"Well, when I came out, it took me a long time to recover. It’s hard really, yeah, after four years, to settle down. I still get flashbacks."
I thought I was going as a rear gunner, but the RAF [Royal Air Force] started defending their own aerodromes [airfields], because the army was doing it then, the artillery. So they started the RAF Regiment. So that’s what happened.
Well, the first posting we went down to Cornwall on the aerodrome down at [RAF St. Mawgan] Newquay, Cornwall, then we was there for about 12 months and then they moved us to, we was on the Bofors [anti-aircraft] guns. Then from there, we went to [RAF] Manston aerodrome, that was a big aerodrome in Kent, where all the bombers were taking up and that. So we was on the perimeter, quite awhile away from the aerodrome, because it was on the parameter. And from there, we went to different places. After the Germans stopped coming across with their planes, they started sending their doodlebugs [Vergeltungswaffe-1: German flying bomb] across. They called them the buzz bombs.
So then they put us on an island where there was just one or two farm land, and it was a big island. They took the battery and loaded the guns, and there were four in a row and four behind, and four behind that. It was on the island, trying to shoot the doodlebugs from coming to London. We was there for about four or five months. But the sergeant told you where we was on the guns and there’s one at the side of the gun, number two, number three at the other, one moving it up, one, I was sliding it around. And then the guy’s firing it with his foot and then there’s guys coming in, bringing in the rounds there. So that was it, just firing the guns, that’s all.
I’m deaf in this ear because we didn’t wear earplugs; and you had to listen to the instructions from the sergeant. But this ear here, that was next to the gun and that is really, I can’t hear no more. This one’s okay. But I think it’s the guns that did it. It was rough really because on a gun side, there was no electricity or anything like that, no radio or anything like that, so it was just, that was it, it was out in the wilds really. And if you had to go, the tanker came up with water, once every three or four days, so you was washing in cold water. You didn’t get a shower. You had to go to the main part of the aerodrome to get a shower; and it was about half an hour’s walk to the airport. So you didn’t want to go there too often, for the shower. And you was washing in cold water outside. So it was really rough.
There was the D-Day and then after that, the German stopped coming across. They still sent in the flying bombs, but after that finished, they [the RAF] said they didn’t want us anymore, so they was going to transfer us to the army. Yes. So when they asked us what regiment, we put some regiment down, but they just took whatever they wanted you for. So they put me in the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and that was it.
I trained with them; and then the guy said, you’re deaf in this ear, this isn’t… We’ll leave you in the barracks. So I got a job in the barracks and was there for the rest of the time. I got a good job. I was looking after the games room. [I] cleaned the NAFFI [Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes: British armed forces recreational establishments] out in the morning and then after they’d had their break, I cleaned it out again. I was in charge of that. And then they took me and I was in charge of the games room. They had two snooker tables and I looked after that, and cleaned it up.
Well, when I came out, it took me a long time to recover. It’s hard really, yeah, after four years, to settle down. I still get flashbacks. I’ll wake up through the night. It’s coming back into my head there, whatever happened. And then I sit up on the settee for an hour and then I go back to bed, and I sleep. Then I’m okay. It was the best days of my life, really. It was my best days, but I shouldn’t have been spending it there. You lost a lot of, part of your life in the forces.