Recollections of Harry Parkins of the crew of K for Kitty, a mixed commonwealth crew of an Avro Lancaster in 630 Squadron based at RAF East Kirkby during World War II.
Typical of many of the crew of the time, K for Kitty was a mixed commonwealth crew.
We were a super crew, great comrades, one for all and all for one, and all a bit crazy.
The crew carried out 34 wartime operations.
Harry Parkins, known to his crew as 'Ackney Arry', the youngest crew member, was flight engineer. He joined the RAF after walking to work one day and finding his place of work destroyed in a bombing raid.
After ground training and passing tests, Flight Engineers were given their half wings and Sergeant's tags to sew on, then sent to a conversion unit to join twin-engine crews who would pick up their seventh crew member an Engineer to train on four-engined bombers, ours being the Sterling.
The crews were really comrades bonded together with lots of flying hours to their credit, so to pick an engineer with none, was rather daunting for them.
I decided to volunteer with other crews already doing training and managed to get in 20 hours before going into the Sergeant's Mess to be picked out. This was when I first met Joe Pollard. He heard me talking and came up to me, said 'Hello', and asked me where I was from as he thought I sounded a bit like an Australian.
I replied I was from Hackney in London, a true-born Cockney and my name's Harry. He shook my hand and asked if I had done any flying. When I replied 20 hours, he said I must meet the crew.
He introduced me as Ackney Arry and after he had showed them my log book as proof of my 20 hours flying they said welcome to the crew and have a pint of black and tan.
I said I did not drink. Then Joe offered me a cigarette. And when I said I did not smoke neither, he asked me what did I do on a Sunday and they all laughed and shook my hand.
Joe went to the bar and ordered seven pints of black and tan to celebrate and said if I did not drink it all up I'd be chucked out before I started.
That was my first pint at the age of nineteen, with many more to follow.
Joe had a good sense of humour, despite having what we all regarded as the most dangerous job as 'tail end Charlie'. He loved music and was always singing with Jimmy Hurman and tapping his hands as though beating a drum.
The crew loved playing shoot pontoon.
Joe would, if he didn't like the barman, fill a glass with water, put a beer mat on top, turn it upside down on the bar, then slide the beer mat out. When the barman picked up the glass, water would shoot all over the place.
I was the youngest, and Joe the next.
A friendly chubby chap, always kept a friendly fatherly eye on the two youngest crew members, Harry Parkins and Joe Pollard, and would do anything to help us out.
He regularly got food parcels from back home, cakes, cigarettes, chocolate, which he was only too happy to share with the rest of the crew.
Known as bluey on account of his red hair.
Excellent at his job and very skillful in the air, especially when we were converted to Lancasters.
He was a dairy farmer, and until he was made up to Pilot Officer and drank in the Officer's Mess rather than the Sergeant's Mess, we all went out drinking together.
When our tour of ops was finished Joe was awarded the DFC for crew co-operation, although the crew thought this a little unfair.
A tall young man, a racehorse owner. He had an eye for the girls, with a favourite saying 'she's got her good points'.
He had a habit of keeping his collar turned up, for which he was always being reprimanded, especially when on parade.
He loved popular music and loved smoking when on the aircraft where it was strictly forbidden.
Once on ops he broke his radio at 19,000 feet through smoking and lack of oxygen. He had taken his mask off to have a quick smoke. Luckily I was at hand and gave him an oxygen bottle. When he came round he wanted to know who had broken his radio!
Joe was a bookmaker and loved betting, even on silly little things, like when fly settled on a dart board, who could pin it down.
He would pin a picture of Hitler on the dart board and take bets on who would put the darts in his eyes.
The former RAF East Kirkby in Lincolnshire, is now home to an air museum, Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre, run by two Lincolnshire farmers the Panton Brothers, whose prize exhibit is the Lancaster Bomber "Just Jane". Now fully restored, in memory of their brother who was killed on a Bomber Command mission. Just Jane has a taxi licence and makes frequent runs to the delight of visitors.
Synchronicity: Harry Parkins was musing on what had become of his crew, when out of the blue came an e-mail from John Pollard (son of the late Joe Pollard) with some information on the crew and giving thanks for what had so far been published as for years he had been trying to find more about the crew and his father's exploits. This page was written in response to the e-mail from John Pollard.