Jim and Joan’s Story

Jim and Joan Heard

My parents met in Parliament Square, Nottingham, on May 8th 1945, during the VE Day celebrations. My mother, Joan, had been working as a civilian on Lancaster bombers at Langar airfield, doing electrical tasks. My father was then an armourer in RAF groundcrew, mainly with 49 Squadron Bomber Command, at Fiskerton, Lincs.

Before VE Day was declared Jim says there had been a feeling that the war was at last coming to a close, he’d even had a good idea of the Lancasters’ target for their last bombing raid whereas secrecy was usually paramount. 49 Squadron’s last raid was on Hitler’s diehard SS stronghold at Berchtesgarten, known as the “Eagles Nest”.

May 8th saw Parliament Square fill up with people celebrating. Jim had hitched into Nottingham and joined the throng, he says he wasn’t dancing with them but had climbed up onto a Belisha beacon for a better view. He spotted Joan who was there with her mother, but she declined to dance with the slightly tipsy Jim. Then, by the end of the evening Jim was invited home to Basford in Nottingham for a bite to eat. Bearing in mind that six years of rationing did not give scope for a feast the one thing that stays in Jim’s memory was being offered tinned Tarantella tomatoes , quite a treat he says.

Romance bloomed between Joan and Jim, even though after the War the RAF sent him to the far end of Scotland, Lossiemouth.

Decommisioning then included mothballing guns etc and removing tons of soil that had been placed on blister hangars for bombproofing. During the wartime operations he had dealt with everything from explosives, guns, bomb detonators, arming and loading bombs. He says the riskiest job in those years was when a plane returned from a bombing raid with a “hang-up”, meaning that a bomb had been released but had failed to clear. Very often when those planes landed the jolt would detach the bomb and it would be lying loose in the bomb doors and was potentially live. Lancasters could carry 18 bombs of 1000lb each, or mixes of 4000lb and 8000lb bombs, so the bomb doors had to be inched open manually and the bomb lowered onto a trolley. This was always at night in the darkness.

After Joan and Jim’s marriage in August 1946 they eventually moved back to Jim’s home county of Somerset for many happy years of rural living. Jim now lives in Allestree to be near to family, and where he still tries to do a bit of gardening and grow his own veg, age 95.

Told by Daughter Sandra