Interview with Eric Parker


Interview with Eric Parker


Eric was born in 1924 in West Derby, Liverpool and volunteered for the Royal Air Force at the age of 17 and a half, finally being called up in January 1942, when he became a navigator/bomb aimer on Lancasters. After completing his training in Canada, Eric was posted to 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby. Eric tells of the crewing up process, and recollects receiving a brand-new Lancaster, Y-Yoke which was lost after only six operations. Eric flew 27 operations and took part in Operation Manna and Operation Dodge. He flew in N-Nan which survived 100 operations. He was then posted to Transport Command flying the York, before being posted back to Bomber Command. Eric recollects flying B-29s at RAF Wyton, and his training in the United States and the transatlantic crossing. Eric left the Royal Air Force in August 1964, having completed 22 years of service, and took up teaching.




Temporal Coverage




00:51:54 audio recording


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AParkerE160505, PParkerE1602, PParkerE1603


EP: A child then up to eighteen.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: And then going in the RAF.
GR: Right. This is Gary Rushbrooke for the International Bomber Command Centre at Lincoln. I am today with Eric Parker at his home in Formby, Merseyside and the date is the 5th of May 2016. Right then, Eric, I know we’re in Formby, was you born round here? Are you from this area?
EP: I was born on the 10th of January 1924 in West Derby, Liverpool. In those days West Derby was a small detached village joined to the main City of Liverpool by a tramway.
GR: Oh right.
EP: And I went to the local village school, which was St Mary’s Church of England School, very adjacent to the big church, which lays right in the middle of West Derby village. I was at the school, it was a boy’s only side of the school, there was a girl’s department on the other side. I was in the school for — ‘til I was fourteen and I left and took up work immediately, as everybody did in those days.
GR: Did you have any brothers or sisters at the same, at the time?
EP: I had two brothers. One named Sydney and one named Reginald. They were both older than me.
GR: Both older brothers.
EP: So, I was the junior in the family. My first job was a lift attendant in a national bank, a seven storey building, which was a skyscraper in its day, in Liverpool. And as a lift attendant, I attended to all the needs of the staff who worked in the various offices, going to toilets and things like that. And I was there for about a year but I’d always wanted to be an apprentice electrician, and an opening came up, and I went down and got the job as apprentice electrician for seven and six a week. This was a drop in my wages, because in the lift attendant I was getting fourteen shillings a week.
GR: Right.
EP: Which was a very big wage for the time.
GR: And a big drop in wages to seven and six.
EP: However, I didn’t last long as an apprentice electrician because one day, the owner of the business wanted me to work on a Saturday, on a special job, and I said, ‘I’m sorry Mr Carling’, that was his name, ‘I can’t do this because I’m going into Liverpool to see “Robin Hood and His Merry Men of Sherwood”, at the Paramount Cinema’. He said, ‘Oh very good. Very good’. he said, ‘Enjoy it then, and you can take your cards at the same time’. So for a while I was on the, on the, not on the dole, I wasn’t old enough to get dole. I was, had to go to the dole school, and I did a bit of time there in the workshops, on metalwork and I learned quite a lot about metalwork. But I did have a small job in between, when I went to Hunter’s Handy Hams in Broadgreen, where they were canning bacon for the troops. And I spent about three weeks there doing a casual labour, and it was quite hard work. I was carrying these cans ready to be boiled and tinned.
GR: Yeah. Had war broken out by then?
EP: The war had broken out by this time. And I was on the dole, not the dole, unemployed.
GR: Yeah.
EP: I should say, for several months. My dad got a bit fed up. He said, ‘Get out and get a job. Can’t be having you doing nothing all day. We need money in the house’, because he was a farm labourer, and he wasn’t on a very big wage. So, lo and behold, in the newspapers in Liverpool, the Liverpool Echo, there came an advert for student gardeners, that meant they would learn all about gardening and would spend one week — one day a week, in the Liverpool Technical College, learning soil science and hygiene and various botanical things. All about gardening. And I was in, I was posted to Newsham Park, in the greenhouses there, I was there for a year. And then the following year, they posted me to a place called Harbreck Farm, near Fozakerley Hospital at the time, and I was there for another year and it was very hard work. And by this time, I’d reached the age of seventeen and a half years, and the war was, the phoney war was at its height, and they were looking for aircrew, young people to go in aircrew. Volunteers. So, I was seventeen and a half at this time, this was in June of 1941, so along with my friend, we volunteered for aircrew and we was posted on deferred service and was called up, finally, in the January of 1942.
GR: Right. Had your two brothers gone into the Forces?
EP: Well, both brothers went into the Army.
GR: Right.
