My name is Andrew Gauld, I am 95 years of age. I served in the RAF from 1943 to 1947. I was a Warrant Officer with 12 Squadron flying in Lancaster bombers as part of a 7 man crew as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner based in Lincolnshire.
What motivated you to join the RAF?
I was born in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands. As a teenager I joined the Air Training Corps which stimulated my interest in flying. As soon as I came of age I volunteered to join the RAF as I felt flying was more appealing than land or sea! With my background in the ATC and as a telegraph boy at the local post office I was steered into communications. I passed the selection process followed by a demanding training programme and once qualified joined the crew as Wireless Operator/air gunner.
Do you recall your first days in service, what were your most prominent feelings?
Excited, I was initially told to report to Abbey Road, London. At 18 it was my first time away from my home in Scotland. My mother had to give me permission to fly.
Can you explain your job/assignment?
As Wireless Operator I flew in many different aircrafts. My role was to send and receive wireless signals via morse code during the flight, assisting the navigator and if attacked to use defensive machine gun armament of the bomber to fight off enemy aircraft.
Can you tell us a few of your most prominent memories – either good or bad?
I did many flights/bombing raids including Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgaden. There was one particular night we were returning from a raid, the weather was bad. I picked up signals that enemy aircraft were over our home airfields and managed to divert our plane to safety. Unfortunately, other aircrafts were not so fortunate and were lost in combat. After the war I was involved in Operation Manna, humanitarian food drops to relieve famine in German occupied Netherlands and the many flights to return prisoners of war from Italy.
Did you ever do anything special for ‘good luck’?
Nothing I can recall, maybe said a little prayer.
What was the best and worst military food you were served and why?
No real recollection but I do recall when at Canadian bases in the UK, the food quality and choice was so much better.
How did you stay in touch with the family?
I wrote letters to my mother and brothers and they wrote back.
Where did you travel whilst in service?
Germany, Holland, Austria, Italy, France, Malta
Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?
There was one occasion when I was scheduled to fly to Lossiemouth in the north of Scotland. I phoned my mother’s neighbour (my parents didn’t have a telephone) and asked her to let Mum know I would be flying over the following day at 11 am. We were spot on time and with a slight diversion, descended the aircraft as low as possible over Mum and Dad’s house. As we looked out of the aircraft we saw all the neighbours waving sheets below.
Do you remember how you felt when your service ended?
Obviously relieved the war was over and saddened by all the losses of comrades. I was also sad to leave the RAF but proud to have served my country. I was informed I would have been commissioned had I stayed on.
Did you stay in touch with any of your fellow servicemen?
Yes I remained in touch with all 6 other crew and we met up on occasions in the UK and NZ and exchanged Christmas cards, phone calls and correspondence over the years. Unfortunately, I am now the only one still alive.
How did you adapt to normal life when your service ended?
At the end of my service I continued my education in communications at Aberdeen Wireless College before joining GCHQ and being posted to Scarborough in 1948 where I met my wife Brenda. We have been married 68 years and have 3 children. My two sons live in New Zealand and my daughter lives in Scarborough. I worked for GCHQ for 40 years serving in Cheltenham, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Malta, Hong Kong before returning to Scarborough until my retirement in 1986.
Last year I was presented with a Veterans Badge.