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Leading Air Fitter Frank Corbett

The crew of Frank Corbett's Stirling

Leading Air Fitter Frank Corbett

 

Unit : 570 Squadron, 38 Group

Service No. : 107698

 

A member of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, Frank Corbett was a part of one of several maintenance crews who were seconded to the RAF and were involved in airborne operations from Normandy onwards.

 

'My early youth was taken up in building Hawker Hurricanes and Short Stirlings at the Austin Motor Works Shadow Factory at Longbridge, Birmingham from whence I came. Many Fighters were patched up on the Longbridge airfield during the Battle of Britain. Using irresponsible youth as my excuse, I went into the Navy at 17.'

 

'I went to Arnhem on a supply dropping mission on September 22 in a Stirling aircraft piloted by Warrant Officer Parker R.C.A.F. I was supernumery crew to aid the Despatcher in the rear fuselage. That day was my only AIR operation of the war. Before entering the Navy, I had a hand in building Stirling aircraft, so I had an idea of their robustness. They were built like a "Brick Outhouse". Their rate of climb was slow, their speed was slow and their ceiling was low, but I knew that it could take a tremendous hammering; an admirable aeroplane for this job. I occupied the R.H. seat in the cockpit and on the way over, kept thinking of our self-sealing fuel tanks each time we ran into light flack (remember, this was my first AIR operation). When near the area, the despatcher was sufficiently organised for me to stay in the co-pilot's seat.'

 

'From the air it was unforgetable; this was the fifth day and the 88mm on the ground seemed to be as thick as fleas on a dog's back. It was possible at our height to see Germans with lighter weapons aiming at us. Oh for a front gun turret then in the Stirling. The aircraft took a beating on the way in and out, without getting a direct hit from anything big. One large piece of shrapnel came in through the nose, shaved the bomb aimer's helmet, came up between the captain and myself, and crashed into the armour plating at the end of the navigator's table. Under such conditions, a low flying large aircraft was a sitting duck and it wasn't easy to locate a shifting drop zone on the ground, although everyone who could was looking. We did our very best and made the drop. To have attempted to go round a second time without a guaranteed result would have been suicide. But that scarred Stirling and a good driver brought us back.'

 

'Following the Arnhem tragedy I was drafted to the Far East and joined the Aircraft Carrier UNICORN in Sydney Aust. I served in her for the remainder of the war.'

 

My thanks to Frank Corbett for contributing this account.

 

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