- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Arthur John Hitchiner
- Location of story:
- Sudan, Egypt.
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 February 2004
I joined the RAF when the war came, and my Father's Hotel, where I worked, became commandeered. I signed on as a navigator, but was given a medical, and found to be colour blind, (this possibly saved his life, as 120,000 British airmen were killed in the war). I went to the Uxbridge RAF station for a one-year course in aircraft engineering, and passed out in Nov 1940 as an AC2, (lowest technician). The first six weeks were ‘square bashing’, doing basic jobs then went to the North of Scotland for technical training, returning to England to Hednesford, near Stafford. There I met Dora Badger, my future wife. I was made an AC1, and ‘Leading Aircraftman’.
In 1942 I became a Corporal with 605 Auxiliary Squadron, and posted to the Southern Sudan. My job was to pick up Spitfires that had been forced down, or crashed, to get the spare parts to make to make new planes. There were only five airmen and an officer where I was. A wooden aircraft needed repair. I managed the mechanical side, but the skin of the wooden wings had become rippled with sun and rain. I signed the airworthy form, realizing I had the life of the pilot in my hands. (I had not been a Corporal for a month). The plain came back five minutes later, the pilot saying that he could not get higher than 1000 feet.
There were some shacks in the nearest village, and one of them amazingly sold some excellent material which could make a wedding dress. My fiance and I were married in 1944.
Susan Hitchiner, my Aunt in New Zealand, baked a cake for me, and posted it off in a tin. I was in Egypt and being transferred several times. The cake followed me round Egypt, and eventually was delivered in the Sudan. The tin was very bashed, but the cake was perfect.
When I was in the Southern Sudan I was given three weeks leave and went to Cairo from Khartomb. It took five days to get there, and five days back. With travelling time I was able to extend my leave to five weeks. In Cairo, one day, for some unexplained reason, I went to a different ‘Mess-Hall’, which was half a mile away. I sat down with my meal at a table, and there, at the same table, was my Cousin, Fred Hitchiner. We decided to get a photograph taken to mark the occasion, and changed uniforms for it.
We were told that we had to get an aeroplane ready to fly in three days and we worked 24 hours on that plane for three days without any sleep. We wondered why it was so important but at the end of the three days we looked, and saw Winston Churchill getting on it.
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