Interview with Dennis Kirk. Two


Interview with Dennis Kirk. Two


Dennis Kirk was born in Barkston 1920, and lived on a farm near Plungar. Recalls when the war started and the War Executive Committee told farmers what to produce; talks about the Land Army. Being in a reserved occupation, he joined the Home Guard with military training; while on duty he responded to a crashed aircraft accident dealing with casualties before the Royal Air Force arrived at the scene. Dennis dealt with unexploded ordinance carrying out defusing. He also talks about civilian life in wartime, land use for airfields with compensation for the land owners, and BP post war drilling for oil, reunions, and the RAF Langar memorial.




Temporal Coverage




00:45:06 audio recording


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DE: So this is an interview with Dennis Kirk for the International Bomber Command Digital Archive. My name is Dan Ellin, we are in Plungar and it is the 30th of November 2015, and also in the room are –
ET: Ernest Twells from Barkestone-le-Vale who’s a friend of Dennis Kirk.
DE: Thank you.
AT: Anne Twells, also from Barkston.
JK: Joan Kirk, Dennis’s wife.
DE: Thank you very much. Dennis could you tell me a little bit about your early life and where you grew up?
DK: I was born at Barkston in 1920, 25th of April and went to Barkston school ‘til I was, ‘til, ‘til I left and came to Plungar in twenty – we came to live in Plungar in twenty nine. But in those it was a lovely village and everybody joined in and you played your games and you know, really, really nice living there. And a few very nice school teachers at the time, a Mrs Gulliver, a Miss Whittaker and a Miss Thorpe, they were the teachers in those days. Then we came to Plungar, but you see, then when we got to Plungar we had to walk everyday from Plungar to Barkston school to get there eight o’clock in the morning [laughs] and sometimes we came home for dinner and sometimes we stayed there full, full time. And then, then where we came, when I became eleven, you were moved to Battersby school. I was at Battersby school ‘til, ‘til I was fourteen, then left school and stayed to work on the farm.
DE: Mhm.
DK: Which I didn’t, I didn’t want to be farmer [laughs] I wanted to be a joiner [emphasis] or, or a joiner or a blacksmith you see –
JK: What?
DK: In those days your parents said what you were going to do –
DE: Mhm.
DK: Not like [laughs] it is today. So I had a good life, and of course I stayed, stayed on the farm and, and helped for a long time, and then when the war came we, it became very busy, and – so when they want someone to join the Home Guard, or join the Home Guard or the fire watch and this night in nineteen forty, forty –
JK: Three [emphasis].
DK: Forty –
JK: Three.
DK: Forty-three was it? Yep in 1943, we just been round the village to check if there was any lights on, Tom Moles and myself, and on our way back we heard this aircraft coming, and suddenly it went dead and we thought it had crashed on the railway line below the village. So we went down to see what had happened and getting onto the rail track we bumped into this young man, and I said to him ‘are there any bombs on the plane?’ He said ‘no we’ve dropped all the bombs.’ And then we got him off the railway line, which is next to the canal, and we took him to Grange farm where Mr and Mrs Bell lived, and they’d been in the seventies and he took care of him. I don’t know how long for but we went down to see where the plane had crashed. We found it – wasn’t on the railway line it was just below [emphasis] the railway line, and never seen anything like it before. And there was three, three thrown out at the front, there was a Barbados man in the centre and there was another two each side, and then we walked to the rear end and the rear gunner, he was dead inside the, in his turret, but we never saw the other couple. So we started moving away then then the fire engine came, but it, they had a look and said [unclear] ‘cause nothing they could do, and without, the ground [unclear] aircrew, well ground staff from Langar Airfield, it was only about half a mile away.
DE: Mhm.
DK: So, so we left it and went back to our Home Guard hut ‘til – now you see, when you did Home Guard in the winter time, you signed on at seven ‘til half past five in the morning, but in the summer time you weren’t on ‘til ten to half past five [laughs] in the morning, and we finished half an hour – but that was it, nothing more was heard of it and then it would be about, what was it, sixty years ago –
JK: Sixty years ago.
DK: Did you say? Pardon?
JK: Mm. Pardon?
DK: Sixty years after when he found it –
JK: Well yes, yeah –
DK: Bolton [emphasis].
JK: It would be, hmm.
DK: And they said that John Bolton found this part, kept it in his garden shed, and then someone said ‘see Dennis’ and he said ‘what would it be’ and we found it was a piece of metal from a bomber [emphasis]. Then I contacted Jim Chamberlain who had associations with Bomber Command and he sorted that booklet out [emphasis].
DE: Mhm.
DK: But other than that I – it was a shock to see three people lying dead there you see, something you’d never seen before [laughs].
ET: Didn’t you say though they looked as though they were asleep Dennis?
DK: Pardon?
ET: You said they looked as though they were asleep.
DK: They were lying there -
ET: When?
DK: They were lying just like this here, so much apart, I can see, can see, see ‘em to this day, I can see the Barbados man in the centre now but –
DK: Yeah. But, you see but all, from then on, every book which was produced said the plane burned out.
DE: Mhm.
