Interview with Frederick Parker


Interview with Frederick Parker


Fred Parker was born in Skegness and worked with boats and built pillboxes before the war. He later joined the Royal Air Force and served as ground personnel, where he worked at an air gunnery training unit at RAF Silloth, with target tugs. Fred spent time in Cumberland, Scotland and France and he talks about some of the people he came across, and the loss of friends. Fred went to work in France and London after the war.




Temporal Coverage




00:28:51 audio recording


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HB: This is an interview between Harry Bartlett, on behalf of the International Bomber Command Centre, and Mr Frederick Parker, who was a member of 1 Group in the RAF during the war. Fred Parker was born 15th of July 1922, his serial number was 1106402. The interview is taking place at [redacted] Loughborough. The time now is 10.50 and Mr Parker has just been telling me about his younger life. It’s the, sorry, it’s the 30th of November. Right Mr Parker, so you were born in Skegness.
FP: Yes. Cavendish Road, Skegness.
HB: At Cavendish Road, and you went to primary school there.
FP: That’s right.
HB: Just tell me again what you were doing, ‘cause you left school at how old?
FP: About twelve.
HB: And what were you doing, before you, before the war?
FP: We were, I was always working either with the lifeboats or looking after them.
HB: Right. And did you do some work on the fish quays?
FP: On the?
HB: On the fish quays?
FP: Oh no, never, none of that.
HB: With the fishing boats? No?
FP: No. I know nearly all of the people, Jack Barron, he was the one that covered everything.
HB: Right. And then you became part of a sort of a group of volunteers building pill boxes.
FP: That’s right.
HB: And where was that?
FP: That was, they were actually building them at Mablethorpe, and the cement and the gravel and the stuff like that, that was transported from Chapel St Leonards. My sister, my sister’s boy, he was only about, what would he be, thirteen, and he was younger than I.
HB: Right. And how old was he?
FP: He was only about thirteen.
HB: [Laugh] Different times, yeah. And you did that up until - when did you actually join up to the RAF?
FP: I went to Lincoln to join up, when I joined up, any record of the date there when I joined up?
HB: I haven’t got a date when you joined up, I’ve got very little information Fred.
FP: Oh.

