- Contributed by
- People in story:
- William Henry Diment, (Known as Bill).
- Location of story:
- Blackpool, Stockport, St Athan and Tarrant Rushton.
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 30 January 2006
Aircraftman Bill Diment.
This Story was submitted to the People’s War web site by a Volunteer on behalf of William Diment and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
My name is William Henry Diment, the third son of Frank and Lilian Diment. Known to my friends as Bill. I had three brothers and two sisters. I was born at Downton, but my parents moved around. My father worked for Eddystone’s Steamrollers and was away working a lot of the time. My mother died when she was 36 years old and we were put in a Children’s Home in Wyke Regis. I went to the Victoria Road School in Wyke Regis. After leaving school I went to work at Whiteheads Torpedo Works at Wyke, before it became Westlands. We worked night and day making parts for Japanese submarines. Of course during the war they fired them back at us. I was there for two years then war was declared and I remember I got my papers, called up, and I went back home. I was only 19 at the time. I got on the train at half past six in the morning and got to Blackpool at about 5 o’clock. I was to report to a Café. I thought they were going to make me a Chef. It was on the South Shore about a mile down the road. I lugged my case down there and found this Café. I climbed up to the top floor and this chap said ‘Where do you come from?’ I said ‘Weymouth, Sir’’ Where is that — how long have you been travelling?’ I said, ‘Since half past six this morning’ ‘Oh, why’s that. Oh yes he said I have got your name down here. You will be stopping at the Mirabel Hotel’. I said, ‘Where’s that?’ ‘Up by the station’ came the reply. So I lugged my case all the way back. When I got there the man said, ‘Come this way up stairs. Would you like a bath before tea?’ ‘Well, yes, I have been travelling all day’. The table was laid up with knives and forks and the man pulled the chair back for me. I thought this not bad for the RAF. I had eight weeks there. We did our Square Bashing on the sea front gardens. I think someone told me there was 90,000 RAF in Blackpool. All the civilians were out and all the Hotels and Boarding Houses were full of RAF. One night I remember, we had to be backing by ten when the door was shut. When we got there we could not get in. We had to appear in front of the Officer, who said, ‘Are you ready to take your punishment?’ ‘No, Sir’. ‘What’, he said. ‘No Sir, when we got up to the top of the steps they locked the door in our face at 10 o’clock’. ‘Can you prove it?’ ‘Yes, Sir, the lady next door was watching’. He said, ‘Corporal fetch this lady’. She agreed my story. Do you know what the RAF did. They had all civilians out and banned them from having any civilians for two years, because they had locked us out.
I was only up there a week and they kitted us out. Stanley Matthews was also there. I did not like the hat they gave me; it was too small. I went to this shop and bought another hat and put it on. We came on back down and the picture House was turning out. We were walking in the road. All of a sudden an MP put his hand on my shoulder and said,
‘Walk on the ****** pavement. Anyone would think there’s no room there’. I mouthed a reply.
‘Right you two march down the road’. We were marched and had to go in front of this Officer. The Corporal was kicking my legs and kicking his. We were shaking because we had only been in a week. They pulled the hat off my head.
‘Where did you get this?’ ‘Why did’nt you wear the one you were offered’. I said that it was too small. ‘Corporal march this man up there and see if this is true’. On the way up there it was, ‘Left, Right, Left, Right’ and all the people were looking. Up round the counter and back down again. Into the office again; the Corporal told the Officer that it was true. The Officer said,
‘You are in the RAF now and you have got to behave yourself. You are on leave in a fortnight, Are you not? Well you will not get any if anything like this happens again’.
At the end of the eight weeks, they sent me home on leave for a fortnight. Then a letter came telling me to report back to Blackpool. I went back for a four weeks mechanics course, then, they sent me home again. Then another letter came telling me to report to Southport for a fitter’s course. There was an aircraft factory there. There were 200 of us. We had a square piece of metal and we had to cut a square out of the middle and then fit it back again with in two thousands of an inch. That was what we had to do for the fitter’s course. One day the MO came in with the officer. There were balconies all the way round. Girls were working all round the factory.
‘Right, tools down, shirts up, trousers down’. Everybody was stood there like that. ‘Cough, - cough’. He went all the way up through. Little things like this stick in your mind.
Next I was sent to RAF St Athan in South Wales. When we arrived we were greeted,
‘Now get fell in you lot. You’re in the RAF now’. It was pitch dark and I thought this is it. There were other incidents. There were five of us in this train, all with passes. I said this is what we will do. Go up the lane to the camp and crept in over the fence. I thought I was going to hear big boots coming. The next day I was up a ladder working on a plane. ‘Boy, you come. You know what for’. Marched me down to the Guard Room and locked me up. They made out the Charge. If you could find out anything wrong on the charge, you were alright. The charge was read out and the Officer said, ‘Directly you entered the Guard Room you were placed under Close Arrest’. ‘That’s wrong, Sir’, I said. He promptly jumped up out of his chair. The chair went flying. ‘What’s wrong with it, then ?’. I said. ‘I was arrested at eleven o’clock this morning, Sir’. ‘Get this charge made out again and get it back to me with in half an hour’. As I was being marched out of the door, he said, ‘About Turn. Case dismissed’.
After that I was sent to RAF Tarrant Rushton which was where all the glider unit’s were stationed. Flying all around for days on end. What we had to do was with the Hamilcar and Horsa gliders. Then the Glider Pilots came on and as Ground Fitter’s we had to fly with the crews, whilst they were training, in case anything went wrong. They would take the glider up and then release one mile form the airfield. Then it was two miles. Then it was three, four, five, and so on. It was gliders all over the place up the Salisbury Road. One day we went out over the Isle of Wight and we had a thick yarn rope attached to the Halifax bomber in front, which was going up and down and we down the back, but we could not get contact with the Rear Gunner of the Halifax as he was asleep. The pilot said that there was something jammed in the controls. We ripped down a panel and found two turn buckles jammed together. We were able to free them and then we were alright and could continue the sortie. It was a good job that we were there. Another time we went down right beside the Salisbury Road in a Hamilcar and landed right in somebody’s garden. They land alright and I think some of us expected a cup of tea. The gliders we used to fly were up for hours and hours. In the early days they did not know what load the gliders could carry. They filled up sandbags and put them in and took up the gliders. Back down again and more sandbags were put in until they could carry no more.
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