ! You think about that amount of damage, you cant just repair that over night. The dams were up and running in four and a half months but that sets back steel production a huge amount. Now in a total war, were Germany is facing a war on certainly two fronts in 1943 and don’t forget Dams Raid occur as the day after the surrender of Tunisia where they loose more troops in that Tunisian campaign than they did at Starlingrad, it also came three months after the surrender of 54:22 . So Germany is really really under pressure, the last thing that Germany can afford is any mess ups in steel production or any other industry at all. This absolutely the crux of the War, this period, where it is all going really badly. From February through to July, was cursed. That’s all where it all changes. the Dams Raid comes right into the middle, between Kursk, Starlingrad and the surrender of Tunisia and on the invasion of Sicily. That period.. the Dams Raid is right in the middle and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Germany, so from my point of view, that’s the line I am going to be arguing and I also think that the people…. Sometimes you need to just sit back and see the bigger context and that’s what often missing. People are trying to be oh so clever and prove it was actually worth it and it didn’t really do that. OK ask yourself this, would the German High Commander rather the dams were blown up or not blown up? Clearly the loss of eight crews, when you think of the amount of people that were getting shot down and dead on a daily basis over Berlin or Hamburg which has a far more questionable, not questionable but harder to measure effect. I don’t even see it’s a question. If you have decided that you are going do a strategic bombing campaign, then this is about as good as it gets !
LM: I agree with you and even side that right through history there has been takes on really difficult but very important objects 56:13 and yet the actual result was achieved. I mean it’s just part of history. It was probably all right for me as a participant. Beyond the speak in hind-sight and voiced my opinions and I wasn’t one of those that lost their lives, I was fortunate to get back, but never the less I still think that the overall result was worth while.
JH: 56:53 In the context of the war and the situation, I didn’t even think it was an argument, I mean absolutely unquestionable. It does lean onto the whole point about losses. It must be hard seeing crews having their eggs and bacon one minute, and the next morning they are gone?
JH: Its all so final isn’t it? Did you have a way of dealing with that of did you just switch off from it ?
LM: I switched off. That question has been asked to me recently a couple of times. What we thought, did you get sad, did you get depressed or somebody had broken 57:37 today and was no longer coming back. My reply to that was yeah, if you were close to the people that lost their lives, there was a little bit of sadness about it, but you had to put that in the back of your mind. You couldn’t let thoughts of their loss distract you from the job in hand, which was flying a plane to Germany and dropping your bombs… and getting back safely, preserving your crew.
JH: Did you see people struggling with it?
LM: No not really….
JH: Do you think most people did get a handle on it?
LM: In my time, probably initially 97, that didn’t occur. Certainly there was a time I spent the next sixteen months on the airline or six months even! Never saw the occasional….. anybody was effected by loss of such and such a crew. Didn’t happen. Whether the crews.. the surviving crews were able to hid their feelings, to the extent that you didn’t know what they were thinking, whether that was true or whether they were like me an able to put it out of their minds. I would say we were all sorry in this war, its something we had to except. Keep onto the job.
JH: Because of course when your front line infantry men, you see people getting killed either side of you everyday, its just as much a fact of life isn’t it? One minute you are talking to someone and the next minute they are gone. I suppose the difference is also, that with front line infantry men, you see it happening where as, you in a plane, you may see another plane go down, but you are not actually seeing someone physically getting killed are you? You are seeing the plane going down but not the men.. I guess? I mean presumably when you are flying you see occasionally lags going down ?
LM: Oh yep, um.. one of the day light raids, on 617 we were taking 1:00:15. I saw Edward’s plane 1:00:23. I don’t remember thinking Oh god and that sort of thing. I remember talking to 1:00:34 unfortunate that we lost such a highly qualified crew 1:00:42 it was one of those things where we had acceptance… it’s going to happen. Well not going to happen but is likely to happen.
JH: So just go back to….
LM: One loss that I was really sorry about and that was Micky Mann’s bomb aimer. When he was shot through the head with a.. on the radar 1:01:20. I was really sorry, really sorry. But then, I knew him very well, he was a hell of a nice bloke, he was bombing leader and probably his loss did effect me to a certain extent, but not for that long.
JH: Again you were able to put it behind you?
LM: Again we had a job to do…lets get on a do it. I would say that’s part of war.
JH: I mean the cold statistics are terrible aren’t they. But I suppose you cant think like that can you?
LM: No. Quite different in a way to seeing a bloke shot down or a plane shot down and wait and see when you get out….. and realise that nobody has got out to having somebody in the trenches shot beside you.
