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An Invitation from HM George V

by CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire

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Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
CSV Action Desk/BBC Radio Lincolnshire
People in story: 
Peter Frederick Dalton
Location of story: 
London
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A6002425
Contributed on: 
03 October 2005

It was way back in 1943 when I received the letter from King George VI asking me if I would like to help him to win the second world war. Hitler had been knocking us about quite a bit, he had already asked the USA to help but obviously he needed more help and no doubt he suddenly thought of me, how else could it have been I thought to myself, for here was his letter in my hand, signed by George. R. Personally.

Thus it was that two weeks later that I left my little village in Leicestershire and went up to London to offer my services at Lords Cricket Ground. The King was not there when I arrived. You see it was like this, it said on the invitation report at eleven hundred hours. Well to me, a simple country lad eleven hundred hours seemed an awful lot of hours, so not having ever been to London before on my own I thought that I would have to look round, which I did. My old dad had pressed a whole pound note into my hand as I left home saying, here is a bit of spending money for you lad but don’t go mad and spend it all at once! I found out that in London you could spend a pound all at once very easily. For instance, I was walking down a street near to Leicester Square that afternoon, when a very nice lady put her arm through mine and asked if I was lonely and would I like a bit of company? Being on my own I said yes, whereupon she suggested that it would cost me two pounds for half an hour round at her place. I thought it a bit dear to go round to her place for half an hour and no doubt meet her Mum and have a cup of tea so I suggested that we might go for a walk by the Thames; she did not seem to like the idea very much so I bid her goodbye.

Time passed pleasantly enough until I thought it about time that I went to see the King, I thought that I ought not keep him waiting he being very busy doing his Kinging and all that. So at eleven o’clock I arrived at Lords Cricket Ground but of course the King had left and in his place was a man with three stripes on his arm, by his manner I must admit that I did not immediately take to him. “Ou the ell are yew?” says he. So I gave him my invitation from the King, and “where the ‘ell ave yew bin till now?” says he. “Looking round London” say I. “Looking round bleeding London” says he. Well he didn’t say it, he sort of yelled it, I thought for a moment he was going to choke! I tried to explain about the eleven hundred hours but he started to go a very funny colour and yelled even louder “You great bis gorillas”, and then he used a lot of very naughty rude words that offended my very innocent ears, and he even suggested that my parents were not married when I was born!! As the King’s representative I did not rate him one bit. Anyway he sort of booked me in!, muttering under his breath all the time about how could we hope to win the war when all they could send him was a lot of useless idiots, I looked round but I could not see anybody at all.

Having booked me in he yelled to another man with a propeller on his arm,( I called him “sir” because of the propeller, I thought he must be a pilot ) “find this useless armhole”( he didn’t actually say “arm”)”a billet for the night, we will sort him out in the morning”.And with that he shouts “On parade at 0600 — dismissed”. I asked the pilot about all these hundred hours but all he said was “you will soon find out”. He then led me along many corridors and numerous stairs to my room or billet, as I was to call it later. “Here you are” says he, “I should get your head down fast cos I bet you will be on a fizzer in the morning”. I enquired of him what a fizzer was, he laughed and murmured darkly “you will find out soon enough” and with that he left me. I must admit that I was not over impressed with the accommodation which was lit only by a glimmer from a blue bulb in the corridor. However as my eyes became accustomed to the gloom I suddenly, to my horror, found that I was not alone. The room was stacked high with bunk beds occupied by sleeping bodies all snoring, coughing or farting. You could have cut the air with a blunt knife. As it was getting late I thought that for now O would have to put up with this shared accommodation, no doubt that in the morning I would be allocated a room to myself. I fumbled around and found an empty bunk; the only one in fact, and I very soon found out why. Most of the springs were either broken or missing! There were three blankets but I could not see any sheets. There was a bag thing that seemed to be stuffed with sawdust which I presumed was meant to be a pillow. I undressed and cast myself upon the bunk, it was uncomfortable to say the least. Had I have known there were some mattresses along the corridor, but there was nobody there to tell me. I now realised that I wanted to pee. I shot into the corridor and blundered into several rooms with sleeping bodies in them but no toilet. It was at this stage that there were other uses for a fire bucket other than dousing flames!!

It seemed that I had hardly closed my eyes when the lights came on and a very noisy man was shouting “wakey wakey” and something about “on with socks”. He, I found, was called a Corporal and nobody seemed to like him. I looked at my watch and found that it was 5.30 in the middle of the night! My immediate thought was that there must be an air raid, but I was to learn very quickly that the corporal thing really did want us to get up. Well I ask you, I didn’t think anybody got up at that unearthly hour. To go to bed — yes, I could see the sense in that, BUT 5.30!!, and here was me used to my Mum waking me up with a cup of tea at about a quarter to eight and I could still have another quarter hour and still be at work at the civilised hour of 9am. Suddenly the Corporal thing noticed me and I got the “ooo the ‘ell are you” routine again!. I told him and he said “oh parade with everybody else and we will sort you out later”. It does seem that everybody wants to sort me out later. Whilst dressing etc. I made the acquaintance of my fellow room mates and I soon found out that we were all in the same boat, with the exception that they had been sorted out the day before. Eventually we all managed to parade at 0600, I know what that means, I can’t understand why they don’t speak English like the rest of us!. As soon as we had lined up we were marched off to breakfast, at Regents Park Zoo of all places! I said “breakfast” — my first course consisted of something resembling grey glue! Called porridge and a mug of tea which was more like muddy water. “Don’t drink the tea, it will ruin your chance” somebody remarked. “Chances for what?” I enquired. “You will find out” was the reply. It does seem that from all the remarks since I arrived that I have a lot to find out! After the glue we were served with sausage and beans. I asked if I could have my sausage cooked a little more. “How would you like it sir?” the cook enquired. “Well nice and brown all round” say I. The cook turned to another cook and said “gentleman here would like his sausage brown all round” “Tell him to stick it up his …….” Well I can’t repeat what he said, but it was very rude. After breakfast the Corporal shouted “Get fell in” so we fell into three ranks. “Tension” he hollers “fall out airman Dalton”. This was the proudest moment of my life up to date. I had actually been called “An Airman” for the first time. “Fall out” I thought “who with?” The Corporal thing sprang to mind.

He took me to see an Officer and I had to explain why I was the last recruit to arrive on the evening before, I tried to explain about the eleven hundred hours, “no excuse says he, absent without leave from 11.00 hours to 23.00 hours, three days CB. I tried to protest that how could I be absent without leave when I hadn’t even arrived! But the Corporal shouted “don’t interrupt the officer about turn quick march” and before I could protest further I was out in the corridor! I asked the Corporal what a C.B was, in his own way he told me but if I miss the adjectives out he did not say very much! Actually being Confined to Barracks for three days was no great hardship, for after what I was put through in the next three days I had neither the energy or the inclination to leave the barracks!

Our next step was, (and think it was called The Seymore Hall) for a medical and I swear that it took about 60 seconds. We had been told not to urinate (have a Pee) that morning before we had our medical. Well I sat and sat crossing and uncrossing my legs for what seemed hours, I was dying for a pee. Eventually my name was called, I shot forward and was given what looked like a little jamjar, sample in there said the chap in the white coat, where? said I. In that says he, what, in front of everybody? Say I (I was a bit bashful in those days) well needs must when the devil drives and in about three seconds I had filled that little jar! Give me another quick say I, and in another three seconds that too was full! Another one I cried, and I suddenly found another fire bucket offered to me which I made rapid use of, it was not until I had released all the pressure that I realised that the bucket had been offered to me by a pretty little blond WAAF! I covered up very rapidly!

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