Sadly the following members have died since publication of the last newsletter. We extend our deepest sympathy to their families and friends.
Mrs Joan Bright (nee Seymour)
V G Carpenter
Group Captain Maurice Fenner
Harold V Parkin
Mrs N Ray
Harry L Rogers DFC AFC
Q T Snow DFC
Mrs B V Stockley
Mrs O Armitage
The following extract is from a letter from Ms S Smith, notifying us of the death of her mother on 12th November 2014, at the age of 96.
My mum was a WAAF who served on balloons throughout the war, mainly in Lincolnshire and later in Newcastle. She always felt that balloon ops were often not as well-remembered as the Land Army girls. Working on balloons was gruelling, heavy work, working days and nights often in appalling weather conditions.
Despite the hardships and adversities of war, Mum had many tales to tell and would often say that they were some of the happiest times of her life. The happiness was also overcome with intense sadness and grief. Working on the air bases, she often recalled ‘young lads’ leaving on operations and not returning. They would count the planes out and in. Then it would be her job to empty lockers and pack up belongings to send to
She often talked about the young air crews from around the world, how they lived life to the maximum and made every moment count. Some names she could remember but others were lost to her, but she re-told the stories and kept their memories alive.
My mum was Olive Armitage, nee Winterbottom, hence her WAAF nickname ‘Frosty’. I think I have only just realised how important it was for her to keep these memories alive right up to her death. She was proud of herself and her peers and of those important times in their and our lives. Soon this generation will have gone and it will be left to us to remember.
Group Captain M D Fenner
Wg Cdr Maurice Fenner arrived at Waddington in July 1970 and formally took command of 44 Squadron on 19th July.
On the 16th he flew for the first time with Flt Lt Val Ventham and crew, with Wg Cdr Ted Bliss, the departing CO, as checking officer. After the sortie, the flight commanders, Sqn Ldrs John Laycock and Colin Lamont, met the aircraft in Alpha dispersal with a bottle of champagne. Toasts were drunk to the new and departing COs of 44 Sqn.
Wg Cdr Fenner joined the service in 1947 and graduated from Cranwell as an Equipment Officer in 1950. After a year, the call of the air led him to the Navigation School at Lindholme and, subsequently, to 101 Squadron and Canberras at Binbrook, where he
served until 1954. Then followed an exchange tour with the RAAF at Amberley on 2 Sqn, flying in Canberra B20s. The highlight of his tour in Australia was a blind date with Miss Australia!
At the end of his tour in 1956, he took ship for UK but, on approaching the Suez Canal, he found a ‘small fracas’ in progress and continued homeward via the Cape. And so, after a 5 week cruise, he finally arrived home to join the Valiant force. After serving on 90 and
7 Squadrons at Honington, promotion to squadron leader led to the Staff College at Bracknell in 1959.
After Staff College, Maurice was posted to the Air Ministry Department of Operational Requirements where he was probably best known for introducing the Bomb Release Safety Lock. Then followed a tour with 100 Squadron at Wittering on Victor B2 Blue Steel, and then on to Bomber Command Headquarters, where he worked on overseas reinforcements.
In 1967, now a Wing Commander, he was posted to the Directorate of Work Study until 1970 when he joined 44 Sqn. After his tour with 44 Sqn he was posted to No 1 Group HQ at Bawtry, gaining promotion to Group Captain.
Maurice was a very good cricketer and he had a lifetime interest in the game. He played some first class cricket for Kent between 1951-54 but mostly he played for a Combined Services team. On retirement from the RAF, he became the Secretary of Kent County Cricket Club.
Stan had a very happy childhood in Marske by the Sea, then a small village full of farms. He was always an outdoor type and played cricket and rugby for local teams. At Coatham School he shone at sports.
However, nothing mattered more to him in life than his career in the Royal Air Force. From Cranwell he was sent to Canada where he trained as a navigator and was commissioned. An early experience was a 3 month detachment to Christmas Island as part of the team observing the H Bomb tests. However, his years in the Royal Air Force on Vulcans eclipsed all previous experiences. He loved squadron life and being part of the V Force. His last tour was at SHAPE from 1983-85 and it was there that we had a memorable dining out night. During that tour we travelled extensively in France and Germany.
Stan was ever the sportsman, and relished his years as a cricketer, rugby player, squash player and enthusiastic golfer. On retirement, though he was a case worker for SSAFA for 5 years, a keen gardener, a walker and traveller, nothing ever compared to the comradeship and career that he enjoyed in the Royal Air Force.
