Interview with Harold Beech. Three


Interview with Harold Beech. Three


Harold Beech was born in 1933 in Middle Rasen and grew up on a farm. During his youth he lived near several airfields. His grandmother befriended an aircrew and in this interview Harold recounts another encounter with the crew involving lemonade bottles. He also explains more about the civilians who serviced the Lancasters at RAF Wickenby.







00:05:32 audio recording

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HB: This is a third interview with Mr Harold Beech. Date of birth 20th of June 1933 who lives at *** Kettering, Northamptonshire. This is further to the previous two interviews Mr Beech has done. It’s Harry Bartlett carrying out the interview. It’s the 17th of March 2017 and over to you Mr Beech.
HB2: Well I’ve already made reference to grandma’s little shop.
HB: Yes.
HB2: Now she sold non-rationable goods such as bottles of lemonade and she used to sell the big bottles of which there was a deposit of threepence on. You got it back when you returned the bottle empty. Now grandma had got all her empties stashed up outside her back, her front door and, ready for collection and all of a sudden she realised they weren’t there. So the air crew that frequented was questioned. ‘Now lads. What do you know about my bottles?’ and they all began to laugh and one chap piped up and said gran er, ‘Ma, you won’t need your bottles anymore. You haven’t got them.’ So she said, ‘I know I haven’t got them. Where are they?’ He said, ‘Well we dropped them over Germany,’ he said, ‘they don’t half whistle.’ And he said, ‘With a bit of luck there will be a lot of Germans looking for unexploded bombs.’ She said, ‘Oh really. Oh right. Thank you for telling me.’ And by that they’d had a whip around and reimbursed her for what she’d lost.
HB: For the deposits yeah.
HB2: So she wasn’t out of pocket but we laughed about that and thought how the devil does that crew, going on a dangerous mission like they are, might not come back, think about a prank like that?
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB2: But that’s the way it was and they did it.
HB: Yeah. So this was the crew that used to visit ma and —
HB2: Yes. Yes.
HB: Have a, have a cup of tea and a cake.
HB2: It was their little oasis. Yes.
HB: Yeah. Yeah.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: Yeah. Oh that’s interesting.
HB2: But -
HB: ‘Cause I know they used to write on the bombs but —
HB2: Yes.
HB: Dropping lemonade bottles, that’s something different.
HB2: It is isn’t it?
HB: Yeah, it’s, that’s different. You know when we spoke before I can’t remember if I did ask you this because you were right next to Wickenby.
HB2: Wickenby. Faldingworth. Faldingworth.
HB: Faldingworth.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: And Wickenby. Did, was the airfield in your time ever bombed or attacked?
HB2: The only time Faldingworth was attacked was when a German aircraft followed one of our lads home.
HB: Right. Right.
HB2: And that was when he dropped the bomb on the spinney at the bottom of the road.
HB: Yes. Sorry yes I do recall that. But that was the only time you can recollect, yeah.
HB2: That was the only time I knew of any action against them.
HB: Yeah. But because obviously what crossed my mind was if that airfield is working the way it was working at Wickenby you’d got this civilian workforce repairing the aircraft.
HB2: Yes.
HB: Can you recall what aircraft they were repairing? Were they Lancasters?
HB2: Lancasters.
HB: They were —
HB2: Lancasters.
HB: Lancasters.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: And a complete civilian crew.
HB2: Yes.
HB: ‘Cause we’ve got the photograph of —
HB2: Yes.
HB: Then.
HB2: They were complete civilians.
HB: Right.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: So who would they report to?
HB2: They used to have, as far as I can remember, they used to have what we called the inspectors coming around.
HB: Right.
HB2: From the firm.
HB: Yeah. Which was a, the name of the firm they worked for.
HB2: AV Roe.
HB: AV Roe.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: Right.
HB2: And they had people coming to check up on them from civilian organisations but were attached no doubt to the ministry.
HB2: Right.
HB: Some ministry or other.
HB2: Yeah.
HB: But they were supervised.
HB2: So the aircraft they were working on. Were they being returned to active service, operational service or were they just sort of stripping them down for parts and —
HB: No. No.
HB2: Things like that.
HB: If Ben said he could three aircraft on the runway by half past three he had to have three aircraft there at half past three.
HB2: Right. Right. Right. That’s —
HB: So —
HB2: Clarified that.
HB: Yeah. He, him and his crew were repairing Lancaster bombers.
HB2: Right. And where would they be coming from. Would they be coming from just Wickenby or would they be coming from all around.
HB: No. They was at Wickenby.
HB2: They were the ones that were based at Wickenby.
HB: Based at Wickenby.
HB2: Right. Right. That’s interesting. Well thanks ever so much for that Harold. That’s clarified a couple of things. I’m still intrigued with the lemonade bottles. Blimey. To think of that in the middle of a war.
HB: Well this is it. And what were they? Nineteen year olds. Twenty year olds.
HB2: Yeah. Thereabouts.
HB: Yeah.
HB2: Thereabouts. They wouldn’t be much. Well the time now is quarter to one so I’m going to terminate the interview and we’ll record that for our purposes.



Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Harold Beech. Three,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed March 1, 2024,

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