Interview with Henry Pollock


Interview with Henry Pollock


Harry Pollock grew up in London and worked as an apprentice floor layer and as a fireman on the London Midland Scottish Railway before he joined the RAF in 1943. After training, he completed 36 operations as an air gunner with 78 Squadron from RAF Breighton. He was commissioned in November 1944 at the end of his tour and was posted to India in 1945. He also served in Saigon, Rangoon and Burma. A few years after being demobbed, Harry rejoined the Air Force and was offered a Commission as an Air Traffic Controller. After leaving the RAF again in 1965 Harry became a Civil Air Traffic Controller at East Midlands Airport.




Temporal Coverage




00:42:35 audio recording

Conforms To


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SC: Testing for level. Interview with Mr Harry Pollock at his home at xxxx Castle Donington. Also present Mr John Pollock, Harry Pollock’s son and Steve Cook interviewer for International Bomber Command. OK, I think we’re ready to go. Harry thank you very much for inviting me along and John thank you for coming all the way down from York to go through this interview. What we really want to try and capture now are your memories, your experiences, not just from being in Bomber Command but going right back to before the war and why you joined the RAF and why you came to be in Derby. So if you can cast your mind back to what you were telling me earlier perhaps about where you lived originally in the East End of London and share some of those early experiences.
HP: Well, I was born in 1924 of course. Originated in Woolwich, my father was a long distance lorry driver. I was the only one, the only son and at one time we were in Star Lane across in Canning Town. I went to Star Lane School and we lived at 121 Ling Road, Canning Town. I started work at fourteen as an apprentice joiner, well not a joiner but a floor layer. I worked for the Hackney Flooring and Paving Company in Barking, which meant a bit of a bus ride and that sort of thing from home and after a little while as an apprentice we had to go out on, er on jobs as it were, hospitals, dance halls, and on. My first out job was at a hospital near Epsom in Surrey which meant as a fourteen year old, sort of leaving home very early in the morning, going there, travelling on the train, coming back at night, even on a Saturday, 48 hours. For which, I was, as an apprentice, I was paid the princely sum of eight shillings a week.
SC: Gosh.
HP: Anyway, that continued and on the second year I got twelve shillings a week. Of course the war started in 1939, I was still working but at the time the Blitz was, didn’t start ‘til 1940 and that’s when it really all started for me in a way. I was working up at, in the West End of London at the time when the Blitz started. And, um, we had an Andersen shelter in the back garden which we shared with other tenants. Anyway one morning we came down after a pretty heavy raid and the house was a bit, not dilapidated, but it had been struck, the roof was and, we were evacuated to somewhere in Oxfordshire near Thame. I remember the name of the village now it’s called Kingston Blount. We were there for a little while with other people that had been sent there. But at the time I had an uncle in Derby, a retired soldier who was in the Sherwood Forest, but he worked for the Trent Motor Traction Company and he said ‘oh come up here and stay with us’. At the time my dad was still working in London on his job so it was just a case of my mother and I going to Derby and staying with my uncle in Chaddesden in Derby. Ahh, after a short spell in one job I ended up being a railway fireman on the railways, the London Midland Scottish Railway and, um, anyway that went on for a couple of years but I think we went back in 40, I forget the actual date we went up there but time went on, we got to 1943 and, um, I decided that things, you know, I wasn’t too happy with the situation on the railway but I decided, I might, I volunteered for the Services. The only way I could leave the railway, which was a occupation that you had to get permission from, and the only way I could leave was either aircrew or submarines and I wasn’t very keen on submarines so I ended up volunteering for the Royal Air Force which meant Bomber Command at the time, Volunteer Reserve. That would be in the, round about my nineteenth birthday, the April. I got the call up papers and um, set off for St John’s Wood in London, in actual fact the Lord’s Cricket Ground in the August 1943. And of course joined many others, we were shunted around all day and we finally had a meal in the zoo in Regent’s Park. We were billeted in, old, well flats people had been evacuated from those flats and we were occupying these flats and of course for the next couple of weeks it was hectic you know, sort of marching here, marching there, uniforms, inoculations, get your hair cut, and all that sort of thing. Once you got, how to fit a webbing, how to fit pack your kit bag and all that sort of thing. Eventually, of course you couldn’t go home, we were on the train to Bridlington, we went to Bridlington.
SC: Yep.
