Interview with Harry Fearns

Title

Interview with Harry Fearns

Description

Harry Fearns was born and lived in Barnsley South Yorkshire. He left school at 16 and joined the Prudential Insurance Company as a door to door premiums collector before joining the Royal Air Force in 1944 as a flight engineer. Following initial training at St John’s Wood London and Newquay, Harry completed his training at RAF Stormy Down and RAF St Athan. During training he worked on Lancaster Mk1 and Mk3 aircraft being modified to operate in the Far East, although the war ended before Harry joined an operational squadron. Harry was posted to No 230 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Lindholme in 1947 where his main recollection was clearing the runways of snow and ice during the very severe winter of 1946/7. From there he was posted to 100 Squadron at RAF Hemswell where he converted to Lincolns although he recalled a preference for the Lancaster. During 1947 the squadron carried out a number of night and daytime exercises, live firing and bombing range practices. After a short period with 97 Squadron, Harry was demobbed late in 1947 and returned to The Prudential Insurance Company before commencing a career in local housing.

Creator

Date

2017-07-24

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:59:54 audio recording

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Identifier

AFearnsH170724, PFearnsH1701

Transcription

BW: This is Brian Wright interviewing Sergeant Harry Fearns at 2.15 on Monday 24th of July 2017 at his home near Bury, Greater Manchester. Also with us is his daughter, Gillian Bailey. Harry, if I can start off with some straightforward questions for you, please. Can you tell me your date of birth, where you, and where you were born?
HF: Date of birth was 24 1 25.
BW: 24th of January 1925.
HF: Correct.
BW: And how many were there in your family? Did you have any brothers and sisters?
HF: Yes. There were six of us.
BW: How many brothers and sisters did you have in —?
HF: Well, I’ll start at, I was the eldest. There was Harry, Gordon, Joyce, Margaret. Was that my six? That sounds about right.
BW: That’s four.
HF: Four.
BW: There were two more.
HF: Oh.
GB: John. Brother, John.
HF: Oh yes, John.
GB: And Kathleen.
HF: And Kathleen.
BW: And what was, what was family life like? Where were you growing up at this time? Were you in Bury or were you, were you born elsewhere in the country?
HF: No. I was born in South Yorkshire.
BW: Ok. Whereabouts in South Yorkshire.
HF: In a little house [unclear] Barnsley.
BW: Barnsley. Ok.
HF: West Middleton, near Rotherham. But we always talked about Barnsley being the leading place not, not Rotherham.
BW: So, you were close to Barnsley.
HF: Yes.
BW: And where did you go to school?
HF: Wath on Dearne Grammar School.
BW: How do you —
HF: Wath upon, U P O N
BW: Wath upon —
HF: Wath. Separate word, upon. Upon.
BW: Wath upen?
HF: Dearne.
GB: Wath upon Dearne. So, it’s W A T H —
HF: D E A R.
GB: Upon-D E A R N E.
BW: Right. I haven’t heard of that. That’s [pause] Wath upon Dearne.
HF: Nice little place.
BW: Was it a bit of a village?
HF: It was a mining village really.
BW: And what did your dad do? Was he a miner?
HF: A miner.
BW: What about your mum?
HF: Too busy with the family to have any work.
BW: So, your dad was the worker and your mum looked after the rest of you.
HF: That’s it.
BW: And what was, what was your school like?
HF: Well, for the year, typical Wath, typical Grammar School.
BW: So, you went to a Grammar School then.
HF: Yes.
BW: And what age did you leave? You would be fourteen? Or was it after that?
HF: Sixteen. I left and I went to work for the Prudential Insurance Company. At the same time I applied to be in the RAF and of course that was about [pause] 1944. So, obviously that was during the war years.
BW: And what prompted you to join the RAF?
HF: I really wanted. I don’t know how I’d describe it.
GB: But you told me you’d always wanted to fly.
HF: Well, yes. That could be summed up.
BW: And did you want to be a pilot or a navigator or did you want to be say a gunner or or other crew member?
HF: Well, like those in reduced order.
BW: Ok.
HF: Pilot first. Navigator second. Engineer. Then a navigator err air gunner.
BW: And when you went for the interviews did you tell them that you wanted to be a pilot? What happened?
HF: Oh yeah.
BW: What happened so that you, you ended up as flight engineer?
