- Contributed by
- Bournemouth Libraries
- People in story:
- Mr. Donald Ormsby
- Location of story:
- Ford, Sussex; Truro, Cornwall and Richmond, Yorkshire
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 12 May 2004
After my training at Chatham, I moved on to Ford Aerodrome in Sussex. After being in the RAF I knew it was an active station, with a lot of operations from fighter planes and bombers.
During my stay at Ford I had the responsible position of guard, checking everybody who went in or out of the station. Anyone entering was challenged with the words "Halt, who goes there?". The reply "Friend", would be followed by "Advance friend and be recognised", then the password or rank and name of the person entering had to be stated. The person or persons had to stop as soon as they were challenged. It was very serious if they did not understand or were just playing. This playing around, not knowing the password or what to say could cost them their lives, as we had the power to shoot. This is known to have happened on at least one occasion. Officers returning from a night out, the worse for drink, could be a particular problem.
One of the more interesting assignments whilst at Ford was to be detailed to sing on the stage at the Odeon Theatre in Bognor Regis. Other duties included wiring all the sea defences from Ford to Littlehampton, and also helping with the haymaking. For this we received 3d an hour, with the local church and WVS calling on us with refreshments. The weather was so very hot that we all appreciated their kindness.
Air raids were very regular. During one a building was demolished, killing many of my friends. My own life was saved only because I had just finished my spell of duty before the enemy attack.
Posted to the 10th Battalion of the Green Howards, I was initially stationed in Truro. Near to the sea, this was a very beautiful coastline with many natural caves.
My next posting was to a small village near Otley in Yorkshire; it being around the time of Christmas. Whilst there the regiment was engaged in "Operation Harold", just as if we were engaged in this position with the enermy itself. This was the big one. Every division of this area, together with the regiments, were engaged in this exercise. Real ammunition was sometimes used and the tanks were also in action.
During this exercise two accidents happened. One was that one of our tanks went completely out of control in the village, crashing into people there. The other was the accident and crash that I was involved in.
The convoy was travelling along the main road near to the city of York. The lorry which I was travelling in somehow lost its position in the convoy. To make up time we were travelling faster than we would normally have done. We were approaching a hill and had just passed an RAF officer walking with a lady, also in uniform. Suddenly our lorry lost control and we started to swing from one side of the road to the other, hitting telegraph poles on the way. The next thing I remembered was that the RAF officer and his companion were treating my head with a bandage. Then they gave me a cigarette as I waited for the ambulance.
I don't remember what happened from then on until I found myself in a bed in a hospital in York; which one I don't know. I do remember a procession of lanterns in the ward; remember that this was Christmas. When I was well enough to return to my regiment I was given civilian clothes and had to attend a medical board. I was not "A1" anymore, but put into a different grade. In my opinion I should have been discharged after the accident as it was a bad crash.
I was sent to my regiment headquarters at Richmond. This is where my RAF training as a wireless operator came in useful. I went on a course to be a signaller in my regiment, passing it at the home of Lord Zetland at Hawks Hill.
Lord Zetland had his own chapel which we used to attend on a Sunday for our church service. I remember a young girl who sang on the back balcony with a lovely voice. I always wondered if Lord Zetland had a daughter. I did know that he had a racing trainer named Steve Donaghue who I used to walk with sometimes.
[Continued in "Onwards to North Africa"]
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