Appleton, John (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 15555
Department
Sound
Production date
1995-06-27
Subject period
Dimensions
  • whole: Duration 620, Number Of Items 21
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview
Creator
Category
sound

© IWM

Purchase & License
Object description

Australian served as apprentice with RAF Aircraft Apprentice Scheme in GB, 1940-1942; aircraftman and NCO served with RAF Coastal Command in GB, 1942-1943; NCO served with No 210 Sqdn RAF Coastal Command in GB, 1943-1944 including operations over Atlantic and Arctic and sinking of U-347; served with No 131 Operational Training Unit RAF Coastal Command in Northern Ireland, 1944-1945; officer served with No 4 Operational Training Unit RAF Coastal Command in Northern Ireland, 1944-1945

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Melbourne, Australia, GB, and Surbiton, GB, 1924-1940: family; family home; economic situation; work of father; education; reasons for move to GB including voyage; education in Surbiton including loss of accent; early interest in engineering and aviation; awareness of events in Europe including Munich Agreement, invasion of Sudetenland and anti-Semitism in Germany; outbreak of war, 3/9/1939; service of parents during First World War; knowledge of approaching war; preparations for war at school; understanding of how war would be shaped; end of education; decision to join Royal Air Force as Air Apprentice including details of RAF Aircraft Apprentice Scheme and process of joining. REEL 2 Continues: journey to RAF Halton. Aspects of period as apprentice with RAF Aircraft Apprentice Scheme in GB, 8/1940-9/1942: opinion of living accommodation; medical; commitment to Royal Air Force; details of course; uniform and kit issued; introduction to NAAFI; opinion of NCOs and officers; accommodation and sleeping arrangements; background of recruits; trade selection including reason for wanting to be a wireless operator/mechanic and details of flying boats; journey to No.1 Signals School at RAF Cranwell; details of RAF Cranwell; morning procedures including accommodation; breakfast including utensils and details of dining room; opinion of NCO instructors; learning about ranks and history of RAF; drill; physical training; route marches including problems with feet; make-up of course; science course undertaken including opinion of education officers. REEL 3 Continues: make-up of working day; learning of Morse Code including encoding and proficiency; opinion of learning semaphore; use of Aldis lamp; tea break; details of pay; lunch including promotion of available foods; evening meal and supper; end of working day; evening activities including visits to NAAFI and YMCA; changes of uniform; clubs including model airplane and radio; sports; period kept in camp; visits to Sleaford including RAF presence in area; barrack room and kit inspections; studying; technical training for wireless maintenance; electricity source in planes; maintenance of batteries; training undertaken in workshops including details of Allied trade test and making of Morse key; discussion of role of workshop training. REEL 4 Continues: description and use of the Harwell Box; description of RAF Cranwell; details of air operating training in Vickers Valentia; earlier flights made from RAF Cranwell; details of de Havilland planes DH86 and DH89; description and use of Percival Proctor during training including details of radio system; communications during flights; details of sets used in aircraft including VHF and aerials; introduction and description of new radio sets including Marconi and American designs. REEL 5 Continues: periods of leave including aerial attack on train during journey home, 12/1940, and air raids; witnessing of first flight of Gloster E.28/39, 15/5/1941; written and practical examinations taken at end of apprenticeship; effect of results on rank; division of apprentices into classes; process of joining aircrew; knowledge of Coastal Command; passing out parade; details of rank. Aspects of period as aircraftman and NCO with RAF Coastal Command in GB, 9/1942-3/1943: duties during period at RAF Hamworthy; posting to No.10 Aircraft Gunnery School at RAF Barrow on Walney Island, 11/1942; air craft recognition lectures; method of working out range; allowance for bullet trail. REEL 6 Continues: description of reflector gun sight; details of Browning .303 Machine-Gun including British modifications and tests undertaken by RAF; types of ammunition used including details of tracer, armour piercing and incendiary rounds; description of Boulton Paul and Fraser Nash gun turrets used; shooting on clay pigeon range; practice in gun turrets on ground including at night; details of air firing training including reviewing of film; details of Boulton Paul Defiant used during air firing training; operation of Boulton Paul and Fraser Nash gun turrets; ammunition carried on exercises; proficiency with gun; details of period at No.10 Radio School RAF Carew Cheriton including learning of Coastal Command procedure; encoding of messages. REEL 7 Continues: further details of encoding messages; details of radio sets used in Consolidated PBY Catalina; details of radio compass; intercom within plane; maintenance of equipment; details of batteries in plane; formation of radio crews; knowledge of