JH: That was my point earlier really. Quite a different kettle of fish isn’t it? Seeing guts thrown all over the place, that is more likely to have more of an effect isn’t it? You would have thought?
LM: 1:02:51 I always have great admiration for blokes that went through the war and what they had to put up with on the front line. Particularly front line.
JH: No comfortable Messes, no pubs, no women folk. Was there much mixing with the WAFFS?
LM: A certain amount, but not, I would say I socialised with the WAFFS 1:03:26 when I was on 1690 1:03:27 flight, afterwards than I ever did on the squadron. We socialised a bit at Scampton with Anne Fowler, or something, Dave Fowler’s wife and Faye Gibbons. They got quite friendly with the crews as a whole and of course there was one case….Dave and Anne married. That friendship lasted to marriage and Faye Gibbons, she lives in West Australia now I think. She was very fond of Rob. I only found out recently that he was married! But he got quite friendly with Faye Gibbons.
JH: So she is still alive is she?
JH: And did you know this one that Max wrote about? What was she called? Had a Welsh name? Morpit something or other? He met her, she was a WAFF on Scampton? What was her name? I will remember it later on! I think she is stil around.
LM: That was digressing for a moment! The 1:05:18 at Skampton. I came over here and I found Margaret Wilson the 1:05:25 Officer here were living in 1:05:26.
LM: Yeah! She only died three months ago or a bit more.
JH: How amazing!
LM: She retired out here.
JH: Did you remember her?
LM: No not very well. Vaguely. She made a point of going to every social occasion!1:05:48 much to my embarrassment.
JH: How funny! So 617, in the time of the Dams Raid, some people were bigger characters than others inevitably. Joe McCarthy you obviously knew from 97? What was he like?
LM: He was a nice bloke.
JH: He was American wasn’t he?
LM: He was American, Coast Guard wasn’t he?
JH: Yeah I think so?
LM: He was a big 1:06:22. He could glide through the water like a porpoise. We used to go swimming down to the Baths at Woodhalls Spa. When he got in the water he would just glide through the water. He was a nice bloke Joe. He survived it all. His son occasionally corresponds.
JH: What about Mick Martin?
LM: Micky Martin? I was his best man at his wedding!
JH: So he was a good mate of yours all the way through?
LM: Mick was yeah.
JH: But you didn’t know him before then? Where did he live?
LM: But then he left. He left Bob Hay. Bob Hay’s bomb aimer. He even made a commitment to his crew when the formed up for the Dams Raid, that he would give his life to ensure that the rest of the crew survived and if by any chance one of them was killed they would be replaced 1:07:19. Now Bob was killed right open, January 44, Mick honoured that promise. I went up about two or three o’clock in the morning, I had learned that he was due back in the early hours of the morning from Sardinia where he went to get medical help from 1:07:50 as soon as possible and…..
JH: Sorry, where had he gone?
LM: I think Sardinia was it?
JH: The Island?
JH: Right, OK.
LM: He headed for the nearest land. I was flying at eight thousand feet that night. Mick was so close to the water, 1:08:15.
JH: So what was the target?
LM: 1:08:20, South of France, it took three go’s for that and then we got her! That was the last time we.. er… The first thing he said when he got out of the plane was 1:08:34 he made his decision on the promise that he made his crew, if any, by any chance any of them were killed they would be replaced by the crew to stand.
JH: He must have done well over… I mean how many ops had he done?
LM: He had done… I don’t know how many he had done, because he operated on 1:09:05 and that sort of thing. I wasn’t sure… wasn’t aware of that commitment he had made to his crew until I talked to Timmy Simpson one day, he told me what…. The promise Mick had made. He would of course had to told… check with Cheshires the Wing Commander that it was OK. But there were no…. after all he had been operating for so long, there was no problem. Several Officers had said that he was strongly objected to be taken off operation, no, no, no there was another one of those…..
JH: Sort of messes that cropped up from nothing?
JH: How interesting, Maudslay was OK? Then who else was there? Les Night, he was very introverted wasn’t he? I guess you probably didn’t have much to do with him did you?
LM: Very quiet, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink only twenty one or something. Yeah, he was a nice bloke. I don’t hold a thing against him, I don’t know whether he was a T-total or not? He might have drunk something, but he didn’t make a point of drinking.
JH: He was very religious as well?
JH: Just to go back to Micky Martin, when did he get married then?