HP: Initially, I think it was initially a training unit of some sort. Um, more lectures, more this more that, more marching, more learning things. I ended up at one time we were throwing grenades on the beach just in case we were called in, you know. Most, it was quite, it was quite all right. One incident I can remember we had to do dinghy drill which meant that one time jumping off the end of the pier into Bridlington Harbour. It wasn’t too bad, the only trouble was there was some barbed wire at the bottom, you had to make sure you dropped that far out that you missed the barbed wire.
SC: Hmm.
HP: And then from Bridlington, I think we spent about five or six weeks there. From Bridlington we went to Bridgnorth, yeah in the Midlands there. And from there we started using, doing the gunnery and, um, so we were marched once again, learn all about the guns, how to strip it down, how to put it back again, how to shoot, all those things how to become an air gunner.
SC: Yep.
HP: I think it was about six weeks and postings came through to go to the Gunnery School and the Gunnery School I was sent to was Andreas on the Isle of Man. So the detail went off and off we went and caught the ship from upstream, it was from near Blackpool, Fleetwood across to the Isle of Man and that’s when the flying started of course. Flying on Ansons, more lectures, but the training, the flying training was actually in Ansons. Um, you had to don all this flying gear and if you were unlucky you sat next to the pilot which meant your job was to wind up the undercarriage which was quite an effort. Anway, that’s beside the point. But to get into the turret which was half way along the fuselage of the Anson it was rather a tricky position. You had to elevate the guns, climb on the seat, depress the guns, stand up and there you were, you were in the whirl. Alongside would come these martinets, whatever, dragging a trogue, ah, a drogue. And the idea was to shoot at that drogue, see how many times, and of course there were four or five of us, so what they did, you had your allocation of bullets, your ammunition and each one was a different colour so when they got it down they counted which holes had the colour so they knew how good you were. That was alright until one day, we had a chap who was a bit, err, well he was a bit wayward in a way, a bit, suddenly this chap just sort of veered off somewhere dragging the tow and he wasn’t aiming at the drogue too much he was getting too close to the aeroplane. [laughter] Anyway, of course we ended it , we were there for a little while, we used to go across to Jurby, which another RAF station and they had all these turrets with guns fitted, a lot of firing went on, things like that and, um, from there we were posted to, err, a heavy unit, in, near Cambridge, near Oxford, it was Abingdon, no not Abingdon, Stanton Harcourt.
SC: Hmm.
HP: That’s when we ended up on Whitleys. We started flying as a crew, um, we went to Abingdon, that’s it we went to Abingdon, we crewed up and that’s where I met my crew, except the engineer which we picked up later. Stanton Harcourt was a satellite of Abingdon and we were flying on the Whitleys and we were there training, the usual cross countries and all sorts of [unclear].
SC: How did you actually get together with the crew?
HP: That’s the first time we joined. We, um, I forget the actual procedure but I think quite a few people sort of arrived at this hangar or whatever and they said ‘well there you are, there’s pilots, navigators, bomb aimers, air gunners, signallers, sort yourselves out, get yourselves into a crew’. And the crew I ended up with, the captain he was a New Zealander, a chap called Eric Selby, nice, nice fellow. The navigator was a Scotsman, a very tall Scotsman, a very well educated Scotsman and turned out to be an excellent navigator. The bomb aimer was a chap called Tommy Noton who is still alive, down in Kent. The signaller was a chap called, um, I’ll have to think of his name again, and the other gunner was a chap from Leicester called Wilmott, Alan Wilmott and so we crewed up, got together, got to know each other and there we were, we started flying on the Whitleys, doing all the usual things cross countries and circuits and all that sort of thing. And then towards the end you had to, well you were, you did what they called them, nickel and the nickel was meant, you had to fly that was really your very first, your baptism if you like, of flying over enemy territory and that was that you had to load up all these leaflets and go over and drop ‘em over wherever they were sent, France. Our particular nickel was we had to drop, it’s in there, we had to drop leaflets over Compiegne which was near Paris. And, completely on our own and there we were. The only thing was they, the other gunner couldn’t come, there was only one place for a gunner on those sort of things.
SC: Hmm.
