FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS THE 51ST ENTRY OF ROYAL AIR FORCE AIRCRAFT APPRENTICES

STORIES

Over the years that our Association has been formed, the Committee, via the regular newsletters, asked members to send in stories of their experiences, or incidents, which they thought would be of interest. The response was overwhelming and there were enough stories to form a book. Ben Mitchell put the stories together and edited them ready for publishing. A publisher read the stories and was shown many of the photographs which are on file, and agreed to publish them. Sam Bugg and Ben Mitchell liaised with the publisher and Sam was involved with the content and design of the front and rear covers, and which photographs to include. The Committee thought it would be fitting to include on the web site, periodically, a story from the book about some of the many escapades which the 51st got up to either during their apprenticeship or the remainder of their service career, this one is by \Gus Thorogood



FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

By Ginge MUSHENS

After a lot of searching in pockets, kitbags and kit lockers, and cajoling several residents of Room 16-3, we managed to rake together the grand total of 3d (1p in ‘new’ money), this being the price of a seat in the ‘Dog End’ of our local Camp cinema or ‘Dream House’. This Emporium was the nearest we could get to ‘Zanandu’, the land where dreams came true, for about 2 hours twice a week and so offset the grind of life as an A/A (Aircraft Apprentice). Of course 3d only purchased one seat, so we had a small dilemma as to how to get the rest of the crowd in to see the object of our desire - one ‘Ingrid Bergman’. Even now my heart leaps at the thought of even being refused a liaison with such a delectable female. Back to the task. Scheme 1 - confuse the girl in the ticket office and block her view whilst the mob got in. The grill on the front of the ticket booth was very small so it might be feasible, apart from the gorilla stationed at the inner door employed to tear the tickets, who might prove to be a problem. Scheme 2 - someone do a ‘pretend’ collapse very near the front of the queue and ask the gorilla for help, at which time, in the confusion, entry by the mob was affected. This had one serious drawback, as the fight to get into the cinema by rival Entry’s to occupy the few seats available was nothing short of GBH, in other words injuries were commonplace, so our appeals for help would have been ignored. Scheme 3 - (my idea, and not without cunning if one thinks - self first!). I go to the cinema with our roll of cash and purchase a ticket, then legitimately take my seat until the lights go out for the start of the show. Upon which time I find myself caught short, i.e. I need to go to the toilet. Now, opposite the toilet door is the emergency exit which cannot be seen by our gorilla friend, so yours truly opens the door and they are ‘in’ - problem solved. This last scheme, on the night, worked a treat, apart from the fact that some loudmouth had told his mate, who told his mate etc etc. When I opened the door expecting to see Jock Wardlaw, Tommy McCallum, Paddy Waddell, the Colemans and a few more - half the camp was there!! I rushed back to my seat, making sure I still had my unsurrendered half ticket proving I was a legitimate customer, and, assuming an air of total innocence, watched the invasion of the ‘Dog End’ with some incredulity. The cinema had been fairly empty at our end, but after the trailers, when the lights came on for a short interval, it was literally heaving with A/A’s. Gorilla dashed around with a look of abject horror on his face as he looked at the mob then at the half dozen surrendered tickets on his string. Of course the clever ones soon found some discarded tickets on the floor and proffered these as a sign of their innocence. Gorilla knew he was beat, so he then went to the emergency exit and, with about 200 yds of chain, proceeded to baulk any further attempts at this ruse. The Main Feature: Without boring any of my readers as to the attributes of our Ingrid, suffice to say I never liked Gregory Peck after that because of what he did to her under that blanket when he should have been fighting the Spanish Civil War! It was during that campaign that the subject of this article came about. As total shock horror, Franco's troops were using ‘Dum Dum’ bullets! After the film show, on enquiring about this with my Plumber (Armourers to you) mates, I was informed that this method of warfare was not allowed as it made a great big nasty hole in the victim, which didn't give him much chance of recovery. “How's that?” queried yours truly. “Well” spoke Roach with some authority, “They file the point off the sharp end of the bullet and it punches out whatever it hits”. All the Plumbers nodded their heads, the noise of rattling brains was tremendous. “And to demonstrate this I will show you” spake he. We retired to the barrack room and from out of nowhere a number of .303 bullets appeared. “Seeing you want a demo Ginge, we’ll use your rifle so you can clean it after” spake our demonstrator. (A note here about the rifles. In those days we all had a rifle, which was kept in a rifle rack in each barrack room.) With rifle and bullets, we went to the end window of the room, lifted the sash then loaded the rifle with three bullets, with the ends having been filed off prior to loading. The first shot was dispatched into what was supposed to be a lawn just outside 16-1's window. A .303 makes a bit of a crack and of course, heads popped out of the windows below. These were quickly withdrawn when on looking up they saw the rifle! The demonstration was not satisfactory to our mates, as the hole in the lawn, although quite large, did not show a comparison between the entry and exit holes. “What we need” one participant said, “Is something to simulate a body”. A quick survey did not elicit any volunteers. “I know,” said someone, “We’ll use that new lead bumper weight, as that has give and some thickness”. All were in agreement and the weight was tossed onto the lawn. Again heads popped out below complaining about noise and muttering about danger, and being irresponsible, and all that stuff. Of course they didn't realise they were in the presence of skilled men who were conducting an experiment to educate an ignorant Instrument Basher. Of course one could sympathise with them, they being only sprogs of the 53rd Entry! Whilst the complaining went on, the rifle was fired and a quick retreat was observed below. The bumper weight was retrieved by the usual method of descending and ascending, to and from ground level, via the drainpipe. Inspection of the weight proved beyond any doubt that dum dum bullets made a small hole in the front and a damn great hole on exit, proving friend Roach’s point without doubt. We then retired to the NAAFI to further discuss this subject, passing groups of agitated Snoops looking for something or other, which was their task in life I believe.


