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Flight Sergeant Albert Buckley Oakes, 1880661 RAF

F/Sgt Albert Buckley Oakes, RAF, Rear Gunner, 462 Squadron, Foulsham 1945.


Flight Sergeant Albert Buckley Oakes, 1880661 RAF, known as Al, was Rear Air Gunner in the Crew piloted by W/O (later F/O) Jack Roy Smith, 427264 RAAF, in 462 Squadron. This Crew was based initially at Driffield Yorkshire, and later at Foulsham, Norfolk.

This portrait (at left) of Al is from the Crew photo taken at Foulsham sometime in early 1945.

Links to Photos of Al Oakes and Crew; Crew information;
Al's log book details; more on Crew Operations from 462 Squadron ORB; Al's post-WW2 life;
WW2 connections with Crew of NA240 (F/O A.D.J. Ball, F/Sgt M.J.Hibberd and others);
Al's "1983 Recollections of War ... Many Years Later".

The log book details and "Recollections of War" by Al Oakes were kindly supplied by Al's son Patrick, and used with Patrick's permission.

F/Sgt Albert Buckley Oakes, RAF, Rear Gunner, 462 Squadron, after flight to Schleswig northern Germany on 21 May 1945.

F/Sgt Al Oakes at Schleswig on 21 May 1945.

This portrait (at left) of Al is from the group photo of some members of the Crew on a break after a flight to Schleswig in northern Germany after the war.

Crew in 1945 at 462 Squadron, Foulsham - Bill Goldie, Wilf Parker, 'Steve' Stevenson, Al Oakes, Alf Perkes, Jack Smith and Frank Birch.

The Crew – the original photo is captioned "RAF Station Foulsham Norfolk 1945", with the following names (full details on each will be included in the Crew information section).

Back row, left to right:- Bill Goldie (RAAF) (Wireless Op); Wilf Parker (RAF) (Engineer); Steve (RAF) (Mid-upper Gunner); Al Oakes (RAF) (Rear Gunner).

Front row, left to right:- Alf Perkes (RAAF) (Observer/Bomb Aimer); W/O Jack Smith (RAAF) (Pilot); Unidentified (Replacement Navigator).

W/O Jack Smith received his Commission and was promoted to Pilot Officer on 22 February 1945, so this photo is after then. From the background vegetation, it appears to be Spring or Summer, possibly March/April/May 1945. The building in the left background looks like the location used for the group photos of the Bomb Aimers, Wireless Operators and Navigators of 462 Squadron Foulsham, February and March 1945.
The "Unidentified Replacement Navigator" has been identified as Frank Lewis BIRCH, 434165 RAAF.


Crew on leave at home of Al Oakes in Dudley - Jack Smith, Navigator Alf, and Bill Goldie (Jack & Bill were later in 462 Squadron, Foulsham)



Members of the Crew – the original photo is captioned "Jack and Bill with our original Navigator Alf."

Identification from left to right:- Jack Smith (RAAF) (Pilot); Alf (Navigator); Bill Goldie (RAAF) (Wireless Op).

This photo was taken while the Crew were on leave. Several had travelled to the home of Rear Gunner Al Oakes at Dudley for a couple of days. Not in the photo but also present on the visit was Alf Perkes (RAAF) (Observer/Bomb Aimer). Their escapades while on this leave are included in Al's "Recollections of War" (see later section in this web page).

Pilot Jack Smith was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 1 January 1944. The crew formed at 21 OTU after 23 May 1944. Jack is still wearing his F/Sgt stripes which dates this photo after May 1944, but before 1 January 1945 when he was promoted to Warrant Officer at 462 Squadron. Rank is not visible on Bill Goldie's sleeves. The original Navigator was not posted on with the crew to 41 Base Acaster Malbis on 18 August 1944. The background trees, shrubs and flowers indicate this was perhaps June/July of 1944.

Crew soaking up the sunshine (Bill Goldie, Navigator Alf, Alf Perkes and unidentified airman (Bill and Alf P. were later in 462 Squadron, Foulsham)


Members of the Crew, and friend – the original photo has no caption, but appears to have been taken just prior to the following photo, where one of the crew has removed his jacket.

Identification from left to right:- Bill Goldie (RAAF) (Wireless Op) wearing jacket; unidentified with arms resting on knees; Alf (Navigator) partly obscured (this seems to be the same Alf as previously shown in the "Leave" photo); and Alf Perkes (RAAF) (Observer/Bomb Aimer) without his shirt and soaking up the sun.

Bill Goldie is wearing F/Sgt stripes, which he attained on 11 May 1944. He was promoted to Warrant Officer on 11 May 1945. The crew formed at 21 OTU after 23 May 1944. The Engineer joined the crew at 1658 HCU Riccall after their posting there on 7 Nov 1944. With the presence of the Engineer in the next photo, the date of and location of these two photos was most likely Riccall, November 1944 before Autumn set in. This does not explain the presence of the "Original Nav Alf" who stayed on at 21 OTU. However their second Nav was also named Alf (RAF, from Hastings) so there may be an identification error in the "Leave" photo.

Crew soaking up sunshine (Bill Goldie, Wilf Parker, Navigator Alf, Alf Perkes and unidentified airman (Bill, Wilf and Alf P. were later in 462 Squadron, Foulsham)


Members of the Crew and friend – the original photo is captioned "Bill, Wilf and both Alfs with Bill's Aussie friend".

Identification – back, from left to right:- Bill Goldie (RAAF) (Wireless Op) now with jacket removed; and Wilf Parker (RAF) (Engineer)

Front, from left to right:- Unidentified with arms resting on knees; Alf (Navigator) partly obscured (this seems to be the same Alf as previously shown in the "Leave" photo); and Alf Perkes (RAAF) (Observer/Bomb Aimer) in front, without his shirt and soaking up the sun.

The unidentified NCO or Officer in this and the previous photo, is only known as Bill Goldie's Aussie friend. He was most likely RAAF, and from another Crew on a posting to the same site.

If anyone recognises the unidentified person, please make contact.


Cycle Race at Foulsham celebrating VE Day (462 Squadron)


The original photo is captioned "Cycle Race at Foulsham celebrating VE Day".

No-one is identified, however these participants lining up at the start of the race could be from either 462 Squadron or 192 Squadron, as both Squadrons were based at Foulsham.

Pilot Jack Roy Smith, 427264 RAAF, 462 Squadron, at Cycle Race at Foulsham celebrating VE Day.

The original photo is also captioned "Cycle Race at Foulsham celebrating VE Day".

Pilot P/O Jack Roy Smith, 427264 RAAF, of 462 Squadron seems to have been a participant. He is shown here, apparently after the race, with his pants legs tucked into his socks, and jacket off.

Behind Jack are two WAAFs and an Officer (all unidentified), as well as another man lying on the grass (partly obscured). Several discarded cycles can be seen in the background, as well as a lovely old motorcycle – rego BOH 107 (?)

If anyone recognises the unidentified persons, please make contact

Crew after flight to Schleswig, northern Germany on 21 May 1945; R/AG Al Oakes, Pilot Jack Smith, B/A Alf Perkes, W/Op Bill Goldie, Eng Wilf Parker (all 462 Squadron)

The original photo is captioned "North Germany, days after the war's end".

From left:- Rear Gunner F/Sgt Al Oakes RAF; Pilot P/O Jack Smith RAAF; Bomb Aimer Alf Perkes RAAF; W/Op W/O Bill Goldie RAAF; Engineer Sgt Wilf Parker RAF. Missing are the Mid-Upper Gunner and Navigator, one of whom may have taken the photo.

From the log book of Al Oakes, and 462 Squadron ORB, the date of this flight was determined as 21 May 1945, when the Crew, in Halifax Z5-O, transported Group Officers to Schleswig, northern Germany. They are shown here after they went for a walk around the town, and stopped for a break at a park. Details of this flight and walk are included in Al's "Recollections of War" (see later section in this web page).


Al and Jean Oakes on their Wedding Day, early 1947, shortly after Al had been demobbed from the RAF as a F/Sgt Rear Gunner, previously posted to 462 Squadron RAAF, Foulsham.


Albert Buckley Oakes and his new Bride Jean, on their Wedding Day in early 1947, shortly after Al had been demobbed from the RAF.

They had first met at the Elm Tree dance hall, and Al's anecdotes about his 'courting' days are included in his "Recollections of War" (see later section in this web page).

Snow can be seen in the church entrance, due to the very bad weather experienced that winter.


Al and Jean Oakes at Ilkley, West Yorkshire in 1985 (Al was a RAF Flight Sergeant Rear Gunner posted to 462 Squadron RAAF, Foulsham during WW2.)


Al and Jean Oakes at Ilkley, West Yorkshire 1985.

Al had retired in 1981, and wrote his "... Recollections of War ..." during 1983 (see later section in this web page).

Al and Jean Oakes, 1990. (Al was RAF F/Sgt & Rear Gunner in 462 Squadron, Foulsham during WW2.)

Al and Jean Oakes at a family Wedding in 1990.

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Crew information has been sourced from the papers of Al Oakes, books on 462 Squadron (Phoenix by Batten; Pimpernel Squadron by McGindle; and "...Dawn..." by Lax & Kane-Maguire – see Acknowledgements page for details), but mainly from the 462 Squadron ORB. Variations occur between the books in listings of actual crew members, spelling of their names, their initials, and their rank. Information on the three RAAF members of the Crew (Smith, Goldie and Perkes) was verified by checking the Australian WW2 Nominal Roll, cross-referenced with the National Archives of Australia. The RAAF Service Files of Jack Smith and Bill Goldie have been digitised so more information is available about them. Less is known about Alf Perkes (RAAF Service File not yet digitised) and the RAF crew members, other than Al Oakes, whose "Recollections of War" also provide interesting anecdotes of his RAF experiences.

In the Group photos on the 462 Squadron page –
Pilot Smith is shown with two other pilots of B Flight in June 1945.
Wilf Parker is in the Engineer's photo, March 1945, in the back row, 5th from left (previously listed as "Parker?" by the photo contributor);
Gordon Leo (Bill) Goldie is in the W/Op photo in the middle row, far right. (A copy of this photo is in Lax & Kane-Maguire's book, with that person identified as W. Goldig. However I believe that is an error, and should be Goldie, as no record of the name Goldig can be located in 462 Squadron ORB or the Aus. WW2 Nominal Roll.)
Albert Edward (Alf) Perkes has been identified in the Bomb Aimers photo, March 1945, back row, 7th from left.
Frank Birch has been identified in both of the Navigator group photos.
Gunners Oakes and Stevenson have not yet been identified in either of the Gunner's Group photos.

The Australian War Memorial web site includes a photo of 427264 F/O Jack Roy Smith, with 426982 F/O Walter Henry Scott, and 422040 F/O William John Frazer, Foulsham June 1945, holding the "B"Flight Operational sorties Board. (AWM website http://www.awm.gov.au and search for AWM photo ID number P01523.016)

This Crew flew a total of 17 Ops, three of which were early returns, therefore not included in their Tour. An additional Op for Rear Gunner Al Oakes was with F/L Drinkwater's Crew so is not included in this analysis and discussion. They also took part in "Cook's Tours" after cessation of hostilities, and transported Allied Commission staff to Europe.

Of those 17 Ops –
Jack Roy SMITH was Pilot for all;
Albert Edward PERKES (Alf) was Bomb Aimer / Observer for all;
Gordon Leo GOLDIE (Bill) was Wireless Operator for all;
Albert Buckley Oakes (Al) was Rear Gunner for all;
E.N. STEVENSON (Steve) was Mid Upper Gunner for 15 of the 17;
W.T. PARKER (Wilf) was Flight Engineer for 14 of the 17;
M. WALL was Navigator for 12 of the 17.
As these 7 were the longest serving in this Crew I have included their known details in the table below.
Various other Gunners, Flight Engineers and Navigators substituted when the permanent crew was not available.

Other Crew members at various times were –

Mid-Upper Gunner – joined the the original Crew, full name unknown, but known as 'Scouse', from Fazackerley, Liverpool, probably RAF. He joined this Crew at 21 OTU Moreton-in-Marsh and was posted with them to satellite RAF Enstone, then Acaster Malbis, 1658 HCU Riccall, and 462 Squadron Driffield. He was not posted with the crew to Foulsham (See later section for reason why).

