(Worth noting: these “recollections” were first compiled in the spring of 2007 – after some delay of close on sixty years since the events, and after I had paid a surprise visit to Ken Roost at his home in Stevenage to drop in an album of photographs which I had put together for him to show around to past comrades at whatever events and reunions they may attend. I have never been a “reunion” man, as I don’t dwell greatly on nostalgia.
(When I left the RAF – 31st December 1976 – I got a job as a design engineer with an electronics firm, which entailed me moving to Windsor, which had a flourishing R.A.F.A. branch. Enthusiastically I joined as a life member! But I was appalled – it was nothing but nostalgia, nostalgia, more nostalgia and relatively cheap booze. I turned up with my wife to the branch on only two occasions and have never bothered since. It’s not the atmosphere for me!))
However, having explained to Ken my attitude towards reunions and such, we talked about the 60th Anniversary of the post war re-starting of the “Apprentice Clerks” scheme, i.e. the anniversary of the commencement of the Administrative Apprentices; and despite my well voiced reluctance I considered this to be very important occasion – and agreed to make every effort to attend. “How very condescending”, you reading this may think. So what! But as mid-September gets nearer (it is
now mid-July), I find myself strangely looking forward to it.
Following on, therefore, from the photo album, it seemed to me to be useful to jot down a few recollections – again to pass around at reunions and events to accompany the album. What follows – starting with “To North Weald” – was the first attempt.
Since then, Ken has written to me with loads of corrections where my recollections have been unashamedly imaginative or romantic. Without altering the original I have incorporated Ken’s corrections in a distinctive font, with my grateful acknowledgements.
To North Weald:
By London Underground to Ongar (?). Thence by steam train to Epping (?) and making my way somehow to RAF North Weald.
(Ken mentions being picked up by a 3-tonner from the Station – not for me though. Although I cannot remember that part of the journey, I can distinctly remember walking through the gates with my little suitcase and reporting to the guardroom. Ken also mentions that same 3-tonner transported us to and from meals. I can’t
remember that either)
RAF North Weald – Thursday 31.05.47
Site of a BB airfield (B. of B. airfield – thanks Ken!) – Hangar damaged with shrapnel or bullet holes.
About 160 young lads. All in civvies. Accommodated in barrack rooms. Lights out at 10 pm. Reveille at 6.30am to “Good Morning, Good Morning”.
Cpl. Bradbury (?) supervising
Attestation: Medical. I.Q. Manipulative Skills. About 60 accepted and sworn in on oath. Sorted into categories for training. Given numbers. (592081(?) to 592136(?))
(081: Yorkie Marshal … 138 Mercer. Thanks Ken!)
I was given 592122. (Later this became Y0592122.)
At some time the rumour got around, or perhaps we were officially told, that we could elect to leave the service within the first three months without giving any reason if we decided we didn’t like it.
Occasional trips into Epping. Tea Shop/Milk bar. Several immediate friends – Denny, Taff Williams amongst them. In our conversations “Hoggins” became a euphemism for sex. Offended Huggins who thought we were talking about him; explained and became good friends.
Peter Brenchley always used to say, “As long as you get your “hoggins” you’ll be alright. You may remember he was nicknamed “Hoggins” and some of the lads
actually thought his name was Hoggins. I don’t doubt he was in the group you went with to the café. Hence his nickname was coined.
At night in the dormitory accommodation at North Weald, lights out at 10.00 pm. Going to sleep early was obviously not part of the routine for some youngsters. Apart from the disturbance caused by a lot of snoring, there were other disturbances which required pillows, boots and books to thrown in their directions.
GOOD MORNING! GOOD MORNING!
Quite surprised and amused to be wakened by this popular song over the tannoy every morning. 0630 of course, with Sgt Bradbury crashing in to the dormitory/billet room as loudly as possible “encouraging” us all to get out of bed.
Explanations of delay in setting up the accommodation etc. at RAF St. Athan. Apparently the accommodation was being extensively refurbished and was not quite ready on time.
Began feeling very scruffy in very limited changes of clothes and underwear.
About 6/7 June: (10th June. Thanks Ken!)
By train to Gileston. Thence by a couple of 3-ton trucks (with seats) to East Camp at RAF St. Athan. (My memory tells me that we walked with our luggage from Gileston to our barracks, but I may be confusing this with the route of our cross-country runs.) Sorted out into D.24 and D.23 for Clerk GD training, (I was in D.23), and
D.22 and D.21 for Clerk Accounts and Clerk Supply training.
(Wrong again. Thanks Ken!)
D.22: Clerk G.D.
D.23: Clerk G.D.
D.24: Equip. Assts.
All the bedding very new, with blankets shedding fluff for months. Shown how to expand the bed frames, lay out the biscuits, (not the edible variety, but 24”-square straw-filled mattresses: 3 per bed which could be arranged into a sort of armchair when the bed frames were slid in) and make the beds in approved style with hospital corners. Then how to fold it all back up in inspection style.
Flt. Sgt. Graves occupied the bunk of D.23.
(Wink van Graves … ((due to an unfortunate twitch in one eye)). Thanks Ken for reminding me!
But I now recall the nickname of Winko or Wing Co Graves. Certainly fleshes out the character! T.W.K.D.))
Ken also writes: Danny Weir (see list of staff, below) was in charge of my billet (D.22) when we arrived at St. Athan. I remember him telling us what he expected from us. When he had finished and left Denny remarked “I know what we should call him – Great Expectations”.
Thanks Ken! But how did Denny get into D.22 – he was in D.23 with me. T.W.K.D.)
(End of Part 1)