Book 2, Commencing my Flying Training and my Adventures up till the time of Leaving England



Book 2, Commencing my Flying Training and my Adventures up till the time of Leaving England


Second of David Geach's diaries, describing his training for aircrew at Kingstown, Heaton Park, Hastings and Harrogate until his embarkation to Canada on the Queen Mary. Covers the period from 20 June 1942 to 7 October 1942.


Temporal Coverage



One handwritten diary


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[underlined] BOOK 2 [/underlined]


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[underlined] Saturday June 20th [/underlined]

Our first stage in flying training has commenced, we are no longer cheesed with periods of studying, drilling, & various other binding pastimes. Our journey from St. Andrews to Carlisle was pretty uneventful, we caught the connections, & arrived here at about 1 p.m. Dragging those two kit bags around was pretty deadly, & we were glad to dump them. All the lot of us, 19, are in a large room of a hut, rather a collection of huts called the town-centre. This is just opposite the station, the actual station is about 4 miles out from Carlisle & the name of it, is Kingstown.

I know it seems early to form an opinion, but we all dislike this place intensely. It is very hard to describe, but we have never known a place to cheese one so completely. The general air of the place & the slip-shod way it is run all contribute to discourage us more than anything.

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There is a civilian here parading around in a W/O's uniform although he has the badge of a civil airways on his arm. He goes under the title of S.W.O. - what cheek, & we have to address him as Sir. Although he is unable to put us on a charge he can give us an hours digging on fatigues, & he makes good use of that. From what we can see he practically runs this station, despite the officers.

That is one of the main faults here, the place is half R.A.F. half civvie, & a general fiasco ensues. The food is catered, & served by civilians, & one word describes it, disgraceful, honestly! I never thought food could be served out in such a state. It is not my personal feelings, everyone is the same, & one only has to see all the cadets eating hot meals in the Y.M.C.A. to realise it. The officers cant [sic] do much about it only request [?] the chap who is in charge of the mess to alter things, needless to say there isn't much difference.

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In a big gloomy converted hangar now called the 'Crew Room', why I don't know, are our lockers. We have one ordinary sized steel locker between two of us, & we both have to keep our flying kit, kit-bags, P.T. kit, & books in this, it is almost impossible to close the doors. P.T. is every day & we change behind the lockers, have a terrific long roll-call, run to a nearby field for about 10 mins. P.T. & run back again. Hurriedly changing we rush to the N.A.A.F.I. & find a large queue there, the time being 11.a.m. & the N.A.A.F.I. closing at 11.15 a.m. we never get it. So we never have a cup of tea while we are here in the morning.

Another annoying rule is that once we enter the gate in the morning at 8 a.m. we are not allowed out till 6 p.m. even during the dinner-time, so we drift around aimlessly. There being only 4 lavatories & 3 wash-basins available for the couple of hundred cadets here, we even have to queue for those necessities. Yes I have never seen a station where there are so many things wrong and so few right.

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The ground lectures are a farce, and they might just as well scrap them. First thing every morning or afternoon we have Aldis practise, [sic] & I have heard it rumoured that some people take it. We have had one Navigation lecture, stuff we did right at the beginning of I.T.W. Armaments, a chap came & nattered about the Browning Gun, the Signals Officer is a P/O an Observer from the last war, who seems slightly wrong in the head! A large part of the programme consists of going to the Cinema Hut for M.O.I [sic] films, of, the Enemy has Ears, variety, some of these bring home to one how vital it is to be guarded in conversation.

For entertainment each Sunday and Monday night they have a movie film, free, Bing Crosby & Bob Hope are on this Sunday in 'Road to Zanzibar'. Once a fortnight there is a dance in the mess and a good few women from the town come. They had one the evening we arrived it was a pretty good band. Well being tired I don't feel like writing any more so will close.

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[underlined] Wednesday June 24th [/underlined]

We have been here exactly a week now, & are wishing we had gone to Perth for it must be better than here. I don't know whether the A.M. realises it, but a place like this & a training system like these Grading Schools is enough to make anyone completely fed up with flying. I remember last week the first time I went up, I guess it was the biggest thrill I have ever had. Strapping myself in with the Sutton harness, I waited & then we gradually moved forward, gaining speed & all of a sudden I had a shock for looking over the side I saw the ground about 50 feet below us, I had not noticed that we had left it. Sitting there admiring the view I felt a strange sense of exaltation, as if I had left worldly things behind, & was all alone in the universe. I was jerked out of my isolation by the instructors voice crackling through the inter-com, & we began the business of flying.

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Being the first time the instructor didn't give me any of the patter, he just let me get used to the new sensation. I had rather a shock when he cut the motor, & announced he was going to practise [sic] a forced landing, although he didn't actually touch down he would have made it easily. Coming [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] [inserted] back [/inserted] he flew low along the course of the Eden, & this was great, I got a bigger kick out of the low level flying than anything. The following lessons were all graduated each hour for teaching one thing e.g. the first lesson - straight & level flying, then medium turns, climbing, gliding etc. on to take-offs. landings & spins. It certainly is marvellous how correctly trimmed the aircraft will fly by itself almost smoothly, yet as soon as we touch the controls she lurches about - gremlin trouble - maybe.

I think the whole idea of Grading Schools are a farce though, & every instructor & pilot on 'ops' that I have spoken to agrees. They maintain that it is impossible

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to discern whether a fellow will make a pilot in 12 hours or not, the time is too short. A fair amount depends upon one soloing in the time, & yet a fair few well known pilots today soloed after 12 hours. Another point is that the instructors can't take any real interest in a fellow for no sooner have they got him up to the soloing stage, when he goes & someone completely new comes in his place. So I guess no-one can blame them for feeling cheesed & not being able to give the individual attention to us that we need. All these points & the atmosphere of this station as well all go to make us lose heart in the flying & ask are we being given a fair deal.