Other Mid-Upper Gunners who flew with this Crew at 462 Squadron were F/L Archibald Rudd RAF, and F/Sgt Sidney White RAAF – one flight each.

Other Flight Engineers who flew with this Crew at 462 Squadron were F/Sgt R J Constable RAF, Sgt J A Crane and Sgt Ernest Edward Rose RAF – one flight each.

Original Navigator in Crew – full name unknown, but known as Alf, probably RAF. He remained at 21 OTU when the Crew was posted on to Acaster Malbis and 1658 HCU Riccall.
Second Navigator in Crew – full name unknown, but also known as Alf; a "much older chap" from Hastings, probably RAF, who left the Squadron. It is probably this second Alf who is in three of the crew photos in the photo section.
Navigator in Crew Photo at 462 Squadron – described by Al Oakes in later section as "Aussie in the photograph who was a lawyer". He has been identified as F/O Frank Lewis Birch RAAF, a lawyer.
Other Navigators who flew with this Crew at 462 Squadron were F/L K.J. Brown RAAF, W/O I.H. Campbell RAAF, Sgt Denis James Critchley RAFVR, and F/Sgt John Mortimer RAFVR – one flight each.

Special Duties – Window dispensers – 15 Ops at Foulsham. (ORB almost illegible in parts)
Ten different Window dispensers flew on Ops with this Crew.
Courtney, O'Brien, and Whitehead – all SD (A/G) – one flight each.
Hetherington (also listed as Etherington) – SD (F/Eng) – one flight.
Chaffer, Hantken, Irminger, Rolls and J F Wall – SD (W/Op) – one flight each.
Tills listed as SD (A/G) and also as SD (W/Op), so probably a WOP/AG – six flights.

Special Duties – Radio Counter Measures – 1 Op at Foulsham.
F/O F.L. Fletcher (linguist) – SD (Nav) – one flight.

Name: SMITH, Jack Roy
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 427264
Date of Birth: 8 June 1916 (age almost 29 by VE Day)
Place of Birth: Cue, Western Australia
Date of Enlistment: 15 June 1942
Place of Enlistment: Perth, Western Australia
Next of Kin: SMITH, Mabel
Date of Discharge: 7 January 1946
Rank: Flying Officer
Posting at Discharge: 462 Squadron
Prisoner of War: No

Name: GOLDIE, Gordon Leo (known as Bill)
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 430428
Date of Birth: 4 May 1914 (age 31 by VE Day)
Place of Birth: Mildura, Victoria
Date of Enlistment: 29 January 1943
Place of Enlistment: Melbourne, Victoria
Next of Kin: GOLDIE, Sylvia
Date of Discharge: 27 February 1946
Rank: Flying Officer
Posting at Discharge: 462 Squadron
Prisoner of War: No

BOMB AIMER / Observer
Name: PERKES, Albert Edward (known as Alf)
Service: Royal Australian Air Force
Service Number: 429346
Date of Birth: 30 August 1923 (age almost 22 by VE Day)
Place of Birth: Dimbulah, Queensland
Date of Enlistment: 11 September 1942
Place of Enlistment: Brisbane, Queensland
Next of Kin: PERKES, George
Date of Discharge: 15 May 1946
Rank: Flying Officer
Posting at Discharge: 9 Air Crew Holding Unit
Prisoner of War: No

Name: WALL, M (with Crew at Driffield and Foulsham)
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 1399817
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Date of Enlistment: From August 1940
Place of Enlistment: Euston, UK
Next of Kin: Unknown
Date of Discharge: Unknown
Rank: Flight Sergeant (1945, during conflict)
Posting at Discharge: Unknown (ex 462 Squadron)
Prisoner of War: No

Name: OAKES, Albert Buckley (known as Al)
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 1880661
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Date of Enlistment: From May 1943
Place of Enlistment: Cardington, UK
Next of Kin: Unknown (assumed to be his then-living father)
Date of Discharge: 13 January 1947
Rank: Flight Sergeant (1945, during conflict)
Posting at Discharge: RAF Station near Blackpool
Prisoner of War: No

MID-UPPER GUNNER (with Crew at Driffield and Foulsham)
Name: STEVENSON, E. N. (known as Steve)
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 1596367
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Date of Enlistment: From September 1941
Place of Enlistment: Weston-super-Mare, UK
Next of Kin: Unknown
Date of Discharge: Unknown
Rank: Sergeant (1945, during conflict)
Posting at Discharge: Unknown (ex 462 Squadron)
Prisoner of War: No

Name: PARKER, W. T. (known as Wilf)
Service: Royal Air Force
Service Number: 1897610
Date of Birth: Unknown
Place of Birth: Unknown
Date of Enlistment: From January 1943
Place of Enlistment: Euston, UK
Next of Kin: Unknown
Date of Discharge: Unknown
Rank: Sergeant (1945, during conflict)
Posting at Discharge: Unknown (ex 462 Squadron)
Prisoner of War: No

RFC and RAF Service Numbers from website .... http://www.ab-ix.co.uk/rfc_raf.pdf
(Copy and paste, not a clickable link)

Series 1375001 to 1400000 were allocated from August 1940 from Euston (i.e. M. Wall)
Series 1869809 to 1884438 were allocated from May 1943 at Cardington (i.e. Al Oakes)
Series 1890001 to 1899799 were allocated from January 1943 from Euston (i.e. Wilf Parker)
Series 1585001 to 1600000 were allocated from September 1941 Weston-super-Mare (i.e. 'Steve' Stevenson)

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Log Book details for F/Sgt Al Oakes

Link to Albert_Buckley_Oakes_RAF_flying_log_462Sqdn.pdf

Abbreviations in the document
C & L – Circuits and Landings
F/A – Fighter Affiliation (gunnery exercise with Fighter mock attack)
A/A – Air to air gunnery practice
A/S – Air to sea gunnery practice
X Wind – Cross wind
X Country – Cross country (Navigational exercise)
FIDO – "Fog Intensive Dispersal Of" or alternatively "Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation" (Reference former F/L Bruce K. Drinkwater.)

Page 1 and 2 – October and November 1944, training flights, Halifax III, 'D' Flight 1658 HCU Riccall, Yorkshire;
Page 3 – December 1944, 'B' Flight 462 Squadron, 4 Group, Driffield, Yorkshire; training flights; first Op on 17 December but early return;
Correction page 3 – Duisberg (sic Duisburg)
Page 4 – January 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk; 5 Ops;
Page 5 – February 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk; 5 Ops plus 2 early returns;
Correction page 5 – Weisbaden (sic Wiesbaden)
Page 6 – March 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk; 3 Ops;
Page 7 – April 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk;1 Op;
Correction page 7 – Mian (sic Main) St Athen (sic St. Athan)
Page 8 – May 19451945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk; 15th (last) Op on 2 May, a Spoof to Flensburg;
Page 9 – June 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk;
Correction page 9 – Highercall (sic, High Ercall);
Page 10 – July 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk;
Page 11 – August 1945, 462 Squadron, 100 Group, Foulsham, Norfolk; last flight – a "Cook's Tour" of the Ruhr.
From January until August 1945, all 'B' Flight.

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Crew Operations
Operations for this crew have been transcribed from Rear Gunner Al Oakes' log-book, a transcription of which was received in May 2011. The information is included as follows. It has also been compared with the 462 Squadron ORB from the same period, and any additional information has been added in italics inside brackets. Non-operational flying has not been included. All Ops for this Crew were night flights, and are therefore red entries. Early returns were not counted in Ops. Aircraft serial numbers have been taken from the Squadron ORB Forms 541, however it has been noted that there are some possible mismatches of serials and codes, as some do not agree with other published lists. This may be due to errors in records, or alternate aircraft may have been substituted but not recorded. Code numbers were also re-issued to replacement aircraft. The log book detail appears to be consistent, however there are also some minor discrepancies in times between log book and ORB. It must also be noted that some of the ORB pages are very difficult to read.

Date Aircraft Pilot Remarks Night Ser No Op
17/12/44 T F/S Smith Duisburg, early return (Bombing duty, GEE U/S – jettisoned) 2h 50m PN168 1
01/01/45 O W/O Smith Hamburg area, Spoof (Bremen, Window released) 5hr 15m MZ461 1
14/01/45 R W/O Smith Mannheim, Spoof (Window released, Bombing) 5hr 55m NP990 2
16/01/45 R W/O Smith Kiel, Spoof (Sylt, Window released) 5hr 5m NP990 3
17/01/45 O W/O Smith Cochem (sic Bochum) Spoof (Window released, Bombing) 4hr 45m MZ461 4
22/01/45 ? F/O Drinkwater Gladbeck/Mainz, Spoof (Window released) 7hr 25m MZ479 5
01/02/45 N W/O Smith Mannheim, Spoof – early return with engine trouble (Window released, Bombing) 3hr 55m MZ913 6
03/02/45 Z W/O Smith Wiesbaden, Spoof (Mainz area, Window released, Bombing) 4hr 45m NA148 6
09/02/45 X W/O Smith Ruhr area, Spoof (Window released) 4hr 35m MZ398 7
20/02/45 O W/O Smith Heilbronn, Spoof (Window released, Flares) 6hr 15m MZ461 8
21/02/45 P W/O Smith Koblenz, Spoof, early return (port outer engine U/S, full load of Incendiaries brought back) 2hr 30m MZ341 9
22/02/45 Y W/O Smith Ruhr area, Spoof (Window released) 6hr MZ457 9
28/02/45 N W/O Smith Lake Constance, Switzerland, Spoof (Freiburg, Window released) 6hr MZ913 10
03/03/45 N W/O Smith Dortmund-Ems canal, Spoof, intruders, 4 A/C lost in circuit (Window released, Flares) 3hr 55m MZ913 11
08/03/45 N W/O Smith Dortmund, Spoof (Window released, Incendiaries) 5hr 40m MZ913 12
27/03/45 Q W/O Smith Bremerhaven, Spoof (Window released, Incendiaries) 4hr 25m NR284 13
04/04/45 O W/O Smith Hamburg, Main Force (Berlin area, Window released, Incendiaries and TIs) 4hr 40m PN426 14
02/05/45 X P/O Smith Flensburg, Spoof, last Operation (Elenburg sic, Window released, Bombing) 4hr 30m MZ398 15

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Al's post-WW2 life

Al Oakes was demobbed on 13 January 1947 and married Jean soon after. They had met at the Elm Tree pub, which was in a small village about 15 miles from Nottingham, presumably after one of Al's trips across the River Trent from the aerodrome at Syerston, courtesy of the pub landlord. (Wedding photo shown in previous section, and their meeting described in a later section in this web page.)
Al and Jean Oakes had one son.

Al was employed at Raleigh Cycles in Nottingham for most of his working life, retiring in 1981.

In 1983, he wrote his "1983 Recollections of War ... Many Years Later". These recollections cover his RAF Service from 1939 to 1947. He had stopped smoking around that time after approximately 40 years, and one of the after-effects was insomnia, which he dealt with by scribing his memoirs. As he was already retired, writing for a few hours each night did not cause too many disruptions to his family. His handwritten notes were transcribed by his son a few years later.

Al Oakes died in 1992, and and his wife Jean died in 2000.

Al's son kindly contributed copies of his father's photos, and transcriptions of his Log Book and Recollections, with permission for their use on this web page.

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Connections with Crew of NA240 (Pilot F/O A.D.J. Ball, Rear Gunner F/Sgt M.J.Hibberd and others)

By cross-referencing the 462 Squadron ORB with Al's Log Book and M.J.Hibberd's Log Book, it is certain that Jack Smith's Crew (with Rear Gunner Al Oakes) and Alf Ball's Crew (with Rear Gunner M.J.Hibberd) did not fly on the same Ops. Therefore they would not have attended the same pre-flight briefings, nor post-flight debriefings.

Jack Smith and Crew were older and more experienced, having been posted to 462 Squadron Driffield in November 1944. However, from 16 February 1945 when Ball and his Crew arrived, until their failure to return (FTR) from their last Op on 10 April 1945, it is probable that the members of both Crews crossed paths at the relevant Officer's or Sergeant's Mess at Foulsham. It is not known if Rear Gunners Hibberd and Oakes ever spoke, but it is possible, particularly after Hibberd's claim of a damaged FW190 on 24 March 1945, during an Op to Cologne (see Hibberd's Service).