EP: And they served — one served in Italy. I tell a lie. My other brother — one of my brothers went to Italy, served in Italy. My other brother, Syd, went into the Air Force, but he was invalided out with stomach trouble, so he only had a short six months of service.
GR: Right.
EP: So that left me as the young one. So, in 1942, January, I was called up and my first posting was to the Aircrew Recruiting Centre in London, and we lived in one of the big luxury flats there.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Stopney Hall, I think it was called.
GR: Yeah. That was St John’s Wood and Lord’s Cricket Ground.
EP: Around St John’s Wood and Lord’s
GR: Yeah.
EP: That’s correct. I was there for about three weeks while we got our, my jabs and all the other things, all recorded and things like that, and finally, I was posted on a three week course, learning Morse code and semaphore — to Brighton. And that lasted three weeks where we learned, we became quite proficient at Morse code and semaphore flags, and from there, I was posted to Paignton in Devon, to a twelve week course of ITW, Initial Training Wing.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And there, we learned all the ins and outs of aircrew.
GR: Did you know what you were going to be then or –?
EP: At his time, we were posted as PNB. Could have been a pilot, could have been a navigator, or we could have been a bomb aimer.
GR: Oh, so it was one of the three. Yeah.
EP: Of that three, you were automatically put on a pilot’s course, and having finished our ITW, was posted on a grading school, on Tiger Moths, to a little airfield named Sywell, which was near Leicester.
GR: Yeah.
EP: If I remember. And there we did twelve hours flying on Tiger Moths, and we all went to Canada, and all those who had passed the flying school, including me, were made — were put on a pilot’s course in Canada, and I went to a place called Caron, near Moose Jaw, in Saskatchewan. However, I wasn’t very good as a pilot and I scrubbed out after about twelve flying hours on Cornell aircraft, Fairchild Cornells. Single engine monoplane.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So, there I was, no longer on the pilot’s course, but sent to a holding unit in Brandon, Manitoba and I was there for a couple of months, waiting for a pilot —for a navigator bombardiers course to come through. And one came, finally came through, and I was posted to Mountain View, Ontario, on a twelve week bombing and gunnery course, having been reselected now as a navigator bomb aimer.
GR: Right. What was life like in Canada? What was —
EP: Well, life was grand in Canada. Everything was as it was in Civvy Street in Britain.
GR: Before the war.
EP: White bread for the first time. Actually crossed, it took seven days to get across Canada by rail, slept on the train, and everywhere, every station we landed at, there was a big reception committee, giving us all sorts of goodies. And we finally got to Caron, in Moose Jaw, probably in the Easter of 1943.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And finally — anyway, later in that year, I got on the NavB course at Mountain View. Did the Nav, did the bombing and gunnery side of the course, that was very interesting, and then I was posted on a twelve week navigation course to St John’s in Quebec, and that was quite interesting. And then, finally, we ended the course in the end of ’44, got my wings and was posted home again by sea. We went to Canada, by the way, on the Empress of Scotland, one of the Empress lines.
GR: That’s one of the cruise liners, wasn’t it?
EP: One of the cruise liners of the day, yeah. There was a lot of Empress liners we used as troop ships.
GR: And how did you get back?
EP: And I came back on the Empress of Scotland as well.
GR: Oh right.
EP: And I was posted to Harrogate, where we were just on a holding unit there for about a couple of weeks, and I was posted to AFU at Silloth in Scotland. And that was [pause], I’m trying to think how long. A month’s course, I think it was.
GR: Yeah.
EP: It was getting familiar with England. Flying over England.
GR: Yes, because you’d done your training in Canada. You needed to [pause] —
EP: So we were on Ansons there, map reading and doing those, sort of, cross country things, and finally, I was posted off that, onto an Advanced Flying Unit. After the Advanced Flying Unit, I was posted to OTU at Husband’s Bosworth, that was on Wimpies, and it was a twelve week course there. Conversion unit onto Bomber Command.
GR: Right. When did you actually crew up? When did you meet –?
EP: We crewed up at OTU.
GR: Right.
EP: All the crew, except for the engineer.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And so we crewed up there, and did the usual stuff, bombing and gunnery, cross-country’s.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Bombing raids, artificial bombing raids. And finally –
GR: Still lots of training.
EP: Lots of training. Lots of training. Twelve weeks, I think it was. We were posted to a six weeks conversion course on Lancasters.
GR: Yeah.
EP: At Gainsborough. I can’t remember the name of the airfield there. Near Gainsborough anyway.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: And we did the six week course there. We picked up our flight engineer, and from there on, we were posted down to Wickenby on 12 Squadron.
GR: So when did you actually find out you were going to a squadron? Was that at the end of the Lancaster Finishing School?
