Interview with Frederick James Bark


Interview with Frederick James Bark


Frederick was born near Lincoln. He was five years old at the beginning of the Second World War. He grew up about two miles from RAF Scampton. He recalls waving to crew as they left. He also recalls going with soldiers from the Lincolnshire regiment headquarters and being shown how to use mortars and Bren guns and do map reading. Frederick’s brother-in-law was an airman, originally used to fly out at RAF Binbrook in the latter part of the war, and had been in the Birmingham fire service. Frederick explains the effect that the anxiety of waiting for aircrew to return that his sister went through.







00:17:24 audio recording


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ABarkFJ150527, PBarkFJ1501


FB: I’m Fred Bark and I was born at Riseholme two miles north of Lincoln and I, at the beginning of the Second World War I was approximately five years old and I was about two miles from Scampton RAF camp so I noted. We used to watch the aircraft and later in the war they became Lancasters and as they took off they were so low you could wave to the crew and they would wave back. And so also then Sobraon Barracks, the headquarters of the Lincolnshire Regiment was about two miles away and they used to come into the parkland around my bungalow and as a young boy they more or less adopted me and I used to go with them when they were doing their exercises. They showed me how to use a Bren gun and mortar guns. We did map reading which I was useful because I knew the land and took them around. And so I gradually grew up and towards the end of the war I had one sister, Beryl who engaged and later got married to an airman. He was at Hemswell then as a ground crew engineer. He trained to be a flight engineer and that’s when he moved to Binbrook and in Binbrook he did thirty three ops. Fortunately, he came back and in latter years, he was about a year before he was demobbed and then he went to Finningley where he was in a crew that tested aircraft that had crashed or been repaired at Avro’s. And they accepted him back into the RAF so he had one year more or less test flying. Then when he left he went into the Fire Service at Birmingham and later as an officer, a fire officer at a group of hospitals in London. So all my sort of early life was connected with the military. We also had a searchlight battery in the field about a quarter of a mile away. The other thing about RAF Scampton it was a lovely park where I lived and there was a lake and for recreation the flight crews when there wasn’t flying in the evening used to come fishing in the lake. I think for relaxation and then in the evening they would go up to the hall and have late night drinks and go back. So all my life in the early years was connected with the military. Either the Army and the RAF chiefly but now I’ve got a son in the Navy.
PE: I’ll just ask you a couple of questions, Fred. When you were at Scampton and you saw the Lancasters flying out and flying in, when they were flying in did you see any that were damaged?
FB: Yes. I did. We had two actually crash within half a mile of our bungalow and it wasn’t a nice sight. The thing I can remember it seemed to hit the edge at one end of the field and all the debris flew backwards and covered an area at least as large as a football pitch. And so there was one to the north of me and one to the south. And the other thing that used to happen was we used to try to count them going out in the evening and I believe I don’t know if it was short wave or long wave but on the radio you could pick their talk as they came in to land. Some would say they wanted an emergency landing, they’d got people injured on board and so we had an idea, a good idea what the losses was for that evening. And, but the things that you did you just took things that are serious now more an everyday life. And one, when we was fishing and I was talking to some of the crew I was saying, ‘Where’s Bill —’ such and such and the reply was, ‘He’s gone for a burton.’ And then you didn’t say any more then.
PE: And as a child when you saw the Lancasters flying out and then coming in did you find that sort of exciting?
FB: No. I think we took it for granted. It was four or five years of the same thing. Obviously the weather made a big difference. You would be, they were scheduled to fly and then over the target it would be cloudy. So that evening they had to do something that they hadn’t got planned and my brother in law who flew from Binbrook would bring them and they would have supper and then they would hitchhike back to base. So I think the whole country was at war and you just accepted these things happened.
PE: Your brother in law when he was flying out of Binbrook do you know what sort of missions he was flying?
FB: No. They didn’t talk too much about it but he was in the latter part of the war in ’43 ’44ish which was the thirty three ops and he would say, ‘Oh, it was a long one,’ or a short one but they, I think they just tried to live a normal life. I think the biggest worry we had, my sister who was obviously married at the time lived at Grimsby but the worry of the people left behind while the crews knew perhaps every eight trips one wouldn’t come back. I think the people, the crews was always cheerful and I don’t know if it would be to help them but I think the worrying people was us watching.
PE: So, do you think it had a big impact on your family like your parents and —