radar; posting to RAF Alness, 1/1943; make-up and role of No 4 Operational Training Unit; training with radar sets; roles in radio crew; training on and details of depth charges; description and use of drogues. REEL 8 Continues: formation and make-up of Consolidated PBY Catalina aircrew under Pilot Officer John Cruickshank; story of first flight with crew including landing on water; first meeting with Pilot Officer John Cruickshank; memories of Second Pilot John Coulson; relationship with officers in crew John Cruickshank, John Coulson and John Dixon; relationship with and opinion of fellow NCOs including Don Wallace; ages of crew members; details of exercises including guns onboard and firing at drogues; description of first operational anti-submarine patrol including answering of SOS call and effects of bad weather; description of bombing exercise. REEL 9 Continues: further details of exercises including night navigation. Aspects of operations as NCO with No 210 Sqdn RAF Coastal Command in GB and Gibraltar, 3/1943-7/1944: posting at Pembroke Dock; make-up of squadron including aircraft; changes in squadron leadership during war; memories of Flight Lieutenant Squires; mooring of aircraft; accommodation; details of sergeants’ mess; memories of Sergeant Samuel “Paddy” Harveyson including skills taught to one another; training undertaken; knowledge of radar including German system; exercises including training with Leigh lights; posting and flight to RAF Hamworthy, 4/1943; opinion of posting; further details of Leigh light training; opinion, use and maintenance of Leigh light. REEL 10 Continues: details of exercises using Beam Approach Beacon System; end to training; background of Pilot Officer John Cruickshank; background to first operational flight with squadron; details of periods in between flights; air crew breakfast; briefings and preparations including methods of disposing of papers, turning of engines; details of rations and water supply; further details of preparations made before flight; contents, handing in and transport of escape and evasion kit; recording of flight crew; final checks including pigeons onboard; starting procedure including pilot’s controls and starting of engine manually. REEL 11 Continues: build-up to take-off including mag drop test; description of take-off including safety features and take-off directions; problems faced during take-off on smooth water and on rough water at Gibraltar; instructions from navigator; length of flight to patrol area; memories of John Dixon during flights; details and use of German navigational system; make-up and duties of Consolidated PBY Catalina crew members including description of interior; discussion of windows; lighting in interior; details of overload tanks and other items carried; method of measuring wind; further description of the interior of a Consolidated PBY Catalina including sleeping arrangements. REEL 12 Continues: description of blister compartments including rotation of crew and duties during convoy work; description and contents of tunnel compartment including onboard camera; latrines including memories of navigator; preparation and supply of meals and coffee; problems with supplying meals during exercises; clothing worn during flights including gloves and flying helmet; pigeons carried onboard including plan for release and use of message sent; practice use of pigeons; method of plugging leaks; other items carried including explanation of colours and letter of the day. REEL 13 Continues: wireless operator routine before take-off; logging of signals; checking of electrical panel; reliability of plane; monitoring of fuel levels; problem with fuel monitor; decoding messages of other planes; messages sent including use of codes; length of shifts; activities during periods in blister; messages received from and sent to Royal Navy during convoy escort duties; duties on radar set including periods when ordered not to use it and description of logging system; decision to return to base; question of physical and mental state during flights; details of return flight to base including methods of navigation and taxi through harbour to buoy; rest gained during flight by pilot; tying up of plane; closing down of plane. REEL 14 Continues: cleaning up of plane; debriefing; post-operation visit to sergeants’ mess and other activities; question of stress; operational flights from RAF Hamworthy including escort given to HMS Rodney; details of flight to Gibraltar; role in Gibraltar; convoy duties including in relation to Operation Husky; spotting of U-267, 7/7/1943; details of attack made including guns onboard U-Boats and own involvement; checking of plane and damage to Consolidated PBY Catalina following attack; fire onboard and repairs made; conditions and leisure activities during periods in Gibraltar including concert parties; details of RAF Gibraltar; crash of Consolidated B-24 Liberator. REEL 15 Continues: use of other aircraft following attack on U-267; scenes of convoy escorted; return to Poole and repairs made to plane; under attack exercises; opinion of Consolidated PBY Catalina’s capabilities; search for blockade runner; news of movement to New Zealand crew under Flight Lieutenant Hill; reason for posting and role; memories of Greek crew engineer; scenes during flight to Felixstowe; similar period with crew