HF: I think what one can say is that they’d got enough at that time. They hadn’t lost enough, putting it crudely. So, it depended what was available when we were called for to be signed on.
BW: So, you were working for Prudential Insurance at this time. Were you? What sort of position were you in the, in the company?
HF: Just a rent collector. Well, not so much rent. A collector of premiums.
BW: And the war had been going on a few years at this point can you recall at that time did it feel like it was coming to an end or that it was going to continue longer than it did?
HF: We thought it was coming to an end. Thought we were helping. All the flying and the fighting. Not that I did any fighting but [laughs]
BW: Did you join up with any friends?
HF: Not exactly friends but certainly some of my old, my pals went around about the same time.
BW: And you’d had an ambition to fly. What [pause] I’m trying to understand whether you and your friends perhaps wanted to get some action before you joined up or whether it was more that you’d heard a lot of the RAF and what it was doing.
HF: I think it’s the latter. You know, we just wanted to fly. We didn’t particularly want to shoot any guns or —
BW: And where, where did you start your training? Do you remember?
HF: St Johns Wood, London.
BW: And what was it like? Was it what you expected it to be?
HF: I thought it was great. We used to march from [pause] I’ve just forgotten the the place where we were sleeping. Something Court. And we used to have PT and exercises early in the morning. Then we did some studies. You might do an hour navigation, an hour generally but have to early on [pause] what was I about to say? [pause] Yeah. We moved on some of our exercises. We went in to Lord’s Cricket Ground. Marching up and down at Lords and doing sort of [pause] after about two months of that they farmed us out and in my particular case was to an aircrew training establishment at Newquay, Cornwall. Have you come across it?
BW: That’s quite a way away.
HF: It was.
BW: From London. It’s a good —
HF: Yeah.
BW: Hundred miles.
HF: But they needed, afterwards you realised they were, that near the end of the war they wanted to get rid of at least accommodation belonging to private people, I suppose. And as soon as they could get rid of the larger establishments then they got rid of places like Newquay. For example, the one after that we went to was Stormy Down in Glamorgan. Porthcawl. That’s the place it was near.
BW: Porthcawl.
HF: Yeah.
BW: It’s a lot easier to get from Newquay to Porthcawl then it is from Newquay to London.
HF: Yeah. Yeah. I read that.
BW: And so you were going through your basic training at this stage.
HF: Yes. This time.
BW: Whereabouts did you do your engineering training? Was that at Stormy Down?
HF: No. St Athan School of Technical Training. Massive place.
BW: Do you recall how long you were there?
HF: No. I would have thought it was about an hour err an hour, a year because they kept stopping as they found out, presumably found out that there were staff they didn’t need they moved them on. On to the next stage and the facilities would be left for some chaps behind. They would spend most of their time playing football.
BW: And so you were training at St Athan. It says, is it Number 4 School of Technical Training? Or trade training.
HF: Something like that. Is it on there.
BW: Yeah. It’s there.
HF: Oh, it’s there [laughs]
BW: And according to your logbook you got sixty five point two percent.
HF: Yeah.
BW: And you trained on Lancaster 1s and Mark 3s.
HF: Yes.
BW: Were they 1s or was that a type of aircraft that you selected to train on or were you —
HF: Oh no.
BW: Directed on to —
HF: You will go.
BW: And how did you feel about that? Being put on Lancasters.
HF: Perhaps relieved that we were not a gunner. An air gunner. It was interesting at the time.
BW: And it looks from your time of joining up to the time of finishing the course at St Athan that the war had actually ended during that time.
HF: That’s about right. Yes.
BW: What can you recall of that? That time? Were there, did you still feel like there was a role for you now that the war had ended or did you feel a bit surplus perhaps?
HF: No. I think we, it’s better to be moved to the southeast and fighting the Japs there. And the aircraft you saw were different to the two colour system. They were, and they had an idea was to give them some protection from other aircraft. Other aircraft attacking you. So, in fact the aircraft that you showed was the Lancaster 1 FE, Far East.
