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15 October 2014
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A Wireless Operator's Tale Part 3

by actiondesksheffield

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Jacl Morley
Location of story: 
Sheffield, Scotland, Herefordshire and Bridlington.
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
05 October 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk — Sheffield’ Team on behalf of Jack Morley, and has been added to the site with his permission. Mr. Morley fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

The stories were transcribed from audio recordings made and supplied by Jack. When some of the foreign place names that are mentioned could not be found very easily in an atlas, they have been typed as they sounded, as have some of the technical and coded terms with which I was not familiar, therefore, they will probably be misspelled................. Bill Ross, BBC People’s War Story Editor.
Other parts to this story can be found at:

Part 1: A5041397

Part 2: A5041531

Part 4: A6039722

Part 5: A6081257

Part 6: A6081301

Part 7: A6126077

Part 8: A6126167

Part 9: A6138010

So, I said to him, “Cut it as short as you like, not shaven, but short.” So he gave me what would be called a crew cut. I was nearly in tears when he cut all my lovely locks off. Alan said, “Do t’same for me.”
When we walked up the platform, we were both grinning; we thought. “He can’t get at us now.” He let us get back up to our position, and we were still grinning. He said, “You have just been awarded 7 days’ jankers for dumb insolence.” That was because we’d grinned at him

We had to go and get kitted out for this jankers, so we marched down to Woolworth’s corner, where we had been allocated a space. The flight sergeant met us and he marched us round the corner to the bottom of Albert Road, and into a Mark’s and Spencer’s store. Here, we were issued with a rifle with a fixed bayonet. We were told, “If anyone comes to this store, you challenge ‘em with: ‘Halt, who goes there?’ If they don’t answer, shoot ‘em. Well, no, you can’t shoot ‘em yet, you’ve got to challenge ‘em three times, but, if they don’t show their I.D. cards, ask them to go away and come back with it. Now, you’ve got one bullet each and if they don’t answer, shoot ‘em! Just like that!”

After about an hour or so, nobody had been by, then along came Flight Sergeant Frazer. “Ah,” he said, “We’ve got yer busy have we?” “Yes Flight.” Then he started to go past us, and we both said, “Halt! Show your identity card.” He said, “You know who I am, I’m Flight Sergeant Frazer.” We said, “We’ve got to see your identity card.” Well, strangely, he wasn’t carrying it, so we arrested him. We locked him into a very little room that was provided for the very purpose. We told out guard commander who said, “Alright, leave him in there.”

The next minute, the squadron C.O. came down. He said, “I’m your course commanding officer.” “Show us your identity card sir.” “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, “I haven’t got it with me.” “Well, you can’t go in here without it.” “I want to see Flight Sergeant Frazer.” I said, “No sir, we’ve got orders to shoot if yer don’t do as we tell yer.” So off he went and came back with his card. He was furious, but we let him pass when we saw his card. He went in and spoke to the guard commander and then came out with Flight Sergeant Frazer who was absolutely fuming after being locked up. The officer said, “You did quite right chaps." The guard commander said, “You’re for it tomorra, Flight Sergeant Frazer is fuming.”

As it happened, Flight Sergeant Frazer never came near us again, so really, it was a cushy job because we were only there for about 2½ hours, then we were back to the billets.

Anyway, we were taken to various places for certain classes. The first one was Morse procedure, which I’d already done in the navy, but I had to learn it the RAF way now. I couldn’t do it, although I’d been doing almost 20 words a minute at the naval school, that was too slow, so I had to learn it all again. I got good practice at it whilst walking round Blackpool and telling my mates the names of shops etc., in Morse code, so most of the squad learnt Morse Code from me, rather than the instructors.

On some occasions, we went up to the rifle range at Bispham. It was a long walk and we were often tired before we got there, but we still had to get down and do target practice. All in all, it was a good grounding for the service life that was to come.

For about three months, we hadn’t had leave, then towards the end of the course we were told that we would be allowed to go on a 72 hour pass. When we got back, we were to be posted to Madely in Herefordshire along with some more. In Madely, we went to Number Four Radio School where we were checked off then allocated billets. Here, we were given corporals to be in charge of us, each had his own corporal. It was strange to know that some of the things I would be learning were about some of the things that would be happening on 101 Squadron, when I got there. ‘Alert G’ was a new invention at that time, and H2S was just coming out, so we learnt the rudiments of that. Then we were sent to learn the rudiments of gunnery by going clay pigeon shooting.