DK: But there wasn’t a spark at all. You could just hear the engines flip, cooling off there, but that was it so. But then my wife contacted Alan [?] didn’t he, and she said they were diverted to Scampton [emphasis] where it wasn’t safe to land, then they sent them to Normanton, Bottesford, but they came round here -
DE: Mhm.
DK: Some years ago –
JK: It was misty at the time –
DE: I see.
JK: And that’s why they were diverted.
DE: Hmm.
JK: [Unclear] aircraft, airfield.
DK: And some years ago I bumped into a chappy from Harby who’s father’s on the, their look out post you see, and they saw this plane go down he said he did two circles then went down but he wasn’t in the right direction to for Langar Airfield. But it, well [unclear] it could have been on Langar Airfield, but he was going straight down instead of to airfield that was the sad [emphasis] part about it, yeah.
DE: I see so it was, so they were close but –
DK: Yeah.
DE: Mm.
DK: Mm.
JK: And with it not burning out [emphasis] we think that they had just run out of fuel –
DK: They’d been, burning –
JK: Because they’d been diverted to two or three airfields before they arrived here.
DK: See where the three lads are buried in Bennington – report there said ‘it had burned out’ –
DE: Mhm.
DK: But we said ‘no,’ there wasn’t a spark you see, no – it had just gone, yeah.
DE: So was it, was the aircraft all pretty much all there then?
DK: All [emphasis] there, I suppose the undercarriage would still be up would it Ernest?
ET: He might have actually put it down –
DK:‘Cause it seemed level you see.
DE: Mm.
DK: The thing was, where the railway head was, it was here, the rear to it was almost – so how [emphasis] they’d missed the rail track I do not [emphasis] know.
DE: Mm. Is the railway on an embankment there then?
DK: It’s, it’s still there –
DE: Mm.
DK: It was, it was a fair [unclear]. In my days all the hedgerows on the railway were cut, nicely trimmed so, you couldn’t of got through the hedge so I often wondered how, how he landed on the, on the, on the rail track –
DE: Mm.
DK: When he was thrown out the plane, he was a mid upper. What was he, a mid upper?
JK: Was he – I can’t remember. It’s in the book.
ET: Didn’t you also say Dennis –
DK: So if he was thrown out there, but you see the rail track would be as high as this bungalow [emphasis] so.
DE: Mm.
DK: No one seems to answer that – how he was thrown [emphasis] out.
DE: Quite, yeah.
JK: [Unclear].
DK: But the thing was, when we met, when we met his son, who came from, doctor from [unclear], he never talked about his air mates, you see.
DE: Mm.
DK: We been round the council –
JK: The thing was though –
DK: After he’d left the Grange Farm with the Bell, Bell family, he was staying at Normanton I think then they took him to Wrawkby [?] –
JK: Wrawkby –
DK: Where they took most of the crashed people –
DE: I see.
DK: That’s all I know about it [laughs].
JK: But you didn’t know at the time that he was injured because –
DK: No.
JK: He walked onto the Bell’s with you didn’t he?
DE: Mm.
JK: But the son [emphasis] said that he obviously had quite a severe head [emphasis] injury.
ET: Mm.
DK: So whether he’d been through a –
JK: But it wasn’t an obvious [emphasis] –
DE: Right.
JK: To Dennis on the railway line.
ET: The actual railway line now is disused, it’s when BT [?] came and shut them down [JK laughs] but when Dennis say at the time it was a good job it was three in the morning because it could probably have been hit by a train, you don’t know –
DE: Mm. Do you think it’s – do you think the three men were [emphasis] thrown out or do you think it’s, he, he dragged [emphasis] them out of the aircraft?
DK: No, he, he was nowhere near them you see. No, no, they must have been thrown. But they were, they were laying so neatly, one here, one there, yeah.
DE: Mm.
DK: And there’s any – I don’t suppose there’s anyone left on at Langar who remembers it because [laughs] there’s not many around like me.
DE: Mm, quite.
DK: No, no –
ET: Dan did say, if he, if he dragged them out and then he thought if he went on the railway line he’d, he’d actually end up somewhere.
DE: I, I don’t know.
ET: You don’t know do you?
DK: No it’s a, it’s a – at the time of the crash it was a grass field, but now the farmer’s planted trees now but, I could take you – when, when Tom Moles and myself walked up there, I can see the fence which we got over to get into the field and saw these, these men there.
DE and ET: Mm.
JK: But the mystery is how that man got on the railway line isn’t it?
DK: Yes that’s what, that’s what [laughs].
JK: The survivor, how he got onto it.
DE: Mm.
DK: Could he have been thrown out?
DE: Who knows? Who knows? No.
DK: No. But they certainly wouldn’t have got through the hedgerow, see in those days railway hedges were neat and tidy, and weren’t, where the bridge is, there’s no bridge now you see, and he wouldn’t have got it up, up the bridge because the bridge was over the railway as well.
DE and ET: Mm.
DK: But no it –
DE: And then what happened to the aircraft then?