BW: And so it, was it a particular type or version of the Mark 1 that was dedicated for Far East service? Is that why it was called a Lancaster 1FE?
HF: Not really it was just, it was planes they took into the hangars and made adaptations. I couldn’t remember exactly which they gave us. Except obviously, the F, the FE bit.
BW: So, you left St Athan and I think you went to an OCU. An Operational Conversion Unit. And that was 230 OCU at Lindholme.
HF: Ah, yes. Yeah.
BW: And it, it shows from your logbook you starting there in 1947. What do you recall of Lindholme at that time?
HF: Typical Bomber Command plane. [pause] And we kept on doing the same job and by then for a time passed to Lindholme which was virtually mixed in next door to Finningley. And Lindholme, my main recollection of Lindholme was in nineteen, February I think it is, ’47 and the big freeze. We spent loads of time with shovels getting the ice and snow off the runways.
BW: So [laughs] so you joined up to fly and there you were on the runway.
HF: That’s it.
BW: With your spade.
HF: Yeah.
BW: Shovelling snow. At these OCUs it was common for the different trades to get together and form a crew. Can you recall how that happened for you? How you met your other crew mates?
HF: I can remember it. I remember it plain as anything. That we all went in a hangar and they called out, you know, ‘Joe. Joe Smith.’ These, they’d be the skippers, pilots would be called in and they’d say, ‘Right. Pick your navigator. Pick your engineer.’ And eventually build the crew.
BW: So, it sounds fairly similar to what they were doing actually in the war years. Putting them in a hangar and telling them to sort themselves out.
HF: Yeah.
BW: So, you wouldn’t necessarily, did you meet your pilot first or did you meet other crew mates first and then decide which pilot you wanted? Or did the pilot kind of choose you? Or —
HF: I can’t remember whether I was selected or what was left sort of thing.
BW: And what can you recall of your crew mates?
HF: I can’t explain really. Didn’t see a lot of one another except when we were flying.
BW: Were you not billeted together as a crew?
HF: Subject to rank, yes.
BW: So were you all NCOs or was one of —
HF: Well, no. One —
BW: One or two officers.
HF: What did you call him? Leicester? Register. Mike Register. I remember him. He definitely, he got in to the officer’s mess. And we, in other words the sergeants and flight sergeants we’d go in the NCOs mess.
BW: Do you remember how many of you were? Were NCOs? Was there only one officer? Was, was he the pilot? Presumably he was the pilot.
HF: He was. Mike Register.
BW: Yeah.
HF: And the navigator. Scott somebody. I can’t remember his name. He might be in here somewhere.
BW: And did you keep, when you were billeted were you billeted as NCOs or were you in some cases they were by trade. So the gunners would be kept together and so on but that doesn’t seem to have happened with you.
HF: No. It didn’t.
BW: So, you were all mixed trades but still in the NCOs—
HF: Yes.
BW: In the NCOs mess. From your logbook when you were on the OCU do you remember any sorties at that particular time? Any incidents during your, sort of training together?
[pause]
HF: No. I can’t.
BW: Ok. You moved from there I think, to 100 Squadron.
HF: Was that at Hemswell, as well?
BW: And they were as I think you say at Hemswell. But you converted when you joined the squadron. You converted to Lincolns.
HF: Yeah. Well —
BW: Instead of the Lancasters.
HF: Yes.
BW: Can you recall what —
HF: The passage of time. The Lincoln was a bit bigger.
BW: How would you compare it to a Lancaster? Did you have a favourite between the two?
HF: Oh yes. The old Lanc couldn’t be beaten in that respect.
BW: And how did the Lincoln differ from an engineer’s point of view?
HF: It seemed altogether quite efficient. Difficult to explain what it might be for the rest, all the crew and the different engines and things like that. But we had fewer, fewer mistakes. We didn’t have any crashes which was a surprise really.
BW: But having flown Lincolns you preferred the Lancasters still.
HF: Definitely.
BW: Did you notice any particular difference between the Mark 1 and the Mark 3 at all?
HF: 3.
BW: Was there anything notable?
[pause]
HF: No. All I think it was was a larger engine.
BW: And when it came to you actually preparing to carry out a sortie what would you as a flight engineer be doing? Can you recall what kind of things? What kind of steps you would be taking to prepare yourself and then carry out the sortie?
