This story is about my life in the Royal Air Force during the War years 1941 - 1946. A story of all the events that happened as I saw it. It is how I remember it all after over 50 years. I do not criticise anyone or anything, rightly or wrongly. It is entirely my own opinion of events.
I found service life a good life. Very interesting work, if sometimes in very dangerous and awkward situations, and I did the job to the best of my ability, obeyed orders and "kept my nose clean". I think perhaps it was the healthiest, fittest time of my entire life and I shared it all with some very good friends and comrades. An experience I would not have missed.
If I was a young man again and with all the technology of the present day I would find the R.A.F. to be irresistible.
I will endeavour to mention as many old comrades as I can remember.
John H Duckers
It was early in the year of 1941, I was 19 years of age. The War had been on for some considerable time and the time for call-up of my age group to the Armed Forces was fast approaching. I was getting a bit fed up with sleepless nights spent in air raid shelters, going to work worn our and nights of fire watching at my place of work.
And so, with my good friend Fred Fisher and two other friends, the Watson brothers, Les and Sonny, we all decided to volunteer for the Royal Air Force. As we worked in the jewellery trade the obvious choice in the R.A.F. was that of Instrument Repairer. I had no parents and was living with my Aunt Gert and my cousin Jack, who was already serving in the Army. So, I might just as well join up now as later - at least I would have a choice of the Service I would enter.
One day, after making our decision, we all went to the R.A.F. Recruiting Office in Dale End, Birmingham, the date being 3rd February 1941. We were asked some questions and given a general medical inspection, all passing Al. I remember I found a 3-stone engagement ring on the floor. I passed it over to the Sergeant in charge. We then received a travel warrant and told to report to R.A.F. Padgate, near Warrington, for attestation and an aptitude test.
Arriving at Padgate (this was Number 3 Recruiting Centre) we were allocated a hut. I will always remember the Corporal in Charge. He was rather a tubby chap and informed us in no uncertain terms that he was "the goose that lays the golden egg". I often wondered what became of him and I would have loved to have met him again on equal terms.
I remember that one question asked was to spell "bicycle". As I was a keen cyclist and read the weekly paper of that name it was easy for me.
We were then given our Service Number - mine being 1143357. We then became members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. As we were not required immediately we had to return home to await our call-up, the date on the postponement forms being 15th February 1941. I found Padgate to be a dark, miserable place, so it was back to being jewellers again for us.
It was in the month of April that we returned to Padgate. This time we joined the R.A.F. properly.
We became Aircraft Hands at the enormous wage of 2/- (2 shillings - lOp) per day. We then collected all our kit and uniforms and were then despatched to an unknown destination for four weeks basic training or, as it was called, "square bashing". The "unknown destination" turned out to be R.A.F. Bridgnorth in Shropshire. I knew the place very well from days out in the Cycling Club and it wasn't so very far from home. Unfortunately we were confined to camp for the whole four weeks of our stay. It was now the time that I lost my Christian name of Jack: as I had red hair,
Story of an Erk
A personal account by the late John Duckers of his 5 years in the Royal Air Force particularly with No 46 Squadron in North Africa during the second World War