- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ken Wilkinson
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 29 October 2004
Well my father was in the aircraft industry at Gloucester aircraft, so when I was 17, I applied to join the Air Force and my father said, “If you are going to learn to fly you had better find out if you like it”. So I did ballast in what were then the Hawker Harter Beast, which was an aircraft for the South African Air Force. I did a fair bit of that in Hart and Audax, looking backwards. Then later on I got into the volunteer reserve and flew Tiger Moths and later Hawker Hearts. I got a job a job at Roterall who made air screws; I was flying with Roterall Air screws and the Volunteer Reserve during the day and night. When the war came along, regrettably I was kept behind by the local Volunteer Reserve to put all the stuff back in packing cases and things like that so I didn’t get back into the picture until 1939. Then I carried on and did more training, Maggies and Masters. I went to Harden which was a spitfire O2U in Cheshire, from Harden I went to 616 Squadron which is a spitfire squadron at Curtain in Lindsey. From there I came to Duxford to fly with 19 Squadron and I flew in 19 squadron in the Duxford Big Wing
In 1941 I was posted off to a Hurricane O2U at Sutton Bridge which is a little aerodrome inland from the wash. After that I was posted back to 11 group and I was put on to teaching air to air gunnery which I did. In the end I got so fed up, I had applied for all sorts of other things and didn’t get anywhere. My applications were never responded to. Ultimately Lee Mallory came into dispersal and said, “How long have you been here?” I said “too long Sir”, and within a fortnight I was back on Spitfires. I wanted to go to North Africa, being the Air Force I went to Orkney and then we came back from Orkney down South and I went to another squadron at Ibsley, Hampshire. We went down to Kenly in all the air fighting over Northern France. Then when that was over I was put back on to teaching at a spitfire O2U and then I went down south to Redhill as a reserve to go to France when I was needed. I was asked what sort of flying I would like to do and I said, “I would like to have high flying spitfire”, so I went on to spitfire 14s, a very advanced aircraft then. I was asked if I would like to fly hurricanes at night, there was a baby on the way so I said, “Yes please”, and I flew hurricanes in Warwickshire and then the war ended and I decided to be a civilian.
When I was down in Somerset, flying from an aerodrome called Combe Head, I did a lot of low flying right down into the bay of Samalow and then climbed back up and the raid would continue. Sometimes, when you were flying very low over water, the flying fish coming out of the water would be flying over the aircraft, I used to say this and all the chaps used to say, “Take more water with it”. Then I saw a programme on television years after the war showing the same thing, the flying fish going well into the air over the water.
© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.