LM: I was on Melingham then on 1690. Then suddenly he tried to get me when I was out on Melingham, he tried to reach me and couldn’t really and then I was on leave in London. He rang every bloody pub in London just to find out if I was staying with them! Eventually he tracked me down. I just cant tell you which time it would be. Towards the end of forty four or even forty five.
JH: But he survived the War?
LM: Oh yes, he became the Air Chief Marshall.
LM: He went out, he did that record breaking trip in the mosquito.
JH: Of course he did… yeah, yeah yeah.
LM: England to South Africa. Cape Town. Then he was out in the Far East in Singapore. 1:11:50 He could fly so low that there was a flaming fence 1:11:58 to get over it.
JH: Wow, incredible.
LM: He said that all the stories that you hear 1:12:06
JH: So was he was the best of all the pilots?
LM: Yeah, I would say from the point of view of competence and low level flying ability, he was top of the bunch.
JH: Very interesting. You became good friends with him from the Dams Raid time?
JH: How interesting. And Gibson and his dog, did you did see him around?
LM: He came back to the Squadron occasionally, after the 1:12:48 and his crew was it?
LM: Except for the rear gunner? He got killed later on. Gibson was a little bit… he appeared to be a bit … not disturbed… he seemed to be a bit concerned to losing what’s his name? The bloke that took his place as Squad Commander.. um was piloting when the lost the bulk of Gibson’s crew on that raid. Gibson was a bit concerned about it. I don’t know what concern he had, I always got the impression that he was a bit concerned about the leadership on the raid.
JH: Oh really?
LM: Well I don’t know, it was very difficult on 1:13:47 the most serious loss that night in the Squadron.
JH: I don’t think a single one of Gibson’s crew survived the War?
LM: No I don’t think so.
JH: But his dog Nigger, did you see the dog around the place?
LM: Well he was alive, he always took part in the social gathering in the Mess.
JH: I remember in the film, you always see him drinking pints of beer and stuff, I mean did that really happen?
LM: Yeah !
JH: Everyone always said that Gibson was always a strict disciplinarian, a bit of a snob, didn’t like Officers and never talked to his ground crew, did you have experience of this?
LM: You didn’t see that side of things, because we didn’t socialise with the… unless we were at a particular function with the non commissioned Officers.
JH: So you didn’t have that opportunity?
LM: We didn’t see… but then he had two or three of his crew were non commissioned Officers weren’t they ?
JH: Yeah, yeah. I don’t know where this has come from, I must admit.
LM: Fortunately… he was a womaniser! He lost his badge. 1:15:21 617 worrying about socialising with women. I don’t know. These things 1:15:31.
JH: So after the raid, there was no…. apart from the comment from Gibson, no one gave you a hard time about going back ?
LM: No, no. Everybody accepted it and had a reason for coming back.
JH: Was there a sense of…. When did it start to dawn on you that what you had done…. You had been part of something historic? Was it in all the papers and visits by the King and all that kind of stuff? That must have all been quite exciting wasn’t it?
LM: Well up to a point. What I say now is that when I volunteered to go on 617 Squadron, I never realised that I would become part of history in the 617 Squadron! I accept that as far as it is in my service career. I accept that I was probably fortunate to be one of those that took part on the Dams Raid, more fortunate that I came back! And the demonstration 1:16:51 . But don’t forget quite a number of those losses were on the way in and on the way out 1:17:07 the other was Henry Maudslay who got damaged so badly, but he still got back to Holland somewhere. 1:17:28 that Berlin suffered any severe damage on the attacks itself, although we don’t know about 1:17:36 from the last raid, we don’t know what happened to that? 1:17:41 Bill Townsend, two of them on that last flight 1:17:56. Well I have never seen any reports on what happened to them.
JH: I am not sure. There is a guy called Chris Ward who has looked into it I think. I think he has found out what happened, but I could remember of the top of my head. I would need to look into it.
LM: Would it be in that book that the other two wrote?
JH: Maybe, maybe. They seem to be pretty efficient in digging stuff out. There was a whole book on the wrecks.
LM: Was there?
JH: Yeah, the lost crews, what happened to them and what they bits of aircraft that have been found and all that kind of stuff. So what was your next combat off after the Dams Raid ? Was there a highatus?
LM: A highatus period after the Dams Raid. 1:19:04 that was on the fifteenth of July, so that’s…..?
JH: That’s two months, so all that time what were you doing?
LM: Cross country, low level cross country 1:19:40 low level cross country this is in June, low level cross country, SS bombing, special exercise or what ever it was! Low level cross country… all low level exercises.
