Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

Multum A Parvo

RAF Ruislip Records Magazine – September 1939

Now this is a real blast from the past! I have had this sitting in the bottom of my in-tray for ages and have finally managed to scan and post it here. My apologies in that I am unable to remember who provided this piece of history.

Hover your  mouse over each of the images to enlarge them.

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RAF Ruislip (Continued)

November 2021

Obituary To Kenneth ‘Ken’ Barker – 591313 (49th Ruislip)

Ken died peacefully at home, in the early hours of 21 September 2021 (aged 100).

Ken was born on 28th April 1921 in Featherstone, near Pontefract, West Yorkshire. He was 9 when the family moved to Smethwick, Birmingham.  After 5 years at Grammar school, he passed the school certificate which enabled him to join the RAF as an apprentice, on 27 October 1937

The Pre WW1 Nissan hut shared living conditions were a bit of a shock and there was only hot water once a week, on a Wednesday after sports.  Pay was 2 shillings a week and no smoking was allowed unless you had a smoking pass from your parents! 

Ken passed his apprentice course on 28th April 1939 and on the declaration of war, Ken’s posting to France with the British Expeditionary Forces was cancelled.  He stayed in the UK and was stationed in RAF Ruislip at the height of the Blitz.  In 1942 he embarked the Queen Mary for Suez.  The 28 day voyage, along with 17,000 troops and terrible food was not quite a luxury cruise experience he had in mind.

This tour took Ken to Suez, Aden and India and he was able to visit the Pyramids, Ruins of Baalbek in Syria, the Holy Lands and the Taj Mahal.  Post War he returned to the UK and was detached to Germany to help with the Berlin Airlift.

There were further overseas tours to Cape Town and Rhodesia where he was lucky to get trips in a Tigermoth flying over the Victoria Falls and the nearby Game Reserve.  After promotion to Warrant Officer he returned to the UK as supervisor and instructor at the RAF Admin Apprentices School.  In 1956 Ken moved to RAF Bridgenorth, where he met Maureen.

Ken and Maureen married in 1959 and a final overseas posting took them to Aden where John was born in 1963.  Returning to the UK later that year to RAF Innsworth, Gloucester where David was born in 1966.

After leaving the RAF in 1967, he continued his working life as a civil servant until retiring in 1987.

Very much a family man, Ken enjoyed spending time with his children, their wives and grandchildren.  He also enjoyed foreign travel and exploring the British countryside.

He attended the annual RAF Apprentices reunions in Stratford and particularly enjoyed sharing stories from his apprentice days.

After a fall in 2017, Ken did not regain his mobility, but with the help of Maureen and carers was able to stay at home.

Ken and Maureen celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2019 and received a lovely card from the Queen, and another arrived this year when he celebrated his 100th Birthday.

Ken died peacefully at home, on 21 September 2021, and was cremated in Gloucester Crematorium on Thursday 7th October 2021.  He is survived by wife Maureen and sons, John and David.

January 2019

Owen Claude Douglas – Information provided by his daughter Diana Newson

Photo Provided By Diana Newson
Group Of Ruislip Apprentice Clerks Including Owen Claude Douglas
Photo Provided By Diana Newson
Owen Claude Douglas Ruislip Apprentice Clerk Typing Proficiency Certificate

My father Owen Claude Douglas, known as Joe, joined as an apprentice clerk on 26th October 1938 when he was 16.  He was at Ruislip until  1940.  I have attached a photo of some of his intake, he is on the left, centre row.  They did do shorthand and typing and took an exam as well, certificate attached. 

