614290 A.C. FORD.
In 1938 and 1939 I was stationed at RAF Church Fenton, and was attached to S.H.Q. and was on general duties. At the time the 2 Squadrons were 72 and 64. 72 Squadron was firstly Gloster Gladiators and later Spitfires. 64 was Hawker Demon Bi-planes changing to Bristol Blenheim (short nosed). The C.O. of 72 was Sdn Leader Lees and the 64 Sdn Leader was Herbert Percy [Editor’s note Nov 2019 – the name of 64 Sqn’s CO was John Heber Percy, thanks to his grandson William Heber Percy for the clarification] who I remember had a very modern car (Hotchkiss?) I remember then, the tall F.O. Nicholson [James Nicholson, the only Fighter Command pilot to win the Victoria Cross], and I had my first flight with P.O.George, Australian pilot Sheen , Sgt Norfolk and P.O. Fry. The Station Commander was Wing Commander Harris and the station adjutant was Sdn Leader Beamish.
72 hangar was nearest the road, between it and the road was the little gas chamber (tear gas). Whilst I was there a Blenheim disappeared, and was found quite a while later up on the Pennines, Sheffield, Manchester area. I think the crew were Sth Africans. One of the duties I did was on guard for about a week on a crashed Harrow Bomber at a little village called Kirk Smeaton. I liked it very much as we had all our meals and drinks in the village pub called The “Shoulder Of Mutton”. We used to go to Tadcaster quite a lot and frequent the pub owned by Jimmy Scriveens, one of the boys was married to his daughter.
At the beginning of the war some of us went up to Upper Heyford on the way to France. We boarded a big 4-engined bi-plane called “Hannibul”. It was Imperial Airways and the pilot was the bearded Captain Jones. we taxied out and the flight was aborted, why, we never knew, and returned to Church Fenton. I think the planes searched for the submarine “Thetis”. It was found sunk in Liverpool Bay whilst on its trials, salvaged and renamed Thunderbolt. It was lost during the war.
I remember Smoky Toes where we used to call in on the way back to camp. Two of the boys I knew were A.C. Dawson, a very good violinist, and LAC Rolfe who played the saxophone. I returned to Church Fenton in 1942 from 60 MU, and did modifications to a Blenheims engines. It was under some kind of tent I think up near the rifle range. I returned to 60 MU Shipton after about 2 weeks.
Mons Andrew Ford.
- And the second instalment:
“Dear Ian, further updates of church fenton 1938-1939:
I went to the signals block one evening with the duty wireless officer op, I was astonished when this typewriter (teleprinter) came to life, and began sending out a printed message (in code) which was duly taken to the duty signal officer. On another occasion I went with the duty armourer to the armoury where he showed me some of the officers private weapons, smith and wesson, and one very old and weird webley automatic. The rifles at that time were W.W.1 type, later on I remember the #4 Enfield, with the short spike bayonet.
On the occasion when I went to Kirk Smeaton, it was Nov.5th,1938 and we managed to activate a parachute flare, which lit up the field like daylight, also the very pistol was there with a few cartridges. We spent some time at the hotel “The Shoulder of Mutton” and I remember the girl (daughter?) called Peggy and another called Joyce Briggs. My regards if you are still around.
On my second short time at Church Fenton, probably 1941-1942, I was billeted at a little village called Stutton with an elderly lady called miss Brown. She baked bread, etc, for the locals, and the short time I was there I tidied up her garden for her, knowing I liked rice pudding, she made one for my supper each day …god bless her. Another time we walked to a place called Barkston Ash, within its ground was a small lake.
Calling at this big house, the maid ushered us into the presence of a very charming lady who chattered with us and was very interested in our duties at the airfield. The upshot was we were given permission to fish in the lake!!! The fish were perch which we duly returned to the water. I think that would be summer 1939.
By the way, the first aircraft I worked on were a a Bristol Bulldog with an uncowled bristol jupiter radial engine.
Also a fairey “gordon” siddely “panther”, also uncowled, and a westland “wapiti” large wingspan bi-plane. Cant remember the engine but I remember one had to be almost a contortionist to start and run the bulldog.
Hope this information can be of use to yourself, and the web site, and I will endeavour to
recollect more information from my experiences of some 65 years ago.
regards and thank you for your dedication.
M.A.FORD (D.O.B. 21 JULY, 1916)”