Interview with Richard Heath


Interview with Richard Heath


Richard Heath remembers watching Lancaster aeroplanes flying in the skies above him from his back yard and listening to the sound of them fade into the night. One morning he could see red flares exploding in fields nearby where a Lancaster from nearby RAF Faldingworth had crashed. His father, an auxiliary fireman got dressed and went into the village to warn the Home Guard and policeman. The crew of the plane were safe and the plane was removed from the site. Richard and his brother would sift through any crash debris and take it home but one day while sifting through items on the ground he found a human hand. Richard and his family listened to V-1s flying over, and on one occasion the engine of one spluttered and it crashed some way off in the distance.








00:05:56 audio recording


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HD: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewee is Hugh Donnelly and the interviewer is Richard Heath. The interview is taking place at Mr Heath’ s home [buzz] Hibaldstow, Lincs and on the 13th of March 2018. Present at the interview is Mr Heath’s wife. That’s it. So —
RH: Standing in my back yard we could see the Lancaster bombers flying over the house. I can remember one moonlit night when there were high patched white clouds the black bombers seemed to be silhouetted against the clouds as they made their way east. As a young lad it seemed to take hours for them to pass and for, for the constant hum of the engines to fade into the night. I don’t remember anyone trying to count them. There just seemed to be so many coming from all the corners of the sky. They were all spread out as if nobody wanted to bump in to the others. One morning I remember we were woken early by the sound of what seemed like fireworks exploding in the fields and behind the house and down towards the wood. When we looked out of the window we could see balls of red fire shooting in to the air and we knew they were signal flares. I think my dad got dressed and went to warn the village policeman and Home Guard. He was exempt from military service because he worked on his uncle’s farm but he belonged to the Auxiliary Fire Service and was on call. By the time daylight had arrived we could see what all the fuss was about. A bomber had crash landed in the fields and by then recovery teams from the camp had arrived and were surrounding the crash site and all the crew had been taken to the camp. We did hear that none of the crew had been hurt and very quickly the plane was taken away. I do remember it left a long trench cut into the field and ploughed up a length of hedgerow before finishing up in the next field. A popular [pause] Start again. A popular occupation among the village lads was to cycle out to bomber crash sites around the area and sift through the bits that the recovery teams had left behind.
HD: Can I just interrupt for a second? This was at Faldingworth.
RH: Yeah. This was at Faldingworth.
HD: Sorry.
RH: And sift through the bits that the recovery teams had left behind. The main finds which my brother and I would take home were bullets. We would trap them in the garden pump handle then and using a pair of old pliers take out the pointed bit, pull up one or two strands of cordite, set light to them and stand back and watch the fireworks. That was until our mother caught us and put a stop to this dangerous practice. On one occasion my brother who was two years older than me had gone to a crash site and while searching through the debris had moved a piece of charred cloth and found a human hand. He was so upset by this it took all the excitement out of the game and brought home the reality of the deaths of so many of the airmen. But I don’t think we went searching again. I don’t think as young lads we had any idea what the war was about. Living in the Lincolnshire countryside it was such a long way away and it became exciting to see aeroplanes flying over and rows of soldiers passing through. Sometimes they would be in lorries or Bren gun carriers. And when the Yanks as the American servicemen were known arrived they would throw us sweets and chewing gum. As I got older I began to understand more about the Blitz and the destruction of towns and cities in Britain and the continent. That probably made things more frightening. And towards the end of the war we would sit in the kitchen and listen to Doodlebugs passing over heading for our towns and cities further west. In fact, one night we heard the spluttering of the engine which sounded like a plumber’s blow lamp suddenly stop, and we held our breath waiting for the explosion. I think it must have glided further on because the bang when it came sounded a long way off.
HD: That’s super. Ok. Yeah. Thank you.



Hugh Donnelly, “Interview with Richard Heath,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed December 1, 2023,

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