Sharing Our History 7
The seventh article in this series has been made possible by Steve Brew, our Association Historian:
These are the memories from Sgt Robert Scrimshaw, which he allowed me to reproduce in "Blood, Sweat and Courage"
Lipstick and Picnics
AC1 Robert Scrimshaw recalled the laid back lifestyle at on 41 Squadron at Catterick in the early days, remembering with amusement that one particular day,
One of the Riggers had called us over to have a look at his aircraft. He had cause to remove one of the belly panels immediately under the cockpit and to his amazement he found cigarette ends. Not only cigarette ends, but cigarette ends with lipstick on them!
For the next couple of days, the ground crew carefully scrutinised their pilot for any signs of make-up. The mystery was soon solved. Conditions at Catterick were still very similar to those of pre-war, where married quarters were still occupied and, on occasions, on a beautiful day, and we were on standby, the pilots’ wives, who still had access to the airfield, would bring a picnic along for their husbands, and they would sit and chat amongst themselves.
When it came time for take-off, a quick kiss and a cuddle, and the pilots climbed into their cockpits. In those days, lipstick wasn’t kiss-proof, but nearly everyone smoked.
18 March 1942 – The weather was still too poor for flying, but RAF Tangmere and RAF Westhampnett received a visit from Air Commodore His Royal Highness Prince George KG KT GCMG GCVO, the Duke of Kent, who was a Staff Officer with Training Command. He visited 129 Squadron, followed by 41 Squadron’s A Flight dispersal at 14:00, but all of B Flight’s pilots also attended. One of the ground crew, Sgt Robert Scrimshaw vividly recalled the visit, thus:
[It was] a cold and miserable day. All the ground crew were in the dispersal hut. It was the standard type of hut, being divided into one third and two thirds the latter section being for the ‘erks’ and furnished with half a dozen McDonald beds, two trestle tables, a cast iron stove and a number of bench type seats. The other section contained two small offices and the pilots rest room.
Some of the lads were snoozing, the armourers were cleaning guns at one table, a card school was at one end of the other table and at the other end some letters home were being written. The rest of us were just sitting reading the papers or just chatting.
Suddenly the door burst open and in walked the Station Commander closely followed by an Officer with more ‘scrambled egg’ and rings on his sleeve than any of us had ever seen. He stopped dead in his tracks and it was evident by the look on his face that he realised he had entered at the wrong end of the hut. I have heard the expression ‘stunned silence’ but now I experienced it – no one spoke and we just froze like statues. He decided to bluff it out and weaved his way to the pilots room, stepping over tool boxes, round munition boxes and airmen transfixed to the spot, followed by his V.I.P. and a host of followers of various ranks.
I would have loved to see the shambles if he had given the order “About turn”. We thought that was the end but quarter of an hour later the party returned by the same route and the only words spoken were by the V.I.P. to the Station Commander that these men should have something to relieve their boredom. A week later we had table tennis, darts, chess, dominos and draughts – the King’s younger brother had spoken!!!! The answer to our question, “Who the Hell was that?”, was “Air Commodore H.R.H. the Duke of Kent.”
Recollections of Flight Mechanic 938170 Sgt (Ret) Robert Scrimshaw, 2013; reproduced in Blood, Sweat and Courage” (Fonthill, 2014) with his kind permission.
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