Eventually, it was announced that we’d passed our courses and were to be posted to various stations to learn more about wireless maintenance. Fred Jackson and I were posted to a place on the east coast, just above Bridlington. We reported to the Wireless Maintenance department there, and we were given a bicycle each. Our billet was to be at Bransburton and the maintenance section was at the far side of the aerodrome.

One of the wireless mechanics said to us, “If you can get hold of a flying helmet, you’ll be able to go flying if you get stationed on a dispersal site." So, we managed to get a flying helmet, and I got hold of a flying logbook, but I was told that I would have to hand it in when I left the station because I wasn’t supposed to have it.

On the very first day, I reported to the hut on the dispersal site and there were three aircraft there, all Bowfighters. I checked the wirelesses on each one, then I went back into the hut. A pilot came in and asked, “Has anyone got a flying helmet?” I said, “Yes sir, I have." “Righto, come with me lad,” he sez. So I followed him. “Climb aboard,” he sez. I wondered what was going on now. He said, “We’re going for a little trip around Bridlington and some practice shooting at the range." Well, the observer’s seat in this aircraft was beside a huge oblong drum, full of canon shells. He said, “If any of ‘em get jammed, give ‘em a little tug, and if you can’t loosen them, tell me.”

I’d nothing to do except listen on the wireless. Anyway, he went down to this range, a short way down the coast, right on the coast. It was a huge sheet of metal and he went and fired at it, and he hit it. It split all ways. Then he flew over the sea and said, “Now we’ll have a run round the bay now we’ve hit the target.” So we had a flight around Bridlington, then went back to base and landed, then he said, “When I land, hold tight because these aircraft stall below 120 miles per hour and they’re likely to crash if we stall.

Beside Bowfighters, there were Balfour Torpedo bombers and Blenheim Bombers on this station. The station was a Coastal Command OUT, a huge aerodrome in fact. Once or twice, I got a trip in a Blenheim, which I thought was quite nice. I got to fly in Bowfighters quite a lot. Sometimes, a pilot would say, “Oh, there’s a German boat out there, let’s go and shoot it up, just for fun.” They weren’t supposed to do that, but they did it.

On one occasion, we got chased away from Norway; he’d lost his direction and he said, “Call up and see if you can get me some information or something.” But before I had a chance, two German fighters came up from the coast of Norway, so he about turned. He knew where he was then. So we made our way back to Bridlington.

Close to the camp was a beacon site at Skipsy. If we did anything wrong, we got seven days on the flasher beacon. That was a little camp of about 14 strong and had a couple of men training to be RAF regiment soldiers. There was nothing else other than this beacon which had to be kept flashing all the time the RAF had an aeroplane in the air. It wasn’t as dangerous as it seemed. We used to change a cam to alter a letter each day, and the beacon itself, stood on a metal framework with tarpaulins around, and inside was a mattress and an electric light was fixed up for when we were on at night time.

The first time we went to the cookhouse, it was, “What would yer like to eat?” I thought, “This is strange, a sergeant cook asking what would we like. So he told us, “When you go on duty up there at night, you’ll be in the safest place in England.” We asked why, and he said, “You’ll find out when yer go.” It was because the Germans came out over the North Sea, turned around our beacon and went down the coast to bomb Hull. It was a marker for ‘em, so they weren’t likely to bomb us. I had a wonderful seven days there; actually, I kept doing little naughty things so that I could get sent there again. I went there quite a few times, in fact, it became like a little permanent unit, but all good things come to an end.

I was going on seven days’ leave, after which I had to report back to RAF Madely. When I eventually arrived at Madely, I saw my old pal Freddie Jackson and a new pal, Bill Harvey. I’d become firm pals with him, until he got killed. Anyway, we were to start a refresher course at Madely, and if we passed it, we were to be made sergeants, so we worked hard at this, helping one another along. In the meantime, during the refresher course, we were billeted not at the same site, but at a site near where the church stands, near Hartley’s jam factory. There were three rows of huts and a big flight sergeant, who had a huge watch, the full size of his breast pocket.

