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Page 4 - Stories and memories of your time at RAF Bridgnorth.
Write and submit your memories here.
Mike Elliott 5017516 from 1956, says that "I arrived at Bridgnorth at the age of 21 as I was deferred being an apprenticed electrician. About half way through my basic training was enjoying a bite to eat with my fellow conscripts in town and in a loud voice, was telling all and sundry what I thought of the drill instructors, when a few blokes sitting close by advised me that they were DI's and they would be looking out for me the following morning. AND THEY DID!
Remember during firearms practice, someone jumped up with a fully loaded bren gun set on auto crying out that his gun had jammed while he pointed it at all and sundry.
Discovered just before being shipped out to RAF Weeton to train as an aircraft engine mechanic, (I had just served a 5 year apprenticeship as an electrician) that my group photo had been nicked, that really upset me."
Graham Livingstone 2751971 from 1955, says that he "will always remember our D.I. Cpl Sharpe. When we passed out around Whitsun, we could not go on leave due to national rail strike. We were put into trucks and sent off to our trade training units. In my case this was RAF Yatesbury until late Sept."
James Rigby 3512972 from 1952, says that "although I was ex ATC and was familiar with foot and rifle drill, Bridgnorth was quite a shock. After the initial time spent at Cardington, signing on and kitting out etc. I eventually found myself travelling to Wolverhampton by train to be met by camp buses and finally arriving at Bridgnorth.
All the lads in our flight were encouraged to visit the NAAFI to purchase writing materials to send letters home to our folk.
TABT jabs were dreaded by most of us, some being braver than others. Several of us in hut 77 developed high temperatures and were confined to bed for about 24hrs by the M.O.
I remember pay parades well, our weekly pay for 3yr regulars was about £3:0:0d in old money but credits were deducted.
Our D.I. Cpl Roberts was a strict disciplinarian whose task was to turn our flight from rookies into a well co-ordinated team. If one cooperated and showed enthusiasm he was very helpful and extremely fair with us.
Towards the end of our course, air experience flights were given from Cosford to a selected few in a Dakota aircraft.
I must say as a whole I did enjoy my spell at Bridgnorth in No 8 flight, incidentally the station C.O. at that time was Wg/Cdr A. Brown.
Some time in the near future I plan to visit the site of the camp ie country park."
The photograph James sent is listed as '1952 - Hut 77, 8 Flt'
Raymond 'Hoppy' Hopkins 4253756 from 1959, says "I had eight weeks basic training in Bridgnorth in 1959 and thoroughly enjoyed it all, though there were moments when I wasn't too sure.
I lived in Hut 23, A flight, (assuming memory doesn't play me false) Corporal Oaten was one who was in charge of us, a decent and humane man, doing a very difficult job. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of our Sergeant, but I do recall that he used to sing "I'm Just a Lonely Boy" whenever he was happy. After winning the drill competition, we played the record on the juke box especially for him. Mind, it was a close run thing, as the officer conducting the Drill Competition forgot to give an essential order and we ended up in the wrong place, some of us being unable to pick up our arms, as where they should have been was only empty parade ground. No matter, the officer gave us extra orders which we hadn't rehearsed, naturally, brought us back to the correct place and all ended well.
Yes, we had one in the billet who never learned to march and yes, there were sounds of tears on the first night from several beds, sounds which were never mentioned by anyone.
We had an ex Irish Guardsman with us, starting again in the RAF and he used to give us good advice, as well as extra drill practice at a speed we could follow, a practice which was much appreciated.
Maybe I was lucky, but I never found any of the drill NCO's to be anything but reasonable men. Hard, certainly, but not unreasonable. Mind, after five years apprenticeship in civilian life previously, I knew a thing or two about unreasonable men!
Would I do it all again? Probably not, but it was an experience I'm quite happy to have had."
Ken Moulds 2786325 from 1956, says "I remember our D.I. Cpl Morton (at that time thought it began with a 'B') If he is still around, I would like to shake his hand."
The four photographs Ken sent are listed as '1956 - Mould's Flt' and '1956 - Mould's Collection'
Terry Davies X4260054 from 1960, says he remembers "the times I dropped my irons in the hot water trough and the time spent waiting to retrieve them. The money spent in the N.A.A.F.I. shop replacing my mugs which being chipped, were being constantly smashed by the Flt D.I. At least I didn't spend any time in the cookhouse grease room. But the heavenly day that a bighead P.T.I. got a pasting in the gym's boxing booth, by picking on a wrong bloke. It transpired that he was a Taff and an amatuer boxer. GREAT DAY!!"
The photographs Terry sent are listed as '1960 - Hut 36, 1 Flt' and '1960 - 1 Flt 'A' Sqd'
Tommy Cullen 5063652 from 1959, says "I will always remember my reaction to the Jabs, they pole axed me. I also remember how well we were cared for by our instructors."
Tony Perrett 4056745 from 1951, remembers being "bitterly cold, coal rationing, Sally Anne Stickman on gaurd duty."
Vincent Smith 5069676 from 1959, remembers that "I spent my time at Bridgnorth playing Euphonium with the band after being forcibly volunteered due to my declared hobbies. I have been reminded by a still close friend Alan Rawlings who is also listed on this site that we were in 33 Flt D Sqd and placed in Hut 260. Although I had no choice about the band but I soon realised the advantages involved, no R & I, no gas, no passout drill. We also did some detachments with other Station bands for Wing Parades, a Funeral of a long service Flt. Srg at RAF Halton and an Aoc\s parade at RAF Wilmslow where four of us nearly landed a mutiny charge, I wonder if anybody remembers that."
The photographs Vin sent are listed as '1959 - Hut 260, 33 Flt' and '1959 - 33 Flt 'D' Sqd'
Bernard Morton 2391592 from 1948, remembers "Sergeant Venables telling us about the "Noo broom in the Latrines" also the same man addressing me as "You wots in the Band and wears glasses." The only other NCO I can remember was the D.I. Corporal (Benny) Lynch who was a really decent type.
Our flight got the week end pass several times during the 8 weeks for having the best Billet.
I also remember being just about the worst shot on 3.3 rifles ever seen at Bridgnorth (or so I was told.)"
Stacey Simkins from 1943, says that "from there (Lord's Cricket Ground) we went on to Bridgnorth which was an ITW, Initial Training Wing, where we were taught discipline - mainly marching and how to behave yourself, although we didn't all the time.
One hilarious episode concerned the Orderly Officer and the Orderly Sergeant, which they have in all Services. The Sergeant comes into the Mess Hall while everybody's eating and calls out: "Orderly Officer - any complaints?!" - and if anybody dares to say anything, they say it. On this particular occasion, we all looked up but carried on eating and the Orderly Officer - a First World War Flight Lieutenant - went a bit spare: "You come here to learn discipline and that is not discipline! What you have to do when the Orderly Sergeant says "Any complaints?" - you all sit up to attention and put your knives and forks down. And not only that, you put them down in an orderly fashion and as you put one down you say "one" then "pause" then "two" and you put the other one down. So we'll start again."
So they both went out and came in again and the Sergeant said "Orderly Officer - any complaints?" we all had to sit there and as we put the cutlery down shout "ONE - PAUSE -TWO" - which we thought was right stupid but still, there we are!
We were only there about four weeks before we got posted to Yatesbury, which was the wireless school."
Geoffrey Pallett 4261739 from 1960, says that "I was totally unfit when I joined, thought I would join to widen my horizons, certainly did that and made many friends.