He spent the next couple of years first at 257 Burma Squadron, then at record offices in Bournemouth before being seconded to the Royal Canadian Air Force.  He spent time in Estevan where, according to my mother he trained as a navigator and then trained pilots in navigation.  During this time he was promoted to Sergeant.  He was desperate to become a pilot and finally got his wish in early 1944.  His training lasted until the end of March 1945 and he was given an emergency commission as a pilot officer.
I am sure you do not want a complete run down of his career but he ended his career in 1962 as a Flight Lieutenant.  I have his log books and he was classified as a very proficient pilot and flying instructor.
It is possible that he might have gained more promotion but the combination of a humble background and his habit of correcting his superior officers if he felt that they were wrong may well have held him back!  Incidentally, the shorthand and typing came in useful years later when he worked for the Law Society!
Website Manager Note July 2011

Christopher Bush (591432) – 51st Entry Apprentice Clerks

I have been contacted by Avril MacArthur a Trustee and Assistant Curator at Royal Air Force Museum at Bircham Newton. Her late father, FS Christopher Bush was 51st Entry Apprentice Clerks Ruislip. He was stationed at Bircham Newton from July 1947 until August 1949. Avril would very like to get in touch with anyone who may remember her father who joined the RAF on 29th January 1921 leaving on 29th September 1963.
During a long career in the RAF, Christopher became a voluntary bandsman playing trombone but he also played piano, accordian and both saxes – very much in his family’s tradition. Whilst at RAF Pembroke Dock he started his own band called the Astralaires with consisting just RAF personnel. Later a number of civilians joined the band and he ended up the only RAF member. They played all over W Wales sometimes splitting up to make two bands – Avril thinks up to 14 were involved. They played at The Imperial in Tenby , the Pater Hall in Pembroke Dock as well as the Officer’s Mess there. The Bush family remained at Pembroke Dock from 1952 – 1958 and Avril recalls one bedroom stacked with sheet music.
My thanks to Avril for letting me have these photographs featuring her father. I have decided to place them and other images provided by Avril, here on the Ruislip section of the website but to also place a link to them from the Bircham Newton page.
If you have any knowledge or memories of Christopher Bush and would like to pass them on to his daughter please contact me,


Administrator Note 4 Jan 2013

Regarding Christopher Bush, In a recent dialogue with Dixie Dean Avril has kindly provided us with another photo. This features Clement Smith (who has recently joined our Association aged 90), with Christopher. Avril comments:

‘I have also (as I told you I believe) been in touch with Clement Smith following your suggestion – he had recently at 90 joined the Association. His son Pete has just emailed me a photograph of my father and Clement as attached.  Please use if of any interest.  Must say it was beyond me wildest dreams to find someone at this late hour!  For which I have to thank you’

Many thanks Avril.

Photo Above includes:

Dennis Sudron Ex- Ruislip Apprentice Clerk Commissioned from FS 14th June 1961 Retired as Flt Lt (Secretarial) 8th February, 1978 Died 24th December 1979
The appeal below is self explanatory. Anyone with any information please contact me

My name is Philip Sudron and I am the son of Dennis Sudron (1923 – 1979), who joined the RAF as an RAF Apprentice in 1939. I am researching my father’s life and would be really grateful if you might be able to help or advise, specifically regarding his time at Ruislip and I think he spent some time at Halton, but am not sure. I would really like to know which of the Entry groups he was in. Also if any of his peers are still alive; and who may have contributed anecdotes/artefacts.I have a photograph, a copy of which I’ve attached. It is dated July 1940 and captioned ‘Apprentices P.T. team’. My father is 2nd from the left in the front row.

Philip Sudron July 2011

Herbert Victor Bunting (590328) 17th Entry RAF Ruislip Apprentice Clerks – By Jim Wilcox 5th Entry Association President

Herbert (Harry) Bunting was born on 6th June 1913 in Teddington, Middlesex.  He moved with his family to Wiltshire in 1919 living briefly in Corston and then Malmesbury, where his father was Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. After attending Rodbourne village school and Malmesbury Grammar School, Harry joined the RAF on 30th October 1929 as a Ruislip Apprentice Clerk.

Like many others his ambition was to become aircrew and this he achieved in 1935 when he became a Sgt Pilot.  In 1936 he qualified as a pilot on flying boats and flew extensively in the Middle East, India and the Far East.  He was commissioned from FS in 1940.

