I duly completed my course in the Bahamas and did go on to Coastal
Command. And I was flying out of Cornwall just before D-Day. We were
patrolling the channel and sometimes going into the French mainland
for small distances. Patrolling the Channel mainly for submarines, other
Then when the D-Day operation was completed we were transferred to a
place in Scotland which requires you to cough as you pronounce it, Leuchars,
Leuchars, in Fyfeshire, which is between Dundee and St Andrews. And the
rest of my war was spent flying out from Leuchars, always using the Bell
Rock, the famous Bell Rock as our landmark coming home.
And we flew various parts of the ocean. Towards the end of the war for
some reason Coastal Command sent us into rather more risky missions, into
the Baltic .. Sea. And there were some moments there of being open-eyed.
And then the war ended.
I mean, you know, you kept on the alert. To go through the Scagerrak
when our radar could tell us that there were German fighters patrolling
it we would go as low as possible, we would almost skim the water to get
under their radar screens. We did it successfully. And I mean you kept
wide-awake, you didn’t go to sleep as on some of the long patrols
one almost tended to do. There were two navigators.
I flew in Liberator aircraft, superb aircraft. Four engines, built by
Mr Pratt and Mr Whitney and I always want to salute Mr Pratt and Mr Whitney,
they were excellent. It was said the planes could fly on any two of those
engines. Luckily we never had to test it beyond any three. A very good
A mixed squadron, 547 Squadron. It was a British squadron but with Canadians,
Australians and New Zealanders on it. A very interesting study was possible
of the way young people...young men of those nationalities did or did
not fit into the British climate. The Canadians...fine people, terrific
people individually, were the least comfortable, New Zealanders the most,
I suppose. But the Australians got on quite easily and it was a very happy
And again this sense of identification with the working people. My pilot
and skipper [Cec Boxall from Melbourne] was a carpenter. My co-navigator
or second navigator [Bill Simpson] …was a tiler. They were both
commissioned, as I was, and those men were every bit...both...were just
identical with oneself. Except they didn’t have the same tastes,
reading and so on but there was no difference they were all extremely
competent members of the crew. And so it was right across the board.
[The pilot and the other navigator] were Australian…we had several
Englishmen, a magnificent, what was called a WOM, a wireless operator/mechanic.
Wonderful young man, subsequently killed very soon after the war. The
casualties in Coastal Command were nothing like as bad as in Bomber Command
but there were casualties. I remember we came back from one of those trips
into the Scagerrak and when we came back for our meal after the flight
another crew having their meal ahead of us were absolutely astonished,
they were sure they’d seen us shot down. It was another aircraft