After the War was Over



After the War was Over


Jim Allen's experiences after the end of the war. He married in 1944 and had three children. His first job was as a bus conductor, then an insurance agent but he was unhappy so rejoined the RAF. He trained as a Fighter Controller and was posted to RAF Acklington, Germany then Ireland. His wife died in 1962. He did tours in Kuwait, Rhodesia, Zambia then Iran. He remarried in 1969.






Three typewritten sheets


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We have read many stories circa 1944-45, but relatively few of the years that followed. We know that at least one member of 578 Sqn became an Air Marshall and another became a Group Captain and an Australian member became the Speaker in the Australian Parliament, in each case generating a feeling of reflected pride in the rest of us having once known them.
It may well be that other members of 578 Sqn were in their own modest ways perhaps as successful rather lower down the scale contributing to the sum of human happiness when their wartime flying days were over. It is possible that many interesting stories lie untold covering some sixty plus years which might be of interest to the rising generation(s) indicating that normal life can be full of incidents and problems ranging from elation to downright despair.
I left Burn in September 1944 on completion of a normal tour of 40 operations, with heartfelt thanks to our Guardian Angel who had been on duty full time.
After some months at an OTU I was posted to Transport Command and made some interesting trips to America, ten flights to India bringing troops home, and a proving flight to New Zealand. Having served a year beyond my normal demob date I left the RAF in October 1947.
My wife and I had married in July 1944 and in 1947 she was pregnant and keen for me to leave the service. After some difficulty we did manage to buy a house in Hornchurch, Essex. Then there was the matter of getting a job, there being a dearth of vacancies for bomber crews. Pre-war I had been in the engineering industry, but soon found it impossible to return to that trade. Something had to be found which involved working outdoors in a large firm which offered some prospect of advancement.
I chose London Transport and went to work as a bus conductor. Surprisingly I met a number of ex-aircrew who had chosen the same path. ‘Night School’ classes were available and I attended for two years, learning, among other things how to schedule buses within this vast organisation.
After a year I applied for promotion, but was turned down on the grounds that one needed two years service to be even considered for advancement. When I was turned down the following year I made some gentle enquiries and I learned that I was unpopular among the other crews because of my strange ideas of timekeeping. The conductor was responsible for timekeeping and I considered that we were paid to keep to the schedule. Drivers considered this ridiculous, the idea was to catch the bus in front and leave prospective passengers to the following bus. (Now you know the basis of: ‘no bus for twenty minutes, then three together’) Some drivers spoke with the garage manager saying they didn’t want me allocated to them. Unable to accept this atmosphere I left and became ‘The man from the Prudential.’ This was an eye-opener as many women would invite one in for a cup of tea and then proceed to pour out their stories of domestic woe. And some were very sad storied indeed. After a year of me selling insurance my wife said on (sic) evening that she could see that I was not happy, and if I wanted to return to the RAF she wouldn’t object.
That evening I wrote to the RAF basically asking, “Have you got a job I might do?” The reply was, “Come and have a chat”. A few weeks later I was offered a Short Service commission in the Fighter Control Branch. I was over the moon at the prospect of returning to the RAF and my wife was willing to accept the position. I reported to RAF Patrington towards the end of October 1951.
At the end of the training period, as a newly qualified Fighter Controller I was told at 9am one day to get packed and report to RAF Acklington (Northumberland) [bold, underlined] today [/bold, underlined]. On arrival I asked, “What’s the rush?”, to be told that I was a replacement for a controller who
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was leaving the following day, and as the station was an Armament Practice Camp with quite high pressure controlling I was to have one day’s instruction before taking over.
This turned out to be the most profitable 24hrs of my life. The system of control was very well organised, high pressure and continuous. Target (towing) aircraft took off every 40 minutes, firing aircraft every 20 minutes. There was a requirement to avoid hitting fishing vessels below. The firing aircraft were Meteor 8s using 20mm cannon, the target aircraft towed banners or glider targets.
After two years of such intensive control one became a very slick Fighter Controller. We were used as a finishing school for Controllers nearing the end of their courses at Units. A most satisfying time.
