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BBC Actuality Recordings

BBC Actuality Recordings
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
01:54:15 Friday, December 12, 2003
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 12-Dec-03 AT 01:55 AM (GMT)[/font][p]Some time ago, I posted some questions about BBC recordings made inside of Lancasters during raids.

I thought that some of you may be interested in reading transcripts of some of these recordings.

I can say that I have found three such recordings, two appear to have been with F/L Ken Letford and crew (207 Squadron -Stettin 20/21 April 1943 and Berlin 3/4 Sep 1943) and another by an (as yet) unidentified crew (Essen April 1943).

You may be interested to know that for propaganda purposes the recordings were pressed onto vinyl and at least one (Essen)was released for sale to the public!

The Letford crew, at least for the Berlin raid, comprised:

Pilot: Kenneth Harry Francis Letford DSO DFC* RAFVR (132892)

Flight Engineer: Charlie Stewart

Navigator: Denis Roland Fieldhouse DFC RAFVR(530895)

Bomb Aimer: Bill Bray

Wireless Operator: ?

Mid-Upper Gunner: ?

Rear Gunner: Henry Charles Devenish DFM (1452873)

Con Connelly and Bill Sparkes were the other two crew members.

The Mid-Upper Gunner and Wireless Operator were later wounded in October 1943, when the Lanc was severely damaged. Letford was awarded the DSO for his actions on this flight.

Following are transcripts of the recordings, starting with the Stettin raid by Letford and crew. Any errors in transcription are mine. Words that could not be identified are marked, "??"



Stettin Raid 20/21 April 1943 Transcript
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
01:58:53 Friday, December 12, 2003
The BBC sound engineer was with the crew and can be heard at the start, advising that recording had begun (each disk could hold around three minutes of recorded sound).

It appears that for this raid, the run in to target was made using a timed run from a Lake near Stettin.


Pilot: Right oh...

BBC (Pidsley or Vaughan-Thomas?): Right, we're on now.

Pilot: OK.

Bomb Aimer: Well, there's the target straight ahead, Skip.

Pilot: OK, now we're over the lake now...

Bomb Aimer: OK, now....

Pilot: ...just coming up.

Navigator: OK.

Pilot: What was the heading again?

Navigator: 146.

Pilot: OK, on 146...

Navigator: OK.

Pilot: ...and the airspeed?

Navigator: 170.

Pilot: Yes, I've got it.Bang on.

Pilot: OK.

Navigator: Ten seconds. Two minutes, ten seconds, Bomb Aimer.

Bomb Aimer: OK, ??, two minutes ten seconds.

Navigator: Twenty seconds...

Bomb Aimer: You can weave a bit, Skip.

Pilot: OK, bomb aimer.

Navigator: Thirty seconds...

Bomb Aimer: There's...flares...just to the left.

Pilot: OK.

Bomb Aimer: OK, you can keep weaving for a while.

Navigator: Forty seconds...

Pilot: Check the position of the flares by your time run.

Bomb Aimer: Yes, I can see some ground detail in the flash of the flak bursts.

Navigator: Fifty seconds...

Navigator: One minute...

Bomb aimer: Keep on weaving skipper.

Navigator: Ten seconds. One minute to go now.

Navigator: F-i-v-e

Pilot: All right now, you'll want some last minute corrections, bomb aimer...

Bomb Aimer: Yes...

Pilot: ...I'll fly her straight ahead

Bomb Aimer: Steer her nice, straight and level

Navigator: Ten...

Pilot: Bomb doors open.

Bomb Aimer: Bomb doors open.

Pilot: Give her a bit of extra time if anything.

Bomb Aimer: Yes...

Navigator: Fifteen...

Bomb Aimer: ...left, left

Navigator: Twenty...

Bomb Aimer: Steady...steady...

Navigator: Twenty five...

Bomb Aimer: Steady...

Bomb Aimer: Bombs away!

Navigator: Thirty.

Bomb Aimer: There goes the cookie...

Navigator: Lookie...lookie...lookie.

Unknown: Oh, we got lucky going over there!

Bomb Aimer: ...and there go the incendiaries....there goes my bottle.

Pilot: Umm, take jettison action.

Bomb Aimer: Jettison action now.

Pilot: OK. I think they're firing at us.