LM: Formation, formation exercise, low level cross country 1:20:06 end of June still going low level and then we go onto high level bombing on the twenty ninth of June. Then we go to 1:20:22 then we went onto Northern Africa, that was on the fifteenth of July. We bombed 1:20:32 on the way back , twenty nine days later we went to 1:20:40 we came back via the North Sea and there was a period of August were we mucked around, that’s when we started high level bombing. When we started high level bombing for the new SABS 1:21:13. We started training on that.
JH: And they were a massive improvement were they ?
LM: Oh yeah. We go on there until what?….sometime in August until we go to the first of September was it?
JH: So what happened after you had done your thirtieth?
JH: What happens once you have done your thirtieth operation? Did you just carry on flying?
LM: I just carried on!
JH: You could have come off though could you? If you wanted?
LM: Well, If I stayed on 97, I would have. I would have been asked down and given a training role. There was no recognised knock off date on 617. We all went on until 1:22:20 more or less ordered 1:22:26 to finish. We just came down one day and he said “ You blokes have finished” “You have done enough.” I don’t know whether 1:22:42 protested. We expressed a dismay, he said “No argument.” He said to me “ I understand you are fairly good at organisation? I want you to take over Commander 16 Defence training flight. They are not achieving the results that I would like.” So I went from four engine Lancasters to a single engine Hurricane.
JH: Did you? Flying a Hurricane…. My word!
LM: I did one 1:23:13 conversion 1:23:16. For some reason, I never entered it in my log book, what drove it was. A Squadron Leader Flight Commander took me up at the end of one seat, he hopped out and said “Off you go! Get up and have a circuit!”
JH: So when was this?
LM: Well, we finished on the twelfth of July forty four, so it will be in this other book. So it would have been within a few days of that Jim.
JH: How did you find the Hurricane? Not that many around by nineteen forty four!?
LM: We had a flight of them. Where are we? That takes us back to July. Yep, went to 1690 in… at Skampton at that stage, the first flight on the Hurricane was on the first of July forty four.
JH: How did you find it?
LM: I did twelve months there, as CO. I liked it, when I say I liken the Lancaster to driving a bus as opposed to driving a car. I would make the same sort of comparison with a Hurricane. The Hurricane was a lot…. Steady easy aircraft to fly than the Lancasters. I enjoyed flying that… the Hurricane. The first trip I did the first thirty eight of us. Our job was to affiliate with the Lancasters and 1:25:29 So on the first, as it happened I think 1:25:34 a plane from 617 Squadron was my first job and first affiliation. The idea was that when the exercise was finished, the bomber crews had to escort or lead the Hurricanes because they had no navigation equipment, back to base. On this trip we had finished 1:26:03. I got out of it no problem, but there was plenty of height. I was very sheepish looking scurrying after a Lancaster! They must have wondered what the hell I was up to! I made sure I didn’t make that mistake again.
JH: I am afraid I jumped the gun on that a bit. So when did Cheshire turn up? He obviously made quite an impact straight away?
LM: When was it? Just after the 1:26:58 it was September wasn’t it?
JH: Something like that.
LM: He turned up shortly after that and well….
JH: He was an exceptional character wasn’t he?
LM: He was yeah. I became quite friendly with Leonard over the years. Great lot of time for him completely different attitude to Gibson.
JH: In what respect?
LM: He was very intensive, but had a very dry sense of humour, he never asked somebody to do something he wasn’t prepared to do himself. He was always prepared to discuss thing with you. That’s how we eventually evolved the 1:27:48 system 1:27:51 training methods as marking targets, that’s the background to low marking techniques using firstly Lancasters and then Mosquito’s and eventually the 1:28:04. So he was a wonderful bloke in my view, he was never…. If you did something wrong, he didn’t talk about it and that sort of thing. I never saw him criticise anybody.
JH: So good people management?
LM: Yes. 1:28:47
JH: And he developed this sense of 617 as a Squadron?
LM: Yeah, the Cheshire era, I believe is an era that became and established, apart from the initial operataional name, the Cheshire era established a period during which 617 became a major force in bomber command as a single entity.
JH: 617 was set up as a squadron to perform a specific raid, so there is already established elite credentials, but under Cheshire it becomes an elite squadron. Rather it lives up to the status its been given?
LM: That’s right.
JH: That must have been quite…. Well if you are going to be in the War and you are going to be a Bomber Pilot….. That’s the place to be! You must be proud of your part in it?
LM: I don’t skype about it!
