Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Ernest Marsden - Royal Air Force
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Ernest Marsden
Ernest Marsden



Ernest Marsden

25 July 2005

Ernest was born in 1924 at 21 Park View, Eagley Bank. His father was a stoker at Eagley Mill who later had a chip shop in Baxendale Street. When he left school he worked in the Co-op grocery in Tonge Moor, starting as a flour lad.

He was in the ATC at school, volunteered for the RAF, and in July 1943 went to London to the Aircraft Reception Centre. He was sent to Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, for training and was eventually posted to India, where he 'celebrated' his21st birthday on a train. He flew on several missions, the most notable being the operation to destroy the now famous 'Bridge on the River Kwai'. After VJ Day the priority was dropping supplies for the various prisoner of war camps, including Saigon, and Kanchanaburi.

Ernest finally arrived home in November 1946, was demobbed in1947 and went back to the Coop. He later worked for De Havilland at Farnworth for ten years and then qualified as a teacher, teaching in a primary school until he retired.

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A long way from home...

I finished up in Vancouver because they wanted Transport Command, so you had to go to Transport Command for operational training. So I got to Boundary Bay it was called, just on the edge of Vancouver and that's where we transferred onto Mitchell Aircraft, - twin engine bombers. I went onto those, and did 2/3 months on those and then we went to Abbotsford, which was another base nearby, and went onto the big ones, the Libs - the Liberators. One of the aircraft crashed on Vancouver Island, and there was a Bolton lad in the crew, they were all killed, - Ronnie May from Lever Edge Lane. They buried the crew on the Island, and we'd been there only a couple of weeks, if that.

A wing and a prayer...

I wrote an article for the Church Magazine, because I said I used to get down on my knees and pray before we went that I'd come back. We used to go for a briefing and when the op was mooted the CO would address you first, tell you what the target was and where you were going. Then the meteorological officer would come on and tell you what weather to be expected. Then the armaments bloke would come and tell you what you were carrying, bombs, mines whatever and then the intelligence officers if there was anything to report, so we had that early on in the day. Well anytime because we used to go night and day you know, so you had that briefing. Then you were sent back and as the navigator you would have to get your course plotted and all that. Sometimes we did night trips and some times day trips and then an hour or two before we were due off, we were given a slap up meal. Then the garry, that was a small lorry, would come and pick us up and take us down to the air strip and get on board the aircraft. I'll always remember in the rambling club that we were in here, a girl once said to me, she said ‘Were you never frightened'. I said no, but I was always happy when we got off the ground because there was another station not far from us and one bloke was trying to take off from us and he didn't get off the ground, he just went off the end of the runway and blew up, so I said I was always happy once we'd got off the ground.