- Contributed by
- ATC Crawley 19 Squadron
- People in story:
- Bob Calloway, Flying Officer Fudge
- Location of story:
- Cambridgeshire, Dresden
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 March 2005
This is Bob Calloway's story - it has been added by a Volunteer from Crawley 19th Sqdn ATC, with permission from the author, who understands the terms and conditions of adding his story to the website.
When war broke out I was swimming in Ladywell Baths in South East London, I heard the sirens and they cleared us out of the baths and we were on our bikes, so we cycled to the nearest church — which we thought would be safe from the bombing as it was a House of God. Nothing happened to us that day — so from that moment on I have always had faith and a belief that someone was looking after me.
I didn’t used to tell people that I prayed and whatnot, but nowadays I’m not embarrassed about telling people that I go to church and pray.
I was about 17 when the war started and I was in a reserved occupation — making machine tools — which mean that I didn’t get called up. Now about 1940 the Germans really started to bomb England and London in particular. I was working in Woolwich, London in a factory doing the milling and turning for the weapon parts. When the bombs started to come down, the firm I worked for got slightly bombed so they couldn’t carry on in London. So we joined forces with a company in Leicester and I had to move up there. During my visits back to London to see the family, I would see all my friends in uniform, and it made me want to join up as well.
I tried to get into the Royal Navy, but as I was in a reserve occupation they wouldn’t take me. The RAF were more welcoming, as they had been loosing so many men in the skies that they wanted as many to join as they could who wanted to fly the aircraft. So I joined to RAF in 1943 and became a rear gunner, known by many as the ‘tail-end charlie’. I got my ‘Wings and Strips’ at the end of 1944 when I had completed all my training and was a qualified rear gunner.
By the end of 1944 all the forces were closing in on Hitler's men in the bunkers, so we all knew that there wasn’t long to go until the war was over. We knew that if Hitler were to try and escape from Berlin, it was mostly likely to be by train via Dresden, and therefore Bomber Harris ordered many bombers, myself included, to bomb Dresden and thwart his escape attempts. My job during the raids on Dresden was to stop the enemy aircraft approaching us from all angles, and I would use the intercom to warn ‘Fudgie’ (Flying Officer Fudge from Cumbria Coast) if there were any approaching aircraft. There was one occasion when we were coming back from an air raid and we were surprised by the Luftwaffe and they split up the formation of the British Bombers. Luckily we didn’t get attached by we did end up flying up North which was no good for me as I was stationed in Cambridge!! The next day we were able fly back down to RAF Whiten our home station.
I flew across to Dresden in total 5 times and I was scared, but because of my faith I knew that I would be okay and come back in one piece. On the ground I would have to salute and respect the senior officers — but up in the air we were like one big family, looking out for each other.
The sad thing that being in a aircrew was that the next day we would look on the notice board and see the names of the aircraft that hadn’t made it back. Certain aircraft would be missing, and there would be a couple of empty beds and it was terribly sad that they weren’t coming back. Eventually an officer would come round and collect the stuff from their locker and there would be new lads in to take their place. I feel that it was through my faith that my crew all came back okay and we didn’t loose anyone.
In 1945 when the war was over, it seemed like they didn’t know what to do with all the aircrews and the aircraft, so I ended up in a maintenance squadron in Henlow, North London. Due to my engineering background I was drafted to the Occupational Forces, in Wahn near Dusseldorf in Germany, 2 or 3 months later. Here I worked on the Mosquito squadron, helping to maintain the aircraft. In 1947 I finally got demobbed and returned to England, and I continued working in the RAF in Kiddbroke in London.
Later on I met my wife through my eldest sister and we married in 1950. We proposed to each other on top of a double decker bus on the way to see Billy Cotton and his band show.
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