Unknown: Yeh!

Pilot: Bomb doors closed.

Bomb Aimer: Bomb doors closed.

Pilot: By jove!

Pilot: New course now ??.

Navigator: New course....

Bomb Aimer: Look at those fires boys...oh what a....

Navigator: ...185.

Pilot: OK, Turning on...185.

Mid-Upper Gunner: There's a Lanc up on your starboard beam.

Pilot: I see him, yes.

Mid-Upper Gunner: He's turning down. move...

Pilot: Yes, I can see him...starboard bow now.

Mid-Upper Gunner: Yes, he's right ahead...

Pilot: OK...

Mid-Upper Gunner: ...cross over...

Pilot: Right, give me that course again ??, well north of us.

Navigator: 185.

Pilot: 185, OK.

Pilot: That was direct hit over the target by the look of it!

Crew: yes...yeah...

Pilot: OK.

Unknown: Keep going, Skip, they're all turning off this way.

Pilot: OK.

Mid-Upper Gunner: There's a Lanc coming up on your starboard beam underneath our... wing...

Unknown: He's turned off...just moving off...

Pilot: OK.

Rear Gunner: There's a Lanc on our port beam.

Pilot: Yes, I can see him...ah...rear gunner.

Mid-Upper Gunner: There's a bloke still on our starboard beam, just down a bit.

Pilot: I know!

Pilot: right, Now, keep your eyes peeled for fighters gunners. They're obviously milling around the target now flies.

Mid-Upper Gunner: OK, Skip.

Rear Gunner: Searchlight underneath our starboard wing, Skip.

Pilot: OK.


Berlin Raid 3/4 Sept 1943 - Transcript
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
06:27:05 Friday, December 12, 2003
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 12-Dec-03 AT 06:32 AM (GMT)[/font][p]With this recording, it seems that the pilot, Ken Letford, has been given some pointers in commentary from the BBC!

Up until the fighter engagement, Letford very carefully orchestrates and ensures that very strict procedure is followed. Also, notice how he refers now to Bill Bray as 'Bombardier'.

It appears from the recording that the Mid-Upper Gunner, Jimmy, shot down the fighter but it was apparently credited to the Rear Gunner, Harry Devenish.

Finally, it seems that the censors may have scratched out a small part of the dialogue.


Navigator: Hello Skipper

Pilot: Hello navigator.

Navigator: Half a minute to go.

Pilot: OK, thanks very much.

Bomb Aimer: OK, keep weaving Ken.

Unknown: There's quite a lot of light stuff coming up as well, falling off a bit low.

Pilot: Ah...hello engineer, Skipper here.

Engineer: Yes...

Pilot: Will you put the revs up please?

Engineer: Yeah.

Bomb Aimer: OK, keep weaving.

Unknown: There's a lot of searchlights and fighter planes, Skipper, over there.

Bomb Aimer: Yeah, keep on.

Pilot: OK, boys, OK.

Bomb Aimer: Left, Left... ??, Skipper.

Bomb Aimer: Bomb doors open.

Pilot: Hello Bombardier. OK when you are.

Bomb Aimer: Bomber doors open.

Pilot: Bomb doors open, bombardier.

Bomb Aimer: R-i-g-h-t...

Bomb Aimer: S-t-e-a-d-y...s-t-e-a-d-y...

Navigator: It's a long time yet, a little bit longer yet... (scratched - possibly censored from recording)

Unknown: Lob one down in the centre.

Bomb Aimer: OK, steady...stready...

Bomb Aimer: Right a little bit...r-i-g-h-t....steady.

Bomb Aimer: Bombs going in a minute.

Bomb Aimer: One, two, three....bombs still going.

Rear Gunner: Hey, Jerry tracer behind us boys.

Bomb Aimer: Bombs jettisoned.

** GUNFIRE ** (sounds like two seperate turrets)

Rear Gunner: ?? Jimmy ??

Pilot: Where is he...ah...rear gunner, can you see him?


Rear Gunner: Down! Down!

Mid-Upper Gunner: Down!

Rear Gunner: He's gone Down! He's gone down.

Mid-Upper Gunner: Yes, he's going down.

Pilot: Did you shoot him down?

Rear Gunner: Yeah.

