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Continuing the memories of Plt. Off. Grenville Williams 3122758 from 1951 - 1952.
The duties of taking drill and lecturing soon became rather tedious and repetitive and I was therefore glad when the C.O. called me in to say I was to be responsible for the fire safety of the camp as a subsidiary duty. I was sent off to Sutton-on-Hull for fire-fighting training and returned after a fortnight's course to take up this new responsibility. There was only one snag; I couldn't, even in an emergency, drive the fire tender. The Warrant Officer who had been running the fire section (W.O. Crabtree) decided to do something about it and took me in the Austin 2-ton fire tender into one of the empty hangars and there I learnt to double-de-clutch the crash gearbox and drive the vehicle. On one occasion the following winter when I needed to drive the tender and trailer-pump, we slid on the snowy road and clipped a corner. This resulted in the bell working loose and clanging! I soon stopped it and hoped no-one had noticed! There were very few fires on camp - mainly chimney fires, the occasional kitchen flare-up and a boiler fire. When a furniture van was reported to be on fire on Hermitage Hill we prepared to go to its aid but were forbidden to take the tender and pump off camp, and so had to leave it to the civilian brigade (who arrived a good deal later on).
The Fire Section at Bridgnorth was also responsible for fire safety at the radar unit on Clee Hill and this gave us a good excuse for an occasional day out. We usually took a 3-ton truck with various bits of equipment and spent the day checking and servicing the fire appliances there. It was only a small unit and the C.O. was a Flying Officer! The combined Officers'/Sergeants' Mess actually produced some really good meals. To get there we had to go through the quaint village of Cleobury Mortimer and on one of our return journeys we stopped off there to pay a visit to the village blacksmith whose forge was still in active use. I believe it closed soon afterwards so I am glad we had the chance to see it in action.
Remembering evenings with virtually nothing to do at Wilmslow I thought it would be a good idea to get a photographic club going at Bridgnorth; the Admin Wing Commander (W/C Watson) agreed to allocate £100 from PSI funds to purchase equipment, and gave me a hut in 4 wing to use. I went into Wolverhampton to buy an enlarger and all the dishes etc needed for developing films and prints (all black-and-white in those days). The photographic club became fairly popular among amateur photographer recruits - and permanent staff. Quite often on clubnights (due to start at 7.30pm) I would arrive to open up at 6.45pm and find a small queue of men hoping to get in for a session on the enlarger. An offshoot of this development was that I was requested to go and see the C.O. (Gp.Capt. Read) who said that he would be prepared to purchase a good camera if I could use it to photograph special events such as street-lining in London and receiving the Freedom of Bridgnorth. This meant that sometimes instead of having to be smartly turned-out on parade I could go to an event in plain clothes and shin up lampposts etc to try and get good shots of the occasion. At the end of my time at Bridgnorth I dutifully handed in the Super Ikonta camera and all the 'official' photographs I had taken while there - and I now regret that I didn't have the sense to keep some copies of the prints.
Several of the young officers thought it was a good opportunity for them to buy their first means of transport; Ron Hinings and David Baker (from the Education Section) each bought a motor-bike (I think David's was a Royal Enfield 125 and Ron's a BSA 350) and Geoff Perry got hold of a Morgan three-wheeler. I had brought my bicycle up from Croydon by train and saw an advertisement for a new mini-motor that could be fitted above and drive directly on to the rear wheel of a bicycle. Next time I was in Bridgnorth I went in to Curwen's to see an example of this new gadget made by Trojan; they had one and said that it would go for something like 100 miles on a gallon of petrol which seemed a very economical way of travelling. So I ordered one and the following week it was duly fitted to my bike. On the level it went reasonably well but I had not allowed for the Shropshire countryside being so hilly - the machine was just not up to getting me up Hermitage Hill without some pedal assistance. The motor was most unreliable and would pack up in mid-ride if the sparking-plug had got oiled up (which it often did). Twice the rear tyre exploded, not having been able to take the strain of the main drive. In the end the motor only lasted just over a year and I then got Curwen's to take it off and restore the bicycle to normal. It's funny how one remembers odd numbers such as one's service number - the registration number of my bike during its motorised days was GNT 471.
A new NCO was posted in to the Fire Section - Sgt. Littlewood. He soon fitted in with the small fire team, and I also discovered that his hobby was model railways. This prompted the thought that we might be able to start up a model railway club on similar lines to the photographic club; Wg Cdr Watson liked the idea and allocated us another hut in 4 wing to be the clubroom. Before long some 00 track had been laid on trestle tables and the basis formed for a working model railway layout. I was unfortunately not able to follow up the progress of this club, for a week or so later I was diagnosed as having contracted scarlet fever and had to spend 6 weeks in Isolation Hospital and then on sick leave before returning to complete my last 5 months' service prior to de-mob.
One incident in April 1951 must have been quite amusing for anyone who saw it; I had been about to take a photograph of Geoff Parker-Sutton's new motor bike when I remembered that I was supposed to be on a Guard of Honour rehearsal. I stuffed my 'Daily Telegraph' down my battle-dress jacket and nipped down to 'D' Squadron just in time to fall in. We marched round by 1 Wing and the M.T. section to SHQ and back, and unknown to me my 'Daily Telegraph' had slipped down a little below my jacket and there was apparently a white triangle showing for the latter part of the parade - as I was later told with glee by my 'friends'!
The station held an entertainment evening in May 1951. Each wing was required to put on a show of some sort and the best entry would receive an award. For 2 Wing's entry we decided to put on a series of comedy/musical turns. We had some talent on the flights then in including a trumpeter, a mouth-accordionist, Cpl.Anderson on the trombone playing 'Margie' accompanied by A/C McClure on the piano and some good comics including Sgt.Lynch as 'Sid'. On the day of the show we had a final rehearsal in the NAAFI and then went down to set up in the Gym where the show was being held only to find that 1 Wing had tried to sabotage our entry by locking the piano! We managed to get it open - and afterwards the C.O. announced that 2 Wing were the winners.
To get home for the occasional '48' one started off walking across the camp and behind the married quarters along a footpath leading to the Wolverhampton Road in order to catch the No.17 W.C.T. bus; this was quite a long walk and not very welcome in wet weather. The alternative was to take the local bus run by Foxalls from the camp gates into Bridgnorth and then catch the No.17 into Wolverhampton there.
The more junior officers were accommodated in a wooden hut in 4 wing- much the same as occupied by recruits - but we tried to make them a bit more comfortable and towards the end of my time there it was a nice touch that we found a pigeon had adopted our hut as his roost; so we put various crumbs out for him and named him 'Fred' - he became our mascot!
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