Harold V Parkin
In early June 2015 I was deeply saddened to hear that former 44 Squadron Lancaster pilot Harold Parkin had passed away at the age of 97 years. Although the telephone conversation with his daughter Judith by which I learned the news was initially sad, talking of her father inevitably brought laughter to both of us; “You can’t possibly talk about Dad without laughter and joy” she remarked. Too true! So, with Judith’s approval, it seemed wholly appropriate to put a few memorable anecdotes down on paper to share with 44 Squadron Association.
Harold Parkin with John Chatterton
Fast forward to the Autumn of 1998; a link was forged that had been over fifty years in the making. The two drivers from the extremes of ND578 KM-Y(Yorker)’s operational continuum finally came into contact with one another. Harold Parkin, who had flown her last sortie, had witnessed the BBMF Lancaster PA474 at an airshow at RAF Leuchars whilst on holiday in Scotland during the summer of 1998. Late in the afternoon, he managed to wangle himself a tour inside the Lanc using the magic words “I used to fly these during the war”. Harold recalled the commentator on the public address system made reference to the name “Chatterton” in connection with PA474’s pilot, but this was erroneous as Flt Lt Mike Chatterton had left the flight by this time. But the name rang a bell and a letter soon winged its way to RAF Coningsby addressed to ‘Squadron Leader’ Chatterton (“A bit of unofficial promotion never does any harm!” laughed the letter’s author). The reply came, not from the BBMF, but from a farm at Low Toynton on the outskirts of Horncastle. It started an ongoing exchange of correspondence and photographs. “Isn’t it amazing”, remarked Harold, “how something can go out of your life only to return as strong as ever fifty-five years later? I had forgotten all about the Lanc. After the war we just got on with getting our normal lives back together. Seeing her at Leuchars set in train a remarkable sequence of events. My only regret is that it didn’t happen a lot sooner”.
On Easter Monday 1999, the historic meeting took place at the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre at East Kirkby between Harold Parkin and John Chatterton, the first and last skippers of Lancaster ND578, KM-Y. The rapport was instantaneous, and the duo barely paused for breath as tales were swapped and log-books examined and compared. Noting dates of Harold’s instructing role at Little Rissington, John commented, “To think that Harold Parkin might easily have been my instructor! And then he goes and takes over my Yorker!” And with more than a touch of mischievous relish John exclaimed: “He’s got a red endorsement!” when reaching the last page of the Parkin log-book. Harold was unapologetic: “It was only a little collision, John!”; but, as he knew full well, it could have resulted in a two week ‘visit’ to the Aircrew Refresher Centre at Sheffield – one occasion when he definitely would not have enjoyed a return to his home city.
Inevitably conversation turned to Yorker; John having flown her first operational sortie on 15th February 1944 and Harold her 121st (some sources say 123rd) and final on 17th April 1945. During that period the call-sign had changed from Y-Yorker to Y-Yoke. Harold revealed he had flown his first ‘Second Dickey’ trip with F/O Les Hayler, who had the honour of completing Yorker’s century of ops. In response to John’s question as to whether an old aeroplane was a lucky machine or had used up her luck allocation in actually surviving to become old, Harold was unequivocal: “Take it from me, she was a lucky aircraft and we (the crew) all knew it. I cannot recall any mechanical problem with her; she was mechanically perfect. Of course, the ground crew deserve all the credit for that. They were conscientious and very good at their jobs. They would have worked on her twenty-four hours a day if necessary”. A view wholly endorsed, repeatedly, by John Chatterton over the years. However, despite being accepted as a lucky machine, this did not prevent F/O Parkin’s navigator indulging in his own pre-flight routine - “He would
walk round the aircraft and point at and count the number of engines” said her skipper “then he would give each main wheel a good solid kick. He didn’t know why he did this when we asked him. But it was probably his personal good luck ritual”.