I remember when Cpl Henderson who seemingly was cross eyed, called me out and three others walked out also. He singled me out and gave me sixpence to fetch him a drink from the NAAFI, I promptly did this and doubled back only to be offered another sixpence, I told the Cpl "It's no bother Cpl, anything for you." To which he replied "It's not for you, you idiot. Fetch me another one at the double." That is when I grew up.
When we gave blood, I fainted later and was admitted to Sick Quarters. Also the innoculations were done by one needle, that is, it wasn't changed between recruits. I was fit and a man. It was so good to have a proper bath, not like at home in a tin one hanging up outside on the garden wall at home.
I remember the constant playing of the Elvis record 'It's now or never' when we were bulling our kit, night after night, I still love the record.
It was so sad when all in the billet said goodbye and went our seperate ways. But yes I was a man and very fit. Thank you RAF. Still ironing my trousers three times a week."
The photographs Geoffrey sent are listed as '1960 - Hut 206, 18 Flt' and '1960 - 18 Flt 'B' Sqd in Oct'
John Harrison 5051505 from 1957, says that it was "frighening at first but good after the best doughnuts from the NAAFI wagon I have ever tasted. Can any one tell me the name of our D.I.? What ever happened to AC Kessac?"
Brian Allinson F4260122 from 1960, says that "square bashing was tough, but I enjoyed every minute once the Fear at the start had gone. Had an excellent DI in Cpl Nolan (think that was his name) who if I remember was a professional singer with one of the big Dance Bands. Did the Battle of Britain Parade in Manchester when whilst marching along Dean Road my Lee Enfield broke in two leaving the stock in my hand and the barrel etc. swinging behind me, Sarg was not pleased even though I remember him saying when doing rifle drill "Hit the "B" thing and make it talk" "If you break it, I'll buy you another" - he didn't keep his promise!!"
The photographs Brian sent are listed as '1960 - Hut 22, 3 Flt' and '1960 - 3 Flt 'A' Sqd'
Bryan Peaker 5091017 from 1959, says that his "Basic training was spent making tea and painting inventory No's on toilet doors."
Jim Ware 2694716 from 1960, asks "do you remember our long run with little Hitler, our Drill Sergeant went balistic with him for taking us around the camp, we were half dead and useless so we had a 15 minute break."
Joe Buhagiar 5081697 from 1960, says that "when the Corporal was given everyone their rifles and he missed giving me one and I asked why I was not given a gun and of course I ended cleaning the ablusions for a few days. Everytime we were on parade he used to stop the march and make me say that it is a rifle and not a gun!!!!"
The photograph Joe sent is listed as '1960 - Hut 173, 18 Flt'
Michael Mayers 4255062 from 1959, says "anybody from my intake, give me a bell, I am in touch with Brian Saunders. He is the only one out of 60 to get in touch, just the two of us; (I am I and he is him!!) Our Cpl. was Piggit, did he chase us around. I would love to hear from Eddie Edwards who was posted with me to Nicosia, as well as anyone else."
Alan Rawlings 5069697 from 1959, says that "I remember the initative and realibilty test and being dropped off the back of a lorry and being told to find your way back to camp in 3 days. Also I can remember the route march with full pack in very hot weather.
I was at Bridgnorth from June to Aug 1959. I was in 33 Flt 'D' Sqd. I believe it was Hut 260 but unfortunately I haven't got any photos etc but I remember our drill N.C.O. Sgt Collier and Cpl Kippen and Cpl Stewart. Flt Sgt was Eastwood. Sqd C.O. was Sqd Ldr Nowrakowski."
Ken Peck 4162912 from 1955, says that it was a "dreadfully, dreadfully cold winter. I was recruited in Coventry 7/1/1955 as 3-year regular. January and February of 1955 were so bitterly cold at Bridgnorth - that water froze solid in the drinking mug you left on your bed-side locker overnight. There was only a stove to heat the billet - which was never allowed to burn during the night times as we were inspected first thing every morning. And it was 'blacked and polished every day.
Added to the weather was the other short, sharp shocks - but not at all short!! Such severe discipline was alien to us all. Marching everywhere (even just two of you going out to the NAAFI - if you had time!)
I took several group photos of my flight and sold them to the boys. I have left one in the archive library. Food was dreadful. No sugar anywhere. All recruits craved for sweet things - but most of us had no cash spare."
The photograph Ken previously sent is listed as '1955 - Jan/Feb'
Keith Nurse 5061134 from 1958, says that it was "character moulding - well, character revealing would be more accurate. Extraordinary experience - never to be forgotten; perhaps never to be repeated willingly, that is......
I have written a subjective reflection on the times and era on entering RAF Cardington for Mature Times newspaper, published Feb this year 2007."
The photograph Keith sent is listed as '1958 - 30 Flt 'C' Sqd'
Bill Forster 5069965 from 1959, says "our DI was Cpl Bell, all of six foot tall and all muscle. He met us on our arrival from the station at the hut door in his swimming trunks, hands on hips and roaring to us to get out of the transport. NO ONE IGNORED HIM. Having said that we all got to respect him during our stay under his command. I saw him after my demob on ITV as a professional wrestler.
My time at Bridgnorth was in the height of a really hot summer (1959) As such our drill training was always in shirt sleve order. Cpl Bell (a giant of a man and all muscle) had us on the drill square one breezy day, instructing us in the art of changing arms with our baynets fixed! Prior to the command - Change arms - my tie had pulled out of my trouser waist band and as it was a windy day my pig sticker baynet went straight thro my tie and almost strangled me. Fortunately I managed to remove the tie from the bayonet with out him noticing."
John Molyneux 5025546 from 1956, says "The worst weeks of my life - the Suez crisis was on and much time was spent doing funeral drill. What confidence the Government had in it's armed forces!"
Walter Bourne 2454618 from 1949 - 1950, says that "I served under a Sgt Weraty - can't remember any more details other than he had served during the war in Malaya. Can't remember my hut number but a great bunch of guys including one who played bassoon in the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra as it was known then - now the Bournemouth Symphone Orch. I played in the Station band during my eight weeks (I think it was eight, may have been longer!!) square bashing there, I was a trombonist. I have a photo of some of our hut/squad - one guy we called Taffy and another Lofty is all I can recall."
Walter has since added these further memories;
"Is there anyone still on Planet Earth who would have been at RAF Bridgnorth when I was? I was in a hut with a number of ex-Boy Entrants, one, a Frenchman named Michel Tuck, a lovely bloke, and another who had been a (*+"!*$!) Sgt Boy Entrant, name of Stafford. He was fine with us National Service guys but had been somewhat 'unkind' to fellow Boy Entrants, and they sure as hell let him know it too!! Oh! just remembered, there was also a chap who played bassoon in the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, he too was in the station band." Please get in touch if you have any fast fading memories of those days we really enjoyed so much!
'Mac' Ross Mackenzie 4269361 from 1961, says he has memories of "Bedpacks! A new china mug to buy in Stores almost every week after a sadistic DI had smashed the old one. Getting a Marksman badge - and an extra seven Shillings a week! A loan Baron! Sifting coke buckets for dog ends. Scrubbing lino with paraffin! Painting anything immovable white! Finding a brass Kings cap badge instead of the plastic Queens badge issued and hiding it from the DI Gestapo.
Sorting out the out-of-control local yobs one Friday night as a combined RAF and local Police-approved military operation. (That was fun - and it worked. We could do no wrong as far as the civilian population was concerned after that night!)