Due to M.J.Hibberd's reticence to speak of his war experiences, his family does not have any written or verbal records of what his RAAF life in the UK was like during 1944 and 1945, either at OTU or HCU or at 462 Squadron. It has therefore been of great interest to read Al's "Recollections of War ... " (included in the following section), even though Al's personal anecdotes would differ from Hibberd's.

Smith, Oakes and crew were posted to 21 OTU Moreton-in-Marsh, then to 41 Base Acaster Malbis, then to 1658 HCU Riccall, and finally to 462 Squadron at Driffield and on to Foulsham. Ball, Hibberd and crew were posted to 27 OTU Lichfield (Church Broughton), 41 Base Acaster Malbis, 1652 HCU Marston Moor, then 462 Squadron at Foulsham. The information about Acaster Malbis was a revelation perhaps the training there assisted Hibberd to survive his time as PoW. It is now easier to imagine the events of a typical day at Foulsham, and procedures before and after an Op.

Both Crews flew Ops in Halifax MZ-341 Z5-P Peter Rabbit, and MZ-913 Z5-N Jane.
Smith, Oakes and Crew did not fly any Ops in NA-240 Z5-V. However Ball, Hibberd and Crew flew Ops in it twice, the second time as a FTR.
Smith, Oakes and Crew flew 15 Ops, with additional three early return Ops not counted.
Ball, Hibberd and Crew flew in in 5 Ops, with an additional one early return OP not counted.

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"1983 Recollections of War ... Many Years Later" by Albert Buckley (Al) Oakes, 1880661 RAF, Rear Gunner.

These recollections cover Al's RAF service from when he first volunteered for the Air Force in 1939 through to "demob" on 13 January 1947. The original hand-written document was transcribed by Al's son, and has been used with his permission.
Editorial formatting headings have also been added in bold italics, where they indicate postings or other major events. Crew members names, and posting locations have also been made bold. All editorial additions are in italics.

Any other words in brackets but without italics are Al's own comments. No editorial corrections to the original wording have been made, although possible errors have been followed by sic and substitutions (inside brackets, and in italics).

Otherwise the story belongs to Al Oakes .......... (quote)

1983 Recollections of War ... Many Years Later

As the article is quite lengthy, headings have been added with the following links ........

1939 to 1943 Reserved occupation; Home Guard duties as A/A Gunner; Coventry area.
Voluntary enlistment in RAF, Cardington, selected for training as Air Gunner.
21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Moreton-in-Marsh as Sergeant; Crew formed.
41 Base Acaster Malbis, Yorkshire, and 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) Riccall, Yorkshire.
462 Squadron, Driffield, Yorkshire (No. 4 Group, Bomber Command)
462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk (No. 100 Group, Bomber Command)
Ops procedure (for Rear Gunner) at 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk.
Raids over Germany while posted to 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk.
Cook's Tours and Transport of Officers after VE Day, 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk.
RAF postings after 462 Squadron, up until demob in January 1947.

1939 to 1943 Reserved occupation; Home Guard duties as A/A Gunner; Coventry area.

Volunteered for Air Force in September or October 1939. Friends Ron Herbert and Tommy Lock accepted – both worked Bagington Airport (sic – Baginton, Coventry) on Flying Coffin – refused myself as in reserved occupation. Brother Frank married Gwen ‘39 and left home. Sister Doris married Eric Ivens 1940. Eric in Army. Many minor raids on Coventry. Majority of people moved to air raid shelters outside of the town in the evenings and stayed all night or until the all clear. We went – most evenings – to shelters at Bell Green. The night of ‘The Blitz’, however, we were caught at home, and from the warning at seven in the evening until the all clear 11 or 12 hours later had no chance of moving from shelter under the stairs, not even to make a ‘cuppa’ or inspect the damage. We knew the house had suffered. Mum was the only one physically hurt. The gas meter dislodged from the wall and came down on her head. Next morning it was obvious that the house (26 Freeman Street) was a total wreck. The bomb that wrecked the house was one of a stick of three absolutely parallel to our row of houses. The previous bomb in the stick hit a garage door. The car inside was flattened (overall length about 12’) and stuck up against the back wall. All but the garage door and roof was intact. The centre of the nearest bomb crater was about 5 yards from our shelter under the stairs. Sisters Doris and Sheila and brother Paddy moved to Kidderminster with Mum and Dad to stay with Dad’s sister. I stayed with Mum’s sisters Aunties Lii and Maria in Earlsdon (Alfred Herbert Ltd. could not release me from my job) until November 1940.

Ron Herbert home from leave. Joined him for a drink at a Bell Green pub – no transport after ‘blitz’, so walked from Bell Green to Earlsdon in black-out and many detours due to unexploded bombs – 5 or 6 miles? – without seeing another soul. Working time was a 12 hour day, seven days a week. This continued for some time, then days off, one per week allowed. Bombing continued – I remember a particular night when at work. Incendiary bombs came through the machine shop roof – a clear, bright sunshine morning, unexploded bombs everywhere – walked to Earlsdon with friend Frank Lloyd – did a detour at the start of the walk to by-pass one bomb, only to see it go up killing two young girl cyclists. People walking on both sides of Foleshill Road, another bomb goes up 1/4 mile in front of us and as we reach the spot, bodies are being sorted out. We learned later one was a chap who was helping with incendiaries a couple of hours before. Many, more diversions and bombs, reached Earlsdon around lunchtime.

Called up for Home Guard, did duty as A/A gunner at Memorial Park. Directed to work at Coventry Cars Ltd. Weekends free. Many spent away from Coventry, usually at Leicester with gang of friends. One, Alf Simpson was an invalided out air gunner. Dad and Mum moved to a riverside pub at Stourport run by Billy Hubble (friend of Dad’s from World War I) who was as mad as a hatter. Spent several boozy spells at Stourport before Mum and Dad moved into own house in Dudley.
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Voluntary enlistment in RAF, Cardington, selected for training as Air Gunner (RAF Service Number 1880661 issue May 1943 at Cardington)

Late 1942 or early 1943 volunteered again for R.A.F. aircrew and this time accepted as candidate. After some weeks, directed to Cardington for medical and aptitude tests. Selection Board accepted me for training as Air Gunner.

October 1943 directed to Air Crew Receiving Centre, Hall Drive, Maida Vale, London. (London billets were stripped luxury flats. Memories include: barbers cooling their clippers in liquid as they nearly shaved our heads, V.D. films so explicit many recruits sick, dozens and dozens of airmen lining the swimming pool in birthday suits awaiting test for 100 yards compulsory swim, fatigues second week collecting pig swill for piggery in St. James’ Park (smell even put us off our beer at night!). Kitted out, square bashing on the streets – memory of dear old lady threatening our cockney corporal with her umbrella if he used any more bad language on us.

Then posted to Bridlington. Weather cold, no heating in requisitioned boarding houses. Cellar floorboards ripped out, followed by raids on armed guarded coal depots. Most ludicrous – blokes shaving using hot cocoa from mess at suppertime. Much charging up and down the promenade with fixed bayonets, together with much “Outside for PT, vests and shorts, no repeat no cardigans on” first thing on frosty mornings. Food was atrocious even by service standards. Find it difficult to remember a meal that wasn’t cheese and potato pie. Demonstration one lunchtime, we all collected our food and then emptied it straight into the swill bin under the orderly officer’s nose. Everyone was reported to the C.O., but the only action taken was the removal of the catering officer. Also given clay pigeon shooting, morse, aircraft recognition, Browning .303 machine gun, more square bashing, rifle drill etc.

Tommy Lock, who had been serving as an aircraft fitter for some years in Canada, returned as a volunteer aircrew engineer. Saw him several times while both in training and ops. Later he went missing believed killed over Hamburg – made the effort to see family on next leave.

After Bridlington, I was posted to Bridgenorth. Very little changed in training, and very little remembered except being put on a charge for losing kit. On arrival we were put in a massive hanger containing thousands of beds. (Arrival day in Bridgenorth – I remember a lad of about 18 sitting on his bed in this vast hanger: unloaded half of one of his kit bags dejectedly surveying a huge smashed jar of Brylcreem covering the remainder of his gear in that kit bag. Those around gave him a hand to clean up as best as we could; the lad may have gone on to great things in the R.A.F., but by the look of him that day he surely wished he had never joined). After about a week we were transferred to a hut some way away. For some unknown reason, we were now trundling around in flying kit. During the two journeys required to transfer, some of my webbing was stolen – thus giving me my first and last taste of ‘jankers’. Another first was leave after Bridgenorth. Had tonsillitis while on leave and was late at next station, Castle Kennedy Gunnery School near Stranraer, Scotland.

Left Dudley in a heavy snowstorm, arrived at midnight, a warm, balmy night. Castle Kennedy was part of a big estate spread either side of the main road to Stranraer. Our billets were in a long, narrow pine copse on the edge of the estate next to the railway line. Firemen on the trains helped supplement our gathered firewood by heaving great lumps of coal onto the side of the track, to the merriment of all. The stoves used to glow dangerously high up the chimneys. The smell of pine wood burning met one when returning to the billet in the evening, and the copse would be alive with pheasants strutting tamely about. Other parts of the estate were just as beautiful: the classrooms were in woodland which contained the tallest rhododendrons I have ever seen, many in flower. This woodland led down to a lake on the other side of which was a building we presumed was the castle. Several times went to a firing range down in the Mull of Galaway (sic – Galloway) by the sea. Very remote, only a coastguard station near. Always same W.A.A.F. driver took us: film star beauty, until she opened her mouth – a real pygmalion character. The firing part of the range – two aircraft turrets. The target was a model aircraft on a pedestal running around a track at a range of about 100 yds. The track was hidden from view by a grassy bank. The model aircraft approached guns from right hand side, crossed in front, and then disappeared away to the left. Always someone who was trigger happy would blast it to smithereens when it was a sitting duck on approach or retreat. Bags of time sitting around enjoying birds, sea and wild lonely countryside. War could have been a million miles away.

Training as before, but now with flying and instruction on the workings of turrets, both Fraser-Nash and Boulton-Paul. Aerial training was done with pupils transported in Anson aircraft to rendezvous over the Irish Sea with Martinet fighter aircraft. Anson aircraft would have on board probably eight pupils, pilot and instructor all seated, plenty of brown paper bags; pans of belted ammo. variously coloured along length of belt, or cine guns. The mid-upper turret, which was neither of the two types mentioned above, was one of the most fiendish that could ever be designed. From the fuselage, it looked like an upended metal dustbin stuck up into the roof of the aircraft. You had to crouch down to get into the thing – no joke when dressed up in full flying gear. Looking up the metal tube towards the perspex blister at the top, halfway up you could see the seat – like a bicycle saddle on an arm – projecting out into the tube, leaving a minimum of space behind for one to squeeze through to get above and then astride. The seat and guns were hydraulically operated and worked like a seesaw. On getting into the turret, it was best to set the seat in its lowest position, and then do something like a limbo wriggle past it, for the slightest touch would set it in motion to trap you under the chin or anywhere else down the middle of your body. Another problem, when settled in position, was the intercom plug, which with all of the radial and up and down moments was forever becoming disconnected. Mostly you noticed, if not the irate instructor would have to trundle back, reach up from outside, and reconnect. I remember on one trip, a lad having been reconnected by the instructor several times. On the last occasion, the fuming instructor (a sadistic type) reconnected him and almost immediately shouted Dinghy, dinghy, prepare for ditching!. The poor devil was out of the turret, all white and dishevelled, and down behind the bulkhead in no time at all. Pupils who managed to get inside, connect intercom and stay connected during the exercise, fire off guns at Martinet or cine camera at attacking fighter, and then extricate without a hitch had a day to remember.

Lots of the Anson pilots were Polish, without not too much geographical or navigational knowledge. The Martinet would not always wait around at the end of the exercise. A couple of times we had to wait for a search party to arrive to lead us back to base. Also, from one exercise, we were returning and descending through cloud: we broke cloud to see sheep grazing on hills close by and higher than our aircraft.

