Veteran Stories:
Leonard Allbon

Air Force

  • Leonard Allbon in RCAF Reserve, 1965.

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"And we spent the hours before the Dieppe invasion and a day or two after that, constantly on the system."


My name is Len Allbon and I served in the Royal Air Force and later in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Principally for three years in Britain and then I was in the invasion of Sicily and Italy [1944]. I joined the air force just after I was 18 and was kitted and had my preliminary training in Uxbridge [England], which is the No. 1 Depot of the RAF. And many people will know about it because of the fame that Lawrence of Arabia brought after he had finished his desert meanderings.

From there I went to [RAF] Cranwell and had my technical training in signals. I graduated from Cranwell and ended up in Fighter Command in what was called, [No.] 11 Group. Fighter Command had sorted the country into four areas and 11 Group was the area closest to the European continent and closest therefore, to where the Luftwaffe and the German Army was theoretically ready to invade. I arrived there on the 1st of September in 1940 and the Battle of Britain was just commencing so it was a very interesting time. The radio equipment that we used was called Very High Frequency, VHF, designed and made by Marconi in the States and it was in very short supply, especially for the aircraft that used a transmitter/receiver. One of the reasons for that is that a whole load of the transmitter equipment sets had gone down in the Atlantic, in the crossing to Britain.

So, when I got there on the 1st of September, the only aircraft that had the sets and was able to communicate with the control organization, were the four section leaders of each of squadron. And, just after I arrived, the second or third of September, more radio sets appeared. And so our first job was for anyone who could use a screwdriver to start unscrewing the equipment that was being replaced to allow the radio mechanics - as they were called in those days - the ability to fit in the new sets. And it wasn't just the sets, the whole wiring and everything else had to be taken out. So it was quite an extensive operation and most of us worked 18-20 hours a day until this was done.

I was sent to many of the smaller stations; 1942 the Canadian invasion of Dieppe was being planned and the air force was concerned to over-fly as much as possible and so an air/sea rescue set up was put into place. And we spent the hours before the Dieppe invasion and a day or two after that, constantly on the system. We were able to hear the pilots, if they were in distress and then we directed the air force launches to pick them up if they had to come down into the Channel. So it was quite an exciting time. It was also a very upsetting time of course, because of the heavy opposition that the Canadian Army had met when it first went ashore in Dieppe.

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