HP: On training details we used to share the details, share the time. Anyway, we set off and I can remember it quite well, it was a decent night, I don’t remember a great deal about it but it seemed very strange going over, thinking that you were there [emphasis], sort of thing, you know. Even then you sort of flitted around and it was, I can remember it reasonably well actually, you suddenly looked down and could see these little outlets and the odd spittle of light perhaps, imagine somebody shouting out ‘put that light out’ either in German or French or whatever [laughter] you know. Anyway we got over there, we got over where we were, I didn’t know one place from another, it was the navigator. The wireless operator and the bomb aimer, it was their job to drop these leaflets, they put them down the flare shoot, there was a, you know just drop flares. That was fine. It was done I can gather. I didn’t know this was going on I was stuck at the back, but apparently a lot of them blew back [laughter] you know so, anyway they got rid of them and off, we came back. Pretty uneventful you know, there was anti-aircraft fire and things like that you know but fortunately no fighters and we came back quite intact. So that was our first time.
SC: Yes
HP: I felt a bit, I think we felt quite, quite relieved in the end, we got the first one over in a way. And, um, so that was that. So after Abingdon, we, we went to Rufforth, RAF Rufforth near York. It was a heavy conversion unit, and Halifaxes and that’s where we picked up the engineer. Now this chap, Knight, Stan Knight his name was. He was a bit more — older than most of us, [unclear], he was quite grey in a way. Anyway, very enthusiastic this chap and we picked him up. And the usual thing you know, sort of training, cross countries things like that and, um, did all that was necessary and when we got, this is where I had to find out about this space from the bombers, and when we got to the end of the course on the — coming up for a posting on to a squadron by that time, you know it was squadron ready, getting towards the end, this navigator, he was a very brilliant chap the Scotsman, he suddenly, for some reason, I can’t remember the exact details, but we didn’t have him anymore and so they gave us a, I don’t know, the last two or three flights, I can’t remember the exact details of it but we were given, all this time we’d been flying with a Scotsman, we end up with a Canadian his name was Beer, a nice chap. Anyway we did these flights and they came along and said ‘got your postings through’ and in actual fact we were posted to 35 Squadron PFF down at Graveley, not Graveley, wherever it is, um, back onto Lancasters. I just confirmed that with the bomb aimer down there. Anyway, while this is all going on our new navigator went sick, he had to have an operation, so they took him off the crew and they said ‘well, we haven’t got another navigator for you, you’ll have to wait for him to get better’. I think he’d got appendicitis or something like that you know, so we lost, we didn’t go to 35 Squadron, we stayed on and anyway, he came fit, they passed him fit, and that’s how we came to go to Breighton, 78 Squadron. But if he hadn’t been sick we would have been down at 35 Squadron, I don’t know, it might have been the end, I don’t know.
SC: Yes.
HP: [unclear] Pathfinder. So we didn’t make that, we ended up staying on Halifaxes and posted to, um, Breighton, 78 Squadron and that’s where we did it. We did the tour of operations, did thirty odd and that was it. Finished the tour in the November I think it was. Thirty six operations.
SC: And how much of that tour do you remember?
HP: Pardon?
SC: How much of the tour do you remember? How many of the trips?
HP: Well as I say we used to go up and we had one or two brushes, I mean your main defence, really, you didn’t have the speed but the, it was a matter of what they called a corkscrew. You know, you had to judge it from the back, where we were coming and you had to corkscrew right, starboard or left or port or dodge into the nearest cloud or whatever. Had a couple like that but nothing really, fired at a couple of times you know, saw the odd spark but nothing dramatic really and we got through the tour quite reasonably. It was a mixed tour, you know daylight, the, um, — By that time of course it got to June and of course the invasion and that was the part I was a bit, I thought we were flying but we weren’t. I had a word with Tom and we didn’t start until about ten days after the June 6th I think it was, and then we did, bombed some of the V Bomber sites and things like that, Doodlebugs, the Borkum Islands, we bombed those a couple of, one or two, it’s difficult to sort of realise you know, can’t remember mostly, they merge a little bit, they do merge a little bit, yes.
SC: Yes.
HP: And that was that, that was the end of tour.
SC: And that was in, towards the end of?
HP: I think the last flight, the last op was round about November ’44.
SC: Yep
HP: Yep. I think it was thirty five or thirty six.
SC: Gosh.
HP: But that included daylights and things like that, and there was, we used to do mine laying up at Kattegat.
SC: Yep.
HP: And we did some mine laying in the inner harbour in Brest and things like that you know, at the end of the tour. The officers that was the pilot, the bomb aimer, the navigator who was a Warrant Officer, they got the DFC.
