Interview with Victor Harding


Interview with Victor Harding


An oral history interview with Leading Aircraftsman Victor Harding.







00:38:26 audio recording


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CB: This interview is being conducted for the International Bomber Command Centre. The interviewer is Claire Bennett; the interviewee is Mr Victor Harding. The interview is taking place at Mr Harding’s home in Queen’s Court, Retford, on the 20th of May 2015. Well Vic, would you like to tell us the date and place of your birth?
VH: Er, 05-03-22. We was in Middlesex.
CB: And can you remember your early childhood?
VH: Yes because I was born outta wedlock, and my mother sent me down to a home in Kent, to, to join the forces.
CB: And you stayed in a – you were in a –
VH: I stayed in a home – what you call a home for little [unclear], my daughter knows it ‘cause she took me there. And I was there ‘till I was nineteen ‘till I volunteered, joined the Air Force.
CB: And do you remember much about it? What are your memories of it?
VH: What the home?
CB: Yes.
VH: It was marvellous. It was run by ex-military people and they’re very very good to you. Plenty of discipline and everything, oh yeah. And when I was eighteen, that’s when I volunteered to join the Air Force then.
CB: What –
Other: You learnt, you learnt a trade in the home, didn’t you?
VH: Pardon?
Other: You learnt a trade in the home.
VH: Oh yes, in the – they, after you finish your schooling age, they had different trades there. They had the printing department, a cobblers, carpentry, tailoring department, trades to learn when you’ve finished doing your schooling.
CB: And you went in for –
VH: Tailoring. Because the war broke out, and then I volunteered for the Air Force.
CB: What made you choose the Air Force in particular?
VH: I don’t know really [laughs]. I just fancied it, you know. And they asked me if I wanted to be aircrew or ground staff, so I thought ‘I haven’t got the brains to be aircrew’ so I volunteered to be in the ground staff to maintain the air craft.
CB: You were mechanically minded?
VH: I was flying mechanic air frame lot of the time. Everything by the engines, yeah,
CB: Would you have liked to have flown?
VH: I would have done if I had brains, yeah. [Both laugh]
CB: But nobody said you didn’t have any brains, this is what you perceived. [VH laughing]
VH: Well, I didn’t think I would be qualified for it enough sort of thing.
CB: So where did you start your training? Where did you join up?
VH: I went to Blackpool, and I done my – I can’t remember whether it was six months training at Kirkham for a flight mechanics course. When I passed out, I was sent to Cottesmore to Operational Training Unit.
CB: And what was your training, you know, like? Did you enjoy it?
VH: I did, really enjoyed it.
CB: How did you get to the, the training place? Was it on the train?
VH: No the Air Force took me there, you know. I went to Cottesmore –
CB: Yes.
VH: And I was on old Southampton’s [?]. All the old stuff sort of thing ‘till I was qualified, and then when I was paid, I was put onto Bomber Command then.
CB: But, you would get your posting wouldn’t you, and then you’d have to get to your posting destination –
VH: That’s it, yeah they –
CB: Did you, did you go on the trains during the war?
VH: Pardon?
CB: Did you go the trains during the war?
VH: Trains?
CB: Mm.
VH: No.
CB: No?
VH: No, never went on trains.
CB: So how did you get around? Did the –
VH: The Air Force took me around, you know.
CB: Right.
VH: To different stations, yes.
CB: Right. So, so you’d, a group of you would go perhaps and they’d take you to the stations?
VH: Yeah.
CB: And what was your, you know, your time training? You know, what kind of accommodation did you have?
VH: Well, sometimes I was in Nissan huts, sometimes I was in buildings, you know. All depends where you were stationed sort of thing.
CB: Where was, where do you think your best station was? You enjoyed the most?
VH: Oh, best place was at Lakenheath. It was a brick building, but when the Yanks came and saw it they took it over. So we were putting Nissan huts [laughs].
CB: Well the Nissan huts I think were pretty sparse weren’t they?
VH: Yeah.
CB: And cold, is that your –
VH: That’s it, yeah.
