RAF Servicemen 1937-1939.

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Sent in from Barry (surname unknown) is the photograph shown left. The description reads "RAF Cardington. M.T S.O. June 1937"

Barry informs us:

"I am attaching a photo for you to put on your site . It is a picture of my wife's Uncle who is no longer with us. His name is Stanley Boydell , the picture does give some clues. If you do have any records for him I would appreciate it if you could let me know or where I could get them for my wife and her family. I do know he played the drums in a service band at one time."

Picture to left of Stanley Boydell at Cardington in 1937

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Cardington Sept 1938. "In the group photo he is in the front row bottom right."

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Above: Signatures on the back of the group photo. Dated 7th September 1938.

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Above: Young Jack Crane in his uniform.

Above: Jack Richard Crane RAF Cardington 1938.

I was very pleased to hear from Peter Crane who has sent in these images of his father Jack Richard Crane who arrived at the camp in 1938 at the young age of just 17.

“My father Jack Richard Crane sadly passed away aged 96 in March this year. Amongst his effects I have a photo of him in his uniform when he joined the RAF and a group photo at Cardington dated 7th Sept 1938. The photo has most of the recruit’s names on the back where they signed it. My late father who was born 15th Dec 1920 joined up as soon as he was old enough and trained and served throughout the war as an aircraft engineer. He served in France and managed to get back to England at the time of Dunkirk although I believe he was further up the coast. As well as being stationed at many of the UK airbases he also served in Ireland, Iceland, South Africa, North Africa (Palestine, Libya, Egypt etc.) He eventually attained the rank of sergeant before leaving after the war.

My father passed away March 6th this year aged 96 and was born on 15th December 1920. That would make him 17 when he was at Cardington. The individual picture of him in his uniform I believe to be earlier and was sent as a postcard “to Grandma with love" just after he joined up. It was only when he got older that he spoke much of his time in the RAF and just gave us snippets of what went on. I know that as soon as he was old enough he left home and caught the train from Brampton in Suffolk to London to join up and it was his first time away from home. He trained as an aircraft engineer and when he left the services after the war had attained the rank of Sergeant.

In the group photo he is in the front row bottom right. The recruits obviously got their friends to sign the back of the photo but there are fewer signatures than people.

He served all over the UK including Northern Ireland, Europe (France), North and South Africa (Libya, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa etc.), Iceland. I do not have his service record but I know he travelled all over.He was awarded WW2 stars and always said that he should have also received The Atlantic Star but never did. He was in France with his squadron when he and a few colleagues had to go and try to fix a Blenheim. During that time his squadron was hit by the Germans and he was lucky that he was not with them or he could have been a casualty (a large number of his friends were killed). He and his mates could not get back to them and they made their way to the coast, helped by local French people to just a few miles up from Dunkirk where they got back to England on a small boat.

He was stationed at a number of airfields around the UK and remembered that when in southern England (I am afraid I do not know the airfield) there was not room for him and others to stay at the barracks as the camp was full. They had tents in amongst the outer perimeter trees. There was an attack from the air and he remembers running to a Foxhole gun emplacement to try to fight back. Unfortunately many aircraft that were lined up were destroyed and there were a lot of casualties on the main buildings of the camp. Hence he had another lucky escape. He spent quite a long time in North Africa and recalls diving of rocks and swimming in the Nile.

His time in the RAF was a big part of his life with a lot of good times and unfortunately bad moments which he kept to himself. I have his medals and am very proud of him. It will be good if any recruits in the picture are recognised by their relatives. It will hopefully be added to your archives.

My grateful thanks to Peter for sharing these photos and information with us - Jane.

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Hut 26. 15 Squadron Cardington November 1938.

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Sent in by Mathew Lewis this group photo far left shows his grandfather Martin Turner at Cardington in 1938 as written on the back of the postcard displayed lower left.


Mathew has very little information about his grandfather and is keen to find out more. This photo is one of the earliest I have seen of new recruits at the station. In the early pre war years recruits stayed at Cardington for about three months for their initial training so this particular group of young men would have known each other quite well. Many thanks.to Martin for sending these images.

