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Memory 8 - Cliff Blake 90 Squadron - 1947-1959

Cliff Blake 1947-1959 (Air Radio Fitter)

I ARRIVE ON 90 SQUADRON
After leaving St. Athan at the end of our 'improver year', I was posted to 90 Squadron in January 1951. If it had been a French squadron, the Engineering Officer would have kissed me on both cheeks. He had wireless and radar mechanics for his eight Washington (B29 Superfort) aircraft, but no NCO of either trade to countersign the F700. He could have been on his knees praying, when I appeared at dispersal, arrival-chit in hand. His eyes lit up, and his worried twitching disappeared. Perhaps, if I hadn't been so nervous and introverted, I could have negotiated for a gold-plated station bicycle. As it was, I spent most of my time on periodic servicing in the hangar, and trotted to dispersal as necessary.

A couple of pay days later, I received rather short measure. On enquiring at accounts, they produced a recent AMO which said that Records Acting ranks are to be relinquished on posting. It was with mixed feelings that I told Flt.Lt. Rowlands I wasn't qualified to sign his 700's any more. He seemed stunned for a moment, grasped my arm at the two stripes, and plaintively whined, "Do you mean that I haven't got an NCO again?" "Yes, Sir." Then he recovered himself, said firmly, "Leave this to me," and went off on his bicycle towards SHQ. I wore the J/T chevron for about a week, then he grabbed me gleefully to say, "I've got some good news for you. Your Corporal rank is coming through again. Can you clear B Baker for me?".

THE ESCAPE EXERCISE
In October 1951 an aircrew escape exercise was held. All the ground crew were scattered around the countryside to intercept them. The Americans gave a hand with transport, and so a crowd of us were sitting in this US vehicle as it was driven through Swaffham. When it appeared, the local girls would start cheering and waving, then when they saw just RAF bods in the back their faces and voices dropped with a loud disappointed "Oh!" We stopped at a more remote pub, and entered scruffily dressed in our old denims. A local wench looked us up and down, and scenting new blood or genes, wistfully asked "Goin' to the dance tonight, then?" As they say, "It's there if you want it," but more so for the Yanks.

The general election on the previous day had changed the governing party from Labour to Conservative, and a long-negotiated wage increase had been announced following the election. An old farm hand at the bar remarked "This new government's all right ennit? A pay rise already."

It so happened that I was dropped off with "Daft" Dennis. He wasn't silly, just the opposite, but he had no reticence or reserve, and would rush in regardless of rank or protocol. The lorry moved 200 yards up the road, and halted to drop two more. Then a car came the other way, and the driver stopped to ask "Is that your wagon up the road?" Dennis said "Yes! We're stationed here." The driver was puzzled as to why two airmen were stationed in the middle of nowhere. He repeated his question, and Dennis repeated his answer. Then I managed to get in with "We're on an escape exercise." Light dawned, and the car driver, whom I judged to be an officer willing to help a breakdown, cried "Oh! You're playing a game?" --- "Yes, we're playing a game," we confirmed. He laughed, and drove off. Fortunately, we were near a small stone building, and across the road was a good old-fashioned haystack, not yet thatched. Up the side was a ladder, so we had a comfortable perch to observe the road, and with a 12 foot thick hay mattress, we didn't lose our night's sleep in the mild weather.

Cliff Blake
RAF 1947-1959 (Air Radio Fitter)

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