Scrumpy anaesthetic at the Labour Club. The blizzards that cut off the camp for nearly a fortnight from one New Year's Eve - 62/63? Coke-stealing forays to try to stay warm in our hut. Scrubbing a lad from Glasgow who refused to bathe or shower. Learning what the '252', "Left, Right... Off Caps!" routine meant! My first leave pass to go to a local Dance - and it's excellent climax! (My first real one!) Queuing as an 'M'-initial for hours in a freezing open shed to receive my weekly pittance in cash. Bulling boots, brass and webbing for hours on end. The stench of Brasso and hot boot polish. Cooking my beret in boiling water, the icy water, to shrink it to fit. Wearing it, still sodden, on parade. Constant threats, bullying and abuse from the DI's.
Oh, what a lovely day it was when the Passing Out Parade was over! I went on to thoroughly enjoy seven years all over the World with the "real" RAF - until Mr Wilson shut down our overseas bases."
Richard Hathaway P4265092 from 1961, says that "Yes, those were the formidable days at Bridgnorth, thought I'd arrived at a concentration camp. The first sight I got of RAF Bridgnorth was coming along the Wolverhampton road and I thought God what have I let myself in for, it was even worse after getting off the bus and getting shouted at by one of the D.I's from reception squadron. After processing through reception Sqd, I went with many others to B squadron, the bull drill, etc was hard at the time, but made one self sufficient for the years of work ahead. I look upon this time at Bridgnorth with lots of memories. I spent rather a lot of time whilst at Bridgnorth working in B squadron, helping to catch up on many months of incomplete records and paperwork, regarding recruits records. Squarebashing, passing out parade and of course the gdt,gsn exams, seem to disappear into the mists of time. I only wish, now at the time of retirement, that I could contact some of those buddies of those memorable but hard times.
On finishing recruit training I spent approximately a month in transit flight, what a contrast being there compared with training, totally different world. Also then spent time working with D.I's of reception squadron, who appeared now being on the other side of the fence to be quite human.
I went to Bridgnorth RAF Stn site some years ago, when it was in transition to becoming a business park. Some of the old roads, gym, mt are still there, but reclad. Some of the old parade squares were still in existence, but covered in weeds and rubbish, if you remember in those long distant recruit training days, the parade square was forbidden territory. On my visit to the old site, it brought a tear to the eyes, bringing back many memories, but by God it didn't do us any harm did it? Very memorable days, you never forget them."
Robin Brooks 3155611 from 1960, says that "I was in the Station band playing drums. There was a photo taken of the band outside the hut. My drill instructor was a Corporal Thomas and I remember travelling on the train from Cardington when he came down and asked if there were any sportsman, ex ATC or musicians in our intake. I was all three!!
I played the piano in a restrauant in Bridgnorth called 'The Rib Room' on Wednesday evenings for all my time at the Station. That way I could earn a little extra. No doubt the restrauant has now gone."
Comment by Webmaster - Yes, the Rib Room has long gone.
Peter Hogben 4239065 from 1958, says that "the thing I find surprising here is that so many say they enjoyed it. I only enjoyed the day I was leaving. I hated the drill Sgt so much I remember his name and face (and still do) in the hope I would meet him again. Didn't though. I understand the assumed need to dehumanise people but objected to it at the time, perhaps because I was bought up in a Military town and saw others treated in the same way."
Ronald Trainer C4265442 from 1961, says that "on our days out camping, we got lost and took the wrong road, ended up catching a wee rabbit and got back to camp very late but we marched back to camp with a swager. Much to the anger of the Sarg."
Dave Ankers S4256839 from 1960, asks "does anybody have information on what to happened Cpls Fagg, Honnor or Cpls Dicksen. Have happy memories of the eights weeks training. Would like to hear from anybody who was in 21 Flight at the time Feb-Apr 1960."
Owen Glyn Davies 4129625 from 1953, says that "they sent us from RAF Cardington, a very nice place. Until we landed at the railway-station at Bridgnorth. That was wake up time. Learn your right from your left and off course your given Service No. Never to be forgotten. But they turned us boys into young men. Worst was to come - for me anyway - for I joined the RAF Regiment - went to Dumfries for 8 weeks - oh boy that was hard but can't have been that bad, for I went on to do 12 yrs. Them were the days."
Jack Henderson 2431277 from 1949, says that Bridgnorth was "eight hard weeks, but well worth it - never felt fitter. I received the award for best all-round recruit. Bridgnorth is a lovely town with great surrounding countryside. Still remember it well - almost sixty years on!"
The photographs Jack sent are listed as '1949 - 3 Flt, 1 Wing' and '1949 - Henderson's hut'
Tony Jackson 2785468 from 1956, says that "my recollection is of the cold weather - being thankful for the ill-fitting uniform and even for the daily drills to keep warm. We used to march to the Mess in a squad, holding our eating irons and mugs in our left hands behind our backs. The food wasn't too bad; one became used to fried eggs looking and tasting like plastic. One lunch rabbit stew was appetising enough until I found a (rabbit's) eye, c/w eyeball in it; I've not eaten rabbit knowingly since ! The fatuous question of "Any complaints?" from the Orderly Officer with his NCO minder (more experienced and to discourage frivolous comments) and the occasional wit who tried to score a laugh from his mates, rather than actual redress of any serious complaint. The disgusting steam-injected tanks of scalding hot water at the exit from the Mess in which we dunked our eating/drinking utensils - presumably to clean them - any self-respecting bugs avoided the temptation to lurk in those unfriendly waters - but we survived healthily with no established incidences of food poisoning attributed to this source.
Not as much bull as pre-warned by army mates (what should they know?), but the sanctity of the polished brown lino floor of the hut, not to be sullied by boots or shoes in contact with it - walked upon only via floor pads, was preserved at all times. Dropping everything and standing to attention when "NCO/Officer present!" shouted in the billet. To this day I know of no reason why hand basin/bath plugs were absent from every ablutions block (not only at Bridgnorth) so that a universal plug was an essential part of one's toilet kit.
First weekend pass home (after 5? weeks) when my chances of chatting-up the ladies at the local Saturday night hop were curtailed by my temporary loss of voice as a delayed result of exposure the day before to alleged tear gas in the gas chamber.
The mark left by the collar-stud below the Adam's Apple, brought about by shirt shrinkage in the RAF bag-wash laundry facilities - a sure give-away sign of an RAF (National) Serviceman.
No recollection of guard duties, but unforgettable cookhouse fatigues in the dreaded Tin Room, with greasy pans and implements occupying a complete Saturday.
I didn't and still don't understand the thinking behind R & I (Reliability & Initiative, then), involving an overnight bivouac in nearby woods, with a couple of groundsheets and blankets to provide comfort, but I suppose it kept us out of mischief.
Pay Parades hardly merited the effort - NS AC2's daily pay of 4 shillings (20p), which after deductions for Barrack Room Damages and the RAF Benevolent Fund, reduced to 25 shillings (£1.25) per week; the unexplained quirk of being paid only in an even number of shillings - 26 (£1.30) one week and 24 (£1.20) the next. Better than the FFI parades, though, and less painful than the mass jabs administered in the sick bay with allegedly one needle per Flight.
Our being pulled apart and then put back together again by the System; the picturesque turn-of-phrase of the DIs; hut banter; comradeship and being taught respect, not only for others and their property, but also respect for oneself - all at an impressionable age were all aspects of my two-years-and-a-day (1956 was a Leap Year) National Service, which I believe has served me well in subsequent life. Not necessarily the best time of my life, but I certainly don't regret it."