CB: Is that how you remember them, or?
VH: Yeah.
CB: Am I wrong?
VH: That’s it [laughs].
CB: So you went – so your first main posting –
VH: My first posting was at Cottesmore.
CB: Right, and what planes would you be on?
VH: I was on the Anton’s, Oxfords, and just the, all the things to tinkle about with, you know. ‘Till I was posted on Bomber Command.
CB: And the planes, were they easy to maintain, or?
VH: Yeah, they were quite easy really.
CB: You learnt quickly?
VH: Yeah I did, yeah.
CB: Was it good training?
VH: Oh yes, I had six months training at Kirkham.
CB: And what were you –
VH: I was flight mechanic air frames on everything bar the engines.
CB: Right, so you would main – so what would that entail? So, tell me about, you know, all the details of it.
VH: Well, you looked after the runners and the balance and everything, you know.
CB: Right. And then you entered Bomber Command.
VH: That’s it, yeah.
CB: So your first, first job would be, or your first posting rather, would be –
VH: Ah [pause]. Cottesmore was the first one I went to with Operational Training Unit.
CB: Yes.
VH: Yeah.
VH: Yeah.
CB: And, where did you go to after that?
VH: I went to quite a few stations. I went to Bardney for a while, Woodhall Spa, er, Lakenheath, Marham, all different stations you know. With all different squadrons that I went with.
CB: Yes, and what was your work there? Same sort of thing?
VH: Flight mechanic airframe. I done that everything bar the engines.
CB: What planes were you working on?
VH: I worked on Wellingtons, Mosquitos, Lancasters, Hamdy Hamptons [?].
CB: Did you ever go for a flight in these, any of these?
VH: Oh yes. So when they used to do something to the airframe or engines, you used to, we used to go up with them for an air test [emphasis]. Yeah.
CB: So you did you go for any long [emphasis] trips in them?
VH: Not really long trips, no. First I went I think was Peterhead, when we went up there to refuel them.
CB: And did you enjoy the flight? Do you think – did you –
VH: Well I love flying.
CB: Did you regret not going for aircrew?
VH: I don’t, no [laughs]. I think I would have enjoyed it, you know, but I might not be here today [both laugh].
CB: So where was your accommodation, say at Bardney? Where was – were you still in the Nissan huts?
VH: No, I think I was in buildings there, I think, I’m sure it was.
CB: Was it, were you, did you have accommodation with a family. Were you –
VH: No didn’t have it with no family.
CB: It was in an Air Force –
VH: Air Force quarters, yeah.
CB: Air Force quarters.
VH: Yeah.
CB: And what did you do, where did you go for relaxation in Bardney? Do you remember?
VH: Not really. Used to go out with the lads, you know, and have a drink and a smoke [laughs].
CB: Pubs? [VH laughs]. Dare I suggest? Do you remember Bardney at all?
VH: Not a lot, no.
CB: So your, was your life mainly in the, on the camp basically?
VH: It was on the camp, yes.
CB: So, the planes – explain to me how it works. So what would be your typical day?
VH: Well you go out on the dispersal plane [?]. The aircraft was there and you had to test the rudders, the elevators, the wings and everything. Then you had to test your hydraulics, make sure they are working and everything.
CB: And then you’d –
VH: Then you had to sign a form, Form 700, detailing what you had done and everything, and the pilot used to say ‘okay, I know that you’ve checked it.’
CB: And what planes would these be? Would these be –
VH: I used to be on Lancasters, Mosquitos, Hamdy Hamptons [?], Wellingtons –
CB: And what – but what about Bardney? Was it – what was it at Bardney?
VH: Bardney?
CB: Mm.
VH: I think I was on Lancasters there.
CB: Mm.
VH: Yeah.
CB: What did you think about the Lancaster as a plane?
VH: Marvellous aircraft, lovely.
CB: Did you think, you know , when you first saw it, overwhelming really? Like the size of it.
VH: Well, the size of it yeah [emphasis]. I mean, the wheels were bigger than me [both laugh].
CB: But was it a case of just, you know, getting on with the job as it were?