During lunch one day, the mess wireless gave out losses of bomber command on the previous night’s raid, being about one hundred planes. There were a few seconds of silence, then pandemonium. We were within a couple of weeks of posting to operational squadrons. This caused many (including Frank from Lincoln who had been a pal since London) to ask for a discharge: the C.O. blew his top, but this was allowed at this stage of training, although the discharge papers gave the reason as L.M.F. (Lack of Moral Fibre), not something to be bandied round as a reference in Civvy Street. The passing out parade was all bulling up: Highland Regiment pipe bands, and presentation of brevet and Sgt’s stripes.
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21 Operational Training Unit (OTU) Moreton-in-Marsh as Sergeant; Crew formed.

After leave from Gunnery School, on to Operational Training Unit at Moreton in the Marsh. This was the place we were to find our other crew members. I don’t remember when I palled up with Scouse (from Fazackerley, Liverpool), but it was usual for gunners to pair up for crewing later. We were approached one day by Jack Smith (pilot, from Perth, Western Australia) and Alf Perkes (Observer and bomb aimer, Queensland, Australia), to join them in forming a crew. It was not long before we were joined by Bill Goldie (Wireless operator from Melbourne, Australia), Wilf (Engineer from London) and an English navigator. There was not much flying at Moreton, it was chocker with American airmen in that area. The weather was hot and the beer was scarce. As pubs ran out, it was a scramble to find one with ale, even though it may be served in jam jars. After crewing up, we were posted to nearby R.A.F. Enstone, a wartime RAF station and a satellite of Moreton, to fly Wellington bombers (which had been superseded by Lancasters and Halifaxes in main Bomber Command). The main training here was – as the log shows – pilot conversion to this aircraft. C and Ls (Circuits and Landings), which also included overshooting and single engine flying and landing. “X” (cross) countries were mainly navigational exercises. Bombing for bomb aimers’ and pilots’ benefits. A.A. firing: we would take a drogue with us and let it out of the rear of the plane; while the pilot was weaving about, we, the gunners, would alternately do target practise. I remember once when I was in the turret the drogue acting in a most peculiar way. We must have been at a fair altitude, because when I opened the turret doors behind me there was Scouse (who was supposed to be operating the drogue) grinning from ear to ear, face like a beetroot, and reeling about like a drunk all about the fuselage, down which I had to chase him to connect him to a portable oxygen bottle. In those days of training we were not issued with heated suits, gloves and slippers. What we had were silky brown inner suits (bulky, filled with padding) and outer suits of a very thick greenish cord material. Our gloves were a pair of long white silk, a pair of chamois leather gloves, a pair of woollen mittens and a pair of zip-up leather gauntlets. All this clothing, together with battledress and heavy underwear, was still unable to keep out the cold in the gun turret when flying at 18,000 – 20,000 feet. One got the feeling of the eyeballs freezing up, and the condensation from the oxygen mask dropped to form little round pancakes of ice on your gauntlets. Flying on a day that was clear and bright would leave fingers and toes aching for days afterwards. Fighter affiliation was another exercise for gunners, when we would rendezvous with a fighter who would mock attack and we would take cine film as he did so, while also taking evasive action. It was the job of the gunners to direct all of the action when a fighter was sighted. The gunsight was a light ring and bead reflected up to be seen through clear glass. The diameter of the ring was used to measure the wingspan of the attacking fighter, thus to determine his range and to start evasive action when he had approached to within a thousand yards.

The day I believe was 12 July 1944 when we were introduced to evasive action by a specialist pilot instructor. I was in the turret and Jack Smith was flying the plane, with the instructor presumably in the dickey (co-pilot’s) seat. The Spitfire did his first attack, and Jack’s effort at evasive action was not up to par according to the instructor, who took over at that point. I instructed the pilot with something like “Fighter on the starboard quarter, level and 1200 yards, coming into attack now, prepare diving turn to starboard – 1100 yards – diving turn, go, go, go!”. In the violent manoeuvre that followed, the plane went into a screaming dive which shot me straight up into the roof of the turret. Belts of ammo. left in the containers stood all around me stiff as ramrods pointing straight upwards. I had been on the big dipper at Blackpool many times, but this was something else. I remained in this position until the manoeuvre progressed into climbing to port, struggling vainly to get a bead on the fighter. This manoeuvre strained every part of the plane’s construction to its limit. It was not just excitement which befell the other members of the crew during that 30 minute flight. Alf Perkes, Scouse and Wilf the engineer had no positions in the Wellington, and so were riding up by the bulkhead in the fuselage, being clouted by loose parachutes which sailed from one end of the aircraft to the other. Also close to the bulkhead was an Elsan toilet, holding whatever and thick brown disinfectant, and covered with a lid held down with thick elastic straps. Needless to say, the straps were not thick enough for the violent manoeuvres, and all in range got their fair share of the contents. Jack Smith learned the lesson of evasive action, and was soon as accomplished as F/C (sic, possibly F/L?) Bowman, which was to stand us all in good stead later. During a solo fighter affiliation exercise on 20 July 1944, Jack’s evasive action was so violent that somehow unseated the bomb sight, which came crashing down, smashing the perspex panel in the nose of the aircraft.

On 23 June 1944 we set out on our first cross country exercise (to include some Air to Air and Air to Sea gunnery practice). In addition to the crew of seven were two instructors (pilot and gunnery) as far as I remember. Three of the legs of the route – base to East Coast, up to a point north, and then across from East to West Coast seemed uneventful. It was on the home leg that the instructor pilot seemed to be harassing the navigator for an e.t.a. to base. We were over cloud with no chance of pinpointing our position, and from the conversation on the intercom, the nav. seemed to have got us lost. The instructor pilot decided to come down through cloud, to find that we were well off course – south of the Bristol Channel. Very soon after pinpointing our position and setting a course for Enstone, there was a shudder and a stream of black smoke from the starboard engine, which left us flying on one engine. It was decided to get down as soon as possible, so we sent out a ‘Mayday’ call which was picked up by RAF Staverton within a very short time, giving us permission to land. We were by now flying in perfectly clear skies. By a most strange coincidence, Staverton was receiving another ‘Mayday’ from an American Flying Fortress – who I could see – probably 20,000 - 22,000 feet high – he was lost. Flying control ordered him off as they had an emergency with us. We were asked to fire red Verey lights to confirm our position to the ‘drome. At that moment, we were flying near a small factory standing on its own in the countryside. I could see one man standing on the concrete forecourt. As our Verey lights went off, the man sprinted into the factory, and in seconds hundreds of people – the size of ants to us – filled the courtyard. Landing the Wellington on one engine should have been no problem – we had done this in practise many times. However, the Inst. pilot thought he would have to make it on his first attempt, possibly not having the power to overshoot and go round again. In the event, his approach must have been too high, and we were well down the runway when we touched. This required him to retract the undercarriage to get the plane to stop before we were out of runway. The plane ended up on its nose with me in the turret stuck up in the air, not far from the practice bomb dump. The aircrew trucks, fire engines, ambulances, etc., etc. seemed to arrive immediately we stopped skidding, and people soon extricated us from the plane, which was a write off.

From Enstone, we travelled to Blenheim Palace at Woodstock for dinghy and sailing drill on the lake. Bill Goldie acquired a motorbike – either a Lea Francis or a Francis Barnett. Had many a ride with Bill to Oxford on the back of his bike. I think I was the only member of our crew to take the chance. I remember that the billets at Enstone were Nissen huts situated near 18 foot high hedges. In the warm weather of July, the place was alive with earwigs. We had to clear our beds out at least once nightly to get some chance of sleep. When we were posted from Enstone, Bill simply left his bike propped up against a tree at the camp. There was a very severe electrical storm one afternoon in the Cotswold area, quite an experience. The sound of thunder is magnified through a plane’s intercom system, and lightening is seen as streaks direct from cloud to ground. Several American planes were struck in the storm and brought down, together with two Wellingtons from Moreton – three of the four gunners killed were from the same London intake as myself.
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41 Base Acaster Malbis, Yorkshire, and 1658 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) Riccall, Yorkshire.

At the end of O.T.U. training, most of the crews on the course were posted to the Far East. Our posting was to a heavy conversion unit at RAF Riccall, Yorkshire. As a result of the enquiry into the crash at Staverton, our navigator was set back some weeks on the O.T.U. course. Our new navigator was a much older chap – Alf from Hastings. Funny, can’t remember the surnames of the English crew members, nor can I remember much of Riccall except for the local watering places of Selby and York, in particular of waiting for taxis outside York station after nights out: always crews of RAF and American airmen. One American who tried jumping the queue one night ran up to an incoming taxi and opened up the driver’s door, which the driver promptly banged to try and shut, injuring the American badly round the head and neck.

Before our conversion to four engined aircraft at Riccall, we were posted to Acaster Malbis – also in Yorkshire – for a toughening-up course under instruction from Army personnel – this was mainly for survival in case of being shot down. Training included map reading exercises, living rough and the like. Days were spent with the crew being dumped out in the wild with map and compass, with instructions to be at a pub miles away at a certain time, in the knowledge that “enemy soldiers” were lying in wait in places along the route. Memories of camping out in derelict huts; of army sergeant major cooking meal on a field kitchen, and the massive cast iron pot of food being uneatable after a pot of pepper fell in; of boating on the river; of rigging up a makeshift bridge to cross the river. The course finished with a booze-up in some remote two pub village. Some eighty airmen and a sprinkling of Army invaded the village that night, so that both pubs were packed. Beautiful evening with most people drinking outside. Children playing with stilts in the street. Not long before the stilts were borrowed, challenges thrown down, bets laid, and the street between the pubs was a race track. Great fun.
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462 Squadron, Driffield, Yorkshire (No. 4 Group, Bomber Command)

Training was now all finished, and so to an operational station at RAF Driffield, Yorks., where two Australian squadrons were stationed (Nos. 462 and 466 R.A.A.F.). We were to join 466 squadron. (sic – posted to 462 Squadron) I think we were longer at Driffield than the flying dates in the log suggest. Driffield was a pre-war permanent RAF station. I remember the sergeant’s mess being a Nissen hut type building at the end of a long grass-verged drive, on the opposite side of the road to the main station. One crew had an Austin Seven car with quite a strident horn. The drive to the mess would be full of bods at meal times, when along would come this Austin with its horn blaring. It would be pulled to a stop by shear force of numbers. It was quite usual to see it abandoned on the grass verge, sitting anywhere but on its wheels. The mess had a face lift to the inside, and I seem to remember some quite impressive murals had been painted on the plain redecorated walls by an airman. A somewhat boozy do was held to celebrate their completion.

Cross country on 13 December 1944 – took off and soon saw patches of low, dense, whiter than white fog, with the top halves of spires and chimneys in gleaming sunshine above. This weather did not last long, and by the time we returned to Driffield, thick fog prevented us from landing. We were diverted to Carnaby, an emergency landing strip near Bridlington. As we neared the coast, we could see a glow through the fog below. We descended to what seemed an endless runway with walls of fire down either side of it, and bars of fire across the end to denote the start. These bars spoilt our first approach to the runway: the heat coming up sent us ballooning upwards. Our second attempt was a success. When the aircraft came to a rest, we all just gaped at the sight outside, with these walls of fire 50 - 80 feet high. This was F.I.D.O. Carnaby was one of two such emergency strips built mainly to serve damaged aircraft returning from the continent. When we took off next morning, it was clear to us that the area around this massive runway looked like a plane graveyard. (See page 3 of Oakes log book – 13 December 1944, Halifax III Z5-Z 3hr 25m, day flying.)