SC: Right yes.
HP: The sergeants they, they got commissioned in the end but they got the DFC. It was fair enough.
SC: So you finished as a?
HP: I finished as ah, I’m still a sergeant and at the end of the tour got a [unclear] they had said they’d commission me and I got my commission in the November 1944.
SC: Right.
HP: Hmm, and that’s it.
SC: Right and then you moved on to other things.
HP: Yes, um, I moved on and said — I had to go, there was a course up at Scotland, I was posted up for a course, two courses.
SC: Yep.
HP: On up in Scotland, the north of Scotland and another one down in Cornwall.
SC: Yep.
HP: Umm. It was to do with, more or less handling the, err, they started to [pause] load aeroplanes and things like that you know. It was a passenger and freight sort of carry on you know.
SC: Yep.
HP: Anyway, at the end of it I ended up at, in the 1945, that would be round about February, March time, something like that, it might have been a bit later, um I was sent out to Burma, well India, we started off with a Dakota, [unclear] Dakota and I was ended up after a series of flights and stops and whatever at Chittagong in what is now Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal and there, there was some, an American squadron also two RAF squadrons which I think was 31 bombers, and they were supply dropping the troops you know, a full team and that was part of my job, like a staging post kind of thing we used to, it was my job to, in the evenings we decided what the troops wanted they were slowly advancing by the time we got there.
SC: Yeah.
HP: We used to meet up with the Army and they used to, all these aeroplanes were lined up and there was the decision which aeroplane had to carry which load and where they were going and I used to have to get there and get the list of the aeroplanes and the loads and I had, um, BOR, that’s British Other Ranks, Indian Other Ranks and things like that and we used to allocate and, err, get them all loaded and ready to jump. We used to do the odd trip, help drop them over the drop zones onto the DZs and things like that and of course that went and then as they slowly advanced the squadrons slowly advanced with them. They went down to Ramree Island and round there and about but we stayed back in Chittagong and we ended up at the — accepting stuff from, from the docks, ready for the invasion of Japan, so we found out after. So all this gear was being loaded ready at Chittagong, ready but of course anyway the war ended so that was that. And then after that I went back to, to Calcutta, I was sent back to Calcutta. Um, I worked in the air booking centre there for a while and then I went out, they started opening up the transport links.
SC: Uhuh.
HP: That was from, first of all I went back there to Alipur that was it, I went back to Alipur and um, there was one or two flights coming through with prisoners of war, with the Dakotas. They were bringing them in on the flights and they’d got some, if I can remember, I think they’d got some ships there that put them on the shore, put them on flights, flying them home things like that at Alipur. And then, um, they also had a base in, at a place called Kunming in China, a staging post there. Anyway they were being evacuated, the Chinese wanted them out. It was a massive airfield. A lot of Americans there. I’ve got some photographs but I can’t remember where they are. And, well I was sent there to help this chap clear up this end and bring people back [unclear] there was a staging post and they used to use it, Kunming when Hong Kong was liberated they flew [unclear] but of course they used it during the war [mobile phone sounds}
??: Sorry
HP: when they were supplying Chiang Kai-shek with goods. They were flying with arms and things you know and, um, that was, that was alright in the end, we sorted that out , got the lads back from there which meant flying the 52 Squadron over the Himalayas to Kumbi —
SC: Gosh.
HP: and back again, we all came back, and after that we started to open up the routes down to, well they were opened up to Hong Kong, Singapore, round Saigon and what have you.
SC: Hmm.
HP: And first of all we went down to Penang, that was near Butterworth, with jumpers on about, and we opened up a base there, they started to fly in the Dakotas, from 52 Squadron, like a passenger flight and things like that and then ended up at Saigon and I was there for a while, well I was there for about six months doing a similar thing, setting up the booking centres, how they used to take money and started to take civilian passengers as well.
SC: Yeah
HP: Things like that and I was based in the hotel Majestic, Majestic Hotel in Saigon and John happened to be passing through there, was it last year John?
JP: Couple of years ago.
HP: Whenever it was, on a cruise. He sent me this photograph, the Majestic.
SC: Wow.
HP: So I said ‘look up my old billet’, you know. And he said ‘where is it?’ I said ‘Majestic Hotel’, he said ‘well this is where this photograph’s been taken’ [laughter].