JANKERS



Following discussions at the 1994 Reunion as to who did the most days jankers at Halton, Narcy Burford came up with 109 days, but this was put in the shade by the 151 days, plus a ‘few’ inside, by Del Harris. So Del took the dubious honour of being our worst ‘criminal’.and when he was on jankers, and was also the Duty Trumpeter responsible for sounding ‘Reveille’ and ‘Lights Out’, he made the ‘calls’ from his Barrack Room window! At the same time, it was also established that Ken Savage was the first in the Entry to be awarded jankers and the punishment took place over the Battle of Britain weekend, when there were civilians visiting RAF Halton. While being marched from No.1 Wing to No.2 Wing cookhouse, the Cpl i/c enjoyed giving orders in a loud voice prefixed by “Defaulters”. However, Del Harris, our reputably longest serving janker wallah, recently went on holiday to Tenerife and called on fellow 51st colleague, Roy Studart, who now resides there. During conversation, the subject of jankers came up and it transpired that Roy was a seasoned janker wallah himself. Roy cannot recall the exact number of ‘days’ that he did, but he thinks it was around the 120 mark. He also said that he did two lots of 28 days, plus sundry other days, in the ‘mush’. ‘Mush’ was the punishment for crimes that were more serious than those given for jankers, in that one ‘resided’ in a guardroom cell for the duration of the punishment under the watchful eye of the Snoops, and went to Schools and Workshops under escort. As neither of them kept a Log Book of their punishments, we have decided that from their confessions, we consider that both were as bad as each other, so they tie for first place, with Narcy Burford relegated to third place – unless someone out there knows better!. However, if Chiefy Thomas has a ‘janker’ file tucked away in the attic, perhaps he can adjudicate for us and let us know who did the most ‘days’! ‘Jankers’ was the colloquial name given to the punishment for committing a minor offence in the eyes of the RAF during our training at Halton. We are not talking about serious offences such as murder, grievous bodily harm, drug dealing, burglary etc, but lesser crimes, such as dirty brass buttons, late on parade, caught wearing civilian clothes, untidy bedspace, room job not done properly, caught outside the Block after ‘lights out’ (at 21.30 hrs), absent from parade, smoking etc. If you were caught, then you were charged, marched in before the Squadron Commander and given 3, 7, 10 days (or whatever) CB (confined to barracks). The Apprentice receiving this punishment was called a ‘Janker Wallah’ and he would wear a White armband throughout his sentence. A day in the life of such a person, with reveille at 06.30 hrs, would be:-

06.30 hrsReveille

06.45 hrsReport to the Henderson Square in Best Blue for Roll Call

07.45 hrsReport to Henderson Square in Working Blue for Colour Hoisting parade

13.00 hrsReport to Henderson Square in Working Blue for Roll Call

17.45 hrsReport to Henderson Square in Best Blue for Colour Lowering parade

18.00 hrsKit Inspection (Lay out kit on own bed in barrack room)

19.00 hrsReport in Working Blue for fatigues - usually in cookhouse

20.00 hrsReport to Henderson Square in Best Blue for Roll Call

21.00 hrsReport to Henderson Square in Best Blue for Roll Call

21.30 hrsLights Out




THE BOOK


POST WAR BRATS AT LARGE





This book contains a collection of stories written by members of the 51st Entry of RAF Aircraft Apprentices, often referred to as “Trenchard’s Brats” after their founder, Marshal of the RAF the Viscount Trenchard. It covers the years since they, 252 young men, joined the RAF in 1945, six days after the end of the Second World War, and includes stories from their 3-year Apprenticeship, throughout their subsequent RAF careers and into retirement as senior citizens. There are some amusing and incredible tales from their Apprentice days - beating the system without getting caught (but not always!) was a popular pastime. When they were finally ‘at large’, many of the Entry left their basic trades and were trained as aircrew and inevitably some of the more exciting stories relate to their flying experiences. Some, unfortunately, did not survive to tell their tales. Service overseas is another source of interesting experiences, although sadly many of these postings are no longer available to the RAF personnel of today. Nevertheless, these stories provide a worthwhile insight into Service life away from home, as it was from the late 1940’s to early 1980’s. Sixty years on, the former apprentices of the 51st Entry still have many more stories to tell, and no doubt some emerged during the Diamond Anniversary Reunion which was held at RAF Halton on 21st August 2005, in honour of which this book is being published. This book will be of considerable interest to members of the 51st Entry and other RAF Aircraft Apprentices, their families and friends. It should also appeal to those who have never served, but have an interest in the history of military aviation and the Royal Air Force.