VH: Well it – true, yeah. I enjoyed the job, I did really.
CB: What was the food like that you had there?
VH: Very good there.
CB: And can you remember –
VH: And I met some very nice people, you know. Ground staff and aircrew and everybody and, I got on well with everybody.
CB: So you enjoyed your time there?
VH: I did [emphasis]. If I hadn’t got married I think I would have kept in the Air Force [both laugh].
CB: When did you meet your wife?
VH: In forty, forty-six, yeah.
CB: So after the war?
VH: No, just before I finished the war, yeah.
CB: Oh right. So you – I mean, good food in Bardney –
VH: Oh I had good food all the time I was in the Air Force, I can’t complain.
CB: Well, ‘cause there was rationing on wasn’t there?
VH: Pardon?
CB: Rationing on.
VH: Oh yeah, but we weren’t rationed [laughs].
CB: No?
VH: No.
CB: So you just had your normal food then?
VH: Yes, well, our food was lovely. Very good.
CB: Did you have a bike to go around on, or?
VH: I used to have a bike yeah, ‘cause when I was at Woodhall Spa I used to bike to Boston most nights, you know, if I wasn’t on duty and things.
CB: Right. So, ‘cause these, these airfields were spread out, weren’t they?
VH: Yeah.
CB: A lot of them. And you needed a bike.
VH: Oh yeah.
CB: So you were dealing with Lancasters, and where did you go after Bardney? Can you remember?
VH: No I went to that many. I went to Theddlethorpe [?], Bardney, Lakenheath, quite a few all local. All round Lincolnshire way, you know, most of them.
CB: Mm.
VH: The first I went away was at Marham in Norfolk.
CB: Yes?
VH: Mm.
CB: And what did you make of that? Did you –
VH: Marham?
CB: Mm.
VH: Quite a nice place. That’s where I had my first squadron of Mosquitos there.
CB: Right.
VH: Mm.
CB: So you worked on the Mosquitos there?
VH: Oh yes. I liked them I did [both laugh].
CB: The wooden wonder. [?]
VH: We had the first squadron of Mosquitos and first day we got there at Marham the Germans came along and dropped flares. I thought ‘oh there we’ve had it.’ But we got away with it [laughs].
CB: Is that the first time you’d had any –
VH: We had Mosquitos, yeah.
CB: Is this the first time you’d seen enemy action as it were, dropping bombs?
VH: Well it was, dropping flares over the place yeah. We thought ‘we’re in for it’ that night but we got away with it [both laugh].
CB: Oh dear. And do you remember anybody in particular, you know, friends?
VH: In the Air Force?
CB: Yeah, friends.
VH: Oh yes. Guy Gibson.
CB: If we’re – erm yes, that was at Woodhall Spa.
VH: Yeah.
CB: Did you work with him, or on – well, you were on 627 Squadron.
VH: Yeah. I was with Guy Gibson, I worked with Richard Attenborough, Group Captain Cheshire.
CB: Yes.
VH: Mm.
CB: So at Woodhall Spa, which is – did you finish at Woodhall Spa? Was that your last one before the end of the war?
VH: I think it was. I’m sure it was, yeah.
CB: And you were on 627 Squadron there –
VH: Yeah.
CB: Is that right? Were you, you were with other squadrons. 149 did you say?
VH: Yes, I was, yeah 149 Royal Canadian Air Force –
CB: You worked with the Canadians?
VH: Yeah, and [pause] a Jamaican squadron, I don’t know whether it was 139, I can’t remember what that was but whatever squadron it was I got on well with all of them. Canadian and the Jamaica squadron.
CB: Excellent. So at Woodhall Spa, how did you get there? Did you, did the Air Force take you there?
VH: Air Force. Wherever it was the Air Force took you.
CB: ‘Cause I think –
VH: Transport, you know.
CB: Right, ‘cause I think most people arrived at the station didn’t they?
VH: Yeah.
CB: And then they’d be picked up.
VH: Well I did. One time I was posted to, er, where was it, Oakington was it? Yeah, and I got a transport ticket to Oakham, yeah, I got the wrong place [both laugh]. I don’t think, I made a blunder [?].
