“At seventeen I volunteered for the RAF...I was mad keen on flying...it all started from reading about the world war one flying aces...I spent the day at the selection board. I was accepted as a PNB, pilot/navigator/bomb aimer. I became part of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.
“As I was waiting to go in, I had to go on work of national importance, so they drafted me into Portsmouth City Airport. I was refurbishing Airspeed Oxfords, mainly the undercarriage...hydraulics and pneumatics...I had to get up at four in the morning to get there by six...it was in the blackout...during the winter it was dreadful. I walked into a lampost on one occasion, split my head open. You couldn’t see anything.
“I had a letter from the RAF saying...due to a surplus of PNB’s there was a likelyhood that I would be taken in as an air gunner...(After training) we went on a course on ground defence. This was tacked onto normal training, which extended the time before I got to an OTU (operational training unit)...There we were working as a crew, navigational training, flying in patrols...I was in the mid upper turret. Once you were, say a rear gunner, you were supposed to stay a rear gunner, but Cecil and I used to change places...When we went onto ‘Lancs’ we did long overnight runs over occupied countries, France and so on...of course this was after D-day.
“This is how lucky I was. We finished training...and our pilot was taken off for training in ‘Lincolns’...we went on to train in firing 20mm Canons (as fitted to Lincolns). We were taken down to The Wash and there was this turret set up. We would fire it into the sea.
“By then I knew that when they used to say that so many of our planes had returned, they never said how many had dead air gunners were aboard. They said that you had a fifty fifty chance of coming back. One night some aircraft coming back were diverted to our airfield, they’d had a pretty rough time...we heard that they were using a hose pipe to swill out the turrets...
“We were passed for operations and then we were sent home on embarkation leave. It turns out we were supposed to be going to the Far East, on Lincolns. I was home for another two weeks, then up to two months and then they dropped the bomb...we were called back to a base in Suffolk. They said ‘You are now redundant air crew’...That’s why I say I’m so lucky that I’m still here, because we were so long in extra training.
“When I volunteered (there was) a chap who came up on the same day. All he wanted to be was an air gunner...he was called up and six months later, was killed on his first operation.”