- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Grace Stocks (later Grace Griffin)
- Location of story:
- All over England
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 04 November 2003
My First Driving Test
With the arrival of World War Two, life changed dramatically for almost everyone, and I was no exception. So that more men could be sent overseas, women were being recruited in ever greater numbers. It came as no surprise when in February 1943 I was released from my reserved occupation and called up to join H. M. forces. I chose to join the RAF as my elder brother Arthur was already in it, serving in North Africa.
At my first interview, the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) officer offered me several trades, but I only wanted to be a driver. The courses were all full, but I held out. The officer asked me a few questions on the Highway Code, to which I guessed most of the answers, and soon enough I found myself on a three-month driving course in Morecambe. It included basic mechanics in a garage, classroom lessons on rules and regulations, trouble-spotting, etcetera. The actual driving was comprehensive, covering a range of vehicles. Once we had demonstrated a reasonable degree of competence on small cars, we took a lesson in driving at high speed along a straight road which became known as the WAAF’s delight. During one of these lessons, while travelling at 80mph, I had to overtake a much slower car. Remembering the rules, I wound down the window and proceeded to give a right hand signal before moving out. This immediately turned out to be extremely unwise! The slipstream almost broke my arm. After this we went on to 30cwt lorries and convoy work, all against the beautiful backdrop of the Lake District. Great stuff.
The day of the test arrived. The lorries were lined up for us in a square in Lancaster. We kicked our heels waiting for the Sergeant Examiners. I wandered about and saw a plaque on a house wall, marking the place where a Dr. Buck Ruxton had killed his wife and maid, dismembered the bodies and cast the remains down a valley, wrapped in paper. He was hanged for his crime. I remembered this gory story being reported; it seemed strange that I should now be standing at the very spot where it had happened. As I stood there another WAAF trainee came up and we began to discuss the forthcoming tests. “I hope I don’t get C. T. Smith.” she said. “Who is C. T. Smith?” I asked. It appeared that C. T. Smith had a reputation for failing everyone. His initials also stood for “Cease Training”, which meant no second chance. My examiner arrived and, yes, it was C. T. Smith. Not a good start! However, I got things together, and the test began. En route there was a steep downhill cobbled road, the perfect place for a handbrake double-declutch gear change. This is not an easy manoeuvre, the revs have to be just right to avoid a horrendous crashing and grinding of the gears. But I loved this trick, and got it exactly right. The rest of the test went well, and at the end of it, I had passed. I now awaited my first permanent posting.
Twenty years later, when I began my career as a driving instructor, I often thought about C. T. Smith, and remembered never to say anything negative about driving examiners, bless them!
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