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15 October 2014
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Frothy Freddy

by cambsaction

Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Frederick James Mahoney
Location of story: 
RAF Bomber Command, East Anglia/Midlands
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4088775
Contributed on: 
18 May 2005

This story was submitted to the People's War website by Steven Turner a Peoples War Story Gatherer with the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Action Desk. It was submitted at Duxford Museum during their VE celebrations on behalf of Mr Frederick Mahoney and has been added to the site with his permission.

"I was born in 1921 and joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 aged 19, as an electrician. I was posted to 7 Squadron at Oakington after my training and then to 1651 HCU, the bomber conversion unit at Waterbeach. I went from there with 1651 to Stradishall, then back to Waterbeach, then West Wratting (Wratting Common). Then to another unit at Langar, Oakington again, Mepal and finally Upwood.

I remember going up on a test in a Stirling bomber from Waterbeach. The undercarriage doors had a problem, so I was to hold two celluloid conductors, which would tell you the equipment was working. It was so loud when we took off I couldn’t hear. I felt the undercarriage doors come in and the gear go up and down as we flew and the pilot proceeded to head out over The Wash. I didn’t know where we were going, as I wasn’t plugged into the intercom and I couldn’t ask any of the crew. Next thing I knew, the gunner’s were firing their machine guns and I thought we were under attack! It wasn’t until we landed that I found out we had simply gone out to sea for some target practice!

We were at Stradishall for a year. The Air Force decided the airfield was unsuitable for training, as there a dip in the airfield and aircraft would “disappear” during landing/take-off. So we moved back to Waterbeach.

One day at West Wratting we were filling up the fuel tanks of a Stirling. Two of us were stood on the starboard wing as an oil bowser backed up to the wing, we could hear it’s one stroke engine and the strong petrol fumes were everywhere. All of a sudden a massive ball of flame went up and a big explosion happened in front of us. We had to run and jump off the wing. There were bullets going off and all sorts. The first fire engine they went to get broke down and by the time they’d sorted another one out the aircraft was a write-off. The inquiry afterward put it down to static electricity, but I think it was the exhaust pipe of the oil tanker igniting the petrol fumes.

Only a few of us went to Langar, near Nottingham, they were using Stirlings to tow gliders over for Operation Market Garden, the airborne landings in Holland, September 1944. I had six aircraft to look after. We had Lancasters and Halifaxs there as well. All the gliders were covered in camouflage nets and after they’d gone we organised football matches, armourers versus electricians, using the camouflage nets for the goals! We used to go and watch the football at Notts County or Nottingham Forest, whoever was at home and we’d overload a double-decker bus with people sitting on the mudguards! I was nicknamed “Frothy Freddy” because of these nights out. Some nights if we missed the bus back we’d have to sleep in a church! We had a kitty for our nights out and we all pooled our money. I used to help out at the local ENSA cinema as a projectionist and add the extra cash (seven shillings and five pence) to the kitty (note; a pint was two shillings). On Monday’s there were no shows, so I used to put a free one on for the boys! Sometimes we’d even arrange our own dances in there.

On VE day I was the duty electrician at RAF Mepal. I was tasked to take a searchlight lorry to Cambridge and floodlight Parkers Peace. I floodlit the Cathedral and all around until midnight. I only lived a short distance away so that was good. When VE Day had passed we went back to Oakington. We were to go out to the Far East and we spent a lot of time stripping out Stirling bomb racks so that we could fit them to De Havilland Mosquitos. “Tiger Force”, as it was to be called, was cancelled in the end so we never went. I de-mobbed in London in 1946 and went to work for the Baldry Mineral Water Company in Cambridge where I spent 18 years. I then went to Mcfarlane Biscuits, until McVities bought them out. I have been happily married for 63 years this year!"

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