From our point of view we definitely are not, for we know that if we had received our papers a couple of months before we did, we should have missed this scheme & gone abroad as usual, & stood

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a much better chance of getting our wings being, as we would be on a full E.F.T.S. course. From the A.M's [sic] point of view I suppose they are fully justified. They are short of Observers, & these new Air Bombers, so the easiest way is to just whizz a few [one indecipherable word] potential pilots off the course, & re-muster them. As they say it being for the good of the country our personal feeling don't count. It certainly is hard when you have set your heart on being a pilot, & volunteered for it to be just placed on one side, without a fair trial of one's capabilities. Still there it is, but it seems ever such a great waste of youthful enthusiasm & keeness [sic] to me, I can see, and also feel it myself, the old spirit gradually dying away & being replaced with a browned-off feeling, & a 'nothing matters' outlook. It is the way that this country has always been though, & I guess it always will be. Who are we to question the wisdom of the great.

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[underlined Sunday June 28th. [/underlined]

The end of the week, and a fast-moving week at that, things sure have happened speedily. Four of the boys have finished their course already & are going on leave tomorrow. This is embarkation leave, just in case we should get a pilot, which I doubt. Amongst those going are 'Nob' Davies & Cooper, they were withdrawn from lectures & their flying speeded up to four hours a day at times. Consequently they often reached a period when the instructors words would go in one ear & out the other, they just couldn't take any interest in it. Cooper soloed at 10 hrs 25 mins, but 'Nob' didn't. The way they are rushing us through with this flying, they are either desperately short of aircrew, or else are getting our 12 hours over with just because the training system is so choked & they have to get as many through as possible. I think the latter is the case, & as usual it benefits all but us.

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I guess I should have finished my flying by the end of the week, & be on leave, it seems rather absurd to be home on leave again, seeing I only left a fortnight ago - still I'm not grumbling. I had my 7 hour progress test with the F/Lt. in charge of C flight & didn't do too bad, I learnt afterwards I had 555 marks which is average. As long as they don't rush me with my flying I'll be alright. One of the fellows from St. Andrews have [sic] been taken off because he gets nervous every time he goes up. It's hard lines on him, for some people are made that way & he has gone through his I.T.W all for nothing.

There is a fair in the park in town & we will go there tonight, for it is Carlisle's stop-at-home holidays week & they have different attractions. Carlisle itself is quite a nice town, a lot more livelier than St. Andrews, & a very fine park. They have a large Y.M.C.A. here - the John Peel Hut, & it

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really is a fine place. If people only knew how much these places matter to service men I am sure they would receive more support.

Cooper has received a letter from a pal at Manchester who has been classified as a pilot. He said it is a matter of luck what percentage of pilots they require at the classification time, whether we get a pilot or not. I must say it doesn't sound too hopeful, still maybe whatever happens is for the best.

I did spins for the first time this week, it is a queer feeling when the aircraft stalls & lurches forward & the earth spins round & round. This was a thing I managed to get hold off [sic] quite easily & could do pretty well. My instructor did half an hours aerobatics yesterday & I hardly knew if I was on my head or heels. He is a real decent fellow though, never binds a bit even when I make silly mistakes, not like some instructors.

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[underlined] Wednesday July 1st. [/underlined]

My brief period of flying is over, it certainly was short & sweet, it lasted under a fortnight, & from that someone can tell whether I would make a pilot after a few hundred hours flying - maybe. Right at the last couple of hours my instructor was changed because another instructor didn't like his pupil, there was a switch & now my instructor has the chap. This other one binds more, but I [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] [inserted] was [/inserted] not worrying about that for I had [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] at last got my landings O.K. So he promised me half an hour to go solo on Tuesday, but it seemed that right at the last Fate took a hand. For on Tuesday I was called out of lectures & told I would have to let my solo go & do my last two hours, & get my 12 hours test over that morning. Feeling pretty cheesed I did & did fair in my test. They told me the fact that I was about to solo would go on my record yet I doubt if that will cut much ice.

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Today I & Jack Dawsett [?] have been dashing around with our clearance chits, trying to locate people, who don't want to be located. We managed to get them in the end & got our clothing settled. Because a few chaps flew on Sunday they issued Daily Flying Returns with everyone down as having 'Attended Lectures' being as we didn't know we omitted to sign, so Dodds the W/O fellow, put us on an hours digging tonight, our last night too, I'd like to meet him outside.

Still my outstanding thought, is thank the Lord we are leaving this place. Tomorrow we only have an F.F.I. & get our warrant & ration cards then we are away, & most probably will be able to catch the midday train - then home and some good food. I expect Mary will get a shock when she sees me. Ah! well I'll close this my last entry at Carlisle, my first flying school, & not the last I hope.

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[underlined] Sunday July 12th. [/underlined]

It is a week & a half since I have made an entry, only I never enter anything when I am on leave, don't combine business with pleasure in this case. I am now at my fifth station, as I have mentioned, Manchester in this case. After enjoying seven days leave I was due to report here on Friday at midday. To do that I would have had to catch the 4 a.m. train from Euston & sleep on the station all night. So I took the 8.15 am. with Jack Dawsett & practically all other cadets went on it as well. We arrived at London Rd Station about 1.45 p.m. & caught a 1d services bus to Victoria Stn. where we connected the train to Heaton Park. This type of train is electric & reminded me of a cross between a London Metropolitan Train & an armoured train. We finally arrived at the park at 2.30 pm. Nobody said anything, all was bustle & confusion, hundreds of cadets wandering around, harrased [sic]

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N.C.O's endeavouring to get some semblance of order, what a panic.

To anyone who has never been to Heaton Park the word "Park" is apt to be misleading. The place is over 500 acres of natural country, complete with hills, vales, woods, streams, lakes, and in peace-time must have been a really lovely place. It was originally owned by an Earl, his name escapes me, & he presented it to Manchester Corporation for a public park, which in its turn was taken over by the R.A.F. At the time of writing the mansion itself forms No. 1 Squadron's offices, the officers mess, & various other rooms contain service branches. The huge lawn is a parade ground - can hold over 2,000 men. The Cafeteria built for the public is our mess, & another one has been built for No 2 Squadron's Mess. In the natural theatre by the stage & pavilion are lots of tents & more by the tennis courts, & everywhere one looks, ugly Nissen Huts have served [?} themselves up.

