Get Some In
Times Remembered 1
Times Remembered 2
Conscription (National Service).
On 27th April 1939, Parliament passed the Military Training Act. This act introduced conscription for men aged 20 and 21 who were now required to undertake six months' military training. On the outbreak of the Second World War, Parliament passed the National Service (Armed Forces) Act, under which all men between 18 and 41 were made liable for conscription. It was also announced that single men were called up before married men. The registration of all men in each age group in turn began on 21st October for those aged 20 to 23. By May 1940, registration had extended only as far as men aged 27 and did not reach those aged 40 until June 1941.
Provision was made in the legislation for people to object to military service on moral grounds. Of the first batch of men aged 20 to 23 and estimated 22 in every 1000 objected and went before local military tribunals. The tribunals varied greatly in their attitudes towards conscientious objection to military service and the proportions totally rejected ranged from 6 per cent to 41 per cent.
By the end of 1939 over one and a half million men had been recruited into the armed forces. Of these, 1,128,000 joined the British Army and the remainder were equally divided between the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
For thousands of young men conscripted into the three services it was their first time away from home, they all coped with it in their own way. At 18yrs of age young men had to register for service and you had a choice, if you were doing an apprenticeship or any sort of training for a career you could opt to defer your service until you were 21.
The easiest way to avoid conscription was to ignore the summons to register for National Service. As a result of a shortage of people to enforce attendance, this method of avoiding the joining of the armed forces was highly effective. Another method was to hire a man who had already failed his medical, to impersonate you in front of the medical board. Jack Brack was rejected as unfit for service because of an enlarged heart. A few months later he was arrested and charged with impersonating eight different men at military medical boards. It was discovered in court that one man, a master tailor, had paid Brack �200 (�8,000 in today's money) for this work.
There was also a good market in buying forged medical discharge certificates. In May 1940 the police in London was investigating four gangs selling these certificates. Some doctors were willing to issue false medical certificates to friends and relatives. An investigation carried out by the General Medical Council resulted in several doctors being struck off for "infamous conduct". Others did it for profit, one doctor from London was found guilty of charging a man �367.10s. (�14,700) for his certificate. Dr. William St. John Sutton of Stepney, developed a scheme of selling certificates exempting men from duty. When he was arrested he was found with 700 forged certificates.
Desertion from the armed forces was a common problem. At one stage in the war there were over 24,500 men who were wanted for desertion. At the end of 1941 the government ordered a "round-up" of deserters. When police raided a Plymouth funfair they discovered that almost two-thirds of adult males checked did not have identity cards. However, before the men could be arrested someone let off a smoke bomb and they all escaped.
Deserters often resorted to crime in order to survive without identity cards or ration books. One of the most shocking crimes committed be deserters during the war was looting from bombed houses. In the first eight weeks of the London Blitz a total of 390 cases of looting was reported to the police.
The Lord Mayor of London suggested that notices should be posted throughout the city, reminding the population that looting was punishable by hanging or shooting. However, the courts continued to treat this crime leniently. When a gang of army deserters were convicted of looting in Kent the judge handed down sentences ranging from five years' penal servitude to eight years' hard labour. Some critics pointed out that Nazi Germany suffered less from this crime as looters were routinely executed for this offence.
The problem of desertion became worse when soldiers knew they were about to be sent abroad. Official figures show that large numbers of men due to take part in the D-Day invasion deserted. Between 6th June 1944 and 31st March 1945 36,366 of these soldiers were arrested by the Military Police, of these, 10,363 were charged with desertion.
The problem of desertion continued after the war. On 29th March 1950 Emanuel Shinwell, the Minister of Defence, announced in the House of Commons that there were still 19,477 absentees: 1,267 were from the Royal Navy, 13,884 from the British Army and 4,366 from the Royal Air Force.
The conclusion of the Second World War did not end the substantial demands on the British Government with regard to the employment of the country's armed forces. With the majority of servicemen desperate to return to civilian life it was politically impossible for wartime conscription to be sustained. The responsibilities and commitments facing the Government included the enforcement of the terms of surrender on Germany and Japan, participation in occupation duties, the maintenance of security within the diminishing Empire and the re-establishment of British influence in the world, particularly in the Middle East.
The requirement for a peacetime force larger than that made possible by purely voluntary recruitment led the post-war Labour Government to move towards establishing a national service system in 1946. The National Service Act was passed in July 1947 after considerable opposition from some Labour and Liberal politicians. The Act was to come into force at the beginning of 1949. The Act initially required a period of one year to be served in the Armed Forces followed by a liability for a possible five years in the Reserve. Financial crises, the advent of the Cold War and the Malaya emergency led to the National Service Amendment Act in December 1948, increasing the period of service to 18 months. This enabled National Servicemen to be used more efficiently and effectively, particularly overseas
The demands of the Korean War (1950-1953) led to the length of service being extended to two years, surpassing even the Service Chiefs' original wishes. Liability to further service in the Reserve was reduced with each of these extensions. The period of service remained at two years until the end of National Service.
When National Service began the Labour Administration insisted that it should be universal for all able-bodied men. However, although there was no official ban, very few Black conscripts and no non-European officers were recruited despite high levels of immigration in the mid-1950s. To avoid possible civil unrest Northern Ireland was also excluded from conscription.
The majority of National Servicemen went into the Army and by 1951 National Servicemen made up half the force leading to a reduced level of voluntary recruitment to the regular army. The Suez Crisis in 1956 led to a general review of the ability of the Armed Forces, both regular and conscripted, to meet Britain's commitments. The need for a large reserve of conscripts suitable for post-war occupation duties and the withdrawal from colonies was replaced by a requirement for a rapid deployment force with modern weapons and equipment. The Defence Review of 1957 initiated a difficult period of transition.
The last intake of National Servicemen took place in 1960 and only the crisis surrounding the erection of the Berlin Wall delayed the end of conscription.
The "Get some in era".
LOGISTICS of the RECRUIT TRAINING CAMPS OF THE RAF.
