Posts Tagged ‘Bomber Command’

Bomber Command Memorial

March 19, 2017

Bomber Command Memorial, at the top of Canwick Hill, overlooks South Common, with stunning views across the Witham Valley, over Lincoln, and on a  clear day, as today, over the Trent Valley.

The site is quite eerie, consisting of a central spire, which represents two wings of a Lancaster Bomber, and concentric walls.

The spire and the walls are made of rusting iron, or maybe steel, I assume to represent Lincoln once the city of heavy industry, with foundries, sadly long gone, skilled jobs replaced by low paid temporary McShit jobs.

The spire, not apparent until close up, is hollow.

The walls, are covered in names, cut into the walls both sides, the names of airman who died during World War Two. I was told 56,000, though I did not count.

Not yet open to the public. Today was an Open Day. I was an invited guest.

Also on site and as yet unfinished International Bomber Command Centre and a wooden shed.

Inside the shed, a long table half way down one side, with half a dozen veterans signing books and limited edition prints and answering questions.

One end serving tea and coffee, the other end a few books for sale.

Signed limited edition prints of paintings by one of the veterans.

I was surprised by the number of people there.

Everything run by volunteers, all pleasant and helpful, with two exceptions.

A man thrust a bucket in my face and more or less demanded I put in some money. I had no money, I expected an empty site.

Whilst looking at one of the books, I was told they are for sale not for looking at. He then bragged to an associate that he worked in a charity shop where he tells customers that books are for sale not for looking at.

One thing is needed, and hopefully there will be, when the site is officially open, a way up from South Common, otherwise a long trek round.

There needs to be path and steps leading up from South Common to the Memorial. Then if on the Common, can walk up, or, if at the Memorial and a pleasant day can combine with a walk on the Common.

Children’s experience of the Bombing War

January 25, 2017

In the interwar years, the theory was, all out war, total war. Destroy the cities, destroy the factories, destroy the workers, kill the means of production, destroy morale and the will to go on.

Aerial bombing may have had impact on Arab tribes, possibly because the experience was alien to them

Off the scale was kill millions, wipe out the cities.

Whilst this may be possible today, with the exception of Guernica, which even horrifies today, and Dresden, it was not possible.

Analysis of aerial footage, showed only about five percent of the targets were hit, and from British experience, it was known it was possible to recover very quickly, even when factories were damaged.

Each bomber produced had on average a lifetime of fourteen operational sorties. How best to make use of limited resources?

It was decided to change tack, destroy the housing, an easier target to hit. If the workers had nowhere to live, they would be demoralised.

But again, what basis was there for this?

It was decided to carry out a survey of children, what was their experience of bombing, the 1942 British bombing survey.

Two cities were chosen, Birmingham and Hull. The children were asked to write essays, the essays were then analysed to see what understanding could be drawn from those essays.

The children aged 10 to 12 years old, were asked to write an essay What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Air Raids.

Mrs Ingram got an incendiary bomb in her back bedroom and my father and brother put it out.

…there was a little bang and my brother said that he would have to go out as it was a firebomb and he would have to put it out. While he was putting it out a bomb dropped and blew him inside the shelter again.

When we got into the house there wasn’t half a mess. I started to tidy up and then I lighted [sic] the fire and made my mother and the two other children a nice hot cup of tea.

I was glad that I could do something to help, for there was a lady who came into our shelter who was very frightened. She had a little child of one and a half years. The lady was trembling, I took the little baby, and every time a bomb came down I threw a pillow over myself and the little girl, who was called Sheila. She kept crying but at last I hushed her to sleep.

What these essays showed was the children were coping, the families were coping. They show  the normality, life went on, a bomb may have dropped, put it right with a nice cup of tea.

Dad may be working during the day, on fire watch at night. If injured, he came home, was patched up by Mum and went straight back out again.

Brother helped put out the fires.

Mum looked after the household possessions, tidied and cleaned up the house after a bombing raid.

Sister helped Mum keep order, looked after the little ones, made a nice hot cup of tea.

They coped.

They saw after the initial horror of the bombing raids, the city was not destroyed, they could cope, life went, you kept on smiling. You may be afraid, but that was normal to be afraid.

If the intention was to reduce productivity capacity, or destroy morale, it failed.

This then questioned the effectiveness of bombing German cities.

It also raises question of why the policy of evacuating children from the cities to the countryside.  No only were they able to cope, they actually provided a support mechanism for the family.

And we know, when children were evacuated, they very quickly returned home.

A fatalistic attitude, if we are going to die, we may as well all die together.

We see this today in Syria. Assad does not control the countryside. The only way he controls the cities is by reducing to rubble.

And Assad does not cow the people. When they are finally forced to leave, they are still defiant, the children are defiant. The children even go on-line and record their experiences to let the world know.

The only main difference between Syria and WWII, is that WWII, very clearly defined roles between men and women, whereas in the north of Syria there are very effective Kurdish all-women fighting units.