DK: Well we never went back you see, we were farmers weren’t we, had to work. They must have moved it away the following day. There’s a lad in our, who’s, who rarely got, didn’t go on the computer [unclear], but he – my wife catered for it but it, and his family, put in – for thirty years, and then, then one day I was doing the garden, doing the garden, and he came up the drive, I was just inside the garden there doing it, and he said ‘you’re bloody selfish, you want all the limelight.’ I said ‘what?’ to him. In fact his [unclear] started shouting to me again, said ‘you’re bloody selfish, you want all the limelight.’ He said, he said ‘you never went anywhere near that crash.’
DE: Oh [JK laughs].
DK: So, so I mean, he’s my age, he’s been a pal all my life but it really grieved me for thinking that –
DE and TE: Mm.
DK: I’d seen enough of the [laughs]. So we haven’t had anything else to do with one another since.
DE: Oh dear.
DK: But no [laughs].
JK: Well he went down to the crash later [emphasis] didn’t he?
DK: Yeah, yeah. You see after we got the laddy off the railway line which is just down here you see, we walked down this, and across the field, and that’s when we went to see – but as soon as the RAF lot were down we thought it wasn’t our business to be – we were in Home Guard uniform but we moved away so as there no hassle you see.
DE: Oh I see, yeah.
DK: But the two must have been – but I’ve often thought to myself [laughs] I’d ought to have gone and touched one of those men to see if he was still –
DE: Mhm.
DK: But at that mo – you’re so taken aback with something like that [laughs] hmm.
DE: Mm.
DK: But no, I’m pleased they did a memorial to them and, hmm.
DE: And the memorial, there was nothing until sixty years afterward so –
DK: Pardon?
DE: There was nothing until sixty years afterwards, quite recently –
DK: No, no, no. No one ever mentioned it you see. There were planes crashing all around, no one ever mentioned it, the crash at Plungar, but –
DE: Mhm.
DK: But tell you, there’s crashes all the way around here.
DE: Can you tell me a bit about some of the other crashes then?
DK: Pardon?
DE: Can you tell me about some of the other crashes?
DK: Well. The, the first crash I came across was in, in, at the top of the Wood Hill at Barkston, what, a plane from Syerston crashed through there, and then, then later on there was another one crashed at Belvoir. And by all accounts the one at Belvoir – if this is true, all accounts – the only survivor he got a – but he could hear a clock striking at Belvoir Castle, and he crawled to Belvoir Castle [DE makes noise of disbelief]. And then the nanny there cared for him and got him into the Grantham Hospital.
DE: Mhm.
DK: But the one at Brampton [?], I mean you read that one, that’s what happened at Brampton you see, then there was one crashed in Heaton [?]. I don’t know where it was from but there’s a laddy in the village who saw the crash when it had happened and then there was one crashed at Barnston, the church is here it crashed in the field below [laughs], but the one which blew up, on the Saturday night they were taking off to bomb somewhere, and I was, I was cutting the lawn at the farm there, and all of a sudden whoosh, and smoke went out every chimney and the lot blew up. And then nothing more ‘til I read it in a book after it.
DE: Mhm.
DK: Hmm. Then that’s that one lady [unclear], you’ve read about [unclear], and that’s about it [laughs]. ‘Cause yeah, they were crashing all around [emphasis].
ET: Hmm.
DK: ‘Cause after, after, after we’d opened the war memorial that day, the corporal came from Melton didn’t he? When they came and had a cup of tea here where they, with the lady.
JK: Which was that? I don’t know – there was so many people [JK and DK laugh].
DK: And he was involved in a Wellington in Melton Mowbray at the time, but there’s perhaps more details in some of these places – sort it out really.
DE: Mm.
DK: Yeah.
DE: Mm [DK laughs]. The, the one that exploded on takeoff –
DK: Yeah.
DE: How close was that to houses?
JK: Very near.
DK: Well my first wife – and the runway was almost, you know where you come behind the point – it wasn’t far away.
DE: About fifteen hundred yards or something like that.
DK: Yeah. And she said at the time, it blew all the windows out.
DE: Mhm.
DK: And fired the petrol out of the plane, fired the hedgerow, but it didn’t do any damage, only the windows, yeah, mm.
DE: I see.
DK: Mm. But we loved to see those [unclear] you see them taking off because [laughs]. Yeah.
DE: Mm.
DK: Mm. So it’s any good to you, what I’ve told you [laughs].
DE: No [emphasis] it’s wonderful stuff, yeah.
ET: [Unclear].
DE: Erm, I wonder if you could tell me a little bit more about what it was like in the village during the war?
DK: Well [laughs] people just carried on doing their jobs and only that night when we were bombed very heavily, but, but no one was injured [emphasis] –
DE: Mhm.
DK: It just, they’d just dropped all their bombs all around [emphasis] they’d just – what did it say on that book?
JK: Oh we, we read the ‘Bletchley Park’ book, and apparently they knew this plane was coming over to bomb Derby from the information at Bletchley, and they diverted it from Derby, they were able to divert the route from Derby to Nottingham. And then they must have had another diversion to bring it back. And they bombed, they put some bombs, dropped some bombs on Nottingham, and then they – I don’t know how they did it. I mean the Bletchley Park –
DK: Just going for a wee [laughs].
JK: They were code breaking, it was quite beyond me in the book [laughs] but they, they diverted eventually from Nottingham and they just dropped the bombs over Plungar [emphasis], and one or two other villages –
DE: Mhm.