In 1942 he was posted to 210 Sqn, based at Castle Archdale on Lough Erne, Northern Ireland flying Sunderlands.  The squadron tasking included flying patrols over the North Atlantic hunting German U boats and providing aerial protection for the convoys bringing vital supplies to the UK from America and Canada.  In order to give as much cover as possible to the convoys the sqn was ordered to fly to the maximum safe endurance of the aircraft.  Harry Bunting had a more than average understanding of the mathematical and technical aspects of navigation and was able to work out exactly what was a maximum safe endurance for any of his patrols.

On one of Harry’s patrols a new navigator had been assigned to his crew.  At the point when they were due to turn for home Harry left the cockpit to check the navigator’s calculations, but found that the Nav had boobed.  The Nav’s error meant that the aircraft did not have enough fuel to to make it safely back to Castle Archdale.  Even though the Sunderland was a flying boat, the chances of carrying out a successful landing in the choppy North Atlantic were not good.  The only course of action was to attempt to make it back to base and the fuel tanks were configured so that each tank would run empty before switching to the next tank.  To add to the problem they were flying into a head wind, but as the hours went by the wind direction changed in their favour and eventually the tail wind helped to push the Sunderland over the Irish coast and on to the flat water of Lough Erne.  A successful landing was made on the Lough without the aid of the lantern buoys that normally assisted night landing.  Before the crew were taken off the aircraft by launch, the Flight Engineer checked the fuel tanks and found that all had completely run dry!

Harry Bunting remained in the RAF until June 1968 when he retired as a Wg Cdr with an OBE.  He returned to live in Malmesbury where he died in 2004 at the age of 90.

7th December 2016

Norman L Baugh (590431) 21st Entry Ruislip Apprentice Clerk – By Jim Wilcox 5th Entry Association President 

Norman Baugh (Pronounced Bore) joined the RAF on 29th October 1930 as a Ruislip Apprentice Clerk.  After passing out of training he, like many other former Ruislip Apprentices, volunteered for aircrew training.  Available vacancies, especially for NCO pilots were few and fiercely competed for by airmen of all trades:  Particularly by ex-Aircraft Apprentices.  As the beginning of the Second World War approached opportunities increased.  But from 1938 until the early 1940s, ex-apprentice clerks were actively discouraged from taking up flying training.  Nevertheless, Norman Baugh was accepted for training and became a Sgt Pilot.  In March 1940 he was commissioned and in 1941 he was serving as a Fg Off at RAF Kai Tak.  In the face of the Japanese attack on Hong Kong, Kai Tak was evacuated and Fg Off Baugh left for Aberdeen on Hong Kong Island.  What followed is best told in the citation for his award of the Military Cross.

“At the outbreak of the Second World War Flying Officer Baugh was stationed at RAF Kai Tak.  Unfortunately all our aircraft destroyed in the first phase and he was never able to operate.  After carrying out as much demolition as possible and rendering unserviceable all M.T. that could not be evacuated to Hong Kong Island, he supervised the evacuation of personnel and proceeded in convoy with 8 M.T. vehicles to Aberdeen.

On arrival at Aberdeen the RAF personnel immediately came under Navy orders.  Pending definitive orders as to the employment of the RAF personnel, Flying Officer Baugh accompanied Wing Commander Bennett and Naval Dockyard Police patrolling the Town.  Subsequently he and a detachment of 10 airmen came under the command of Major Bailey.  Armed with Vickers machine guns and small arms they, from December 14th to December 20th, remained under Major Bailey’s command and actively participated in the defence of the Island.

On the evening of the 20th December, whilst supervising the evacuation of personnel ordered by his Commanding Officer, he was blown against by a mortar bomb explosion and became unconscious and injured his back.  The next morning he was taken to the Canadian Casualty Clearing Section, which itself was subject to heavy fire, from where he was later evacuated to the Aberdeen Industrial School.  Finally, he was taken to the Hong Kong Hotel which was being used as a hospital.

