Interview with Stan Waite


Interview with Stan Waite
1042-Waite, Stan


Stan Waite worked on one of the farms in Scampton in the pre-war years. He stopped his farming job to help with airfield construction when he found out he could more in one day than he earned in a week farming. He watched the first planes arrive and the airfield become operational again. He then joined the Army and was posted overseas. When he returned he took up farming in Scampton again and watched the new era of aircraft arriving.




00:15:27 audio recording


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Interviewer: This is an interview with Mr Stan Waite at his home in Cherry Willingham talking about his life regarding his work at RAF Scampton in the 1930s. Ok, Stan.
SW: Well, Scampton was opened in 1916 as a First World War airfield which they used towards the end of the war, 1916 and they used it as a training ground for pilots and then it went into, back into farmland. And I left school at fourteen and went straight on the farm. And then in 1935 the MOD decided they were going to re-arm and they wanted to bring back Scampton as an airfield because in the First World War they called it Brattleby. They didn’t want to get confused with a place called Scampton near Scunthorpe so they called it Brattleby. When they reclaimed it in 1935/36 to build the airfield they decided it would be Scampton airfield although a part of it was, did carry on over into Aisthorpe. Well, when they started building, taking all the crops and the hedges out and grassing it down we had all that job. The farmer that was already on the farm he couldn’t find the capital to pay all the contractors and sub-contractors for clearing the crops and that so a local farmer decided he would take it over and it happened to be the farm where I was working. So we had two gangs of potato pickers taking potatoes up no bigger than marbles. We were taking sugar beet up no bigger, no thicker than your thumb. They opened the factories on purpose to process it to sugar. We got a gyro tillering which is a thing, a machine which people were astounded to see how it used to work. It grubbed all the hedges out and some of them was, was thorn trees and it made no bother with that. It just went along the hedgerow and knocked them down and then dropped his rotors at the back and grubbled them all out. There was rats and rabbits flying in all directions and, and then we had to burn all that. And, and then we got the two gangs of potato pickers, two gangs of Irish labourers taking the sugar beet and potatoes up and that of course threw extra work on us. We were working nearly all hours the Lord sent us and we got all that done and then we had to, we had to work the land down and level it and then sew it down with grass seed and roll it. And then I went back on the farm and it was taken over by the MOD and when the builders started moving in they wanted a lot of labourers up there and the wage I was getting on the farm was a pittance compared to what you were getting on working for the MOD and I was getting as much in a day as I was in a week on the farm.
Interviewer: Can you remember how much that was?
SW: Yes. I was getting, I was getting fifty pence a week which was ten shillings in today’s money and I was getting as much as that in a day. So my brother he had a job up there and he got me a job up there as well so I left the farm and went up there and worked up there digging the sewers, digging the footings out for buildings, the drains for the surface water. And I was still working up there when the first aircraft came in 1936 and it was a mixture of Hawkers, there was, I don’t know whether there was any Harts among them but they was Audax and Hinds and that type of aircraft and —
Interviewer: I think Heyfords were there as well. Did you see those?
SW: Well, a lot of the history books say they came first but they didn’t. The Hawkers came first from up north. And anyway, I was up there ‘til the aircraft came and then our jobs finished. They had one or two tidying up jobs to be done and I went back on to the farm.
Interviewer: Of course, there was no runways laid.
SW: No runways laid at all. It was just grass. A lot of people get the idea that the, later on that the Dambusters took off on runways but they didn’t. They didn’t take it until they put it in grace and favour and it was closed for about two year when they laid the runways and the peritracks and dispersal points. And I was working on the farm when the heavies came down from up north and they came down as Heyfords and Virginias and, and the history books still have it that they came first and it took them three days to come but it didn’t. They all came one afternoon and I distinctly remember that because I had a gang of potato picking girls from Lincoln picking potatoes and I was spinning out for them and one of the girls said to me, ‘Look up there. Look at what’s all that coming down.’ And the sky was black with these heavy bombers coming. And then later on of course they didn’t stop long. They had a disaster when one evening the gales got up and of course the planes weren’t anchored down and three of the Heyfords finished up in the middle of the airfield locked together and another one finished up in the bank at the side of the A15 that runs past Scampton airfield. So they didn’t last very long and they went and the Virginias went. And then after that we had a, we had a fairly rapid turnover of various aircraft. We had the Vickers long range Wellesley which was a bit of a disaster for Scampton because there was four squadrons at different airfields that got four ready for the long distance attack on the, long distance for a single engine aircraft. And of course, we had a haystack at the side of the old Polyplatt Lane and the one that Scampton had got ready he came in and he caught it with his wing and that writ that one off. So it’s just left the three that, they got one for spare you see. So they just had the three then and Scampton took no part in that. I think they flew from in Egypt down to Australia I think it was if my memory serves me right. And then we had the heavy bomber. The new, the new Harrow bomber came which was a high wing bomber plane fixed undercarriage. That didn’t stay at Scampton long before it was, before it was taken away and then after that there was a various mixture and of course I got called up and went into the Army and served with the Royal Engineers serving under three generals. Served under Montgomery of course with the 8th Army, and McCreery, and I can’t remember the name of the other one. Anyway, I served under three generals. We, we was pulled back from El Alamein. We were the first troops in Sicily with the first wave of commandos. I served with the Royal Engineers mine clearing and bridging and that. And then we were the first troops in the toe of Italy. And then we was, we cut the heel off and went straight across to the Adriatic side and we bridged almost every river up the Adriatic side right through. And then when the war came we was, we was in the mountains at L’Aquila which some two or three year back had that disastrous earthquake. We relieved that. Then we was pulled back to the coast and went through into Austria and that’s where I finished up.