JK: On the way back. But it was interesting in the ‘Bletchley Park’ book because it said they knew [emphasis] they were coming to Derby and they shot twenty odd planes down before they reached the country – well, just off the coast, crossing the coast.
DE: I see.
JK: Have you read that book?
DE: I haven’t no.
JK: It’s worth reading.
DE: Okay, I’ll put it on my list.
JK: Yes, do [emphasis]. I was fascinated by it. I didn’t understand the computer business about it [laughs] in it, but the stories. And – this is nothing to do with Plungar but, it said that they knew [emphasis] they were going to bomb Coventry, and they didn’t know what to do, but Churchill said ‘it will have to go ahead, because if the Germans, if they know that they’ve been diverted or it’s been stopped, they’ll know we’ve cracked the Enig – er, cracked the code’ –
DE: Mm.
JK: That will put the end to the Enigma code.
DE: I see, yes. I have heard that, yes.
JK: Mm.
DE: And you were at university in Leicester at the time?
JK: Yes, yes.
DE: What was that like?
JK: Well it was just like a normal little town, they didn’t get that much bombing at all [laughs]. I mean I lived in Leeds [emphasis], but we got very little – I think we had one big raid in Leeds and that was it. I was ill at the time because I was in bed and we were watching it through the bedroom window [laughs].
DE: You didn’t feel the need to go to a shelter then?
JK: No, we didn’t realise it was so near [DE laughs]. We could see all the flashes and hear the noise but – I was in a suburb of Leeds so we didn’t get bombed in the suburb. They were the other side of the river. But it was the doctor that came in the morning to say that the south of the river had been bombed, and I think they’d had a bomb at the hospital too. Leeds General Infirmary.
DE: What did your parents say to you?
JK: Go on?
DE: What did your mum and dad say to you?
JK: I don’t think they said –
DE: No.
JK: In the war, you accepted [emphasis] things –
DE: Hmm.
JK: It was most peculiar really.
DE: Mm.
JK: I mean it was happening so many times and to so many places –
DE: Mhm.
JK: You just accepted what had happened.
DE: Ooh what’s that?
DK: Incendiary bombs.
DE: That’s what I thought it was, yeah [DK laughs].
ET: Don’t put it on the fire [JK, DK and AT laugh].
DK: Oh no, we put one on the fire, and it used to [unclear] we used to throw them on the fire. That’s gone off you see. When they dropped, you see, the striker was in there, and that was sealed off with insulation tape, and that came. And they just used to burn away [laughs].
DE: Mhm.
DK: I’ve had two or three at one time with the fins on still.
DE: Wow.
DK: But all around they kept [laughs]. Are you wanting it?
DE: Oh I don’t know.
DK: You can have it if you like [DE and DK laugh].
DE: Thank you very much. For the tape, I’ve been given a used incendiary bomb, wonderful.
DK: Have you seen one of those Ernest?
ET: Well, I’m worried about Dan having it in his boot and then we’ll see on the news later on that –
DE: Yes [all laugh].
ET: Can I take a picture?
AT: [Unclear].
ET: Do you want to hold it Dennis, with Dan?
DK: Pardon?
ET: Do you want to hold it with Dan?
DE: He wants to take a photograph.
AT [?]: It’s like a Christmas cracker [laughs].
DE: I’ll just pause the tape for a second.
[Tape paused and restarted.]
DE: Start the tape. So where did you find an incendiary bomb Dennis?
DK: In the field.
DE: Uh huh.
DK: See we had two time bombs dug out on the farm –
DE: Mhm.
DK: And [laughs] I remember the last one being dug out. It dropped down, and I was collecting the cows to milk them, and they wouldn’t let me move the cows because this bit of disturbance [laughs]. And this – during the war, the road from Plungar to Barkston was blocked, the road from Stallone to Plungar was blocked, the road from [unclear] was only open road for about a week or more, you see ‘cause there was bombs everywhere [emphasis]. Yeah, mm. Bombs had gone off [laughs] but on the Barkston Lane where you go to where Ernest lives, there was five council houses there, and that had to be brought out ‘cause there was a time bomb dropped in the field opposite where they were. They dropped a time bomb there and two in our field, yeah, mm.
DE: So did someone diffuse those or did they just wait for them to go off?
DK: No they diffused them all, yeah.
DE: Mm.
DK: They don’t [unclear] long time, yeah. Mm. They brought the soldier down from Yorkshire light infantry, they lived in the old school room while they guarded the road ways.
DE: Mhm.
DK: And, at night my mother used to take these soldiers on guard, either some sandwiches or something, to eat.
DE: I see.
DK: We were grateful for what they did, yeah. Mm.
DE: You were, you were saying earlier that you weren’t really short of food here.
DK: Oh no, no. We’d have been better off as we are today if we’d had the same amount of rations [DK and DE laugh]. [Unclear] no, everybody was helpful [emphasis], you see, helped one another same with the probably [unclear] in the garden, everybody shared things. There was never any –
JK: Mm.
DK: Were they? No. And with us having a farm you see there was plenty of milk anybody wanted milk.
DE: Mhm.
DK: I know we were rationed but really not being a – we didn’t know there was a war on in a way [laughs]. Mm, mm.