[pause]
HF: You’d check that the, the aircraft site you’d got, that they’d allocated to you, you’d be like, you’d like it so that that to be one as it were you had flown before but nevertheless you used to go out to the [pause] I’ve forgotten the name of the place where the planes were dumped.
BW: Dispersal.
HF: Dispersal. Thank you [laughs] You’d go out to your dispersal and as it were meet your aircraft. See this chief of the engineers. Yeah. And sort yourself with any, any problems there might be. And equally, the engineer would keep an eye on me as a flight engineer often looking down on them because they thought that the flyers were having an easy time.
BW: So even though you were perhaps taking more of a risk as air crew because you would be awarded flying pay in your, in your salary the engineers on the ground still looked down at you because you were not seen perhaps as proper engineers.
HF: Certainly, the chief engineers felt that.
BW: Had any of them flown do you know? Had any of the chief engineers been aircrew at all and then taken a ground job?
HF: No.
BW: So, they didn’t really know what risks you were taking then.
HF: Well, the stories one hears.
BW: You mentioned just before that when you were allocated an aircraft you always hoped to get one that you had flown before and it seems from from that and from your logbook you didn’t have a regular aircraft that you were allocated. Was there a favourite one or a particular one that you felt more comfortable with or was better for you and why would that be?
HF: Well, in a way they would all be the same because for example, you were coming up in the size of the Lincoln 1FE then what are the chances all of you would be on the higher plane? So, they were not all the same.
BW: At 100 Squadron there had been four or five Lancasters on the squadrons books that had flown over a hundred missions in the war. Were they still there at the time do you recall or had they been retired by that point?
HF: I don’t know. I can’t remember that.
BW: Were there any aircraft still there that had maybe war markings on them? Say the number of bomb sorties that they’d, you know sort of, bomb symbols to indicate the number of missions.
HF: They had. They had. I remember one or two like that but I can’t remember which they are.
BW: Did you try and avoid those at all?
HF: No [laughs] Well, the fighting was over then so we relaxed in some ways.
BW: So, you’ve been driven out to dispersal and you’ve had a look around the aircraft and a hand over’s taken place. Can you remember what you would then be doing as flight engineer once you get in the aircraft and you’re walking up or clambering over the main spar to get up to the flight engineer’s position? What kind of things would be on your list to do?
HF: Well, you get to know the aircraft which you know you probably hadn’t seen all that much in spite of the training.
GB: But did you have little checks that you had to do like checking dials or levers?
HF: Oh yes. That, by it’s —
GB: What would you have to do?
HF: Well, first of all you’d walk around the aircraft from the outside and check all the places that you can get at. When you’d done that you go inside the aircraft and check the things that were the responsibility of the engineer. For example, you wouldn’t interfere with the navigator and he wouldn’t interfere with your job. Should be. And once they were satisfied that the aircraft was serviceable then off you’d go on some exercise.
GB: Did you have to write anything down though? As a flight engineer did you have to check certain things and say yes that’s safe. Yes, that’s, did you have anything like that?
HF: Yeah. We did to some extent.
GB: And so what —
HF: I can’t remember them though [pause]
GB: Yeah.
BW: The flight engineer’s position in a Lancaster you’re almost off the, just off the right shoulder of the, of the pilot.
HF: Yeah.
BW: Was that any different in the Lincoln?
HF: No. No.
BW: So, you were in the same position whichever aircraft you flew and —
HF: Yes, I’d been certainly.
BW: And can you recall what you would be doing? Would you have to help the pilot during take-off or anything like that?
HF: Yes.
BW: What would you do?
HF: You’d be, bear in mind this is an aircraft, quite a largish one to us then and we’d got to get it flying. So you’re checking with the pilot on all his checks as well. Calling back to one another until you got ready for flying. In the meantime, we taxied out to the edge of the airport and off you go. Then the navigator would to some extent take over to put down where you were going to go to and see some of these on here.
