Some Memories Of Ruislip January 1939 (Part 2)
Then into this serene situation descended the “E” Class reserve. Some short time previously reserve commitment, the opportunity for a further period on the Reserve. Not too much effort was required and it seemed fairly well rewarded. Forgetting the old service principle “Don’t volunteer for anything”, these poor innocents took the bait. The ink had hardly dried on their signatures when these old men, which is what to us they seemed, were dragged from the bosom of their families and placed in the barrack room opposite. We were appalled. Having been trained to expect to be treated like POWs we were amazed at what they got away with. Their room was scruffy and they seemed to return from town at all hours carrying beer in their respirator haversacks. Perhaps our superiors realised the bad
effect their example was on us because the next thing was that we were all moved into the gymnasium. What sticks in the memory about that is that we slept on the floor and that because of the risk of air raids the only light was one feeble blue painted bulb.
About the only other thing I remember about how the war affected us is that we were all sent to work in an immense typing pool in No 4 MU at Ickenham. We travelled each day to a large draughty hangar, to sit in rows typing stencils for P.O.R.s. It seems that before the war each unit published what were known as “casualty forms” and sent copies to, amongst other places, Record Office. With the outbreak of the war, smaller units were unable to do this and so the system was changed and a manuscript was send to Record Office from which we produced the duplicated copies. It was here that I learned about the magic scarlet correcting fluid for use on stencils. I would never have completed one without it.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about our apprentice training is that no mention ever seems to have been made about flying or even aeroplanes. I presume that we all must have had some interest in aircraft or we would not have joined the RAF. One would have expected that they would have thought it desirable to encourage and foster that interest but, during the whole of my time at Ruislip, I was never shown an aircraft even though there was an airfield only just up the road at Northolt.
Some of us did visit an air display there once but only as members of the public. The image of a Hawker Fury being held down after take-of, and then climbing vertically, still sticks in my mind. But we never actually got near to an aircraft. I don’t think anyone resented it; we didn’t expect any different. We were there to learn what happened to the various coloured copies of forms 674 and about Crockery and Glass Breakage Allowance or to go on errands in Dead Files hunting for missing
documents which no-one really expected us to find.
Our entertainments were very simple. A weekly visit to the pictures cost sixpence. There was wrestling in the barrack-room and, I am afraid, teasing those unlikely to hit back. And, after the war had started, there was modifying our ceremonial hats to try to make them look like the German ones we had seen at the pictures, and which we so much admired. Here a fine balance had to be drawn between what we thought looked dashing and the opinion of an inspecting officer or even Corporal Keating!