Kelbrick, William James (Oral history)

Catalogue number
  • 17729
Production date
Subject period
  • whole: Duration 170, Number Of Items 6
Alternative names
  • object name: Oral history
  • object category: IWM interview


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Object description

British civilian in Liverpool, GB, 1940-1941; NCO served as air gunner with 50 Sqdn, 5 Group, RAF in GB, 7/1943-2/1944; involved in identifying bodies of RAF aircrew in Germany, 1945

Content description

REEL 1 Background in Liverpool, 1921-1939: family and education; employment. Hearing Chamberlain's declaration of war, 3/9/1939. Membership of Local Defence Volunteers, Dingle. Recollections of Liverpool Blitz, 1940-1941: work as head messenger of Air Raid Precautions; guidance he received form older man in ARP; use of shelters in Liverpool Blitz; lucky escape when home was damaged in Blitz; concentration of bombing in Liverpool May Blitz; level of public morality during Blitz; public morale in Liverpool, 1940-1941; importance of Liverpool as German Air Force target; lack of daily migration into countryside. REEL 2 Continues: problems of German aircrews hitting targets compared with his own later RAF experience; why he preferred not to use air raid shelters; aspects of London Blitz, 1943 including reaction to sheltering in Union Jack Club during air raid, 1943, attractions of Windmill Theatre and other shows, comradeship of aircrews and leisure time spent together; emptying of theatres when air raid warning occurred; resilience of working class women in Second World War compared with 1997; issue of 'police clothes' to Liverpool poor; 'Goodfellows' food parcels issued to poor by League of Well-doers for Christmas; re-sale of clothing coupons for cash; Liverpool festivals traditions. Period of training with Liverpool LDV and army cadets; LDV guard on Mersey Tunnel armed with sticks. REEL 3 Continues: ARP duties in Liverpool, 1940-1941. Reaction to declaration of war, 3/9/1939. Phoney War atmosphere, 1939-1940: means of getting news in 1939-1940. Enlistment in RAF, late 1940: relevance of educational qualifications to future work in RAF. Period of training with RAF, 1941-1943: morse training RAF Squares Gate; Blackpool 1941; 'shambles' of RAF Filey, 1942; appointment to aircrew training, RAF Sealand, 1943; move to Air Crew Reception Centre, St John's Wood; Initial Training Wing, RAF Bridlington, 1943, Air Gunnery School, RAF Morpeth; opinion of Blackburn Botha, 1943; crewing-up RAF Upper Heyford, 1943; Wellington search in Channel for ditched aircrew in dinghy; conversion to Lancasters, RAF Swinderby. Recollections of operations with 50 Sqdn, 5 Group, 7/1943-2/1944: RAF group and squadron organisation; joining squadron, Skellingthorpe, 7/1943; raid on Milan against minimal opposition, 15/8/1943; raid on Berlin and reaction to choice of target, 23/8/1943. REEL 4 Continues: briefing for raids; procedure for take of for raids; clothing worn for raids; description of what a raid was like; view of German targets during raid; intelligence about raids which was quickly conveyed to Saracen's Head, Lincoln; raid in which aircraft was shot up by Lancaster, operated by German Air Force, Hagen, 1/10/1943; damage to aircraft on raid to Frankfurt, 3/10/1943; German Air Force fighters attacks on aircraft during raid on Hamburg, 18/10/1943; raid on Leipzig, 20/10/1943; air combat between night fighters and Lancaster air gunners; difference between Ju88 and FW190 attacks; attack on military tunnel Modane, France, 10/11/1943; raids on Berlin; emergency landing RAF Melbourne, 26/11/1943; Berlin raid in which his oxygen mask became detached and he blacked out; raid on Berlin when engine was shot away, 24/12/1943; high number of raids carried out on Berlin, winter 1943-1944; question of crew member who did not like raids on Berlin; raid on Leipzig in which aircraft was badly shot up, 19/2/1944; how his air crew became base experimental and test crew after it had completed tour of 30 operations. REEL 5 Continues: test crew work, 1944-1945. Period with 9 Sqdn, 1945: how he went out to India as part of 'Tiger Force' , autumn 1945. Story of being temporarily blinded in one eye by a 'scarecrow', on Magdeburg, 2/1944. how his nerves went after completion of tour of operations and treatment he received in Calcutta and Muswell Hill nursing home. Period with Missing Research and Inquiry Unit, Germany 1946: role attempting to identity dead RAF aircrew; area of responsibility; incident of a Frisian Island mayor who declined to co-operate with investigations; question of Hitler Youth shooting shot down aircrew Pressure from his wife to quit RAF, 1948. Role as RAF Aircrew Association official post Second World War. State of health as result of wartime experiences. REEL 6 Continues: Aspects of wartime operations with RAF: Talismans and superstitions of air crew on raids; question of lack of moral fibre; wife who brought pressure to bear on her husband to come off operations and how he was labelled LMF; his state of mind on operations and importance of staying with one's 'own' crew; danger of flying in bright moonlight on operations; how loyalty to rest of crew over-rode any question of fear and nerves; last raid with 50 Sqdn on Leipzig, 19/2/1944; stress on raids; air crew who dodged operations. Psychological effects of war. Question of civilian attitudes to aircrew bombing them and attitude of aircrew to bombing tasks they had to carry out.

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