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It certainly has spoilt the appearance of the park, but I'm afraid we don't care about the beauty a lot. We are constantly moaning about the terrific distances we have to walk from place to place on the station. Talk about dispersal, everything is miles away from anywhere else. Jack & I are in billets outside the camp, we are both in nice houses, I have good rooms. The only trouble being in the morning when we have about a 2 mile walk to get to the mess for breakfast. I always have to dig Jack out, & sometimes we miss it.

The food here on the whole is pretty good, & one thing there is plenty of it. Being as there are about a thousand cadets here, they certainly handle the queues quickly. Not so with the N.A.A.F.I. this is in the tea-bar that is by the boating lake, & it is a devil of a wait outside, then a mad scramble at the counter with no orderliness at all. Consequently tea fly's [sic] over everyone & tempers become short.

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We got fixed up pretty quickly on the day we arrived, issued with mugs etc. and all the usual performances were got through, that always have to be done on joining a new station. After some searching we located our billets & nearly dropped dead getting our kit-bags there. The following day we commenced the programme, what there is of it. Nothing is hardly done here, for it is just a Classification centre, & then a posting Centre. Discipline is very slack indeed nobody pays any attention to the N.C.O's & people slide off when & where they like, there is rarely more than 3/4 of the flight present when a check is taken. This is rather a rest cure in some ways.

I have met 'Nob' Davies & Cooper, they arrived on Tuesday, & are in tents! We have Saturday afternoon off, but have to come all the way over to the park on Sunday, just to answer a roll-call. For the church parade is held on Wednesday. Well, thats [sic] enough for now, I'll describe the station & Manchester more next time.

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[underlined] Wednesday July 15th. [/underlined]

Life just slips uneventfully by, and we [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] slide along in a regular rut. Most of our day is spent in dodging off, our sergeant is one of the nervous & conscientious type, & fusses like an old hen. The [deleted] trob [/deleted] trouble he takes to get us all in the open-air swimming bath is marvellous, but then he never succeeds. The fellows in camp are allowed out till 11 p.m. each night excepting Friday & Saturday when it is 23.59. Almost the entire camp pours into town, by means of the electric train service, or various buses.

Manchester is more after my idea of fun, for it is large like London, and very busy. There are bags of up to date cinemas, the prices are rather high though. There is a good theatre the Palace, they sometimes have productions there prior to them opening in the West End. Strangely enough there are poor facilities for troop canteens, one

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Y.M.C.A. which is always packed, a C.W.L. canteen, equally crowded, and a Forces Canteen on Victoria Stn. which is pretty good, but with limited accommodation like the others.

We certainly lead a gay life, and we pay for it, the money really pours away, we spend £2 pocket money a week easily. Admitted about 15/- a week goes on food in the cafes, but we also go to the films about 3 or 4 times weekly & dances twice. The Ritz Ballroom is a pretty good place, but gets very packed. There was a dance in our mess in the week & that was well crowded.

Coming back from town we catch a train they run at every ten past & twenty to in the hour & the late ones are very crowded but we generally make it. Jack and I get out at Bowker Vale the station before Heaton Park, as it is right by our billets, I don't stay out late though, about 10 to 10.30 p.m – so far.

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treated as children, & numbers, but never human beings, and last of all, these long hanging about periods, all tend to dull the edge of the keenest appetite. It certainly is a shame, there are thousands of young fellows who volunteered to join Air Crew, & I am not line shooting when I say we are treated as though we were the last people that were needed in this war.

We had Navigation the other day, in a long Nissen Hut, one can't really whip up any enthusiasm here. Most of our days are the same we always try to slip off early to tea, before the colossal queues appear, then we can get an early start into town. I believe we might get a 48 hr pass this weekend, I hope so, for I feel as though I have been away ages. That sure is a rush on the London train, and also coming back, Sunday night, still I wont [sic] mind that as long as I get home.

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[underlined] Tuesday July 28th. [/underlined]

Today is my 19th birthday, and has been quite an eventful day, I had a Greetings telegram from Mary & cards from the family & friends. Beside this however it was our classification day, & I am now a A/T Air Bomber. The parade was held this morning, we were all marched, through the rose gardens, down to a beautiful green, with a small lake, a truly peaceful spot. There we layed [sic] upon the grass & listened to the Wing Comdr. reading out our destinies. There were about 30% pilots out of this parade. I felt sorry for one fellow who was made a Navigator, he flew so well at Grading School, and went solo in a record time, that he had a letter of congratulations from Group. Yet after that he was made a Navigator, ah! well it is a funny system.

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[underlined] Wednesday July 18th [/underlined] [pages in wrong order]

The lady with whom I am billeted informed me upon my arrival that it would be unlikely I should be here more than 10 days, well, that has passed, so we are wondering how long we will be here, it won't be longer than 3 weeks I should say. 'Nob' is expecting to be classified Monday or so, I wonder what he will get. It is a weird way they appear to classify them, nobody knows how they do it. A fellow who got a pilot the other day was taken off the flying coarse after 5 hours & told he would never be able to fly. Still I wouldn't mind an Air Bomber, its [sic] a nice short course, & that's what attracts me at the moment. We may be classified at the same time as 'Nob' I hope so, might as well get it over with. There'll be some disappointments, I guess.

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There is a familiar cry at this place, "Stand Still!" Every time we are on parade someone screams that, an officer or an N.C.O. everyone of them love saying it. Parades are fairly lengthy here for after the roll calls etc. long lists of fellows are called out for various reasons. Then the N.C.O's in charge of the flights are called out at the double & their instructions issued regarding the day's programme. This place is apt to get rather deadly after awhile, life becomes too monotonous.

I hear they are opening a new N.A.A.F.I. for 2 squadron, this should ease the pressure on the other one. The complement of the station is growing for fellows are coming in & none being posted. The weather is lousy rain and more rain and one never sees a blue sky, oh! give me the Sunny South!