EP: End of Conversion Unit.
GR: Yeah.
EP: They said, ‘You’re posted to 12 Squadron, Wickenby.’
GR: Yeah.
EP: I said, ‘Where’s that?’ They said, ‘Just the outside of Lincoln’. And it’s an RAF squadron.
GR: Yeah.
EP: With a few continental — a few other members from the empire [unclear].
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: So, when we got there, after a couple of days settling in —
GR: Did you fly down or did you make your way there in a car?
EP: Made our way by —
GR: Car. Bus. Train.
EP: By train.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Train and bus.
GR: Right.
EP: Bussed us in. And [pause] where am I?
GR: So, you’ve arrived at Wickenby. First day at Wickenby.
EP: They gave us a couple of days to settle in, then one day, the wing commander, flying, said, ‘I want you all’, and by that time, all the other aircrews had mingled in. Signallers, gunners, bomb aimers and we mingled in. They said, ‘I want you all in the big hangar tomorrow’. There must have been a couple of hundred aircrew bods, so, ‘I want you all in’, and he said, he came in and said, ‘You’re all here now, so I want you to mingle and form a crew. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. If you haven’t formed a crew by then, from each other by mingling, I’ll put you all together. Whoever’s left’. So, I was sat around, had coffee, the NAAFI was there, you know, and this big, gangling New Zealander came across to me. He said, ‘Hello’. he said, ‘My name’s Alec Wicks’, he said, ‘I’m from New Zealand. I wondered, would you like to be in my crew?’ So I said, ‘Oh yes. I’d love to’. He said, ‘Well, I’ve got a couple of crew members already, two other New Zealanders’. So, we’d got Snowy White. He had blond hair. Snowy White.
GR: Snowy.
EP: Snowy, and he said, ‘We’ve also got Tacker Connelly’, who was a dark, semi Maori, half Maori. He said, ‘We’ve already got them, but we’ll go around now and hunt out a signaller and two gunners’, because we’d got the bomb aimer.
GR: So, at the moment, it was three New Zealanders and one Brit.
EP: One Brit. And we found two Londoners, real Cockney eastenders.
GR: Yeah. Right.
EP: Two Londoners and, of course, the front gunner was the bomb aimer.
GR: Yeah.
EP: That made up the six of the crew, and we didn’t get the engineer, but we carried on doing all our crew work.
GR: Yeah.
EP: All the training and flights and bomb aiming, and all that sort of thing. And we were like that until we were posted to the Heavy Conversion Unit, where we got on to Lancasters again.
GR: And that’s when you needed the flight engineer.
EP: That’s when the flight engineer joined us. I tell a lie. On the Con Unit, we got a brand new Lancaster. Did you get that?
GR: Yeah. It doesn’t matter. Yeah.
EP: On the Con Unit. And then the engineer joined us then. His name was [pause] God, I’ve forgotten his name.
GR: We’ll come back to that later. Not a problem. So, what was the first day at Wickenby like?
EP: First day we just —
GR: Bearing in mind, you’re on a Bomber Command base.
EP: We did our marching in orders, got our arrival certificates. Tried to get a bike, but there was none available. And we were posted to the sergeant’s mess. The skipper, as I said, was a flight sergeant, so was the bomb aimer
GR: Yeah.
EP: And so was the wireless operator.
GR: Yeah.
EP: They were ahead of us. We were sergeants, the rest of us.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And we settled in to the mess and we got, as I say, we got into the big hangar, and we crewed up, and I always remember this. When the, when the wing commander, flying, came back, we were all in crews. There was a couple who weren’t crewed and he said, ‘You go with him’, ‘You go with him’, ‘You go with him’.
GR: That’s it. Done.
EP: Yeah. Done. ‘Now, I want you all in one long line’, and we all crewed up. He said, ‘Now, I want you to look at the man next to you’. So, we looked at him. The one fella looks at the one to the left or right, you know, we looked at each other. He said, ‘I’m going to tell you now, one of you, who you are looking at, is not coming back’, he said, ‘You’ll be killed on ops. It’s a fifty percent loss rate’. So he said, ‘Any of you, it’s all voluntary, any of you don’t want to carry on with ops, take a step forward’. Not one.
GR: Not one.
EP: So, he said, ‘That’s it then’, and so we went on ops. On our first trip, the pilot went on an experience trip on his own.
GR: Yeah.
EP: With a tap crew.
GR: Yeah, like a second dickey, yeah.
EP: He went as a second dickey.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So, he went to the big Dresden night.
GR: Right.
EP: And he came back the next night and he said it was great, you know, because it was great as well. The Yanks had been there during — well, we went the first time.
