- Contributed by
- Dunstable Town Centre
- People in story:
- Fred Willis
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 23 January 2006
This story was submitted to the People's War site by the Dunstable At War Team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with his permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.
I was working in an office at Vauxhall with my friend David at the beginning of the war. Watching the Spitfires flying past we decided to volunteer for aircrew and to see if we could become pilots. We went to Cambridge's recruiting office in May 1940 when we were 19 years old. I passed the medical but couldn’t pass the test to become a pilot. David passed the educational test but not the medical. They said we could become gunners but we didn’t like that idea so we volunteered to train as mechanics.
Two months later we reported to RAF Cardington where we were given a number and initiated into the RAF, but it wasn’t until May 1941 that I was called up. I then went to Blackpool and Morecombe for square bashing before being starting my RAF mechanics training at Halton. After our initial training we used to go down to the airfield to work on planes. This meant a march of about two miles in the winter. A man held a white lamp in front of us and another held a red lamp at the back. We worked on Gladiators, Hampdens, Spitfires, Wellingtons, Tiger Moths, and Bristol Blenheims. I enjoyed my time at Halton, passed my exams and became a qualified aircraft mechanic.
The camp was also a training centre for RAF cooks, so we had very good food, entertainment and first-class sports facilities where I did a lot of cross county running. One a week we had kit inspections. We had to lay our kit out on our beds in a certain order; blankets and clothes folded, and all our other equipment positioned neatly on top.
After about nine months I was posted to an officer-training unit in Shropshire. I was there for about two years working on Spitfires mostly. From there I was transferred to Wiltshire and then onto a fitter’s course at RAF Henlow where I started to work on the first jet aircraft.
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