CB: Well it can’t have been easy travelling around in the war.
VH: Oh yeah.
CB: You know, on the trains or whatever.
VH: Well it’s true.
CB: So you arrived at Woodhall Spa, and, on Mosqutios?
VH: Yeah.
CB: Did, where did you live at Woodhall Spa? Were you on –
VH: In billets.
CB: Again, what is –
VH: Woodhall Spa.
CB: - what is now Thorpe Camp? Was that where you were?
VH: Where?
Other: Thorpe Camp. You know where they’ve got the museum and that.
VH: Oh yeah.
CB: That’s where you were?
VH: Yeah.
Other: Yeah.
CB: What did you make of it, or what did you –
VH: Of Woodhall Spa?
CB: Yes.
VH: I loved it. Nice place.
CB: Did you go into the town very often?
VH: Yeah, I used to walk to Tatteshall and places like that which was nearby.
CB: Did you, you know, how did you relax there at Woodhall Spa? Would the, would the ground crew ever, you know, mix with the aircrew?
VH: Oh yes, quite often, yeah. I had a good mate there, Canadian chap, and I can always remember one night in the – he sat awake, the crew generally get together chatting before they go on a raid, and he was a rear gunner, and he was chatting [?] that night and I went over to him and I says ‘what’s wrong George?’ And he says ‘we’re not coming back tonight,’ I says ‘well don’t talk stupid.’ They didn’t.
CB: Wow.
VH: He had that premonition they weren’t coming back.
CB: Did you ever –
VH: That did upset me, you know, that did.
CB: Did you get that a lot, or was that just one you remember? Do you, you know –
VH: Ooh no, I remember quite a few who didn’t get back.
CB: Mm. But then, did they –
VH: Waited for them, but they never returned.
CB: Did they had the premonition though before they went?
VH: Yeah, one or two did.
CB: And how did you feel about that? It –
CB: Well I felt awful really. When you’re waiting for them and they don’t return, you know, really hits you.
CB: Mm. What was the atmosphere at, in the, on the airfield?
VH: Oh, it was very good really, yeah we all got on well together. The ground staff and the aircrew, you know.
CB: And you would, as you say, you would relax together, and –
VH: Oh yes, I mean, if you had no raids on and everything you’d go out and have a drink with the lads and the aircrew, you know.
CB: Do you remember the, where you would go in Woodhall Spa?
VH: No, I can’t remember, you’re going back –
CB: I think, I think it was the Mucky Duck, wasn’t it?
VH: Oh that, I was gonna say the Mucky Duck! [Other speaks in background but is unclear what is said. VH replies but this is also unclear.]
CB: Yeah, I think that was quite popular there wasn’t it?
VH: It was, yeah [both laugh]. Then I used to cycle sometimes into Boston.
CB: Yes. So you’d cycle into Boston did you say?
VH: Yeah, cycle into Boston, yeah.
CB: Right, that’s a fair way.
VH: Well, it was really, but –
CB: And, on your own, or with your friends?
VH: Yes, with a girl from there.
CB: Oh right [both laugh]. And what would you do in Boston? What did you think of Boston?
VH: I liked Boston I did. Boston Stump and all that. It’s quite changed from what it used to be, but it, I thought it was a lovely place at the time.
CB: And what did you do, where did you go?
VH: Go for a drink [laughs].
CB: Did you go to the glider drome? I think that was a popular place. No? Perhaps for the aircrew.
VH: Was it Withamgate [?]?
CB: Yeah.
VH: We used to go round there, and the Boston Stump and all round that way, hmm.
CB: So you enjoyed that?
VH: I did [laughs].
CB: And what would, ‘cause – there was some famous station commanders, well not, commanding officers at Woodhall Spa. Do you remember Cheshire?
VH: Group Captain Cheshire, yeah.
CB: What do you make –
VH: Guy Gibson.
CB: What did you make of Cheshire? What did you think of him?
VH: I got on well with all of them, yeah.