GR: Yeah, and the Americans bombed in the daytime.
EP: Daytime, the next day. So, the next night went in, we were all on ops. The first trip was Chemnitz, which was about thirty miles away from Dresden.
GR: Yeah.
EP: I’ll always remember the briefing.
GR: Its quite a long trip as well, isn’t it?
EP: It was a long trip, about a quarter of an hour less than the Dresden.
GR: The Dresden.
EP: I always remember the intelligence officer, who gave you your briefing.
GR: Yeah.
EP: When we into the, into the briefing room, he got up, he said, ‘Tonight’s op is to Chemnitz. There’s no target, you just bomb the TIs. Bomb anywhere in the city. There’s no targets at all’. He said, ‘We’ve got notification from reconnaissance planes, that thousands of refugees are streaming from Dresden, there’s thousands of them, so bomb them’. That was it, there was no target, just —
GR: Yeah. Just bomb Chemnitz.
EP: Just bomb the city. And so, we bombed the city.
GR: How did you feel about that as a bomb aimer?
EP: It was great. We were stupid kids at the time.
GR: Yeah, and that was the job, and that’s what you’d been told to do, yeah.
EP: That was what we were told to you. Oh great, you know. We just bombed the TIs when they tell us, the master bomber’s going. Bomb the reds, bomb the greens.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Cancel the reds, with the flares down, you know, bomb upwind of the target. Just listen to the master bomber, you know, and then the master bomber occasionally, you’d get, he was flying low level, about two thousand feet above all the bombs, and occasionally you’d hear blank silence. And then a new bloke on, ‘This is master bomber two coming up. Master bomber one has gone down. Don’t know what’s happened to him. Just carry on’. Carry on bombing this.
GR: Yeah.
EP: He just kept a running commentary. Cool as mustard, they were. And so we came back from that. We’d done six ops, various ones, and we were sent — we went on a weeks’ leave every so often.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And you got an extra bit of money from Lord Nuffield. He was the boss of the motor cars, you know.
GR: That’s right. I’ve heard this.
EP: Morris.
GR: Was it something like, if you went on leave, a weeks’ leave, you got an extra pound or two pound off him.
EP: That’s him. Yeah.
GR: And he did it for every Bomber Command veteran.
EP: For every. He gave us two quid, and so we got a couple of quid and we went on our first leave. Oh, and did I tell you we got a brand new aeroplane. Y-Yoke.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Y for Yoke. PHY. Brand spanking new, flown in that, that very day, you know. On the second day, we took it for an air test. Everything was fine, and by this time, we’d done about six ops in Y-Yoke, and we went on leave, and when we came back there was no Y-Yoke.
GR: Gone.
EP: A sprog crew had took it on their first op, and it got shot down. There was no trace of it, no wreckage, nothing at all. It must have just blown up.
GR: Blown up.
EP: ‘Cause the main trouble as I remember it — went outside the towns, it was fighters. Around the big cities, it was flak.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And as you were flying along at night time, you’d suddenly see a big flash in the sky. That was outside the flak zones and it could have been a night fighter attack — shot down, or it could have equally been two aeroplanes colliding.
GR: Colliding.
EP: Because you tried to keep three miles either side of track, it was a designated track. If you keep on it —all well and good. If you keep three miles, they give you a six mile band. It seems a lot, six miles. It’s nothing is it?
GR: Nothing.
EP: And all the aeroplanes are flying down, all trying to keep on their time. So, you had plus or minus three minutes on your target time, and when you were ahead, when you were behind time, you could open the engines up and carry – get speed up, you know, to knock off a few minutes. So you never tried to let your time go more than three or four minutes outside the brief time. At you’re your turning point, you have a mark with a time you should be there.
GR: Yeah.
EP: It was a sort of a zig zag around all the, all the cities, you know, and - where was I? Oh, when you were behind — when you were ahead of time, as I say, you had to lose time.
EP: Yeah.
GR: And you did that by doglegging.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So if you were flying due east, you turned sixty degrees. Fly three minutes across the stream. They’re all going that way, all going east.
GR: Yeah. And you’re going —
EP: And you’re going across them at forty five degrees. Sixty, turn sixty. Then you come back one twenty for three minutes. So you’ve done an equilateral triangle.
GR: Yeah. And then you were back on.
EP: So, you’ve six minutes, so you lost three minutes. That was how you lost time.
GR: That was the way you lost time.
EP: And if you wanted to lose six minutes you do it — you went across track. Back that way for six minutes, across the other side of track, and back the other way. And you lost, that was twelve minutes lost, so you lost six minutes on the two parts of your tracks —
GR: On the track. Yeah.