National Service as we know it from 1947 to 1963 was a continuation of what had been known as the
**Duration of the Present Emergency Act of Parliament**
- which covered war time conscription from 1939 - and was regularised by
The National Service Act of 18th July 1947
Under this Act every male British subject aged 18 to 26 (30 Medical and Dental professionals) normally resident in the UK was liable to be called upon to serve in the Armed Forces for 2 terms - 12 months full time and a period of part time service, 60 days in total or 21 days in any one year. (The servicemen could opt to enter the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in lieu of this reserve).
A proviso of the 1947 Act is that it would expire at the end of 1953 unless His Majesty the King decided to extend the provisions of the ACT.
The National service Act 1947
was due to come into force on the 1st January 1949 but before then a further Act, dated 30th July 1948 was passed as an addendum.
This Act confirmed that it was the duty of the Services to provide, as far as was practicable, further education facilities for full-time National Servicemen; to safeguard a mans previous employment by compelling his employer to take him back into the occupation which he had left; and to ensure that a man could not be dismissed by virtue of his annual reserve obligations.
On the 16th December 1948, the
National Service (Amendment) Act
was passed to increase the period of full time service from 12 to 18 months, with 3 years part time obligation.
The 18 month period of service was in force only until 1st October 1950, when due to the outbreak of the Korean War and the possibility of world conflict, it became mandatory to serve 2 years.
It was probably at this time that the scope of National Service became open ended, the original 31st December 1953 deadline being scrapped. So for the remainder of the National Service scheme the 2 year period was the norm.
By 1955, it became clear that the need for large numbers of recruits to the RAF was declining and from that time the intake diminished each year. **A White Paper** approved on 17th April 1957 outlined radical changes in defence policy and a progressive reduction in National Service intakes, ending at the end of 1960.
Over 6 months from April 1957 National Service intake actually increased by 1500 men, forcing the period of basic training to be reduced to 7 weeks. Eventually it was decided that the
threshold date of birth which would determine eligibility for National service would be 30th September 1939
; if he was born on or after the 1st October 1939 he would not be required.
However to sweep up a large number of people who had not been called up on their expected dates due to a temporary surplus OR who had been deferred on the grounds of apprenticeship, for example, intake continued for over 3 more years, until the last week of January 1961.
According to official records, the last service number to be issued to a National Serviceman during the final official intake of 50 recruits, in the 3rd week of November 1960, was 5082226 which applied to one AC2 Farrer.
Most of these men were deferments aged up to 21 years and 6 months old. However it appears that a few men were inducted in December 1960 and January 1961 but these may have had their service numbers pre allocated !. At the same time some men were being released up to 6 months early.
The last National Serviceman to be demobilised is said to have been SAC J Wallace on 23rd January 1963.
The last intake of the two million National Servicemen, of all Services, were called up in November 1960 and they served for 2.1/2 years to allow the build up of Regulars to be achieved.
So ended the 14 year period of post war conscription into the Royal Air Force, during which time 483,087 were recruited and processed by the RAF, all having passed through the portals of the
2 Reception Units of RAF Padgate and RAF Cardington.
Whatever may be said about the scheme, it has never been doubted that without these men, who worked in most, if not all, trades and RAF Stations worldwide, the RAF would not have been able to meet the demands put on it.
In the Royal Air Force Airfield Construction Branch - my home for 8 years - the manning levels in the 50s, in all trades was in excess of 80% by national servicemen.
(PGH. See web site: www.rafacb.org)
RAF RECEPTION UNITS.
No 1 Reception Unit. RAF Padgate.
This unit was situated near Warrington and shared the site with No 3 School of Recruit Training.
During the early 1950s, an average of 1,000 recruits arrived at No 1 RU each week for kitting out and induction before being sent to any number of Recruit Training Schools.
By the autumn of 1952, intake figures were declining and No 1 RU finally closed on 15th June 1953, from which date all airman entrants to the RAF were dealt with at No 2 RU, RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire.
N0 2 Reception Unit, RAF Cardington.
Until No 1 RU closed in June 1953, No 2 RU at RAF Cardington, near Bedford, had processed mainly regular recruits. (of which myself and our Membership Secretary John Kent were inducted, together, on 1st September 1952. PGH),
From that time though, National Servicemen arrived at the average rate of 3,000 a month dropping slightly to less than 2,800 in 1954 and increasing again to 3,500 a month in 1955, these figures included some who later dropped out on medical or other grounds.
Reliable figures for the last years are not available from Unit records but the statistics show that 867 men reported to No 2 RU in October 1960, 368 in November (of whom 5082226 AC2 Farrar was one) and 9 in December and concludes with 19 in January 1961.
The total Number of National Service recruits dealt with at No 2 RU between January 1949 and 30th November 1960 was 385,565, an average of approximately 2,700 a month.
No 2 RU closed on 6th February 1961, having processed all the final handful of recruits and from that date all reception of regular recruits was handled at RAF Bridgnorth.
RAF SCHOOLS of RECRUIT TRAINING.
(for all RAF Regulars and National Servicemen).
No 1 School of Recruit Training: RAF Melksham.
1.7.49 moved to
1.9.51 moved to
and disbanded 5.6.53.
No 2 School of Recruit Training: RAF Cardington. Bedfordshire.
Although better known as No 2RU, RAF Cardington was also one of the earlier SsoRT and trained both Regular and National Service airmen.
Formed 1.11.48 ex No 2 Recruits Centre and disbanded 4.10.50.
No 3 School of Recruit Training: RAF Padgate. Lancashire.
Station crest: 3 white roses and a pace stick over motto: **I strive until I overcome**
The camp itself was set up on 3rd April 1939 and its history is as follows:
Apr 39 to Sep 39: No 3 RAF Depot / Oct 39 to Dec 40: No 3 Receiving Centre / Jan41 to June 44: No 3 Recruits Centre also during this time Jan 41 to Dec 42: No 5 Personnel Despatch centre / May 44 to Sep 44: it also housed the Polish Initial Training Wing , 11th (RAAF)and the 12th (RNZAF)
Personnel Despatch and Receiving Centres. / July 45 to Apr 50 it was the Recruit Instructors Unit and Aug 45 to Oct 48 it was also No 3 Recruits Centre - renamed 1st Nov 48 as the No 3 School of Recruit Training which it was until Mar 57 / Oct 50 to Feb 57 it was a RAF Hospital and between Mar 56 to Dec 57 it housed both 7812 and 7859 Reserve Flights.