Mid-Upper Gunner: Yes, he's got him, boy, right in the middle. Bloody good show.

Crew: (cheering and whoops of delight)

Bomb Aimer: Photograph....

Crew: (further cheering)

Bomb Aimer: Photograph taken. Keep weaving, there's some flak coming up with...

Pilot: OK. Don't shout all at once!

Unknown: Alright.

Bomb Aimer: Photograph taken.

Pilot: OK, photograph taken.

Navigator: Hello, Skipper. Will you turn on to 081?

Pilot: Alright. 081, navigator. Don't all speak at once now, keep quiet, it's OK.

Unknown: OK Ken.

Pilot: Ahh...hello, mid-gunner, did you recognise that fighter you shot down?

Mid-Upper Gunner:, I didn't recognise it but it's definitely going down now.

Pilot: Good, Jimmy, I can see him boys, good show! I can see him now.

Unknown: Yeah.

Unknown: Look at him burning doesn't he look lovely?

Pilot: Good show lads now keep your...

Pilot and Unknown together: ...eyes open.

Unknown: OK Ken.


RE: Berlin Raid 3/4 Sept 1943 - Transcript
Author: Alan Hulme (Guest)
Time Stamp:
08:55:38 Friday, December 12, 2003
Thanks for posting these transcripts. I've downloaded the second one off the net somewhere but I can't recall ever hearing the first.

Essen Raid April 1943 Transcript
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
10:21:00 Friday, December 12, 2003
[font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 12-Dec-03 AT 10:26 AM (GMT)[/font][p]This is a recording that was commerically sold by HMV. The a-side featured the famous 'gentle zephers of spring' speech by 'Butch' Harris, while the b-side featured the following recording from over Essen in April 1943.

I do not know who the crew was (does the Lancaster at War 5 book give a clue - I've heard that there is a piece on a crew who were recorded).

Of the three recordings, this is the most revealing - no self-consciousness about the recording here.

The fear of the crew is evident.

Listening to it is the CLOSEST that I can imagine to being able to Comprehend what all those boys went through.

Notice how the Flight Engineer and Pilot try to distract the Navigator as the flak gets heavy...


Bomb Aimer: OK, bombs gone.

Pilot: OK... (mumbled) bomb aimer.

Navigator: Was that bombs gone?

Pilot and Bomb Aimer together: Yes.

Navigator: OK...

Flight Engineer: Bomb doors closed.

Navigator: ...well, I can read my watch in the searchlights! That's...ahh...twenty one, fifty four.

Gunner?: Flak coming awful close!

Unknown: ??

Flight Engineer: Heading 100.

Navigator: Twenty one, fifty four and get out of this lot as best we can.

Pilot: (laboured) OK.

Pilot: Speed's the answer now.

Navigator: The idea is to steer about 020.

Pilot: Put 020 on ??

Flight Engineer: 020, OK.

Navigator: Ahh! Flak directly beneath us...

Unknown: Right.

Navigator: ...and searchlights underneath us too.

Pilot: Come on, T-for-Tommy. Get cracking!

Navigator: Ahh, watch your height!

Pilot: I'm watching everything!

Navigator: OK.

Flight Engineer: How many searchlights would you call them?

Unknown: Too many, I reckon.

Flight Engineer: A couple of thousand.

Pilot: Yeah, they're searching for us. You bastards! ...oh Hell...

Pilot: It certainly illuminates things, doesn't it?

Flight Engineer: It sure does.

Pilot: ??

Unknown: Keep you eyes peeled.

Unknown: Yeah!

Unknown: They're firing at us now!

Unknown: Are they?

Unknown: Yeah.


Gunner2: Flak coming close at the back!

Pilot: OK

Flight Engineer: FlaK's close... (or flaps closed)

Unknown: Well, it's coming close, I can feel it.

Pilot: Yes, I can see it!

(muffled rumbles of flak bursts)

Flight Engineer: Round to port a bit this heading, Skipper.

Pilot: OK.

Navigator: If we press on a bit this way, we might get out.

Flight Engineer: Yep.

Navigator: My God!

Flight Engineer: You could light your fag on any on those.

Bomb Aimer: Steady up a bit.

(Sound of sharpnal hitting aircraft)

Bomb Aimer: Ohh!

Pilot: That was a bit close.