[underlined] Wednesday July 22nd [/underlined]

The Classification Parade was held on Monday, but our flight wasn't on it. 'Nob' Davies, was made an Air Bomber, he was pleased over that, Cooper a pilot, Brayshaw a Navigator, there were about 40% pilots, I should say a rather large total. I thought we should have been classified, well, maybe we will have our chance next week, if I get an Air Bomber I'll be happy.

We have been on Camp Co-operation lately, this is rather a farce. On a camp this size, & so short staffed, there are bags of work that has to be done by the cadets so different flights are detailed for these. They are varied these fatigues – beg pardon – if anyone should make the mistake of referring to them as fatigues, they can be placed on a charge. Anyway, we sweep clean, paint, build

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fences, tend vegetables, dig, and everything imaginable! Needless to say there is bags of skiving, (or slipping off) as its [sic] called. Salvage is the biggest dodge, practically all the cadets are on this after the Church Parade, Wednesday. The S.W.O. who is a decent little fellow, has 27 years service in, is pretty keen on salvage.

I am not feeling bitter or anything, when I express the sentiment that the Press should know the full details of Air-Crew Training, I am merely voicing the feelings of almost every cadet under training. For in practically every case one sees, keen enthusiasm, turn into a oh! – what the hell attitude, it is unavoidable. The Wing Comdr here, admits this but states this can't be helped, I don't think so, if it were all reorganised, by young brains we could really get somewhere This changing from station to station, being bound at by dumb N.C.O's

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I am pleased with myself though, if I can get a posting pretty soon, the course is only 12 - 14 weeks, & I shall be home on leave for Xmas as a sergeant. The stations we are posted to are Dumfries, Stourbridge, Isle of Man, & it is rumoured that there is a station opening at Reading, I would like to be posted there, its [sic] near enough to London. I am now in 'H' flight with a decent crowd of fellows, & a really smashing corporal, he's the opposite of the sergt [sic] we had, this one wangles us off everything, & gets plenty of opportunities for skiving. It was only a rumour we were having a 48, I didn't really credit it, for we had, had one the previous weekend. This certainly is a station for rumours, anything is believed here, postings, different methods of training, everything wildly buzzes around amongst the cadets. Now my next worry is when I shall be on a posting I guess, ah! well I shall remember my 19th birthday.

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[underlined] Saturday 1st August [/underlined]

Well, there is a posting of Air Bombers, but I am not on it, 'Nob' Davies is though. It was the first half of 'F' flight & as I am in H flight, we will have to wait awhile I guess. It is to Bobbington near Stourbridge I believe it is a pretty good station, they are due to leave tomorrow evening. So at last 'Nob' is on his way, 12 weeks & then he will have his tapes, [?] lucky guy.

We are definitely getting cheesed with this place, we can thank the Lord for having Oxenbury for a Cpl, he is about the best N.C.O. I've ever met. He gets us off different things & plays around, boy he sure takes a lot of the burden off us. I guess we'll stroll around this afternoon & have tea in John Lewis's cafeteria, that is quite a nice place, than finish off with a show. The cinemas are about the best choice for the

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dances are so crowded, we sometimes go to the dance in the Y.M.C.A. though. On our first Saturday here, we went to Belle Vue, I didn't think a lot of the fun fair, it was rather dear too. We went into the Speedway & enjoyed quite a good programme, we were going into the all-in wrestling after, but decided we didn't have time. What a job it was to get back, though, thousands of people dashing for the buses, huge queues everywhere. Phew! I thought we would never [one indecipherable word] but luckily we jumped on one & got back O.K.

They are having a regatta here on the lake, shortly, I don't mind watching as long as it isn't on our Saturday afternoon off, they can pull little tricks like that, all too easily. We have had Navigation again this week, we professed not to know the computer again, so the instructor went through that. Ah! well anything that averts work is a good thing.

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[underlined] Sunday 16th August [/underlined]

I haven't made an entry in this diary for a fortnight, owing to the fact, that there has been hardly anything to enter. Life has just slid along in the hum drum way it does at Manchester, without anything important happening. By every right we should have been on a 48 hour pass this [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] week end, [sic] it was our turn, but they jumped us heaven knows why, so two sergeants in our flight are going to have an interview with the C.O. about it. I hope we get it next weekend, heaven knows I need it, I feel I have been here for months.

This certainly is a meeting place for everyone, from all different times in ones life. I have already met Frank Young who was in my room at Hall Rd, he is a Navigator W/T, & will 'cake' the wireless, being [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] a wireless officer in the Merchant Navy, before he

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joined up. In my flight now is 'Bill' Bailey who was in my class at school, I never knew he had joined up, I had a great surprise, when I met him. Also another chap I have bumped into was Jimmy Twigson [?] who I worked with first of all, he is an Air Bomber, so far I haven't met any fellows from the office who joined up with me.

The regatta finally got cracking after it had been washed out once by a torrential downpour of rain, number 2 squadron won it. Last night we had a pretty good time, we generally get pretty tight in the Gaumont Long Bar, one of the few places that we can get Youngers at. I have had a letter from 'Nob' giving all the 'gen' on the course and it seems there is a fair amount of work more in fact than I thought. Still whatever it is the sooner we are on it the better.

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[underlined] Monday 24th Aug [/underlined]

Well, we had our 48 hour after all the week end just passed. The two sergeants had an interview with the C.O. & he expressed surprise that we had been missed, & agreed to grant one. We were lucky to get away a bit earlier than usual, and after a frantic struggle managed to catch the 2.15 p.m. from London Rd. What was more akin to a miracle was the fact that I acquired a seat, something very much out of the ordinary. I spent a most enjoyable week-end, & naturally finished up feeling pretty cheesed at having to return. Then followed the old scramble for the midnight train at Euston, with crowds of cadets everywhere. Then we would try to snatch some sleep during the journey & arrive in Manchester around five. The grey dawn would be breaking & there would be the lucky ones who were huddled up, waiting for an early train to take

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them into London on leave - how I envied them. Our eyes would be continually closing & we could hardly keep awake & then we would trudge to Victoria Stn. for the first train to Heaton Park. 48's sure are fun but hellishly short, & terrible to return from.