DE: But it must have been fairly hard work for you if you were keeping watch at night and then working on the farm in the day?
DK: [Laughs] well you got used to it.
JK: Yes, you were at watch at night and when you came off you went and milked – did a five o’clock milking didn’t you [laughs].
DK: Oh yes, that’s what had happened, go and round the cows up and milk the cows. This chappy who was with me, Tom Moles, he was a pal of mine, he was on one of the little engines on the iron horse like up at Belvoir there, he’d all of that but, yeah [laughs] had a good time.
DE: Mhm.
DK: And during the war you see, you met up with so many lovely people – Air Force men and Army lads and you even got the Yanks [emphasis] down here at times.
DE: Did you?
DK: Yeah [laughs]. One night – I must tell you this, one night the Yanks came down here –
JK: [Unclear].
DK: And they came into the pub and had a lot of ale, and then they got the horse out and was riding the horse [laughs] around the village in the morning [DK and DE laugh].
ET: And what about the Land Army?
DK: Pardon?
ET: The Land Girls?
DK: About land – well they associated with the air men, you know. They really enjoyed, they were very pally with them at the, at the Plough at Stallone.
ET: Mhm.
DK: But during the war, you helped out with a Land Girl they did a wonderful job which had never been – well they’ve got a medal now, but for what they did and the type of work they did on the farm, it’d be a dirty job, threshing machines and digging and going to – it wasn’t the best life but they stood up to it well, yeah.
DE: Mhm. And where were they from, the Land Girls?
DK: Well there was one from where [laughs] near where Ernest – I’ll show you a photograph [laughs]. I’ll put some eggs [?] on and [unclear] –
JK: Oh –
DE: I’ll just pause the tape again.
[Tape paused and restarted.]
DE: So you’ve got a – the tape’s started again and you’ve got a newspaper article.
JK: These are made of sawdust –
DE: It’s so nice to be remembered. And these are all Land Girls are they?
DK: Yeah [laughs].
JK: Well it’s alright there, yes.
ET: One of these?
JK: Yes.
DE: So where did the Land Girls live?
DK: In the old Wretch [?] at Stallone –
JK: [Unclear].
ET: It will.
DE: And did you, did you have anything to do with them then?
DK: I fancied them [DK, AT and JK laugh]. I have to tell Ernest – what have you got there?
JK: But you fancied ginger haired ones –
ET: I’ve heard, I’ve heard the ginger haired ones –
DE: Oh right, I see.
DK: Just a second.
DE: But were they more interested in fliers and aircrew then were there?
DK: Oh no they were very [unclear] – that was Bottesford Air Field at the time [papers shuffle]. That was when they drilled for oil in the village –
DE: Mhm.
DK:For ten years. That was a Lancaster which crashed in the Trent near Newark.
DE: Oh, I see. [Papers shuffle] did you ever want to volunteer and serve in one of the armed forces?
DK: I would have liked the opportunity, but you see, you were stuck with the farm with the workers gone.
JK: You weren’t allowed to, were you?
ET: No.
DK: Where’s she gone [papers shuffle].
DE: So the, the station just down the road –
DK: There’s a station at Red Mile.
DE: Mm.
DK: There’s one at Stallone. But they never put a station near to the village, that was the sad thing, quite a way away, hmm. I don’t know where that photograph’s gone.
DE: Did they open during the war, or were they –
DK: Yes, yes, no they, that was one I fancied.
DE: Oh.
DK: But, but she was ginger headed but it didn’t suit my [unclear, laughs].
DE: So that was Amy Tapplin.
DK: She came from Kimberly, Nottingham [laughs]. And they were, they – and that’s after the golden year [unclear].
DE: Oh I see.
DK: I don’t know if you’ll want any of these.
DE: I might take a photo of that page later on I think.
DK: Pardon?
DE: I might take a photo of that page later on if that’s okay.
DK: Yeah.
DE: So the stations that were opened, were they on farmland before, what was farmland before the war?
DK: Yeah, yeah, the stations –
ET: I think Dennis might think you meant railway stations –
DE: No I mean, oh sorry, I mean the RAF stations, the bases.
DK: The Langar one –
DE: Langar.
DK: There was a lot of parachuting from there, and some private planes go. But the Normanton one is quite an industrial station it is, yes.
DE: Now it is, yeah.
DK: Mm.
DE: Before the war was it farmland?
DK: Langar, at Langar before was farmland. But down here, there’s a hundred acre round here –
JK: Round here.
DK: That belonged to the Duke of Rutland, it was air field in the First World War.
DE: Oh I see, wow.
DK: I don’t know of sort of planes it was, but it was made as an airbase – because you can pick maps [unclear] little book there, and it tells you where the air fields were in the First World War, yeah.
DE: Mm. What did the farmers think to losing all the land?
DK: Well [laughs] I think they were compensated well, you see. You see the one at Langar there, think it belonged to two or three farmers, but one man bought it off since then and he’s just passed away, yeah. But it was a wonderful thing to take the land, yeah. But to help the losses [?] out, war out, yeah.
DE: Right. So there wasn’t any resentment, they thought it was a good way of making a few quid then?
DK: Pardon?