This ritual may have contributed to Yorker’s escape from being coned by searchlights with Harold Parkin in the driving seat: “It was like daylight in the searchlights. I felt like I was naked in Sheffield High Street; totally exposed with every available eye watching me. We eventually lost the lights after about twenty minutes. We did a lot of rolling and diving and corkscrewing which was very hard work. I reckon you could have swum in the amount of sweat that resulted from my exertions!” Later in 1999 Harold and John reconvened at East Kirkby. In a telephone conversation the previous week to confirm arrangements, Harold asked “Would it be alright if my mate came along too? He was a Flight Engineer.” An FE? Of course! Bring him along. It transpired that Harold’s ‘mate’ had served on 57 Squadron based at East Kirkby in the summer of ‘44! But that’s another (cracking) story for another newsletter…
This time, being mid-week, Harold and John were given access to the East Kirkby Lanc NX611 by Fred Panton. Making their way over the main spar into the cockpit, with considerably less agility than fifty-plus years earlier it must be said, John suggested Harold take the left-hand seat. “Can you remember the start-up procedure, Harold?” John enquired. In reply, Harold chanted the liturgy, “T M P F F G G H – Trim; Medium Supercharger Gear; Pitch; Fuel; Flaps; Gills; Gyro; Hydraulics… That all right, John? I haven’t done that in over fifty years. But then, I haven’t sat in the pilot’s seat for over fifty years either.” With that well-known mischievous glint in his eye, John suggested that to fly the Lancaster well, the pilot needed good, long, solid legs and a burly, muscular, Lincolnshire farm-boy physique. “So how did a little squirt like you throw one of these around?” he added with a barely concealed grin. Slowly Harold turned and looked John in the eye. Mustering all his dignity, Harold replied as casually as he could “I have a certain wiry strength, John!” The inevitable raucous but good-natured laughter reverberated throughout the Lancaster’s fuselage. Harold added that he weighed only eight pounds more now than his fighting weight when flying ops back in 1945.
Harold later flew Transport Command Stirlings before leaving the service and having a very lengthy and rewarding career in teaching. When he finally retired from teaching, Harold was solemnly presented in front of the whole school with an oversized Iron Cross made by an art teacher colleague. Why? Someone found out about the destruction of two Airspeed Oxfords, a Lancaster and a Harvard at his hands.
It has to be said that Harold was an inveterate talker – as he, himself, would be the first to admit. More than once he would comment that a meal “wasn’t really that warm” simply because he had been too busy chatting and not actually eating. He even missed a complimentary taxi ride at East Kirkby, despite repeated appeals over the PA for “Mr. Parkin; please make your way to the rear of Just Jane. Mr. Parkin…” because he was immersed in conversation. “I wasn’t even certain it was my name they were calling. And, anyway, it would have been rude to break off a conversation mid way…” And when artist Robin Smith produced his excellent study of Avro Lancaster ND578, Bombing Up Yorker, both Harold and John were invited to sign the limited edition prints, the artist found himself exasperated because for every print signed by Harold, a dozen acquired John’s signature. Politely and gently both John and Robin suggested that Harold should perhaps talk less and sign more. He laughed, shrugged his shoulders and picked up his pencil, adding “I do go a bit, but when you’re in good company it’s very easy to chat…” Sign the prints, Harold! No one laughed louder than he did at his tendency for verbosity.
It was a genuine pleasure and privilege to know Harold Parkin. He always said he never considered himself a hero for being a Lancaster skipper; “It was a job I felt I had to do. And I was very lucky to survive it, unlike all those poor souls who did not…” And in his mid-90’s, despite limited mobility and failing eyesight, Harold was present at the unveiling of the Bomber Command Memorial; “I simply could not NOT be there!” It would have been fitting had Harold Parkin reached his century too, but it was not to be. The fact that simply thinking of him induces a smile is testament enough to a quite remarkable man. He was very proud to be one of ‘Butch’ Harris’s Old Lags and of his service in No. 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, in particular. Anyone who was fortunate to know Harold Parkin should feel equally proud.
19 June 2015
In memory of a bomber station, June 1940
There is one corner of this Land
Of chalk-white cliff, and golden sand;
This green and wooded Isle of mine
Where rainbows end, unsettled clime;
And shady lanes where sunbeams dance,
This England, this inheritance …..
Where once I walked, and saw the Dawn
Break through the darkness, hope reborn;
And heard the rush of angels’ wings,
Where age was lost, and boys were kings.
And in this small but hallowed place,
I learned to keep a smiling face
When fear and pain had torn my heart,
And Joy and Love seemed far apart
From War and Strife and Toil and Woe
And lusty Hate for common foe.
I saw the blossoms on the rod,
I saw the very face of God …
And stark reality, and mud,
And grave, grim faces streaked with blood.
I know the comradeship of those
Who loved life fiercely, yet who chose
The harder way, and laughed at Death.
O Waddington, I’ll ne’er forget
You, Time has passed. I love you yet.
P M Helmore, November 1942