Just Another Tailend Charlie



Just Another Tailend Charlie


A memoir written by Cliff Watson divided into 20 chapters.

The Earliest Years.
Born in Barnoldswick, then in Yorkshire, now in Lancashire in 1922. His father ran a wireless business until 1926. He describes his years at schools and a move to Norwich. The family then moved to London where he started an apprenticeship as an accountant.

Joining Up.
Cliff left the accountants to work in his father's radio business. Initially he was rejected by the RAF because he wore spectacles. He reapplied and passed various written, oral and medical examinations. Initial training was at Torquay then Newquay. Once training was complete he sailed from Greenock to South Africa.

Southern Rhodesia.
After acclimatisation in South Africa, Cliff and his colleagues were put on a sleeper train to Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Training commenced on Tiger Moths but he was 'scrubbed' or rejected. He was reselected as an air gunner and completed a course in Moffat, also in South Rhodesia. Hospitality in Rhodesia and South Africa was described as generous and excellent.

Cliff describes a run-in with a training corporal who took a dislike to him. Despite faked evidence he proved his points and emerged with a clean record and passed his exams.

Operational Training.
In August 1942 he sailed back to the UK. He was sent to Bournemouth for assessment, then on to RAF Finningley for training then RAF Bircotes for operations. Next was a move to RAF Hixon and its satellite airfield at Seighford. He married Hilda on 1st March 1943 during a week's leave.

Second Time to Africa.
He was then sent to West Kirby, Liverpool to join a ship sailing to Algiers, for further training. Their destination became Blida where they started operations on Tunis and Monserrato airfield. They then moved to a desert strip to the east by 250 kms. From there they continued operations into Italy. Later they moved to Kairouan and continued operations into Italy, mainly Sardinia and Sicily. Each operation is described in great detail.
He has included a letter in Arabic with instructions to take the bearer to British soldiers for a reward. At the end of his tour they sailed back to Greenock.

After some leave Cliff's next posting was at Operational Training Unit Desborough where he helped train new gunners. Due to an argument with an officer he was sent to RAF Norton for correctional training. On his return his case was reviewed and the severe reprimand was removed from his record.

Scampton was Cliff's next operational base then Winthorpe for its Heavy Conversion Unit on Stirlings, followed by Syerston on Lancasters then Bardney.

227 Squadron.
Cliff joined 227 squadron at Bardney. Again he covers in detail each operation. His flight was later transferred to Balderton. During this period he was awarded the DFC.

Final Leg.
His squadron was transferred to Gravely at the end of the war. He did a photography course and was transferred to Handforth. There was little work, some unpleasantness and eventually a period of extended leave, a spell at Poynton looking after prisoners then demob.

Back to Civvy Street.
Cliff returned to Whitehaven to revitalise a radio company. He gives great detail about the improvements made. Later he set up a similar enterprise at Maryport. Wired radio services were set to become less popular and financially worthwhile so seeing the writing on the wall he decided to emigrate.

Cliff and family flew to Nairobi, then bus to Kitale where his father was.

Hoteli King George.
Dissatisfied with life on his father's farm, Cliff took a job as a prison officer. He and his family moved to Nairobi. He relates several stories about prisoners and their better qualities but in the end he gets restless and leaves.

Civil Aviation.
Cliff joined the East African Directorate of Civil Aviation in April 1951 as a radio officer. He and his family were relocated to Mbeya, 900 miles from Nairobi. His skills as a radio engineer were well used in this remote location. After 2.5 years the family returned to UK on leave. On his return he was posted to Mwanza, also in Tanganyika. He describes in great detail a royal visit. They left on leave in June 1957 and collected a VW Beetle for transport to Kenya. Their next move was to Entebbe. This was not a happy posting and led to a transfer to Kisumu in Kenya. After three years they transferred to Nairobi to spend more time with their children, who were at boarding school there.

D.C.A. Headquarters.
His role here was Telecomms superintendent. He describes in detail the operations of his section. This was an unsettled period in Kenya with many Europeans returning home.

Dec' 61 on Leave.
Leave was spent at their house in Wales then in May 1962 Cliff returned alone to Nairobi. His family did return later. By this time his father had abandoned his farm and was building radios.

On Leave June 1964.
He bought another house in Wales and spent his leave restoring it. His wife's mother moved in. In November 1964 Cliff returned alone to Nairobi. he left within a year due to the worsening situation.

Job Hunting.
Several electronics firms were approached offering Cliff's services. He attended an interview with Pye who quickly offered him employment.

At Pye Telecommunications.
He found his colleagues unhelpful. A great deal of time was spent on a Turkish quotation that had been in progress for 10 years. A quotation to the Iranian Directorate of Civil Aviation contained complications leading to Cliff revising the quotation. Later there was a complicated installation job at the London Stock Exchange. Eventually Pye pulled out from the bid but a rival company won it, only to be taken over by Pye. At first the system was troubled but after a simple modification it worked perfectly.

Dresden 13-14 February 1945.
A one page description of the bombing of Dresden.

Curriculum Vitae.
Cliff Watson's CV, dated 1976.


IBCC Digital Archive




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192 typewritten sheets and photographs




Spatial Coverage



Cliff Watson DFC, “Just Another Tailend Charlie,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 24, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18578.

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