DE: It was a good way of making some money was it then, selling your land [AT, JK and ET laugh].
DK: Yes, but the worse thing actually – you were ruled by the War Ag Executive Committee during the war.
DE: Mhm.
DK: And they came round these, to tell you what to do and what not to do. Well they didn’t know a lot about what they were talking about [laughs], they offended a lot of old farmers [laughs].
DE: Because they were telling them what crops to –
JK: Mm.
DK: Mm. With us they said ‘grow potatoes’ Well no way could you grow potatoes ‘cause it was too heavy clay [emphasis] land.
DE: Mhm.
DK: But they wouldn’t listen to you, you just did what they told you [laughs]. Oh dear.
DE: But you were okay because you were a dairy, dairy farmer?
DK: We, we got everything, we got dairy cows and chickens and sheep and fat peas [?] and we worked with horses in those, it wasn’t tractors at that time.
DE: Mm.
JK: You bred –
DK: Pardon?
JK: You bred shire horses didn’t you?
DK: Yeah, mm, mm. We’ve been around since about the 1790s [laughs].
DE: Yeah. Erm, so that’s what it was like working on a farm. What was it like being in the, in the Home Guard?
DK: Well you did a parade every Sunday morning, but we did, we had to do a keep fit in the village [unclear] whether it meant much I don’t know. But in – where the property is built now, we dug a big trench, used to dive into the trench and climb up the [laughs] –
DE: Mhm.
DK: But whether it meant anything I don’t know [laughs].
JK: Dad’s Army [laughs].
DK: But no, we had to have these lessons, and we [phone rings].
JK: Oh.
DK: I was going to say –
JK: Oh it might be the dress makers –
DK: We were taught how to shoot with a Lewis gun, and we had a Stanley gun as well.
DE: Oh really?
DK: Terrible [laughs]. We went to an old disused iron ore pit with a Stanley you see, and this laddy, he – and it wasn’t ejecting the rounds, it kept [laughs].
DE: Wow.
DK: I think the people telling you what to do didn’t know much about it themselves.
ET: Mm.
DK: It was good fun though, yeah.
DE: And was it a mixture of people from the village of all ages –
DK: Yeah, all who wanted to join. Some never joined you see, but no, some of them, my father did with his friend, some were elderly people, but the young was right down to my age, at that age, we were pleased to do something for it.
DE: Mm.
DK: But for the first twelve months, where the canal’s down here, and then the railway – and we were on the railway bridge for twelve, without any cover at all from clocking on at night in the morning. And then we managed to get an old chicken hut and that’s where the Home Guard were [laughs].
DE: Right. And that was your duty, was fire watch basically was it?
DK: Yes, yes. It went around you see, yeah.
DE: Yeah.
DK: No, no I had a good life and I’m still here [laughs].
DE: Indeed, yeah. So what, what happened at the end of the war? What did you do after the war?
DK: Still farming, yeah. But after the war ended, they came round in nineteen, 1953 –
JK: It was my German friend Giezla [?] from Grantham, so I said I’d ring him back [laughs].
DK: Looking for oil.
DE: Mm.
JK: She comes on and she talks and talks and talks for half an hour [laughs].
DK: And then they came to the farm and they drilled at Barkston before the war, the Texans, they drilled at Barkston,
JK: She never stops talking.
DK: They didn’t find any oil, so they came to the farm, and they said to my father want to drill in the stack yard, that was near to the – he said ‘you can go anywhere else other than in the stack yard, and they moved a field up from the stack yard and they found oil straight away at three thousand feet down.
DE: Crikey.
DK: And then we had one there, we had one, two, three, four – we had had five pumps going, but the thing, we didn’t get any for the oil you see –
DE: So how did they –
DK: It belonged to BP and the government.
DE: Mhm.
DK: You were just compensated for the road way to the, where the oil pumps were, and, and they help you out in some way but you didn’t get any for the oil they took, they were very good. I was talking to a chappy, I was talking to a chap who lives in, he’s in Mansfield now but he was a rear gunner in the Lancaster, and he was shot, he crashed somewhere in the East Coast, and he was in hospital for six month, and then he got out and he got a job with a, with a [unclear] electric board, but about two years ago he got a phone call from someone, and it was the pilot [emphasis] off the plane, they were the only two, both thought they were dead –
DE: Oh I see.
DK: They were still alive. He, I’d got a little poem somewhere what he gave me about a rear gunner, I can’t find it, I’d like to find it sometime. But it was a lovely poem, this old chappy put together [laughs] mm.
DE: Mhm.
DK: No it was – everybody were content, they weren’t moaning [emphasis] during the war.
DE: Mm. So how do you feel about the, the crash site, you know, being remembered after so many years, ‘cause I mean it was forgotten about wasn’t it?
DK: Yeah, yeah, could be – no ‘til, what, until this chappy found this bit of metal – I was in the garden one day and he came by and he said, John Bowman [?], he said ‘you know something about the aircraft which crashed do you?’ and so I said ‘yes,’ and then he brought this piece of metal, it’s about this length –
DE: About three foot.
JK: [Unclear] yes.