Combined with No 1 RU, No 3 School of Recruit Training dealt with both Regular and National Service recruits until its final intake of recruits in 1956. The final passing out parade was held on 24th January 1957 and the School of Recruit Training and the Hospital were closed down on 31st March 1957.
From Feb 57 to Sept 59 it was inactive and was finally disposed of 21st Sept 1960
(The largest drill hangar was dismantled, removed and rebuilt in George Saunders yard - earth moving equipment suppliers - in Barton road, Davyhulme, Manchester (adjacent to the Trafford Park shopping complex) and still stands today. PGH).
No 4 School of Recruit Training: RAF Wilmslow. Manchester.
Formed 1.11.48 ex No 4 Recruits Centre.
Better known as the WRAF training station, and processed recruits until the final passing out parade on 20th November 1959 and disbandment of the School of Recruit Training took place on the 31.11.59, when from that date RAF Wilmslow was left under a care and maintenance party.
The UK element of No 4 Joint Service Trials Unit redeployed from RAF White Waltham to RAF Wilmslow 16th December 1959.
RAF Wilmslow officially disbanded on 26th August 1960; care and maintenance party formed in No 22 Group Technical Training Command with effect from this date.
No 4 JSTU (still on the site) redeployed from Wilmslow camp to RAF Scampton 31st October 1961.
Care and maintenance party disbanded and Wilmslow Camp reduced to inactive status 22nd February 1963.
Disposed of as an Air Ministry asset 1st May 1963.
Note: In March 1953 RAF Wilmslow was used as the centre for the 35th Birthday Parade of the RAF, which took place in Manchester and thousands of recruits were brought in from other S'soRT to take part in this one off event.
No 5 School of Recruit Training: RAF West Kirby: Merseyside.
The PRO files show that the advance party to open up RAF West Kirby as No 5 Recruits Centre arrived on April 25th 1940 and the first recruits on the 16th May 1940. For a very brief period it was also used as a reception unit for Polish Air Force Personnel evacuated from France in 1940.
On 7th February 1941 it was indicated that No 5 Recruits Centre was to eventually close and preparations were started to accommodate No 1 Personnel Despatch Centre (PDC) as well, which opened on 1st March and overseas drafts started on the 3rd March, in the meantime No 5 Recruit Centre continued until June 1941.
When RAF West Kirby became a Recruit Centre again in 1946, on the 9th September 50 Drill Instructors arrived from RAF Cardington and the first batch of 469 recruits arrived on the 10th September, training for this first batch: E Sqd 3 Wing started on the 12th September.
Another batch of 469 recruits arrived on the 11th, 457 on the 17th, 460 on the 24th and 471 on the 25th September 1946.
This was the start of 155,000 recruits being processed from 1946 - 1957. On 1st November 1948 it was re named No 5 School of Recruit Training and in 1956 the intake and output day was changed from Monday to Friday.
The annual intake peaked at 18,751 in 1947 but by 1957 had fallen to 10,511, this making an average for the 11 full years of over 13,500.
Sometime in the 50s the Wings at RAF West Kirby were changed from Nos: 1,2,3,4 to names and were known as: Roosevelt, Churchill, Smuts and Trenchard.
Whilst I was doing my recruit training in December 1953 and January 54 the wings were known as A.B.C and D Squadrons and the 4 NAAFI s were known by Trenchard, Rosevelt Churchill and Smuts names. Each Squadron had a coloured disc behind their cap badge. B Squadron for instance had a Light blue disc. The discs of the other Squadrons were green, yellow and red. (thanks to: Michael Barry for this information)
It was noted as being the SoRT which trained more National Service recruits than any other SoRT, and unusually used the nearby Welsh mountain terrain to involve its recruits in **initiative training**. On 25th October 1957, the last intake No 39 arrived from RAF Cardington - Consisting of 72 Regulars and 51 National Servicemen - the final passing out parade being 20th December 1957 and the Station then disbanded on the 1st January 1958 and all Recruit Training was transferred to RAF Wilmslow and RAF Bridgnorth.
Care and maintenance party formed on 29th January and that disbanded on 30th April 1959 and the site parented by RAF Sealand from this date.
The site was sold off - with the exception of the married quarters - on 1st August 1961.
It is also noted that an RAF Hospital functioned on the site from May 29th 1940 until 20th December 1957, details of this and everything else about RAF West Kirby can be found in Dennis Tomlinson's book *West Kirby and Beyond* details on Notice board.
No 6 School of Recruit Training: RAF Credenhill:
(Mostly referred to as RAF Hereford).
"RAF Credenhill,, situated North West of Hereford, opened and housed No.11 School of Technical Training in June 1940. It then supported, at various times, the RAF Secretarial Branch, the RAF Equipment Officers' School, No: 1 School of General Service Training, and No 2 School of Admin Trades, among which were the School of Catering, Typing and shorthand courses plus at one time many Boy Entrants undertook their initial training here but from as early as 1945 it was No 14 School of Recruit Training and continued as such until 1.11.48 being renumbered as No 6 School of Recruit Training and the final passing out parade was held on 14th February 1952.
From March 1974 until 1982 it housed the WRAF School of Recruit Training, then in 1983 the camp saw the formation of the Youth Training Squadron (YTS).
In all the time RAF Credenhill had been used, and despite the presence of its hangers, it never housed an airstrip. In 1994, the YTS closed and the Army bought the site, apart from the officers' quarters, by then a regional admin centre for MoD married quarters. After 22 SAS Regiment had obtained funding to develop the site, extensive rebuilding which started in 1997 took place. 22 SAS finally moved from a site, within Hereford, into Credenhill, in May 1999."
No 7 School of Recruit Training: RAF Bridgnorth: Shropshire.
