The best thing I ever did



The best thing I ever did


Ted Neale's account of his early experience from the age of 17. The factory where he worked burned down in a bombing attack so he volunteered for the RAF. He was posted to Scarborough then Carlisle to train on Tiger Moths. He met a girl called Mary who he introduced to his family, then he got sent to South Africa for more flying training.




Three handwritten sheets


This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit and





The best thing I ever did.

I left school at 17, to take up an apprenticeship at the Woolwich Arsenal. On 7th September 1940 we were queing (sic) to clock off when we heard these loud bangs, someone shouted “BOMBS”, and one bomb landed just across the road, the last bomb landed on an air raid shelter [deleted] which [/deleted] [insert] and [/insert] killed my cousins husband. We all scattered to make our way home, in my case to Eltham, with airplanes battling above some crashing, anti-aircraft guns banging away, parachutes coming down, shrapnel & bullet clips pinging down.
I arrived home saftley (sic) after joining some soldiers in the Woolwich Barracks, who had recently been rescued from DUNKIRK. I went back to the Arsenal, [insert] on Sunday [/insert] to find that my factory had been burned right out, so on Monday I went to the recruiting office to volunteer

Page break
for the Royal Air Force. It took 18 months to get my release from the Arsenal, and I joined the RAF in early 1942 at ST JOHNS WOOD where we were kitted out and were fed in [insert] the [/insert] ZOO restaurant. A few weeks later I was posted to SCARBOROUGH to learn how to march, then some weeks later I was posted to CARLISE AIRFIELD to learn how to fly a TIGER MOTH. Returning to camp one evening with another cadet, we overtook two young ladies who were happy to talk, we agreed to meet the next night and so it went on, visits to the YMCA etc, my girl was called Mary, eventually my course was coming to an end, and I was expecting to be posted overseas to train, Mary & I felt that we had something going, so I asked if she would like to come to London to see my family, she readily agreed, my sister and her husband met the train at Euston, there was

Page break

an air raid alert at the time, however they arrived home safetly (sic) and she got an A1 rating from the family. I meanwhile was somewhere else in England. I caught up with Mary when I was posted to Whitley Bay for a commando course, we were waiting for a ship to take us to SOUTH AFRICA for more flying training, all the ships were being used to take troops to the invasion of North Africa.



Ted Neale, “The best thing I ever did,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 29, 2024,

Item Relations

This item has no relations.