It should be remembered that what follows is based upon the memories of a small boy, from almost 70 years ago.
The year was 1937 – or thereabouts. I would have been perhaps ten years old, and very thrilled to be shown around a real R.A.F Station – Church Fenton.
Our guide, an Officer friend of my older cousins, took us into the hanger and proudly introduced us to the latest fighter aircraft, neatly parked shining biplanes. I recall him telling my father that each aircraft could carry two machine-guns, positioned beside the engine so as to fire through the propeller. He went on to say that there were in the Station Armoury two guns for each aircraft, with a couple of spares, and ammunition as well. It was however unfortunate that not one of those guns could be mounted on any of their aircraft.
All the Church Fenton aircraft had Type A mountings to accept guns, whilst the guns on hand had type B coupling. And never would the two mate successfully. It was assumed that somewhere else, another Squadron was equally unhappily equipped. Discrete enquiries were being made, with the intention of arranging a suitable exchange of guns – without attracting undue publicity or arousing the wrath of those closer to Air Ministry.
Later we were taken to the Parachute Packing Shed, and there I was asked “Would you like to pull the rip cord?” Knowing that would put me ‘One Up’ on both my elder brother and my schoolmates, I accepted eagerly. Nevertheless my efforts were not much appreciated by the Parachute Packer. This because – with youthful enthusiasm – I had heaved far too lustily on the ‘D’ handle, and so pulled the bowden cable right out of its sleeve, and a fair amount of ingenuity would be needed to get it back into its correct position.
Our Officer guide, named Caffeky or Cafferty, was due to leave the Service in a couple of months, and was looking for civilian employment. Being an Irishman, he felt a certain affinity for potatoes and, knowing that the Ministry of Agriculture was recruiting Seed Potato Inspectors, he applied for the job. By the same post, but using another name, he requested all the Ministry’s latest leaflets on Seed Potatoes. So, when he went for interview he had all the correct answers on the tip of his tongue – and with a touch of Irish blarney – he got the job! Fortunately for the Farming Industry, the Air Ministry – sensing a war might be looming – extended his term of service with the R.A.F.
For my part I served as a ‘wingless wonder’ Equipment Assistant 1945 -48, rising to the dizzy heights of Acting Corporal at H.Q. Central Signals Area. Bletchley. Bucks.
I hope the above will be of use in your researches into the past history of RAF Church Fenton.