Oral History

Colin Gompertz

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 A Clerk Org's National Service at R.A.F. Bawdsey

Colin Gompertz served some of his National Service at R.A.F. Bawdsey, a station much loved by all who served there. Here is his story.


I am a Norfolkman now living in Scotland. I think I bore all my family and friends with the wonderful time I had at Bawdsey from February 1959 to October 1960. I was a National Serviceman among thousands of others. Some had a tough and miserable time but I and my friends  were lucky enough to be posted to Bawdsey.

I arrived with Bill McManus who came from Coatbridge in Lanarkshire, after we both did our trade training at Hereford. We were both "Clerk Orgs" We had travelled from Hereford to Felixstowe station where we caught the bus to Bawdsey - an old Bedford Duple owned and always driven by Albert from time immemorial. It was a dark January evening and after the fascination of the ferry we were greeted by the duty corporal who we treated with due deference but he greeted us with such cheerfulness we wondered if we were really in the RAF!- especially after being shouted at at Wilmslow by a drunken Scottish DI Corporal for 8 weeks and being subservient and learning the vagaries of the Kardex at RAF Hereford.

This Corporal who greeted us (I am ashamed I forget some names and he became a good friend) took us to the canteen for a meal specially cooked for us by the duty cook - such luxury after having to endure for the last 6 weeks the rubbish the catering school at Hereford dished up for us clerks! Everything was flavoured with tomatoes. He then took us to the transit block to settle in for the night before we were allocated a billet.  We had not seen the rest of the camp because of the dark although a street light showed us a sign at the playing field "beware low flying aircraft" ( never saw any in the whole time there)

The cooks lived in this accommodation block and the one who had cooked our meal came in after his shift and took us to the Naafi. There we met Mick Mattey, a clerk in Equipment section, John Dove-Dixon, a typist in SHQ although a Bank clerk like me in civilian life, and I think Mick Fenney a medic in Sick quarters was there also. We were to have many an evening in this Naafi in serious discussion over cups of tea. We reckoned we heard every record on the Juke Box every evening without putting a threepenny bit in it ourselves. We did not get much money as National Servicemen.

Next morning we reported to SHQ where we were allocated our billet and the sections  we were to work. Bill to the Post office to train to take over as post clerk, I to APFS ( Air Publications and Forms Store) in an office over the barbers shop formerly in the stable block of the old Bawdsey Manor which also housed the MT section, Equipment section and Fire section. I was on the roll of Tech Section although the rest of the section were down the hole (Radar Site) and repaired the Radar equipment. I was to take over APFS when the Waaf who ran it left to get married.

During the next few days we were introduced to the FBI (Ferry Boat Inn) mainly frequented by "Ops" (We didn't mix with them much us being in Admin and Tech sections)  We frequented, only on Thursday evenings because of lack of money, the quieter pub "The Lord Nelson" This was our first few days of a very happy time at Bawdsey. I think we enjoyed each day. Good food, Good company, comfortable billets, and although a small community ( about 400) we all generally lived in harmony. I could go on quite a bit, perhaps write a book if you wish!!

Kind regards,

Colin Gompertz

thelaird@ban_spam_stronvar.co.uk (remember to remove "ban_spam_" from this address)

Stronvar House, Balquhidder, Perthshire, Scotland, FK19 8PB

http://www.stronvar.co.uk
Telephone +44 (0) 187 738 4688


 

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Updated 03/02/2002

Constructed by Dick Barrett

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ęCopyright 2000, 2001 Dick Barrett

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