Eye Witness 1939-1945.

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Signing up in 1939 - Kenneth Rogerson 3rd from left 2nd row

Sent in by Mike Rogerson the photo left shows a group of recruits at Cardington in 1939 -  his father Kenneth among them.

Mike explains "My father's name is Kenneth Rogerson, and he joined up as a volunteer in September 1939 at the age of 26, just after WWII broke out. He was living in Jackson Street, Walker, Newcastle upon Tyne with his mother and sister. On the back of the photo, he's written "Cardington 1939, just had uniform issued and all to live in nice big wooden chalet" which I guess refers to the hut behind the group. (He is third from left on second row). He then went on to serve as a Rear Gunner & Radio Operator with a mixed crew of RAF & Free French at Khartoum in 1941-1944. I've  a couple of small photo's but at present no more. Not sure which base he was stationed before going abroad, so will try and find out."

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No16 Squadron Cardington July 1939. Dad is first on the left 2nd row from the back 

Thanks to Elizabeth Paffey we have information about her father Peter Kavanagh who was a young recruit at the station in July 1939. She had sent us a photograph of his Flight Group with signatures on the back which is fantastic. Elizabeth continues: “I have been energsied into doing this sorting out of their War records because their Great Grandsons (aged 7 and 5) have been asked to bring to school anything about their family involvement in the Wars for the WW1 Centenary. So in order to give them a good presentation to take to school, I am trying to build up a picture of what they did. The records that I have are an Airman’s Record of Kit dated 16th May 1939 RAF Cardington. On the reverse there are some additions dated 30th Sept 1939 (1 Cape, 1 Hood, 2 Eyeshields and 1 Dressing – something I can’t make out). Then at the foot there are transfer dates – 21 Jul 1939 RAF Station Cardington; 11 Jan 1940 RAF Station Yatesbury, Wilts; 19 April 1940 Sealand. I have no idea where Sealand is or if it was an RAF Station. After that in 1940 sometime he was sent to RAF Kinloss where he remained – at some point becoming a Sergeant."

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And finally from Elizabeth 'My Uncle his youngest brother tells me that dad and his best friend Verdun Dobson both joined up although I am not sure when or where Verdun enlisted. Apparently he was 3 years older than dad born 1916. Dad was born 19th Jan 1919, so would have been 20 when he joined up. My Uncletells me that they had hoped to stay together but were sent to different jobs with Verdun posted to Bermuda. Verdun and his family lived in Allerton, Liverpool. I hope that this will all be of use to you and naturally if there is any information that you can fill in for me, it would be wonderful.'

RAF Cardington November 1941 as told by Robert Clinkaberry...

"I went to the RAF Recruitment Office in Wood Green, North London in October 1941. I couldn't get in the trade I wanted and was advised that electricians were needed so I became under Training Electrician Group II. I found out later that there were five trade groups in the RAF ground staff and group 1 was top.

My papers eventually came through by post and so I arrived at Cardington on 4th November 1941 with a few other rookies. I was sent to hut 408 with 23 others and that was my home for the next 7 - 10 days. We were a mixed bunch of conscripts and volunteers. The only difference being as a volunteer we were given the option of leaving and going home to mum during the night i.e. if you chickened out you go to the guard room and get a train warrant and would be taken to the railway station and sent home. That is why we are only 23 in our flight.

Second day - Wakey Wakey at 6.30. Ablutions in a cold washroom, early breakfast and then marched (!!) somehow to HQ for induction, taking the oath of allegience to the King and signing on.Then a medical and first jab. Next we were in the Equipment Stores for kit and I was lucky enough to get the lot, including boots, our own knife, fork, spoon and mug. If you lost anything i.e. sold, pinched or otherwise you paid for a replacement. Not good. Robert  explains 'in the photograph the tall chap in the middle was about 6ft 8ins and was our marker on the parade ground. He was underdressed as he couldn't get his service trousers and boots until Skegness. Ginger Burgess is Ist right top row, Bill Woods Ist left bottom row, and a guy named Seaman 3rd left middle row.

Third day or thereabouts - on the parade ground with your corporal for drill. ie marching, marching, marching. About turn, left right, left right, right left.. And another jab.