CB: Can you remember –
VH: They were quite good to us, they were really good to all the ground staff really, you know, ‘cause they relied on us sort of thing to look after them, didn’t they? [Unclear, both laugh].
CB: Indeed they did [VH laughs]. Especially I think, erm, Leonard Cheshire, he was particularly fond of his –
VH: Yeah. Cheshire [unclear] at one time didn’t they?
CB: Yes. And he would come and talk to you at, you know, when you were mending the aircraft?
VH: Yes, I mean, when there was no raids on or anything and things were easier, we used to go out and have a drink with them sort of thing, you know, they were just like talking to anybody. Except when you’re on the parade ground it had to be ‘sir’ sort of thing, you know.
CB: Did you do much parade ground?
VH: Pardon dear?
CB: Were you on the parade ground very much? Did it, was that part of your life?
VH: Playground?
CB: The parade ground.
VH: Oh, we didn’t do a lot on the parade ground, no, because it was mostly time on the, looking after the aircraft, you know.
CB: So you missed some of that out?
VH: Yes, oh yeah, we didn’t have a lot to do on the parade ground really.
CB: What was the discipline like?
VH: Pardon?
CB: What was the –
VH: Discipline? Discipline was quite good, strict, you know. See, see, discipline didn’t really bother me because being in a home was run by all ex-army people, I was disciplined there. I had to march to school and everything, you know. So going in the Air Force, it didn’t really hit me.
CB: So your time in the, the children’s home –
VH: Made me more or less fit for the Air Force really.
CB: So you look back on those as happy days, and –
VH: They were, yeah. That home was very good. ‘Cause my daughter took me up there few years back didn’t you, and it’s not the same place now, it’s been taken over by retirement people, and when they knew I was one of the boys who had been there, ooh they shook my hand didn’t they [CB laughs] made quite a fuss of me.
CB: Were there girls there as well or was it just boys?
VH: No, just boys, yeah.
CB: And you made some good friends there?
VH: Yes I made some good friends there, yeah.
CB: Did you manage to keep in touch with them afterwards?
VH: One or two of them, but when I went with my daughter last time, and I saw one or two of the names in the church who’d been, passed away, and killed and that during the war. That really upset me.
CB: Hmm. So at Woodhall Spa, another CO was Tate. Did you, did you come across Willy Tate very much?
VH: Pardon?
CB: Willy Tate, he was –
VH: Willy Tate? I can’t remember dear.
CB: No.
VH: No. You meet that many people you know, you can’t remember all their names, sorta thing.
CB: No, no of course not.
VH: No.
CB: So tell me what you remember of Guy Gibson.
VH: I found him very very good. Very good to the ground staff. I think he was a bit trick [?] with the aircrew, but to the ground staff he was magnificent.
CB: Well, that’s wonderful. So, you got, did you have a relationship with him? Did he you know help you, or come and chat?
VH: Not really no. Just ‘how are you sir’ and ‘your aircraft’s ready’ and that sorta thing you know.
CB: When the planes came back from their raids, and they were –
VH: That was lovely seeing them come back [laughs].
CB: Yes.
VH: But when you’re waiting, and yours don’t come back you think ‘oh, has it crash landed somewhere’ or ‘has it landed at another airdrome?’ And eventually you hear it hadn’t come back. It really upset you.
CB: Hmm. And then it would be your job to, to mend them. And get them back right?
VH: Yeah.
CB: Hmm. So were there any events that you can remember at Woodhall Spa? You know, things like, I don’t know, collisions, or, you know –
VH: There been one or two crash landings. I seen crash landings, yeah.
CB: What did you – can you remember how you would –
VH: We didn’t do nothing to it, the air, er, the fire engines and everything used to go out to them.
Other: But you remember the – when they were training for the Dambusters don’t you?
VH: Pardon?
Other: When they training for the Dambusters.
VH Oh yeah, when they training for the Dambusters. We wondering what was happening because they was training for about two or three months before they actually done it, and they come over and did what we called hedge-hopping, just come over the hedge, just miss us, you know, and you think ‘what’s going on?’ [CB laughs]. And they kept it a secret right ‘till the night they went. When they came out that night they said ‘this is it,’ so we said, ‘what,’ ‘what we’ve been training for you know when we come back’ [CB and VH laugh].