The photographs Tony sent are listed as '1956 - Hut 87, 15 Flt' and '1956 - 15 Flt, 'B' Sqd'
Pete Evans 5100331 from 1960, can remember "Sgt Saunders, on letting everyone out on the first weekend, turning everyone back at the Guardroom. He later declared, in his best Cockney accent, " you have abused the privileges wot I have gave you" !!
One of the billet mates scrubbing his webbing and putting them on the stove to dry overnight. In the morning the webbing was just ash and the brasses tinkled to the floor. Total panic.
Whilst on "key orderly" duty, carrying 5 gallons of something for what seemed miles, only to be told on reaching the destination that it was the wrong stuff and to take it back!."
The Daughter-in-law of Albert Robertson from 1953-1959, says that "I am Albert's daughter-in-law and would like to hear from anyone who knew him. My husband was 15 years old when he last saw his dad as his parents divorced. Albert died in London in 1969. We were informed by his family that he was very ill and arranged to visit him but on the morning we were to travel, the fog was like pea soup. He died shortly after and my husband has always regretted not being able to see his dad before he died. It would be good to hear from anyone who knew Albert."
Malcolm Porter N4258451 from 1960, says that he has "too many memories but high on the list is the wonderful sunny weather we had. I recall NEVER having to don the greatcoat. Bridgnorth was the first big adventure for me. I had rarely been away from home and having some unknown individual shout and bawl in my left ear, was a rude awakening! Befriended by a guy in the next hut (461 Sharwood) I spent several weekends in Worcester.
The final passing out parade was followed by the thrill of 'postings'. As a (rare) Surface Movements Clerk, I was told that I was to go to RAF Kidbrooke. When I asked where Kidbrooke was, I was told that no-one knew! (In fact it was in South London near to Blackheath)
One last memory is the snarling, spitting hot water tank that was used outside the Mess to clean 'ones irons'- where was the Health and Safety Man in those (happy) days."
The photograph Malcolm sent is listed as '1960 - Hut 162, 28 Flt'
Alan Harris 4086878 from 1950, says that "Bridgnorth had the same temperature as the North Pole and not enough coke for the billet fire. But had great times down High Town."
Paul Curtis from 1959-1960, says that "I was selected to go on the Guard of Honour in Bridgnorth for the presentation of the Coat of Arms for the Borough of Bridgnorth - so I quite enjoyed drill practice. Looking back - I enjoyed the time at Bridgnorth."
Gareth Roberts 5053942 from 1957, says that "it was mentioned by the BBC as the coldest place in Britain when I was there. I remember arriving from RAF Cardington at Bridgnorth station with hundreds of other sprogs and waiting for transport to the camp. We arrived in semi darkness but we could see the camp was immaculate. As we got off the bus, we heard a voice screaming at us from the bottom of the parade square. From then on we were sceamed at from the time we rose to the time we got to sleep. If the DI came into the billet when we were asleep, whoever saw him first had to shout out 'NCO present' and we all had to jump out of bed and stand to attenion while he swaggered past with a smirk on his face. They were horrible pigs but they managed to get us into shape for the passing out parade. I don't regret one minute of it."
Bob Castor 27449738? from 1953, says that "Oakley was the name of the Instructor and as normal every one was scared of him."
George Wood 5056449 from 1958, remembers "arriving at Bridgnorth about Jan 17th 1958. Freezing cold, first real memory was of the Manchester United Munich disaster.
However, during week 1, I owned up to being a clarinet player and was immediately given a 48 hour pass to go home to Sandbach and collect said instrument. Oh what joy, a taste of sanity for 2 days. Anyway, on joining the band I was told by our drill Corporal (Corporal Draper) who had a single room attached to the end of our hut, that because I had joined the band, I would find life CUSHY - BLOODY CUSHY (his words) but that my bedspace would be twice as clean and shiny as anyone elses.
He was as good as his word, but being a National Serviceman and not as we called the regulars THICK, I got my own back. Corporal Draper (where are you now ?) wanted to learn to play the clarinet so I taught him a few basics, but with the mouthpiece upside down, so that the reed vibrated against his upper teeth. He never realised that I was setting him up and soon gave up the idea of becoming Corporal Benny Goodman. Happy days ??
Banding was good fun but carried extra bull in as much that lanyards and extra uniform bits and pieces were worn and all had to be bright/shiny and white. Anyone else remember those days in 1958 at the bandroom on Bridgnorth, when the brass players had to get out their cigarette lighters or matches to thaw out the valves and slides on their instruments that had been left in the freezing band hut overnight. Thanks also to the Salvation Army Red Shield Club. Many bandsmen were Salvationists and spent spare time working in the Red Shield Club, so as a banding colleague I got many a free bun and cuppa.
Our bandmaster was Warrant Officer Denzil Stephens who has subsequently had charge of a number of top brass bands. Whilst at Bridgnorth he wrote a march called Castle Walk, named after the old town ramparts at Bridgnorth. We were the first band to play this march. I have had some contact since with Denzil who tells me that it was played by Black Dyke Mills band but to his knowledge, never recorded.
My trade was photographic and as there were no immediate photographic postings, I was kept on in the Bridgnorth band for about three months, before going to Wellesbourne Mountford."
Kev Barry 4245941 from 1958, says "I wonder if anyone could help me. At the time I served at Bridgnorth my CPL was CPL "Gell". I can remember that, but I can not remember which hut number I was in, old age now. If anyone could enlighten me on this I may be able to spot myself on one of the photos.
It was very hard to start with, but after eight weeks, have never been as fit. Fond memories of Cpl Gell. Did not have to do the passing out parade because my hair was too long."
Ray Gardner 5027897 from 1956, says that "we arrived at Bridgnorth on a cold, windy, black Saturday night and I thought it couldn't get any worse, wrong! We were greeted by what seemed to be two hundred screaming NCO's telling us what they would do if we didn't get off the truck in double quick time. I swear I was moving that fast, I think I was trying to carry everybodys kit. However, once I stopped shaking and got into the swing of things I think I quite enjoyed "squarebashing". I particularly remember being told how to survive an atom bomb blast if it dropped nearby. Also being dumped in a place called Much Wenlock for two days and making a bivouvac with our capes, it was about as waterproof as a sieve. Like lots of others, looking back we wouldn't have missed it."
Since the above in 2007, Ray added the following in 2016;
"After the first shock, I think most people enjoyed it. After finishing training, I went straight to Cyprus."
Chris Webb 4256606 from 1960, says that "I can still recall the train journey from Cardington to Bridgnorth via Derby. We were let out one compartment at a time for a mug of tea at Derby but were not allowed to speak - not even 'thanks' to the civvies who were dishing it out.
Other things I remember were the National Servicemen crying with homesickness, the first time I had seen grown men cry - a bit disturbing for a 17 year old!
It wasn't all bad though, everybody worked as a team and basically if you did as you were told, you didn`t have too bad a time.
Our drill Corporal was Corporal Cheetham from Manchester and he introduced himself by saying "My name is Corporal Cheetham, spelt bast...! He was an excellent bloke when off duty and would offer lifts to anybody who lived in the Manchester area if they had a pass and even accompanied us to Wolverhampton one Friday night when we were allowed out. Back on duty he certainly changed back into his Drill Corporal mode! However we were never threatened with back-flighting, so our drill must have been OK.