Pilot: Yeah...

Navigator: I think we've been hit, personally...

Pilot: We have...

Navigator: Yeah.

Flight Engineer: Lose a bit of height, Skipper.

Pilot: Yeah.

Bomb Aimer: That was close.

Pilot: Yes.

Navigator: Searchlights looking for us now.

Pilot: OK...I'm pressing on more or less on course.

Navigator: Righty Ho.

Navigator: It's gone out now.

Navigator: We...we better press on north until we're clear of this issue!

Pilot: Yeah, that's what I'm doing.

Bomb Aimer: Ah...hello, Skipper.

Pilot: Hello.

Bomb Aimer: We've been holed in the front here...

Pilot: OK.

Bomb Aimer: ...the...ahh...oil's leaking out of the front turret, still it's nothing to worry about.

Pilot: OK.

Flight Engineer: OK, Warren. Ah...Duncy, could you glance over the temperatures? On the engines?

Navigator: Could I what...?

Flight Engineer: ...glance over the temperatures.

Pilot: Look then, Duncy...umm...I've been weaving on your course. I shall be heading a the east.

Navigator: OK, I'll give you a course to steer if you reckon you'll go through it.


Navigator: OK, right.

Pilot: Only there's a few searchlights ahead, about a hundred.

Navigator: Yeah.

Navigator: By God, I've never seen anything like this before!

Pilot: Neither have I.

Flight Engineer: Four-thousand pounder just gone off.

Pilot: Oh, Good show.

Navigator: Ahhh, that's not one at all!

Unknown: Yes, it's not a bad prang.


RE: Essen Raid April 1943 Transcript
Author: Thanks Rod,,Intresting!!! (Guest)
Time Stamp:
13:56:32 Friday, December 12, 2003
Thanks,,Really intresting..

now if one could find a similiar one

for the a "Nachtj%E4ger" crew...Oh boy..

Regards Anders

RE: Essen Raid April 1943 Transcript
Author: Todd Yates (Guest)
Time Stamp:
16:16:26 Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Oh, I'd like to have those BBC recordings!



RE: Essen Raid April 1943 Transcript
Author: Ian Brown (Guest)
Time Stamp:
17:26:45 Wednesday, December 17, 2003

These recordings can be downloaded from the web. Links are given in the earlier posting on this subject in this forum:

another recording may be
Author: Joss Leclercq (Guest)
Time Stamp:
18:10:41 Wednesday, December 17, 2003
I know of a recording, may be another one that those mentioned, made by Richard Dimbledy, flying in the crew of John GEE, a Lancaster captain during a raid against Kleve. S/L GEE, D.F.C. (author of "Wingspan") forwarded me a copy on tape many years ago. I also found it was the closest we could be. Fear and excitement could be "felt" (despite myself not being English born).

There is a full transcript of the recording on pages 191 to 194 of the book "Wingspan".

Hope this helps.


RE: Essen Raid April 1943 Transcript
Author: Todd (Guest)
Time Stamp:
01:49:10 Sunday, December 21, 2003


Thank-you Ian. Very interesting to here the conversation between the crew. Great history, horrible war!



Copies of Recordings
Author: RodM
Time Stamp:
05:50:46 Thursday, December 18, 2003
Thanks for the comments, guys.

I have a number of recordings, all of which I have converted to mp3. For those interested, send me a PM with your e-mail and I can send one or more of them to you (make sure your e-mail account can handle the size of the files!).

For the record, the recordings are:

1. Essen April 1943 - unknown crew. (size 4.23Mb)(3 min 42 sec)

2. Stettin 20/21 April 1943 - Letford & crew (size 653Mb)(3 min 44 sec)

3. Berlin 3/4 Sep 1943 - Letford & crew (this the FULL version) (7.25Mb)(6 min 21 sec)

4. Berlin 16/17 Jan 1943 - Dimbleby's post-raid account of an op. with Guy Gibson. (4.14Mb)(3 min 38 sec)

5. Kleve 7/8 Feb 1945 - Dimbleby's commentary from S/L Gee's Lancaster. (probably not full recording) (1.1Mb)(59 sec)

6. Berlin 2/3 Dec 1943 - Murrow's famous 'Orchestrated Hell' post-raid account. (16.4Mb)(17 min 59 sec)