EP: To get your time. And that’s how you kept time.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And you were allowed to be on target plus, and invariably most people got there within a couple of minutes of the time they should, so it was quite good.
GR: It was quite good. Yeah.
EP: And once you were on the target, you listened to the master bomber, and they had, they had the master bombers on Mosquitos at my time. They were down below, keeping a running commentary, and they had the PFF force, with back-up Lancs, with TIs on board. And they would say, put, the master bomber had put down a green TI down here, say it was a windy, and the smoke was obscuring the target, he’d select a new point outside the smoke and drop another TI. Then the main master bombers in the Lancs, would back them up with further TIs as they died out. And we’d, as bomb aimers, all we did was, bomb doors open, and the old pilot would be keeping straight and level if he could. All the twisting and turning going in. The bomb aimer would be, ‘Left. Left. Steady. Steady. Steady. Steady. Steady. Bombs gone’. And then we had to stay on a straight and level course for about thirty seconds while the camera cut in, and they took a series of photographs, because you got assessed on them when you got back. And then as soon as he said, ‘Photos finished’, revs went up, shot up in the air, got to turn through the target, got the hell out of it as quick as we could.
GR: Get back home.
EP: You were supposed to stick to a very torturous route always, you know, but we always, when we got to the French coast, we always cut the corner there to see who could get back first. It was a straight run back across the North Sea. It was naughty, we weren’t supposed to do it, but everybody did it.
GR: Everybody did it. Yeah.
EP: Trying to get back first. So, we did that right the way through ‘til I got twenty three ops in. And I did. The last two ops we did [pause] — what was the one?
GR: Did you do the one to Berchtesgaden?
EP: I was just going to say the last two ops [pause] was, we did [pause] God. The island.
GR: Walcheren.
EP: No. [pause] Up by the —
GR: Yeah.
EP: Up by Kiel.
GR: Doesn’t matter.
EP: It’s on the record. Went on the last two ops. And then the next day was Berchtesgaden, which was the last op.
GR: That’s right.
EP: And we didn’t go on it, our crew. We were not posted, so I missed the last op.
GR: Missed the last.
EP: It was a gestapo headquarters op on Berchtesgaden.
GR: That’s right. Yeah. So —
EP: Thingy island. Little island. German island. Kiel. Kiel was it?
GR: No. It wasn’t Kiel.
EP: Not Kiel.
GR: We’ll have a look in a minute.
EP: Kiel’s a Canal.
GR: So where was you on VE-day? When the war came to a close?
EP: On VE? I can’t remember.
GR: No. Obviously not on operations. You might have been at Wickenby.
EP: I was at Wickenby.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Certainly. We just had a big booze up in the mess, I think, that’s all.
GR: Did you have any close calls while you were flying?
EP: We had three fighter attacks. One. Two. The first — what you had to do on bomber, on main force, was do two mining raids.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: You did them on your own. You took mines.
GR: Yeah.
EP: You didn’t have the benefit of the main force all come together. You just went out to Kiel Bay and around where the big battleships were.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And for two of those, two of our trips, we got attacked by night fighters. We were sitting ducks for night fighters, because they were single aeroplanes, they could pick them up.
GR: Yeah.
EP: On radar, you know. And in two cases we corkscrewed. You know the –
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: Diving starboard, pulling up and twisting out and we lost both of them. Once you lose them, they’re away and they go and look for another target.
GR: Look for something else. Yeah.
EP: The third one managed to get a burst of machine gun fire, and he took a big hunk out of our left hand tail fin.
GR: Yeah.
EP: But nothing dangerous, you know. We still, still rudder, so we did well.
GR: So, you got back.
EP: And we corkscrewed. So again, there we corkscrewed, we did the same. The gunners were pretty good at picking them up.
GR: Yeah.
EP: They always seemed to come from starboard, starboard stern ahead, starboard beam ahead. Sort of flying — if you’re flying along, they’d be up there.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Higher. And they’d do a curve of pursuit attack, closing in, and you turned into them. That meant they had to get the turn tighter and tighter and tighter. Tighter than they usually got. They turned upside down and broke away underneath you.
GR: Yeah.
EP: That was the topic of a corkscrew, and while that was happening — the first time it happened, I wasn’t prepared for it, we’d never done one. And the gunner said, ‘Starboard. Starboard. Fighter. Fighter. Starboard. Beam up. Prepare to corkscrew. Corkscrew, go. Now’, you know. That was the way they always said that.
GR: Yeah. Corkscrew. Yeah.