This was followed by a 30 month tour in Germany at the time when the new Luftwaffe was being formed. The first Unit was a defensive one – a Control and Reporting station at Brockzeitel near Jever in North Germany. Guess who found himself volunteered as one of the two instructors – neither of whom spoke German. In the best Service tradition we were promised that all trainees would be English speaking. This was true for the first course.
The second course arrived with the one member who “Spoke English”; He had served for two years behind the bar at an American unit!!
Again in the best Service tradition we were told to get on with the job. This called for much burning of midnight oil, sweating of blood and laughter in class as this instructor struggled with (and mangled) German grammar. Fortunately all voice procedures were in standard Nato English so progress was made. After three months conversation in German was smoother and at the end of the year I was reasonably fluent in practical German. (A one-time girl friend once said to me, “You don’t have to be bright to learn a language, small children can do it”. I think she was trying to tell me something).
In February 1959 we were posted to Bishops Court in N. Ireland. In July my wife became ill and in March 1962 died of cancer. We had three children, ages 14, 12 and 2 years. The older two children were placed in boarding schools close together and the baby was taken over by my wife’s sister and her husband who had a boy and girl of their own the same ages as my older two. They fostered the baby for the next seven years until he too could go to boarding school.
In July 1962 at my own request I stated a one-year unaccompanied tour in Kuwait in order to recover somewhat from two stressful years. Contact with the children was maintained by means of tape recorder at each end; at the time tape recorders were just coming into general use – mine weighed about 14lb. On returning home in 1963 I bought a small house for the older two children in order to provide them with a base during the holidays. At the same time I became a founder member of No.1 ACC (Air Control Unit), a new mobile Control and Reporting unit. This was at the time of the UDI crisis in Southern Rhodesia. There was a need for political reasons to put British forces on the ground in Zambia. Obviously a very sensitive issue so the RAF was used. No.1 ACC went to the airfield at Lusaka, The RAF Regiment to Livingstone and a Javelin Squadron to Ndola; this we occupied the key points of the country.
We arrived at the beginning of the wet season, I kid thee not; the we season is WET. We stayed in Zambia for almost a year, meeting president Kenneth Kaunda a very intelligent man who was a pleasure to talk with. Returning to the UK in 1966 we found, “It’s all been changed” ACC personal were dispersed and replaced. I was asked if I would like to go to Iran, and accepted and in 1967 found myself at Babolsar on the shore of the Caspian Sea. A new Hydra multi-beam radar was installed there and I was soon on a steep learning curve. It was quite interesting teaching the Iranian Controllers how to
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Switch beams as the mountainous terrain south of the station produced a profusion of permanent echoes which the Controllers claimed made the tracking of aircraft impossible.
About a dozen English and German nurses worked in the local children’s hospital and we were appalled at their living conditions. We bought electric fans for them to alleviate the summer heat. These girls were doing Voluntary Service Overseas. The Iranian nurses treated them pretty much the same as nurses in England were regarded in Florence Nightingale’s day – barely above the social level of prostitutes. Yet these girls simply loved attending to the children. We had a GP14 dinghy and took them sailing and swimming in the sea.
Some six months after arrival in Iran I developed double vision in one eye and was sent to CME (Central Medical Establishment) in London. I was developing cataract, but as it could not be treated for a year I returned to Babolsar wearing a patch over the affected eye. This caused hilarity among the Iranians who now called me, “Captain Jim the pirate”. After a year in Iran I returned home blind in the left eye, quite useless for Fighter Control. Cutting the story short surgery was carried out on the left eye (removal of the lens) and some months later on the right eye. Eventually I was fitted with contact lenses that today give me something like 80% normal vision.
On return from Iran, in Oct 1968, I was able to reconnect with my children, by now very grown up – the two older ones at University and the youngest at boarding school.
Now the wife of a long-standing RAF friend played Jane Austin in deciding that I was in urgent need of a wife and entered the match-making stakes – “In seven years you haven’t done very well in finding another wife; it’s time I gave you a hand!” In March 1969 I married a widow with three children – all six children at the wedding. We have now been married 36 years, have six grandchildren and one great-grandchild, in all a very happy family. The one tragedy being the sudden death of the youngest child five years ago.
Jim Allen 2005.



Jim Allen, “After the War was Over,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 27, 2024,

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