Station crest from March 1945: A torch in front of a portcullis over the motto (in Latin) translated **This is the gate. The walls are men**.
The camp was opened on 6th November 1939 and was originally designated as No 4 Recruit Centre, its first intake of recruits arrived from RAF Padgate on 22nd January 1940.
In 1940 it was briefly a transit camp to deal with many nationalities of troops etc returning from France but then concentrated on recruit training again.
In June 1941 No 4 Recruit Centre was moved and the camp was taken over by the W.A.A.F. and renamed
No 1 Women's Auxiliary Air Force Depot
and this lasted until 25th September 1942 when it became the
No 1 Air Navigation School
and also The School of Flying Control and also undertook the training of Air Gunners and Wireless Operators. (Memo from Mr Turner that he was a trainee Navigater in 1944).
In 1945 it became
No 7 Recruits Centre
and it finally became
No 7 School of Recruits Training Centre on 1.11.45,
there had always been a reciprocal link with nearby Bridgnorth Town but in 1947 the then Borough adopted the Camp.
During the summer of 1960 it took the bulk or recruits and was the last unit to train recruits and was regarded as a reasonable place (soft, compared to Hednesford ? PGH.) to do the squarebashing. The last intake to include National Servicemen was on the 16th December 1960 and then included only 4 of them, who passed out at the end of February 1961.
The unit then acted as a reception Centre and concentrated on training all Regulars, the very last intake being 70 men of 5 Flight, Intake 43 passing out on the 7th February 1963, this was attended by the Central Band of the RAF and culminated in **Beating the Retreat** and the parade marched through the Borough with drums beating and fixed bayonets.
Finally closing on the 1st May 1963 No 7 School of Recruits was transferred first to Innsworth and then on 20.3.65 to the new No 1 School of Recruit Training at RAF Swinderby.
RAF Bridgnorth disbanded 1st May 1963 and reduced to an inactive but guarded station.
On 28th May 1994 a Commemorative Garden and Plaque was unveiled on the site of what is today Stanmore Country Park, which covers 100 acres of what was the site of RAF Bridgnorth, Shropshire.
More information in the book
**Memories of RAF Bridgnorth**
by C Gwilt plus there is a direct link to the website - http://rafbridgnorth.mysite.freeserve.com
No 8 School of Recruit Training: RAF Kirkham, Nr Preston.
Formed 12.7.50 and best known as being No 10 School of Technical Training but also housed No 8 School of Recruit Training for a short period and the final Flight 75B passed out on 16th May 1952 and on 7.7.52 the SoRT unit closed.
No 9 School of Recruit Training: RAF Weeton. Blackpool.
Formed 14.8.50: RAF Weeton handled mostly National servicemen with an intake of about 100 a week in 1951 and up to 1,000 recruits in training at any time.
The final parade was held on 3rd July 1952 and remaining recruits transferred to No 3 School of Recruit Training at RAF West Kirby. The SoRT closed officially on 7/7/52.
No 10 School of Recruit Training: RAF Melksham: Wiltshire.
Formed 16.8.50 RAF Melksham was better known as No 12 School of Technical Training from 1940 to 1965 but also housed No 1 School of Recruit Training (later renumbered to No 10 SORT) and is not so well known as many of the other SoRT's but it averaged 100 a week of mainly National servicemen until its final intake arrived in June 1953 and passed out on the 17th August and the SoRT unit closed on 24.8.53.
No 11 School of Recruit Training: RAF Hednesford. Staffordshire.
Station Crest: a single Fir Tree over Motto: **Upright and Strong**
In October 1950 (information regarding the camp prior to this date can be acquired from the book
- see Notice Board) the camp became the home of the RAF No: 11 School of Recruit Training, the unit taking in both Regular and National Service recruits and for many thousands of mostly retired men scattered throughout the UK and abroad this means just one thing: SQUAREBASHING.
About 81,500 men received their basic 8 week training at Hednesford, following the well known routine of medical inspections, inoculations, physical training, un memorable lectures, shouting NCOs, remote Officers, too frequent inspections, NAAFI tea and wads, drill and yet more drill, fears, hopes and longing for release, all the more traumatic for the many young men at that time, I being one, for whom it was the first time ever of leaving home, family etc.
The final passing out parade of 130 recruits was held on 3rd December 1956, the salute being taken by the Air Officer Commanding 22 Group, Air Vice Marshal J L F Fuller. The Station Commander at this time was Wing Commander R J E Bowlding.
A closing down party was formed on the 3rd December and disbanded on the 22nd December 1956 when the site was handed over to the Ministry of Works.
On 26th November 1957 the station was returned to the RAF from the Ministry of Works but was inactive and parented by RAF Cosford.
Its final role was when it became the home for dis possessed Hungarian Refugees following the uprising, RAF Cosford urgently supplied a detachment of Airmen of all ranks to act as the reception team and helped to settle the refugees., when the need to house refugees ended the site was disposed of by the Ministry of Works.
During the existence of No 11 School, many recruits were accepted for commissions, nearly 10,000 airmen gained their swimming certificates and 1,650 became marksmen. The voluntary band at the camp undertook 1100 outside engagements in addition to functions within the camp and was present at the 1953 Coronation. During the life of the unit some 6,000 airmen had at some time been members of the band.
The station had 3 churches and was the only RAF Recruit station to have a Synagogue and all RAF Jewish recruits were sent to Hednesford.
No 11 School of Recruit Training had been due to close in 1953 but the RAF fought to retain it. Its closure on 3.12 56 was brought about by a cut in Government spending.
If one accepts the figure of 81.500 recruits processed by No 11 School of Recruit Training in that period of about 6 years then it is easy to calculate that this would have been approx 13,000 plus recruits each year
1.0 plus recruits each month, which on average indicates about 250 each week.
Comment from ex DI Bill Buchanan
was that there were 4 Wings
No:1 Wing was *A* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 1 - 2 - 3 - and 4 Flights plus *B* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 5 - 6 - 7 - and 8 Flights.