SC: Small world.
JP: Yeah.
HP: Can you stop a minute, I’ll just go and get a, I think I’ve got some photographs of that. Can we stop this or not?
SC: Yes of course we can, yep, I’ll pause this for a moment.
Pause in recording
SC: OK, we’ll resume the conversation. I think we were in Saigon.
HP: Oh that’s right.
SC: Yes
HP: The idea was, when we first arrived, there was a bit of uneasy feeling in the city because um, the Japanese, there was still some Japanese troops there and we utilised them a little bit for sentry, guard duties because we were a bit short. It was French, very French, obviously French Indo-Chino you know, and the French Army was there and things like that. And apart from us they were also using French, err, Japanese soldiers for sentry duty, guards and things like that.
SC: Right.
HP: Didn’t arm them or anything like that obviously, but they were what we used to call choki dahs [?].
SC: Yes.
HP: Guards, you know.
HP: Yes.
SC: So we utilised them until they went back home. They were quite alright, no problem at all. So there we were setting up this centre for, um, the 52 Squadron, other squadrons followed a bit later, I don’t know, flying the routes opening up from Calcutta, Bangkok, Penang, um, Singapore, Saigon and eventually to Hong Kong.
HP: Hmm.
HP: Of course the Chinese were very keen to get all their, a lot of people, Chinese in Saigon, it’s a very cosmopolitan place, a lovely city, beautiful city. And of course it got quite good, there was a lot of different nationalities started coming and opening up. It hadn’t been damaged at all by the war it was a beautiful city. We were setting it up and that was it. I got a posting, I was in the Majestic hotel all the time, my office was there. It was right by the water front. The only thing I can remember there was the poor old CO used to live in the hotel as well. He was bitten by a dog and they took no chances there the French, um, rabies so no chance. So the poor old chap he used to have to go down to the hospital or wherever and have an injection in his stomach every morning.
SC: Hmm.
HP: and, err, he said they don’t know if I’ve got rabies or not, they want to see the dog. So I said, ‘I’m sorry sir we’ve just thrown it in the river’, [laughter], or ‘they’ve just thrown it in the river’. We couldn’t find it so he had to keep having these injections, just in case he’d got rabies. Anyway that was that. Anyway the posting came through was to go back to Rangoon and set up Searcher Teams, teams going round looking for aircraft that they couldn’t pinpoint or find during the war, had been shot down or whatever. I think there were about six or seven, well I was Number 7 Searcher Team and we all met up together and it was under the auspices of the Royal RAF Regiment in Rangoon itself in the headquarters. Mingaladon, that was the airfield. And we were given some training by them and the team consisted of myself, there was a Warrant Officer who was a wireless operator and he was in charge of a radio, a wireless vehicle with shortwave RT and then we also had a Jeep and we had a sergeant who looked after all the necessary arrangements and two drivers. So, that was the team, myself, a Warrant Officer who was the wireless operator, and off we went. Our route was up through the middle of Burma, after quite a bit training, there’s some photographs here. We did a bit of guard duty while down there as well, and we got down. Anyway, we set off and off we went and our route as far as I can remember we ended up through places like Myitkyina, Mandalay, Meiktila and they issued us with a complete dossier of all these aircraft, the last when they heard of them, pinpointed, lat and long that sort of thing, type of aircraft, engines, quite a lot of information that they could get. When they were last seen going down or whatever. And I’d find these spots, one or two reasonably fine and the idea was we had to get some confirmation, you know sort of engine numbers or anything that was left. And um, it took us up right through Mandalay, Myitkyina and all round there. And also down to, across to Ledo where the Chinese, the road, you know the Americans used for supplies. the Ledo. Um, we ended up there. It took us up we, well we went on quite a few surprises and this is us. That’s where we actually found an aeroplane
SC: Aha.
HP: We were, I had an imprest account of so many rupees that I could buy all my goods and things like that. I had a letter of introduction as well which gave me quite a bit of authority and I could go into an army barracks or wherever up there. Mainly, the Cochin Rifles were up there at that time and there was a little bit of tension on the borders but not a lot. I think they were based at Myitkyina the Cochins and we’d find these places and get petrol or goods. We also stayed with the Army Intelligence Corps, they were based all around the different places you know. And we used to stay with them the odd time you know, get a bit of accommodation. Otherwise we were out in the area but this is one of the villages we went to. We used to go [unclear] the villages and we were very welcome at times in Burma and they always had a hut there, I’ve forgotten what they called it now but you could go and sleep in the hut, you were a visitor, that was the lodging house it was. And that’s one of them, (sounds of photographs being sorted).
