Horse Rustling 1943

We were laid off operations one night and the crew went off to Boston in Lincolnshire by bus. Boston was not far from East Kirkby where we were stationed with 630 Squadron.

After an hour or two trying to skate at the Glider Drome, which was very popular, we drifted off, drinking in a pub run by Johny Cuthbert, at the time a lightweight boxer. He had a very pretty daughter who helped out in the bar as a barmaid. When one of our crew, Bruce Reece, kept chatting to her and trying to get a date, and Johnny came over with his fists clenched, saying keep away from my daughter, we decided it was time to drink up and leave. We found another pub to continue our drinking and ended up the night much the worst for wear in a dance hall where they continued to serve drinks until midnight.

A couple of WAAFs were always on duty with trucks until11-30, to take back to camp any airman who missed the last bus and who might be flying the next night.

As expected, we missed all transport back to camp. Our pilot had left us earlier, so the six of us had to make our way back to camp on foot and we started walking home. Halfway along the road, as we were starting to sober up, our navigator Bruce Reece, who used to own racehorses, spotted a horse in a farmer's field. He nipped over the fence and brought the horse to the road.

We now had transport and we each took our turn riding the horse back to camp.

The horse was back at camp, feeding on the grass, when about three days later a policeman turned up, stating that whoever had stolen the horse would have been hung from the gallows in the old days.

We all owned up and he took our names, telling us that if we had not been shot down in the meantime, we would have to appear in court the next week.

Arriving in court before the Magistrate, we were asked if we had anything to say in our defence. We said yes. Our navigator Bruce Reece took over and gave such a speech of how he had come to England from New Zealand to help save Britain from the enemy and was flying on dangerous operations where he could be shot down and killed at anytime, and just because he had taken a horse so that he could get back to East Kirkby to carry on flying, he and us were now being charged. He declared it as most unfair. He carried on speaking in this manner for about half an hour. It must have had some effect as we were almost in tears. The Magistrate said he fully understood and sympathised with us, and he noted that the the farmer had got his horse back unharmed, but an offence had still been committed. He said he would therefore have to find us guilty, but that he would fine us the lowest silver coin of the realm, which at the time was the silver sixpence. He then let us go back to do our duty and to carry on the good work.

This little escapade was the talk of the town and camp for many days afterwards.

We returned to camp where we carried on with our normal operational bombing duties.

Our crew:

Lincolnshire ~ Harry Parkins ~ 630 Squadron ~ East Kirkby
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- January 2008 rev 0