No: 2 Wing was *C* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 9 - 10 - 11 - and 12 Flights plus *D* Squadron which consisted of Nos; 13 - 14 - 15 - and 16 Flights
No: 3 Wing was *E* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 17 - 18 - 19 - and 20 Flights plus *F* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 21 - 22 - 23 - and 24 Flights..
No 4 Wing was *G* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 25 - 26 - 27 - and 28 Flights plus *H* Squadron which consisted of Nos: 29 - 30 - 31 - and 32 Flights.
Each Squadron was made up of 4 Flights and each Flight consisted of approx 100 recruits normally billeted in 5 huts of 20 each (some photographs indicate 22 airmen per hut !).
The Staffing for each Squadron was generally 1 Officer and 1 SGT plus 5 DI Cpls - but Bill Buchanan states that most of the time they only had 4 DIs per Squadron.
It is interesting to note that in a photograph of Officers taken in December 1953, (see Nos:110 and 111) the breakdown is: 1 Group Captain / 5 Wing Commanders / 19 Squadron Leaders - this included 1 WRAF and 2 Padres / 22 Flight Lieutenants / 13 Flying Officers - 1 being WRAF / 19 Pilot Officers - 1 being WRAF.
I have created a website specifically about RAF Hednesford in the period 1950 to 1956, containing a map, much text and feedback from ex Hednesford Recruits and Staff and over 140 photographs. The domain address is:
No 12 School of Recruit Training: RAF Cosford. Shropshire.
Formed 20.9.50 this camp - normally associated with flying and the RAF Hospital and mainly served as a training Unit for Boy entrants.
However in the period 20.9.50 to 1.10.51 some National Servicemen did there square bashing at the camp, when recruit training ceased most of the Di's were transferred to Hednesford.
No 13 School of Recruit Training: RAF Innsworth. Gloucester.
"RAF Innsworth opened in June 1940.
This camp - more normally associated with the RAF Records Department and a PDU transit camp - was originally known as No 6 Recruit Centre in 1947 / 48 but when re opened on 20.9.50 it was done so as No 13 School of Recruit Training and handled a mixture of National Service and Regulars, being about 100 a week. The final passing out parade was held on 14th November 1952 and No 13 School of Recruit Training closed down on 24.11.52.
I was sent there in 1953 - to No 5 Personnel Holding Unit while waiting for a re muster from Fighter Plotter (300 Signals Unit 2TAF) to Excavator Operator with the ACB.
In its final form, from 1st April 1994, it became HQ Personnel and Training Command, finally closing on 31 March 2008 when all RAF Records Office and other functions were transferred to RAF Cranwell.
The Innsworth site was then under the auspices of 43 ( Wessex ) Brigade, pending the arrival of Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.
The RAF Innsworth site was officially renamed Imjin Barracks at a special ceremony on Friday 21 November 2008.
The naming ceremony was a prelude to the occupation of the site by the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) Headquarters from April 2010."
If anyone has more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
No 15 School of Recruit Training: RAF Compton Bassett. Wilts.
One of the early Sof RTs and more information from members would be welcome. PGH.
RAF STRENGTHS 1957 - 1962.
We are indebted to Mr John F Hamlin in particular for the following extremely interesting tables of statistics:
This table illustrates the decline in numbers of both the National Service and Regular elements of the Royal Air Force and the relatively faster reduction in numbers of National Servicemen compared with the Regulars.
Date. Nat service. Regulars. Total % of Regulars.
1.4.57 (actual) 68700 153900 222600 30.86.
1.4.58 (Estimated) 46700 141300 188000 24.84.
1.4.59 (actual) 26500 142300 168800 15.70.
1.4.60 (Estimated) 18400 139400 157800 11.66.
1.4.61 (Actual) 13400 131800 145200 9.23.
1.4.62 (Estimate) 5400 128900 134300 4.02.
NATIONAL SERVICE NUMBERS.
Service No batch. Dates of allocation. Quantity. Remarks.
2340000 - 2599999 Jan 1947 - July 1953. 260,000 Non ATC.
2700000 - 2787999 July 1953 - Feb 1956. 88,000 Non ATC.
3100000 - 3156537** May 1947 - 1957 56,538 Ex ATC.
5010251 - 5010916 Feb 1956 - ? 666 Non ATC.
5010917 - 5012250** May 1956 - ? 1,334 Ex CCF(RAF).
5012251 - 5012999 May 1956 - Nov 1960 749 Non ATC
5013000 - 5082226 Feb 1956 - Nov 1960 69,227 Non ATC.
5090000 - 5099999 May 1957 - ? 10,000 Granted postponement.
5100000 - 5100357** Feb 1959 - ? 358 Ex CCF (RAF).
5190000 - 5194999 Jan 1957 - ? 5,000 Aircrew.
** denotes ex Air Training Corps or Combined Cadet Force (RAF) recruit.
Year Officers Airmen Total
GD Non GD Total Aircrew Ground Total
1949 350 43,166 43,516.
1950 14 352 366 5 52,148 52,153 52,519.
1951 10 246 256 47,206 47,206 47,462.
1952 14 442 456 39,356 39,356 39,812.
1953 36 250 286 36550 36,550 36,836.
1954 56 251 307 33,288 33,288 33,595.
1955 58 173 231 41,953 41,953 42,184.
1956 64 149 213 36,560 36,560 36,773.
1957 4 146 150 6 20,655 20,661 20,811.
1958 2 125 127 12.018 12,018 12,145.
1959 2 188 190 11,128 11.128 11,318.
1960 1 92 93 9,051 9,051 9,144.
1961 1 1 19 19 20.
Totals: 261 2,415 3,026 11 339,932 383,109 433.087.
1950s RAF humour.
We hear the barbers are going hiking next week..... it's a good job they know all the short cuts...
This camp is full of willing people - some willing to work, the rest willing to let them !!
In the NAAFI: pies like mother used to make 6d. pies like mother thought she made 1/6d !
A shoulder strap is a device for keeping an attraction from becoming a sensation .!...
Jealous Airman to girl friend: Who was that man I saw you with last night ? Girl friend: what time last night ?
