World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                      Harry Horsefield 

Harry Horsfield's War Memories

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Harry Horsfield
Location of story: RAF stations Hemswell, Lincs and Cosford, Staffs.
Background to story: Royal Air Force


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Louise Treloar of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Harry Horsfiel.

I went into the RAF and was sent to the Royal Air Force Station, Cosford, Staffs on a training course. When I was there, I was sent on an all-night guard duty, guarding coal wagons on the railways. In the morning, straight after the duty, I had to go on parade and roll call with all the other men. There were 15,000 men at Cosford doing different courses. The Staff Sergeant came up to me and said, “You’ve not shaved.” I’d just come off night duty, scrambled a breakfast and come on parade. He said, “You’ve got a choice – three nights working in the officers’ mess kitchen, scraping meat dishes and washing up, or you can go on a charge. What are you going to do? Better to do the jankers” (Jankers meant fatigues – work). I said I’d go on the charge. He told me to report to the adjutant’s office at 9am. I went straight there and he said, “You’ve been accused of being on parade unshaven.” I replied, “I’ve never shaved in my life!” I just had fluff on my chin! He told me I’d better go to the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Airforce canteen) and buy a razor now. "Yessir," I said. Case dismissed. I often wonder what he said to the Staff Sergeant afterwards!

I was Airman AC2 (meaning Aircraftsman second class), and I passed through to first class. When I started, I was on 1s and 6d (7½p) a day. When I left, I was Leading AC Fitter Engines, working on the Rolls Royce engines on the Lancasters. I got 3 shillings and 9 pence (old money) a day (19p new money).

Two days in 1943 when the war stopped, I was at RAF Station Hemswell in Lincolnshire. At breakfast time, the ‘tannoy’ loudspeaker ordered everyone to parade outside their barrack block at 8am wearing work overalls.

Non-commissioned officers detailed everyone, men and WAAFs to the following tasks: cut the grass, wash all windows, doors, steps and paintwork inside and out, polish all floors, clean latrines, paint the flagpole and curbstones on both sides of all roads and pathways, after sweeping, paint the main iron gates and using one hundred octane petrol (aircraft fuel), scrub the hanger (aircraft sheds) floors. My brother and thousands more were on a troopship bound for Iraq to guard the oilfields, and U-boats were sinking oil tankers carrying crude oil for making 100 octane petrol. Two airmen were detailed to put new fittings in a single officer’s toilet. Everyone was tired to exhaustion by sunset.

Next morning at breakfast, the ‘tannoy’ ordered, “Parade in best blue outside your billet.” Everyone stood at ease until, at noon, three large cars arrived. The order, “Parade, shun!” brought all to the salute when two men got out of the middle car and walked straight into the Officers’ mess. We all stood at ease until seventy five minutes later, the same two men came out, got into the car and they all drove away without any sign of recognition of the hundreds of airmen and airwomen standing at attention. We then went to our dinner. Later, it became known that one of the men was the King! After dinner, the war restarted.