EP: Corkscrew port or starboard. If they were starboard, you corkscrewed starboard into them. You always turned into them to make them tight. I shot out of the seat, just literally dropped out the sky. Got the nose down, throttle back and nose down, going down like that, and I shot out of my seat, because we never strapped ourselves in. We were on like a bench seat in the Lanc.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And radar here and radar. You slid along the seat, and all my maps, my charts, everything was loose on the table, went up. I shot out my seat, banged my head on the roof. Everybody else was more or less in the same boat, apart the pilots who were strapped in.
GR: Who were strapped in and knew what they were doing.
EP: The pilot and the engineer.
GR: Yes.
EP: So, we corkscrewed out of three situations, but it was the flak that was the worse stuff, ‘cause as soon as you got into a flak belt, you couldn’t get out of it. Just rattled the fuselage – bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, dong, doiing. Like ping — all the noises, you know. And searchlights would catch somebody, some poor sod would get caught in them, you know. And that was how it went, you know.
GR: So how did you feel at war’s end?
EP: Oh, and then about a couple of weeks before war’s end. The last ops we done.
GR: Yeah.
EP: We were told no more ops, but the war, it was a week before official war ending. They said, ‘They’re starving in Holland. Can’t get any food’. so he said, ‘You will now spend your next week or so, dropping supplies in Holland. So, you’ll be going on Lancasters, and filling the bomb bays up with food’. So, everybody mucked in. Food came in lorries. Flour in loose sacks, all loose stuff, and special panniers were made for stuff that had to be parachuted down. Medical stuff, stuff like that. All the other stuff was loose or tinned stuff which could stand the drop. And we all — if you’re carrying panniers, you open the bomb doors fully to put these things in. If you weren’t carrying panniers, you opened the bomb doors so there was about a foot or just a bit over. You could get up by your shoulders.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And everybody mucked in. Sacks of loose, packed loose. Sugar and flour and any seed. Cornflakes.
GR: Yeah.
EP: All loose in strong sacks. And you got in the bomb bay, and you loaded them on to the bomb doors itself. Just like that.
GR: Just lying flat. Yeah.
EP: Yeah. Just piled them high, and when you — everybody, the aircrew, the whole lot, the CO, the WAAFs, all loading. And when they were full, couldn’t get any without falling off. There were too many, you know.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Skipper would get in and just close the bomb bay and that was it.
GR: It was all there.
EP: And we’d fly over there. Must go over about a thousand feet.
GR: Yeah.
EP: But we went, we all went in about fifty feet, skimming over the church tops, onto the racecourses and dropping them. Now and again a sack would burst, big splurge of white, you know. But —
GR: That was Operation Manna, wasn’t it?
EP: That was Operation Manna.
GR: Where they fed the Dutch.
EP: And we did four. I did four Manna trips. And then they said, oh —it was still wartime, so they said, ‘We’ll allow you to keep these Manna trips as ops’.
GR: Yeah.
EP: ‘You can count them as ops’. So, I ended up with twenty seven ops.
GR: Twenty seven ops.
EP: So, I didn’t get my thirty, and then from then on, we spent all our time flying over the North Sea, dropping bombs. Jettisoning bombs with no pistols in them.
GR: Just to get rid of the —
EP: And ammunition. To get rid of all the big bombs in the bomb sights. The sights where they stored the bombs, you know.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And then finally, oh I didn’t tell you the story. I’ll tell you the story how, how I’ve got the picture there.
GR: I’ll just pause for one second.
[recording paused]
EP: When I told you that Y-Yoke, our plane, had got shot down?
GR: Yes. Earlier on.
EP: We had no aeroplane, so N-Nan had about ninety odd ops then.
GR: Yeah.
EP: It was the standby aircraft on the squadron. it was always there available in case one was u/s. Couldn’t take off.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So you had to change over quick.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Get in to N-Nan.
GR: So the old plane with ninety operations on.
EP: It had ninety ops on. It was given to us and it was a marvellous aeroplane.
GR: Oh good.
EP: And so it, when that was taken, with our ops, it went over the hundred. So every plane in the past was traditional. Every plane in the past that did ops, it was awarded the DFC, so that was the award being awarded, the DFC. We painted a little DFC cross on.
GR: Yeah. We’re just looking at a photograph of Eric, with his crew, in front of N for Nan and they’ve just done the hundredth op. So, yes, they’ve got a DFC painted on top of the picture. Very good. So —
EP: So that was it.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So that brings the story up to date then.
GR: Yeah. Did you do any — bringing back prisoners of war from Italy?
EP: Oh, I’m going to carry on then.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So when, when we finished, finished jettisoning bombs after VE day, a couple of weeks later, the squadrons had virtually finished flying. We were flying all the Lancs up to Silloth, which was near Carlisle.
GR: Yes.
