No 2 School of Recruit Training.
Men training on the camp in Aug 1938. (Image Beds & Luton Archive Services Beds Times & Citizen Collection BP Box 307. Photography courtesy of John Day Ampthill Images)
In Oct 1937 No 2 School of Recruits Training was set up at Cardington. Previously this role had been temporarily filled by No 2 RAF Depot at Henlow and at Uxbridge. At this time all recruits were volunteers and arrived at Cardington for a 12 week basic training in drill, physical training, anti-gas training, education, handling aircraft, and musketry.
Initially there were 8 flights of 174 airmen taking up these places but by September 1938 a further two flights were added and the length of training cut to 8 weeks.
The increased numbers of recruits arriving put extreme pressure on the camp as there was a shortage of accommodation and in Oct 1938 extra barracks were built in an area alongside the then existing Gas Plant. These barracks became known as No 3 Wing. At the same time as the huts were erected it is recorded that a number of air raid shelters were also built on the site.
Cardington was recognised as the largest recruitment training establishment in the country and as such had the best instructors in the RAF. Some of these instructors had arrived from Uxbridge having previously been responsible for many ceremonial occasions such as the Kings Coronation. However with the call for general mobilisation in Aug 1939 other recruitment centres were opened up and many of the original staff were transferred away.
By September 1939 it is recorded that there were now 14 Flights per intake resulting in over 2,000 arrivals every 2 months - once again accommodation proved inadequate and at this time four tented camps were erected on the site. This photograph (left) taken in August 1938 shows men training on the camp and indeed large tents can be seen in the background.
At the end of 1939 No 2 Recruits Unit was turned into a Reception Unit with recruits receiving 5 days of assessment before moving on to Morecambe for training.
Terence Mckee - an early No 2 School recruit?
Shown left is a photograph of Terence McKee sent in by his son Damian. Damian tells us :
"Here is a picture of my father his name is Terence (Terry) Mckee he was born Nov 1919. He was Feather weight boxing champion at the camp but I don't know what year."
"My father was a Japanese POW for 3 years but didn't talk too much about his time there. I do know he was in Borneo, Singapore and Sumatra etc. He did tell me he worked on the airstrips breaking stones, then the allies would come along and blow them up again."
There has been suggestions that Terence Mckees uniform is an early Flying Corps version and the image of the airship and biplane surrounding his photograph together with the reference to No 2 Depot, RAF Cardington enscribed on his trophy would suggest that Terence was one of the early recruits to be enlisted at Cardington. Certainly it is recorded that there was a shortage of uniforms for the sudden influx of new recruits in 1938 and it may be he is wearing old issue.
Terence McKee in uniform.
The trophy presented to Terence McKee - inscription T Mckee Flyweight Ch, No 2 Depot, RAF Cardington
Damian first sent the photos and story above about his father about seven years ago and now in December 2018 he has sent in some more details. Shown left are his father's war medals and a signed letter sent to him from King George in recognition of the hardship he and his comrades had endured in Japan. The letter reads:
“The Queen and I bid you a very warm welcome home. Through all the great trials and sufferings that you have undergone at the hands of the Japanese, you and your comrades have been constantly in our thoughts. We know from the accounts we have already received how heavy those sufferings have been. We also know that these have been endured by you with the highest courage.
We mourn with you the deaths of so many of your gallant comrades.
With all our hearts we hope that your return from captivity will bring you and your families a full measure of happiness, which you may long enjoy together.”
George R I
Damian would dearly like to know about his father's time in the Far East. If anyone can help please get in touch.
This great group photo of No 2 Recruit Centre has been sent in by Gillian Hutchinson who tells us:
“Hi, I've got a photograph of Wing Commander Stubberfield OBE with a group of 17 officers which includes my uncle, taken at no.2 Recruit Centre, Cardington, in July 1946. My uncle is S/L Arthur Woolnough, I'm piecing together his service records but he was born in 1918, died in 1993, he joined prior to the war starting and he'd completed his 2nd tour with 158 squadron of bomber command at Lissett during 1942/3 and awarded a DFC for his efforts. He had a white bull terrier dog with him called Bruff during most of his service but I'm not sure if that was the case here. He stayed in the RAF until 1962 then ironically was shot in the leg by an intruder at his home in civilian life! I found the picture interesting as it's just officers, I wondered if this was the initial setting up of the group?
These men, if alive would now be well into their nineties.... I hope if their family members search they'll find it and be pleased with the photo. I'd be happy to get a copy for anybody who may ask."
Thanks to Gillian - this photo is a great record of the staff involved at the Recruit Centre back in 1946.
The staff list for the unit in 1938.