After passing out, I remember how fit and chuffed we all felt that we had got through it all OK.
The best part for me was when a Flight of you were dropped off in the Shropshire countryside (the Clee Hills I think) camped out overnight and had to meet at certain point and time the following day.
Also the lectures on nuclear fallout and rifle range practise. I got my marksmen badge and never felt so big-headed! Yes, apart from the bulls... and being bollocked, it was an experience and wouldn't do some of these young thugs any harm nowadays, but I suppose human rights would be played on. For your information I was in 'A' Squadron, 9 Flight and billeted in hut 11, I think. Aye, those were the days!"
The photograph Chris sent is listed as '1960 - 9 Flt 'A' Sqd'
Dennis McMorrin 3523719 from 1957-1958, says that "Re the message from Charles "Brum" Cartwright who served as a DI on "A" Squadron at RAF Bridgnoth in 1956/57. I served on "A" Squadron with him and when he relates the crash on his new motor Cycle he did not give the full horrible details of what happened that night. I was riding on the pillion of his motor cycle. We had been to West Kirby to attend a dance there and we were on our way back to Bridgnorth. We were coming over a hump backed bridge when a Jaguar car, running on sidelights, came over the crest and we hit it head on. I was thrown over the top of the Jaguar, rolled and landed on my feet. I was shaken but totally unhurt. Brum was not so lucky. There were twin anti crash bars on the Triumph. They were pushed back around Brum's legs and both his legs were broken. He was in a bad way. He was rushed to hospital and stayed there for quite some time. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to see him again as my posting came through as I remustered to the RAF Provost and was sent off to the wilds of Netheravon. I made a number of phone calls to people I knew at Bridgnorth but no one seemed to know what had become of Brum. When I read his entry I was extremely happy to know that he made it OK and that he is now fully recovered and full of life. I just wish I could say the same for myself. If you feel up to it I would love to hear from you."
Also see Charles "Brum" Cartwright's memory of the accident here
Also see Dennis's other memories here
Gordon Ingram 3148635 from 1956, says that "whilst being kitted-out at RAF Cardington, I heard stories about certain RAF training stations and the fact that several of them were regarded as being really tough compared with some others. RAF Bridgnorth was in the list of tough ones. Imagine my horror when I found that RAF Bridgnorth was to be my destination after leaving RAF Cardington.
At first, it seemed to be living up to its reputation and was made worse by the extremely cold weather in Feb 1956. I remember waking one morning and finding that the washrooms were completely frozen. There was no water for washing and shaving and the toilets could not be flushed. Luckily, I had a mug of water on my locker overnight, so when I had broken the ice on that, I was able to perform very basic ablutions using the little drop of water under the ice.
As the weeks passed, things seemed to get easier, or maybe we were becoming accustomed to the hard life and strict disciline. Eventually, Cpl. Oakley even appeared to be reasonably pleased with the progress we had all made. I found the drill practice no problem, as I had already done that in the ATC.
On the whole it was not such a bad experience after all. I am sure the youth of today would benefit from something like this and as a consequence, so would the rest of society."
The photographs Gordon sent are listed as '1956 - Hut in Feb' and '1956 - Feb Flt'
Michael Jacobson 5067874 from 1959, says that he can "see Sgt "Pop" Allen and Cpl Cheetham are already mentioned! What they would say they could do with a Lee Enfield up one's wazoo! Does anyone remember the variety show my intake put on at Bridgnorth under the leadership of Sid Levy? How we made time to do it amazed me."
The photograph Michael sent is listed as '1959 - Hut 36 in May'
Danny Downey 4202122 from 1960, says that he "can't remember too much apart from having little time for anything but bull. I remember we were favourites to win the drill cup. A Rodney did the final drill, lost his voice, gale blowing down the square, half the flight going one way, the other half going the other way. You couldn't make it up. We didn't win the drill cup surprisingly. Corporals not very happy with our Rodney. Pilot Officer. Probably up as an Air Chief Marshal. Happy Days."
Alan Clark 4169697 from 1955, says that "I seem to recall a Drill Corporal nicknamed Kiwi who had the shiniest boots I ever saw at any time during my service. He was fond of saying "Don't look at the ground you will get gravel rash."
David Winter 4275495 from 1962, says that he "joined 19 Nov 1962, became a 'trustee' but was back-flighted for wearing a vest ! Worked in the mess over the Christmas (didn't go home) and was selected from a cast of thousands to stay behind to be part of the squad to march through Bridgnorth and beat the retreat when RAF Bridgnorth closed down or I should say collapsed after 'that' winter. I left after the parade to go to RAF Shawbury ATC basic training."
The photograph David sent is listed as '1962 - Nov'
Tom Wood 2728266 from 1954, says that "my lasting memory of Bridgnorth was Remembrance Sunday 1954. We were bussed to the town and in full uniform including great coat and webbing belt, rifles with fixed bayonets, we lined up in column of three's and marched to the town war memorial for a really memorable service."
The photograph Tom sent is listed as '1954 - Hut in Nov'
Derek Brown 4271904 from 1962, says that "I managed to contract tonsilitis after a couple of weeks and was put back a Flight. All I remember is a "very short" Corporal and a beady eyed Seargent for instructors.
Who can forget the tear gas hut? That and blisters from the route marches and a week in the valley camping out.
I can't remember the names of my fellow "inmates" but I did get picked up for dirty buttons on my passing out parade, needless to say I didn't report in for dicipline as they forgot to take my name and number.
Nine years later I left the RAF and shortly afterwards left for Canada."
Malcolm Grainge 2598845 from 1953, says that "I don't remember a lot but 'Vincent' Hooper became a good chum. We were both motor cycle enthusiasts and he was allowed to bring along his magnificent Vincent HRD machine for the second part of our training. He came from London and wore dark rimmed specs.
Generally all a bit of a shock to the system but happy memories of National Service."
Robert Laird A4273857 from 1962, says that "I thought I'd never survive when I heard reveille for the first time. We then grew to hate that damned thing.
I remember a real gent of a Corporal called Sam Allman and a real dragon called Sgt Roach - never a kind word from him for the whole time we were there.
Who could ever forget racing up to the guardroom for the bus into the town to be told by RAP/Oderly Cpl to return to the billet and shave. (We never did of course). A quick sprint round the nearest hut and back again and we were usually set free.
I regret I never took advantage of the historical sites in and around Bridgnorth. It was rather difficult when there were so many attractive ladies in Wolverhamton happy to oblige us with their company.
Although I was glad to leave the runs and fatigues etc, I did enjoy a lot, especially the laughs we would have during the whole period. We knew we were in it together and it showed. If anyone remembers me and would like to chat, don't hesitate.
