Service record from August 1942 until November 1946 November



Service record from August 1942 until November 1946 November


Starting with conscription in 1942 as a flight mechanic at RAF Skegness. Working up to a flight engineer but failing as he started working at RAF Halton training as a flight mechanic, then attending a fitter course. Volunteered for the flight engineer course at RAF Binbrook for six months servicing Lancasters, then Aircrew Receiving Centre St John's Wood for flight engineer course. After that at 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit at RAF Winthorpe with the 467 Squadron, to serve with an all Australian aircrew for the rest of the war. After demobilisation he joined the GEC as a Patient Agent at the Research Laboratories in North Wembley until he retired in 1988.


Temporal Coverage



Two page typewritten document


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 and



BKirbyHKirbyHv10001, BKirbyHKirbyHv10002


[underlined] Harold Kirby – Service in the R.A.F. 1942 – 1946 [/underlined]
Called up August 12th 1942. Initial training at Skegness August – September 1942.
Posted to Halton to train as Flight Mechanic (airframes) the first intake of conscripts to do this training there. Passed out sufficiently highly to go on to take Fitter course.
During the period at Halton volunteered to train as Flight Engineer. Called to take aptitude tests and medical, and was accepted. (Early in 1942 I had tried to get in as Navigator with two school friends, but was turned down on medical grounds. They were both accepted and were later shot down, so perhaps I was lucky). While waiting for the F/E course was posted to 460 Squadron. Arrived at Breighton to find that they had moved to Binbrook about two weeks earlier. Billeted at Breighton overnight, and transported to Binbrook the following day, where I worked for about six months servicing and repairing Lancasters. [inserted] June ? Nov 43 [/inserted]
Eventually instructed to report to A.C.R.C, St Johns Wood, to be kitted out as aircrew and then posted to St. Athan for F/E course. After passing out was posted to 1661 H.C.U. at Winthorpe, where I joined an otherwise all Australian crew captained by (then) P.O. Bill Ryan, with Les Sabine (Navigator), Jim McPhie (Bomb Aimer) Johnny Nichols (W/O) Bert Newing (Rear Gunner) and Norm Johnston (Mid-Upper). At Winthorpe training was on Stirlings, and after initial flights with an instructor we took off on our first solo. However the port undercarriage leg would not lower, and had to be wound down by hand, but would not lock. Instructed to fly to Woodbridge where on landing the port U/C collapsed and we spun round. No-one was hurt and we flew back to base in another aircraft that the pilot-instructor had followed us down in. No further panics and we were posted to 467 Squadron at Waddington via 5LFS Syerston.
On our first operation Bert shouted “corkscrew”, shots were fired, and a twin-engined aircraft (not identified) shot past our nose and vanished into the night. During the shooting a bullet passed through the rear turret making a hole through Bert’s flying suit, but it was not clear whether this came from the unidentified aircraft or another of our own shooting at it. In any case I began to think that there could be better ways of spending one’s time.
However things went a little smoother after that until our 11th Op which was a “daylight” to Troissy. Flying at the briefed height bombs started falling around us and one went through the port wing taking away the undercarriage. It was not possible to see the full extent of the damage and I was asked to feather the port inner engine, just in front of the hole that the bomb had made, in case of fire. We were soon left behind by the rest of the force and were all alone in the sky until the rear gunner announced that two single-engined aircraft were approching [sic] from the starboard quarter,. After what seemed to be an age he said “it’s all right, they’re Spitfires” and one of them escorted us to the coast. A close watch was kept on the port wing which seemed (imagination?) to be flexing more than the other, and it was decided to land at Wittering, which had, at the time, a grass runway, rather than going on to base. As the landing gear and flaps were out of action due to the loss
[page break]
of hydraulic fluid we did a belly landing. Again no-one was hurt but the Skipper had a strip torn off him by Flying Control for spoiling their runway. When we saw the hole that had been made by the bomb it was found that it had missed both the front and rear spars only by inches.
After our 16th operation we were posted to 97 (Pathfinder) Squadron, then based with 83 Squadron at Coningsby, where we completed our first tour of 30 operations with a 10 hour trip to Politz in Poland. We went on to do a second tour, a shorter one of 15, and all but completed this with our 44th on the 25th April 1945.
The crew then split up and as I was no longer required for aircrew duties I chose a Radar Mechanics Course at Yatesbury, Wiltshire. After completing the course I was posted to West Ruislip, where I was able to live at home in Kingsbury and travel to Ruislip each day by tube, prior to being demobbed in November 1946.
Wanting to do something more technical than my earlier civilian job I joined the G.E.C. and trained as a Patent Agent at the Reseach [sic] Laboratories in North Wembley. Qualified in 1955 and retired in 1988, though still working one or two days a week. The rest of the time taken up by gardening, badminton, tennis or taking it easy.



Harold Kirby, “Service record from August 1942 until November 1946 November,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 23, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.