HB: How old were you when you joined up?
FP: Well to tell you the truth I can’t give you that information because I don’t know it myself. What, I was sent from Skegness to Lincoln, the main RAF station at Lincoln and then from there we were despatched to Blackpool to get our uniforms.
HB: Yeah. Did you do some training at Blackpool?
FP: On the beach, yeah, not the beach, on the Promenade. Learned how to use a rifle and all that.
HB: Yeah. So you did your basic training at Blackpool and then where did you go for your next lot of training?
FP: I went to RAF Silloth, in Cumberland, and there I took over the tow target section.
HB: Right. So you were in the tow target section, at Silloth. And what was your actual job there, Fred?
FP: Putting the targets on, picking them up.
HB: Where were the targets Fred?
FP: The target actually was, when, when the drogue was stopped, it came down, we’d pick it up and we’d count the different colours on it, the different colour and then the tracer, armour piercing, all that, to know, what they’d been, fired at you.
HB: And were these drogues dropped from the air or were they in the sea?
FP: Into the, the tow targets, they were, when I say dropped from the air, [pause] say that again to me.
HB: Were, were the drogues, the targets -
FP: They dropped from the air with a special device called a naseby air gun and what happened was, it was a cushion effect, it had a tube and running through that tube there was a slanted cut and then another two pieces then and when the disk went down the wire to, it hit the drogue and did a cushion effect, like I said, coming forwards, backwards and cut the cable.
HB: Ah, right. So it was towed behind an aircraft, and after, who was shooting at it?
FP: Who was shooting?
HB: Who was shooting at the target?
FP: They were, who were, [pause] it’s got to be, it’s got to be batches of crews isn’t it.
HB: Yeah. So other aircraft would come along and they would fire at the target?
FP: That’s right. They would, no, not fire at it. We would go along and fire at a target similar to the one that I told you about and then, so that we could get the best result, know how far away to start firing.
HB: Right. Ah, right. Yes, I understand. So, what were you doing in the aircraft when that was being towed?
FP: Well, keeping my bloody head down! [Laughter] Because you could see the trace – have you ever seen tracers being fired? Well when tracers are being fired they’re red hot, they’re a rich browny colour and the idea was that, we -
HB: So you just kept your head down in the aircraft? So did you sort of launch the target when you were up in the air or -
FP: Oh no, you got out, you got that far down in the cockpit as possible.
HB: Right. So what kind of aircraft were they?
FP: Martinet.
HB: Martinets, right. So you were up in the cockpit area.
FP: That’s right, just behind the pilot.
HB: Just behind the pilot, right.
FP: Giving him all the messages with a long pencil.
HB: A long pencil.
FP: Anything you want to tell him, you use a pencil. I know it seems silly.
HB: So you’re sort of making it look as if you’re poking him with the pencil, is that what you did?
FP: Yes.
HB: Oh right, what, a sort of morse code in pencil, jabbing him with the pencil. So were you receiving messages in the aircraft?
FP: The idea of tow targets was that we should be prepared for when the Germans came over and then what we did, we tried to make it so that our fellows knew what was happening. Like, we would take them up in the, this is when you’re in the flight, you’d take ‘em up, blind, in cloud and all that kind of stuff, and get this guy or guys to come along and try to shoot you down, but he couldn’t shoot us down because they were terrible! [Laugh]
HB: So did you do that all through the war?
FP: Yes.
HB: From, so how many years do you think you did that?
FP: Oh, I lived in, what would it be, I can’t exactly remember how many years, a good few. About six? Between four and six.
HB: Right. So you must have joined around about 1941 then, round about there.
FP: Yes.
HB: So all your time, spent, initially, you know, in the first part of the war, was up at Silloth, up to, did you say Maryport earlier on?
FP: Maryport, that was near London, that was another one of [unclear]. These bases were kept so that the crew if they were shot down, we could get an air sea rescue job on to them as quick as possible.
HB: So you would go out and search for downed aircrew.
FP: Oh yes.
HB: Right. And yeah, so you were stationed up there. Did you then get moved south ready for D-Day?
FP: No. Lossiemouth.
HB: You went to Lossiemouth, yeah. And what were you doing at Lossiemouth?
FP: Not very much, the, the, just after the Japanese surrender.
HB: Right. So that would be ’40 -
FP: So everybody was making whoopee because the war was going to be over.
HB: So when did you go to France, Fred?
FP: When?
HB: Yes.
FP: I was sent to France. I was sent to France by our country and I went to France but when I came home and finished, you know, in the Army, I went back as a civilian because I knew all the answers and how to get hold of the gear and everything, then they took me on.
HB: So that was for the construction site.
FP: Yes.
HB: So did you end up, you ended up in France in 1945, just after D-Day?
FP: Yes. I was at [indecipherable] La Visinet.
HB: La Visinet.
FP: That’s a name you can’t forget.
HB: And what were you doing at La Visinet?
FP: Hiding from the German people and then we were, one of the many things is back and forwards, back to all aircraft too.
HB: Right. La Visinet, right. So you were hiding from them.
FP: Pardon?
HB: You were hiding from them.
FP: Not hiding from them, just keeping out of the way of them because there were still German people on the main land in France.
HB: Right. So how long after D-Day did you get into France, Fred?
FP: I was sent to France.
HB: Yeah, what, on D-Day, or just after D-Day.
FP: Yeah, D-Day.
HB: Right. So you stayed in, you stayed over, you came back to England, to Lossiemouth, is that where you got demobbed?
FP: I was posted to Lossiemouth.
HB: From France.
FP: From France.
HB: So in that bit, after D-Day, and before you came back to Lossiemouth, what were you doing in France at that point?
FP: What were we doing? Well we, I was with a, this French woman and I spent most of my time with her.
HB: Yeah, did, what were you doing in the RAF, between?