BW: And there’s a mix in your logbook of day sorties and night sorties as well. And even on your first one I think air to sea firing on the first —
HF: Yes.
BW: Sortie there. So presumably you were out over the North Sea.
HF: Yes. Yes.
BW: And what were your night time sorties like?
HF: Boring [pause] We just had to do our exercise which probably lasted five hours or something like that. These long exercises were in many ways more interesting than the short ones.
BW: And you’d still be carrying out fighter affiliation or bombing exercises even though the war had finished.
HF: Yes.
BW: Did they brief you as to what your sort of longer term role was? Bearing in mind that Germany had been defeated and by this stage, 1947 the war with Japan had long been over as well. Did they, although you are still carrying out, let’s say typical training sorties that were appropriate to wartime did they give, did you get a sense of what your purpose was in the immediate post-war years? What your role was?
HF: I’ve no recollection of that. We were doing odd jobs back at Hemswell and Scampton hoping one day we’d go somewhere interesting. But what happened is that a high percentage of the blokes who had done their time, their Service and went back to Civvy Street and we probably wouldn’t see them again.
BW: Were you able to meet or interact with any of the veterans? And I say veterans, from those who had been on missions over Germany while you were on the squadron. You were fairly new. Were you able to meet any of those who’d been on the squadron and were being demobbed after wartime service?
HF: I thought we would have but I can’t remember any.
BW: When you look back at some of the missions or the sorties that you were tasked what can you recall of them? Are there any memorable ones that, that you can recall from there?
HF: I don’t think there were any real interesting memorable ones at all. You probably saw some of the air sea, air to sea firing [laughs] and dropping bombs in the Wash and things like that.
BW: Can you recall what the targets were in the Wash? Were they perhaps disused ships or were they —
HF: I think they were disused ships. Certainly made to look like ships. There’s an interesting one. Four hours familiarisation flying and three engine flying. Three engines, had obviously had some trouble in one of them and had come out of order so we were flying back on three which was no problem on a big plane.
BW: Did that happen often for you? Did you practice it?
HF: Yes. Oh, yes.
BW: And as an engineer can you recall any particular steps you had to take or difficulties involved in flying with only one engine on, available on one wing and two on the other because you’ve got double to power on.
HF: Yeah.
BW: What kind of problems would that cause you?
HF: Well, the main thing was trying to keep the power up on the other three to balance on the one that was out of order. And seeing as there was no bombs, no problems. We were, almost enjoyed it.
BW: And of course you weren’t, you had the advantage of not being shot at.
HF: True [laughs]
BW: There’s one note in here about Naval exercise. Presumably you’d coordinate with the Navy at some point.
HF: Yeah. I imagine so. I can’t remember it.
BW: And another one there where you’ve got noted power plant in the bomb bay.
HF: Ah, now there was a base near, in Egypt and they were reliable on us in Britain for their maintenance more and wanted a Lancaster to fly out in its bomb bays and then come back of course with the defective engine. And that was for some reason they sent me as engineer there. But planting the bomb bay, you know obviously then brought the bomb bay back, brought the bomb back with us. Have to confirm that.
BW: And there’s a few cross-country flights.
HF: Yes. [laughs]
BW: Pamphlet dropping. And air sea rescue.
HF: Over Lancashire and places like that.
GB: What was the pamphlet dropping, dad? What were you doing?
HF: This was just after the war to keep people cheered up.
BW: All your exercises, or all your sorties are going around the UK. There aren’t any recorded for going overseas except one which we see here going to —
HF: [unclear] just in to.
BW: Saint Quentin.
HF: Germany. Yeah.
BW: Saarbrücken.
HF: Saarbrücken. Yeah. [ Benebruck. Benebruck?]
BW: Osnabruck.
HF: Osnabruck, is it? Yes. So, it is.
BW: That looks like your first time over, over Germany.