DK: Mm. And then we contacted Tim Chamberlain, who he had connections with Bomber Command all the time, he does a wonderful job, he’d put two or three talks on at a time, he soon found out that the three are buried in Bennington Churchyard. The three, three that were killed here –
DE: Yes.
DK: And then there are three others Bennington Churchyard.
DE: So how do you know Tim Chamberlain is it, who wrote –
DK: Pardon?
DE: How do you know Tim?
JK: We didn’t really did we?
DK: No not really [laughs] –
JK: He must have heard about this and came to see us.
DK: Mm.
JK: He did the memorial, there’s a memorial at Langar Air Field –
DE: Mhm.
JK: And he was responsible for that, doing that.
DE: I see.
JK: Mm.
DK: No he did a lot. And when it happened, this is between us, when Tim planned all that the village didn’t want – we were gonna have a thousand people [emphasis] here you seen, but the, our locals –
JK: They wanted to keep it –
DK: Who run the village wanted to keep it quiet [emphasis].
DE: Oh I see.
ET: Mm. I remember that yeah, mm.
DE: But there’s, there’s now a stone there isn’t there?
DK: Pardon?
DE: There’s now a stone, a stone, a memorial there?
JK: A memorial.
DK: It’s a lovely one, all the –
JK: Actually [emphasis] –
DK: All the village people contributed to this here. It’s a lovely stone isn’t it dear?
JK: I don’t know whether you can get it still, but a Barbadian came up from London and recorded the whole service [emphasis] and the flypast –
DE: I see.
JK: And he put it on Youtube.
DE: I’ll have a look.
JK: And it’s under Plungar –
DK: Lancaster –
JK: Lancaster memorial, on Youtube.
DK: It’s worth listening to, to see me ringing them out [laughs].
JK: Have you seen it?
ET: I’ve seen it, I’ve forgot all about it Joan.
JK: Is it still there?
ET: Yeah, it will be.
JK: Do they delete them after so long?
DE: No it’ll still be there probably we’ll have a look.
JK: It’s about an hour and five minutes.
DK: And then we had the Lancaster and two Spitfires fly over you see.
DE: And this was two or three years ago?
JK: This was on the day that – is, is the date in that book?
DK: Is it on, on that book there wasn’t it?
JK: It’s September nineteen, two thousand, oh I can’t remember. It must be three years ago.
DE: 2012 I think.
JK: Yeah, three years ago, it was September. But he, he filmed it from the rear of the church and unfortunately, you know, it’s only a tiny church and they were all these heads [laughs] in front of him so some of it you can’t see. But the opera singer sang –
DE: Mhm.
JK: A, a song he’d composed himself, so you get all that.
DE: I see.
JK: And then Dennis rang the bells afterwards and you see him in the belfry ringing the bells.
ET: And how did you ring the bells Dennis?
DK: Pardon?
ET: How did you ring the bell?
DK: Ding dong [laughs].
JK: There were two of them.
DK: But the thing was – we were, my son and I were in the belfry there, and then there was a laddy there who’s father, in this book [pause].
ET: When I saw you Dennis you were using your foot.
JK: Yes I think he –
ET: Like that.
JK: I think he rings two bells you see.
DE: Oh right.
JK: Hand and foot [laughs].
DK: This chappy was prisoner of war you see.
DE: Mhm.
DK: He was shot down, and his son came to sit with us. This lad, he went to see the prisoner of war camp that his father was in, but [laughs] in front of me – there was two rows of seats there, there was this chappy and he’s moving his bloody head the whole time [laughs].
JK: [Laughs] you see his head moving in front of the camera [DK laughing].
DE: Oh I’ll have a look at the video.
JK: I mean it was such a tiny church that it was cramped.
DK: No, it was a lovely service, and the thing was, what was the man who took the service, he’s on there.
JK: Er Robin, Robin –
DK: It was a, was a –
JK: He was an air vice marshal.
DK: To do with the Air Force, you know.
DE: Mm.
JK: He’s a retired air vice marshal, he lives in Southwell. He sings in the choir in Southwell Minster.
DK: No it was a really [emphasis] lovely day, and I remember, we stood on the lawn here and saw the Lancaster fly over and the two spit – we were very lucky.
DE: Mhm.
JK: They did four circuits round the village.
DE: Oh smashing.
ET: It was amazing.
JK: It was lovely.
DK: Then, then was it last year sometime? My nephew who lives on the farm – his son in law works at Coningsby [emphasis].
DE: Mhm.
DK: On the plane there. And we had a day there didn’t we [laughs].
JK: Yes he got, he got permission to take us to Coningsby and we saw them repairing or doing some maintenance on the Lancaster.
DE: Yes, yes.
DK: During the war, better just tell you, during the war, they decided to take us to Melton Air Field to have a ride round in a Dakota [emphasis]. And they loaded us all up on the Dakota and then the mist came –
JK: Mist came down [laughs].
DK: So I never had a ride [laughs] so I’ve never been in a plane [laughs].
DE: Oh dear.
ET: Oh Dennis.
DE: Who was it that was trying to arrange that for you then?
DK: Pardon?
DE: Who was it that was trying to arrange that for you?
DK: The Home Guard like to get us onto the air field – it was only a small air field at Melton – but there was about lads from this village and then [unclear, laughs].
