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Five years in the RAF

by bedfordmuseum

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Archive List > Royal Air Force

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Mr. T.E.Donnelly
Location of story: 
UK and Egypt
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
11 August 2005

This story was written from an interview with Mr. Donnelly by Mr. Brian Mears.

Mr. Donnelly was born in 1921 and was called-up to the RAF No.2 Recruitment Centre Cardington in June 1941. He had six haircuts in seven days! He hadn't had much cut off and was then told to go back. (The hairdresser at Cardington was Cyril Folks who had a hairdressing business in Goldington Road post WW2 until about 1965). Then on to Yarmouth square bashing and told 'not enough off' and he ended up nearly bald.

Mr. Donnelly was posted to Tempsford in September 1941 after four months drill. Mr. Donnelly was already a qualified motor mechanic and became a Motor Transport Mechanic inthe RAF. Because Tempsford was relatively close to Bedford he applied for a 'living out' pass as he thought that he could cycle back and forth as I lived in Risborough Road, Bedford. But he was refused permission as the limit was eight miles. However a Station Warrant Officer did have permission to 'live out' and he travelled via Sandy. Mr. Donnelly pointed out that Blunham was just eight miles and he eventually got permission to 'live out'.

An incident in 1941, the hangars were up and a Wellington bomber was in one and it caught on fire. The MT Section raced to assist out but on the way all the fire extinguishers fell over and went off. So when they arrived they couldn't help fortunately the fire was put out by other Sections. The runways at Tempsford were not finished as at 1942.

Mr. Donnelly was posted overseas in July 1942. They left Liverpool and it took three months via Durban, South Africa to reach Egypt. Here Mr. Donnelly was attached to a Repair and Salvage unit. He went on various attachments until March 1944. He was then posted to RAF Nicosia as NCO 1/C M.T. Workshops. The jobs involved salvaging crashed aircraft. In Egypt a water tanker had done 48,000 miles of normal service and had to have a full overhaul which took one week. Air filters were the oil bath type and sand settled in the bottom and they were replaced every 1,000 miles due to the dusty conditions in the desert.

An occasional duty was a Dispatch Rider Letter Service on an Indian motor cycle to collect and deliver mail. This was known as DRLS Duty.

Mr. Donnelly returned to the UK in June 1945 and was once more posted to Tempsford (the SOE activity had ceased by this time). Throughout his active service Mr. Donnelly thought that the service rations were very good especially Christmas in the desert. They were as good or better than at home.

Mr. Donnelly was demobbed in 1946 and received a gratuity of £56. He borrowed £50 from his mother-in-law after they had applied for a council house which were NOT available. He put down £106 deposit for a new house in Cotton End, Bedfordshire and bought one for £1169. Mr. Donnelly resumed his career as motor mechanic after one months demob leave.

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