Local paper advert: Will the Airman who took away the pony from the Kings Arms on Saturday night, please send for the trap OR return the pony; as one is of no use without the other !
The Sgt sent an Erk out on an urgent errand and shouted - use the bike. An hour later no airman until eventually he was seen pushing the bike back. when asked: what's up - puncture ?
No Sgt, I can't ride a bike !
Airman wearing battledress blouse and grey flannels was heard to say: "them lads by t'gate wi' goons is right niggly. They woant let tha in if tha's oot and when tha's in they woant let tha oot. Strikes me tha gets nowhere fast i' this place." !
Famous last words:
I'm not afraid of the S.W.O......
What do I do with this now I've pulled out this pin thing ?
Of course it's a dummy round !
Sweep it under the bed - he'll never notice !
National Service Aircrew:
Information supplied by, E. Phillips
I was one of a group of 9 National Service Cadet Air Gunners posted to West Kirby from Padgate for our Initial Training in July 1951. We started off on one *Course* for some weeks, then were sent off on leave for a few days. When we returned to the unit we were pushed forward onto another *Course* that was a week or so ahead of us. This was to get us through the WK training in time to get onto the next available Aircrew Training Course at the Central Gunnery School (RAF Leconfield). One lad failed the course at the CGS but the surviving eight of us gained our A.G. Brevets and were made up to Sergeants at a *Passing Out Parade* on Dec. 6th.
We went on to serve on Shackletons in Coastal Command - (after Radar, Sonics and Morse training at The Maritime Reconnaissance School and 236 OCU). We were then 'classified' as *Radar Gunners*. Other Coastal Command N/S Air Gunners served on Sunderland flying boats and on the Lancasters squadrons based in Malta. N/S Gunners also served with Bomber Command on Lincoln and Washington (B29) aircraft. The squadron I served on also had some N/S Signallers posted in later, in 1953.
I don't think many people realise that West Kirby trained lots of National Service Aircrew in the early 1950s. One of the courses that came after ours I am told, consisted of five N/S Aircrew Cadets who went on to become Air Engineers, the remaining seven members became Air Gunners.
* It is on record that in the period from April 1951 to March 1955 the Aircrew Selection Centre dealt with an intake of 13,818 National Service candidates. 5,964 were accepted; = 2,714 Pilots; 1,617 Navigators; 944 Signallers; 295 Engineers and 394 Air Gunners.
* Data published in the ACA magazine 'Intercom'. Summer 2000 Edition. (A contribution from Ray Bradley)
www.nsrafa.org / Gallery for cartoons
National Service.3133743 Wells K M.
Accepted for RAF, called up to
near Warrington, August 1951
This was our first intimation into how the other half lived, next hut was full of recruits from the rougher parts of Glasgow, fortunately given to fighting among themselves rather than with outsiders.
Issue of kit very much as depicted in "Carry on" Films without too much employment of checking fit. Most were sorted out on subsequent days, but any extremes of size meant that some recruits were without full uniforms for some time.
I volunteered for aircrew after lecture in camp cinema, and was accepted for interview on strength of School & National certificates, and membership of Air Training Corps at school (membership of ATC indicated by different series of service numbers).
There was a period of about 5 years when National Servicemen were accepted for Aircrew, as this was at the time of the Korean War (1950-53).
The government had reduced the size of the RAF considerably after the war, and were worried that they would be unable to meet war losses.
Those selected were predominately Bank employees, Draughtsmen, and management trainees, we were also 2- 4 years older than most conscripts, call up having been deferred because of further education study.
The selected candidates left Padgate for interview at the
Aircrew selection centre RAF Hornchuch
,travelling as a group through the Underground under a Flight Sergeant, and I was accepted for training as a Pilot.
Selected entrants were then sent to
near Sleaford Lincs for a 7 day course grading check which involved basic Aerodynamics and 12 hours flying in Tiger Moth aircraft. This was all dual, although one cadet, Ron Weller was allowed to go solo after showing exceptional promise.
We left Padgate immediately on return from Digby to travel to a 12 week ground course at
Kirton In Lindsey
in Lincolnshire. Our rank became Aircrew cadet, with a white flash worn in the hat, bit otherwise were treated as AC2. Apart from courses in Engines, Aerodynamics, Meteorology, etc., we were also given instructions on being officers and gentlemen. This included when to leave your visiting card and when to raise your hat. We were expected to wear hats when in civilian clothes.
Just before completing the course, one of the cadets who was an excellent mimic, broke into the Orderly room during the night, and imitating the usual Scots orderly corporal broadcast the usual reveille at 2-30 am, complete with usual station announcements. Almost the entire camp got out of bed before the hoax was realised.
On completion of the course we were promoted to Acting Pilot Officer.
My first flying posting was to
No 3 Basic Flying School, at Burnaston near Derby.
(Now the site of the Toyota factory). In those days it was a civilian run small grass airfield, with a small RAF detachment to instill military discipline in the form of drill and small arms training. The flying instructors were all civilians, and from the first we were treated as officers, with individual rooms in wooden huts, but with the main mess in Burnaston House, a small stately home on the edge of the Aerodrome. A civilian batman responsible for room cleaning and laundry collection was shared between six,
The unit was equipped with D H Chipmunk aircraft, fairly new at that stage, and still in use in the 1990s. They were very easy to fly, and most enjoyed the course.
The station also housed an RAFVR unit equipped with Percival Prentice aircraft, much slower than Chipmunks, and if following one on take-off, you had to wait until it cleared the airfield boundary before rolling, or you caught it up before leaving the circuit..
The RAF end was taken care of by a DI, a weapons instructor Sergeant, and the CO.
I successfully passed this course, and waited for posting to an advanced course
After completing the course at BFTS, I was posted to
No 8 Advanced Flying School (AFTS) at Dalcross,
near Inverness, now Inverness airport.
In typical RAF fashion, this was the school farthest from my home, the others were in the Midlands and Yorkshire.
The travel by train from London was a bit of a culture shock being an overnight 10 hour journey, and the first time most of us had been north of Padgate. We had not the money to book sleepers, pay having been 5/- day up to then.
