Recorded interview of Kenneth Smith by Jo Pye (MC 376/511a)
Document Information

Recorded interview of Kenneth Smith by Jo Pye


MC 376/511a

1 compact cassette

nd [1998]

2nd Air Division Memorial Library/Oral History Project

Jo Pye, Kenneth Smith

Address at start of interview has been redacted.

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Kenneth Smith describes his wartime employment at Greenwich post office as a teleprinter, air raid warden and home guard. Talks about being conscripted into the RAF in November 1941, basic training in use of Morse Code and, from May 1942, training as a high frequency direction finding wireless operator. Recalls first contact with Hardwick airbase on 9 August 1942, following much confusion and initial postings to Ardwick (Manchester), Hardwick (Gloucester), Hardwick (Nottingham) and finally Hardwick (Norfolk). Recalls staying at Hardwick until the Americans tooks over the radio cabin and being posted away on 27 June 1944. Mentions getting married. Describes Hardwick airbase, first encounter with the Americans, resulting changes in working conditions and security patrols resulting from increased numbers of servicemen. Discussion about socialising; mentions having little contact with Americans other than operationally, although they did go to the pub. Recalls getting 'living out' rights from the airbase to be with with his wife and inviting Americans back from the radio cabin. Recalls keeping in touch with Helen, the sister of Bill Mercer (a Purple Heart medal recipient). Discussion of food and rations, including comparison of PX and NAAFI. Comments on American perceptions of civilian life in England. Recalls friendship with an older American serviceman, Bill Jackson; both of them lost a brother in Italy. Describes radio communication with earphones and transmitting call signs ('victory v' repeated for 3 minutes at a time) including a short demonstration of Morse Code [17:33-17:57] and responding to any aircraft which gave the correct call sign. Recalls the Ploesti mission anniversary celebration involving the 93rd Bomb Group, who did low-flying training at Hardwick. Recalls a flight in the B-24 'Wham Bam 2'. Discussion of aircraft nicknames, including Bill Mercer's B-24 'Shoot Luke'. Refers to being an honorary member of 'Ted's Travelling Circus' [for servicemen of the 93rd Bomb Group] and comments on usefulness of the 'Flying Ball of Fire' group newsletter. Reflects on enjoyment of airbase life and describes use of bicycles around the airbases and American gun practice. Recalls enemy attack on base ['Night of the Intruders', 22 April 1944] and the protection of a blast wall around the radio cabin. Recalls guiding in a stricken B-17 Flying Fortress and a Mosquito which crash-landed nearby. Comments on difficulties in analysing memories after 50 years. Recalls 100th mission celebration and citation ball. Recalls that the Americans had trained radio operators who used a goniometer to sort signals, and the RAF and USAAF ran in parallel on the airbase for a while. Recalls Cpl Max Cooper and Bob Hempy. Talks about move to RAF Lindholme and describes being at Flixton airbase for Christmas and New Year with cows nearby. Talks about formations and D-Day. Signs off in Morse Code [41:46-42:36]. Recorded on side A only. Kenneth Smith from Sheffield was born 1921 in Camberwell and lived in Forest Hill before joining the RAF. For tape insert, see MC 376/511b. For administrative records relating to interview, see MC 376/512. For questionnaire completed by interviewee, see MC 376/513.