Finally my school mate who was in the next bed to me and went on to be a Fireman died a few years later while serving in N/Ireland. A brain tumour I believe. The hut number if I can recall was 214 but I could be wrong. Others I remember was Chris Mckean, Bob Pound, Paul Hunt and lad called Chris who is regularly on the RAFPA website. I appreciate some of us may now be in that great RAF base in the sky (some no doubt not so lucky!! but, for those that are still around, thank you for your friendship and comradeship. It's just a shame we didn't extend into the latter part of our service. Another lad who joined with me from the North of Scotland was Victor Dick who became a bandsman. I met him once after Bridgnorth I think. So long for now - I'll never forget those times"
In 2010 Bob added these additional memories;
I had arrived at Bridgnorth after two and a half years as an apprentice chef in my home town of Elgin Scotland but, after a spell on fatigues which included a stint in the mess kitchens in July 62 I realised the sweat shop where I working was not for me. I transferred soon after to be an RAF Police dog handler and, after a tense time trying to make the height, I was soon to be on my way to RAF Debden for basic RAFP training. Bridgnorth, however was a wake up call (and then some!). That bloody reveille first thing every morning. I'm sure everyone was awake before it sounded but determined to stay in bed until the last possible moment - great times. We didn't meet our drill Cpl Sam Allman until part way through our training. We were all polishing boots, ironing preparing for the following day when the door from the permanent staff end opened and a shortish man walked through to the washroom carrying his towel and shavin kit. We all wondered who this could be and carried on working. On his return he soon put us right as to who the hell he was and we learned a lesson that day. He was a good bloke as opposed to the Sgt (Roach) never to be forgotten and a miserable blighter from the first day to the last. It's amazing how some memories stay in the background of your mind to be produced 50 years later as clear as anything. The amazing thing is I can hardly remember what I did yesterday. I'll close now but if you remember me please drop me an e-mail to re-establish contact. Regards to all. Also see Robert's other memories here
Terry Rawson 4155020 from 1954, says that "I wore the blue disc in my cap badge. I believe this was 'B' Squadron. I remember having to run round the hangar with full kit because I could not remember a certain part of my lmg. I also remember lining up for my injections and the larger the recruit the harder they fell, luckly I survived being only 5ft 2ins."
Brian Townend 4162819 from 1955, says that "the weather was TERRIBLE, square bashing on solid ice was TOUGH."
Charles 'Brum' Cartwright 4183216 from 1956, says that he "served at Bridgnorth after training at Bridgnorth under Corporal Klieser / then Uxbridge / back to Bridgnorth as DI on A Squadron. Crashed on new Triumph Speed twin in October 1957.
Still attend parade at Cosford with NS(RAF)A in June. Get fell in."
Colin Hall 4048442 from 1950, says that "apart from the total shock to the system at the initial harshness of the routine, which, much to everyone's surprise, we eventually all adapted remarkably well, one remembers the friendships that developed even extending to the Drill Instructors.
A further memory is taking part in the guard-of-hounor to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, on a State visit Nov/Dec 1950. We were housed at RAF Uxbridge for 2/3 days, sleeping in the Gym. The RAF Contingent lined the street up from the Cenotaph. It also gave a very young lad from a small mining village a chance to visit Soho...."
The photograph Colin sent is listed as '1950 - Hut 2/40, 21 Flt'
Peter Belk 4254805 from 1959, says that he can "recall several of intake on National Service. Two brothers too large for standard issue uniform. One semi-pro footballer from Sheerness, Kent. I befriended a butcher from Cumbria whom I met years later in Cyprus. Our drill instructor was Cpl Nimmock and the Sgt was named Rankin."
Since the above, Peter has added the following;
"After much reflection and study of the '1959 - D Platoon' photograph, I can add some scraps to my initial thoughts. The butcher I befriended was named Dennis and came from Maryport. We met in Cyprus circa 1972/3. The semi-pro soccer player was Spud Dolan. I recall that we were given tickets to attend Wolves versus Red Star Belgrade. How many of our intake attended I cannot remember, but I know me and Spud were there."
Peter has also identified several people on the '1959 - D Platoon' photograph.
Paul Middleton from 1962, says that "I came upon your website by accident and it brought the memories flooding back.
I enlisted as a U/T SNCO Air Signaller in Sept 1962. I shared a hut with mainly other Air Signallers with a couple of other ground trades. We all had service numbers beginning with 42202*** which identified aircrew I believe.
We received exactly the same treatment and square bashing as other recruits but the DI's knew that we were destined to become Acting Sergeants within 12 weeks and full Sergeants within a year. You can imagine that this did not make it easy for us! It was the best thing that ever happened to me and I'm quite sure would benefit most young men.
I joined on the terms of a 9 year engagement as a SNCO Air Signaller. We were sent to Bridgnorth for our induction training (square-bashing) for 8 weeks if I remember correctly. We also visited nearby RAF Sleep during our training - I suppose that's closed now.
Then we were posted to RAF Topcliffe for a one year's course on Vickers Varsity aircraft. 14 of us commenced at Bridgnorth and 11 of us finally received our "wings" at RAF Topcliffe in Nov 1963. We were made Acting Sergeants at Topcliffe but we had our own Cadets' Mess. We left Topcliffe as full Sergeants and I joined my next unit, RAF Thorney Island, to train on Beverley aircraft. I was 17 years old when I joined and 19 years old when I joined my first Sergeants' Mess. I'm afraid I didn't have much credibility!
When I retired in 1999 I believe that I was the very last serving person to be wearing an original Air Signallers brevet, although I became a Fighter Controller in 1976."
The photograph Paul sent is listed as '1962 - Sept'
Tony O'Flanagan N4202192 from 1960, says that "the RAF Bridgnorth web site is wonderful, the photographs bring all the memories flooding back. I was never so fit in all my life we did everything at the double.
As I said 5 days jankers on my first day was the only charge I had in 35 years service. It is my pleasure to supply a new photograph and the first one of Hut 314. The D.I.'s were something else but I suppose they had a job to do.
I heard about the web site from a friend who was at Bridgnorth in 1956 and we have now been friends for 46 years, we both now live in Lincoln."
The photograph Tony sent is listed as '1960 - Hut 314'
Honey 5049380 from 1957, says that "memories of Bridgnorth are kinda hazy. Just remember the shouting and 'barking' of the DI's. But all in all, it made a man of me and I thank the RAF for that. I went on to RAF Locking after and served my Nat. Service there on Permanent Staff. A holiday by the sea ......"
Ray Wood 2467373 from 1950, says that "the one memory that stands out, was having to change into P.T. kit outside in the snow, while the hut was being prepared for inspection! This was in April!
During the same period, remember peeling onions outside the mess during a blizzard!"
Derek Darbyshire 4188004 from 1956, says that "I signed on 10th Oct 1956 for 3 years. After induction at Cardington, I recall waiting ages for the train to take us to Bridgnorth. The DI's decided that all of us would be kept busy, the National Service entrants were given empty sacks, us Regulars were given sacks of paper which we had to throw all over the platform and the National Servies chaps were made to pick it all up.
Coming from the South coast it was the first time I met anyone from the North of England, Scotland & Wales, also I met my first coloured man at Bridgnorth. I enjoyed the time there and learnt that self dicipline is important. After pass out when we won the drill cup, I went on to Hereford to train as a pay Clerk eventually getting to Junior Tech. I served at Wroughton Hosp where I met and married my wife Julie. Then went to Changi for 3 yrs, back to Bridgnorth then Rapo Gloucester, Laarbruch, Benson before quitting in 1969 as a Cpl. after almost 13 years"
The photographs Derek sent are listed as '1956 - Hut 181 in Nov' and '1956 Oct/Nov Flt'
Kevin Rorke 4190150 from 1956, says that "I remember the first time we carried our rifles at the slope we were at the slope for an hour and a half. It was very painful but we were too afraid of the Cpl. to do otherwise! We also had to drill on an icy parade ground it was rather difficult and amusing. We had leave at Christmas and when we returned, our billets were in a terrible state, empty beer bottles all over the floor and coke from the stove trodden into the lino."
The photograph Kevin sent is listed as '1956 - Hut 130 in Dec'
Cass Cassidy 4130120 from 1953, says "I don't don't have a strong recollection of my time at Bridgnorth, although I'm pretty sure I enjoyed myself and didn't get in much trouble.