JH: No, I know you don’t, you are far too modest for that. But I mean there must be satisfaction there?
LM: I was fortunate that I became one of the pilot’s in 617. Also… yeah I have said, I take a great deal of pride that I was a member of the 1:30:38 era. I was one of the old 1:30:40 ??
JH: Yeah, yeah.
LM : There was a great deal of personal satisfaction.
JH: As a Flight Commander, did you…. In what way are you being different from just being part of a flight? Did you try and help the others pilots in the flight? Did you pass on the benefit of your wisdom and flying experience? What was the role of the Flight Commander in a bomber squadron?
LM: Really to plan and exercise the programmes for those… one of the normal pilots. The Flight Commander is responsible for the operation of his individual set of pilots, 10 or twelve or whatever it is. I suppose you had a disciplinary role so to speak, it was very, very 1:31:49 that you got involved in disciplinary very 1:31:54.
JH: Right, that wasn’t your job? So when did you get your DSO? Was that for a specific?
LM: No, it was really for a number of operations, in 1:32:11. When Cheshire took over, when they developed this low level marking procedures, firstly 1:32:21 I was one of them to use low level marking. Cheshire and Micky Martin said “ Well it’s a little too cumbersome and too lacking in mobility trying to fly around in the dark and 1:32:39, we want something more mobile”, so he persuaded 1:32:44 to form Mosquitos. They proved much more suitable to marking at low levels and at that stage when they got Mosquitos, Leonard says “I will leave the Mosquito 1:33:06 and we will be the Mosquito pilots” 1:33:17 So that is when 1:33:27 the markers and Cheshire said “ Les I want you to be the controller up in the 1:33:39. Cheshire would indicate to me such and such a marker should be there and I would advise all the Lancasters through the markers because Mosquitos didn’t have range of intercom that the Lancasters had. That was my role to direct the Lancasters on the squadron and where to bomb.
JH: And what were the markers?
LM: Different flares, different coloured bombs, marker bombs really. They would be different colours, red and green.
JH: And did accuracy massively increase?
LM: Oh yes, yes. By using low level marking, yeah that’s right. We achieved quite significant results really.
JH: And that was all done through you young guys working it out for yourselves rather than coming from the top?
LM: Yeah. I think the marking side of it was evolved by Cheshire and Micky. Mick to start with, was the instigator of it and slowly Cheshire. Although Cheshire was unhappy at the standard of marking that the PFF were making on the individual targets for 617, so that is when he turned around and said” Well lets do our own marking.” Which then we went from strength to strength and fought individual targets without damaging or killing French civilians.
JH: So you remember D-Day can you?
LM: We did the spoof operation on D-Day. Operation 1:35:36.
JH: Yes of course.
LM: So after Munich…. Got back to Munich from 1:35:44 said “ Right your methods are so good I think we should introduce the low level marking system to the main bomber force” So that’s when I explained about Brunswick. The raid on Brunswick 1:36:03 a PFF crew which was affecting transmissions and with the unsatisfactory marking and visibility problems it proved to be unsuccessful, however two nights later, we went to Munich, using the same system of low-level marking 1:26:32 and the other two, and a pathetic big force of bombers… they did more damage that night than all the other previous raids nearly put together. We proved the point.. OK 36:54 he got two squadrons seconded to 617 eighty three and Mosquito twenty nine was it? Twenty nine or thirty six…. Seconded to Woodhall two other…. To follow procedures that 617 Squadron were doing, so we then diverted back to individual targets and with the Mosquitos 1:37:39 and that’s when…. At that stage we were using or starting to use the SABS bomb site, with Squad Leader Richard what do you call him?….. Clint? Er, oh god, memory is going! Richard, he was a Squadron Leader and he would be in front in the First World War, I think? He became a bombing expert. So he was seconded to the squadron, he spent a lot of time going up there and training the bomb aimers 38:16 Lost track… where was I?
JH: I was talking about D-Day and you were going back to training.
LM: Oh yes. How did I digress? So the night of the Munich raid, 1:38:46, we arrive back. The next day we were told “Sorry, we are taking you off operations.” Much to my disgust, I must admit! The senior members of the squadron didn’t like being taken off operation. We trained up to 1:39:06 we trained doing circuits for over five weeks, April, May it must have been six weeks, April two… it was about seven weeks.
LM: Just training on this navigational exercise which we described earlier on. So that turned out to be training for a spoof raid on the Channel to try and divert the German’s attention from the Normandy landings. Have you read the design of…. The format of the spoof raid?
