Monthly Archives: October 2018

Prestwick 1940

“I opened the door and found myself in the well-lit main room where three other U/T pilots were lounging in wicker chairs. They turned out to be my close friends from Cambridge, Jimmy Ward and Bernard Wills, and a stranger, Dave Smith, a South African. I took off my wet coat and flopped into a chair, revelling in the warmth emanating from the cylindrical stove in the centre of the room. I had been in one other such Nissen flight hut before and this was much the same: curved, corrugated metal roof, metal window frames, the ubiquitous stove, desk, tables, umpteen chairs, and the whole room littered with the aircrew’s flying gear, parachutes and other accessories. I wrinkled my nose; a faint musty smell pervaded the place.

   I had hardly settled when a door opened at the rear of the room and Sgt Allan emerged in standard blue battledress. I had met him briefly on arrival the day before. Stocky, fair haired, rather fine features; about twenty-five years of age, I guessed. Allan called, ‘Wild—I’ll see you first’. He turned, retreated, and I followed. This room was small with a desk and a few chairs. As soon as we were seated, Allan smiled and said, ‘Welcome to “A” Flight.’ He paused to consult some papers. ‘Now then, let me see. You spent a month at RAF Finningley, as an Air Cadet plonk doing various chores, and then you were posted to Cambridge ITW, where you were genned up on armaments, navigation, etc., before arriving here yesterday. Before I go on, have you managed to get home?’ He glanced at the file. ‘You live at Bolton?’

   ‘No, Sergeant. Actually I’ve not been home since joining.’

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Adamton House, Dad’s billet – photographed in 2015 on my visit. This part could still have been the same, and shows why he remembered it as such a great place to be!

‘Bad show. Hopefully you’ll be able to visit before too long. And your billet, Adamton House? Your first kip there last night. OK?’

 

   ‘Yes, great. I slept like a log. And the food was first-rate.’

   He grinned. ‘You’re lucky. Better than our mess.’”

My own experience of Adamton house was completely different from my father’s. Terrible place, terribly run. ‘Fawlty Towers’ was on everyone’s lips. I shiver now at the memory of that bare room at the top of the building with a rusty old fire escape outside my window. Hope it is looking better now.

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I hope Dad’s view in October 1940 was better than mine in 2015

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My room was clean but depressing, and frighteningly high up in the building!

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Young and Keen

BJWPrestwickShorts

1940

“I was young, but very keen. The medical was thorough, and during the lung test the Corporal had to bully me to hold my breath long enough to hold up the mercury in the tube. I was tallish, rather pale, and on the thin side. To my utter delight, the man whose job it was to gauge my fitness shook hands with me and wished me luck. I was in. The date was 3 June 1940 and I was eighteen”

So began Dad’s RAF career. And before he was out of those shorts, and before he had even climbed into a plane, he had two close shaves with death:

 “On 27 July I was posted to RAF Finningley in Yorkshire where my duties were mainly on duty crew, flare path, and fire picket; for this was a bomber station with mainly Whitleys and Halifax. I was billeted with the station service police, but found them a nice bunch of chaps. I managed to learn Morse code in my spare time. I also had a narrow escape here; the first of many. I changed my mind in the last minute of accepting a flight in a 106 Squadron Hampden, which crashed near Scunthorpe. It is thought that the pilot lost control after being dazzled by searchlights on what was described as a Training Flight. All four crew were killed.

   “During August I was posted to Babbacombe recruiting depot on the south coast of Devon, prior to going to Initial Training Wing for aircrew (ITW). The place was crawling with RAF personnel, mostly young and untrained, like me. On our very first night, we were greeted with bombs, and one hit our billet directly. Fortunately, we weren’t in at the time, but it felt like a near do. This was my first experience of the ‘shrieking’ bomb, with whistlers attached to the fins, and, boy, it was frightening. Every bomb coming down appeared to have my name written on it.”

From ‘Flying Blind: The Story of a Second World War Night Fighter Pilot’ by Flt Lt Bryan Wild and Elizabeth Halls, with Joe Bamford, (2014) Fonthill Media.  ‘Flying Blind’ is available on Amazon here  or if you would like to buy direct from me and have £1.50 donated to the RAF Benevolent Fund, please go to my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/wheretheyserved and message me

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