DE: Right.
DK: We got lined up and sitting down laughs]. That was the wonderful thing so when we went to Coningsby we saw the old Dakota there.
DE: Mm.
DK: It’s a wonderful plane isn’t it, the Dakota.
DE: Yes [emphasis], [DK laughing].
DK: So we’d better go and see the site had we?
DE: I think we’d better had, yeah.
DK: If you want – you want to go, do you?
DE: Yes please, yeah if it’s well, it’s not raining is it? No.
JK: I don’t think it is.
DK: We’re not bad, we’re not bad to get out here, but you and Ernest –
JK: Well you can get out, it’s not very far from the road is it?
DK: Can walk and see the memorial, but we’re not – we can take you to the plane crash and show you where it crashed then.
DE: Mhm.
DK: Is that alright?
ET: That’s fine.
DK: Have you got a good vehicle?
DE: Erm, yes.
JK: The road to where it crashed can get a bit bumpy, isn’t it?
DK: Yes [laughs].
DE: That would be great, yeah. So you’ve always, always sort of followed, I’ve noticed with your book of clippings, you’ve always followed the history of the RAF.
DK: Yes [laughs]. Anything else going. I was looking today, when Belvoir sold all the property in 1921, I’ll let you have a page you can see what they all made then [emphasis] [laughs].
DE: Oh yes.
DK: So I don’t know what’s going to happen, they’ll perhaps go on the skip when I’m gone [laughs].
DE: Oh dear, no, no.
ET: Oh Dennis no, no.
DK: Unless Ernest wants them.
ET: You must put on them ‘do not throw away.’ [JK laughs].
DK: Pardon?
ET: Put on them ‘do not throw away,’ ‘retain’ [DK laughs] or send them to an archive somewhere.
DK: Yeah, they’re not interested in old things –
DE: No sometimes, yeah, you do get that unfortunately [DK laughs].
JK: We remember too much Dennis don’t we?
DK: Pardon?
JK: We remember too much of the past [DK and JK laugh].
DK: Now when they talk about things, the price she says [unclear] years ago [laughs].
JK: Prices, prices get Dennis. ‘That cost so and so,’ I said ‘Dennis you don’t live in this world.’
DK: I’ll not be [?] –
DE: Mm. It is –
JK: ‘You can’t buy that it’s a waste of money,’ well it’s either that or nothing.
DE: Oh dear.
DK: I’ve had two hearing aids [?]. I’ve had two lots, I’ve had the national health one and then I’ve had the, what are they?
JK: Specsavers.
DK: So now I can hear a bit more ‘cause she can’t hear what I’m saying [laughs] or I can’t hear what Joan’s –
DE: Right.
JK: No you can’t hear what I say. I can hear what you [emphasis] say because you shout [JK and DK laugh]. Deaf people do shout, don’t they?
DE: They do.
DK: No you see, I’m not [unclear]. But people don’t realise – and it was a lovely life years ago you see, everyone helped one another and you lived with your – didn’t sit your parents in an old home to end their days, you looked after your parents didn’t you in those days? And you lived well and fed well and [laughs], mm.
JK: Well you did on the farm.
DK: Pardon?
JK: You did feed [emphasis] well on the farm.
DK: No, I’d have liked to be a wheelwright and join or a butcher you see.
DE: Mhm.
DK: But you see, I was saying in my day they had the say –
JK: Your parents told you what to do –
DE: Mm.
DK: So what do you think, ‘why do you think we’ve got the farm?’ Because, we worked from scratch to get the farm you see [laughs].
JK: And you owned [emphasis] it.
DK: There’s a tree up there, and you go up there – it was planted in 1852 with my relations.
DE: Really?
DK: It’s an old chestnut tree, yeah. Right at the top there [laughs].
DE: That’s smashing.
DK: And I’ve got some books, Ernest is going to take them to the archive. The, when he was an auctioneer in Valier [?] in 1852 [laughs].
DE: They would be interested in that yeah, definitely. Well thank you very much, I think I shall –
DK: Well [unclear] you [laughs].
JK: Yes.
DE: I shall press stop on there, unless there’s anything else that you can think of that you’d like to tell me [pause].
DK: No I tell the people a lot about the, this, this was gardens [emphasis] years ago – well it belonged, well the church, it was supposed to belong to the church, but it belonged to his lordship up at Belvoir.
DE: Mhm.
DK: They were very good landlord, different to what we’ve got, we’ve got now [laughs].
JK: When I bought the plot it was glebe [emphasis] land, it belonged to the church. And then a man in the village was doing research up at Belvoir for the old duke –
DE: Mhm.
JK: Last, the previous duke. And he found that this land belonged to Belvoir in 1792, and it was called Hive [?] Close. And, but nobody can find out how the church acquired it [laughs]. So whether it still really was the duke’s and he missed out on the sale – not that he got a lot for it, he didn’t ‘cause it sold just before prices went up, but –
DK: Shall we get off Ernest.
JK: Got no idea [emphasis].
DE: Yep –
DK: Get your gear on and I’ll get mine.
DE: I’ll press stop on there, thank you very much.



Dan Ellin, “Interview with Dennis Kirk. Two,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 26, 2023,

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