The past week we have had another corporal, helping Oxenbury, & what an object. He was in the band, & had two fingers in plaster maybe he caught them in his harp, & he had the queerest voice I have ever heard. Nobody could tell whether he was shouting Left or Right, or what, it was a perfect mess. He doesn't seem to be with us now thank the Lord. There are rumours circulating of an Air Bombers posting, but we have heard so many ones like this that we are inured to them now. I think I will go to the WAAF's dance at the Bowler [?] tonight, they are generally pretty good.

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[underlined] Saturday Aug 29th. [/underlined]

The rumours of a posting weren't rumours after all, we are actually going, but there is a lot of doubt & puzzlement in our minds. When they announced the place we were going to - Hastings, I nearly jumped for joy when I heard that, for I had never dared to hope I would be so near London. Then we found out that all the Air Bombers, 400 of them were going, which seemed rather strange, & now the news has gone circulating round, that this place isn't anything more than another Manchester - we just have to await a posting from there. I'll leave this entry awhile & finish it tonight, something may have turned up by then.

It is now night & our fears have been realised, the Wing Comdr. in his address to us, told us Hastings was another pool from where we would be posted. Still it is nearer

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to London, & I might be able to get home, it does seem silly to have a station so near to Jerry I think. We are leaving tonight, there will be a glorious beer [?] up before we leave I guess.

This afternoon there were the Inter-Squadron Sports, & although it was Saturday afternoon no-one was allowed to leave the camp, everyone had to watch it. Even us who were leaving that night, weren't allowed out for our last few hours, it doesn't seem much, when one mentions it, but believe me, when one experiences how you can be pushed & pulled around well it isn't so hot.

I think I'll trot out with "Bud" Flanagan tonight, on a pub-crawl, & drawn my sorrows. We have to report back at 9 p.m. for a check & supper & then after the usual delay, I guess we will be on our way. So it finally is goodbye to Manchester, I seem to have been here ages, ah! well, it wasn't so bad after all.

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[underlined] Wednesday 2nd Sept. [/underlined]

Here I am down in the sunny South again, & it certainly is a change to see a lovely blue sky again after Manchester. Yet what wouldn't I give to be back there I never realised how easy it really was. Still theres [sic] no time to cry over spilt milk and I'd better recount what happened when we left.

As I guessed we all went out and became gloriously tight, & rolled back into Heaton Park for the final checks. What a shambles – they first tried to call the roll in the dark - heaven knows why. Trying to do that with 400 fellows at least 300 of them well under the weather, was just asking for trouble. About twenty voices would answer for each name called out, as nobody knew who was present & who was not. Then some fellows began throwing pieces of earth at the officer holding the flashlight, gee! it was a fiasco.

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Then, finally it penetrated the official mind, that, it would be a lot easier if they went into the mess hall where it was light - so in we went. Here they got through a roll call of a sort, & as time was passing they decided we had better have supper. This was easily the best meal I have had at Manchester & one of the best in the R.A.F. It was fried egg, or was it eggs I wasn't sober enough to remember, & a lovely golden brown potato ball, it went down well I know. They finally moved us off then, & we were passed through the door one at a time, between two officers so they were able to get a proper idea of who was missing at last. 'Taffy' Evans was there tight to the eyebrows & screaming himself with laughter at another fellow who had a few flowers stuck in his great pack. All the time Taffy, unknowingly, had a terrific bunch of them, sprouting all over his pack & webbing! When he passed the officers, one reached out despairingly to stop

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him, but as if he said "oh! whats [sic] the hell", let him go.

We marched to the gate, laughing and singing, & there came to a halt, we waited half an hour & moved across into the station. The train arrived after a little while and we all dived in with the usual scramble for seats. I got settled with the three Scotties, Bob, Bill, & Jock, & tried to snatch some sleep. Our carriage had the windows hermetically sealed, & believe me, they put a good few men on troop trains, fellows sleeping on the floor & everywhere, phew! it was hot. Being a troop train it was going right through with no changes, a blessing. I awoke early next morning cramped & thirsty & attacked my meagre rations, some of which where bad. I had the devil of a shock when some while later we pulled into Willesden Junction, I thought we had crossed the Thames long ago. It was heart breaking to pass right through London & across Chelsea Bridge, so near & yet so far to home, but not a chance of reaching there.

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We picked up speed when we were clear of London, & were soon rushing through Tunbridge & on & on till we finally arrived at St. Leonards.

Our worst fears were realised when we saw our reception party, all the N.C.O's had smart uniforms, terrific creases, dazzling boots & buttons & worst of all brilliant white blancoed [sic] belts. It certainly was a home of bull we judged - & we were right. They fell us into line & away we went, with them constantly whipping up our step, I thought bitterly it won't be long before they have broken us in. After a tidy march we reached our quarters, Marine Court, a magnificent huge modern block of flats. What a target for Jerry I thought, about 12 floors of huge glittering white stone & glass. The usual settling in process followed, bedding, rooms, wash, eat, 'gen' chats by different officers & the C.O. details of parades, all the old routine, then time to ourselves. One's first job on such occasions is always to dash off letters with the new address to all & sundry. Being late, & myself being tired I'll close this until the next entry.

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[underlined] Sunday Sept 6th. [/underlined]

To continue with the life of this station, the C.O. seemed very gruff & hellish bad tempered at times, but he was alright if everything went right. A Flight Lieut Observer there, everyone hated the sight of, a supercilious cocky guy, a last war Obs. incidentally with Gen Service & Victory Medals up. Our squadron C.O. seemed one of the biggest baa-lambs under the sun a hell of a binder. I think everyone retired with some misgivings on Sunday night as to what the morrow would bring. Our rooms were lovely, I was in one on the 7th floor with three other fellows, the room had French windows opening onto a balcony overlooking the front & the rear, the balconies were out of bounds.