We were in Hut C, and when we’d had breakfast, we went back to the hut, got ready to go down to the classes, and the flight sergeant would come, and blow his whistle, we’d pile into three ranks, and he’d keep looking at this big watch, and when it was time to go, off we’d go and he would wait until every man had passed him at the gateway. Then as we marched down the hill, towards where the classrooms were, and the church, he would cycle past, shouting at us to pick our feet up, this, that and the other. Then he’d cycle back; up and down he used to go.

Then came the first Sunday, church parade. All three huts turned out as usual to go down for church parade. One by one, people went missing, from the parade as he stood there looking at his watch. By the time he’d finished, there was less than half the number of people he’d set off with to go down to church parade, but he never bothered. He just ignored us. But whilst going down to church parade, he’d be shouting, “Come on, I know yer, I know who you are, I know who’s missing.” But he didn’t know. When we got to the church, he would stand at the door, ushering us in, and then he’d shoot off somewhere.
When we went into the church, he’d disappeared.

When we came out, he was there again to take us back up to the sites. The flight sergeant’s name was Evans and he’d been in the air force about twenty years. This ritual happened every time we went on parade. But eventually, the wondrous day arrived; we’d learnt enough to go flying. Oh my, how good that was. On a designated morning, we were marched down to the aerodrome, and here was our first introduction to flying.

I was among the first batch of three or four to climb into a Dominic aircraft. This was what we’d always thought was the main plane. We were to go for a familiarisation flight and this would be for a period of about ten minutes. It took off with a mighty roar from two engines, everything shook. In turn, each one of us was violently sick during that first trip.

A couple of days later, we were on another trip in a Dominic, but this time it wasn’t too bad. After we’d had two or three trips, we were allocated an instructor, to fly Proctors wherever we went . We could learn to fly, use the wireless set. This was a wonderful time for me because the Proctor was much more stable than the Dominic. To my surprise, I wasn’t sick at all. The wirelesses were the 1082/3. There used to be a song about them, but I can’t remember it.

We gradually got into the way of sending messages from the air, sending and receiving Morse, how to get bearings etc. I was realizing my ambitions here, it was always my ambition to fly. Anyway, the weeks went by and it became time for our final examinations. There wasn’t one man on the course who failed. So, that was a cue for a night out in Hereford. On the following day, we were all to receive our sergeants’ stripes. What a night we had, no one caught the bus back because the bus went before the pubs turned out, so I was among the walkers, or more appropriately, one of the staggerers; we were in a right sorry state by the time we got back. But we didn’t report to the guardroom, we went straight to the billet, for which we were hauled over the coals for not signing in, we’d been put down as absent. Anyway, we got away with that, nobody charged us with anything. We just got a good dressing down for not reporting in at the guardroom.
We paraded once more, then were informed that a certain number of us were to go to a place called West Frue, which was an advanced flying unit. As we approached Stranraer Station, once more there was a fleet of busses to meet us. The busses took us to our sleeping quarters. When we got there, they said, “Yer’ll be starting classes tomorra, some will be flying, some will be doing other things.
Anyway, we were quite some months up there: besides the normal flying over to Ireland, Isle of Man and Jersey, sometimes we took passengers, sometimes we’d take someone over to Ireland. They’d say, “Are you going to Scotland, Isle of man, can we have a lift?”

In the meantime, I’d done my gunnery course and then that was it, I was granted my air gunner’s badge. All of us who had got our flying badges thought we were going to be posted on leave and that they would instruct us as to where we’d go from there. For the first time in months, I got leave.

It was early in the morning when we approached Sheffield; it all seemed strange. I walked into the house, dumped my kit on the floor and there was this little old woman in the corner. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry love, I thought I was at home.” She said, “You are home Jack, come and gi’ me a kiss.” It was my mother, whom when I left, had been about fourteen stone. She’d got cancer and went down to about 6 or 7 stone. I said, “Are yer alright now?” She said, “Oh yes, I’m alright just now.” So, “Come on then.” She said, “Where we going?” I helped her up the steps into the middle of the yard, put me arms round her.........>


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