As we assembled in the briefing room for our first operation, someone in the crowd of aircrew started singing a carol, and by the time the team of briefing officers arrived, everyone had joined in with gusto. It was only a week or so to Christmas, but it did seem an unreal situation. (See page 3 of Oakes log book entry 17 December 1944, Halifax III Z5-T 2hr 50m, night Op with early return.) It must have been around this time we went on leave, from which Scouse didn’t return on time. The whole of 462 Squadron was due to move down to Norfolk within days. I last saw Scouse in the Mess under close arrest. The Military Police had caught up with him at his girl friend’s house in Liverpool. This was within hours of leaving for Foulsham. We did not keep in touch, but I did hear later that Scouse was badly shot up on returning from ops on night of 4th March. He was hit in the legs while in rear turret when coming in to land at Driffield. Jack Smith asked me to find a replacement for Scouse. I picked Steve from a group of about three spare gunners: he came from somewhere on the East Coast. I remember bright sunshine and a heavy frost Christmas morning, and drinks in the Officers’ Mess at Driffield, so we must have travelled between then and New Year, to arrive at Foulsham and be operational by New Year’s Day. (Scouse was the Mid-Upper Gunner, and was replaced by "Steve", Sgt E.N. Stevenson, 1596367 RAF; 462 Squadron relocation to Foulsham on 29 December 1944 – ref 462 Squadron ORB.)
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462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk (No. 100 Group, Bomber Command)

R.A.F. Foulsham was a wartime ‘drome built on the edge of Foulsham village. It was in 100 Group (Special Duties) as opposed to 5(?) Group at Driffield, (sic – 4 Group) which was part of the main bomber force. The other squadron on the ‘drome was Canadian, although it contained very few Canadian airmen. Foulsham was a small village, something like twenty miles from Norwich. The most convenient railway station for our use was in the opposite direction to the village. A straight narrow lane ran for a quarter of a mile from the camp to the level crossing of the isolated station. The station master or his wife would hold a train for as long as needs be for anyone rushing along the lane. It was a single line track from Norwich Thorpe Station to Peterboro’. Once it took me twelve hours from Norwich to Birmingham along this line: the train’s erratic progress across and up and down Norfolk was unbelievable. (The other Squadron was actually RAF 192 (BS) Squadron, 100 Group, Bomber Command, with some RCAF Crew members. There was also a detachment of USAAF aircraft and crews under the control of 192 Squadron for a time – ref: "Espionage in the Ether ...." by W.J. & J.E. Rees.)

While on ops, we had leave one week after every four weeks of duty. I mostly travelled down to London with the Aussies, and stopped over the weekend, then made my way to Dudley later. Three places were always on the agenda whilst in London, Australia House (always waffles in the canteen), a pub somewhere (run by a woman whose husband was an Australian airman missing believed killed over Germany), then we would always end up at a Chinese restaurant. Finally off to stay at the Union Jack club, or the Sally Ann, or Y.M.C.A.

Took the Aussies home to Dudley for a couple of days three of them had quite a night out. Went with Dad for a drink at his local, which caused quite a stir, then on into Dudley itself, to its highest class watering place. From there we went with a party of girls to some dance. After the dance we all had girls to see home, and so we made arrangements to meet in Dudley at a certain time, so that I could show the others the way home, a good mile or so in the blackout. After waiting some time for Alf Perkes, he failed to show. Eventually, we set off for home, only to discover he was missing! It must have been between two and three in the morning when he finally arrived. He had walked something like three miles after explaining his situation to the telephone operator, who directed him from phone box to phone box. They knew each other’s life stories by the end of it. Mum always retold this story afterwards. (See photo number 4 in earlier section – Aussies – Pilot Jack Smith, W/Op Bill Goldie and B/A Alf Perkes. This anecdote may refer to an earlier time than the Foulsham posting, as in the photo Pilot Jack Smith has F/Sgt rank.)

As aircrew, when we went on leave we received our pay, a ration allowance, and in addition, a ‘Nuffield Grant’ which could be taken as money, or one could stay in specified high class hotels around the country – bed and board – for a week, free of charge. One was required to notify all sections on the camp when going on leave, so if you had time the previous day the rounds were made then. A curious thing was that if crew were on ops that night, all monies were paid except the Nuffield Grant, which had to be collected the next day. It can only be supposed that R.A.F. accounts would be embarrassed if a crew failed to return from an operation. A very strange thing happened on these tours of sections prior to leave. One or two of the crew would do the necessary inside the section, while the rest waited outside. On one occasion, as we stood outside the sick bay, we saw an American plane in trouble, and the pilot bailed out. This was some miles away. It was a couple of months later when we were in exactly the same situation – at the sick bay and on the same errand. Again, an American fighter plane came over, in the same direction but much closer, and obviously in trouble. He too bailed out, and landed in the W.A.A.F. quarters of our camp. The ambulance went out to pick him up, the pilot was practically unhurt but the ambulance brought back two people, not one: the other was an airman who was cycling along watching the descending pilot instead of the road. He ended up in the ditch with serious consequences!
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Ops procedure (for Rear Gunner) at 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk (No. 100 Group, Bomber Command)

Most of our ops consisted of ‘spoof raids’, which were intended to create as much confusion as possible for the German air defences, and to divert attention – on some occasions – away from Bomber Command’s main force target area. Various ploys were used: the most common was for a pathfinder force to mark out the target area with parachute flares if cloudy, or ground marking green and red flares if clear. A small force of planes from our station and others in the group would be used to bomb the area. We would carry a relatively small bomb load, and a considerable amount of ‘window’ – foil strips to show up on German radar. The ‘window’ was thrown out of the plane by a ‘spare bod’ – an additional crew member – in an effort to give an impression of a much larger force.

A typical operational day began with a walk from the Sergeants’ Mess after breakfast, to the gunnery section – about 1/4 mile – to arrive about 10 o’clock. We would sit round the section, chatting, playing cards or reading. If the pilot brought word that we were on for a trip that night, we strolled back to the mess for a more comfortable chair, and a scan through as many dailies as possible before lunch. Briefing would usually be in the afternoon in a building a couple of hundred yards further on from the aircrew section building. On the backstage wall was a huge map of Europe, on which would be shown the target and route in black tape. As we filed into the briefing room, those first inside would relay back to the followers the longitude east of the target, usually to a chorus of groans and curses. This general briefing was given by all section leaders, Met. Officer and Intelligence Officer. A more specialised briefing was given afterwards to pilots and navigators in their own sections. I remember a navigational briefing officer, a public school type who had completed his first turn of ops. He was always a good laugh, with his forage cap set equally between his ears. He’d step up on to the platform to give out his instructions with various do’s and don’ts. A typical expression of his was “Don’t do .... otherwise Jerry will rock back on his heels and absolutely hoot with laughter at you!”

The gunnery section leader’s brief always contained a warning to keep a look out in case German fighters followed us back. Funnily enough, this section leader was my mid-upper gunner one night (4th March) (sic), and coming back over the South Coast as navigation lights were being switched on by returning aircraft, three or four planes were discernible from the turret. One was sitting right on our tail. There was something peculiar about his nav. lights, and there was just a suspicion that he was smaller than either a Lanc. or a Halifax. It was still pitch dark. I informed the pilot and mid-upper about this plane, which was just out of range. The mid-upper had also noted him, and shared my suspicion. Everything was prepared in case he came in range. He moved away to out port quarter on a parallel course - I could just make out then that he was a radial engined fighter. He stayed in that position for some time, until cloud came between us, and when we emerged he was nowhere to be seen. The pilot was soon calling up for landing instructions, with the base replying and informing us to beware of intruders. There had been a massive force of enemy fighters engaged in following our planes back to stations from East Anglia to Yorkshire. We were much more fortunate than many, in that we only encountered just the one. (From 462 Squadron ORB – the Mid-Upper Gunner for Op on 3 March 1945 was F/L A. Rudd 159685, Halifax III MZ-913 Z5-N.)

After briefing the time would come for the operational flying menu – which was usually bacon, eggs etc. – this was relatively special in those days. Then it was an amble down to the crew rooms to dress for flying. This became a progressively more superstitious business with each operation. No matter how one tried to be rational, that clean pair of socks – kept to avoid shocks from electrically heated slippers – were now filthy, but still had to be worn so as not to change one’s fortune. Then, after drawing a parachute from the store, it was into the crew bus and out to a/craft dispersal – one of the tarmac aprons just of the main perimeter track. Scramble on board, and make way to rear, through the small doors into the turret. Stow parachute away, connect oxygen supply, intercom and electrical supply to heated suit. Alf Perkes’ duties, along with bomb aiming, included co-pilot and navigator’s assistant. He would be helping up front, general checking, getting engines started and tested, together with the pilot and engineer. At this stage, the general movements of the turret could be checked. When it was decided that everything was ok, we would move out onto the perimeter and taxi round to join the queue waiting to move onto the runway. As we reached the head of the queue, the pilot and co-pilot would go through a thorough cockpit check. At some time, the pilot would call up each crew member on the intercom to see that everything was ok. On instruction from the control tower, we’d taxi onto the runway. We would get permission for take off, and a green Aldis light would be flashed from the caravan on the left corner verge of the runway. The engines were revved up, and then we’d be off! If there was still a glimmer of daylight left when we took off, aircrew who were not on the operation would gather in a group by the caravan to give each departing crew a rousing send-off, mostly expressed with their fingers. The tarmac of the runway seemed only about a yard below one’s feet while hurtling down it, and in those seconds I’d consider that in only so many hours’ time we’d be banging down on that very same patch. It became much more than an ordinary stretch of tarmac. (Wynford Vaughan Thomas said after a ‘trip’ as a reporter “when I climbed down from the Lancaster, I could have embraced the earth!”).

After climbing to a specified height, we’d circle the ‘drome until time to set course for the target. After passing over the coast, the guns had to be tested, with a lookout to make sure we didn’t hit any shipping below. Sometimes I would have to do a drift check for the navigator: as we passed directly over an object – building, ship or whatever – the nav. would notify me, and I would then pick it up with the gunsight as it came into view, and follow it with the gunsight, taking readings from the graduated scale at the back of the turret, at the nav’s set periods of time. A radar screen was always in operation somewhere near the Allies’ front line (code name ‘Mandrel’) – this was an aircraft loaded with jamming equipment, flying along a line from the North Sea to southern France. The navigator would announce when we had passed through this ‘Mandrel screen’. I am sure that poor Alf (from) Hastings’ voice always had a quiver at this point; from his position he could see nothing of the outside.

A most important point of the operation was the time we arrived over the target. All efforts had to be made to achieve a photographed record, at the correct position and at the specified time as logged by the navigator: the photograph was taken automatically on release of the bombload. Little could be done if the elements delayed us en route for the target. If, however, we got ahead of time, the navigator would ask the pilot to fly a ‘dog leg’ as a delaying tactic – this meant turning off course at an acute angle, and returning to it later. On one particular operation, we were somewhere over France and to the west side of the radar screen. The nav. suggested a dog leg. The pilot asked “Aren’t we flying close to the main force?” “Yes, but they are well below us at 16,000 feet” was the response. It was agreed to climb to 22,000 feet before attempting the dog leg. There was still some light in the sky, and soon after starting the dog log, we came across aircraft of the main force coming like rockets from our port side at about 90 degrees to our path! Everyone on board had a very unpleasant fright. I can’t remember now how we ever recovered our original course without causing a similar incident.

After going through the target area, it was head for home as fast as possible, regardless of known risks, right up until we were back at dispersal. It was always good to hear the nav. report that we were back through the radar screen. On our earlier ops., Jack Smith would be among the last to contact control for landing permission, and therefore we would get stacked at something like 16,000 feet. This meant circling the outer circuit lights, which was a circle of lights on poles set at 2 - 2.5 miles distance around the ‘drome, from which a funnel of lights led into whichever runway was in use. (By the way, when flying over East Anglia, Lincolnshire or Yorkshire at night, these outer circuit lights seemed almost to touch.) With the stacking of aircraft, one aircraft had to approach, land and clear the runway before the sequence could be repeated by the next aircraft in the stack, unless someone came limping home, in which case they got precedence, so this could take a great deal of time. Having arrived back, one was impatient to set foot on solid earth again. After the first couple of operations we had learned our lesson, so Jack would start calling base from almost impossible distances out. There would be complete silence among the crew over the plane’s intercom, you could almost hear everybody straining their ears for the faintest reply, especially if we had had a rough trip or weren’t sure what condition our plane was in. The sound of the distant W.A.A.F. voice answering out of the sometimes total blackness was a never to be forgotten thrill, and yet another stage of the operation seemed to be achieved. On approach to the runway, the pilot would have to inform control when in the funnel, and when exiting from the runway, the W.A.A.F. controller’s “thank you and goodnight E-Easy" seemed to confirm that you were home and dry. We would taxi to dispersal, and then W.A.A.F. drivers would be belting round in transports ferrying crews to the crew rooms. I’m afraid we weren’t always so kindly to the W.A.A.F.s themselves at times. Their billets were perched at the end of the short runway, and when this runway was in used on a night of ops, they said it was like an earthquake when each of 20 - 25 aircraft came in to land.