On December 24th, feeling somewhat better, he applied for his discharge from the hospital and, being unable to contact the RAF Detachment, he joined up with the Hong Kong Volunteers to assist in defending a secondary line of defence.  These positions were destroyed on the 25th and he then retired to Headquarters.   Later that day the Garrison surrendered and on the 26th December he was transported with the Volunteers to Victoria and joined up with the remainder of the RAF personnel.  They were detained in the grounds of the Fortress Headquarters until the 30th when they were marched to Star Ferry and shipped across to Sham Shui Po.

From December 30th until February 1st, he remained in this camp and spent most of his time planning to escape.  His plans were drawn up with Major Munro and Captain Trevor and they decided that the only successful way of getting out was by sea.  They prepared a small raft from firewood to take their packs containing clothing and food supplies.  On the night of 1st and 2nd February at about 2320 hours they left the camp swimming and pushing the raft before them.  They eventually landed on the mainland very exhausted at 0020 hours.  After a short rest they proceeded on foot on a Northerly course over Golden Hill and Smuggler’s Rest.  At daybreak they laid up in the undergrowth, taking care to keep watch and they did not move until nightfall.  They travelled throughout the night until 0330 hours when they were, again, thoroughly exhausted.  The following evening they set off again in the rain, but made slow going on account of the difficult terrain and through having to go entirely by compass bearing.  They walked until 0400 hours when they laid up again.  On the evening of the 4th February they set off at 1945 hours, but the going was so heavy that they were obliged to rest every two or three minutes.  Captain Trevor at this period was suffering from extreme exhaustion and was unable to make much progress on account of the slippery surface on the steep inclines.  After some hesitation they allowed Trevor to go into a village to obtain food; which he successfully achieved.  The following evening they continued but shortly ran into bandits who, however, gave them a meal and a guide, but retained some of their possessions.  The bandits guide took them across the New Territories leading them to a farmhouse where they were given food and shelter.  They remained there all day until 0300 hours on the 7th February and went to a farmhouse at Tseung, passing very close to the Japanese.  Again they were given food and then proceeded to Kounan Market where they met Chinese guerrillas who received them very well.  They had intended to proceed to Wai Chow, but the guerrillas informed them that it was in Japanese occupation and advised them to wait for a while.  On February 12th, learning that Wai Chow was now free from the Japanese , they continued on their way and arrived at 1815 hours in a very exhausted and dilapidated state.  They were by then in fairly poor physical shape on account of the many days exposure in very bad weather.  From Wai Chow onwards their journey through to Kunming was hard but they met with no more real obstacles, though they suffered much from the conditions.  They arrived at Kunming and finally left for Calcutta by air on the 1st of April 1942.

It should be pointed out that Flying Officer Baugh’s decision to escape was very commendable in view of the fact that the general morale in Sham Shui Po Camp was low and little or no encouragement was given to would be escapers.  It was necessary to have a very firm determination to leave the comparative safety of the camp for the unknown hazards of the mainland and to get through some 2,000 miles of Chinese territory to safety.”

Unfortunately Norman Baugh did not survive the War.  Serving as a Flt Lt Pilot with 31 Sqn, he was killed in action in Burma on 31 January 1943.