CB: So they were –
VH: Very secretive, it was.
CB: Yes.
VH: But when they came back they said ‘we done it’ [laughs].
CB: Right [both laugh]. So was – that was at Scampton, were you at Scampton at all?
VH: No that was at, er, Woodhall Spa [emphasis].
CB: Right.
VH: I never went to Scampton. Only went there for my medals didn’t I? That’s all.
CB: Mm. So you – how do you remember your wartime career?
VH: Yes I can do, yeah.
CB: And you, how do you remember it, with –
VH: Well I think it was quite good really because the – I was disobedient at home so going to the Air Force, that was more or less the same, sorta life, sort of thing.
CB: Mm. So [pause] the – I think some of what the personnel, the aircrew at Woodhall Spa, they were, they were known for their pranks, some of them. And I suppose the low flying would have been one of them.
VH: It was, yeah.
CB: Did you have any, many air raids there?
VH: No not really, no.
CB: So you, the Germans didn’t attack you –
VH: No.
CB: At Woodhall Spa? It was [unclear]
VH: No, no, they came over when we were at Marham, Norfolk, when we had the first squadron of Mosquitos. I thought ‘this is it,’ flares came down but as soon as the gun fire opened up they went [both laugh].
CB: So do you remember any time – the time that Guy Gibson took off on the night he was killed? Do you remember anything about that?
VH: Er, he just came out, and he just said ‘I’m gonna take this aircraft’ and that’s it. Just didn’t come back.
CB: No, he was with Warwick –
VH: Mosquitos.
CB: Yes, because he wasn’t too familiar with them, was he?
VH: No.
CB: So –
VH: It could have been that you see.
CB: Yeah. Was he – do you remember what his manner was like, how he –
VH: He was – I found him quite good myself.
CB: But he wanted to get back flying, didn’t he? Do you remember anything about that particular night, as to how he was?
VH: No, he came out that night and says ‘do you mind if I take the, this Mosquito?’ and I said ‘no sir,’ and he just got in it and went.
CB: And what did you feel when he didn’t come back?
VH: Well I felt awful really, you know. I wondered what, if he really knew in his own heart whether he was going to do anything. You don’t know what’s in their mind, do you really?
CB: No, no you don’t. But you, you just thought it was just another, another plane that hadn’t come back.
VH: Yeah.
CB: You didn’t –
VH: That’s true.
CB: Did you know straight away that – I mean he could have landed somewhere else. When did you find out that –
VH: Ah, we didn’t find out for [pause] two, two, three hours after. They must have rung round to see if he’d landed anywhere else, but, he hadn’t, so.
CB: No.
VH: I think over the hills was it, in Kent I think, where he actually crashed, I think.
CB: He crashed in Holland.
VH: Yeah, oh was it Holland?
CB: Yeah.
VH: I knew it was somewhere –
CB: Yeah, coming back from an operation. So, you, you remember it with fondness, the –
VH: Pardon?
CB: You remember it with fondness, your time in Bomber Command –
Other: Fondness, you enjoyed it.
VH: Oh I, I enjoyed all my life [?], I loved Bomber Command.
CB: So –
VH: And everyone I worked with. We all seemed to be like a family, sort of thing, you know, we worked ever so well together, the ground staff and the air crew did.
CB: And you went to Lakenheath. Were the Americans there at Lakenheath when you were there?
VH: Pardon?
CB: Were the Americans at Lakenheath, when you were there?
VH: Was I –
CB: Was the –
Other: Were the Americans there? Were the Americans there?
VH: Americans? Oh yeah, they took over because it was a nice place, you see [CB laughs]. Better than where they were! It was all big buildings and they took over and we were put in Nissan huts! [Both laugh].
CB: What did you make of them? Did you, did you get on well with them?
VH: Well we, yeah they were alright [both laugh].
CB: Did you have better food when they were around?
VH: Oh yes, definitely yes. They got the best off [both laugh].