JH: Yeah, I have.
LM: 1:40:00 we had eight aircrafts at the time and two hour stints flying these oblong circuits we go out 1:40:11 we would fly two minutes thirty six about, do one minute turn and come back on the parallel track for a two minutes ten sequence. That difference in the twenty seconds allowed…. If we carried on doing these circuits allowed the whole formation to advance towards the French 1:40:33 and we did that for…. In all that time the body of the aircraft, 1:40:48
JH: 1:40:55 radar
LM: 1:40:57 increasing in the size as we approached the …. On the return leg, decreasing in size, the pattern of the 1:41:09 was the same, there were two mile distances from each leg, two one plane on the other leg you would be on plane and your return 1:41:22 would be two mile distances and the other plane two mile distances and so on. Straight on from there….
JH: And this made it look like a much bigger bomber force that it was on the radar?
LM: Yep, yep and then my idea was that it wouldn’t show up on the German radar as an armada rather than aircrafts in the air.
JH: Right, got you. And it did work didn’t it?
LM: Yes. Well it did cause enough confusion in the Germans minds to delay reinforcing the Normandy air. 1:41:51
JH: Were you aware that all this sort of precision bombing stuff was on a crash course with what Bomber Harris was trying to do? Presumably you weren’t aware of what Harris was trying to do at that time?
JH: He was very much still into air-raid bombing and not really full precision bombing.
LM: We were aware that the main bomber force was still putting up four, five, six, seven, eight, nine hundred planes on targets in Germany, we were still aware that that was happening, but our goal was more selective targets. Targets that there necessary for the 1:42:37 .
JH: Much more worthy targets really?
LM: Yeah, yeah.
JH: I mean did you ever have much to do with Cochrane? Did you see him around?
LM: Not a great deal, no, if we had a problem, he would come down every now and then….
JH: So he was a facilitator really?
LM: Yeah. I found he was all right, but he was a rather 1:43:04 sort of bloke. I can tell you a story that… yeah…. He upset us by taking us off operation and I don’t know what happened with the others, some of them I know, so I said that he had upset me a little bit because I had done fifty eight trips and I would like to have done sixty, as a mile stone. He probably made up for that by just after the war he came out to… it was quite a while after…. Ninety… I was farming, it was probably in the early sixties, he came out to New Zealand on a holiday he stayed at the 1:43:56 and called in. I was out on the Farm, he called in that night and asked if I would have dinner with him one night at… I told you where he was staying, he had caught a fish not fish you call it trout, and had it cooked it for the entrée. It was made up his1:44:17 accident taking me off operation!
JH: Probably though, not a bad thing taking you off ops?
LM: Probably no, in some ways, yeah. You can go on too long, I suppose.
JH: But you still…..?
LM: I did fifty eight trips without a break.
JH: It’s a lot?
JH: But you were aware with 617, you were doing things differently and that you were at the cutting edge of command?
LM: Oh yeah, that’s right, yeah.
JH: It’s a shame they didn’t adopt… do you think you could only do what you were doing because of the experience and skill of the pilots? Do you think the whole of bomber command could have been turned over to that kind of operation?
LM: Yeah. The only drawback to that, was the degree of efficiency by the PFF. But 1:45:20.
JH: Yeah, yeah of course.
LM: They were subject to error, just the same as…. Well that was one of the problems with PFF, they were recognised as the leading force. But there was still… they had more 1:45:46 more testing equipment.
LM: To improve the accuracy and I am not sure just how….. all that testing equipment didn’t over come bad weather problems and sometimes the main force operation squad failed because of the weather. Unexpected weather conditions.
JH: Sure, there has been this argument ever since, has technology improved? So the argument is in favour of just area bombing, where as Harris should have turned over more to precision bombing which is obviously what 617 was doing. Frightening cities has a purpose, but it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the war effort as bombing a munitions plant or ball bearing factory or whatever it may be.
LM: I am still in an open mind as to whether… there was a lot of criticism on 1:46:53 and his methods of area bombing. But I have got an open mind about whether it was a bad thing or whether it was…. I have got no… in respect to loss of civilian lives through area bombing, I have no great problem with it and the German people could have taken matters into their own hands, might have been difficult to do with 1:47:32 . But they agreed to what they were told to do, I have got regret that maybe my actions killed women and children, but I don’t dwell on that, I don’t….
JH: Nor should you!
LM: It has never worried me.
