Sharing Our History 11
The eleventh article in this series has been made possible by a submission from Mr John Matthews. This text also forms part of an exhibit at the RAF Museum recollecting his time at Biggin Hill.
My National Service Experience
I was a deferred electrical apprentice and having been an ATC cadet for six years with the rank of F/Sgt. I was called up to do my National Service ( 1954 -1956) and with my cadet experience I entered the RAF and proceeded with the Cardington procedure as the majority of us did in those days.
For my square bashing I was posted to Wilmslow (we had the company of WAAF entrants as it was their main square bashing station too which made life interesting). Being an ex ATC cadet my service number began with a `3` and having attended an ATC DI`s course at RAF Chigwell I was well prepared for what was ahead, needless to say I was soon appointed Senior Man not just of the billet but the entire intake I had to march them to the parade ground and hand over to the DI`s for our days drill. During this time we had various trade interviews and told to select three options, each time I selected the same and only one and informed the interviewer I only wanted to be an Elect. Mech. and in the end I won the day.
I was then posted to Melksham and after twenty weeks I had reached the dizzy heights of LAC Elect. Mech. (Air) and was given my final posting to RAF Biggin Hill, the famous Battle of Britain station, to join their Air Servicing Flight.
At Biggin Hill there was 41 sqdn. as the regular sqdn. flying Hawker Hunters and two auxiliary sqdns, 600 ( the late Queen Mothers sqnd.) and 615 ( Sir Winston Churchill`s sqdn.) flying Gloster Meteors. As the Hunters were new in service various manufactures modifications were needed and as I was promoted to SAC and having had drawing office experience and able to read electrical diagrams the Electrical Officer (P/O Riley) put me in charge of the modification team.
One day in 1956 while in the workshop and on `duty crew` heard the unusual sound of piston engines and going out onto the hanger apron saw a Hurricane and a Spitfire taxing over towards us and being piloted by the Stn./Cmdr. W/Cmdr. Smallwood (splinters) and our O/C Flying . Sqdn/Ldr Thompson, These two aircraft were to form the Historical Flight and later the BBMF. And these two aircraft are still with them today and I had the privilege of sitting in their cockpits to carryout post and pre-flight checks on them.
On a Friday afternoon I had to report to the flight office and a corporal and myself were informed we were to be `duty crew` for the next day as there was a special chartered civil aircraft arriving to pick up a VIP. On the Saturday morning we were issued with white overalls and awaited the arrival of the our guests, then a convoy of cars arrived carrying Sir Winston Churchill and his family, they were flying to Germany to see his racehorse take part in a race there. The aircraft duly arrived but as the weather was wet and windy we had to check with his doctor ( Lord Moran) for the safest altitude he could fly at due to his heart condition, the resolved, they all boarded and took off and we had to wait his return later that evening.
When he disembarked from the plane Sir Winston called us over and thanked us for being there and gave us ten shillings each.
We also had the late King Husain of Jordan come to the station every day for a fortnight as he was having flying lessons in a Vampire and we would have to strap him etc.
On a sad note I attended five military funerals in the time I was at Biggin Hill for pilots killed in air accidents. Our electrical officer (F/O H. Riley) and myself were involved in the unveiling of the stained glass windows in the Battle of Britain Memorial Chapel at Biggin Hill, we arranged electrical releases at each of the twelve windows so all the drapes opened at the same time.
Whilst we all remember our experiences good and bad in our national service days we should never forget those airman who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country which little is mentioned in our great magazine.
3144639 Nat. Serv. R.A.F. Assc. (List 13)
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