- Contributed by
- Peoples War Team in the East Midlands
- People in story:
- Len Parker
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 20 June 2005
"This story was submitted to the site by the BBC's Peoples War Team in the East Midlands with Len Parkers permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions"
I volunteered for RAFVR in April 1941 (aircrew was the only option as I was in a reserved occupation). Went to Birmingham within a few weeks for assessment. Received my call up to Padgate in August, initially training until November.
I was posted to technical training but had pneumonia and so had 10 weeks in Princess Mary’s RAF hospital Halton, Buckinghamsghire. I returned to my training course but was taken off flying due to the condition of my lungs. On completing the course I was posted to Shawberry in Gloucestershire where I joined No11 PAFU as a mechanic. In September I was posted to 107 sqdn Massingham, Norfolk as a re-equipt medium bomber. I completed a fitters course and stayed with them until demobbed in 1946.
We operated from Massingham where we converted to mosquitoes. We then spent 8 months under canvas before returned back to base where after four days embarkation leave we flew to Northern France. in August 1944.
The task of the air crew was to harass the enemy by shooting at or bombing anything that moved at anytime of the day or night. This worked very well until January/February when we were completely snowed up for quite a long spell. We were kept very busy snow clearing but it was to no avail as the aircraft were grounded, the snow having turned to ice. After a few days on this we had a visit by German jet planes one late evening and they staffed the building with guns and cannon. This was followed by the drafting of enemy agents on paratroops just after midnight. Many of my friends who were in billets sited away from the main buildings, were called out at 2am and when armed searched the area. Apart from seeing where they had landed more were captured.
The following day I had a pass out to go to the village for some red wine which we warmed and added sugar to help keep warm. On returning along with some RASC (Army Signals Corps) we were under fire and had to dive in a ditch at the side of the road. We had no idea who were responsible or where the shots were coming from. I was armed with a rifle but no ammunition, the army lads must have been the same because they never offered to retaliate. This lasted quite a number of minutes, although I couldn’t guess how long and we were penned down just outside a walled cemetery which some wit considered convenient for the moppers up,
When I did eventually report to the squadron two RAF regiment scout cars were sent out but I never found out whether anyone had been found.
This all happened when the Germans had broken through the American front line and were reported to be about 20/25 miles from our barracks — it was part of the battle of the bulge.
We had been told that in the event of the enemy getting much closer, we would evacuate the air crews and any aircraft on the ground would have to be destroyed (as it was there were 3 squadrons involved of which each had approximately 25 aircraft)
No one knew what our role was to be in the event of the worst happening. It happened that the Germans were out of fuel and the initiative was lost by them.
We stayed at base until the war ceased . On VE day I went out with three colleagues as soon as we were stood down and we hitched a lift from an American lorry driver who took us to the town of Carbrai, this was just in the American section about 5 miles away.
The American red cross club ( a large hotel ) was open to us and we were made very welcome with bottles of champagne on the tables and left to help ourselves. The entertainment was good and we enjoyed the experience. However at about 845ish it was announced that curfew was near and we had to be away by 9pm.
I have no recollection of further events and once outside I went out like a light as I went into the air— I had no further interest in anything for the one and only time in my life.
On coming round in Cambrai gaol, feeling like nothing on earth and drifting in and out of unconsciousness on a long bench with two of my colleagues in a similar state, made for a very uncomfortable night.
The following morning we were handed over to an RAF driver who had been sent to take the three of us back to face the music. We were escorted by an officer who I am sure could see the funny side of having three very sorry for themselves airmen, the outcome of this I am in much doubt as to what happened.
The forth member of our group was a corporal who when we were being dumped on the wagon going to goal by the US police, offered resistance and finished up in hospital.
In June that year I was told by a lady friend that she knew a friend who had served in the RAF in Germany. After a few more enquiries from both of us , Joe Peel and I were introduced for the first time since I was demobbed and yet we lived less than one mile from each other since then.
Joe joined 107 squadron shortly before I did, we were both engine fitters, but he worked on the flights and I was always in maintenance.
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