LM: The fact that I…. I probably regret that I actually did cause loss to women and children, but not to allegedly grow on it.. no. They were doing the same to us, over Coventry and it was many years after the War before I realised that the Germans had torpedoed a ship with about 1400 kids on board… that sort of thing. So I am not sorry.
JH: And nor should you be at all, I just think it is an interesting debate, as technology was improving and as 617 was showing, precision bombing could work and so in nineteen forty two/three, there is nothing else you can do apart from area bombing, but by nineteen forty four/forty five, there is something else you can do and that is more targeted I think that is where the debate is interesting. Whether he should have changed tack? I don’t know maybe not? It is always easier with hind sight isn’t it? But he was quite stubborn about it and there was lots of pressure from Hawthore and Churchill to be more… go to the precision bombing. Presumably the reason why Cheshire was suggesting 617 should be more precise was because he felt that was where you could be more effective?
JH: So where did you finish the War? Were you still swizzing round in your Hurricane?
LM: When I finished the war, yes. No that’s not quite right. I finished my service… again I’m not right! I was in London on leave on VE Day…
JH: That must have been an amazing time to be there?
LM: Somewhere in London! I was in London on VJ Day, in the mean time after VE Day, I don’t know about VE Day time, I applied for a transfer to 1:50:22 transport command flying 1:50:27 across the Atlantic. So I took final leave… I was on final leave in London, before taking up my 1:50:39 and transferring when VJ Day happened, that made me realise that the war is over now and to maybe start thinking about home. My Mother had died and the old man was in his seventies, my sister was looking after him. I thought that I better go home, I had been away for 1:51:09 years. So I went along to the New Zealand house and asked what the possibility of getting a plane home? They said “ We’ll put you on one within two days” I was posted home….
JH: Just like that?
LM: Yeah, just like that, I came home on the 01:51:23.
JH: Did you have a chance to say farewell to any of your friends?
LM: No, well of course they… no I didn’t, I was in London then. I stayed in London for a least another fortnight and then waited for a ship to the SS Andes 1:51:46 to get back to Australia. That’s an interesting story! More records to get back to Melbourne and… that was a lovely ship… fast and then we headed across the 1:51:59 to get to Wellington and we 1:52:03 we were due to arrive on Monday… later weekend and the bloody 1:52:10 wouldn’t work the ship 1:52:13 about half the passengers were ex prisoners of war and 1:52:27 and then instead of coming across at speed they would only go at half speed so we arrive on the Tuesday, a whole day later than we could have been and old Fred Jones 1:52:57 came out 1:53:02 That didn’t go down too well of course! A lot of these 1:53:16 had never served in the service and refused to load the ship…..
JH: Not good !
LM: After, D-Day we used to 1:53:40 for the first time.
JH: Oh yeah, of course.
LM: We bombed the Semur tunnel, that was the first time… the first operation using a 1:53:45 was on the Semur tunnel. There was one instance where they 1:53:54 bomb dropped away from the target. But right in the middle of the hill that went straight down through the rail line… massive crater. I read somewhere not long ago, it was nineteen fifty three before the French Army repaired the damage.
JH: Amazing. So just going back to D-Day, can you remember, I know you were flying further up the coast but can you remember flying over and seeing the invasion happening or was it too far South?
LM: Too far North we went. Too far North yeah. I had a bloke that I 1:54:34 not a biography or anything, he just wants to record it, has said that OK I had read an article where…. Which says that the Germans shelled the 1:54:56 that was approaching 1:55:57 “I am not sure that happened”, I said. We would have see the flashes of the gun.
LM: And that’s where… we would have seen the explosions on the sea, when they exploded. I said “I don’t think that they would have a testimony to report that the Germans fly at this imaginary armada.”
JH: Doesn’t sound likely does it?
LM: No, well after I led the Lancaster Squadron in formation in daylight, the first day light operation that carried out during the War in 617 information, I led that with 1:55:42 to Le Havre E Boat and U Boat teams and they made a mess of it straight over working a lot of damage on those. The next night we went to Verlyn/Berlin?, those two nights alone, we were… it was reported that we destroyed 133 U Boats..E Boats and of course the E Boats were a danger and niggling away at the armada…
JH: Oh E Boats were awesome! Do you know how fast those things went? Forty knots that’s fifty miles an hour. There is one left now.
LM: 1:56:18 they did a tour.. the Squadron or those that 1:56:27 we visited some of the places that we bombed.
JH: So what height were you doing that from?
JH: Don’t worry, don’t worry.
LM: About fourteen thousand feet.
JH: So not particularly low or anything?
