I was at school in 1942 and I went to the volunteer enrollment centre and put my name down as a potential member of the RAF [Royal Air Force]. But I wasn’t called up until several months later in September 1942. And then I went to [RAF Station] Cardington which is the airfield that the Airships [a rigid aerostat aircraft] used to fly from in Britain, the R101. So that was interesting. And we were kitted out and then about ten days later, I was sent to Great Yarmouth on the east coast, which also happened to be my mother’s hometown. So there were plenty of relatives to give me tea and comfort.
And during that time, my weight went up to 12 stone [approximately 76 kilograms], which it’s never reached again. After that, I think the basic training took about six weeks. And that was quite a lot of fun. After that, I was sent to the Central Technical College at Birmingham to train as a radio mechanic. This was at a time when the air force was trying to recruit radar mechanics.
That was a six-month course in Birmingham. At the end of that, we had an exam and we were sent up to London at another radio school in the Science Museum at Kensington. And on the results of the exam, we were sorted out into radar mechanics and radio mechanics. In other words, the radar mechanics were the ones who did better. So we had a, I would think about another four months at the science museum. Then we were given leave for about two weeks I think and sent up to Morecambe on the west coast, just north of Liverpool.
And we were given a whole series of injections which made us feel pretty awful. And then after a week, a group of us were sent down to Kent to a place called Bough Beech. That’s B-O-U-G-H, B-E-E-C-H, like the Beech tree. We were just waiting, we were on an overseas draft which actually went off to East India. That is to say the Eastern Burma side of India. But before that happened, we were billeted in an old farm cottage which was very damp and I caught pneumonia, so I was left behind in hospital. That was at Edenbridge and from there, I was sent to another hospital in Tunbridge Wells which strangely enough was the town I was in when I was called up to join the air force. So it made a complete circle.