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Memories of a Telegraph Boy in May 1940

by actiondesksheffield

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Donald J.R. Wilson, S\Ldr. Nigel Turner
Location of story: 
Dishforth Aerodrome
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
17 May 2005

Memories of a Telegraph Boy in May 1940

Donald J.R. Wilson

The door bell rang and all sitting at the dining room table, looked uneasily at each other and towards the hall door. Alas it was a telegraph boy holding the small envelope which foretold unpleasant things to come. Past experience had shown that it was the harbinger of bad tidings, and as I had just arrived home with my little wife to leave her in caring hands, till she had given birth to our first child, I read the brief order, "Rejoin squadron immediately!"

My heart sank as I knew that I was going back to the battle of all battles, a vain attempt to stop the overwhelming forces of the invading Germans with their vast superiority of men, equipment and aircraft.

Vera, for the very first time, polished the buttons on my tunic, cap and greatcoat and declared that I had always been the smartest flyer in the Squadron - no doubt a little biased.

Now came the moment which I will never forget till my dying day, the final time of departure!! I kissed my Mother goodbye, then Aunty, and last, Vera. I was filled with sadness and bitterness at the prospect of holding her for the last time. Why in God's name should it happen to us when we had everything to live for, and to have to give it all up for a power-crazed animal called Hitler.

We parted, fighting to keep back the tears, and when we reached the end of our road, I threw my cap in the air in a false sense of bravado. Then we were gone to the station to meet what? I had an inflated sense of patriotism and devotion to duty, and took the first train south as far as Darlington, not York!

I managed a lift as far as Catterick, and was fortunate to be offered a lift from a gentleman as far as Dishforth Aerodrome, my home base. I broke through a thick hedge on the perimeter, and raced across the grass field without being challenged - security was lacking! I made my way to the Station Guardroom and booked in. Next day I discovered that the rest of my crew stayed another night at home, and joined the squadron a day later. They obviously took a more liberal view of sense of duty!!

The fighting at this period was fast and furious, and of course we failed to stop the Hun. They captured land faster than we could move to counter it. Finally, it was decided to target oil refineries to cut their fuel supplies, but again we were unsuccessful, and the Squadron lost some of its finest young lads. I was more fortunate(??) and managed to bale out of my aircraft before it crashed, and I spent the next five years on a semi-starvation diet in a German POW Camp. (Experiences recorded elsewhere!)

Immediately prior to this episode, I was outside the C.O's (S\Ldr. Nigel Turner) Office door and he came to me, and said, "Jock, don't you think it is time that you took your wife home to Scotland? After all I know you would want your child to be truly Scottish, and as things are going to be sticky soon, get yourself a leave pass and I will sign it so that you can go home right away".

With all the necessary haste, I completed the formalities and dashed home to help Vera to pack her belongings and make for York Station. I felt lighthearted and relieved to think Vera would be safe and well-cared for until our baby was born!. It was wonderful to see my parents and Aunty, but little did 1 know that it couldn't last.

However I must take this opportunity to record my thanks to my skipper who has always been good and understanding. I am grateful that such a good relationship existed between us, a Squadron Leader and his Sergeant, both on the ground and in the air. I am proud to say that our friendship continued long after leaving the Air Force, until he died.

I had every confidence in him and knew from experience that he was an excellent pilot. I cannot think of any other person I would have accompanied in action and under extreme tension. He appeared calm as all times, even under heavy shell fire.


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