The atmosphere on the courses was very good, although the students used a separate mess from the Staff, we were treated as officers, and dined with the staff on special occasions.
Some of the instructors were RAFVR, called up to replace other pilots posted to the Korean War
The Aircraft used were Airspeed Oxford Mk II, a twin engined trainer powered by two Armstrong Siddely Cheeta 7 cylinder radial engines. These were built from 1938-1946, some of the aircraft had single letter serial numbers which would indicate being over 10 years old.
The Oxford was very much more difficult to fly than the Chipmunk with retractable undercarriage, the complication of two engines and much heavier on the controls. They were not capable of aerobatics, and were not thought capable of recovery from a spin. Typical time to first solo was 9 hours,
My first solo was from
where I allowed the aircraft to veer off the runway into long grass before becoming airborne. .
This tended to indicate that I was not that good at flying Oxfords, but I did make some progress, although it was always a lottery whether I made a good landing or not.
Unfortunately I spent 10 days in camp sick bay with gastric flu just after first solo, and had to re-learn a considerable amount of things, leaving me behind the rest of the course
Because of my limited height I had an additional cushion fitted to my parachute harness, otherwise I could not apply full rudder, even with the rudder pedals fully adjusted. This meant that I had difficulty in pulling the control column fully back for 3 point landings.
Further training included use of an early form of blind landing system which gave an audio signal of Morse "A" to left of runway and Morse "N" to right. Correct approach gave a steady signal. These exercises were carried out wearing blue goggles, with amber screens fitted in the cockpit windows, the student could not see outside, but the instructor could.
Dalcross Aerodrome had two runways, the shorter one, used if the wind was NW. Approach to this runway was over the Inverness- Elgin railway line which was a few yards from the aerodrome boundary. This resulted in nervous train drivers braking hard if they thought an aircraft was coming in low. Most pilots therefore if they saw a train coming deliberately kept low. This resulted in an instruction to overshoot if a train was coming.
Prohibited flying areas included Cawdor Castle and Gordanstoun School, after complaints from the Thane of Cawdor that aircraft were flying past his bedroom windows.
Low flying was carried out in the hills to the south, we were not supposed to fly below 1000 feet, but as the land height was very variable, this was often ignored, once when I thought I was flying low up a highland valley, a Shackleton aircraft from Lossiemouth appeared out of a valley at right angles and passed underneath me. This did not improve my nerves. Another pastime was to dive on towns using maximum allowable engine revs, with metal propellers (some were wooden) the propellers produced a noise a bit like a dive bomber, and caused the local population to look up anxiously.
Eventually my instructor judged that my standard of flying was not good enough, and I had to take a check flight with the chief instructor which resulted in my being failed from the course.
There were two possible outcomes of failure, either to be transferred to training as a navigator or returned to ground duties as AC2, and sent to the dreaded Innsworth, and with limited National service time left, would probably have ended up in the kitchens. I was sent for interview at Group headquarters near Newark, and fortunately was accepted for Navigator training.
I was kept waiting about 3 weeks for a posting spent helping the Orderly room catch up on their paperwork. Helping out the orderly room part of the time was spent amending Queen Regulations and Air Council Instructions, the RAF Bible. The original QRs had been adapted from Army regulations sometime with hilarious results. An aircraft was thought the equivalent of a cavalry horse, and you were supposed to be not allowed to sleep more than so many yards from your aircraft.
Bishop's Court Air Navigation School.
,I was posted in September 1952 to
No 3 Air Navigation school at Bishop's Court near Downpatrick in County Down.
This was typical of the RAF. There were three Navigation schools operating at that time. One at Thorney Island, West Sussex, one at Hullavington, Wiltshire and Bishop's Court. Naturally, living in Sussex, Bishop's Court was the obvious posting !!!!.
Travel warrants were routed to Belfast via Heysham, and four of my fellow failures from Dalcross were on the train.
Arrival in Belfast was another culture shock, we had arrived in the middle of the Orange Order marching season, the band marching along the dockside were by chance playing "Sussex by the Sea" probably with different words
The atmosphere was very different from Dalcoss, the student navigators were treated as cadets rather than officers, and were in a separate mess from the instructors. Accommodation was in separate rooms in huts remote from the main mess building, We had to march the half mile to the airfield as a course group, controlled by a course senior man.
We were somewhat of an anachronism, as the other courses on the school were all regular volunteer entrants whereas we were, with one exception all National Service conscript entrants who had failed the Pilot's course.
We were generally technically educated to a higher standard than the other courses. With National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering I was one of the least qualified, the course of 12 included 3 people with science degrees, and two with arts degrees, when degrees were not common.
This led to some problems with instructors, as we had a different attitude to most students, not intending to make the RAF our career, and expecting to return to reasonably well paid jobs, and our sole object was to pass the course with the minimum of effort. RAF pay at that time was not generous, 12/6d per day plus 7/6d per day flying pay, this went up to 21/- per day on completion of the course, around £8 per week, and I was expecting to earn £11- £12 per week in a drawing office. Further, a full career in the RAF was not on offer, merely an initial four year engagement.
The navigation instructor expected to have to teach us basic trigonometry, in fact most of us had studied calculus. However, after a few days to establish rapport we generally had a very good relationship with the instructors. One of the course, known to all as "Trog" because of his Neanderthal skull shape often appeared to be asleep during lectures. This tended to annoy the lecturers, and they would snap out **what did I say Edgley**, he who would open one eye and repeat verbatim what had been said for the past five minutes. This did not endear him to some instructors, but he consistently turned in very high marks that they learned to live with it.
Flying training started with exercises in Valletta flying classrooms. This was a similar aircraft to the civil Vickers Viking and was fitted out with 12 navigators desks, with rear facing seats, to allow us to plot position using various navigational aids, and having the charts overseen by an instructor on the flight,
Early flights as Navigators in our own right were in Anson aircraft, which had very limited heating, so usual wear was two layers of flying suit over battledress uniform, sometimes with pajama trousers as well.