Reveille was at 6.15 a.m. and up we scrambled, & came down five floors to the dining hall. The food here was terrible & very little of it, there were scores of complaints that day, but very little action. We waited for awhile [sic] before we were served, here they have a ticket punching

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idea, that ensures nobody goes around twice for a meal, I can't imagine anyone that would. After breakfast we scrambled [?] beds, & then followed a rush of bulling brasses sweeping the room, & making bed packs, & then we dashed down in time for the parade at 8 a.m. This was held in a tiny street at the rear of Marine Court. After a helluva lot of 'attentions' & Stand at Ease', there came the familiar "For Inspection Open Order March", & then we came under fire. I have been on many inspections but never one like that, the A Sqdn C.O. P/O Stuttaford, was meticulous to the point of ridiculousness, ever such tiny faults were magnified into major offences, it was terribly cheesing. At last it was over & after the usual 'guff' about making ourselves 'lots smarter', the days [sic] programme commenced.

We were soon to become familiar with the curriculum, first we marched to the streets around Warren Sq for 2 hours drill. Foot drill after our I.T.W was long passed go it was binding, then we were marched back & given a quarter of an

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hours [sic] break, during which it was impossible to get ones nose in the N.A.A.F.I. & we weren't allowed out to any cafe's. Right after this we paraded in P.T. kit & ran about 2 miles to White Rock Park, where we had 2 hours P.T. & then ran back again. Dinner followed that, then the whole afternoon was devoted to a route march. It was hellishly long & I know it crippled a lot of the older N.C.O's the F/Sgt didn't show his nose in any again. This programme was adhered to rigidly every day of this week. In the end we began to wonder if we were on a Commando Course or what the hell. The bull was continued all the [one indecipherable word], the usual stuff of rooms being scrubbed with trimmings like polishing the brass on the window frames & black polishing gum boots. Our food has improved slightly but not a lot.

Yesterday we went to a local cinema for a 'gen' chat by a Flt/Lt. Observer, just off 'ops' who is taking a hand with a course they are organising. It seems to me rather a farce being mainly

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I.T.W subjects & hardly anything we will get on our course, we are too cheesed off to worry now though. There is leave as the C.O. graciously calls it one 36 hour pass once a month, & this is stopped at any time if there is any little thing wrong with the rooms. The laundry is a decent one here thank the Lord, but the system of giving out mail is chronic, instead of giving it out to each flight N.C.O. 'Chiefy' or F/Sgt Tate shouts it out for the whole squadron, bloody poor system.

He is one of the biggest binders I have met, & thats [sic] saying something here. On inspections in the morning, what with him, Stuttaford & half a dozen others screaming 'Stand Still', 'Take his Name', I realise what the Guards go through. One hardly expects it in Air Crew though. To make up for the lack of food in the barracks we eat a lot in the cafes, there seems to be plenty of food in town, luckily there are bags of fruit too. Gee! but I guess we will all heave a sigh of relief the day we leave here.

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[underlined] Thursday 10th Sept. [/underlined]

This certainly is a lot quieter than Manchester, when we drill in the streets it sends a shiver down my spine at times; They are all deserted & nearly all the large boarding houses empty & boarded up with broken windows paint peeling off, & cracked walls, it is a ghost town in some parts. Around London Rd there is plenty of life, though, & also in Hastings itself. Most evenings we spend in cinemas, the films are very old at times, but the seats are good, & at cheap prices too.

Our routine is the same this week as it was last, but I am feeling lovely & fit now. With bright sunshine most of the time & the sea air it is a lovely change. On Sunday I dragged my 'biscuits' [?] & pillow out onto the balcony & lay there sunbathing all day. Strangely enough most of us like the route marches now. Admitted Sgt. James (one of the best) generally takes them & we march 3 miles & then lay down in a

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field & sunbathe.

I now have a 'distinguished' post, I am 'A' Squadron's Messing Representative, and it was marvellous the way I was given the position. After returning from a route march one day, we were dismissed & I happened to be standing around with my hands on my pockets. 'Chiefy' Tate pounced on me immediately, "Name & Number?" he said, getting out his note-book, I argued thinking I was on a charge, but he took my name, & then said, "For having your hands in your pockets, you are A Squadrons messing representative", ho! ho! such is service life eh!

I think I shall put in for a pass this week end, for I'm getting a little cheesed & the way things go on this station one never knows when they will be cancelled. This certainly is the place for alerts, there's a warning every hour, but hardly any action at all. I'm expecting a real 'do' one of these nights. I hope it isn't tonight anyway for I feel really tired and want a good nights [sic] sleep.

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[underlined] Monday 14th Sept. [/underlined]

This is a fine bloody station I am now on "jankers", and this is how it happened. I got my week end pass after a bit of humming & hawing, & spending the Saturday morning on rifle drill. I caught the train O.K. & got home about 5.30, after a meal & a wash & brush up I went over for Mary. We had a swell weekend, well I say weekend it was only a day really, too short. However I caught the train from Victoria O.K. & although I had to stand all down I didn't mind it was a nice trip. All the cadets poured into Marine Court & handed in their passes & then so to bed. I got into my room and put on the light to get into bed, when in walked an S.P. & [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] took my 1250 for having the lights on after lights out. Holy Mackerel! "Lights Out" was at 10.45 p.m & this was just gone 11 p.m. & not allowed a light for a few minutes to get into bed. This is an example of red tape carried out to the maximum. Anyway we were marched before P/O Stuttaford

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& after him having his little bind, he awarded us 4 days – 4 days hell! in this place it equals 7 days on any other station just for a little offence like that – anyway today I started.

Its [sic] wonderful what scam they get for S.P's the sgt. in charge of the jankers parade screamed and bawled as if we were the most hardened criminals, oh! its [sic] not worth describing it. He gave me an ultimatum to get my hair cut tomorrow or else – . We worked for two hours from 6 - 8 p.m. cleaning lavatories – oh! to be in air crew. The parades each day are at 7 a.m. (that means early rising) 1 p.m. to make sure we can't get out in the dinner - time. Then 6 p.m. when we work till 8 p.m. parade again at 9 p.m. & at 10 p.m. Ah! well the first day is nearly over anyway. I hear that C Squadron when charged with the same offence were only awarded 2 days, there will be a do about this, the sooner we are off jankers the better.

