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15 October 2014
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My Grandpa's Life During World War 2icon for Recommended story

by Holmewood and Heath CAP

Contributed by 
Holmewood and Heath CAP
People in story: 
Bertram Hughes
Location of story: 
Calcutta, India
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
23 June 2004

This is a picture of my Grandpa aged 24, as a sergeant in the R.A.F.


This story was submitted by Jo Taylor on behalf of ANDREW COOKE and has been added to the site with his permission.

My Grandpa (Bertram Hughes) was a member of the R.A.F (Royal Air Force) during the war, and the following information is what he has told me about his life with the Air Force.

He joined the R.A.F as a volunteer in April 1943, at the age of 19. After registering, he was sent to Glasgow and then to Bolton where he studied radio technology.
When he had finished studying, in 1944, he was sent to join The 5 Base Signals Depot, as a ‘Radio Mechanic’, in Calcutta, India. As a radio mechanic, he had to service the radio transmitters, which carried vital information to the front lines.
Whilst in Calcutta, my Grandpa took part in many different activities. He is a very talented musician and music played a major part in his life in India, as you are about to find out.

One of the first things my Grandpa was to get involved with in Calcutta was one of India’s main newspapers, ‘The Sunday Statesman,’ where he was made ‘Music Critic’. This was a job that he would do in the evenings, where he would go and watch any music concert that was showing in the area and write a small report on it. Another thing he did in India was to play the organ for the large church of Saint Thomas, which you can still visit, in Calcutta today.

Later in his life in India, he joined the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra, who at the time, were in need of a harpist. Now Grandpa doesn’t play the harp, but he cleverly adapted the music from the harp so it would work on the piano. He performed the harp pieces on the piano in many concerts with the orchestra, some of which were inside the ENSA theatre.

After working as a radio mechanic for two years, in 1946 Grandpa was promoted to ‘Educational and Vocational Training Sergeant, or E.V.T Sergeant for short’. In this new role, he was in charge of training up new and young members of the squadron. The E.V.T team put on lots of little plays and sketches to keep the other members of the depot entertained, in which my Grandpa was ‘Musical Director’.

During his stay in Calcutta, the ‘All India Radio’ recognized his talent as an exceptional pianist and gave him a regular slot on the air. Working for the radio station he would accompany the Westminster Singers on the piano once a month and he would play the latest records which he would be given for free from H.M.V records Calcutta branch during his weekly slot. Just before leaving India, he and a group of three others in the depot formed the R.A.F Muir Club quartet, which was a group of musicians who performed for the rest of the R.A.F, stationed in Calcutta.
One of the final things he did before leaving India was to appear in a film called ‘India Calling Blighty’

He returned back to Britain in July 1947 after the war with Japan had ended and since then, after being a head teacher at various schools, he is now enjoying a happy retirement.

Andrew Cooke

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