I think there were three flights of recruits who arrived in June 1953, and my very first memory is of us all being despatched outside clutching our (newly issued at Cardington) knives and forks to weed the hut surrounds.
This is followed by vague recollections of much drilling, marching and doubling and - much later - being let loose on the rifle range.
Loved the Sally Ann wagon at smoko time though.
I remember we came close to having a donnybrook with our next door neighbours, a flight composed entirely of Jocks, but common sense prevailed (I think all concerned were secretly glad)
What else? There was one bloke in another hut who had an aversion to washing, and he got the usual treatment of a cold bath and scrubbing brushes.
Another thing that's come back to me is the gas training. Not so much the tear gas hut, but the silly sod who volunteered to have a drop of mustard(?) gas on the back of his hand. It came up into a serious looking dome of a blister. Wonder what the Regs would say about it these days?
The most important occasion was a massive parade, probably to celebrate the Coronation. I've no idea how many took part, but it seemed like thousands. It took place on the sports field and was, we thought, a shambles. Bad enough having to parade when we were hardly trained up, but parading on grass, when you couldn't hear hobnails clattering on the asphalt, was a disaster.
Wouldn't have missed it for anything!"
The photograph Cass sent is listed as '1953 - Hut in July'
John Pain 5071143 from 1959, says that he was "posted from Cardington in August 1959. Lovely weather made it quite cushy. Cpl "Taff" Morgan did most of the drill instructing. Not much over 5 feet tall but boxing champion and held in awe by everyone."
In 2016 John added this additional message;
"I actually drilled a squad from the Royal Observer Corps for the Cenotaph Parade in 1990. Some of what I learnt at Bridgnorth must have stuck!"
John Reeves 4078796 from 1951 - 1954, says that "one of my main memories of my time at Bridgnorth was a visit of Max Bygraves to the camp and how he stayed on stage for a tremendously long time and the lads wouldn't let him go!!
My memories of the camp are all good and I often wonder what became of all my friends of that time.
I started at West Kirby, then went to Cardington for kitting out and then to Hereford for trade training and eventually to Bridgnorth.
I used to cycle home at weekends to Birmingham and thought it was great just to be out in the country.
Unfortunately I am confined to a wheelchair now so I miss the active life I had but I still have my memories."
John Snelling 3155506 from 1960, says that "due to the cold winter, coke stove fumes etc caught bronchitis, was sent on leave to Brighton to recuperate then reflighted to "C" Flight (or was it Squadron?). Played baritone in VB then tuba after re-flighting. Recall a DI name of Taffy Lloyd, who was an RAF boxing champ. Very Welsh; used to call me "that bloddy bondsman" 'cause although I spent my time mainly with the VB, was one of only 2 in the flight who gained the Marksman's badge."
The daughter of Arthur Howell from 1959-1960, says "I am the daughter of Arthur Howell who was at RAF Bridgnorth 1959/1960. I have a number of photos of my father and fellow members of the 33 Flt D Squadron including passing out pictures from 12th Feb 1960 and of the lads from hut 249 in 1960. I also have other pictures of this group with names written on the back. There is also a picture from Compton Basset dated April 25th 1960. If anyone is interested in seeing these pictures or think they might be on them please contact me."
One of the photographs is listed on this site as '1960 - Hut 249, 33 Flt.'
The email address referred to is on the 'List of Surnames' page, on the right hand side.
Blair Cruickshank 4245078 from 1958, was in "Hut 212, 25 Flt, C Sqd. D.I.s Sgt Williams and Cpl Beacom. Cured my fear of injections! Still clean shoes nightly. Would do it all again if fit enough."
Dennis Homewood 5017450 from 1956, says that he "made some great pals. Unfortunately, all photographs from my time there were accidentally destroyed."
In 2012, Dennis added;
"Would be interested to contact anyone who was on this flight and still has group photos. Unfortunately all my collection were stolen from my mother's flat."
Reginald John Chapman 4048330 from 1950, says that "half way through my training we went to Uxbridge to line the route for the visit of Queen of the Netherlands."
Alan Ackroyd 4119551 from 1953, says that "as a young raw recruit arriving at Bridgnorth for square bashing, it seemed I had landed on another planet, then as the time passed I made lots of mates and enjoyed the camp, did my bit there, then off to Wolverhampton, Saturdays with the lads, all together a happy time, as a young lad, just wish one could see all those lads again, bye for now."
The photograph Alan sent is listed as '1953 - 2 Flt in March'
Brian Connell 3516155 from 1953, says that "coincident with my square bashing at Bridgnorth, there seemed to be sudden need for the RAF to provide fully trained Route Lining Flights for the Queen's visit to the Principality of Wales following her coronation in London. After two weeks into the standard tough regime our drill corporals were replaced by drill sergeants from Uxbridge, who had originally trained the corporals, and we were put through even more rigorous training to prepare us for the more complex formation procedures prior to taking up positions and standing for up to three hours in the 1953 July sun, lining the route of the Queen's procession to Caernarvon Castle. Little was ever recorded of this event involving RAF National Service recruits and volunteers.
At the completion of training we were bussed in convoy to a camp site somewhere on the straits of Anglesey where we spent two nights under canvass - which may have been considered an improvment on the primative pre-war wooden huts at Bridgnorth. Certainly the RAF in 1953 were not familiar with today's management phrase - 'A Duty of Care to our Employees'. This from a volunteer who subsequently served for four years in Northern Ireland and West Germany without a complaint."
Ian McKechnie 5035741 from 1956, says that "I remember the initial trauma soon passed as we became "veterans" and found the drill corporals and sergeants were human after all. Nov/Dec 1956 was bitterly cold. I believe I was in Hut 289, C Flt and we always quickly used up our fuel ration for the 2 wood stoves, so we went on night patrols ripping wooden siding off nearby huts to keep ourselves warm! There was always recorded music in our hut compliments of a very congenial guy who brought his whole Platters record collection to basic training. I went on to RAF Pucklechurch for radio training and then to a combined services camp in Crail, Scotland to learn Russian with 110 other RAF servicemen."
'Chalky' Gerald White K3526486 from 1958, says he remembers "skating on the brown linoleum, on pieces of blanket. When the wind blew the lino lifted and swelled like a shiny brown sea. Then our Corporal opened the door and in rushed his large Alsation which ran around our polished floor, leaving scratches and muddy paw marks all over, including a few beds it jumped on. The senior man shouted "Stand by yer beds" and we gritted our teeth as our tempers flared as the Corporal called his Alsation off, as we stood stiffly to attention.
On the square our NCO would throw his millboard like a frisbee, then shout at the nearest man to pick it up.
Reporting sick was something of a trial. Best blue, small pack, with towel, washing kit, vest, pants, pyjamas, packed in. At Station sick Quarters, a Medical Orderly, called your name. I went in and stood in front of the Medical Officers Table. "Yes" said the M.O. I replied, "I've got Haemoroids Sir" he looked up and said "I'm the Doctor, I will tell you what is wrong with you." He then said, "Have you had it before?" I replied "Yes sir." He wrote a prescription and said, "These are for suppositories and you take them with a glass of water." he then laughed and said "Dismiss." I virtually ran from the office, not forgetting the medication of course. Didn't go sick again at Bridgnorth.
