- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Albert Gregory
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 October 2004
I joined the volunteers RAF before the war and when the war broke out we were mobilised, put into uniform. I was partly trained as an air gunner and was posted away to Aldergrove in Northern Ireland to do my air gunnery course and get my brevie, half wing. I went straight from there to a squadron which was 141 Squadron in Greensborough up in Scotland. Before they became operational they had to convert into Defiants. I was deemed to be too tall for the turret. The air ministry said that any air gunner above the height of about 5’10 was too tall for the turret; I was 6’1, so I was the only air gunner that was posted off the squadron. I was posted from that squadron, who were originally Blenheims in the beginning of May in 1940, to another Blenheims Squadron 219 at Ketterick who were operational.
I was there right from the start as an air gunner on operations off the East coast, stationed at Ketterick. We used to fly to what they call a forward base, West Hartlepool, Lemming, on day work and night work. the Blenheims as a whole, not just our squadron. They lost such a lot that they took us off day work and put us on night only so that was a bit of a relief. If the German bombers came over, they very rarely came on their own but with a fighter escort. The ME109s, well, they were a far superior aircraft from what our Blenheim was, much faster, more manoeuvrable so we virtually had to keep out of the way.
As far as the day time was concerned, if we did get involved it was virtually suicide, not being any where near as good as the German fighter. When they took us off day work and put us on night only, it wasn’t so bad because when the bombers, they came on their own, they didn’t have an escort. So if we were placed anywhere where there was any hostility we were quite happy to have ago because we at least we were down to their level, as far as speed and manoeuvrability were concerned.
So we moved from Ketterick down to Redhill, on the outskirts of London doing night work again there then we converted to Boer fighters. Near the end of the Battle to Britain we operated from Redhill doing night work, getting involved with night activity coming from the Luftwaffe. From the end of October to November we moved down to Tangmere.
The plane that I flew in, in the Battle of Britain, was a short nosed Blenheim, it had a mid-upper turret. I was the air gunner, I just had one gun - a 303. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable but it was a bit cold because there was no such thing as central heating in those days, we didn’t have any uniform that was heated, so the higher you went the colder it got, cold and drafty.
I didn’t think anything at all really. I personally thought at the time that there was nothing personal involved. If we were involved with any of the German aircraft, it wasn’t me against any individual, it was our aircraft against their aircraft, so it didn’t mean anything to me, I just got on with it.
I left 219 Squadron which were Blenheims near the end of 1941. Just prior to going away from the squadron I was flying in a Boer fighter one night, and we got involved with a Heinkel 111 and we shot that down, that was one night over the South East coast of England.
Shortly after that I was posted to a night intruder squadron, flying Bostons. We were stationed at Tangmere in Sussex, and were flying over France taking off at 0 feet across the channel and flying over to the various German squadrons where they were based in Northern France. Anything that was moving about, we were to have a go at, convoys, trains. We had a bomb load of about 2000lb so we were actually about a fighter bomber so I did over 40 trips of night intruding.
I was very fortunate, I got back safe every time and had no trouble. We kept very low to avoid the possibility of being attacked by any of their aircraft, the only problem we had was ack-ack from their ground firing. The Germans were coming over to the South Coast of England and doing exactly the same, attacking everything that they could see moving here, it was tit-for-tat, we were doing the same over there as they were doing over here.
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