December 2016

RAF Ruislip

In 1921, a trial scheme for apprentice clerks began with 36 young men being enlisted as Boy Clerks (but known as The Experimentals) at RAF Record Office Ruislip. Their performance and results proved that the scheme was worth continuing and following further discussions the Treasury agreed to the scheme which provided 2 years apprentice training as junior clerks and messengers. Training started at Ruislip in October 1925. IInitially all apprentice clerks were trained as Clerks General Duties, but after the 61st Entry in 1927, a third of each subsequent Entry were trained in stores procedures. This Scheme continued until 1942 and the passing out of the 61st Entry, with, appropriately, the Inspecting Officer being Air Vice-Marshal Sir John W Cordingley, KCVO, KCB, CBE. Between 1925 and 1942, 2,080 apprentices were attested at Ruislip, with service numbers in the block 590001 – 592080. They apparently revelled in their soubriquet of ‘John Willie’s Boys’; however, here the ‘Boys’ were showing their independence – since their Commanding Officer’s Christian names were ‘John Walter’! The 2080 apprentices were trained in accounting and general clerical duties, whilst four evenings a week they were trained in shorthand and typing. Durinmg the day, the apprentices acted amongst other duties, as messengers within the RAf Record Office, earning one shilling a day (5p) in their first year and one shilling and sixpence (7.5p) in their second year. 61 Entries trained at Ruislip with the last entry enlisting on 28 April 1941. Of those trained at Ruislip 819 were commissioned, 4 of which reached Air Rank. Over 1000 men reached SNCO rank. Of the remainder, 455 became aircrew. Memories of the vital role that RAF Ruislip played in the organisation of the RAF were rekindled in June 2000 – the 75th anniversary of the formation of the RAF Apprentice Clerks – when a memorial plaque was installed on the former Main Guardroom wall at Ruislip.

I had been sent a railway warrant and instructions to catch a train from Marylebone station for Ruislip. Living as far away as the Midlands, and never having travelled so far, it was as well that the instructions were fairly complete. The Underground was quite new to me and an adventure in itself. Although I entered it with sometrepidation, I was surprised how easy it all was – so easy, in fact, that thenceforth I never used any other form of transport through London.
We were met, a Ruislip station, on this cold January afternoon and taken to the camp where we were greeted by curious members of earlier entries – some to adviseus to “Get some in” (whatever that meant) and some to invite us to lend them money until Friday. I think I managed to avoid that trap though I could have been carrying as much as a pound in my pocket – perhaps I had been warned.
We would then, have been shown to our barrack room. I was quite impressed with it. Everything was clean and tidy and the bed was already made and looked comfortable. Then we went to tea and I could find no fault with that. Drinking tea out of a pint mug with no table cloth seemed strange, but I supposed I could get usedto it. The meal was fried bacon and sausages with baked beans. Baked beans I had never tasted before and I thought them delicious. I was too much of a rooky (though I did not yet know the word) to realise that I was already making my first mistake – you must always find fault with your food if only to show that you were used to something better. Later you would find that at each meal there was the Orderly Officer to whom you could address any complaint, but that would have been taking things too far. In fact during my whole time as an apprentice I don’t recall anyone having the courage to complain. What a hero you could have been! Something like Oliver Twist, but where did it get him?

The next day was taken up with enlistment formalities.It was explained to us that we would serve for twelve years during which, if we were clever enough we might expect to reach the rank of Sergeant. At the end of our engagement we would receive a gratuity of £100, a mouth-watering thought but an eternity ahead. Then, some time in the evening I think it was, we were attested. It was very solemnly explained to us that we were about to take the oath and that, if we had any misgivings, now was the time to express them. I could not have imagined than anyone would draw back so close to the brink. But I was wrong; one of our number shuffled forward and said that he would like to change his mind. He was duly given an orange, a bag of sandwiches and a railway warrant home.

We returned to our barrack room to find everything spick and span and our beds nicely made. I for one had no doubts about having done a wise thing and looked forward to getting kitted out with my uniform. I could hardly wait. Next day they brought up the subject of pay. We knew of course that we would be paid a shilling a day but it was explained to us that we would only actually receive three shillings a week. The remaining four shillings would be saved for us until we went on leave so that we could “paint the town red”. It was pointed out to us that even three shillings was a lot of money for a young lad to be carrying around and that we could, if we wished draw only two shillings – and thereby, I presume, paint the town even redder. Not many took up this kind offer but at least some did. From then on things quickly went downhill. We had not questioned the magic by which our room became tidy or who had made our beds so neatly. It’s a thing you take for granted but it suddenly stopped. We found that not only were we expected to make our own beds, but that the beds themselves were something special – they were McDonalds! To the uninitiated, which we certainly were, this means that the bedstead, which was unencumbered with springs, was in two parts and so could be retracted to half its length. And in daytime retracted it had to be, which meant, if you think about it, that the bed had to be made, not once, but twice each day. Except Sundays, that is, when you could and did wallow in your squalor.

