Tom Payne's Early RAF career



Tom Payne's Early RAF career


Tom's memoir of his early RAF days. He talks about his cousin, Vivian Gunning who died in a Blenheim in June 1940.
Tom joined the RAF at 15 after altering his birth certificate. He trained in Canada as a pilot.




One printed sheet


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The short period of training, coupled with obsolete aircraft, plus restricted rules of engagement led to large losses in Bomber Command in the early days of the war. My cousin enlisted as a u/t Air Observer on January 9th 1939, aged 18, at 26 (T) Group Hendon as an A.C.2 but was promoted to LAC on January 10th – (no explanation). Renamed H.Q. Reserve Command on February 1st then to RTW No. 1 Depot at Uxbridge on April 1st – No. 3 A.O.S Aldergrove April 17th – 104 Squadron Bassingbourne June 13th. Having been made Acting Sergeant on May 26th. – Full Sergeant March 3rd 1940. Within days to 110 Squadron, 101 Squadron, 21 Squadron & finally XV Squadron. His Blenheim was shot down on June 12th 1940, 16 days after joining the Squadron and 1 year 153 days after joining the RAF. (He was the only child of my mother’s sister)
My first attempt to join the RAF was in the summer school holidays in 1940, the friendly Sergeant at the Recruiting Office by The Pond in Watford High Street told me to come back when I needed to shave. So in October 1941 I wrote to Kingsway applying to be in Aircrew, got an order to visit the Assessment Offices at Euston on November 5/6th which I did, passed the medical and attestation exams etc and became 1398674 AC2 Payne T.P. on deferred service – to be attached to 1187 Squadron A.T.C. until called up after I was 18 1/4 years old – I was actually 5 weeks short of my 16th birthday.
Knowing my cousins speedy training I was disappointed by the extended delays in mine. The normal 3 weeks at ACRC became 6, instead of going direct to ITW we had 5 weeks under canvas at Ludlow, the 8 – 10 weeks ITW became 14, pre-EFTS was still 4 weeks. Waiting for a ship to take us overseas for flying training was another 7-8 weeks, worth it to get to Canada, those going to South Africa had a longer journey and most ended up out East. Delay in Canada caused by Scarlet Fever outbreak on our deck on Troopship, ship diverted to New York, kept in quarantine until tests in Moncton Canada, injections to protect didn’t work on me, after 5th & final one at EFTS and posting to SFTS on Oxfords I got Scarlet Fever – probably saved my life as I was 2 months late in getting my wings in October 1943 – returned to U.K. December 2nd but hung around for a year before OTU.
Finished OTU – 4 weeks wait for H C U on Lancasters, after completion on leave when I had telegram to report to Tuddenham – 90 Squadron, shocked when arriving to be told I was skipper to a headless crew whose Aussie skipper had been returned to Oz. Found out later that my Canadian Navigator had also been “repatriated” as were all Commonwealth Aircrew. My old crew were split up, Bomb aimer & Rear Gunner ended up in India as lorry drivers, the others in various jobs around the U.K.
Looking back it must have been chaotic, there were several hundreds of thousands of trainee aircrew in various stages of their careers, historians should investigate how many and what happened to them. I know of 1 air gunner who had flown a few ops on Halifax’s and ended up in India as 2 of my old crew did.
After a few days on 90 Squadron the C.O. approached me with a request that I move to XV at Mildenhall, as I was only a F/Sgt he was a S/Ldr I agreed, his brother was on XV and he wanted him to join 90. So began my career with XV – details follow:-



Tom Payne, “Tom Payne's Early RAF career,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed February 26, 2024,

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