5043999 SAC Cox – Geoff to his friends!
Our barrack block was on the airfield side of the camp, very close to No.2 hangar and it meant you had to be up pretty early if you were to venture the ½ mile across the square, past the guardhouse and across the main
Norwich Road to have some breakfast at the cookhouse. More often than not it was a wash and a cigarette before being picked up by the “Garry” for the trip around the peri track to our hardstanding at the other side of the camp near the bomb dump, where our flight of LINCOLNS would be awaiting some kind of attention. (Right click for bigger picture)
It was usually about 7-30 when we arrived but it could be much earlier if early flying was to take place. I wonder who remembers Chiefy Edlington, Sergeant “Bomber” Harris or Sergeant “Wilf’ Pickles one or all of them were usually waiting at the crewroom door to inform us what the day’s plans were. Then it was all hands on deck to remove all engine and wheel covers plus the various locks that were on the aircraft, stowed away and all the BFIs completed by the various tradesmen on the flight. The F700s would be then signed by us and countersigned by the relevant trade corporals for the aircraft flying that day. The various aircrews would arrive in dribs and drabs sign up for their allotted aircraft, pick up the relevant regular groundcrew and disappear out onto the pan containing the aircraft.
After a brief check the engines were started and the plane was marshalled out of the pan, taxied onto the pen track to runway and then away. Some could be back within 5 or l0 minutes if circuits and bumps were the order of the day or it could be hours or days before the rest would-return.
The NAFFI nosh wagon arrives about 1030 with usually the first food of the day for most of us, a cup of something resembling tea or coffee from the tea swindle operator, then silence for a few minutes whilst food etc. was devoured. Does anyone remember Terry Linehan Jim Young or Bobby Harding, these three were in charge during my term there. If you were not a card player when joining the RAF you had usually learned the hard and expensive way before leaving, because it was the main pastime used to pass the time. Lunchtime was usually half the groundcrew off at noon and the others at one; this was to cover for any aircraft arriving back unexpectedly for any reason.
During the card playing and brew swilling afternoon any one of the aforementioned senior NCOs may come into the crewroom and announce that surprise, surprise, night flying was taking place this evening and he wanted 10 volunteers, selected on a a you, you, you and you basis so anyone who just happened to be nearest to him at that moment stood a very good chance of being roped in. This meant early tea and a late supper arranged at the cookhouse. The main job in the middle of the inky black night, (and down Norfolk it sure got black), with the help of a pair of small hand torches stuck in the wands, was to marshal the aircraft in and do a complete reversal of the mornings locks and covers routine. Then, possibly at 4 or 5am, back to the billet and some well deserved kip. If you were one of the lucky ones who had arrived back at the billet at about 5pm, teatime was upon us.
That half-mile walk wasn’t as off putting as in the morning probably because the workday had gone. Does anyone else remember the green jam that was always on the table during weekdays and the red jam that only came onto the tables at the weekend? Nobody seemed able to christen it with certainty!
After getting back to the billet, if you had not got any duty crew, fire piquet or guard duties to do, your time was your own. Some slept, some played cards, some prepared their cars or motorcycles for the trip home at the weekend and some went across to the NAAFI to watch television or play an assortment of the table games that were available. Table tennis was my choice as it was a nearly new table and I played a bit.
There was no such thing as lights out time or late talking embargoes you had to learn to sleep through such trivialities, easier said than done, especially to some poor guys who were new to the room. The last thing most National Servicemen did each night was to cross off another day on their demob chart with great glee. Our squadron (perhaps the whole station) was on a 5 ½ day week and the 11am finishing time on the Saturday made it a bit of a rush to get up to Yorkshire for the night out and to get back before the work start on Monday. So you can imagine how the decision in late 1958 to make it a 5 day week squadron/station was cheered in by most of the inmates, especially now a lot more could get home for the weekend.
For anyone who stayed on camp for the weekend it was an extra pleasure for them after sleeping in both days, to be able to leave their beds made up, instead of having to make up the usual bed pack. These small, nearly forgotten little things, stick in the mind and are usually remembered when ex-servicemen get down to a spot of reminiscing. Probably some other airmen had differing types of days, but I guess that those working on aircraft with various squadrons and flights many days could be very similar to the one outlined.
I hope you can join in a little nostalgia when looking at these snaps with me. These were taken about the middle of July 1958 when I was just over half way through my bout of National Service at RAF Watton. It is a good thing that I wrote a small explanation and the date on the back of each one of them, because as the years pass by, 43 of them since my demob, my mind seems to be playing tricks with me. One thing that causes me no problem to remember is my service number it comes straight to mind – it seems to be indelibly etched across my brain like a tattoo.
Geoff Cox Ex SAC 5043999