Unfortunately the ship that I was told I would be going on hit a free floating
mine, which must have come adrift with the huge waves, it sank with all the people
on board, who were lost. To me, this was not very encouraging- to think that
we would be sailing soon. We were later told that we would be sailing across
about a week later in a tank landing craft. These are flat-bodied transporters
with very little in the way of comfort.
The next morning, we arrived at Tilbury, here were checked out to see if we had brought any illegal goods into the country-mainly money. Having checked my pay book, against the money I had in my pockets, I was let through to proceed home, or so I thought. I actually ended up at Bramcote. Here I was on the Wellington medium bombers; they had radial engines, which I had not worked on before. My main basic job was running around doing various bits and bobs, so I was pleased when I was reposted.
This time it was to a place called Portreath, which is down in Corwall; this was a far nicer place to be. The actual aerodrome was the furthest out towards the Atlantic and here I started working again with aircraft. The actual aerodrome was perched right on the top of a hill with Redruth down in the valley. The runway was straight over the cliff edge so whoever took off, had the one chance, which meant they either took off or ended up in the sea. Whilst I was there, no one ended up in the sea.
The main reason for me at Portreath, was that they were fetching aircraft from all different areas, all different types, Mosquito’s, Spitfires etc. and these were being made into groups to be flown out to the Far East, where the war was still going on with the Japanese.
I enjoyed being at Portreath. One day a gale warning was issued which could be as high as 100 mph. This was a new experience to me. All the aircraft that we had were ‘double picketed’-this means, cross screwed wires into the ground with a rope tied underneath the wing, one at either side, and the tail lashed down as well. The next thing we were told was each one of us would have to sit in the cockpit of an aircraft, to control it in the high winds. I finished up in a Spitfire. As the wind gradually increased, so the propellers started to turn round, then the aircraft began to shake. First on my feet, then through the joystick. Then I realised the aircraft was ‘flying’ in the wind –a very funny feeling knowing that you were flying but stood still! Having had to sit there through the night, along with all the other chaps; we were all very pleased that in the morning the wind had subsided and things returned to normal. At this point someone asked where was the Commanding Officers Tiger Moth, everyone looked at each other, and we then realised it wasn’t there. It was found all in crumpled heap away off the aerodrome. This to my knowledge was the only casualty.
Staying at Portreath was one of my most pleasant experiences whilst in the forces. The countryside is absolutely beautiful and the people were marvellous. We went into the local pubs and listened to the stories from the locals, we made many friends here. On one occasion, we were asked if we would like to volunteer to go and talk to some R.A.F pilots. When asked, little had I realised that these people turned out to be pilots and aircrews who had been involved in accidents whilst flying. Having passed the afternoon with them, I could only but admire the ‘guts’ of these people, some were half burnt figures with burnt hands and faces. I really did enjoy their company and I’m sure they enjoyed ours. Afterwards, I walked up into the hills and admired the views of the Cornish coast.
Eventually the war ceased in England but in the Far East the war carried on. On many occasions I went down into Redruth, the nearest large village, and as the aircraft ceased to go out as frequently, I then became a gardener. Unfortunately this did not last that long, as again I was posted on.