RAF Training: Heaton Park 1942

The following poem was written by Frederick S “Jonah” Jones, later a Pathfinder pilot on 635 Squadron, when he was in training in 1942. Heaton Park was one of the training centres encountered early in an erk’s career, way before he became aircrew.

(Note: Jones uses the word “erk” to denote not a member of ground crew, as we tend to use it today, but an airman in training, one step up from being a “sprog”. The punctuation in the poem has been amended to make the meaning clearer.)

The Heaton Park booklet pictures are from the copy kept by David Blyth, a navigator, who was killed in August 1944 in a flying accident while at 1665 CU (Conversion Unit). David’s writing on the Heaton Park map gives his hut as being No. 58.

Heaton Park Manchester 1942

A drooping object with dismal mien
Meandering along through drizzle and rain,
A forlorner figure you’d scarce hope to see,
He looks rather common, he could even be me.

His kit drags along and bumps over rubble,
To tote bulky bags would entail too much trouble.
Shrouds of mist cling on him, whirling in his retreat,
He fades from the picture save for squishing of feet.

Comes the hut where the civvies lounge back with their fags,
Eyeing incoming erks with their three types of bags,
Three types see you looking quickly at me
On shoulders, ‘neath eyes and the trousers at knee.

He’s now yelling Corporal while Flight Sergeant thunders,
His arm’s in a sling saluting blue-clad wingless wonders,
He talks about brassed off and being cheesed to the teeth,
He’s getting on fine but he’s erk underneath.

Days pass in succession but never a draught
Is mustered at bandstand though weeks passed he was classed;
He skins off parades and jumps over walls,
Cafes are his hide-out and his bill of fair,
Parade skinning, queue-busting days spent in camp are unused and rare

For now he’s an old hand, in classes he’ll slumber,
He confounds the green kids saying “What is your number?”
He talks about kites like he’d made two or three,
Though I don’t think he’s seen one if you should ask me.

He’s just one more u/t awaiting the day
When that long sought-for ship will be going away;
Till the day that it does he’ll scrounge out of work –
I give you that dodger LAC Erk.

Frederick S “Jonah” Jones, text courtesy of Manina Jones.