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A Limey Amongst Yanks
(Frank Bartlett wrote this in May 1996, of his time at Watton in 1944/45. Frank lived in Chatswood, New South Wales in Australia until his death in November 2014.)
My memory is not what it used to be, I am now 75 which does not help, but I will endeavour to give you some idea of what I was doing at Watton.
Firstly I got posted to the camp from Wymondham as a Clerk G.D. after convincing the powers that be be that my typing was up to RAF standards, however on arrival I was shown my billet which was in one of the married quarters houses, very comfortable by the usual standards of accommodation. The RAF officer in charge then introduced me to the other staff which consisted of a corporal and an L.A.C. and explained our duty on a US Air Force Camp. It was necessary that all spares required by the US Air Force for the Mosquitos that they were flying at the time had to be ordered through the RAF so there was much form filling to be done by yours truly. I had no complaints about my typing standards from the C.O.
The U.S. canteen food was of the highest standards and we were treated very well, but one thing I could not get used to was the cold tea. A very interesting thing was the fact that the Yanks were not allowed to drink our milk, theirs was all imported from the U.S.A. in tins or powder form.
Entertainment was held in the Red Cross Club which I suspect was the NAAFI, it was always of the highest standard. One evening we were specially invited to a show being given by Bob Hope, on arrival amongst protests we were ushered up to the front row to sit with the U.S. Commanding Officer, of course we were not to know that the whole thing had been prearranged, so that when Bob Hope came on stage he asked who were the foreigners sitting in the front row, the C.O. however reminded him that of course he was a limey by birth, it was a great evening with Bob being supported by his usual bunch of entertainers. The following two days of Hope's visit was spent by him visiting all the sections on the camp.
However the big day came when the U.S.A.F. were transferred to Europe. We were left to clear up the mess left, uniforms, bicycles, guns and you name it. We gave the uniforms to the local farmers minus insignia of course, little did we know that this stuff would become collectors items. The RAF C/O and myself did a tour of the camp to see what else there was to find and lo and behold we found a full drop tank bidden in the grass, and as we both had Austin 7’s this was a magnificent asset since our cars had been run on anything that would fire such as paint thinners and paraffin etc. Next find was a full case of radio valves, which I shipped off home and sold at considerable profit after the war. I suppose there are always some things to compensate for the hard times we had experienced. Our nights were mostly spent in the local hostelry, names of which I cannot remember, I think because we never saw them in daylight.
I do however remember that the black, and white airmen were not allowed to mix, so were in the town on alternative nights, how times have changed. There was also a Church Army Hall somewhere were we could get tea coffee sandwiches etc. at a minimal cost, my pay at that time was four shillings and sixpence per day.
Then the big day came when I was posted overseas, to, I presume, make a nuisance of ourselves to the Japs, however that is another story.
Unfortunately I can not remember names of my ex buddies .
We were all drivers attached to DMT Section .
During that time I was assigned to drive
1- The C.O
3.Fire Engines on the airfield .
4, My best was driving a Jeep with the Canine section having Alsations breathing down my neck and picking up drunks in the Village
Lastly towing Lancaster bombers out of Hangers with a Davie Brown tractor
My Buddies were a great bunch and sorry I never kept in touch but at 20 you do not think about that ,
My best buddy I remember only as Lofty .Wonder where these guys are now including 2 Dispatch riders from Manchester .
Many fond memories .I am now in Canada
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