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[underlined] Wednesday 16th Sept. [/underlined]

My jankers have finished, so short & sweet they were too. As I [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] prophesied there was a moan over C Squadron only getting 2 days & us 4, & it had its results this morning. We were on drill in Warrior Sq when old Stuttaford came round & called us out. In a big hearted tone he told us that owing to our rooms being very clean (he'd moaned about them the day before) he would let us off the last 2 days jankers. Quite an amusing effort on his part to save his face. Still we didn't bother to query the if's & buts we were off and that's all that mattered.

I nearly dropped in for it again this afternoon though – in fact I'm not sure whether I have or haven't. Being Wednesday afternoon I went to the Messing meeting and made the usual complaints over the food, which has improved considerably but is still fairly bad. After this I found everyone was down in the garage

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on Armaments, not feeling like this, I went up to my room & dropped my biscuits & pillow out on to the balcony & lay out there reading a pile of Daily Mirrors.

I heard footsteps in the building but took no notice of them, happening to look up I saw Stuttaford gazing, horrified at me. Boy! I thought here's where I really get it, opening the door he screamed "Come in here", there followed quite a scene, & finished by him shouting for Sgt. Tasker [?] to take my name & no. Tasker [?] was decent & he may do something for me, I hope so anyway.

Think I'll go to the cinema with Bob & Bill, "They Died with their Boots On" is in Hastings. This course or farce of a course is getting pretty binding, I'll be glad when its [sic] over I know the Sten Gun inside out. The Sgt. Pilots & Observers who take us are as cheesed as we are, so its [sic] a fine state of affairs

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[underlined] Monday 21st Sept. [/underlined]

Events moved fairly quietly up to the weekend, I was never charged for being on the balcony, so I guess old Tasker was able to get it "washed" [?] he's a decent old stick. I felt sorry for Taffy he had a pass for the week end & had arranged with his girl, for her to travel from Birmingham to London & he would meet her there. Then on Wednesday Stuttaford came round in an even worse temper than usual, and swore his mug (that is displayed on the bed lay out) was dirty. It wasn't much good arguing with him, Taffy was awarded 3 days 'jankers', Thursday, Friday, & Saturday. So he lost his weekend pass as well, & had to wire his girl, cancelling the arrangements – all that just for a drinking mug – reputed to be dirty, its [sic] funny what swines there are in the world. I'm gonna fight like hell for a pass on Oct 16th as Don and Betty are being married & I must be there.

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This morning what I had been expecting to happen did, it was like this:- The morning was devoted to a swimming parade in White Rock Baths, an event which was appreciated by all, even though we did have to pay 6d each to get in. We paraded promptly about 8.45 a.m. in the little street at the rear of Marine Court & away we marched. As usual we marched through the streets of the town & then out onto the promenade by Warrior Sq. Hardly had we marched onto the prom, when there was a roar of aero engines, which made us look out to sea hastily. There was a low lying mist which suddenly parted & two F.W. 190's flying about 20 ft above the water rushed in. Luckily they were between us & Marine Court, consequently being unable to fire upon us without altering course. Before we had time to move at all they lifted off the water & each released, the 500 Kgm bomb, they had slung underneath, at

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Marine Court.

There was a minor explosion as one entered, but being on D.A. we took advantage of the delay to dive for cover, then with a roar it exploded. The other missed the building & exploded in the small park behind. Everything had happened so swiftly & with such surprise that not a shot was fired at the raiders. We continued on to the Baths, but all agog to get back & see what had happened. As we turned onto the gradient next to Marine Court, we observed that the 7th, 8th, & 9th floors, above the dining hall were blown in & quite an amount of damage done to the 10th, quite a lot of damage for one bomb, but it wasn't a very solid place, more for show in summer time. I must record here, our true feelings when we saw the damage, onlookers standing around apparently expected us to burst into tears, but if they had, had the time we did there I daresay they would have acted the same.

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We cheered, & meant it, and cries of "Bullsh– Mansion Gone at Last", & Critchleys Palace Destroyed", (Critchley was reputed to have shares in every place we were billeted) greeted the night. One dear old soul gazing at us, & apparently hard of hearing for she couldn't have heard our remarks, said loudly "Ah! the 'boys' will get their own back for this", needless to say the 'boys' received this with obvious merriment. Bob, Bill, & myself had dinner in a cafe we weren't intending to hang around for hours, upon returning we were told to go down to the car park in the basement. Here lots of salvaged equipment was heaped & we settled down. Each floor was ordered upstairs in turn to clean their rooms or what was left of their rooms. At last came the 7th & up we trooped, [?] glad at last to get a look at what was going on.

Some boys on the salvage party were having a fine time slinging stuff around. Our room wasn't damaged except for a few cracks & the door

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blown in. We staggered up & down to the basement (9 floors in all) carrying kit bags & bedding, until we were cheesed & skived off for a rest. Leaning on the balcony of the 11th we watched the demolition party at work. The street below that we had paraded in 15 mins before Jerrie's arrival, was covered with large [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] blocks of stone & debris, so I'm glad they insisted on punctuality there. Anyway the demolition party were throwing pieces of stone etc. onto the pile and amusing themselves & the onlookers by aiming them at a lamp standard underneath, & in this way succeeded in completely ruining it.

