When I came out, I found I had no
eyebrows and no whiskers, and very little hair on my head –I had been very fortunate to get away with such minor injuries.
This was my final warning about petrol –never take it for granted, you
can’t see it but it is there and it can go up in a flash. On these occasions,
as I say, all went well.
Coltishall was a nice place with Norwich in the distance. It was here I actually ended up in jail, strangely enough. Having been posted from Halton and being told to go to Coltishall, I was sent back into London again and came back to catch the train, for Coltishall. On arriving, it was that late that the service bus to the station had already returned so, being a good airman, I reported to the police station. They told me to wait, while they rang the station. Having done this, there was no way I could return to Coltishall, so the only option was to put me into a prison cell, where I slept the night. I received a cup of tea and a sandwich from the Sergeant in charge at Norwich Police Station. This is the only time I have been in prison, but at least I can say I have spent a night in a cell! The following morning of course, they came and picked me up and I returned to Coltishall, where I had many pleasant memories.
My next posting was to a place called Hurn. Once again, not knowing England, it was like a place somewhere in the wilderness. As it turned out, it was on the south coast, looking across the channel. I was dispersed to a place known as Stoney Cross. What you have to remember, at this time, was that signposts were very deceptive; they didn’t always tell you the truth, as to where you were. This was just in case of an enemy invasion.
I found Stoney Cross, was posted there, and it was in the middle of the New Forest –this is as much as I can tell you about it. What I do know was that there were many, many people, airmen of all descriptions, being posted there. In due course and time, as I found out many moons afterwards, this was the beginning of the Second Tactical Air force.
Here they formed the first three squadrons of Typhoons, with rockets, and they were 181,182 and 247 Squadron. We all had to learn to gel together, listen to each other, and learn our trades from the lads that were already working on these aircrafts. As an engine fitter, I was used to the Rolls Royce engines with 12 cylinders. These I found to my horror had 24, and when told to change the plugs on the engine, resulted in 48 sparkplugs! As you can imagine, this is a lot of sparkplugs to change and replace, then put back together again, but it was a part of the job, so we accepted it.
The engines were so large that they could not be started with the old-fashioned electric starter motors which were wired from the batteries on the trolleys-these were pulled to the aircraft to start them up. The means of starting them up was with a cartridge. When wired up, the prop moved about a third, and in that time you had to actually start the engine. It took considerable skill to do this, but gradually we all acquired it. There was considerable pride, and competition, between us as to who could start the engine the quickest, and with the least cartridges. We all got to the point where we could start the engine on the first or second cartridge.
The problem with the Typhoon was its large engine; it also had a huge air intake plus cooling system. If you over primed them you could finish up with a backfire and everything would go up in flames. It was the flight mechanics job to start the engine up and the Airframe lads, who stood by with a fire extinguisher .A visible signal that we made to show that we were not going to fire any more cartridges, was to lift our hands up into the air. In the event of a fire, the rigger went in and put it out. This could be a very scary situation, especially in later days, on the continent. Here, there were no lights, -but ultimate trust that we knew each other well enough, not to have an accident.