Interview with Terry Hodson


Interview with Terry Hodson
Hodson, Terry E-Cold War


Terry Hodson was conscripted to the RAF towards the end of the Second World War. He started in the airfield construction team doing work as and when needed. He was involved in preparing the area in London for the Victory Parade. He left the RAF but returned to RAF Coningsby as a civilian worker through the Vulcan era. He witnessed a number of events including one evening when the station warrant officer needed volunteers to find the bodies of crew of a crashed Vulcan. He also recalls an occasion when a Vulcan was put into a steep dive and broke the windows of the offices. On another occasion a pilot clipped the ATC van on the runway.




00:18:24 audio recording


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interviewer: I’m with Terry Hodson who’s going to tell us some of his memories of the Royal Air Force. Terry, I understand your first exposure to the Air Force is when you were conscripted at the end of the Second World War. Can you tell me a little bit about, you know what that period of your employment with the Air Force was.
TH: Yes. I was conscripted into the Air Force as many people were in those days and I was in an Airfield Construction Squadron all over the country at various places and ended up at Royal Air Force Coningsby where I met my wife.
interviewer: But this was right at the end of the Second World War so —
TH: Yeah.
interviewer: There were airfields still being constructed at the end of the Second World War were there?
TH: We were mainly a couple of memories, a couple of real memories over this period was that I was in Green Park when we were doing things for the, the end of the war processions that went on. The Victory Parade.
interviewer: Green Park in London.
TH: Green Park in London.
interviewer: Right where the tube station is.
TH: Yeah.
interviewer: By Bushey. Yeah.
TH: Opposite, opposite Buckingham Palace and we put parking areas down and fencing around aircraft. I remember one particular thing. The Derby was won by a horse called Horsa and we had just put a Horsa glider in situ in Green Park.
interviewer: So this is the Green Park in Piccadilly. Right. The actual, right between Piccadilly and Buckingham Palace then.
TH: That’s it. Yeah.
interviewer: Right.
TH: And we were —
interviewer: So, so despite you being in airfield construction you ended up working sort of in, they misemployed you in looking after parks.
TH: Well, no. This was our job. To do jobs for the Air Force. We also took down blast walls in MOD as it is now. It was Air Ministry in my day and we moved all around the country.
interviewer: So putting right. Sort of, so everything to do with at the end of the Second World War, removing all the blast pens and preparations for the Second World War and getting things back to a semblance of normality.
TH: Plus building balloon bases for the parachute jumping in Oxfordshire. Converting buildings in in Coningsby that were WAAF quarters but they were then turned in to officer’s married quarters and that’s where I met my wife.
interviewer: So when you would do these jobs would you stay in these locations for a short period or longer period?
TH: Yeah. The longest period was at RAF Coningsby and the shortest period was three weeks in Piccadilly.
interviewer: And was Coningsby the last, getting towards the end of your conscripted time after you were conscripted?
TH: That was my demob number came up and I was happy to go up to [Waltham] and get my demob suit and go home on leave.
interviewer: But you told me earlier that they offered you the chance of staying in the Air Force at that stage.
TH: Yes, and I didn’t want to.
interviewer: You declined the offer.
TH: Yeah. Quite forcefully.
interviewer: Was there, was that what, why was that then? You’d had enough at that stage?
TH: I’d had enough of moving around. Three weeks here, two months there. A week there. A fortnight at another place. Another month. Maybe six weeks. And three months at Coningsby was the longest so I was happy to get out and do a regular job.
interviewer: Take back any other job. And you stayed in Coningsby at that time, did you?
TH: No. I went back to my job pre-war or during the wartime. I worked at Bart’s Hospital Sports Ground at Chislehurst in Kent and I was then with my mother at Sydenham. And they used to bus down to Chislehurst to work. I came up once or twice to Coningsby to see Evelyn at weekends and thought this is getting a bit rough. I will now move up there, find work in Coningsby area which I did with a building site building married quarters for RAF Coningsby.
interviewer: Again working for a construction firm.
TH: Yeah. Yeah.
interviewer: Yeah. And then, and then sort of a couple of years after that you decided to apply for the Civil Service. Is that right?
TH: Yeah, the jobs, the job on the building site was virtually ending and I heard that they were civilianising a lot of RAF jobs. I applied and was taken on as a labourer and we did all sorts of work emptying dustbins [pause] emptying dustbins and delivering coal to married quarters that I’d helped to build. Then there was a polio scare on the camp and several airmen had gone down to it. Gone down with polio.
