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13 November 2014

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You are in: Guernsey > People > Your Stories > A veteran's story

Lloyd Richards when he was captured in Norway

Lloyd Richards when he was captured

A veteran's story

90-year-old former member of the RAF Lloyd Richards told us the story of his time in the forces from when he left Guernsey to trekking 40 miles across Germany.

Lloyd Richards was born on 8 July 1919 near Delancey Park and attended the Delancey Park Boys School (now St Sampsons).

He left school at 14 and two years later he joined the Royal Navy and trained as a Telegraphist Air Gunner in the Fleet Air Arm. He said, "There was nothing in Guernsey for me... I joined the Navy to do something else."

Lloyd's plane being inspected

Lloyd's plane being inspected after the crash

Lloyd's job was to sit in the rear cockpit, work the wireless, give navigation help and, ultimately, protect the plane from attack.

At 20, he qualified and was appointed to 803 Naval Air Squadron flying Blackburn Skua fighter/dive-bombers and from there he joined HMS Ark Royal where his pilot was Sub-Lieutenant Dick Bartlett.

On 4 June 1940, he provided air cover for the evacuation of British forces from Norway and on 12 June was involved in the attack on the German battleship Scharnhorst, which was sheltering in the Trondhein fjord.

Lloyd described the operation as "so quiet it was eerie... then everything went mad... a sound like thunder" as the ships opened fire on them.

15 Skuas took part in the raid which went wrong from the start when the RAF's Blenheim escort fighters failed to arrive. They continued anyway but as they approached their target, they were attacked by German fighters and eight of the 15 aircraft were lost almost immediately.

German soldiers with the plane wreck

German soldiers with the plane wreck

Despite their determined evasive efforts the starboard wing was eventually hit by a cannon shell which went through the main fuel tank but miraculously did not cause an explosion, however, Bartlett had been hit in his abdomen by shrapnel.

He started to pass out through loss of blood and Lloyd was ordered to bale out, which he did not as he had actually removed his parachute to make more space in the cockpit and as he said "you can't bail out going vertical... you'd hit the tail!".

Bartlett managed to press home his attack, released their bomb and at the last minute pulled out of his dive. He then managed to belly land the crippled aircraft in a hilly field.

Lloyd was trapped in the back of the aircraft, but he hacked a hole in the fuselage and dropped to the ground. He rushed to help the semi-conscious Bartlett out of the cockpit and then set fire to the plane so that the aircraft equipment would not fall into enemy hands.

A nearby farmer helped the pair, but they were eventually captured when a local quisling reported them to the German forces, after which they were arrested. Bartlett was dropped off at a hospital and Lloyd was sent on to a prison camp near Trondheim.

After capture he was quickly transferred to jail in Oslo and ended up in Stalag Luft I, a prison camp for aviators on the Baltic coast. He was later transferred to Stalag Luft III, made famous by the tragic Great Escape, and later still to Stalag Luft VI in Eastern Prussia.

Lloyd said the time in the camps "seemed to be forever" as they had no calendars and every day was the same. He added there was "no brutality... deprivation was the worst thing, but they [the guards] had nothing themselves... but there was no point trying to escape the camps".

Lloyd's plane shortly after the crash

Lloyd's plane shortly after the crash

By the beginning of 1945, the prisoners of war were marched to various camps in the east and west of the Reich, and it was during one of these marches that Lloyd decided he wanted to escape.

One day when walking between camps, when the guards were not looking, he jumped into a ditch and, once the columns had passed, he got up and started to walk in the direction he had come from.

He usually travelled by night, slept rough, and ate a meagre diet of anything edible that he could find and drank water whenever possible, even from ditches. His dirty clothes matched those of the thousands of refugees moving around Europe at the time, so he blended in well, and he eventually came across an Allied prison camp where he was taken in.

Lloyd's trek across Germany is though to have totaled around 400 miles. He soon found himself in a Dakota taking him back to an RAF base near London, about one month before VE Day.

Still wearing the same clothes, in which he had crossed Europe in, he returned to RNAS Lee-on-Solent, only to learn that he had been discharged from the Navy as assumed dead following his crash in Norway. He said, "there was a mix up... as far as the Navy was concerned I was dead but not according to the Air Flight Arm."

The following day, he formally rejoined, was given a new uniform and £100 and told to go home for some leave, which being a Guernseyman was not an option, so he spent some time with relatives in Oxford.

Lloyd Richards

Lloyd in 2009

Following this he received some additional training before heading to the far east where he was stationed as the war in the Pacific ended.

He returned to Guernsey in 1949 at the age of 30 where he worked various different jobs.

Of his time in the services Lloyd said he was "quite dissatisfied" because after all his training he only served for about three weeks before being captured, he said "it's not a lot to boast about".

last updated: 06/08/2009 at 17:04
created: 06/08/2009

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