About 5 p.m. we were told to parade on the prom, & were then marched past Warrior Sq about 110 yds. to the Eversfield Hotel which was our new quarters. It was a dark & dingy place, and we didn't like it as much as Marine Court, but Taffy & I got a room to ourselves, with our own wash bowl, quite lucky. Naturally our first action was tea, then unpack & well here I am

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[underlined] Friday 25th Sept. [/underlined]

I am writing this amidst constantly changing surroundings – on a train. You see, we settled down to normal work again on Tuesday lessons in the Victoria Hotel once more, & apart from numerous clothing parades for those who had to be re-kitted, & wangling of kit by a good few more everything went on the same. The C.O. came & shot an awful line about the bombing happening, because a few had disregarded orders & gone out on the balconies when a reconnaissance plane had come over at 25,000 ft a couple of days previous. He apparently overlooked the fact, that on the day of our arrival he himself had told us the Hun would know we had arrived. Even if this was so, he greatly under rated the German Secret Service (particularly active in Hastings), & also I would have liked to have met the fellow who could see a human being from 25,000 ft. Well everything was O.K until yesterday & I went to a messing committee meeting at Marine Court & had hardly returned to Eversfield when with a roar, 11 F.W's or ME 109's roared past the window about 30 fit off the deck. A few

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seconds later came the clump of exploding bombs, getting nearer, I ducked & waited. Nothing happened, so I looked out of the windows again, the raiders were already well out to sea, & three others who had been circling round in the sun ready to take a hand if any of our boys came along joined them.

About 11 bombs had been dropped, three up on the hill leading to the sports field one on a blind home, two by the Victoria Hotel, and three in Warrior Sq, where I had been a minute before. A single V.G.O. was mounted at each end of Marine Court, & one fellow got off a good few rounds at them – a good show. Unfortunately not like the Monday, when nobody was injured there were a fair few civilian deaths & casualties, also our boys didn't escape. They had been marching back from football, when they were spotted, a F.W dived & let his bomb go on the houses nearby & two others side slipped to roof top height & opened with cannon & machine gun. I think about 6 chaps were killed & 30 injured, it was a swine being unable to strike back.

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'Nobby' Clark appeared in the mess last night & said he had contacted the A.M. & we would leave Hastings as soon as possible. He was right too, they woke us up at 3 a.m. this morning & we packed, hung around & had breakfast & then left at 6.30 a.m. It was a 4 mile walk to the station – to carry 2 loaded kit bags it was impossible, I carried them for a bit, then dragged one, & finally sat down by the road with some others, really worn out. P/O Stuttaford came along carrying a suitcase (he had sent 6 fellows down to the station with his stuff) and shouted at us like pigs to get moving, my blood boils when I think of it. We struggled on for a bit, & then rested again - he screamed at us again then a Sgt took pity & said he'd take charge of us, & we hopped on a bus. We got in the troop train, I think there were about three and at 8 am. we moved off, our destination is secret, [deleted] [one indecipherable word] [/deleted] but everyone knows it is Harrogate. It broke my heart to travel through old London, & not be able to get out. We stopped for a 1/4 hour about 2 miles from Mary's place, we expect to arrive in Harrogate about 5 p.m.

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[underlined] Tuesday Sept 29th [/underlined]

I certainly get around I'm writing this at Manchester & am on a draft at last. We were billeted in the Grand Hotel at Harrogate, & received us so well that after 13 hours on 2 sandwiches & an apple, they gave us two slices of bread, no butter, & a few pieces of cheese – a fine supper. People hear of the glory of the R.A.F. its [sic] a pity they don't hear how they train aircrew. I was put on a draft right away with 18 others, & we spent Saturday getting kitted out & wasting time. I am glad I shan't be staying in this hotel, it used to be a WAAF's billets. [sic] There is plenty of 'bull' here, polished floors & everything, lights put out with a master switch & everything. Saturday afternoon we looked round the town, it wasn't a bad place, high prices & queues & everybody endeavouring to forget the war, but bags of women, there being all the Civil Service, a WAAF & AT.S training place. I saw a girl I worked with before she was evacuated to Harrogate but didn't speak to her. We saw Abbott & Costello in " Rio Rita" in the evening.

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Next morning away we marched to the station, "Nobby" gave us a farewell talk, & W/O Roberts bound to the last, "Chiefy" Tate unbound a little but I doubt if the meant it. The journey to Heaton Park didn't take long and we arrived here Sunday afternoon & passed through the old familiar gates, we had a good meal upon arrival. As our so called embarkation leave was 3 months previous we were entitled to another 7 days & naturally expected to hear something about it. On Monday though we were paraded & marched straight off to camp co-operation. My God! nobody knew anything about us, the C.O apparently didn't want to see us, we could get no 'gen' from anyone, here we were on the point of going overseas & being denied a chance of saying cheerio to our people. Its [sic] funny how they can bugger you around when they fancy to. When we were entitled to leave & to be put on fatigues & told nothing that was too thick, its [sic] funny how C.O's appear devoid of human feelings. Well, we will just have to wait hear [sic] eating our hearts out.

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[underlined] Wednesday 7th Oct. [/underlined]

I am writing this aboard the Queen Mary now under the name of HMT 02. we came on board this morning. No leave was granted to us at all at Manchester, we hung around all that time & could have had 7 days leave easily. Nothing was done until the last two days, we did fatigues all the time. Pat Kinsella had an interview with the C.O regarding leave, but was told it wasn't definite how long we would be at Manchester, how delightfully vague, still I guess there is no good crying over spilt milk.

We were allowed out into town for the last afternoon and had to report back fairly early. There followed the same old roll calls and a fine supper, just the same as when we went to Hastings. We entrained just after midnight, at Heaton Park, & being a troop train it was crammed as usual with little ventilation. We travelled through the night & arrived at our port at 8.30 am.

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Our port of embarkation was Greenock & we stood by on a tender for a couple of hours, engrossed in the busy scene on the Clyde. Every variety of naval craft, destroyers, corvettes, transports, cruisers, an aircraft carrier, & scores of landing craft dodging about, truly a busy scene. At last we moved out to our transport which we could see was a large one, & by hookey! it was a size when we got alongside. We passed in through a door way down in her side, & were given a berth number. In each cabin, they used to be single or double I should imagine are 12-15 bunks, pretty crowded, its [sic] a lovely ship though. The dining hall is colossal, one can't imagine they are afloat, we shall have that fact borne upon us, after tonight I guess as we sail then.

I'll close this now & on my next entry we will be a 1,000 miles away from land. This closes this book, and my next one will be about our trip and my experiences over in Canada.

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[Faint handwritten dates on outside of back cover]



David Geach, “Book 2, Commencing my Flying Training and my Adventures up till the time of Leaving England,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed July 14, 2024,

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