First may I thank Dennis for his item “Chocks away”. Clearly his time in Germany had its moments – sadly there was not room to print the whole item.
As a new idea I should like to suggest the theme of school memories (you know you all have them). So, I’ve written in one of mine as an “amuse bouche”, before Dennis’s Main Course.
Please email any Newsletter items or requests etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org
“Just press it Ginger”
Well we’d been waiting for ever. Ding Ding, and off went the bus from the depot leaving the conductor well behind. We took it turns to work the bell as one by one we reached our stops. We even added an unnecessary request stop (classy don’t you think)? To this day I wonder how far the bus went on the “schoolboy’s breakaway”. V.F.
“Chocks Away” by Dennis Evans
In 1954/56 I was stationed at R.A.F Celle, Lower Saxony, West Germany, on the Lüneburg Heath, where the Germans surrendered to Field Marshal Montgomery on 4th May 1945. This was very near the East German border, in the then Cold War a very sensitive area. I was an Air Photographer, a proud member of No 16 Squadron, The Saints, and I serviced 22 de Havilland Venom FB 1 aircraft. We lived in an ex Luftwaffe block, four men to a room, luxury compared to the wooden billets in the UK.
All our aircraft had to be combat ready to take off at a moments’ notice. My job was to ensure the cameras were loaded with 16mm film. The aircraft were parked ready to go in camouflaged dispersal areas, about a quarter of a mile apart. I had to visit each aircraft to remove / replace each film cassette. The airfield was vast, and although I sometimes used the Squadron Jeep, mostly we used the Squadron Bike carrying a large bag of cassettes which we fitted and checked that the cameras were operating.
I must mention that the actual town of Celle is a very pretty and an ancient town, with the historic Altstadt and a Schloss. Had some good days and nights there! Wow! Bockwurst, Bratwurst, and Schnitzel – Lager in huge mugs with lids on. Lederhosen in which to dance a Schuplattler or a Ländler. Happy days!
When I found I needed to be able to ride a bike, I panicked as I had never done so and the streets were cobbled! My father was a Trolley Bus driver, and once had an accident with a young bicycle rider, and had never allowed my sister or me to have one, apart from the fact he could not afford one. The bikes were German, in RAF colours, with big balloon tyres, to avoid a rather sore Arsch and Hoden when riding over the cobbles. They free wheeled, and pedalling backwards applied the brake. One day my mate in the barracks had brought a racing bike over from the UK for use whilst in Germany. He kept it in our room and said I could use it whilst he was on leave. So, on a very sunny early morning I set out on this magnificent machine. All went well for some time until I decided to freewheel and stopped pedalling. The next thing I knew, I went one way, the bike the other, and 20 odd cassettes strewn all over the runway. I was grazed, but the bike suffered no damage, only my pride being hurt, and nobody was around to see my fall from grace. I did not ride that machine again.
To practice the aircraft took off in fours, and dog fought each other, taking pictures of their efforts at trying to shoot down their opponents. Naturally the guns are disarmed!!! What happened when rookie pilots from Cranwell first fired live ammunition is another story, to be told later.
When the aircraft landed we removed and developed the film. The best part was when we were allowed in the Officers mess, to run the cine films from each aircraft. The Officers got very excited until they saw some of their results – had they made a hit? Very often not. After we had measured the image my response would be, “No hit SIR!” All of the pilots who flew Venoms were short, under five foot seven, for otherwise they would not have fitted in the very small cockpit.
Our aircraft patrolled the border with East Germany, and very often pilots waved to the normally friendly Russian pilots flying their Mig 15s, who waved back. I often had a sortie in a de Havilland Vampire, or a Gloster Meteor. I could then check cameras, or the lighting conditions at whatever height the full Squadron would eventually fly.
What would have happened if the Cold War had become a Hot War I can only speculate. Best Wishes – Ex SAC Dennis Evans – No 2730297 – 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force RAF Celle, West Germany
Bar Room Reminiscences
Sometimes a confession is worth the consequences. After national service (REME) I worked in a panel shop in a garage near Slough. The place Sir John Betjeman asked the “friendly bombs to fall on”. That was many years ago many of them spent abroad after the little mischief. On my return to the U.K. I checked the pub where the boss always sat at the bar in the lunch hour. Amazingly he was still a regular! Forty years ago, he went on honeymoon and brought his car in for service so all should be well for the foreign tour with his bride. I don’t really know why I did it. In the back of the sports car was a built in box with a lid, buried under the carpet into which a fish was placed and the lid welded shut. Strangely the lid acquired an air hole. Two weeks in Italy in high summer let nature work its little miracle. From what he said on his return it nearly caused a divorce! He never found out. One of the soft hearted “boys” took his chance to remove it. But as you might say “the memory lingered on”.
I waited in the pub sitting next to his usual stool wondering just how he would react. Would he buy me a pint for old times sake or pour one over my head? A whole hour passed, and the bar staff were adamant that he always came. But that day his stool remained empty. Curiously having been keyed up like a prisoner in the dock awaiting sentence it was a huge disappointment. My blood pressure slowly became normal and I wandered away back into the present. I never went back and so the secret remains as secure as the little welded box in the back of the honeymoon car.