I arrived at Watton in Sept 1950 from 90 GP HQ Medmenham. I was an MT driver. I can only recall Lincolns being based at Watton at that time, there were of course a few odds and sods like the Tiger Moth that crashed in front of the Control Tower killing 2 plus the snowdrop who fell off the fire engine racing to the scene.
Us drivers kind of selected our own jobs, for instance Draper and Lindsay opted for the ration run. Didn’t we have some great feeds in our rest room, supplemented with mushrooms collected by the duty driver alongside the runway.
Myself and Taffy Evans did the liberty runs into Norwich on Saturdays, A few beers and then the Sampson and Hercules dance hall was the usual routine. Returning to camp I sometimes had over 50 bods in the old Bedford Trooper. By the way, I never saw any Navy people in the 2 years I was at Watton. The Lincolns used to do a lot of window dropping at nearby North Pickenham, experimenting with all sorts of weird gadgets, We drivers would lie in the grass and watch.
Every so often we did a 3 week tour of preselected airfields, the object was to monitor the air waves. We had a truck fitted with 6 receivers and another one with 2 diesel engines and generators. A Corporal, 5 sparkies (term of endearment for Wireless Operators, derived from their arm badge which was a hand grasping sparks) and us 2 drivers. Draper and I did North Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, We could always talk the Corporal into doing things our way, such as persuading him to set up the gear in a pub yard, We also never stayed the night at Bulls**t places like Manby, or Cranwell. We only once made a mistake, We wanted a look at York, so we stopped at Acaster Malbis. After collecting bedding we were directed to a barrack block, We got a shock to see all the blancoed webbing and kit laid out. “The C/O’s a right b******d” an airman told us. We told our Corporal to go to the guardroom and make a pretence of phoning our base for instructions. He did and we got out of there fast and ended up at Doncaster where we had a good weekend.
I did another of these jaunts with Mitchell, we were set up – near a pub – as usual, near Oakington when a Vampire pilot spotted us, of course the whole Squadron came over and beat us up proper. Mitch and I were in the pub and missed the show.
As duty driver on the Friday of August Bank Holiday I drove a Lincoln pilot round organising a flight to Istres. Now I had dreams of the girls on the French Riviera so I cadged a trip. Well would you believe? We ran into very heavy rain over the channel and it did not stop until we returned 2 days later. What a shame.
I don’t remember the C/O’s name But will never forget Wing Commander Jennings, I had to pick him up from Thetford railway station one very foggy night. “Let me show you the short cut driver”? After pushing the car out of the ditch we got home.
At that time I had a 3 wheel car in which Taff Evans and I would go to village pubs to play darts, “See how fast you can take the camp entrance” he said. The screech of tyres woke up a snowdrop who came out and charged me, The SWO was delighted to see me on a charge. “Got you this time Bev” he said.
I replied “Don’t be so sure sir”, more in bombast than conviction. Jennings took the charge, when he saw me he had to suppress a grin, “Have the car off the camp by 5pm. Dismiss”.
Not what you know but who is what counts.
A radar station near Haverfordwest was in need of a 3 tonner, “Take them that one Bev”. Well I did. Had a good trip down, took the short way through Abergavenny, many narrow 2 ton limit bridges, some were a bit of a worry. When the MTO saw what I had brought him he flew into a rage (some people cannot take a joke). The upshot, was I had to take it to Speke, Getting a train back across the grain of the country is never easy, I was knackered when I got back.
Another little story, We had a driver, WE will call him Smith, He was a real scruffy type, he appeared to be lucky in his hobby which was gambling, We didn’t mind when he volunteered to do the stores run. There came a day when 20 or so surplus trucks had to be taken to Chigwell, The MTO was scratching for drivers and Smith was about to be posted, When the MTO tried to get his posting delayed he was told, “You have no driver named Smith”. Turned out he was a Flt Sgt Special Investigation Branch. Later someone in the stores was Courts Martialed.
Our convoy to Chigwell went ahead with 2 Provost motor cycle escorts, nice guys, even had a beer with us at Epping on our way down. A few days later Pat English was on his way to Cambridge when he was pulled over by one of these guys, “Gidday” says Pat, nice to see you. What did the b*****d do? Yes, he gave Pat a ticket for speeding. Never trust a cop.
Easter 52 I was posted, so the boys gave me a good send off. We piled into an old Hillman straight eight and did a pub crawl in Kings Lynn. It was beginning to snow when we started for home, we only made it to Swaffham, the drifts were waist deep. Now, trudging back to camp in low shoes and without coats was no joke I can tell you.
Yes, Watton was 2 years of my life full of good comradeship and unforgettable experiences. A couple more items, The Washington was just a B29, they did not arrive while I was there but the tractors to tow them did, they had rubber tracks and were called Cleatracks.
I have a photograph of Iris which I took in Hong Kong in August 1949. It was a Lancaster B1 modified to Far East standard and based at Watton from March ‘49 till it was struck off charge in July 1950 PA447 was its number. Finally I hope the Flying Fish is still going strong (Ed: yes it is), we sure had some good times in there!