Tomorrow night will mark the 20th anniversary of Dads’ passing back in 1998 at the age of 76.
As Remembrance Day approaches it seems appropriate, given that 2018 marks the 100th Anniversary of the end of the first World War, to reflect on Dad’s service career in the Royal Air Force.
Born in 1922, he was very bright and although he passed all his exams, he couldn’t get a place at Grammar School so ended up in a series of manual jobs including cleaning the internals of steam locomotives.
When the War broke out, Dad enlisted as an 18 year old and joined the RAF.
He spent the War with Coastal Command and I’m not sure he ever really talked much about his experiences. However here’s what Wikipedia tells us about what he was doing:
“RAF Coastal Command was a formation within the Royal Air Force (RAF). Founded in 1936, it was to act as the RAF maritime arm, after the Fleet Air Arm became part of the Royal Navy in 1937.
Naval aviation was neglected in the inter-war period, 1919–1939, and as a consequence the service did not receive the resources it needed to develop properly or efficiently.
This continued until the outbreak of the Second World War, during which it came to prominence. Owing to the Air Ministry’s concentration on RAF Fighter Command and RAF Bomber Command, Coastal Command was often referred to as the “Cinderella Service”, a phrase first used by the First Lord of the Admiralty at the time A V Alexander.
Its primary task was to protect convoys from the German Kriegsmarine’s U-boat force. It also protected Allied shipping from the aerial threat posed by the Luftwaffe. The main operations of Coastal Command were defensive, defending supplies lines in the various theatres of war, most notably the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres and the battle of the Atlantic. It also served in an offensive capacity.
In the Mediterranean theatre and the Baltic sea it carried out attacks on German shipping moving war materials from Italy to North Africa and from Scandinavia to Germany. By 1943 Coastal Command finally received the recognition it needed and its operations proved decisive in the victory over the U-boats.
The service saw action from the first day of hostilities until the last day of the Second World War. It flew over one million flying hours, 240,000 operations and destroyed 212 U-boats. Coastal Command’s casualties amounted to 2,060 aircraft to all causes and some 5,866 personnel killed in action. During 1940–1945 Coastal Command sank 366 German transport vessels and damaged 134.
The total tonnage sunk was 512,330 tons and another 513,454 tons damaged. A total of 10,663 persons were rescued by the Command, including 5,721 Allied crews, 277 enemy personnel, and 4,665 non-aircrews.”
So I am guessing he was pretty busy…
I love the Coastal Command motto – “Constant Endeavour”
Sometime after the War Dad joined 683 Squadron and was based out in Aden, and again with the help of Wikipedia:
“The squadron was re-formed on 1 November 1950 at RAF Fayid, Egypt with the Avro Lancaster PR.1 and the Vickers Valetta C.1. It was tasked with the survey and mapping of Arabia and East Africa. In January 1952 the squadron moved to RAF Khormaksar, Aden to cover both Aden and Somaliland.
Another move to RAF Habbaniya, Iraq allowed the squadron to survey and map the Persian Gulf. With the survey and mapping role completed the squadron was disbanded at Habbaniya on 30 November 1953.”
Again, what an impactful Motto “Nothing Remains Concealed”
Throughout this period Dad was progressing through the ranks and was now an Officer and in 1951, clearly there is romance in the desert sands, I was born and Mum returned home, leaving Dad on his own in Aden for the next 18 months. That must have been a very difficult time for them both.
No. 138 Squadron RAF – “For Freedom”
He must have changed Squadron at this point and was now with 138 Squadron and I remember well living in both Gaydon and Wittering as a child…
“On 1 January 1955 the squadron was reformed as the first squadron to be equipped with the Vickers Valiant strategic nuclear bomber, based at RAF Gaydon and later moving to RAF Wittering.
It flew them from Malta during the Suez Crisis of October 1956, and was finally disbanded on 1 April 1962.”
I am incredibly proud of my Dad and have no doubt that everything he experienced I have learned from. When he left the RAF he found it incredibly difficult to adapt to “Civvy Street”. He didn’t moan, he took appropriate action…
He set up his own successful business and, along with my most special of all Mums, ( It’s been nearly 2 years since she passed away and I do hope and pray that she and Dad are together again in a happier place xxx) she gave me and my brother a great start in life.
So Dad, you’ve been gone for a long time now, Mum, not so long and sadly missed, but rest assured we do remember you….