FB: Well, it had. I’d no brothers. Just the one sister. He had a big impact on me because he was such a lovely person. He was well respected by everyone. When he was a young man he came from Birmingham and he run the local football leagues. He went into the Birmingham Fire Service and after a number of years there there was a vacancy for the hospital as a fire officer. And after a severe accident they found out, the hospital people had nobody qualified so he was ideal to go in a hospital environment sort of thing. But one thing, he was very good at sort of taking things down. Literature, and his logbook I understood was sent down to St Athans as example of an aircrew from taking off, over the bombing area and back. I can remember looking at this book when it was handed to him at the end of the war. You couldn’t see any tremor or anything. Just it was normal and he was a good, but he was an extremely likeable person. One other thing I can remember now. One of these evenings when he wasn’t flying he brought a friend back and he was a member, he was called West and they was a very big garage and sales people in Lincoln and he was piggy backing me on a lovely summer’s evening in the park and pretending to throw me into some nettles and that. I can see it now. And I asked Sid next day how was Mr West and he had gone for a burton. These are the things I really remember.
PE: Was your sister married to your brother in law at the time? Or were they just boyfriend and girlfriend?
FB: No. He was, I think met at a dance at Lincoln I can imagine when he was at Hemswell and after two or three or perhaps two years they got married when he became aircrew which a lot did. And so all his ops from Binbrook he was married to my sister and she went to lodge in Grimsby so she was nearby.
PE: Did that affect your sister a lot? With her knowing that he was flying these ops?
FB: I think it did. But you learned in the war years not to show too much because it was every family had an event. My neighbour, her son which was a little bit older than me he went in for aircrew and he didn’t make the eight trips. So it was all around you. It’s a thing you didn’t talk about but as you get older you do think about it.
PE: So you feel you are able to talk about things now where you didn’t at the time.
FB: Yes. I think because I was young at the time it was exciting for me to have all these people around me. And I think being a young boy and the soldiers and airmen had families of their own it was a bit of comfort to them. But me at the time it was just a way of life. And my families being, my mother had five brothers in the First World War in France and one in the second one. My father had a brother. Both of them was in the First World War so it was just natural really that we just wanted to win.
PE: Can you think of anything that happened during the Second World War that you found amusing?
FB: Not really. The thing I think I notice more everybody stuck together as you would say in Lincolnshire. Everybody helped each other. I don’t think anybody was really miserable because you thought if you was miserable well the enemy was winning. It’s comradeship. And I think that went right through the whole country. London had their bombing. We had something else but it was, I think they could do with a little bit of that spirit now.
PE: Okay, Fred that was great. Thank you very much. Thank you. There are some nice little snippets in there.
FB: Yeah.
PE: One of the doors squeaking away.
FB: When you finish you think of other. No. But —
PE: No.
FB: Yes.
PE: I mean the camera’s still live. If you can think of something else that’s fine. But no, you did really well. There’s some interesting things in there.
FB: Yeah.
PE: That —
FB: Thinking about it.
PE: You wouldn’t normally hear you know.
FB: No.
PE: So that was good, you know. So —
FB: It does make me feel old.
PE: Sorry?
FB: Makes me feel old.
PE: Oh, well you sort of lived through it.
FB: Oh, yes.
PE: That’s how you get to be old. You live through things, you know.
FB: I did two years National Service.
PE: Yeah.
FB: In the RAF at Marham and, but my son he’s made a career of the Navy and thirty years in it. Thirty one now. That’s gone quick as lightning really. I can remember him just joining up sort of thing. And so I think like my mother coming out of thirteen children, my wife’s family fifteen children everybody turns out well and are good civilians. It does make me wonder what the country is coming to now when you’ve got to have handouts if you got two or three children. People were a lot more better organised than they are now.
PE: Yeah.
FB: I find technology I think can be helpful but I’ve always looked at that as a tool to use the best parts of it. Don’t let it, I mean what annoys me is that the people who walk out of the store and the first thing is they look at their phone. And they’re, you sit in a bus and they’re tip tapping about and I think well haven’t you something better to do than that? Sort of thing. So, like when I was young you used to think well older people are talking a bit silly but now I am older you can look back on a lot wider spectrum can’t you. You can see that everything has moved on in say ten years then you have to alter with it. But technology I think we think it will look after us but it will ruin us if we don’t.
PE: Yeah. That’s fine. That’s lovely, Fred. Thanks for that.
FB: Yeah. Rightio.
PE: Now what I’ll do is I’ll switch the camera off now.
FB: Yeah.


Paul Espin, “Interview with Frederick James Bark,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 24, 2024,

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