- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Ex Warrant Officer George Haydock
- Location of story:
- Linton-on-Ouse, Cuts, Long Kesh,
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 15 October 2004
January 1939, at the age of 18, I joined the Royal Air Force, and like a lot of other volunteers was persuaded to train as a wireless operator. I qualified a week before the war was declared.
Having also agreed to be an air-gunner, I was posted to Linton-on- Ouse on Whitley Bombers on Bomber Command, with nine other airmen I had trained with. At the last moment my posting was cancelled, and I had to immediately join a unit of four coaches rigged out with high-speed Morse equipment. (Later I learned from one of the nine posted to Linton, that eight were dead and he was part blind.)
I, on the high-speed Morse unit, was immediately posted to France. For some months we operated from a village named Cuts, just below the one time Hindenburg Line. We then heard about Dunkirk and knew the Germans would then head south, which they did with their Stuka Bombers. Landlines to the UK were cut so we became more important and we worked as we kept ahead of Germans until the French capitulated. All our equipment went over the cliff at La Rochelle. There we met half a dozen army men who had a lot of tinned stew, so with them we persuaded a skipper of a small coal boat to sail us into the Bay of Biscay. After a day or so we were contracted by a destroyer who escorted us into Newport.
Soon after my two comrades asked me to re-volunteer for air-gunner with them. This we did, and were posted to Coastal Command, they on Blenheims, me onto Whitney’s (nicknamed the Flying Coffin). Some months later my two friends were dead. I went on operational flying from Cornwall for well over a year. My hairiest experience was on November 11th at 11am off the coast of France, where we were attacked by five JU88’s. The amazing skill of the pilot, astonishing luck and some wispy clouds allowed us to eventually escape…but only just.
I was then posted on a six months’ “rest” from op’s and to Long Kesh, testing Beauford torpedo bombers and training rookie crews. Just before my six months were up I was astonishingly posted on a pilot’s course that I hadn’t asked for. But seeing the first place was Regent’s Park in London I went.
When being tested for pilot on Tiger Moths, I nearly pranged one landing so was scrubbed and was sent to Canada on a wireless operator navigator course, which I passed.
Posted back to England I was expected to go back on operational flying, but went onto a ferry unit flying Mosquito’s, Beaufighters and other two engine air craft to the Middle East and the Med.
After nearly seven years in the RAF the war ended. I felt strange, after having flown in some 18 different types of planes and having survived by amazing luck, when some 75 000 RAF aircrew had been killed, 50 000 on bomber command and 25 000 on coastal and such work. I was left with the conviction that there is no such thing as destiny, fate or divine power but we live in an unplanned, evolving and unpredictable universe and we are a product of our genes, the early programming of our infant brains, decisions we make, and chance. And chance has the greatest influence of them all.
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