The remaining days - the other days were similar, by the time we were told we were going to Skegness for our drill course we thought we were pretty good at marching. Oh no not likely! We soon found differently at Skeggy.

Still at Cardington we were lucky enough to be billeted in a hut as a lot of the guys were housed in the old airship hangars very cold and draughty at that time of year".

Thanks must go to Mr Clinkaberry for his memories of Cardington from 1941. What a terrific memory he has!

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Flight M on November 9th 1941 with Robert Clinkaberry "3rd right middle row with specs"

Another picture of Flight M. "I rememeber a few names. Bacon, Seaman, Beasley and Nobby Clark."

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RAF Cardington January 1944 as told by Graham Gill...

"I was a new recruit at Cardington a long time ago. I was an Aircraftsman 2nd class - you couldn't get any lower. I was  in Hut 334 and the Commanding Officer was Squadron Leader Sallow who excelled in discipline. But I am proud to say that Hut 334 or I should say the occupants of Hut 334 got  a 36hr leave pass for being the cleanest hut in Cardington. Whilst I was at Cardington for eight weeks we were regular visitors to the Corn Exchange in Bedford where we could get a good cup of tea and a scone.

From Cardington I went to RAF Halton for my Flight Mechanic course then on to 24MU in Shropshire and that was it. For nearly three years they required my services in the Middle East. I have no regrets I met some grand lads and I still have a few ex RAF pals...."

Thank you Mr Gill.

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The following extracts are taken from stories gathered by the BBC during 2003-2006 as part of a project entitled 'WW2 Peoples War' which aimed to record personal memories of life in WW2.

'I remember my father bringing home parachutes (he worked for the Air Ministry) and my mother would make clothes for us - Father also made us shoes by plaiting rope (bright red and orange) and used the material from barrage balloons cut into strips and sewn to make straps to fasten them. We thought they were lovely and now in 2004 I still have some of this coloured rope!' Sylvia Baker (nee Roberts) Clapham, Bedford

'When we lived in Acacia Road, I would go up in our bedroom when there was a lightning strike because if they didn't get the balloons down quickly enough at Cardington they would explode. Sometimes they got free. They would send a fighter to shoot them down. One got free and bounced around at the back of Moulton. They camouflaged the balloon sheds to look like big apartment blocks.' Michael Darlow, Bedford

'One of my sisters was making the barrage balloons in the fabric shop and the other one was in the Drawing Office where they used to do the designing of the balloons and that. Towards the later part of the war they not only made barrage balloons but they also made tanks and guns of fabric. Blow up tanks and guns as decoys in Europe. On the Front Line they would be quite effective I suppose from the air...We used to listen to Lord Haw Haw broadcast on the radio and he was pretty well clued up, they were the Germans as to what was going on because one thing in particular was that as you go from Bedford to Cardington, towards Shortstown there used to be a bridge that you'd cross and at that time they were doing some road works on it, rebuilding it - and do you know, Lord Haw Haw announced that on the radio!' Gerald How, Bedford

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The picture above kindly supplied by David Bolton shows a Home Guard group back in 1943 and right a picture of his grandfather also David Bolton who worked on the camp. David explains, "My mother, Ciara Bolton and my Aunt, Amy Betts were both air raid wardens in the Mile Road area. My grandfather David Bolton worked on RAF Cardington as the call up had turned him down as being "too old" (ex 1st World War) when he volunteered to go to war again. However, because of his medical skills they asked him to work at Cardington, which he did for the duration. My Mum and Aunt were called to Cardington one day for a group photo of all the wardens. I have always assumed this photo to be taken that day, taken in front of the huts that used to be ( I think)at the side or back of the main hangers".

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David Bolton, Shown above David's grandfather. David also recalls an exciting childhood event." I remember as a very young boy after the war being taken to RAF Cardington to see a squadron of Spitfires shooting down the barrage balloons as they were no longer required. Their gas sounded like firecrackers going off. Inside the main hanger was a balloon with a basket that was taking people to the top of the hanger. I went in and I can still remember the rush as we went up. "Thank you David! What a great experience that must of been ".

Website compiled by Jane Harvey. February 2022.