After getting rid of flying gear, it was off to the debriefing room, where on entry a steaming great mug of coffee laced most liberally with rum was jammed into one’s hand – this never failed to be much appreciated. The debriefing mainly concerned the pilot, nav. and bomb aimer. There was much loud talk and banter among the rest of the gathering. Debriefing finished, it was off to the mess for a meal, and then to billet, to sleep until lunchtime. On one occasion, we returned to the mess – after an operation when only a few of our station were engaged – one early morning. There had been a mess “dance” the previous evening. We had difficulty walking through into the dining room, because everywhere there seemed to be a thick coating of glue all over the floor: it was, of course, beer which was now coagulating. Before we had our sleep out that morning, the Tannoy was blaring out for all NCOs to report to the briefing room. Apparently, the band had not turned up for the dance; however, a couple of bus loads of girls from Norwich and all points in between, together with the station W.A.A.F.s had, and what ensued was something of an orgy, which was at its height when the C.O. and his party of invited officers arrived. The Sergeants’ Mess dances were never sedate affairs, but this seemed to have gone beyond the fringe. I always thought that the C.O. had the looks and bearing of a kindly, young country squire, but the tirade of abuse he treated us to that day was in language most unbecoming to an officer and gentleman. (Wing Commander Peter Paull DFC 27081 RAAF, Officer Commanding 462 Squadron at Foulsham from 17 January 1945, an Australian of English birth.)
Return to start of Recollections

Raids over Germany while posted to 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk (No. 100 Group, Bomber Command)

The raids over Germany were never routine, but now I can only remember in detail those with special significance.

16 January 1945. The main force raid was to be in the Ruhr Valley (‘Flak Alley’). We were to create the impression of a large force on the way to Berlin, flying over the North Sea, and crossing the coast somewhere north of Cuxhaven, to continue on between Hamburg and Lübeck. At some point along that route, we were to about turn, again threading our way between the more heavily defended areas, until we crossed the coast to drop our bombload on the island of Sylt, then home back over the North Sea. What happened, however, was that we had been flying for some time over the sea, passing Heligoland Bight on the starboard (there always seemed to be some activity around there, A/A fire, or dog fights which could be seen on moonlit nights), when the nav. came up with a hurried call for the pilot to change course – it appeared that the wind was much stronger than that forecast at the briefing, and had blown us much further north than calculated. We were about to pass over the island of Sylt. The pilot did a rapid turn to s/board, not wanting to risk our luck twice over this sensitive spot. The rapid turn together with the extremely low temperature toppled the gyrocompass. The pilot was unable to achieve the new course set by the nav. – the compass needle continued to move after the aircraft had finished turning. For what seemed like ages, we were flying without knowing our position or direction. Fortunately, Jack Smith, Alf Perkes and Alf (from Hastings) by working hard eventually established that the compass, although lagging behind the aircraft’s change of direction, eventually registered true, and that we were now flying east somewhere over the Baltic. Jack negotiated a 180° turn (we had an additional navigation aid on board – H2S – a bulbous projection under the aircraft’s belly that could scan the ground beneath and send us back a picture). The use of H2S was restricted because the signal sent out could be homed onto by enemy radar or aircraft, and therefore the navigator was given a time at briefing before which this aid could not be used. After this time it was expected that the aircraft would be clear of enemy territory. Later on, it was decided to take a chance and switch on this aid in an effort to pinpoint out position. The night was dark and 10/10 cloud underneath. Alf Perkes switched on – gave one of his laughs – and said “we are crossing the coast now – at Kiel”. No sooner had he said that than a barrage of anti-aircraft fire surrounded us. It was so accurate in height and proximity I will never understand how we survived those seconds, which seemed like hours, before taking evasive action. I could both hear the barrage above the engines and see the flame in it as it burst. I think I asked for a diving turn to starboard – Jack was surprised, this was an indication of the accuracy of the fire as he hadn’t even seen it! Steve in the mid-upper shouted “There’s flak to starboard.” “There’s flak everywhere, diving turn starboard, go, go, GO!” I replied, and Jack went instantly. Our change of height and speed did the trick! Soon we were clear of Kiel and out of range of their A/A guns with nav. and pilot struggling to find a course to cross the North Sea. We were still some way from the coast when Jack shouted “Fighters dropping flares up ahead!” We were flying through a layer of thin cloud with more dense cloud below, and although the flares continued falling from above us until we were well out over the sea, the cloud must have concealed our position, and Jack’s was the only sighting of the fighters. There was much discussion then over our chances of getting home versus heading for somewhere in France or Scandinavia. Eventually, we settled for home, which we reached easily enough as it turned out. We jettisoned the bombs in the sea. Still waiting for us in debriefing when we arrived were a couple of other crews and the C.O. I remember the strident voice of the Aussie pilot of one of the crews when he greeted us, and Jack in particular, with something like “Hey there Smithy, you old bastard! Where the bloody hell you bin, waiting the best part of an hour for you. Thought you’d ****ing bought it!” (See page 4 of Oakes log book, 16 January 1945, Halifax III Z5-R, Spoof to Kiel 5 hours 5 minutes night flying. 462 Squadron ORB show that the other 8 crews returned between 34 and 67 minutes earlier than Jack Smith's Crew, hence the welcome back comment!)

Discussing an operation at length afterwards was not the done thing. “Shooting a line” was even condemned in the bars in town, with cartoons on the wall of something dreadful about to happen to the bod quoting the famous lines “there we were upside down and nothing on the clock etc. etc.”. I do remember, however, after the Kiel trip that Steve said he’d been out to dispersal to check the aircraft the next day, and that parts of the fuselage were like a sieve – the ground crew were amazed that no vital parts had been hit.

We took parachute flares with us on one operation, probably with the intention of creating the impression that we were Pathfinders marking the target for a massive operation. I can’t remember whereabouts in Germany this was. Something was wrong with the release mechanism, and everyone seemed to be jettisoning over the Channel as we returned. I remember the sight of a coast-to-coast gloriously illuminated track stretching out behind – thank goodness there were no fighters following that night. (Ref Oakes log book page 5 & 6, and 462 Squadron ORB – either 20 February 1945, Halifax III, MZ-461 Z5-O, Spoof to Heilbronn; Window released, 30 x 4.5 flares dropped. OR 3 March 1945, Halifax III, MZ913 Z5-N, Spoof to Dortmund-Ems canal, Window released and 10 x 75lb flare clusters dropped.)

I have many fragmented memories of operations: the spring evening circling the ‘drome before setting course, when we saw a ball of fire in the beautiful pale blue sky. As we got closer, we saw it was one of our planes with an engine on fire. Two parachuted out before part of the wing broke off, and the plane nose dived. Next day I found out that it had been a scratch crew made up of odd bods (people without regular crews). The rear gunner had jumped straight out from the turret. The window handler had been shot through the astrodome, and the mid-upper had tried to get out through the fuselage exit door, but had hit the tail fin and was killed. I knew him quite well, a young and rather small Aussie who had survived his only previous op., being the only one rescued when his plane had ditched in the Channel. (14 January 1945 Oakes log book page 4, Smith's Crew flying in Halifax III Z5-R; also refer 462 Squadron ORB for 14 January 1945 at 1703 hours, Halifax III LL-598 Z5-A, six of Crew killed – Pilot A.E. Astill 421143 RAAF; Nav P. Swarbrick 427410 RAAF; B/A S.J. Minett 423814 RAAF; W/Op S.R. Fuller 421198 RAAF; M/UG F/Sgt M.G. Isaac 433727 RAAF; Special Duties Sgt L.E. Miles, 189444 RAFVR. The Aussies were buried at Cambridge Cemetery, and Miles in London. The Flight Engineer Sgt G. A. Sanday 1896933 RAFVR and the Rear Gunner F/Sgt N.O. Reed 435209 RAAF escaped by parachute and survived, both slightly injured. Sadly, Sanday was killed on 24 February 1945.)

The memory of a night returning by way of South-East France and of seeing the main force target to the north – probably in the Ruhr valley: although the night was pitch black the air must have been crystal clear; it was many, many miles away but I could see brilliant red and green flares in a precise square. The square was filled with fire, flak, and searchlights reaching up, with the occasional flicker of a plane caught in them. This was in view as we did a quarter circle turn around it, and then a long stretch before it was out of sight. The scene was so vivid, colourful and so tiny in a sea of jet black, and so deceptive to the eye of what was really happening there.

28.2.45. The time of operation had been put back at least twice. We had eaten two op. meals and drunk gallons of tea while waiting around. A visit to the toilet was always the last thing before dressing for flying. The first part of our operation was to do a spoof raid in the Ruhr. On our way over the Channel, we would be joined by as many O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit) planes as possible. As we reached a point over France, the radar screen was to be opened, giving the German defences a glimpse of this large force, then the screen would be closed again. The Germans were supposed to believe that there had been a short breakdown in the working of the screen. The O.T.U. planes could now return to base. We were to carry on through the screen, onto the Ruhr. It was at this point that the heavy intake of tea began to fill my bladder. The height we were at was 20,000 feet – in no way could I remove a glove, or leave the turret (there had been an R.A.F. written warning of a gunner whose guns had jammed at altitude; after going through the sequence to clear the guns, he had removed his glove and took hold of the metal toggle to pull back the breech block. With the extreme cold, this resulted in him leaving all of the skin from his palm and fingers on the toggle handle). For me, it was just a case of holding on. I told the skipper of my predicament after we had hit the target and were on our way back into France. Waiting to clear enemy territory and then lose height was quite a strain, with even the slightest dribble causing a shock from my electric suit! I think that the pilot brought the plane down to 10,000 feet before we thought it safe for me to relieve myself on the floor of the turret – I wonder if some Frenchman thought that it was raining? The next stage of this operation was in conjunction with the American Air Force – they were to do a Pathfinder exercise and mark a target southwest of Munich. The exercise was training for the Americans in night bombing for use in the far East. After descending over France, we set course south, climbing back to operational height and turning back into Germany near the border with Switzerland. As we passed over Lake Constance, we saw that the lake was floodlit – a strange sight compared with the black-out over the rest of Europe. There was a black-out also when we arrived over the target. The navigator rechecked our position while we circled round – no mistakes. The Yanks should have marked the target area with parachute flares flying at some 10,000 feet below us, much earlier. We continued circling for some 10 minutes or so, when suddenly the sky was lit up as the flares came down on top of us! What a fiasco. The only option for us was to jettison our bomb load as near the target (no below cloud) as the navigator could find, and then clear off home. At the debriefing, everyone was fuming at the Yanks’ ability to achieve none of the principals required of Pathfinders. One big Aussie pilot was hopping mad – to add insult to injury, one of the parachute flares had gone straight through his tailplane. (28/02/45 – see Oakes log book page 5 Halifax III Z5-N, Lake Constance, Switzerland, 6 hours night flying. 462 Squadron ORB describe the mission as "successful and uneventful!". Seven aircraft, 2 New Zealand Pilots, Sharp and Cookson; 5 Aussie Pilots – Britt, McGindle, Robertson, Hancock and Jack Smith.)

There was a sequel to the first part of this operation. A week to ten days later, Jack Smith told us early on in the morning that we were not required for op’s that day, and so we all decided to go into Norwich – something we did occasionally when we had the day off. We arrived back by the last train and made our way to our billet. I can’t recall now who it was who told us about the day’s events at the camp: the Tannoy had been calling for Pilot Officer Smith and crew to report to the briefing room again and again. Then later another crew was called for. A short notice daylight operation had been arranged by group headquarters. There were several similarities to the spoof raid into the Ruhr of 28.2.45. Again they linked up with the O.T.U. planes, with the same ruse of the radar screen opening and closing. The operational planes which continued alone – in daylight – were hit with everything that the Germans could muster. How anyone at Group Headquarters could imagine things turning out differently was the big mystery. I can’t remember our squadron’s losses exactly, but they were in the region of 10 out of the 12 aircraft involved, with the two that returned near write-offs. The crew who substituted for us did not return. The station was stood down for a fortnight to await replacement aircraft and crews. (On 24 Feb 1945, 462 Squadron lost 4 aircraft out of 10 detailed for Ops – their worst losses. March 1945 losses were one aircraft out of five on the 8th, but Smith's Crew participated on that Op; and one aircraft out of eleven on the 13th. Perhaps Al was referring to total Bomber Command losses for either the 24 Feb or 13 March?)