The first items of kit we received must have been our pint china mug, and knife, fork and spoon, or irons as we learnt to call them. Life seemed to revolve around them, particularly the mug. As a broken mug cost, I think, sixpence to replace, some unscrupulous people felt it made better economic sense to help themselves from someone who had been more fortunate. Sadly this lad, who would normally not dream of such a thing, might feel obliged to join in the game. And so it went on like musical chairs. The music stopped just before the next kit inspection when the last unfortunate in the chain forked out his reluctant sixpence. There were now a few regulations to learn. We were told that the RAF having assumed responsibility to our parents for our moral welfare, it would be an offence if at any time we “associated with females” We were allowed to leave camp but were required to book out at the guardroom. There we would be inspected, and if our appearance was not up to scratch, instructed to return to our barracks. To discourage us from breaking rule one, apprentices were not permitted to book out separately and, when they booked in they must be with the person with whom they left. Furthermore all places more than three miles from the camp gates were out of bounds. Love, they say, will find a way, but at Ruislip I don’t think that it did too often. In fact these rules were probably quite unnecessary – most of us would have runa mile if a girl had looked at us! They did however have the effect that anyone without friends was, to all intents and purposes, permanently confined to camp. Incidentally the times for returning to camp were also strictly regulated. I forget exactly what they were, but I think we had to be back by 2130, except that on occasions a late pass to 2230 was allowed. Then of course there was smoking. In a way Ruislip may have been ahead of their time by banning it in days when most people saw it as a fairly harmless vice.Admittedly when you reached the age of eighteen you could apply for a “Smoking Pass”. This authorised you to smoke when off duty and outside all buildings. How times have changed – today you are entitled to the vote at that age! Unfortunately the regulation probably had the opposite effect to that intended. Few smokers get enjoyment out of cigarettes when they start and I am sure many of us would not have persevered if the habit had been legal. Whether or not this is true, it was here that I became hooked for most of my time in the service.

Sometime during our first week we were introduced to “Domestic Evening”, or, as the old hands soon taught us to call it, “bullshit night”. It was very largely about polishing lino and came as something of a shock. If I had thought about it at all, it had not occurred to me what hard and it is.There was always plenty of polish to be had but not enough bumpers to spread it. Trying to slide on a floor made sticky with too much polish with each foot on a square of old blanket material was soul destroying. Give me Bluebelling the windows or Vimming the washbasins any day! We quickly learned that polishing lino became less of a chore if it had been looked after for the rest of the week. Consequently no-one actually walked on the floor at all but all slid silently and mysteriously between the outside door and bedspace.Another routine we quickly learned was to do with laundry. We were entitled to free laundry to a value of ninepence a week. For that we bundled up one shirt, two collars, one vest, one pair of pants, a pair of socks and I think a pair of pyjamas though I’m not sure about the last. One could send more but, as you would have to pay for the extra, no-one did. We were also entitled a clean pair of sheets each week, though strangely this was a privilege for us which would be withdrawn when we became airmen. You did not wear civilian clothes at all. Those you arrived in were stored away at the end of the billet.

“Lights out” was, I think, at ten o’clock and talking after that time was forbidden. You were permitted to keep a radio in the billet, if you had such a luxury, but only aftersubmitting an application. You would then be required to make a fixed payment for the electricity consumed!

I won’t say too much about the trade training we received. As I remember there was not all that much, considering that it was the only reason for our being there. I should mention however the touch typing training we did, Accounts and GD clerks alike, on the dreadful Oliver typewriter. Once you had mastered it, with its awful nonstandard three-bank keyboard you would have the utmost difficulty adapting to any other.