HF: Yeah. It probably is.
BW: Can you recall anything about that particular one?
HF: I can’t. No.
[pause]
BW: This one sounds an interesting one. In fact, there’s two. This is late November 1947 and one daylight sortie is formation and fighter affiliation and the other is low level cross country. So which was that? Formation and fighter affil.
HF: Fighter affiliation. Yeah.
BW: Oh that. Yeah.
HF: And then a day or two after low level cross country.
BW: What did it feel like? Flying at low level.
HF: Great. Super it was.
BW: Were there any height restrictions at that particular time?
HF: Yes, I’m sure there were. I can’t remember. I can’t remember anything special about it.
BW: I think they might have been a lot more relaxed then they were. Than they are now.
HF: Yes. A combination of both. Of being relaxed and being bored.
BW: Was a Lincoln alright to handle at low level?
HF: Yes. Oh yes [pause] How’s that for a long flight? Scampton. Ten. Ten minutes [laughs]
[pause]
BW: So, by this stage late 1947 your time on 100 Squadron appears to be coming to an end and I believe you joined 97 Squadron after that. Can you remember?
HF: Yes, I was there for a month or two. I don’t remember a lot about it. Of course, if we were in the right places it was quite famous.
BW: It had been a Pathfinder Squadron.
HF: That’s right. Yeah.
BW: At one time.
HF: Yeah.
BW: But there’s no record of any flights that you took with that, with that squadron.
HF: Not at all.
BW: No.
HF: Perhaps at that yeah. That time they wouldn’t have heard of us [unclear]
BW: Can you recall what your CO was like at 100 Squadron? Did you see much of him?
HF: No. I didn’t. Just made sure he had his salute if he passed you.
BW: What was the social life like in the RAF at this time?
HF: In our case we used to drive in to Lincoln for our social life. Any other direction if you look at your map you’ll find there’s nothing that way, nothing that way.
BW: Lincoln is the nearest big city, isn’t it? [pause] Did it feel any different for you having lived through the war years and the rationing and the blackouts and things was there a palpable difference when you were in the RAF and going into Lincoln let’s say for social events?
HF: No. I can’t say that there was.
BW: There’s a photograph here of you in uniform and it looks like you’re on, you’re on the seafront.
HF: It probably is Skegness or somewhere like that. Or Cleethorpes.
BW: Did you get much time off at all from from duties?
HF: Oh, yes.
BW: And did you socialise as a crew or did you have any particular other friends that you, you met up with in there for instance?
HF: Well, I would socialise. Yes. Not necessarily in the same crew, in fact. You know.
BW: And did you get to know any of the other crews?
HF: Yes. Must have done. Flying with them. But I can’t remember much about it.
BW: There’s another picture here.
HF: That’s a Lincoln, isn’t it?
BW: That’s a Lancaster.
HF: Is it?
BW: And it looks, there must be at least three of you in formation because you’re in one aircraft and there’s two others in the, in the picture. That must be when you’re at 100 Squadron.
GB: Can you remember taking that picture or did somebody else take it and give it to you, dad?
HF: I think the latter but I can’t remember. So —
BW: There’s another picture here which shows the other members of the crew and I’m guessing that that is the navigator who’s the officer. There.
HF: Oh, most certainly, yes. Yes.
BW: Second left.
HF: Yeah.
BW: And that’s by the rear turret of what must be a Lincoln.
HF: [unclear]
BW: Can you recall any of the people in the, in the photograph at all?
HF: Yeah. Sparky there. Willy, the wireless operator there. You mentioned the navigator.
BW: Think that’s him. Yeah. Isn’t it?
HF: In the middle.
BW: Second left.
HF: Flat cap.
BW: Yeah.
HF: Then me. Then the rear gunner. I must have missed somebody out because there’s another navigator there.
[pause]
BW: But none of their names come back to you.
HF: Every now and again. And there’s our navigator down in the, or our bomb aimer down on the floor.
BW: What happened to when you left 97 Squadron? Were you then demobbed? Was this the beginning of National Service? Were you then demobbed after that or did you continue in the RAF for a little while longer?
HF: No. I [pause] yes, I got demobbed or I took demob and that was either from [pause] what’s the place near Doncaster?
BW: Finningley. Finningley?
HF: No, the —
BW: Hemswell.
