"Penang, this was a place which was considered to be so far out of range that they [the Japanese] still had their lights on."
Oh, dear me. I went to [No. ] 215 Squadron [Royal Air Force] and I did five trips with them and then I developed jaundice, or diabetes [sic, hepatitis]* I suppose we call it today. But it was just referred to as jaundice and that took me off [operations]. I was taken to hospital. I was sent in to hospital at Calcutta [India] and I was there in the hospital for about six weeks. Then I came out and went on sick leave and this enables me to date things very well because I went with a couple of other people who were sick or had been sick, recovering. And we went to Kashmir which was all very pleasant, but we were there on D-Day [the Allied Normandy landings], June the 6th, 1944. So that enables me to … because we didn’t know about it, we were on a houseboat, very leisurely, enjoying ourselves. And then I came back from that and went back to 215, still no crew members because I was an odd boy, having been sick.
Anyway, I came back to the squadron and, again, without doing any flying, we were reposted back to [No.] 159 Squadron [Royal Air Force]. Now why this was whether, I used to theorize perhaps 159 and said, well, we loaned you these people anyway and we now need them back; I don’t know. And so I came back to 159 and then my skipper, with whom I had gone, had almost finished his time by that time, but I had done a few trips with him after I got back. And then I was, just by chance I suppose, posted to fly with the wing commander [Wing Commander James Blackburn]. And he was a five tours man and I was with him on his 200th bomber operation, it was about my 29th or 30th or something. But he had done 200.
It was 19 hours and 15 minutes [long]: I did one trip with him, 19 hours and 15 minutes, which was incredible. Because, but he put in two bomb bay tanks [in a Consolidated B-24 Liberator] and so that cut down the bomb bay space but you know, you needed fuel to go there and back. This particular place was Penang [a state in Japanese-occupied Malaya; present-day Malaysia] and just back, they only did it twice or three times, I think once after I’d left the squadron. Penang, this was a place which was considered to be so far out of range that they still had their lights on. And they didn’t want them on after that but the result of this was, and this was a base there for U-boats and there were German U-boats and Japanese submarines. And they were, as a result of that, he [W/Cdr. Blackburn] was awarded an American DFC [Distinguished Flying Cross]. I’m told, I don’t know whether this is true, I’m told that the Americans, who were rather more liberal with their decorations than the RAF and the RCAF [Royal Canadian Air Force], wanted to give everybody who’d taken part in it a DFC and the RAF said, oh no, that wouldn’t do, except one for the CO [Commanding Officer] of the operation. And so that’s how he got a DSO [Distinguished Service Order] and Bar, a DFC and Bar and the American DFC.
* Mr. Drain is referring here to hepatitis.