CB: And where were you? Were you in billets again at Lakenheath?
VH: Yeah.
CB: So erm, did you ever have to, you know, live in, with a family or anything like that, or were you always in billets?
VH: Er, in billets or Nissan huts, you know.
CB: Yes.
VH: Yeah.
CB: So, you’re coming towards the end of the war. How did you feel, you know, we’ve just had VE day. How did you feel? You know, was it a relief, or were you, how did you feel?
VH: Well, I don’t know really. I don’t know whether I was [unclear] in the Air Force, but I’d just got married before I came out, you see so –
CB: Right, so where did you meet your wife?
VH: In Nottingham.
CB: At a dance, or?
VH: Pardon?
CB: Was it at a dance? A dance?
VH: Dance?
Other: Where did you meet Mum?
VH: Oh, I was having a drink [both laugh].
CB: And you obviously looked, saw her, and, you know, liked each other. So how long was it before you got married?
VH: Only about six months I think. Yeah, wasn’t long [both laugh]. And I got lovely daughters and a lovely son, he’s passed away bless him, about three year ago innit?
Other: Hmm.
CB: And did you –
VH: I had two lovely children, they certainly looked after me, they still do [both laugh], don’t you chick? Somebody does.
CB: Do you remember getting married, and the rationing?
VH: Oh yes. I had a double wedding. That’s my wife up there.
CB: Oh, that’s lovely. Where did you get married?
VH: Hyson Green, yeah.
CB: Well, she looks very nice with her dress on. So, the rationing didn’t bother you very much?
VH: No. Said ‘are you gonna get married the usual?’ and I says ‘no.’ [Both laugh.]
CB: And where did you live after you were married?
VH: Nottingham, yeah.
CB: And when did the war – was the war finished by then?
VH: Oh yeah, it had finished, yeah.
CB: So you, you came out of the Air Force in –
VH: Out of the Air Force in 1946.
Other: You made your suit though didn’t you?
VH: Hmm.
Other: You made your suit.
VH: Yeah I made my suit.
CB: Oh wow! You made your own wedding suit, that’s –
VH: Yeah because, in that home where, that I was telling you about, there was all different trades, and I went in the tailoring department. I done four years at, four years apprenticeship before I joined the Air Force, so I made my wedding suit.
CB: You kept the skills going [both laugh]. So what did you do when you came out of the RAF?
VH: Er [pause], I went to the co-op [?], I was only there one day, and then, I went to Boots then and I was there for thirty year.
CB: Worked in Boots the chemists?
VH: Yeah.
CB: Oh, what did you do there?
VH: Making medicines and everything [unclear from Other].
CB: Oh.
VH: And then when they stopped making their own medicines, I went on security, and stuff like that.
CB: So you were there for a long time. In Nottingham all the time?
VH: Oh yes –
CB: You settled there.
VH: Never left Nottingham did I? I was at Boots thirty year I was at Boots.
CB: Did you keep in touch in your, you know, your friends and your comrades in the Air Force?
VH: No, no, never kept in touch with any of them.
CB: Although you had good relationships with them all? You didn’t feel –
VH: But we didn’t, we didn’t keep in touch with each other no.
CB: So, your thirty years, what did you – [unclear] didn’t work in those days did they, do your wife, your wife, didn’t work?
VH: My wife? Yeah she was working, yeah.
CB: Did she work?
VH: What was mum now?
Other: Machinist.
VH: Oh, machinist, that’s it [both laugh].
CB: And then you had your children.
VH: Yeah, two lovely children. And my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, they’re all marvellous to me they are.
CB: What did you feel about how Bomber Command was treated after the war?
VH: In which way?
CB: Well, when Churchill made his speech, he didn’t, after the war, he didn’t mention Bomber Command.
VH: I know.
CB: Because of all the bombing, and –
VH: Yeah.
CB: How did you feel about that? And you’ve only just had your clasp that you’re entitled to. How did you feel, after the war, and how you were –
VH: I don’t think they treated them as they should have been treated, myself, because they’d done a marvellous job.