HF: Hemswell. Yeah. I can see it now. Going over Hemswell and then we signed up all our papers and what have you at Scampton. No. That was at Hemswell. And from Hemswell I was taken to Blackpool and released.
BW: Presumably that was Squires Gate. That’s where they had the big —
HF: Yes. That’s right.
BW: Big Reception Centre. And what happened from there? Did you have a job to go back to or did you just go home to South Yorkshire?
HF: Well, in the latter there was no job as such. I was accepted by the people I worked with at the time, the Prudential and started working there.
BW: And how long did you work —
HF: In Civvy Street.
BW: How long did you work for the Prudential for?
HF: Not long. One year. Two year.
BW: And what, what did you go on to do after that?
HF: Rent collecting.
BW: But not with the Prudential. With another company.
HF: No. Well, Prudential didn’t have many accommodation now for —
GB: So, it was the local council, was it that you —?
HF: It was the local council. Yeah.
GB: Council housing.
BW: And when, when did you get married?
[pause]
HF: About [pause] was it in nineteen —
GB: I remember it was in July. I don’t know which year though. I can’t remember. I wouldn’t. I don’t know.
HF: Well, well, well. I would have laid my money on her remembering that.
BW: Did you stay in South Yorkshire?
HF: Yes. For a couple of years. Then went to Harlow in Essex.
BW: What prompted you to move down there?
HF: Plenty of opportunity. They were building what, eight big towns. In the south mainly. So, I thought it would be best of new opportunities down there. And so I worked there. At some stage I moved up to Harlow in Essex and up to the east. To Doncaster, wasn’t it?
GB: No. After Harlow dad you moved up to Nuneaton because I was born in Harlow, wasn’t I? And we left Harlow in 1972 when you got that job as a housing manager.
HF: Yes.
GB: At Nuneaton Council.
HF: Oh, [unclear]
GB: The date sticks in my mind because that’s when I did my O levels and I remember —
HF: Yes.
GB: Us just moving up just after that.
HF: Oh aye.
BW: And then from there you obviously moved up to Manchester, or Greater Manchester.
HF: Well, that's by accident if anything.
GB: Yeah. It’s only a couple of years ago when dad —
HF: Yeah.
GB: Couldn’t live on his own anymore in Nuneaton.
BW: Yeah. Did you manage to keep in touch with any of your crew mates after, after leaving the RAF or did you just all go your separate ways?
HF: We all went our separate ways. I don’t remember any of them because we all got demobbed as it were in any number. You know, in our number but in my experience.
BW: You were demobbed individually.
HF: Yes.
GB: You know John Whitlock, in Harlow. He was in the RAF. Did you know him when you were in the RAF?
HF: No.
GB: So, you just met him in Harlow and he just happened to be in the RAF.
HF: Yes.
GB: Right.
BW: And the, how did you hear about the Memorial for Bomber Command?
HF: I was in RAFA, so you got all the bumph and publicity for some of the activities. And I remember going to Coningsby. To the, that’s not Bomber Command, is it? That’s —
BW: It was. It was a bomber base.
HF: Yeah. But since then.
GB: Are you thinking of the reunions of Project Propeller that you’ve been to occasionally?
HF: No. But that does come in to it though, love. Yeah. Did you know of that?
GB: Project Propeller is when local pilots take you to your reunions isn’t it?
HF: Yes. That’s sums it up.
BW: Have you managed to get to the Memorial site at Lincoln? At Canwick Hill.
HF: No.
BW: Or not.
HF: Is that where the new site is?
BW: That’s yeah. That’s where the new site is.
HF: Is that in Scampton?
BW: It’s not far from Scampton. It’s probably five or six miles. Something like that.
HF: Yeah. Towards Lincoln.
BW: Yes.
HF: Yeah.
BW: Yeah. Scampton’s just north of Lincoln isn’t it. So, as you, as you come south you actually go —
HF: What did you actually call it?
BW: Scampton. So, as you go towards the city and then go up the valley at the other side and that is Canwick Hill and that’s where the Memoria is.
HF: Oh right.
[pause]
BW: Well, I think I’ve gone through all the questions that I, that I had for you.
HF: Ok.
BW: So it just leaves me to say thank you very much for your time, Harry and thank you for doing the interview.
HF: Pleasure.
BW: Thank you very much.

Collection

Citation

Brian Wright, “Interview with Harry Fearns,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 8, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10801.

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