The Book (ISBN 1-903953-93-6) priced at £15-00 plus p&p, is obtainable from :-

Woodfield Publishing,
Mail Order Department
Babsham Lane,
Bognor Regis,
West Sussex,
PO21 5EL
Telephone 01243 821234
or on the net at www.woodfieldpublishing.com


BOOKS


CHRIS ASHWORTH- AVIATION HISTORIAN


In the RAF he was Joe - a nick-name acquired in Block 15 Room 5, but it was as Chris Ashworth that he became a significant Aviation Historian. Few of us realised that Joe began the hobby of collecting information and photographs of aircraft, airfields etc., at quite any early age - probably as an ATC cadet before Halton. We were aware that he owned a camera - a rare sight amongst Apprentices in 1945 - and some of us saw several of his pictures. That early start became “...a great passion of his...” (RAeS) and led to a massive collection of books, magazines, articles & photographs which eventually filled three rooms in his home!!

It was the title “Chris Ashworth Collection” of a two page article in a recent Aerospace Professional magazine, published by the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS), which caught the attention of a member of the 51st Entry and prompted further interest in the works of Joe/Chris. The RAeS article listed “... a large number of typescripts recording the development of a number of British civil and military types (particularly detailed in their records of individual aircraft histories and squadron allocations) ...” and “... are a mine of information for anyone researching aircraft or squadrons ...”.

Many of these typescripts were articles which Chris contributed to aviation magazines over the years. With the help of Margaret Ashworth, it has been possible to put together a summary of Chris’s remarkable collection which included : 4,000+ Books & Magazines - 3,500+ Archive files - 80,000+ photographs from Bristol Fighter to Nimrod ( many originals taken by Chris), and 132,000+ negatives, slides, plates etc.

The Ashworth family decided that the wealth of information contained within the collection would be of value to many other aviation enthusiasts - even though this would, sadly, lead to the break up of the collection. Auctioneers, Dominic Winter, sold Chris’s library of books and his photographic collection at specialist Collectors Sales in May & November 2005 and May 2006.

Chris continued his writing when he retired from the RAF in 1977. In addition to his many magazine articles, Chris published several mini monographs including: Gloster Meteor PR Mk10, De Havilland Comet & Avro York in RAF Service, Avro Shackleton MR Mk3, Vickers Valiant, Bristol Brigand, Airfield Focus St Eval & Kinloss.

His major written and published books are:

Action Stations: 5. Military airfields of the South West - 266pp (ISBN 085059510X)
Action Stations: 9. Military Airfields of the Central South and South East - 328pp (ISBN 0850596084)
Encyclopaedia of Modern Royal Air Force Squadrons - 210pp (ISBN 1852600136)
RAF Coastal Command 1936-1969 - 256pp (ISBN 1852603453)
RAF Bomber Command 1936-1968 - 256pp (ISBN 1852603089)
Avro’s Maritime Heavyweight; The Shackleton - 224pp (ISBN 0946627169)


Below are just four covers from his major works.




Many of these Monographs and Books are still in print and available new & used from specialist book sellers. The following is a quotation from Chris’s Introduction to one of his books and is typical of the detail and enthusiasm which he gave to his work:

“My first sight of south-east England was the best possible - from the air on a beautiful August day. It was pure chance, for I was just one of many ATC cadets camping at Bircham Newton during the summer of 1944 and when my air experience flight came up it was not in the usual Dominie biplane, but in a Wellington XIII which was flying to Manston and back. I was put in the front turret out of the way and off we went across East Anglia and over the Thames Estuary. The thing I remember most about the flight was the fright I got when a P-47 Thunderbolt attacked us head-on. So convinced was I that it was a Fw 190 that had I known how to switch on the fully-loaded turret I might even have tried to open fire!”




SUPERSTAR- THE FAMILY GOES TO SEA


This is the title of the book written by Eric Mold and was published in October 1996. The book tells the story of how Eric & Vera sold up their wordly possessions, bought a boat with the proceeds and set out for a life on the sea. It begins with them sailing out of the Solent, with little or no experience of sailing on the high seas, and ending up 4 years later in the Caribbean via the Mediterranean as veteran sailors and running a successful charter boat business. If you would like to purchase a copy of the book, its reference is Ident No. ISBN 85200 066X, and was available (in 1996) from United Writers Publications Ltd, Ailsa Castle Gate, Penzance, Cornwall TR20 8BG at a cost of £15.95, or alternately borrow it from your local library.The book is now available from outlets such as KOBO and Amazon priced at around £4.00.

Eric has also had a new book published namely FLY BOY The Life and Times of a Fighter Pilot, which is available from most eBook sites also priced at about £4.00.







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