Interviewer: So you weren’t here when the Lancasters came and the Dambusters moved in.
SW: No. No. I hadn’t got back home then.
Interviewer: No.
SW: They brought us back home in 1945 but we had to go back to Austria for a year to wait being —
Interviewer: Evacuated?
SW: Reverted to Civvy Street.
Interviewer: Right.
SW: From the Army.
Interviewer: Right.
SW: So that, so we went back into Italy in 1946. September by the time I got, got back home again. But while we was in Italy, while we was in Egypt, while we was in Italy we was three and a half years and our families never knew where we were. Everything was, was checked before when you wrote and everything like that and it was you couldn’t put anything in to give them a clue where you were.
Interviewer: No.
SW: You were either MEF Middle Eastern Forces, or MED Forces. That’s the only clue they knew then. They knew you were somewhere in the Middle East or you were somewhere in Europe.
Interviewer: Did you go back to working at Scampton when you came back?
SW: Yes. I went back but you see in them days if you was called up the person you worked for was legally bound to take you back to work but I didn’t want to go back to the same bloke as I’d been with because he didn’t have a cottage. I’d got married in 1941. So I went to see a friend of mine who was farming the other farm in Scampton, a Mr Anderson, asked him if I could have a cottage. He said, ‘You can have a cottage,’ he said, ‘And you can have a job as well.’ So I went on to that farm. Started on the first working Monday in 1947 and of course we had that terrific snow right through. One of the worst winters the country had seen. In Lincolnshire anyway. And I stayed on that farm for forty two years. I worked with that man for twenty one years and then he sold out and retired and the gentleman that took over put me in full charge. He was a gentleman from Worksop and I was with him twenty one year. So that was forty two years on one farm. And I stayed with him then until I retired when I was eighty four years old.
Interviewer: And did you see the Vulcans come over?
SW: Oh yes. I was stood at the side of the runway when the first Vulcan came because our land at that time the man I went to work for you see he was farming Scampton Cliff as well. So we saw the Vulcan circling and coming around to line up with the runway so we walked across because we were still farming all in and out the dispersal points.
Interviewer: None of that land was needed for the new runways and the diversion of the A15.
SW: Well, no. They put the diversion in before the Vulcans came.
Interviewer: Yes.
SW: The A15. And the runways had already been put down and everything.
Interviewer: Right.
SW: All the dispersals. But we were still working the land in between the dispersals and the runways and all that because there was very little security in them days. I mean a lad who was working with me we walked across and the jeep came around from the hangar and the communications weren’t like they are now. He just had a big board in the back of his van and it said, “Follow me,” and he when the Vulcan stopped he pulled in front of it and the Vulcan followed him into the hangar. And of course, once they’d got it into the hangar you didn’t see any more Vulcans for about four or five weeks because there was so much interior work to be done on them and instrument fittings and all that type of thing. And then of course I watched the build-up day after day and then they finally moved us off the camp altogether. But I got to know quite a few of the crew members and that with working at the side of the airfield then but not on it. And I’ve always been interested in aeroplanes right the way through to the present day.
Interviewer: When you knew that the spectacular dams raid had taken place and they’d flown from Scampton did you —
SW: We didn’t know anything about it where we were.
Interviewer: When you, when you did know.
SW: Yeah.
Interviewer: When you heard about this.
SW: Yeah.
Interviewer: Afterwards.
SW: We thought well it would soon be over now.
Interviewer: Did you, did you feel a sort of well I was involved with that?
SW: Well, that’s right. Yeah. Anyway, I helped to build that place I did. And my brother was the last, probably the last half a dozen people to work up there when the, he was a foreman concreter up concreting the walls on the hangars and that sort of work so he was used to flights like but I was up there when the Hawkers came. They had a disaster one day. We was, we was working on a surface drain between hangars 1 and 2 and they’d already started flying of course. But on the 1398 that run through Scampton now it used to run straight across to cliff top and about fifty yards inside the airfield boundary they’d put a twelve by twelve target up at an angle and these Hawkers used to come along, usually from the north along the line of the road, bank and turn and camera gun it. And this one was doing it one day when there was two taking off [unclear] to starboard. Then he went straight through them and it killed three pilots. The pilot and a passenger in one, probably another co-pilot and the single seater, came and went straight through and killed three of them.
Interviewer: Oh dear.
SW: And, and that was it. And for many years after that the hedge the opposite side of the road to the airfield a lady used to come out and put a, one of them little crosses in the hedge bottom. But of course, the hedges have all gone now so there’s none of that. So that was my contribution to the war effort before I went in the Army and a little bit after the Army.
Interviewer: That’s been absolutely fascinating, Stan. Thank you very much.
SW: Well, I hope it hasn’t wasted your time, Duck. I mean there’s a lot more I could tell you about my life but that’s, that’s gone.


Claire Bennett and This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Stan Waite,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 29, 2024,

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