Interview with Kenneth Stoker


Interview with Kenneth Stoker




00:18:39 audio recording


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I was born in Dover on 2nd of July 1926. When war started in September 1939, I was thirteen, I went to River school. George Blackman, the well-known Youth Leader in Dover ran the Army cadets and decided to form a cadet branch for the Air Training Corps which was a good help for us lads who wanted to join the RAF. I was very good at aircraft recognition and was soon made up to Corporal Cadet. Which was a good help when I volunteered for the RAF Marine Branch in 1943 as I always liked the sea and was called up when I was 17 3/4 in March 1944. I went first to Bedford and we were there kitted out and then sent on to Skegness and then after basic training I was sent to Stranraer the Marine Craft training school. For nine weeks I put in for ASR postings to either Dover or Ramsgate but the powers that be thought different and I was sent to OBAN Flying boat base which was 520 miles from my home but this was typical. I was put on crew of a Seaplane Tender the Corporal Cox’n was Fred Stiles who had been awarded the BEM for going overboard in a very cold sea and rescuing two airmen who had crashed in a Catalina flying boat, Fred died a few years ago. After two or three months I was posted to the Far East and went to Ceylon, India, and Burma, I joined 230 Air Sea Rescue Unit at acciab in Burma and was put on to Hant’s & Dorset launch 2686. We had three launches in our unit one day we would be on duty and would go to a section given to us where there was action going on and then if any of our aircraft were damaged we were in the area to go and pick them up if they had crashed , we used to often stay in an area called Foul Island and we sometimes would be there five days waiting for another callout and one day when we were South of Acciab off of Ranlee island a call went out to search for a Liberator that had crashed and our two launches that were back at base went off and eventually found them and among the crew was Flt Lt Nicholson who was the only pilot who got the VC in the Battle of Britain . we often went down and stayed a few miles South of Jutubia I am sorry to say that all the time I was with 2686 about eight months, we did not get a pick up but we were in the areas where we might be needed if anything had happened, it does seem a bit of a disappointment but I picked up more people on the Marine Craft Section back in Britain than I did out in Burma. I was with 230ASR until just before VJ Day then I went into hospital in Rangoon where they found that I had a tropical disease of the kidneys and was to be sent home I arrived in Calcutta on August 15thVJ Day when the war had finished I carried on to Bombay waiting about five weeks there and eventually got on board the troopship Georjic for the journey home to Liverpool which took about 3 ½ weeks I was then put into hospital at RAF Hereford for about two months and then posted to Gosport. On torpedo recovery we used to check where the torpedoes were dropped and then recover them with a derrick on a GP Pinnace interesting work sometimes we would have our break over on the isle of Wight one time the Queen Mary came out of Southampton going to the United States of America, after about six months |I was posted to Felixstowe 1103 MCU most time running about in a marine Tender plenty of work as it was a repair base and a test place also for flying boats and sea planes, the Shetland Flying boat which was larger than a Sunderland was there and one Sunday night it caught fire on the moorings two chaps were on board on boat watch and the heat from the cooker caused an explosion there was always a smell of petrol when you went alongside but luckily the chaps were able to swim ashore so no loss of life. 1946 I was picked to be one of the crew a pinnace 1416 to go to London to stand by two Sunderland’s that were landing at Greenwich and they were to be open to the public to go aboard, I was to ferry them in an Marine Tender which we had picked up at Woolwich Arsenal The Sunderland’s Landed around 6am and I and my deckhand were sent up to Tower Bridge at 5 o’clock to make sure that there was no large logs etc. these floating and likely to be in the area when the aircraft landed, everything went off OK. I had to take the crews ashore as they were going to be billeted in the Royal Naval College. Later on two HSL’s arrived and on Saturday and Sunday the launches were also open for the public to view. I also had the MT to do the job I and my deckhand worked right through the day from 8am till 6pm carrying ten people a time and they had about eight to ten minutes aboard the Sunderland’s and then returned to Greenwich Pier for another lot it was very popular the crews of the Sunderland’s put a forage cap inside the door and when the visitors came out they left a tip which the crews on the aircraft shared with us two lads and we got about £4 each which was a lot of money in those days our pay rate in Group 3 was three shillings to thirteen and six a day. Back at Felixstowe one day three German “Junkers Fifty Two float planes” landed they had been taken over by the Dutch Airforce I had to take the crews ashore to see our CO and they had lunch with him and then after being re fuelled by us they then took off about four hours later. Another day two Beaufighters flew over Felixstowe one touched the other one’s wing and it crashed in the sea and shocked me as CO Flt Lt Garwood came down the pier on his bike and told me to wait for him and take him out to the scene of the accident, whilst going around we found an aircraft seat with one of the crew strapped to it, and the pinnace picked it up and the other chap after a few days they found him when the brought the aircraft out of the water. One weekend the RAF sailing Club held a regatta at Felixstowe and I was detached to stand by in case of any mishaps it so happened that a sailing dinghy turned over about two miles off shore and I went to their aid and we righted it up and towed it back to base, I believe if I can remember right the mast had broken however on the Monday after they had left the pier master called me into his hut and said those officers that you picked up yesterday left you this envelope and inside it was two £1 notes which I thought was very nice and helpful in those days. Another time in Felixstowe I took the crew of a Sunderland out and they were going on a test flight and went down towards Southend and the next thing we heard was that they had crashed and it hit me rather because quite a number of those chaps I used to take out to the boats cause I never saw them any more they salvaged the aircraft and I have photos of it here at home sorry. for going back but things come to my mind now that when we were in acciab and as I have said we used to go down off of an island called flat Island and we used to go ashore and the natives used to give us chickens which they soon killed off and gave us the remains and we took them on board plucked them and one of our crew was a butcher and he used to butcher them and we often had chicken stuffed with soya link sausages and whatever else was going. But there was so many things went on some come back to mind but with my age now it is a bit of a difficulty. I enjoyed my service in the RAF and all told I was in just on Four years I think it was. I Just remembered that when I had Flt Lt Garwood in the Marine Tender and we were pulling gits of the aircraft which had crashed off Felixstowe I gave it one good pull on something and it turned out to be an oil tank and all the oil came over the edge of the boat all the oil came floating out and went all over the CO. and he was not Amused but that was just one of the things that happened, also we had a bad winter there and the sea water had frozen all around the flying boats and we couldn’t get to it with any boats at all we had to wait for the ice to eventually break up, as the river broke up farther towards Ipswich we were able to get out but it seemed strange walking out to a flying boat instead of taking a boat, while at Felixstowe it has just downed on me there was a lady there who was working with the designs of aircraft and she would sometimes come down to the jetty to get me to take her out to certain aircraft and once she was on board the pilot had to do what she told him. about what she wanted the aircraft to try or not and sometimes they would take off about thirty feet off the water and they would have to cut the engines and the aircraft would bang down onto the sea and it was on the landing area of course but it seemed strange for the aircraft to come in and cut the engines and then with a dirty great bang, but she knew what she was doing and used to have special bars along in the aircraft for stress and strain where they used to measure all the power that was necessarily coming through from hitting the water at dangerous heights . I would just add it’s sad to say that there were around Fifty or Sixty of us chaps on 230 ASR and I kept in touch with three or four of them after the war but I am sorry to say that they have now all passed away and it is really sad when you have got nobody to chat with about the old times …….. Thank you very much.


“Interview with Kenneth Stoker,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 16, 2024,

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