under Flight Lieutenant Chamberlain; details of American Consolidated PBY Catalinas fitted with Magnetic anomaly detectors seen at Pembroke Docks; use of Magnetic anomaly detectors in Straits of Gibraltar; activities during second period in Gibraltar; disbandment of No.210 Squadron and reaction to rumoured posting to Martin Mariners; leave; reformation of squadron at RAF Sullom Voe; return to crew of John Cruickshank; introduction to and details of Mk VIII Radar; details of escort given to naval force from Russia. REEL 16 Continues: patrol areas; activities with unit including leave; details of navigation systems, GEE and LORAN; story of encounter with Junkers Ju-88; briefing before patrol on 17/7/1944; details of the Shetland Bus; details of Consolidated PBY Catalina and crew; details of flight to area and patrol; opinion of Mk VIII Radar; earlier story of homing onto cloud with Mk VIII Radar; first spotting of target; flight to meet target including question of preparations; details of approach to target and attempt to gain identification; description of subsequent attacks made on U-347 including opposition faced and activities in-between; damage to aircraft; medical help given to crew members including Flight Officer John Cruickshank; further details of damage to aircraft including casualties. REEL 17 Continues: movement of John Cruickshank to port bunk; condition of John Cruickshank and help given to him; details of morphine carried method of administering it; attempt to administer morphine to John Cruickshank; opinion of reason for rejecting morphine; activity elsewhere in aircraft including signals sent and received; decision to jettison of guns; possibility of German aerial attack; talk with John Cruickshank including question of John Dixon’s death and attempts to calm him; knowledge of Samuel “Paddy” Harveyson; details of own wounds; sleep gained and arrival at Shetland Islands; reaction of John Cruickshank to return; problems moving Cruickshank to cockpit; discussion of landing of plane; scenes from and in plane during circling and landing; landing on emergency beach; arrival of medical staff; retrieval of camera; photographs taken of attack on U-347 including knowledge of success of attack; discussion of who dropped the depth charges. REEL 18 Continues: make-up of cockpit and arrangement of John Cruickshank and Jack Garnett during landing; movement to shore and then sick quarters; medical treatment received; details of Military Hospital in Lerwick; reception on arrival; removal of shrapnel from wounds; discovery of shrapnel in left hand and removal; length of stay; effects of events; visits from officers while in hospital; thoughts of awards; knowledge of John Cruickshank’s health including contact with him in hospital; background to posting away from unit; story of journey to London on leave including stops en route; reception from family; medical treatment available during leave; background to award of Victoria Cross to John Cruickshank; reporting of events in newspapers; award of Distinguished Flying Cross to Jack Garnett. REEL 19 Continues: details of return journeys to Shetland Islands; journey to and details of Killadeas. Aspects of period as NCO with No 131 Operational Training Unit in Northern Ireland, 10/1944-6/1945: make-up of sections training section; duties as instructor; settling into new role; building and use of training rigs; freedom in role; teaching given about Leigh lights; arrangements made with Irish Government for use of airspace; problems from flooding and frozen water during winter and solutions; leisure activities and relationship with civilians; details of instructors course attended at East Fortune including memories of Squadron Leader Adams; return to Killadeas; attitude of instructors including situation in Europe; background to gaining commission. REEL 20 Continues: interview for and gaining of commission; story of visit to John Cruickshank, 1/1945; final stages of war; VE Day celebrations in London; leave in Dublin; return of Consolidated PBY Catalinas to US; opinion of replacement, Short Sunderland; disbandment of unit and posting and journey to Alness. Aspects of period as NCO with No 4 Operational Training Unit in Northern Ireland, 6/1945-7/1946: posting to air radar training; radar equipment used; period of familiarisation with Short Sunderland flying boat; details of training given to students including navigation and practice bombing exercises; concern about posting to Far East; knowledge of war against Japan; reaction to atomic bombs; opinion of Japanese; changes to unit after VJ Day; lectures attended; wider political changes. REEL 21 Continues: backgroiund to leaving Royal Air Force including interest gained in film industry work and instructor duties; process of demobilisation. Aspects of period as civilian in GB and Australia from 1946: civilian work in film industry; reason for return to Australia; civilian work in broadcasting including work on Royal Tour of 1954; Australian involvement in Second World War; personal involvement in ANZAC Day and membership of associations including Catalina Association of New South Wales; stories of visits to GB including visit to RAF Finningley, visit RAF apprentice’s final parade and 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

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