CB: And you – you’ve gone down, have you seen the memorial in London? Have you gone –
VH: No I haven’t, no.
CB: But you – have you gone back to any of your stations that you’ve been at, because –
Other: We’ve been to Conningsby, we’ve been to a few with you, I’ve taken you to a few haven’t I?
VH: Yeah.
Other: Woodhall Spa we’ve been to.
VH: Yeah.
Other: We’ve been to Scampton now but –
VH: Been to Scampton –
Other: [unclear] did you?
VH: Hmm.
CB: So you, you went back to Scampton recently, I think, when was that?
VH: Yes, er, that was when I had my [papers shuffling].
CB: Your medal. Your medal.
VH: In that book there. [Papers shuffling, pause].
CB: I think, er [pause] ah. And what did you [pause], how did you hear about this, did they get in touch with you?
VH: No, when I moved to here, to Retford, I lost my medals, so I wrote up to administrative ends [?] explained who I was, when I started and when I, when I got demobbed, and they dealt and sent them back, er, sent me a new lot.
CB: And how did you get to go to Scampton? Did they write to you?
Other: A gentleman from Scampton in the RAF came to us here, and said could they present them to him.
CB: Oh. So what did you feel about that?
VH: It was great, wasn’t it?
Other: It was lovely.
VH: All the family went, it was lovely.
Other: It was a very special day, yeah.
VH: Yeah.
CB: They made a fuss of you?
VH: Yeah [laughs].
CB: Well that’s a lovely, lovely thing to remember, isn’t it.
VH: It is, yeah.
Other: And they also presented medals to these gentlemen, they’d just come back from Afghanistan.
CB: It’s lovely. [Pause]. Right Vic, so –
VH: I went, I went out to get the aircraft ready, prepared because there was a raid on, when the crew came out, I was just sitting there, and I’d got this terrible pain, you know, they says ‘come on we want to go,’ and I says ‘I can’t get out!’ So they lifted me out, and they rushed me to Kings Lynn hospital, I got my appendix [laughs].
CB: Do you remember the hospital you were in?
VH: Er [slight pause], no, er, it was Kings Lynn, but I can’t think of the name of the hospital.
CB: And how long were you in there?
VH: I was only in there a couple of week, if that.
CB: It’s quite a long time these days [both laugh]. And then it says you were transferred to Addenbrookes.
VH: Yeah, yeah I had something wrong with my thumb –
CB: Right.
VH: And the Air Force made a mess of it, so I ended up in Addenbrookes to have me nail took off.
CB: So what do you remember about being in hospital?
VH: Not a lot really, well, when I came out I got a fortnight’s holiday, er, was a camp.
CB: What was the food like?
VH: Good [emphasis, both laugh].
CB: So you, they sorted out your appendix problem –
VH: Oh yes.
CB: And then you, you went back. So it was, [pause], that’s some sort of home, admitted to Stowe, erm, I can’t quite read that. Was it just some sort of home that just was like a convalescent home was it?
VH: Yeah.
CB: And you were in there for a little while.
VH: Hmm yeah, two weeks I think [chuckles].
CB: So they certainly looked after the –
VH: They certainly looked after you, yeah.
CB: [Pause]. So you’ve lived in Retford for, how long now?
VH: Ten years now, innit chick? My daughter got me over here so she can look after me [laughs], don’t you chick.
CB: Do you get involved in any Bomber Command, you know, reunions, or?
VH: Oh no –
Other: You’ve started to now.
VH: Started going to a bit now, haven’t we, yeah. Scampton. We’ve been to one or two dos there haven’t we?
Other: Mm.
VH: Where was it that we went the other week?
Other: Woodhall Spa.
VH: Oh yeah we went to Woodhall Spa the other week, at a reunion day.
Other: Scampton last week, and a Lancaster came over.
VH: Yeah [laughs]. The Red Arrows were there, giving a display weren’t they. Lovely.
CB: Well I think, think that’s about it Vic, that’s been very, very interesting.
VH: Thank you very much.
CB: Thank you.



Clare Bennett, “Interview with Victor Harding,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 20, 2024,

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