Later flights were in Vickers Varsity which had a much longer endurance. Crew was one or two staff pilots, dependent on duration and a signaller, with two student navigators.
Many of the station aircrew were Czechoslovakian or Polish refugees, who had come to Britain during the war to join the RAF, and stayed on afterwards. Staff Pilot on a navigation school was often the last posting before retirement from flying. My brother, 9 years older than me, who had served through most of the war, suffered the same downward path, His last flying post was on a communications flight
Training exercises using Varsity aircraft were usually about 4 1/2 hours duration, somewhat less if the pilot had a date that evening, as the Varsity would fly 40 knots faster than the recommended cruising speed.
The C/O had what we thought was a very good idea.
It was suggested that we should fly part of one exercise on Friday afternoon, and the remainder on Monday morning. The aircraft spending the weekend on the ground at one of the other Navigation Schools, in case of problems with the Varsitys, we carried several ground crew as well as the crew and students. This would allow Students and ground crew living a reasonable distance from either Hullavington or Thorney Island a chance to have a weekend at home, otherwise impossible from Northern Ireland. I was fortunate to draw a flight on the first weekend, after which the powers that be decided that this practice should be discontinued.
Navigational aids used included GEE and Rebecca developed during the war. Gee was very accurate in the UK, but I gathered less accurate at long range over Germany. In ground training we were given Gee signals as they would have been seen as jammed by the Germans.
Northern Ireland being fairly far north had short nights in summer, Whoever planned the exercises seemed to have forgotten that, and we were sent North of the North Scotland coast for Astro navigation, at 15,000ft there were no stars visible, so radar fixes were taken and converted into star altitudes. I was never very good with a sextant, and could rarely check position better than 5 miles even on the ground.
During the course I spent a few days in the military hospital in Belfast having an abscess removed, which resulted in my being behind-hand in flying hours. The military hospital was a very civilised place, at least for officers, as the diet included a daily dose of Guinness and Whisky.
As a way of making up time, I was drafted on to a flight to Istres in southern France to fly a spare nose wheel to an aircraft stranded there on a previous trip. On return the weather was bad at base, and we were diverted to RAF Lyneham, which upset the staff aircrew as they had acquired items liable to duty, and the customs at RAF Lyneham were much more strict than the Northern Irish customs.
The practice on normal arrival with Irish customs was for the Pilot to put a bottle of whisky on the counter, and the rest follow through without challenge. The Northern Irish Customs were normally called in from the nearest border post when we had an overseas flight.
On this flight the Pilot was Flt Lt Cermak, a very experienced pilot, one of the Czechs who had elected to stay in the RAF rather than return to a Communist Czechoslovakia. The worrying aspect was the argument for flight clearance that took place between our Pilot and a French Air Traffic Controller with both speaking very broken English with neither being able to understand the other.
The course continued, and included an overseas flight to Libya, at that time a monarchy under King Indris, having been largely (Cyrenaica) an Italian colony before the war.
airport was an RAF station and a refuelling stop on civil flights, which did not have the range to fly further, on their way to the far east. The RAF mess had as residents some of the largest cockroaches I have ever seen,
There was also a large
USAF base at Wheelus,
east of Tripoli.
The flight took 11 hours, including a refuelling stop at Istres near Marseilles, with one student acting as first navigator to Istre, and the second (me) being first Navigator from Istres to Tripoli.
The time spent at Istres was an education in the ways of the French air force. The rule in the RAF was that you should not drink alcohol within 12 hours of flying, in the French aircrew mess there was wine on the table for all meals, and the airmen on the refuelling bowser had Gaulloise cigarettes in their mouth during refuelling. Istres was a French research establishment, and we were interested to see trials unmanned ramjet aircraft mounted on launching trestles on the back of Junkers JU52 aircraft. The trials aircraft resembled the abandoned Miles M52 supersonic project.
During the latter part of the flight we heard a French air traffic controller warning us in very broken English that there was "Fire at Bizerta". This turned out to mean that we were flying close to a French army firing range on the Tunisian coast. A rapid change of course was necessary.
The Saturday was spent sight seeing in Tripoli with a meal in an Italian owned restaurant.
The course also included an 8 hour exercise to simulate a coastal command sortie, being a flight at 1500 ft largely out of sight of land, using drift sights and radio bearings only. We did come near enough to land up the Channel to enable me to log Brighton Palace Pier as a visual point to take astro compass bearings.
On completion of the course, and gaining my Navigators brevet, and full commissioned rank I was sent home on indefinite leave, as there were only 3 1/2 weeks to the end of my national service I assumed that I would not be recalled until it was time for release.
The RAF knew better, and after a few days my parents received a telegram recalling me from leave, to find that I had been posted to probably the farthest RAF station in the British Isles,
RAF Cluntoe, near Cookstown in Northern Island
as **Supernumerary Officer** meaning that they did not have a real job for me.
When I arrived, there was another unfortunate in the same position, compounded by the fact that we had been recalled a day too early, there was no one on the station apart from the Orderly officer, a limited mess staff and a few military police. We therefore had the mess staff open the bar, and settled down for a long wait, enlivened by finding a donkey had wandered on to the airfield. The animal was taken to the mess, fed on copious amounts of Guinness and handed over to the Military Police somewhat unsteady on it's feet.
This was a new station, still equipped with propeller driven Provost trainers, but with nothing for a newly qualified Navigator to do.
I spent two weeks carrying out an inventory check on the Officers mess equipment. The station was newly opened, and there was no inventory.
At the end of the three weeks, I was de-mobbed, and never wore RAF uniform again, although I was theoretically in the RAFVR for 5 years, the RAFVR had been virtually closed down by the government.
National service gave me an interesting time, there was very little slack time on the courses, with regular tests, The main snag for me was that I did not keep up my mechanical engineering studies and had a harder time when I returned to Technical College.
I had a better standard of living than most National Service RAF recruits, and after Kirton in Lindsey, better pay. Pay was paid into the RAF bankers at Lloyds or Coxes and Kings, and we had to pay mess bills at the end of each month, but I would not think drinks prices were much higher than NAAFI ones, although we had to pay for laundry.