On second thoughts something of our accounts training also comes to mind. I think it came under the heading of “Mathematics” but consisted of what was called “Long tots and cross tots”. You were given a book on each page of which was a table of perhaps six columns by about twenty rows of pounds, shillings and pence. The instructor would tell us that, when we had got them to balance, we could leave. Some people were leaving before I had got to the end of the third row and by the time I had achieved a balance I was on my own. In some ways I preferred polishing lino – perhaps I was more cut out for it!

By the time the war started we were well into the routine and although I moaned with the rest, as I was expected to, I really enjoyed life. We were no longer the junior entry, and had jeered at the next to arrive. Although we would not admit it, we enjoyed our drill, particularly when we started rifle drill. We were, I think, reasonably well behaved and our billet was spotless. Then into this serene situation descended the “E” Class reserve. Some short time previously the Air Ministry had hit upon the idea of offering retired airmen, who had completed their 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 the 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!

Still – I wouldn’t have missed it. Well only some of it!

The son of a Yorkshire miner George Unwin was born on January 18th 1913 at Bolton-on-Dearne.He was educated at the local grammar school, where he was a Fine footballer (he later turned out for the .RAF).Determined not to join his father in the mines, he answered an advertisement offering apprenticeships in the RAF; he joined as a boy clerk when he was 16 and trained at Ruislip.

After serving at Uxbridge for four years Unwin was selected for pilot training in 1935 and the following year he joined No 19,Sqn flying the bi-plane Gauntlet fighter, He served with the squadron for four years, and was one of the very few to fly in action throughout the Battle of Britain and survive unscathed.In August l938 Unwin was a sergeant pilot serving on No 19 Squadron when it became the first to receive the Spitfire. He was one of the original RAF pilots to fly the new fighter and, in the early days, he flew regularly as Douglas Bader’s wingman.

No 19 was heavily engaged during the Dunkirk crisis in May 1940. Although an experienced pilot by then, Unwin was not allocated an aircraft for the first sortie, He complained bitterly, and it was this that earned him his nickname, which remained with him for the rest of his life. He was in action the next day, however and soon registered his first success. The squadron was in the thick of the intense fighting and, by the end of the evacuation he had claimed the destruction of five enemy aircraft, two of them unconfirmed.

Unwin flew throughout the Battle of Britain, mainly from Duxford. On August 16 his section of four aircraft attacked a large formation of fighters escorting bombers, and he shot down one fighter over Clacton.Early.

September saw the introduction of the controversial “Big Wing” employing three squadrons, including No 19, The wing flew its first offensive patrol on September 7. After attacking a fighter, Unwin became detached from the rest of his formation. Finding himself alone, he saw Hurricanes engaging a big formation of bombers and went to assist them. A large force of Messerschmitt Bf 109s immediately attacked him over Ramsgate, and he turned to engage them. He hit at least five and two were confirmed as destroyed.

On September 15, the height of the battle, Unwin and his section attacked a force of 30 Bf 109 fighters escorting a large formation of enemy bombers; he dived on one and shot it down over London before climbing back to height, where he found two others flying alone. He shot down both. Two days later he was awarded an immediate DFM for “‘his great courage in shooting down 10 enemy aircraft.

Over the next few weeks Unwin accounted for three more German fighters and he shared in the destruction of two others. He achieved his final success on November28 when he was patrolling over a convoy. Early in December it was announced that Unwin had been awarded a Bar to his DFM.In December 1940 he was rested and by then had become one of the most successful fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain. He was also one of only 60 men who received a double DFM in the Second World War.

Initially Unwin would not apply for a commission, since a senior flight sergeant earned a few more shillings than a junior officer. Once the rules were changed he relented and was interviewed a number of times; but his background and passion for football did not impress the selection boards. A colleague tipped him off that an interest in horses would make a good impression. For his next interview he decided to tell the panel of his knowledge and love of horses. The board accordingly recommended him for a commission – he had omitted to tell them that his experience was limited to the occasional meeting with the pit ponies at his father’s coalmine. He was made a pilot officer in July 1941,Unwin became a flying instructor, first at Cranwell and then at Montrose where he remained until October 1943. He then converted to the Mosquito before joining No 613 Squadron in April 1944; he was based at Lasham and employed on night intruder Operations. As D-Day dawned, No 613 roamed behind enemy lines attacking fuel supplies, airfields and road and rail links.

