Les Perkins was
born in London, England, on November 17, 1923. During the Great Depression,
he and his brothers were installed in a boys' boarding school in Buckingham,
where he obtained his basic schooling to School Certificate, later upgrading
to Junior Matriculation. He then attended an agricultural training school
in Kent, not far from Biggin Hill, and as a seventeen year old, mad
about flying, thrilled to the Battle of Britain almost over his head.
Heinkel 111 bomber over London
spent some time in the Women's Air Force during the First World War,
and delighted her eldest son with a description of the downing of the
first German Zeppelin, which took place near London, she being an eye
witness. On another occasion she dragged young Les out to the back garden
to investigate a strange humming sound; it was the British airship R100
passing overhead. As a boy, Les delighted in the Biggles and Algy stories
and all together the above had a part in creating for Les a fascination
in aviation. At any rate, he graduated from agricultural school and
put in two years dairy farming, as he had promised; then, at age nineteen,
took his day off to travel to Maidstone and volunteer for aircrew duty.
Britain's R 100 airship
time later he passed muster at a selection board in London, and early
in 1943 was introduced to the Royal Air Force at Lords Cricket Ground,
where he was kitted out and given two haircuts in one day, later given
over to the gentle care of a drill corporal and the joys of square bashing.
Everyone in charge made sure Les and his sprog companions understood
they were now the lowest of the low, even a worm would need to descend
to get to their level. In due course he moved on to ITW at Bridlington
in Yorkshire, to suffer further indignities on his way to being aircrew.
But at last, Les escaped to #2 Air Gunnery School, at Dalcross in Bonnie
Anson trainers in formation
flight, in an AVAC Anson, was an experience in self control, since his
companions all suffered from air sickness. Getting in and out of the
turret was a slippery business and the aircraft stunk like an abattoir.
Les was pleased when told to wind down the undercarriage, it took his
mind off the discomfort. The real gunnery training was done using Bolton
Paul Defiant aircraft. They were truly clapped out old kites and probably
dangerous, but thrilling to ride in nevertheless. Les finally graduated
to receive the coveted half wing, thankful to be in one piece and as
keen as ever.
squadron aircrews walk past a Vickers Wellington bomber
On to #12
Operational Trainin Unit (OTU) at Chipping Warden, in Oxfordshire, and
some equally clapped out Wellington bombers. It wasn't long before Les
discovered war was no game, and a lot of his preconceived notions gleaned
from Biggles and Co. flew out the window. A leaflet raid to Rennes,
France, a finale to operational training, resulted in his crew being
shot down and ditching in the Seine estuary. They were lucky to survive
and get back to England.
about three weeks at #1657 Conversion Unit at Stradishall in Suffolk,
his crew was posted to #199 Stirling Squadron at Lakenheath, part of
#3 Group. Later, the squadron was transferred to #100 Group for special
duties, and were sometimes rather rudely referred to as those funny
fellows from 100'. Les went on to do a varied two tours which included
bombing, mine-laying, low-level supply drops, and diversionary support
operations to main force using, Window, Mandrel, and other special electronic
devices. He spent three years in such places as Egypt, Morocco, Malta,
Gibraltar, and sundry other parts of North Africa, before taking his
discharge in London, England.
Stirling bomber in flight
spent several months hitchhiking through Europe and North Africa before
emigrating to become a Canadian citizen in 1949. Following an early
retirement from the farm equipment business because of ill health, Les
and his family moved to Kelowna where he enjoyed the company of many
friends. He belonged to a number of ex-service organisations, including
#883 (Kelowna) Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Association, and kept up
a lively correspondence with his old skipper in New Zealand and their
wireless operator in England.
a volunteer at the Okanagan Military Museum. His experiences were published
his experience in the airwar during WWII in a book titled "Flight
into Yesterday" copies of which can be purchased through the
Okanagan Military Museum.