Looking back to 1946 when conscription was at it's height, I was exempt because I was a farm worker and enjoying the fresh air and hard work. But then a year later the War Agricultural Board drafted me from the farm in Ripon and stuck me in a farm hostel near Leeds. We were earmarked to work for various farmers to cover their labour shortages, along with Land Army girls (they were great!). The billet accommodation was dreadful and the only way out was to volunteer for Service. So in 1948 was when the RAF got their hands onto me.
The first 13 years of my service was in the Equipment Stores trade, and good as it was, I am glad that I switched to Air Movements. Many of the very best Stations have long since gone, but my tour in Singapore will always remain special to me. FEAF MAMS took me to Malaya, Borneo, Thailand and Hong Kong. One task I'll never forget was a 'chopper' trip to a small clearing in the Borneo jungle. We took a Ghurka soldier with us to bring back his brother who had been shot dead in the jungle. Local natives had carried his body strapped to a pole and he had been dead for several days. We had taken a stretcher but the journey back in the Belvedere had to be done with doors open because of the smell.
Maybe it's because of my smart turnout, (or was it the fact that the FEAF Regional Band wanted a pianist) but Changi Pax Section got me for the last part of that tour. When I wasn't working, I enjoyed Dixieland Jazz Band sessions in the various messes and clubs. Maybe some readers might remember hearing 'The Islanders'?
You know how it is, not being able to remember names, (faces come easier), but at the Movements Training School at Abingdon, I must have trained dozens of Movers, especially on that Beverly 'mock-up'. Stan Holloway and Ian Pike were a blast from those days in '66/'69.
I had a 14 month stint at 25 MU Hartlebury working with Suppliers and the Pioneer Corps to put together complete Married Quarter house lots for service families being withdrawn from Aden. That was in '67/'68. House lots included everything down to knives, forks and spoons. Whilst on this tour I met, and eventually married Jean, my wife. We moved these house lots to M.O.D. properties all over the country by Pickfords Carriers.
During my 13 month tour on Gulf MAMS, Muharraq set out two teams challenges that often seemed impossible.
My 5 & half year tour at West Raynham where I was the sole Mover was good.
I probably prepared, palletized and lashed well in excess of 500 Bloodhound missile loads to and from Laarbruch, Wildenrath and Bruggen.
The picture shows me celebrating my 500th load with my boss S/Ldr Dave Wood, some of the Hercules crew and the MAMS Team
Brize Norton was quite cosy, passenger handling on a 4 x day, 4 x night and 4 x day off roster. After booking the passengers and baggage in, they would be called forward and into to the departure lounge by name - probably still are. I recall one family by the name of Bates. Mo Mohindra unintentionally brought the house down when he called “W.O. Bates, Mrs Bates and master Bates” - well, it was 6 o'clock in the morning
At RAF Gatow, Berlin, some of the names that spring to mind are W.O. Bill Fitt who was replaced by Dave Barton, Tony Last, Derrek Cammock, Graham Cotton, John Hadley and Derek Webb. I think it was one 'trooper' a week and the odd freighter, there was plenty of champagne time to enjoy to ourselves. We had a social club for just about every activity and sport on the camp.
On my final tour at Stafford, the Tornado was being deployed to the German and Italian Air Forces and my task was to liaise with the German and Italian officers along with No. 2 MT Squadron in the movement of Tornado spares by road and ferry.
Thank you for hanging in there, I'm kept reasonably busy playing the piano and I ask myself, "Would I do it all again?"
You're damn right I would!
Best regards to all