SC: Gosh yeah. So that’s a photograph of — are you on this photograph?
HP: Ahh, I think so, let me, I think so yes, yes somewhere. Aah, yes that, that’s me there.
SC: There? Yep, right in the front.
HP: Hmm.
SC: With a number of other people.
HP: We had to make daily contact — All right John?
JP: Yes, [unclear]
HP: make daily contact with base back at Mingaladon as to what we were up to and that sort of thing,
SC: Yep.
HP: The other, the other search teams were over at the other side towards the coast or down to the Thai border or something like that but I was right up through the middle of Mandalay and, um, one of the things, when we got to [unclear] we started off with some petrol. We’d been into the barracks at Kutching, got this petrol and at that time we were staying with one of the army intelligence people, they had a place there, they put us up. We’d got this Jeep, we’d got quite a few jerry cans of petrol and they had what they called the choki dahs [?], the guards and when we got up in the morning all the petrol had gone —
SC: It had gone.
HP: plus the choki dah [?]. So we had, we had to stay behind for a court of enquiry.
SC: Hmm.
HP: Anyway we set off and one of the trips we set off from there, we had to catch a train and it went right up through where there was some fighting with the troops and things and I’m unloading the Jeep onto the low loader on the train and that’s what happened. [laughter]
SC: Harry’s now showing me a photograph of a Jeep that has, looks like it has either fallen off the back of the low loader or not quite made it onto the back of the low loader. Gosh.
HP: We eventually got it on. [muttering]
SC: Yep.
HP: Yeah. There’s another one there, another one of it.
SC: And another photograph of Harry with some of the rest of the team in the accommodation hut.
HP: [laughter]
SC: So how long did this —
HP: This went on, we ended up actually up at, um, I think it was called Pattaya, it was right up near the, the up by the Tibetan border, up that way somewhere, it was called Pattaya.
SC: Yep.
HP: And the District Commissioners were slowly making their way back of course, after the war and this chap had got there, and we went up there and we had to find one nearby. Before we got there we went to a place and ended up not far from, err, what I can remember, where we — and I had to leave behind the, it was a three, a three day trek. I had to leave behind the wireless vehicle and the Warrant Officer and I took the Sergeant and one of the drivers and we set off across, right along the border with China to find this particular aeroplane and it was quite a trek. We were, we got to a river, we picked up an interpreter, an Indian chap. We ended up crossing the river, we’d got mules carrying stuff and these mules, we used to sleep on these camp beds, we used to put them together like at night and, these mules that, I think there were two of them, we used to have to go on a raft, we went up the side of this, it was rather fast flowing this river I can remember. We had to get it, we had to cross it anyway and they put a bit of a priority on some of these finds that we had to you know. They were particularly keen on this one, so we got down there by the side of the river and we met this raft chap there so he had to take the mules over and then he used to take and we got to the other side by which time we were completely exhausted and we spent the night there in a clearing and all we could hear all night was the mules eating all the trees and whatever, bushes. [laughter] Anyway, we pressed on. We found this spot once we got the details and what have you, we made the return journey. So it took us about three or four days actually to do that, got back. And then we set off and I think that was the after, prior to the Jeep falling off the thing. Um, we got off to the pier, when we got up there we found that probably due to this thing the Jeep had a broken spring.
SC: Uhuh.
HP: So it meant driving all the way back down to — so I took the Jeep. It was rather tortuous all round these hills all the way down to Myitkyina. We had to make contact with Mingaladon, our base to get authority, and the money no doubt to put a new spring on.
SC: Hmm.
HP: So we had to, we were there a couple of days and got the spring, went back up there and all the way back and that was it and eventually ended up back at Mingaladon at Rangoon and that was it, that was. So that would be from oh about three or four months I suppose, three, I don’t know, three months.
SC: And how many planes did you find?
HP: I can’t remember actually. I can remember this big sort of thing we had. [unclear] I’ve got a letter upstairs actually from the, from the C in C down there, ‘thank you for your efforts in finding these aeroplanes’. I think it was about, I can’t remember actually. I think we found probably about half a dozen or a dozen or whatever, I can’t remember, ten or whatever.
