- Contributed by
- Location of story:
- Cardington, Bedford
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 07 August 2004
It was towards the end of April 1945. For many months I had been instructing radar mechanics in the servicing, repair and upkeep of the Oboe guidance system for bombers. Obviously the war in Europe was coming towards its close, but there still remained the problem of the Japanese war. The numbers of trainees had dwindled. It was at this point that I was sent on a toughening up course to Cardington in Bedfordshire, which had in the 1930s been the home of the R100 and R101 airships along with their great hangers.
It was May 6th, and in the early afternoon we were on the hand grenade throwing range, which was away from the camp. I have never been a great thrower, but I had managed to lob one over the edge of our dugout, and get down before it exploded, but wasn’t exactly looking forward to having to repeat the operation.
At that point an airman came dashing up to inform the N.C.O. in charge of our group that he had to abandon the exercise, and take us all at the double back to the camp and there go into one of the hangers, which had become a garrison theatre cum church cum any other use for a large gathering. All we knew was that something of great importance was happening, and we were required there immediately.
As soon as we were in place, along with as many other airmen as could be gathered together at very short notice, we were informed that Winston Churchill was ready to speak to the nation on radio at 2 p.m. to announce the end of the war in Europe. As soon as he was finished, it was the intention of the B.B.C. (who had, I believe, some of its operations in Bedford) to broadcast a short service of thanksgiving, and we were to provide it. There was no time for rehearsal - one of the great organists of the time was seated at the organ, and everything was ready with only minutes to spare before the great broadcast came. With only a minute to go, there was great apprehension, the red light would indicate that the broadcast was ready whether we were or not. The seconds ticked by, and then, at 2 o’clock, nothing!
Perhaps the BBC engineers were the most worried. Had something gone wrong with the links between us and the transmitter? We had to wait until further information was received to find out what had happened. Eventually a message was received. We were a day too early! Rumour had it that Stalin wouldn’t agree to May 6th to cease hostilities with Germany, as a further day would bring more Russian troops into Berlin.
No more work was done that day, nor on the morning of May 7th,, but once again we were ready in our places, along with Army units, and this time Winston Churchill did broadcast to the nation, and as soon as he had finished, the service of thanksgiving was broadcast.
I’m afraid the rest of the course became a non-event from then until we returned to our own units.
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