interviewer: So this is the late ‘40s I guess.
TH: It’s the early 50s.
interviewer: Early 50s now. Ok.
TH: Early 50s. And I went then as a messenger and after that I helped to run the Registry while a lot of the servicemen were off ill and doing various tests. And when the opportunity arose I became a clerical assistant in the Registry on the mail out, mail in. The corporal who was in charge of Registry at that time was demobbed and they asked me if I’d like to take on the Registry on promotion which I did. I then went around the general offices and various, various jobs.
interviewer: So, so this would and what was, Coningsby at that stage had the B29, the Washington that that sort of era now are we talking about?
TH: No, just before that time.
interviewer: Just before.
TH: Yeah. Just before.
interviewer: So —
TH: Just before and during that time I was in the General Office on various things. As I said I did Registry. I also did Airmen’s Movements and Releases. And later on I then went on to P1 and P2. P1 is discipline and the P2 is on the officer’s side. All their records. Postings in, postings out, leave.
interviewer: So had the big National Service call up for Korea started at this stage?
TH: I wasn’t involved in that.
interviewer: Yeah, there was a massive increase in servicemen and flying training to get ready for Korea in the sort of early 50s and so you know, I would have thought —
TH: I probably wasn’t in on the policy at that time [laughs] being a lowly CO.
interviewer: But there were lots of camps started to, you know that were run down after the Second World War started to ramp up again to train everybody for potential —
TH: I don’t think Coningsby was ever run down to be perfectly honest. Only one. One I can remember is when the TSR2 was supposed to come in. They wanted care and maintenance during that time.
interviewer: Middle ‘60s we’re talking about now. Yes.
TH: Yes. Yeah.
interviewer: And then, and then the Phantom came in in what? About 1968 didn’t it?
TH: Yeah. Well, in between times I’d been posted to the County Courts at Boston on promotion.
interviewer: County courts.
TH: County courts. Yes.
interviewer: And —
TH: Divorce and bankruptcies.
interviewer: Oh [laughs] That must have kept you busy.
TH: Yeah. Even some of them were friends [laughs] were on the list and some of Evelyn’s relations. One of Evelyn’s relations I should say was on the list.
interviewer: It must have been difficult.
TH: It was. Especially difficult was when I said to the bailiff’s when they were coming around this area, ‘Well, call in and have a cup of tea with us.’ And I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t do it. Anyway, they did. Two of them turned up one night and we had, we went out for a beer and all the curtains down the road were twitching. ‘We go there.’ ‘We go there.’ ‘We go there.’ [laughs] And this is why they wouldn’t come to me. But Evelyn went in one car and I went in another which made the curtains twitch even a bit more I think.
interviewer: Have you got any particular memories of some of the personalities that you served with and, or that you worked with at the time?
TH: In the County Courts or in the Air Force?
interviewer: As in, well no —
TH: In the Air Force.
interviewer: On the, at Coningsby the sort of —
TH: Yes.
interviewer: What sort of tricks, what games people used to get up to in those times.
TH: Yeah. Well, we had in the General Office we had a bloke called Bob. I’ve forgotten his other name now but he wasn’t a bad bloke but he was a real joker and he was always pulling our legs over the telephone and it was a big open office. I was one corner on P1s and P2s, right on the other end he was on movements and I got a telephone call one day supposedly from a Wing Commander [unclear] who was a South African. A very nice bloke actually who went on further in the Air Force but supposedly asking me what leave he had to come. So, I saw Bob in the corner laughing away on the telephone and I said, ‘Oh bugger off, Bob.’ Anyway, the phone went down and he was putting it down at the same time. Two minutes later my boss came in and said, ‘In my office, Hodson.’ So I was red faced when I came out of his office because it was actually Wing Commander [unclear] ringing me. But it was an unusual request from an officer because they normally knew what leave they’d got to come.
interviewer: Any other memories of the people that you served with?
TH: Yes. We had a youngster direct from training, secretarial training, posted in and he came in one afternoon. He disappeared off to his billet and was told to report the next morning and he was coming on to the movements I think with Bob but he didn’t come in. So we enquired where he was and he was in the guardroom. He’d been caught underneath a Vulcan that was on QRA and that means it was ready to go off to whoever our enemy was at that time and his excuse was well it was all lights underneath it and he thought it was there just to view. He found out different. I forget what his punishment was but we didn’t see him for a week or two.
