World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                         Harold Parkin 

Emergency Landing with P.O.W.s from Japan

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Harold Parkin, Ted Rowbotham
Location of story: Karachi , Shaibah, near Basra, Jiwani
Unit name: 44th Rodesian Squadron
Background to story: Royal Air Force

                  The photograph was taken at Tel Aviv Airport in 1947 and shows Harold Parkin on the left and Ted Rowbotham on the

                                                            right with an unknown comrade in the middle.


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Roger Marsh of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Harold Parkin.

In October 1945 I should have been at my daughter's Christening, and was on my way back from Karachi to Shaibah, near Basra, with a Stirling load of prisoners who had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

There were about 30 to 35 men, and they had to sit on the floor of the plane – there were no seats for them. They were in a terrible state; they looked ill, and very thin, and I remember thinking, "Oh, these poor blokes."

After an hour's flying, we had an engine failure, and the Stirling would only lose height flying with 3 engines. We should have had 4 engines. After a while, trying to keep going and trying to keep power up with the three engines, there was the danger of losing another engine with overheating, and crashing into the sea.
We had to make an emergency landing, and get rid of some of the weight in the plane, which meant jettisoning some of the fuel. The British ex-prisoners were sitting on the floor of the fuselage of the plane, and through the window they saw the fuel, which was being jettisoned to make the emergency landing, vaporising and thought the aircraft, was on fire. They were terrified, especially after all they had been through, and were on their way home. I sent an engineer back to them to tell them everything was o.k., and we would be landing within half an hour. Then we got a signal through from Karachi, to make an emergency landing at Jiwani, a sand airfield (only used for emergency landing). There was nothing there, except for an American NAAFI, where I remember buying lots of tinned foods, stuff that was rationed at home, to bring home for the family.

Whilst landing, I saw my first mirage. All the living areas, which in fact were at the end of the runway, appeared to be in the middle of the airfield in a large pond. I’d heard about mirages, and realised that this is what it was, and carried on with the landing procedure.

We landed safely, and the next day another plane was sent to pick up the ex-prisoners, to get them home as soon as possible. We, however, were left there for another couple of weeks holiday, and as a result, my navigator, Ted Rowbotham, who was going to be my daughter's Godfather, and I, never got back home in time for the ceremony.

Ted never actually met my daughter Judith, but on my Golden Wedding Anniversary, in 2001, he was invited to the event, and he finally met his God-daughter.




Being A Lancaster Pilot And Trainer

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Harold Parkin
Location of story: Various Airfields
Unit name: Rhodesia Squadron (44th)
Background to story: Royal Air Force


Harold Joined the RAF in 1941 (after going to a selection centre near Lords Cricket Ground) and he was accepted as a pilot. He remembers being sent to Stratford-on-Avon for the first part of their training, where they stayed in the Shakespeare Hotel and attended lectures in the Theatre. Their flight commander was Sebastian Shaw, the actor, who marched them round Stratford giving orders “in his most beautiful voice”. They all thought the world of him and occasionally “got him out of a hole” when, through nerves, he ordered them to “eyes left” instead of right when marching past their commanding officer---to a man, they all looked right! He had the courtesy to come and thank them all afterwards.

Next, they went to Emmanuel College, Cambridge for further lectures, and after the exams he was sent for elementary flying training in Northamptonshire on Tiger Moths. He was billeted in Sywell. Though he’d always had good feed-back, he failed the first time due to nerves, but after passing the second time, he was posted to Spittlegate near Grantham, a permanent RAF base, where he got his wings in 1942. He had always been thought well of in terms of both piloting ability and navigational skills, but was amazed when he was sent to Montrose in Scotland for training as a flying instructor, where they were flying virtually off the beach.

Later, he was moved to Little Rissington, near Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds where he spent the next two years training new pilots. He felt very fortunate in this for he had 1000’s of hours flying to his name, whereas some were sent to Germany after only 300-400 hours.

In 1944 he was given a commission and sent to Operational Training Unit at Bruntingthorpe. As part of his flying squad, he had one bomb-aimer and one gunner from Rhodesia, and because of this, the rules required that they came under the (44th.) Rhodesian Squadron. (The gunner is also still alive and has just left Harari ,formerly Salisbury). Soon afterwards, they were sent to Winthorpe, near Newark, where they were introduced to Stirlings---the 4-engine machines---and within a short space of time, moved to Syerston, which was regarded as the “Lancaster finishing school”. He had a week’s experience of flying Lancasters and was then posted to Spilsby for missions.

Harold was involved in the last raid of the war, which was a bit of a surprise at the time, because they all knew the war was ended and had prepared a big party to celebrate. Accordingly, all the wives had been brought down to the base and they’d even flown to Scotland to get some salmon, when the commanding officer sent for them and told them to get to bed as there was a job for them to do. The mission was to fly to Berchtesgarten, Hitler’s retreat in Bavaria. For once, they flew in broad day-light with 2 fighter escorts, where they proceeded to bomb Hitler’s SS barracks in the bottom of the valley. (Harold was annoyed when he saw in Band of Brothers that they claimed to have taken Berktersgarten by walking troops up the hair-pin bend pass, which he said would have been impossible.) After the mission was completed, they returned to base where they held the delayed celebrations with great gusto.

The two Rhodesian lads went back home shortly afterwards, but from 1945-6, the rest of Harold’s team---the navigation pilot, the wireless operator and the engineer, went on to transport operations, being based first in Stradishall, Suffolk and then at Stoneycross in the New Forest. They spent most of that time taking freight to Karachi (then in India, as it was before Partition), with fuel stops at Tripoli, Tel-e-viv and Basra. (They stopped at night because of the unbearable heat!) Unfortunately, Harold missed his daughter Judith’s christening when he was stranded at Jiwani in Balukistan, west of Karachi, after an engine failure forced them to land on an emergency air-field. They had on board some survivors from the Japanese prisoner of war camps, whom they were taking home. They were not in good shape and unfortunately grew really alarmed when the fuel that had to be jettisoned vapourised and they thought the plane was on fire. Harold sent word to tell them this was normal and nothing to worry about. Another plane was sent out for them, but it meant that both he and his navigator, Ted Rowbotham---who was meant to be Judith’s god-father—both missed the ceremony.

In 1946, Harold was de-mobbed and decided to train as a teacher, following his experience of training pilots during the war, so he went to Brincliffe (the old Blue-Coat School). He started teaching in 1951, but was missing flying so he joined the Reserves. He had only been teaching for about 18 months when he was called up again and spent the next 18 months training pilots during the Korean War crisis. He was posted to Tern Hill in Shropshire, near Shrewsbury, where he made some good friends, many of whom became family friends. It was during this time that the forces introduced a new “pensionable engagement” for officers, to encourage them to stay till they were 55. He applied for a position and feels he was lucky enough to be given one. He was allowed to come home for his second daughter Janet’s birth but was then moved to Feltwell in Norfolk and then back to Shrewsbury to train pilot navigators. From then until he retired in 1972, Harold was at Flying Training Command HQ, near Reading as part of the Examining Board.

Harold feels he has had many strokes of good luck in his life, and says he happened to be in the right place at the right time for so many opportunities. To remind him of his war-time years, he has a limited edition of a painting of the Lancaster Bomber he flew, the Y Yorker Mk.111 Lancaster KM-Y 44 (Rhodesia Squadron). Yorker was one of about 35 Lancasters (out of thousands that were produced during the war) which did over 100 operations---not out!
It hangs at the bottom of his stairs and is signed by the first pilot of the air-craft and the last one---Harold himself.