By October Unwin had flown more than 50 intruder operations, and he was sent to the Central Gunnery School as an instructor remaining until June 1946. With the resurrection of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, he joined No 608 (North Riding) Squadron as one of the regular RAF pilots training the squadron’s weekend flyers.

Unwin was given command of No 84 Squadron in August 1949, flying the Brigand aircraft from RAF Habbaniya in Iraq. Within months No 84 was transferred toSingapore to provide ground support during the Malaya emergency.

The Brigand was not a popular aircraft, and the squadron suffered a number of losses. Unwin spotted that some were due to premature explosions in the Aden gun carried under the fuel tanks of the aircraft. He was critical of the Brigand’s performance and was always prepared to display its weaknesses to higher authorities. Nevertheless, he led the squadron on more than 180 rocket and dive-bombing attacks against terrorist positions.Not many commanding officers played football, but Unwin was a regular member of the squadron team until he broke a leg. He was invalided home and given a ground appointment as a wing commander. Shortly afterwards it was announced that he had been awarded the DSO, one of very few awarded to the RAF for operations during the Malayan campaign.

In 1955 Unwin returned to Singapore in charge of administration at RAF Tengah, where he still found time to fly the station’s jet fighters. Three years later he returned to England to become the Permanent President of Courts MartiaL He once commented “I presided over 300 courts martial, and not one chap was found guilty of low flying,” He retired from the RAF in 1961.

In retirement Unwin was the Controller of Spastics Appeals for the southern counties, but he never considered that to be work. A passionate golfer with a handicap of six he lived within walking distance of the Ferdown Club, in Dorset, where he served for many years on numerous committees.In earlier days he played seven days a week, once commenting: “I cut it down to five times in winter.” He continued playing until he was 90 but visited the club two or three times a week until his death.

Small in stature Unwin displayed all the characteristics for which Yorkshire men are renowned: he was pugnacious, blunt, unafraid to speak out, and he had no time for wasters or for the unprofessional. One of his pilots said of him “He was like a terrier, and an outstanding CO who always led from the front. He never failed to back you up if you were right.'”George Unwin died on 28th June 2006 aged 93.

An Interesting Contact
4 Aug 2010
A warm welcome also to another new member Ed Hemmings (8th Entry) who now lives in Canada. Ed has sent me the following information concerning his brother, an ex-Ruislip Apprentice Clerk:

‘I thought I would mention my brother, I.G.S Hemming, who joined the RAF as an Equipment Apprentice in either 1926, 1927, or 1928. He spent his career in the RAF, achieving the rank of Air Commodore and being awarded an OBE. He died in 2003 at the age of 92. I am sorry I don’t know what entry he was in or his service number. It was his success in the RAF which encouraged me to join as an apprentice in 1949.

Administrator Note: Idris Hemmings (590971) CB, OBE enlisted 28th July 1928 and was subsequently commissioned from the rank of Sergeant. Retired as Air Cdre Supply Branch 2nd April 1968.

These remarkable pictures featuring 590177 Frank Williams (12th Entry RAF Ruislip) with friends and family were sent to me in June 2011 by his son Tony who was 81st Entry RAF Halton. Tony also has Frank’s diary detailing his time as an Apprentice Clerk as well as his father’s service record. I am in contact with Tony with a view to obtaining copies of these documents. Frank Williams served for 36 years in the RAF and retired as Squadron Leader S Ad O at RAF Farborough.My sincere thanks to Tony for providing this fascinating insight into Apprentice Clerk life at RAF Ruislip in the 1920s

Do You Have Any Photos Taken During Your Time At RAF Ruislip? If So We Would Be Pleased To Hear From You