Veteran Stories:
Edmund Beagley

Air Force

  • Then Flight Sergeant Edmund Beagley during training at RAF Tilstock, England in 1945.

    Edmund Beagley
  • A studio photo that Edmund had taken for his family while stationed in South Africa, 1944.

    Edmund Beagley
  • Edmund Beagley during training in 1944.

    Edmund Beagley
  • Edmund Beagley during training in St. John's Wood, London, England, 1943.

    Edmund Beagley
  • Edmund Beagley's certificate of service, 1947.

    Edmund Beagley
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"Well, there’s an old saying in the forces, never ever volunteer. I’m afraid I was a compulsive volunteer"

Transcript

Well in 1942, I was apprenticed as a toolmaker. I was working in a factory, which was on war work. I was in a reserved occupation [jobs deemed essential services]. Now, this meant that, first of all, I couldn’t be called up, I couldn’t volunteer, I couldn’t even change my job. But, in 1942, the RAF [Royal Air Force] were losing a lot of aircraft; and they found that whilst they could get air gunners, wireless operators, flight engineers, they were very short of suitable candidates for pilot, navigator or bomb aimer. So they opened the gate to men in reserved occupations. They said, you can volunteer for what we called the [Royal Air Force’s] PNB [Pilot-Navigator-Bomb Aimer] scheme, Pilot, Navigator or Bomb Aimer. Well, there’s an old saying in the forces, never ever volunteer. I’m afraid I was a compulsive volunteer and although I was on war work, earning quite good money, I said, okay, let’s have a go at this PNB scheme.

So off I went and passed all their tests, and was duly sworn into the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. It was quite a change from living at home with mum and dad, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

We got trained for two solid years and at the end of that, I qualified as a Navigator 2nd Class, flying as a bomb aimer. We were flying. We were doing runs over the Irish Sea, looking for u-boats [Unterseeboot: German submarine]. But everybody thought it was funny. Now, with hindsight, it wasn’t a joke and perhaps I think my main thoughts now, all these years later, is that I was one of the lucky ones. I came home back to my family and there were many that didn’t. I do feel very, very sad when I think about those chaps.

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