EP: And when they got there, N-Nan was amongst them. They put a big weight on them and just bust them all up and they went on to make kettles and pans [laughs] and various other bits were taken off.
GR: Yeah.
EP: The only thing I’ve got is a pair of War Office scissors, out of the first aid kit. I’ve still got them, they’re around somewhere. And that came out of there, out of the first aid kit.
GR: Excellent. And I know, very briefly Eric, you stayed in the RAF didn’t you?
EP: Yes.
GR: Yeah.
EP: So after the war, sorry, as soon as the war ended, we went on to our operations to Italy to ferry the prisoners of war back.
GR: Prisoners of war back. Yeah.
EP: And we did that for about four trips.
GR: Right.
EP: One of the trips was a bit different as we ferried back twenty WREN nurses.
GR: Nurses.
EP: Twenty nurses. So, it was a bit better that [laughs] and then the war ended. We had a good booze up. The New Zealanders went back to New Zealand or, so I thought.
GR: Yes, because —
EP: And I was posted to a holding unit prior to going on Transport Command, I was awaiting a course at Dishforth on Yorks. So, while I was at this holding unit, I’ve forgotten the name of it now, I got a telephone call one day. I said, ‘Hello’, and a voice with a New Zealand accent said, ‘Hello Eric. I haven’t gone back to New Zealand. I’ve signed on in the RAF’. It was Alec Wicks, my old skipper.
GR: The skipper. The pilot.
EP: He said, ‘I’m going on Transport Command and I’ll be on the next course and I’ve asked for you to be my navigator’. So, I was highly delighted, because he was a good friend as well as a pilot, and we met up again and made a crew up on Yorks. And we flew, first of all on — [pause] what do you call it? Not passenger Yorks. Luggage.
GR: Yeah.
EP: What do they call it?
GR: Freight.
EP: Freight.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Freighters. My memory’s going.
GR: Don’t worry. No, your memory’s been great, and -
EP: We were posted to Holmsley South, near Bournemouth, on freight, freight Yorks. We were on them for about a year and presumably, by then, we’d qualified to be good enough to take passengers, so they posted us up to Oakington, on passenger Yorks. And while we were there on freighters, we only went as far as India, Delhi, to a place called Palam. And we only took freight, and we went on the usual route through Egypt, across into Shaibah in Iraq, and then into Mauripur via Karachi, and then across to Delhi, to Palam. And when we got on to passenger Yorks, our route was extended. We went to Singapore, to Changi, so it was a couple of years. By this time, I’d extended my release number, and I’d already served about eighteen months over the demob date. I hadn’t signed on yet, I was still ready for demob, but I’d signed on at about eighteen months over and I signed on for another six months. So, we got about two years on Yorks, and we were getting quite a few hours in by this time, all with my old skipper. And, lo and behold, he was posted to the Empire Air Training School at Shawbury as a special pilot, you know.
GR: Yeah.
EP: These special trips they did in the —what was the — the Lancaster. No.
GR: The Lincoln.
EP: Not the Lincoln.
GR: The Washington. No.
EP: No. The one where they made an airliner out of it.
GR: Canberra. No.
EP: No. It was a Lancaster —
GR: I know what you mean and I can’t, even I can’t think of the name.
EP: [unclear] Again my memory’s gone.
GR: Anyway.
EP: He was posted on them at Shawbury, Empire Air Training School.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Went on all these special ops.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Special navigation techniques.
GR: Yeah. Yeah.
EP: And so, I was left with another pilot I got then, and I stayed there up until [pause], until, what happened? Oh, until I, until the Berlin Airlift started and all the Yorks were made to call.
GR: They were used on the Berlin Airlift, weren’t they? Yeah.
EP: Used for coal aeroplane, mainly carrying coal. I didn’t go on the Airlift, because I was posted at that time, lo and behold onto, of all things [pause] I’m trying to think where I am. I’m getting a bit confused.
GR: That’s alright. Well we can go forward. How long did you stay in the RAF for? When did you finally –
EP: Twenty two years.
GR: Twenty two.
EP: I did the twenty two.
GR: You did twenty two full years.
EP: Oh I’m with it now. I was on Yorks until the Airlift started. Then, lo and behold, out of the blue, they posted. By this, I hadn’t signed on either. I was still -
GR: Oh, you were still —
EP: on extended demob leave. And out of the blue, when the Airlift just started, when I was posted back to Bomber Command.
GR: Oh right.
EP: I was posted to Upwood.
GR: Upwood.
EP: RAF Upwood.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And I was there for about six months, and by that time, I’d got married during the war, and we moved into a caravan there, and my daughter was born there, and I was there for about a year and, lo and behold, we were suddenly posted over to Wyton, on Lincolns, and that meant I did a back and forwards on the bike. About twelve miles because we were very close. Into the caravan.