LM: No, no ,no. Cheshire covered low marking, they marked in the Mosquitos and we marked in the markers. We recorded that day by Mustangs or something 1:57:04. For some reason we never saw 1:57:08.
JH: So it was a day light operation?
LM: First day light operation.
JH: So you could see everybody clearly could you?
LM: Oh yeah, that was dropping 1:57:19 in nineteen eight three on the reunion, we visited Le Havre and they 1:57:25 was still higgly piggly !
LM: Yeah around about four or five bits separately, 1:57:32
JH: Well that was 1:57:36 as well?
LM: Yep, that was a smaller version of his original concept to what would be required to damage and destroy the Dams.
JH: That’s right.
LM: Using an earth quake bomber and of course the grand slam…. The squadron carried those at the end of the war, using the Lancasters up powered I think. Originally when he first went to work on destroying the Dams, 1:58:13 required what twenty thousand tons… twenty thousand pound bomb so to drop within fifty feet of the Dam wall 1:58:24 and there were no… one of his reasons for stopping 1:58:33 there were no Lancasters… no aircraft in on 1:58:37 and they managed to go between two thousand 1:58:50 by the end of the War.
JH: So you never ever found yourself with a night fighter on your tail or anything like that?
LM: Right through the War, I never saw a night fighter.
JH: Amazing isn’t it?
LM: Yeah, it is.
JH: I mean that is pure luck isn’t it?
LM: Oh yeah, pure luck, yeah, I’m here by the grace of gods and lady luck!
JH: Amazing, so when you get back did you stay in the RNZ… ?
LM: No, no, no.
JH: You got out?
LM: 1:59:23 I have only got certain vision, triple lense vision.
LM: Right to the iris and all that.
JH: So when was that? That was when you got back?
LM :I discovered it when I got back, that happened in well the squadron, couple of blokes got drunk and turned back and tried to 1:59:54 and in the process, I got a knock, blow on the eye, I wasn’t able to take up terrestrial flying for that reason.
JH: But otherwise you were OK?
LM: I did five hours in Tigermoths in Gisborne 2:00:08 and then got involved with my future wife and then just could afford to fly and get married too, so I gave it away.
JH: So that was it? That was the last flying you did?
LM: Yeah, with me in control.
JH: Did you miss it?
LM: Oh yes. I did miss it.
JH: And then you went into farming? Got married and …
LM: Yeah, the bloke who had been or managing, or running or who owned.. part owner of the farm I worked on when I enlisted, he was working for what they call the state advantage corporation, when I got back in Gisborne. And, he said “ I think I could get you a job at the corporation,” and 2:01:09 residential housing and housing loans and all that sort of stuff and business loans too. 2:01:28 so I took a job on a casual start and then onto a permanent basis and stayed working for them for fourteen years and then 2:01:45 and went farming for another fourteen years before I retired just after 2:01:56 and built a new house, got involved in lots of 2:2:01 became Chairman and change in legislation 2:02:15 Seven years or something.
JH: And had lots of children?
LM: Yes, five children, yes. John unfortunately… he got keen on flying and he was 2:02:43 reconditioned Fletcher and he was 2:02:55 with a mixture of 2:02:56 and unbeknown to him it was 2;03:02 and built up inside the hub and gradually increased, increased and he got overloaded and couldn’t get off his 2:03:13 clipped the end of the fence, still remained airborne and then clipped 2:03:30 this big old pine tree which was 2:03:36 and the beginning of the end, he must of damaged the plane so much that he dived down into a gulley and hid 2:03:50
JH: Oh I am sorry.
LM: It’s alright, its not forgotten, it never will be, that knocked me pretty badly and upset me too.
JH: It would do.
LM: He had two young kids and his wife re-married eventually and his two children 2:04:08 Carrie the oldest is general manager to something at the 2:04:19 she just recently got her licence to fly and she has done very well.
JH: Good for her
LM: 2:04:28 he’s done pretty well, he is running his own business at 2:04:31. He is getting married on the tenth of November half the family are going to the wedding.
JH: Fantastic. Wow. Are you going?
LM: Yep, booked our flights and everything.
JH: Oh that will be great. Never been to Perth, I have heard its lovely.
LM: Chris and I were there a few years ago, we stayed in Perth for a few days for two or three nights and went down the 2:04:56 river and round to the wine growing area and back to the 2:05:00 very much, because you’re almost on the water front, its much warmer its much more….
JH: Yeah sure.
LM: So we are going to stay, we are already booked at 2:05:15 for the wedding.
LES MUNRO 3