A future research project, ask the children from  Aleppo to write an essay  What Happened to Me and What I Did in the Bombing Raids.

An excellent talk by Dr James Greenhalgh, senior lecturer, at University of Lincoln Riseholme Campus.

Dr James Greenhalgh is author of a forthcoming book on this topic.

Filming of documentary on bombing raid

December 30, 2016

Filming of a documentary of a World War Two Bomber Command bombing raid from the viewpoint of a Lancaster crew.

Interviews with veterans, film footage of raid.

The film, title not yet known, may be crowdfunded, possible available as DVD and streamed on vimeo.

A taster will be posted on vimeo and youtube.

Filmmaker Andrew Panton.

Canadian Lancaster VERA lands at RAF Coningsby

August 9, 2014
VERA coming in to land

VERA coming in to land

Lancaster VERA coming in to land

Lancaster VERA coming in to land

Lancaster of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight standing in the rain

Lancaster of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight standing in the rain

Squadron Leader Paula Willmot braves the rain

Squadron Leader Paula Willmot braves the rain

two Lancasters

two Lancasters

two Lancasters

two Lancasters

two Lancasters

two Lancasters

Lancaster VERA

Lancaster VERA

Harry Parkins Bomber Command veteran of 39 ops

Harry Parkins Bomber Command veteran of 39 ops

Lancaster of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

Lancaster of Battle of Britain Memorial Flight

flight crew chatting to crowds at perimeter fence

flight crew chatting to crowds at perimeter fence

flight crew and veteran before Lancaster VERA

flight crew and veteran before Lancaster VERA

Still hard to believe what happened today. — Matthew Munson

Starting to set in what we actually achieved bringing the Lancaster to the UK. An amazing experience, will never happen again. — Matthew Munson

Lunchtime yesterday, a Canadian Avro Lancaster touched down at RAF Coningsby. It is only one of two flight-worthy Lancasters, the other is based at RAF Coninsgsby, part of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. There is also based at Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre a Lancaster that can taxi, but not fly.

There had been weeks of lovely, warm, sunny weather. Yesterday it tipped it down, but that did not dampen the spirits of those there, invited guests, guests of honour being veterans from World War Two Bomber Command. There were also crowds gathered outside hoping to catch a glimpse.

There was due to be a fly past over Lincoln of the two aircraft, but this had to be cancelled due to poor visibility.

Harry Parkins, Bomber Command veteran of 39 ops:

I had a super time with the Air Vice Marshal’s wife taking me under her wing and introducing me to all the Press and TV who were asking questions and taking photos. The Air Vice Marshal’s wife was a Squadron Leader and said I had so many interesting stories that she would try and get me to go to one of their officers dinners.

From Lincolnshire Echo:

Lancaster veteran Harry Parkins, who is 89, and lives in Trafalgar Court in Washingborough, was absolutely delighted to be at RAF Coningsby today to welcome the Canadian Lancaster.

Mr Parkins, who is 90 in October, is a former salesman who went on to manage an electrical wholesaler.

He flew 36 missions as a flight engineer with 630 Squadron at East Kirkby and three missions with 576 Squadron from Fiskerton.

He said: “It is an amazing day. It brings back memories and I still go back to East Kirkby when I can because I don’t have to pay now.

“When I joined up with the first Lancaster unit, I had no experience in the aircraft because I trained on Stirlings.

“We never thought of the danger, you just knew for some reason that you would get back.

“It was exciting except when you were caught in the German searchlights, which we were over Stuttgart, but the pilot did a corkscrew manoeuvre and got us out of it.

“It is an honour to be here, especially as I served with crewmen from New Zealand and Australia.

“Now I am the only one left it is great to welcome the Canadians over here.”

Mr Parkins explained how he survived a mid-air collision over East Kirkby in 1943 as his aircraft was coming into land another Lancaster flew in below and took off a wheel.

“We all survived because we landed ok but the other aircraft crashed and exploded and all the crew were lost.”

Lancaster VERA was from Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, which is organising the $750,000 six-week trip to Lincolnshire. They were amazed at the level of interest their trip has generated.

Lancaster VERA flew to Goose Green, then to Iceland, then to arrive RAF Coningsby Friday lunchtime. A remarkable achievement, probably never to be undertaken again.

Pictures are mainly from Lincolnshire Echo. Tweets as shown.

A Second World War Avro Lancaster flies across the Atlantic, which was more than the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lighting was able to do for the Farnborough Airshow.

Guest of honour at RAF Strike Command High Wycombe

January 10, 2012
Officer's Mess laid for Bomber Command Dinner

Officer's Mess laid for Bomber Command Dinner

Group Captain Adrian Hill did me the honour by not only extending an invitation but also taking me to RAF High Wycombe to attend as a guest at the Bomber Command Dinner night on 10 June 2010. This was the RAF headquarters of Bomber Command when Sir Arthur Harris BT CCB OBE was Chief of Bomber Command and I served under him as a Flight Engineer on Avro Lancasters at RAF East Kirkby in Lincolnshire.