interviewer: So it was pretty serious what he’d done then obviously.
TH: Well, naturally but I don’t know how he actually got under it because the dogs were touring the area.
interviewer: Yes.
TH: With RAF police anyway.
interviewer: I dare say —
TH: It was a memory.
interviewer: I dare say as well as him getting in trouble was somebody else got in trouble to the fact that he managed to do what he did.
TH: He got near it. Yeah.
interviewer: Wow. And what sort of, you said you worked in P2 and that was looking after the officers was it?
TH: The officer’s records. Yes. Postings in and out. Their leave. Posting non-effective if they were off sick. All the rest of it.
interviewer: And that presumably was when the station was new aeroplanes and new people coming presumably that was a pretty busy job.
TH: It was fairly, fairly busy. Yeah. You can say that again.
interviewer: And presumably there were no computers around at this stage. It was all the records were all on paper.
TH: That’s it.
interviewer: And in filing cabinets.
TH: Ink. Yeah. Cardex cards all over the place.
interviewer: But the RAF were always known as having everything well sorted out. The systems were good in the, you know that period weren’t they?
TH: They were.
interviewer: Everything was well documented and things didn’t get lost particularly.
TH: And as Civil Servants we worked hard to keep it right.
interviewer: And were there, did you serve along national, with National Servicemen in the sort of 50s or —
TH: Oh yeah. They were in and out all the time. But they did two years and they knew when they were going out. They knew to the day when they were going to be as I call it demobbed but they were being released I think they called in those days.
interviewer: And have you got any particular memories of, of different National Servicemen? I mean it said that people when they served as National Servicemen would get plucked from quiet little villages and they would come out into the big Air Force and they’d have quite a lot of experiences.
TH: They were all sorts. All sorts. Some were called swede bashers because they came from Norfolk. Yellowbellies were from Lincolnshire. And we did get some great lads —
interviewer: But everybody got on. Everybody got on.
TH: Oh yeah. Of course.
interviewer: And it was a happy station from talking to your wife. That everybody mucked in together.
TH: They mucked in.
interviewer: And also, with it being, being a large camp and presumably a long way from Boston and Lincoln there were quite a few social events on the camp in that period.
TH: Yeah. At that time they opened what they called Castle Club and big events and they were, there was a corporal in Accounts, Corporal Murphy who used to do bookings for the events and bands for dances. Girls were bused in from Boston to Coningsby to the Castle Club for the men to dance with. And they also had, I remember one event was, I’m just trying to think of his name now. Ralph McTell who was a country singer. He used to always dress in black and played the guitar.
interviewer: So are we talking the 50s still. This is —
TH: This was during Vulcan times.
interviewer: Ok. So we’re now in the 60s I guess. Yeah.
TH: Yeah. And Evelyn and I were at that function as were many others from the village who worked on the camp and the station warrant officer came in and stopped the event and said, ‘There is a problem outside. I want volunteers.’ And with that a lot of the servicemen were disappearing out of different doors but it was to no avail because he’d got the RAF police all at the doors. And unfortunately, it was a Vulcan that had cartwheeled in potato fields on the runway.
interviewer: Ok.
TH: The entrance to the runway and they didn’t know where the bodies were.
interviewer: Well —
TH: And they were searching. That’s what they wanted the volunteers for. But he got what he wanted.
interviewer: And was that on one night during the week can you remember?
TH: Yeah.
interviewer: Or would that be —
TH: Yeah, I can’t remember the exact dates but no one survived that crash unfortunately.
interviewer: And that was just locally was it? In the local area.
TH: That was what they called Sam Haines Farm which is on the approach to the actual runway. Other, other things I can remember a pilot pulling a Vulcan up fairly steep. As I called it putting his backside to the ground and going up and we were in SHQ and he broke some windows. Other times, another one, a squadron leader clipped the ATC van on the end of the runway. He just clipped it. It didn’t do very much damage to other aircraft but we laughed a bit afterwards because he was posted within a fortnight on promotion as wing commander. So, if you wanted promotion clip the ATC van.
interviewer: Well, thank you very much. That’s, that sounds like your time at Coningsby was an interesting and memorable time.
TH: We had good times. We had bad times.


This Interview was recorded by Aviation Heritage Lincolnshire., “Interview with Terry Hodson,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed May 19, 2024,

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