A massive air raid was planned on Berlin, with all available aircraft bombed to capacity, and the crews briefed and ready to go. This was probably the most concentrated effort of the War by Bomber Command. On our station, so many aircrew were involved that the operational meal was served in the airmen’s mess. The take-off time was put back and put back again, only increasing the tension. Eventually, word reached us that the whole thing had been cancelled – it was by now too late to beat the daylight on our return – a great cheer went up from all of the crews at this news!

4.4.45. Our aircraft – for the main force raid on Hamburg – had been filled with special equipment, and the extra passenger who climbed aboard was a stranger to all of us except Jack Smith. Our navigator was from another crew. The night was clear, and the stars were out. I remember this because both Steve and myself kept seeing planes close by as we flew over the North Sea. We were able to identify them as they passed between us and the stars. We could see the glow from the target while still over the sea, crossing the coast to the north. We were now in the main stream of aircraft, and the navigator said that we were going to reach our target before the appointed time, so could we do a dog leg to use up time? Jack warned that this could be dangerous, a suggestion with which we all agreed. Anyway, our small bomb load was of secondary significance. We had to go through the target and then leave the main stream to take up a position just outside the target area, where we were to circle for 20 minutes – all to do with this strange bod and his equipment. Going through the target, it was just a vast area of fire below. As we circled, we had a clear view – we saw wave after wave of Lancs. taking what seemed to be an age between coming out of the darkness and reaching the comparative safety of it again, with those caught by the searchlights twisting and turning. I saw several aircraft go down even while keeping a close watch in all other directions. We were not sorry when it was time to set course for home. I saw what looked like three Lancs. go down on the way back over land. Taken singly, I would have said that they were definite losses, but they were so alike that I came to the conclusion that they were ‘scarecrows’ – something the Germans had developed to appear like a crashing plane, according to intelligence. When we were on the bus back to the crew rooms, we nobbled the strange bod to find out what he had been up to. He was quite open about it: he told us he was a linguist, and with his equipment had been disputing with the German fighter ground control who was the true controller! He said he had had a right slanging match with the German. Our man was pleased – he hadn’t been beaten at cussing! (See Oakes log book page 7, Halifax III Z5-O, 4 hours 40 minutes night flying. 462 Squadron ORB – replacement Nav W/O I. H. Campbell 415506 RAAF; Special Duties Officer F/O L.J. Fletcher 55652 RAF.)

2.5.45 I remember this raid for the fact that we were using a new type of ‘window’. Previously, we had been using flat strips. These were replaced with a 3/4 inch wide reel of material, with a parachute attached. These were dropped out in huge quantities. The result was that the ‘flak’ was there, but it was out of range, well below us. For as long as we kept Flensburg in view on the way back, we could see the guns still blasting away at targets which had long gone. Nineteen days later, the war had ended, and we were back there to land. (See page 8 of Oakes log book, 2 May 1945 Halifax III Z5-X Spoof raid to Flensburg, near the Danish border; and 21 May 1945 Z5-O transport of Group Officers to Schleswig – photo in previous section.)

Months earlier, Alf Perkes had bought a car. Wilf, the crew’s engineer, was going to give Alf lessons in driving. I remember hurtling around country lanes with Alf at the wheel – not an experience I would recommend to the faint-hearted. Only Wilf could get the car started, as there were several teeth missing from the flywheel. The car would be stood outside the Sergeants’ Mess or our billet for days at a time. Bill Goldie was to marry a girl from Brighton. Bill’s bachelor night celebrations seemed to go on for over a fortnight. He was not normally a heavy drinker. One night during this period, all of us in the billet were getting ready for bed, when we realised that Bill and another Aussie were missing. We left the lights on, and most of us got our heads down. At some ungodly hour we were woken by someone in the billet organising search parties for the missing Aussies. They’d gone down to the Mess to collect the spirits which had been allocated to Bill for his wedding – at that time, spirits were not freely available in Civvy St. Two routes from the Mess had to be searched – one by road, the other over the fields. We searched until dawn until they were found – in a ditch, and several fields off course. Apparently, they had left the Mess the worse for wear, set off the fields in total darkness, and got lost. I can’t remember exactly what happened, but I believe that Bill had to go back to the mess and plead for another allocation. Then on yet another night – just before we all set off for Brighton – I was returning alone from the village past the mess, which was by now closed. I took the route by road back to the billet. At a T-junction on the way, I came across Alf’s car – front wheels hanging over the ditch, and the bonnet jammed up against a massive tree. Back at the billet, it was like a hospital ward. Apparently, Bill and Alf Perkes had stayed for a ‘quiet’ drink in the Mess after supper. Several people soon joined them, and another celebration session developed. The car had been stood outside the Mess for a couple of days this time, but somehow and with the help of an Aussie gunner, who was asleep on the back seat when they crashed, they managed to start the car and get it going up the hill. Unfortunately, they failed to see anything of the T-junction. It was lucky that all three in the car got off fairly lightly, with cuts, bruises and broken teeth. Bill and Alf Perkes looked a sight at the wedding, though, between them they must have had a yard of plaster on their faces. I’m sure that at one time we used the car to go in search of Alf Perkes’ favourite fruit – strawberries. We found a farmer and land army girls somewhere about, picking in a field, so we joined them to “pick our own” for the several days that the crop lasted. So from the fruit season, this sets the demise of the car and also Bill’s wedding to be after V.E. day.

Sometime near the end of the war, Alf, our navigator from Hastings – I can’t remember the details – came up to me and said he was leaving the squadron. He was a bit full up, and all we did was to shake hands and say cheerio. Looking back I think he must by then have completely lost his nerve – this was not a uncommon occurrence. We had several navs after that, including the Aussie in the photograph who was a lawyer, but I can’t remember his name. One English navigator, a section leader, never flew without his pipe. He smoked there and back, with the pipe jammed in behind his oxygen mask, and in the corner of his mouth. (Crew photo in previous section with Nav identified as Frank Lewis Birch, a lawyer.)

Talking of crashes, on one very warm afternoon crowds of us were sitting sunning ourselves outside the crew rooms. Jack Smith comes to say that we had to do an air test on an aircraft. I had a date that evening, and Steve said he was happy to fly in the rear turret so that I could keep my date. When I returned after the evening out – no crew. I had to wait until the following day to find out what had happened: when they took off in the overhauled Halifax, an engine had failed. They were given permission to land at a ‘drome close by, but as they were making their final approach, the other engine on the same side failed also. They ploughed through some trees and crash landed in a field. The photograph shows the plane broken in two. They all got out o.k., but had to spend the night in the hospital of the station where they tried to land. The nurses got a couple of parachutes to use as silk for underwear, and a couple of navigator’s watches were also lost in the crash. (The photograph of the 'plane broken in two' has not been located.)

Yet another aircraft crash happened when we came in to land one night, on return from operation. The plane slewed off the runway and careered across the ‘drome, until Jack whipped up the damaged undercarriage: another write-off.

9.4.45 ‘Ferry Turnhouse’ was in fact supposed to be an air test of an aircraft that had been serviced or whatever. Another crew were going on a week’s leave to Edinburgh. When we took off, it was understood that we had permission to land at R.A.F. Turnhouse, drop off the other crew who were passengers, and return to Foulsham, completing the air and altitude tests as required on the way. I believe Jack Smith was aware that there was a problem of getting into Turnhouse if a particular runway was in use. When we arrived over the ‘drome, permission to land was refused, and despite Jack’s arguments we were told by Control to proceed to another ‘drome, which would probably allow us to land. We were about to do so when the engineer reported an oil-leak in one engine. Jack called up Control again, this time no answer. After repeated tries, Jack got Bill Goldie to try and contact them by radio – still no joy. The pilot decided to land regardless, and the problem runway was in use, due to the wind direction. Flying low on a dummy run – with Ground Control firing red Verey lights off at us – it was seen that at a short distance from the start of the runway, the ground dropped very sharply. So round again we went, over the hill and down quickly to get the angle of approach correct to land safely. On reporting to control, the skipper was told that all four-engined aircraft had been barred from Turnhouse eighteen months previously when the last one – an American Flying Fortress – had not negotiated the problem very well, pulling a Nissen hut onto the runway with him! Our reasons for landing were accepted. Engine fitters and spares had to be flown up from Foulsham. The weather was marvellous, and we enjoyed over a week in Edinburgh. I was, however, stuck with flying boots for most of the time. No-one would give me a chit for the issue of a pair of shoes. It was a bit embarrassing to be clumping down Princes Street in these flying boots on a beautifully hot, sunny day with everyone’s eyes on these boots as they rubbernecked past me. I managed to bribe an erk to lend me a pair for the occasions we went dancing in the town. I also remember a Friday night Sergeants’ Mess dance – Younger’s beer at cut-price, something like 3d a pint. When we returned to Foulsham, the crew who were our passengers up to Scotland were already back from leave. (See Oakes log book page 7, Halifax III Z5-I, 2 hours day flying to Turnhouse on 9 April and the same time for return on 17 April.)
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Cook's Tours and Transport of Officers after VE Day, 462 Squadron, Foulsham, Norfolk.

“Cook’s Tours” were daylight trips to the heavily bombed areas of Germany when we took ground personnel on an inspection of the damage done to the German towns by Bomber Command. There were some terrible sights: Cologne cathedral incredibly standing in a vast area of devastation. I viewed theses scenes with dispassion at the time, probably with memories of Coventry and elsewhere dulling the senses. (See Oakes log book Cook's Tours – page 8, 7 May 1945 Halifax III Z5-P; page 10, 19 July 1945 Halifax III Z5-Z; page 11, 2 August Halifax III Z5-O)

21.5.45. Transfer of officers to Schleswig. The war had been over only a matter of days and no-one was quite sure what the situation was in this part of Germany. We were issued with revolvers, and were instructed to land with our turret guns ‘cocked’, to face whatever. Our only trouble when we did arrive, however, was the wind. It was blowing straight across the runway we had to use, with the result that our landing was very nearly on one wheel and a wing-tip. The R.A.F. Regiment were in charge of the station, but it contained all German airmen, every one of whom saluted when passing. We had been instructed not to fraternise with the Germans, but nothing about saluting, so it was an embarrassed quick return of salute, and then hurry on. The crew all went for a walk round the town, German women with not a trace of make-up. There was a Russian P.O.W. camp nearby, we saw huge Russia women prisoners dressed in hessian. We walked into a park, and came across what was like a huge grassed bowl, something like 100 yards in diameter, with hundreds of young Germans sunbathing and relaxing. As we walked onto the rim, all eyes turned nervously towards us, and many got ready to leave. I don’t know if it was the different coloured uniforms of the Aussies that upset them or what. It was not until we sat down for a while did they relax and start to ignore us. (See photo of crew at park in Schleswig in previous section; also Oakes' Log book page 8, 21 May 1945 Halifax III Z5-O)

Other crews continued ferrying crews to north Germany during the following weeks. We were told it was all connected with a post mortem on the German air defences. A crew that went to Denmark told on return what a great time they had had, and that almost anything was on sale on the black market for cigarettes. We certainly weren’t short of the weed when we journeyed there (3.7.45). Much to our disgust, though, our orders were to keep within the ‘drome, as we may be required to return forthwith to the U.K. Jack Smith went to see about this, while the rest of us wandered off towards the main gate, where we came across three German airmen pushing one of those massive open-topped cars. Although the ‘no frat.’ orders still applied, between us we pushed and started this car, which was thick with dust. With hand gestures, the Germans offered us a lift, so in we all piled. It was not far outside the camp when the car gave up the ghost – for what seemed like for good. Having gone against orders thus far, it was easy when an American jeep pulled up with the offer of a lift to say that we were on our way to the nearest town. No sooner had we reached there than we were besieged by Danes – with cameras, money or whatever – wanting cigarettes. We sold a few packs – to get money for a meal – which was a fatal move. The crowd following us got bigger and bigger. Fortunately, when we went into a store, the crowd stopped at the door. Later, and with a much reduced following, we made our way to a cafe. Having a tipple inside was a Dane with a broad American accent. The old boy willingly relayed our order for us. I remember great salvers of fish, eggs, tomatoes etc., together with plonk that the waiter brought to us. He also asked to be paid in cigarettes! The old boy with the American accent was delighted to talk and drink with us, until it was time for him to go. He set off on his cycle up the fairly steep hill outside, but the combination of the gradient and his state of inebriation turned both him and bike through 180 degrees, so that the last we saw was him streaking full tilt in the wrong direction. Soon afterwards we saw an R.A.F. staff car crawling down the street. The driver spotted us inside the cafe, and very soon we were back at the ‘drome, facing a most irate C.O.: “I have reported you to your Group Headquarters and asked them to take action”. Jack Smith was none too pleased either. However, nothing was said on our return to Foulsham. (See Al Oakes log book page 10, 3 July 1945, Halifax III Z5-R – transport of Officers to Grove, Denmark and return.)
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RAF postings after 462 Squadron, up until demob in January 1947.