Adrian picked me up from home, his wife had kindly supplied us with sandwiches, home-made quiche and a drink which we enjoyed on the way during a stop on the Watford bypass.

We arrived at High Wycombe three hours later.

On arrival Adrian showed me my room, a pleasant comfortable room next to the Officer’s Mess, and said he would pick me up at 6-30 for drinks, then we would get dressed for dinner in the Officer’s Mess.

I took the opportunity to have a wander round.

At the entrance I found three busts: Sgt John Hannah VC, Acting Flight Lieutenant Roderick Alistair Learoyd VC and Acting Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC DSO DFC. By the side was a beautiful Grandfather Clock.

I looked into the Officer’s Mess which was being laid for dinner. Hanging from the ceiling magnificent chandeliers.

A lady stopped me. I assumed she was one of the waitresses.

To my surprise she said: You are Warrant Officer Harry Parkins, and I know all about your war record on Lancaster bombers.

Somewhat stunned, I asked her how did she know?

She shook my hand and introduced herself as Squadron Leader Natalie Beck, RAF Intelligence. Then putting her finger to her nose and laughing said that’s why I am in RAF Intelligence.

We had a brief chat about my war-time experience and she told me she was helping out to get ready for this evening’s dinner.

I then continued to wander around the building, admiring the paintings and silverware and taking pictures.

As promised, Adrian Hill collected me at 6-30 for drinks outside the Mess and introduced me to some of his fellow officers, many of whom were high ranking officers. All were very friendly and wanted to know all about me, although they already seemed to know something about me.

I told them of how I met my wife Mavis on VE Day, of our two children and of our youngest son who sadly died of encephalitis at a young age, a viral infection of he brain.

Match Made at Stonebow

After several drinks, we went off to change for dinner. Once dressed, we were met at the entrance to the Mess by the Ensemble of the Central Band of the RAF with Adrian once again introducing me to high ranking officers.

The Mess was wonderful, the tables decorated with highly polished silver trophies. From the ceiling hung magnificent chandeliers.

I was seated with Adrian to my right, who kindly explained all the Mess traditions and procedures as the evening progressed. To my left was a delightful young lady, Flight Lieutenant Suzanne Atkins, who was excellent company.

The dinner, drinks and wines were based on a wartime menu, and all were excellent. In between each course, a high ranking officer gave a talk on three RAF VCs.

Flying Officer Leslie Manser VC
Acting Squadron Leader Ian Willoughby Bazalgette VC DFC
Group Captain Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, Baron Cheshire, VC, OM, DSO and Two Bars, DFC

The band played God Save the Queen whilst we stood for a toast with a full glass of Cockburns Fine Ruby Port.

Camp coffee came with Bomber Command special mints with the Lancaster printed on the wrappers.

I kept my table napkin, in fact I did not use it. It was folded and decorated to look like an RAF jacket.

Air Vice Marshall Kurth then got up and announced we have an interesting guest here this evening. I looked around, thinking maybe a member of the Royal family had just arrived. He continued, the name is Warrant Officer retired Flight Engineer Harry Parkins. This was his introduction to a speech on my war record: 39 operations, mid-air collision in a Lancaster and a crash landing in a Sterling. He then went on to say that I held the record for the longest duration bombing raid in a Lancaster, flying from East Kirkby in Lincolnshire via Italy to fool the Germans, then up to Munich, then back to Lincolnshire, a bombing raid of 10 hours 25 minutes.

Mid Air Survival
The Longest Lancaster Operation – 10 Hours 25 Minutes

The room went quiet. Then 180 officers stood and gave me a standing ovation of around two minutes.

I did not know what to do or say as it was not expected and I was too moved to say anything. I simply said it was a fine tribute to my great British, New Zealand and Australian crew.

It was then time to retire to the bar. More drinks and many questions from the friendly high ranking officers.

By 2am in the early hours of the morning I was well and truly ready for bed but Adrian called me over and held up a glass of champagne from Flight Lieutenant Atkins, with a word of congratulations.

It was a fantastic night that Adrian had arranged for me. I felt like someone famous, just for doing what we had been trained to do for our country. I would like to give thanks to all the friendly officers I met, whose names I cannot remember, but here is a few:

Air Marshall S Bryant CBE MA BA
Wing Commander Steve Dharamraj
Squadron Leader Natalie Beck
Air Vice Marshal Kurth
Flight Lieutenant Suzanne Atkins (who gave me a card with a lovely letter)

Next morning, a full breakfast with Adrian and few of his fellow officers A wander around the gardens. Then at 1230 a good lunch ready for the drive home.

A very special thanks to Group Captain Adrian Hill for arranging everything and for such a wonderful two days.

– 1891679 W/O Harry Parkins retired