|RAF/RCAF Digby : Digby Recollections of Fitter Atkins|
Updated: 28 Oct 08
Fitter Atkins served with both probably 611 Sqn and later the Canadian Sqns at Digby, as well as the Bomber Command.
from 'My Dad's War: Posted to Rhodesia' by rwatkins, ID: A2022968
was born on 12/8/1906 in Tottenham. We lived in Pembroke Road N15.
Dad was a machinist at the JAP engine factory until the depression
and after nine months
unemployment started working as a conductor on the trams at Stamford Hill depot.
We all thought that at 34 and working on the trolley busses (that had replaced the trams) Dad would not be conscripted but with his engineering background he was called up to the RAF in September 1940 soon after registering. He went first to Blackpool for kiting out then to Morecambe for square bashing (basic training) then to RAF Cosford for trade training to Engine Mechanic and on to Engine Fitter.
His first posting was to Digby (611 Squadron?), they operated with Spitfires. Soon he was posted to 61 Squadron at RAF Hemswell. The squadron operated with Handley Page Hampdens at the time and later with Avro Manchesters and Lancasters. There was a large number of Polish aircrew in the Squadron, I remember Dad telling me a story about them. At that time aircrew were instructed to bring their bombs back if they could not find the target. When an armourer asked a Polish pilot how they always managed to find the target when rest of the squadron couldn’t the reply was simple “All Germany is the target!” At some time in 1942 Dad was promoted to Corporal. He also served with 61 Squadron at North Luffenham and a satellite airfield, Woolfox Lodge where he had to work in canvas hangers surrounded by deep mud. He returned to Digby in 1943 and served with the Canadian squadrons. Throughout these years Dad and other ground crew worked anything up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week. Leave was rare, seven days twice a year but he did manage to get a 48 hour pass every six weeks or so.
In early 1944 Dad was posted overseas, it was about
three months before we got an aerogram to let us know he was in Rhodesia.
He went on the
go through the Mediterranean via Malta after North Africa had been liberated
(when Uncle Leslie went to India a couple of weeks earlier he Empire Orwell
went round the Cape). They were not allowed to undress for the four weeks between
Liverpool and Suez. He disembarked in Durban and was taken to Bulawayo. We
relieved to learn he was in Rhodesia because our fears were that he might be
going to Italy or the Far East. RAF Bulawayo was part of the Empire Flying
Training Scheme; there he worked on Harvards and Cornells. Several native “boys” were
employed in the hangers and worked alongside the RAF men. The “boys” liked
working for the RAF, they were well treated by the erks in contrast to the
white Rhodesians; one Yarpi complained “you treat these boys too well,
we have to control them when you’ve gone home”. One “boy” who
worked in the flights even offered to sell Dad one of his wives! Mum and I
believed he turned down the offer. Most of the work was routine servicing but
he had at
least one unusual job. A trainee pilot had made an emergency landing with engine
failure in the bush and Dad was sent out to dismantle it. He had a couple of “boys” who
helped and did the cooking and a couple of Ascaris to guard the group. He had
to live in the bush until the job was done.
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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