August 1945. The end of my flying career was fast approaching. I recollect returning from a night out in the village (a double summertime sunset) and cutting across the ‘drome past several Halifaxes in silhouette at dispersal. A few had been ferried away for scrap by now. The planes seen in that light provoked some very mixed feelings. I wondered how long it would be before all this would be only a memory, and the fields returned to farmland as before.

I think that the gunners were the first group of aircrew to be made redundant and posted from Foulsham. We were given a list of trades to select two or three preferences for training: driver, R.A.F. police, drill instructor, etc, etc. At that time, we had no idea how long it would be before demob. Thinking in terms of months, we made the most ridiculous choices. Smithy, a gunner from Nottingham, suggested to the rest that ‘fabric worker’ was a good trade. I think that this was at the bottom of my list of preferences, but I got saddled with it. (Frank Smith was the only bloke from Foulsham that I met after leaving there. Some months later, whilst I was going past R.A.F. Cosford and thumbing a lift to a camp some 20 miles down the road, from the parade ground behind bushes and railings came the voice of the drill instructor – ‘Smithy’. Years later, I saw him again when I went to work at Raleigh Cycles: he was a bookie on Ilkeston Road). Although one was forever saying cheerio to friends in the forces, it was something more in respect of ‘the crew’, and in particular the Aussies.

The station I was posted to for training was somewhere near Blackpool, I can’t remember the name now, but it was headlines in the Nationals on the day I arrived. The W.A.A.F. driver who picked me up from the railway station gave me her Daily Mirror to see the story of the ‘disgraceful treatment of Battle of Britain airmen’. Whether the publicity changed things, or whether the trouble had been exaggerated by the Mirror I don’t know. The complaints were about discipline and accommodation on the station. Our intake seemed not to have a great deal of bother, although the officer in charge, who had recently returned from India, was in the habit when on parade of turning various shades of blue when dealing with some of the hard-bitten characters in the group, without much effect.

Blackpool was crowded with American servicemen. Scenes like those from Western movies could be watched from the upstairs window of the pub we used, to be broken up by white helmeted U.S. service police (‘snowdrops’) who’d come tearing up in their jeeps, wielding three foot long truncheons which they used with full force on the brawling Yanks before carrying them off.

I didn’t spend long on this station before being posted to somewhere which was between 20 and 30 miles from Wolverhampton. I can’t remember the name of this camp, except when leaving Wolverhampton, the road went past R.A.F. Cosford. It was wartime built, and it seemed that the original main road had been diverted around the camp. It was a training station, and we had to service the old ‘Wimpeys’, although the only servicing I can remember doing was patching up a plane riddled with holes after flying into a flock of pigeons: the old ‘Wimp’ could certainly take some stick. This was an ideal station for getting home to Dudley at weekends, thanks to hitch-hiking. It was not to last long, however, as I was soon transferred to Syerston, Nottingham, which had been taken over by Transport Command with Dakota aircraft for training army personnel in the art of parachuting. Another ex-aircrew bod got off the train with me at Newark, and finding that we were both headed for Syerston, we shared the transport that they had sent out. He’d been badly burned on hands, arms, chest and neck in an aircraft fire. Booking in at the various sections, we got pally. He had a job in the Sergeants’ Mess, and I did an office job for a fortnight or so, when this mate put me forward to replace another ex-aircrew chap (who was due for demob.) as mess caterer, which was in effect looking after the Sergeants’ Mess bar. This should have been a job which was done on a rota system, but because this was unworkable, the job was to be mine for at least a year. It’s strange how you suddenly become everybody’s friend when you are in a job like that – almost. I was set on by the time-serving station Warrant Officer, the chairman of the Mess Committee, a jovial bloke when off-duty whose tipple I remember was a glass of a particular sherry, the glass first being swirled round with a spot of Angostura bitters. From the look of his face, he’d contributed much to the economy of Spain over the years. The job was a bit restrictive, as I had to find someone to mind the fort whenever I wanted a night out. Apart from Nottingham and Newark, a favourite haunt was the Elm Tree pub and dance across the river. Having ‘borrowed’ the first bikes handy outside the Mess, it was by a series of back lanes that we’d come to the top of a steep hill down through a wood. Brakes were never the best feature of R.A.F. bikes, and very often it was more by luck than judgement that you stopped before ending up in the river. The landlord, Norman, would ferry us over, and at the end of the evening would ferry us back; there was always someone who we’d lose on the way across, I think Norman kept a special pole for fishing them out. I saw Jean at the Elm Tree dance hall several times during one evening. I didn’t speak to her or dance with her until a couple of minutes before the close. Then, we’d made a date and gone our separate ways all in a very short time. I managed to get a stand-in for a long weekend leave (I’d promised to meet someone in Norwich). The station had been stood down, and most personnel were off. Saturday morning, after a heavy run on the beer the previous night, we were considering the shortage over a few drinks when we were joined by Jock, a W.A.A.F. Sergeant who was the Officers’ Mess catering officer. She suggested that we could borrow a barrel from their Mess, which was almost deserted. We had lunch with a few more drinks, and then I sent Paddy, my AC2 help, to find a barrow. We were by now all rather merry, so we set off ‘up the Fosse’ to the Officers’ Mess, a pre-fabricated building outside the main camp. Jock went up to the door to open it with her key. At the very moment she opened the door, she was pulled inside, and the door was slammed and bolted shut. Paddy and I stood at the bottom of the steps, with our mouths open. We charged round the building without finding a way in. Jock was screaming blue murder inside, with the sounds of a chase going on all over the building. She eventually locked herself inside a small room, and we were able to get her out through the window. We couldn’t get Jock to put the officer who had attacked her on a ‘fizzer’, so it was back to our Mess to repair everyone’s nerves. I don’t remember too much after that, until I woke up sitting in a chair in the middle of a spare furniture store around midnight, when I should have been in Norwich several hours earlier. Eventually, I went there the next day. I passed through Foulsham on the way, and looking out at it from the train seemed most eerie. A few ghosts were there I’m sure.

Halfway through my time at Syerston, the station W.O. was coming up to the end of his enlistment, so a replacement was posted in – also a ‘regular’ airman. They knew each other, but were as different as chalk and cheese. They would spend hours in the early evenings recounting tales of years ago round the bar, with me as the only audience. The old station W.O. was forever taking the mickey out of this very fussy little man, who now and then would catch him giving me a crafty nod. This could have been the cause of what happened several months later: the station was again to be stood down, with only a skeleton staff remaining to cover. The duty roster – compiled by our fussy little friend – put me on duty every night for a week, in charge of the German P.O.W. camp. Complain as I might, there was no way of getting the C.O.’s signed roster changed in time. The German P.O.W.’s were trusties doing menial tasks around the station; they were billeted down the Fosse about 1/2 mile towards Newark, off to the right. They were in a fenced compound next to a small army camp. There was a German who marched them from place to place. My job was to cycle behind them to protect them from being ploughed into by the traffic. No matter how you tried to convey to the German in charge not to salute you as an N.C.O., he would persist: when you instructed him by hand signal, he’d acknowledge with a salute of great flourish. I settled down in my first night at the camp, on a bed in the outer office with a German in the back office – this man, in addition to working in the office, also acted as interpreter sometimes. Sometime after lights out, the phone rang. It was the main guard room, who told me that a soldier at the army camp had seen one of the P.O.W.’s near one of their jeeps. When challenged, the P.O.W. had run off. The question was “did we have our full compliment of prisoners?”. I got everybody up and gathered in the assembly hail. I would imagine that there was somewhere between 40 to 50 of them. They looked a pretty ugly bunch, talking and shouting, but about what I had no idea. Putting a brave face on it, I got the head man and interpreter to group them into ranks for a roll call – result, one prisoner missing! He had last been seen in the ablutions, titivating himself up. I phoned the main guard room to report, ‘they’ said they would be there right away. The orderly officer was not to be found, when ‘they’ arrived, it turned out to be a lone corporal service policeman, a little man with more zeal than experience. The civvy police were informed, they set up road blocks, and the main guard room was asked to organise a search party. Unfortunately, the only airmen available for a search party where those coming back into camp after a night out in either Newark or Nottingham. They were, of course, anything but sober. They arrived at the P.O.W. camp in a van, and practically fell out as it came to a stop, rifles clattering down on the road all over the place. The corporal made himself busy by dispatching them in all directions. For the next few hours, we could here them stumbling about it the darkness. Shouts of “Halt! Who goes there?” were answered by “It’s me, you silly bugger!” – it was pure Fred Karno’s Army. In the middle of this pantomime and excitement, the interpreter approached me and beckoned me to follow him into one of the German billets. There, sleeping like a baby, was our missing P.O.W., oblivious to the commotion outside. How or when he had sneaked back in no-one knew. Whistles shrilled out to recall the search parties, who together with the villain of the piece were conveyed back to the main camp. I got very little sleep before taking the P.O.W.’s back, on duty. The C.O. was waiting for us at the guard room. He had a quiet word with me, and asked me to be present when the prisoner came up before him later in the morning. The zealous corporal only gave the C.O. a report of the night’s events. When this happened, the C.O. tore the corporal off a strip, saying he should have been presented with a straightforward charge against the prisoner. The C.O. asked me to help if possible to decide what punishment should be given to meet the charge. Fortunately, I was able to track down an officer somewhere in the south of England who had the responsibility to get the right answers if he didn’t know them already. I was able to inform the C.O. that this officer would be at Syerston later that same day. The matter was by now very delicate, with the ‘non-frat.’ orders still applying. Two car loads of R.A.F. police descended on the P.O.W. camp later that week to ask loads of questions. The actual explanation – of where our prisoner had been for the hours he was missing – was that he had been with two girls who were camping out somewhere beyond the far perimeter of the ‘drome. The remainder of my week’s duty i/c P.O.W.’s fortunately passed by without much incident. I will always remember the grey, pudding-like substance that the P.O.W.s were given to eat, as I saw one lunchtime when I tracked down a group of them – it was the most revolting looking food I’d ever seen.

My rank at Syerston was Warrant Officer (acting). Mess dances were a regular feature, starting at 6 or 7 p.m. Drinking and cards after the dance would go on through until breakfast time next morning. Officers were always invited to these dances. One of them would always search out Jean to dance with – when I was missing – even though she was my guest. Once or twice she left him standing on the floor when I arrived back. This must have got this laddie’s back up. I went to a riverside pub at Gunthorpe to meet Jean and a friend one evening along with a mate, both of us dressed in battledress. This was not strictly to King’s Rules and Regulations. I remember that we played darts. There were not many people in the pub, but there were a couple of R.A.F. officers, one of them being Jean’s dancing partner. A day or so later, a list of redundant aircrew from R.A.F. records containing, among many others, my name, was posted up in the Mess, showing rank reductions – in my case to Flight Sergeant. A day or so later still, a sergeant from station headquarters told me he had received a charge sheet, charging “Warrant Officer Oakes being improperly dressed on the evening of so and so at such and such a time”. The charge was made out by our friend, and witnessed by his mate. The headquarters sergeant said he had much pleasure in informing the officer that there was no such man on the station. The rank made the charge invalid – how lucky can you get!
I hadn’t pressed for my demob., but I decided to take it when offered by records, even though experienced air gunners were being offered several hundred pounds gratuities to enlist for a couple of years as instructors. I was asked to consider this by my squadron leader. I was demobbed at a place somewhere near Blackpool, 13.1.47.

(Al Oakes and Jean were married soon after Al was demobbed – see wedding photo in previous section.)
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