SC: Yeah.
HP: Some that were pretty difficult you know.
SC: Yeah.
HP: The lats and longs or positions were a bit out of date we couldn’t find them, or whatever you know.
SC: Yeah.
HP: We did find a few which we had, that was the idea of the signal band really to keep in touch and also say that we’d found out some details and things like that so. The Warrant Officer was on that thing every day you know. I think, I can’t remember actually. My memory is quite, they gave me quite a bit of money, what they called an imprest account.
SC: Yeah.
HP: I think we spent most of it I’m not sure. Of course you had to buy goods and interpreters and things like that you know and I think we ended up in, I don’t know, probably. Well I was err, we were — my demob date was coming up ended up back at Mingaladon. Had to wait for a ship to bring us back and I think we set sail round about the April/May something like that you know.
SC: Yep.
HP: Took us some months to get home.
SC: Did you sail directly from —
HP: From Mingaladon calling at, I think we called at Gibraltar, something like that and err. Eventually we docked at Liverpool and I was demobbed at one of the demob centres there, 1947.
SC: And then made your way home?
HP: Then I made my way home yeah.
SC: Yeah.
HP: Yeah.
SC: And how did you get home from there? Did they provide transport or —
HP: Oh yes you got your demob suit, you got your railway warrant, you know. Just go home. And that was it, that was goodbye.
SC: Yes.
HP: I can’t, I don’t know what I’ve done with this letter, your mum had it at one time. But it was from the Big Cheese down in Rangoon thanking me for my efforts in finding these aeroplanes and that, you know.
SC: Yes. And had you sailed out to —
HP: No we flew out.
SC: You’d flown.
HP: Originally, yeah. The Dakota yeah.
SC: Yep
HP: We’d flew out. We stopped at places on the way and ended up at Karachi and from Karachi we went up to Delhi [unclear] went to Kamila, Kamila down to Calcutta and then Calcutta down to um, to –
SC: Mingaladon?
HP: No, no to
SC: To um —
HP: Chittagong.
SC: Chittagong.
HP: Chittagong, sorry memory’s going again. Yes Chittagong. The airfield was called Hathazari.
SC: Right.
HP: Yeah
SC: Yeah.
HP: So that’s about it.
SC: Oh, well that’s fascinating thank you very much for sharing that with us. I’ll switch this off now and let’s have a look at.
HP: I rejoined after.
SC: We’ll resume recording. You’ve just reminded me that you rejoined in —
HP: Yes I rejoined in er, in 51.
SC: Yep.
HP: From the railway. By which time we had Steve who is my eldest son and we lived with the parents which wasn’t ideal um, [unclear] rejoined, had to leave my wife at home get to know what the situation, went down the London. I applied for aircrew again but they said they didn’t want me, not particularly, but they offered me a commission in air traffic control. We had a big talk over about it with my parents and my parents and it wasn’t an ideal situation really so I did, I rejoined on a short service commission, five years. I did the courses at Shorebury. When it got towards the end of the five years they gave me a permanent commission and we had John by that time and Sandra my daughter, and my mission after the courses and things just felt well in Norfolk and then went to Luffenham didn’t we? The Night Fighter, Luffenham we went to Aden, had a couple of years in Aden and err, that was alright wasn’t it?
JP: Oh yeah.
HP: And we came back, went to Valley in, then went to Northern Ireland and I got my civil licence and I ended up as a civil controller after I came out, after I packed it up in — I didn’t want, by that time the lads were getting, [unclear]. There was nothing for them. We used to see lads their age overseas with their parents and there was no roots for them so I retired, not retired, I gave up in 1965.
SC: Right
HP: And um, it was a job at East Midlands Airport as a civilian air traffic controller. I was there for twenty odd years.
SC: Wow?
JP: Day one.
HP: Pardon?
JP: On day one of the airport.
HP: Day one. Opened up the airport, yeah, yeah.
SC: Gosh
HP: 65, yeah.
SC: And you stayed there until —
HP: I retired, had trouble with my eyes at the time and so I didn’t get the full medical at the time and other things and I came out in and er. Well I did twenty years anyway, ‘85.
SC: 85. Yep.
HP: And that was it.
SC: Well that’s fascinating. Right well I’ll now turn this o —



Steve Cooke, “Interview with Henry Pollock,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed June 16, 2024,

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