The Bayonet and bayonet frog (Sheath) was unlike anything I had seen, I always imagined that the bayonet was a very large Knife, but those issued to us were just like a nine inch nail. When carrying out bayonet drill, the RAF Regiment instructor said "fix the bayonet, then cock the bolt action", holding the rifle by the small of the butt and the barrel and run at the sack, suspended to look like a body, yelling at the top of your voice and punch the bayonet into the sack. The instructor then examined the Vee between thumb and index to see if it was sufficently bruised, thus having killed the sack, withdraw and continue on shouting and yelling.
On looking at the Training Programme and asking fellow recruits "What does FFI mean" Later we were to find out, as at Sick Quarters, we had to stand on a PE bench, in a line, drop your pants, whilst the Medical Officer, went down the line, and lifted our appendages with a ruler. There was an embarrassed silence. Of course it all became clear that FFI meant Free from Infection. Fortunately no one from our intake, had to report to the MO.
After a few weeks, with a RAF Form 295 Leave pass in hand, the sight of a number of Whittles coaches lined up to take recruits to various addresses in the UK was very welcome. My coach took me to Sussex Gardens in London. A week later the coach was waiting to take us back to Shropshire and our temporary home at RAF Bridgnorth. To be greeted by our welcoming D I to complete the rest of basic training.
There seemed to be a number of standard sayings used by the Drill instructors. Some were; " Swing that arm, or I'll break it off and beat you over the head with the soggy end" Dig yer heels in, I want to see the last man digging coal," Am I hurting you airman, I ought to be, I'm standing on your hair, get it cut!" "On your way back from the Barbers come and see me" I am sure there were many more but father time has taken its toll.
On the camping week end, we did think that looking for Joans hole was a mickey take however.
Any continuing failure, to master drills, was threatened with backflighting. One lad had difficulty in marching and despite extra tutition, continued to swing right arm, with right leg. He could not co ordinate, drill movements with the rest of the Flight. The Flight members helped the same lad through his award of Defaulters, known as Jankers, it was 'all mates together' with everyone pulling as a team.
One outstanding memory, is that we were issued with working blue uniform Blouse and a best blue with belt and brass buttons. However, most training was carried out in denims, boots, beret and webbing belt. The denims, a one piece overall fastened up from the fly to the collar with buttons. Visits to the Mess were in working blue, on return to the billet the Instructor would shout "boots and denims on and outside in 3 minutes" I dont remember washing my denims, but we wore them almost all the time. Before passing out parade we were pleased to hand them in to stores.
Although it was tough at times, I enjoyed basic training. Cpls Howard and Hough were my instructors. Happy Days."
The photograph Gerald sent is listed as '1958 - Hut 173 in Aug'
John M Smith 4245275 from 1958, says "that year some small local village had just managed to finance their War Memorial. Some of D squadron made up the opening ceremony honour guard and I was proud to be one of those chosen from the drill competition for places. Would love a photograph of that occasion or even to know the name of the village! Remember Brian, our senior man, Speigal, made our 'squadron runner' because he kept dropping his gun (as he called it) and who landed up an officer!"
The photographs Jack sent are listed as '1958 - Hut 255 'D' Sqd' and '1958 - 'D' Sqd'
Comment by the Webmaster - I'm advised by Andy Griffin, Flt Lt RAFVR(T) OC 63 (Bridgnorth) Sqn ATC "that on Battle of Britain Sunday 2006, the cadets and staff of 63 Bridgnorth Squadron ATC laid a wreath at the memorial in the Stanmore Country Park. This will now be an annual event."
Haydn Smith U4187732 from 1956, says that "I remember a drill Cpl in charge of our Flight, blonde hair, who was always saying we would be backflighted, but we never were, but at the time it scared the hell out of us. Happy days?"
John Lloyd Thomas 4117377 from 1952-1953, says that "I joined the RAF in Nov 1952 aged 17, which meant I had to sign on for a minimum of 3 years. I didn't mind this, as it meant I would get more money and more trades to choose from. I chose to be a driver.
At Cardington we were all kitted out and took the oath etc. During our time here all the officers and N.C.O's were very nice to us all, but little did we know what was in store for us when we left.
The train to Bridgnorth was very crowded and they kept putting us in sidings to let other trains through. The journey took many hours. On our arrival we were met by the lorries and Corporals that would take us to Bridgnorth camp and from this moment on and for the next 8 weeks, life as I had known it ceased to exist.
I remember the shouting and yelling of the Corporals as they called out our names and threw our kit bags at us with such force that mine hit me off my feet.
I remember reporting sick with flu, the M.O. did not believe me and I had to carry on with my training. I really did think I was going to die.
I recall the various times of the day that ruled our lives. Wake up 6am, be ready for parade by 6.30, lunch 12.30, afternoon parade 1.30, lights out 10.45, Sat and Sun 11.15.
I remember the gas chamber. We we had to go in and take off our gas masks. It was not a very pleasant experience. They then placed some kind of liquid on my arm and in no time big blisters appeared.
I remember as a punishment for doing something wrong, I had to get up at 5am to light the stove in the Sergents office, they were very difficult to light and on a number of occasions I only just made the 6:30 parade.
I remember delivering coal to the huts from the back of a lorry. This was an awful job bearing in mind that Jan 1953 must have been the coldest ever. At least I thought it was.
I remember the passing out parade, a very proud day indeed. The feeling of achievement was terrific and the memories come flooding back whenever I hear the RAF march passed being played.
Taking into account the good and bad times, the overall experience was one of the most important in my life. It taught us all that you must have dicipline in life and also the importance of loyalty and comradeship. THANK YOU THE RAF."
The photographs John sent are listed as '1953 - 15 Flt, 2 Wing' and '1953 - 15 Flt'
Ernest Bullock D4253095 from 1959, says that "five main memories stick in my mind.
Marching to the airmens' mess with my irons and mug.
Marching during drill and being at the front we could not hear the drill instructor's voice because of the wind. We had been instructed only to act when a command was given. On one occasion the command right wheel was given but because we did not hear it we marched straight on, up a pile of coke.
Marching through Bridgnorth with bayonets fixed.
Bumpering the floor in the hut and sliding round on pads so as to keep it shiny.
During a lesson on how to dismantle and reassemble a bren gun, one chap wasn't paying attention so the instructor threw a piece of the weapon at him."
In 2017, Ernie added;
I was "asked" to leave the parade ground because I had a Windsor knot in my tie, I was told to tie an ordinary knot. As I had never tied an ordinary knot before, I didn't know how to do it. I had to wait until I saw an airman passing by then I asked for his help and he showed me how to tie an ordinary knot.
I enjoyed myself at Bridgnorth and the discipline held me in good stead for later life in civvy street.
Keith Bell 4255196 from 1959, says that "my DI was Cpl Pope.
Because of missing rifle drill (shame!) through my time with the band I was "politely" asked to leave the parade ground by another Cpl DI when I couldn't keep up with the rest of the Flight. Well OK, he didn't ask politely!
I hope to be able to provide a photograph of the band very soon.
I went on to serve in the RAF Police and Provost Branch for 36 plus years, eventually retiring in February 1996."
Anthony Hirst 4190661 from 1956, says that "the one thing that sticks in my mind is there was one chap who was so tall that I do not ever recall seeing him in uniform as they had not got one that fitted him!
We also had a new DI arrive posted to us from the 'Hell Camp', he used the Corporals Room at the end of the Billet. He was so decent that when we were waiting at Bridgnorth Railway Station for the train home at the end of Square Bashing he bought several of us a pint!!"
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