FP: By that time the RAF in La Visinet it was just a few people. The signs of battle by aeroplanes and things like that that, they were long since gone. We had a job feeding our own, the troops on the land and shoeing them, stuff like that you go out and get them and [pause].
HB: So, right, so you came back to Lossiemouth and then you were sent to Blackpool to be demobbed.
FP: That’s right.
HB: And where did you go from demob, when you were demobbed? Can you remember what year that was?
FP: When I was demobbed er, no I can’t remember.
HB: Did you go, you went to demob did you go on leave and go home or did you?
FP: Went on leave, from Blackpool Distribution Centre, where they give you the clothes and all that.
HB: So where did you go after you were demobbed?
FP: I went to Bridge Motor Bodies in London and got a job as a welder.
HB: Right, so you worked down in London for a while.
FP: Pardon?
HB: You worked in London for a while.
FP: Yes.
HB: Can you remember when you went back, what date, what sort of year you went back to France then, after that?
FP: Well it would be, [pause] it was, seven was in there somewhere.
HB: What, 1947 do you think.
FP: Yes. I think so, ’47.
HB: Obviously I’ll look some of this up, if I can, on the record. [Cough] When, what rank were you when you were demobbed, Fred?
FP: I was, I was a Corporal.
HB: Corporal?
FP: The other men were, I had were, was, what was it, [pause] I suppose AC2.
HB: AC2, right. And that was the rank when you were demobbed?
FP: Yes. No, LAC. LAC.
HB: Right, well thanks, that’s really interesting Fred.
FP: It’s not, because I’ve got nothing permanent, haven’t got a good picture for you.
HB: No, no, no, it’s your story, Fred, it’s your story, it’s what you can remember. We all get a little bit.
FP: I certainly am. I certainly am.
HB: Did you actually go into any of the bombers? The Lancasters and the Halifaxes?
FP: Yes. I used to lay on the tail of a Martinet, or a Spitfire, to stop it from -
HB: To stop it lifting, yeah, when they were winding the engine up.
FP: Lifting. When they were revving it up.
HB: And that was all up at Silloth and Maryport, places like that.
FP: We had, we had oh, Hurricanes, Spitfires, Martinets, Oxfords, and all that.
HB: Hmm. So, right.
FP: I’m making hard work of this for you.
HB: No, no. It’s your story Fred. It’s your story, it’s how you want to tell me, and what you can remember. Did you do any training as an air gunner?
FP: No.
HB: You didn’t, right.
FP: No, but believe me I have seen more tracer bullets in flight at close range, [laughter] and I’ve had no training for that.
HB: I mean, can I take you back a bit Fred, I’m intrigued with this long pencil business with the pilot. Just tell me how that worked.
FP: Well, you got a sliding cabin and that’s the canopy as he enter to tell the guy that he want in, you can’t do it when you’re firing bullets, but you can do it by giving him a poke with a pencil.
HB: And then you can tell him what, which way to turn?
FP: You know, you would, couple of sharp pokes and then try and you know, you’ve had enough of it, you’ve got to get out of it, because some of these young guys, they weren’t looking to make, they weren’t looking to do the job properly, they just want to go up there and fire as many bloody rounds off as they can.
HB: Right, and did you do any firing from the Martinets or were they, was that just towing the target?
FP: That’s just towing the target.
HB: Well that’s really interesting Fred. What I’ll do, I’ll end the [cough].
FP: We had a, flight written book, should be around somewhere, every time you took off, you signed the register and you went and did your tow targeting, see, and then come back, and then got the tables ready to do some more. You had to pack the parachute and all that.
HB: Well you’d need a parachute in that job! Did you lose any planes when you were there?
FP: Martinet.
HB: Did you lose any Martinets?
FP: Quite a lot, and nice, good friends. Quite a lot of them.
HB: And the pilots of the Martinets, were they always the same or did they then go on to fly other aircraft?
FP: Well, the pilots were usually officers, but I outranked them. I think they were put on rest, given a light job and then most probably put them back on afterwards.
HB: So they’ve come away from being shot at and they’re flying a plane that’s being shot at! And that was light duties!
FP: Believe me, when I say shot at, you could say that. I don’t know whether you’ve ever, if you’ve ever seen tracers being fired at night time – it’s frightening.
HB: Yeah. So, [cough] you must have, you must have seen a lot of people come through.
FP: And not come back.
HB: Yeah, and get, so they were going from there -
FP: We had a lot of our own, ‘cause we had these Polish aircraft, and they were training and of course we only wanted a bit more of that because they were going up and flying over there and helping us [emphasis] out.
HB: Hmm. Yeah.
FP: But they were mad, they were, the Poles, they were mad. Screaming and bawling and shouting, firing anywhere.
HB: Oh dear, right, yeah. So, you’re flying up and down off the west coast, off Cumberland and I presume you did most of this over the sea did you?
FP: That’s right.
HB: And then you moved south, to go to France.
FP: Yes.
HB: So did you move down before D-Day, or did you go down after [emphasis] D-Day?
FP: Before.
HB: Right, and what were you doing, were you still towing targets down there?
FP: Was I still? Oh yes.
HB: And can you remember where you were based down there?
FP: RAF Silloth.
HB: Right, now, that’s really interesting Fred. If it’s all right with you, I’m going to take a photograph of your medals, ‘cause we don’t take anything away, we, everything stays here, going to take a photograph of your medals, and if I can, if you’ll let me, I’ll take a photograph of you as well. How’s that?
FP: Oh, yeah.
HB: Good man. Right, let me get a, let me just finish.
FP: I’m sorry it’s not been a rapid response.
HB: No! Fred, Fred, you don’t need to worry about that. You don’t need to worry about that. It’s your story and it’s what you can remember.
FP: I don’t want to be down here on what they call a goose chase. Everything I’ve put on there, it really happened.
HB: Yeah. That’s not a problem. That’s not a problem Fred. I’m just gonna finish the interview, it’s 11.20, I’ll just turn the tape recorder off.



Harry Bartlett, “Interview with Frederick Parker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 13, 2024,

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