GR: Yeah. Yeah. Keep you fit.
EP: And then they built — they had already embarked on building married quarters at Wyton, so we got a married quarters, it was ideal then. And I was there for about six months enjoying everything and I’d signed on by this time for twenty two years. Signed on for twelve initially.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Then extended it later to twenty two. And I was at Wyton for about six months and suddenly, out of the blue, I was posted to Marham. To Marham. In —
GR: East Anglia isn’t it? Yeah. Yeah.
EP: East Anglia. So that was, put paid — couldn’t come home all the time. So Amy went home, closed the house down, give up the quarters, had to give them up anyway, was posted, and we got a place in Downham Market, about twelve miles away. Lived in a little —over a shop in a little flat. Lovely little place. And I cycled back and forth twelve miles every day to Wyton.
GR: Very good.
EP: Why was I posted to Wyton? Because they were starting a new Con Unit there, because they were getting B29 bombers.
GR: The Washington.
EP: The Washington. And I was to be posted as a bomb aimer instructor on Washingtons, I was a flight sergeant by this time and so there I was. So, Amy was in the village, in Downham Market. Twelve miles, used to cycle in every day. But then they started extending the runway to this one huge runway they’ve got there, and every day, lorries were coming through, about one every ten minutes. Through Downham Market, loaded with gravel and bricks or cement. I could just, could just pop out of the flat, stand on the corner -
GR: Get a lift.
EP: Just put my hand out. I was in uniform and I did that until, and then they started building houses on Marham, and by that time I had plenty of points. It was all on points.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And we got, finally got a house in Marham and they opened a little, Sandie was about five by this time, a little infant’s school on the camp, you know. And the B29s came.
GR: Yeah.
EP: We had the Yanks there first of all, as a Con Unit, teaching us. Then we, in turn, became the Con Unit, and we taught the squadrons that came through.
GR: Very good.
EP: And finally, when we had taught all the squadrons, and everybody was back on fully operational commitments on their various airfields, we closed the squadron down, and we became 35 Squadron in our own right. So, the Con Unit became 35 Squadron.
GR: 35 Squadron.
EP: And I stayed with 35 Squadron right through until the V bombers came. We flew the Yanks, the B29s, did four trips back to the States, to Tucson in Arizona. And I was only saying, maybe I told you this before, when I got to Tucson the first time, out in the desert, all cocooned, was thousands of four engined aircraft. Bombers.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Fighters, transports, you name it. There was every aeroplane you could think of stretching out as far as I could see into the desert.
GR: A World War Two graveyard.
EP: That was in 19’, around 1960.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Many years later, when I say many years, I’m talking about, about two years ago here, they had a picture of Davis Monthan Air Force Base. He was going over — something to do with America.
GR: Yeah.
EP: And he took a photo of this Air Force Base and there they did an aerial view, quite low. Lovely picture. And I was sitting here watching it and I looked and all the bombers and planes were still there.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Thousands of them, but they weren’t propeller driven. There wasn’t one propeller driven aeroplane there.
GR: They were all jets.
EP: All jets.
GR: Yeah.
EP: What happened to the propellers? And what a mighty Air Force.
GR: Oh God. Yeah. Yeah.
EP: And that’s all one place.
GR: That’s all in one place. And I believe they have them out there because it’s dry and everything.
EP: Exactly.
GR: There’s no rust.
EP: Yeah.
GR: And all that sort. When did you finally leave the RAF, Eric, and then we’ll —was it in the –
EP: I left the RAF in ’42 — 64.
GR: 1964.
EP: August ’64.
GR: August ’64.
EP: And I went. Come August ‘64.
GR: Yeah.
EP: What was I doing then? I spent the last year on a home posting, so I was in command of a radar plotting unit, plotting so called bombs dropped by the V bombers, and it was only for a year. The last year of my service.
GR: Last year. Yeah.
EP: And when I left the service, I went for a two years course at Edghill Training College for teachers. I had been accepted. I took all my GCSEs in the RAF.
GR: Yeah.
EP: Been accepted on a teachers course.
GR: Yeah.
EP: I did two years of a three years course. I joined the young ones as a mature student. I came out of training college as a fully qualified teacher, got an immediate posting. By this time, I’d moved into a house in Formby, my own house, had a brand new car, and life was good and I was posted to a little village school in Formby itself, which I’ll show you a picture of.
GR: And that’s where I will draw it to a close, and Eric has kindly lent us his typed up memoirs called, “Eric’s Story”, which gives a lot of detail to what we’ve just been talking about.



Gary Rushbrooke, “Interview with Eric Parker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 20, 2024,

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