Martin Turner.

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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 is 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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Sent in by Tony Jackson this photograph could possibly be of a group of young men at Cardington in 1939. Tony explains " Please find attached a photograph, which shows my father, Kenneth Jackson, top row, fourth from the right, in a group which I’m assuming (BIG assumption) was taken at Cardington. My father’s service record shows his enlistment on 19th April 1939 at ‘2 Depot, Cardington’. He was there until 30th June 1939, when he was transferred to RAF Wattisham. If the photograph was taken at Cardington, I hope it will be a useful addition to your collection, and perhaps someone else will recognise a family member.

Tony continues "I was able to get my father’s service record from the RAF in 2009, although it’s only now that I’ve begun to try to find out more detail.


After Cardington and Wattisham, his record showed him from January 1940 at BAFF HQ in France. There are only a few things I can remember from what my father told me, but one thing that sticks out was his escape from St. Nazaire on the doomed troop ship ‘Lancastria’. He always said that the fact that he smoked saved him as he went up from below deck to the open air because he wanted a cigarette just as the bombs started to fall on the ship.


After that he was at various other stations (Yatesbury, Hawarden, and Shobden) before going to Libya and Egypt with 52 Squadron. I assume he was also in Italy as he had an Italy Star, but this isn’t obvious from his record.


He wasn’t an airman, but he seemed to travel around quite a bit. I have photographs of him in Brussels and Hamburg in uniform in 1946, but again this isn’t on his record. He had signed up for 9 years, but he continued after the war as a reserve until 1959."

Thank you Tony for sending in this photograph. - Jane.

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Samuel Kennedy, back on the far right of the back row.

The photograph above and the signatures right were sent in by Brian Kennedy who explains: “I came across this photograph whilst clearing out the belongings of my late father and thought it might be of interest to you. It shows my father, Samuel Kennedy shown back on the far right of the back row. The reverse of the photo shows the signatures of many of his colleagues.”

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It is great to have such records. The signatures are very clear on the back and someone had thoughtfully written “7. Squad Feb 6th - April 21 1939." Cardington” as well. Thanks must go to Brian for sending these fantastic images in.

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Sent in from Barry (surname unknown) is the photograph shown left. The description reads "RAF Cardington. M.T S.O. June 1937."

Barry informs us

"I am attaching a photo for you to put on your site . It is a picture of my wife's Uncle who is no longer with us. His name is Stanley Boydell , the picture does give some clues. If you do have any records for him I would appreciate it if you could let me know,or where I could get them for my wife and her family. I do know he played the drums in a service band at one time."

Flt Mechanic John William Joseph

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Kenneth Joseph is looking for details of his father John William Joseph who arrived at Cardington in 1939.


“I wonder if you could help me please. My father John William Joseph service No 1195994 enlisted at Cardington l believe in 1939, and enlisted after April 1940. Could you tell me where he went after leaving Cardington for his training as a Flight Mechanic? All l can gather from his notebook was a training school in Blackpool in December 1940 with 22 Squadron and his class was E8-1941 and entry No 58-1941.

He was l believe invalided out in December 1943. He was in 22 Squadron and then 152 Hyderabad Squadron.  Hope this info is o/k and thank you for your time.” Thank you Kenneth - Jane.

Barrage balloon operator James Henry Smith who was at Cardington 1939/40.

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This group of recruits at Cardington in 1938 included Ivor L Morgan.

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This group photograph (left) has been sent in by Anthony Wellard and includes his father in law Ivor L Morgan.


The back of this photo  shown left is marked "Passing out at RAF depot Cardington 1938."


Thank you so much Anthony.

Written on the back of the photo the inscription reads "Passing out, RAF Cardington 1938."

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Juliet Deane has sent in the two group photographs (above) they both include her father Sidney Howard Withey. Also shown is his Service Record book. Juliet has provided the following information: “I have found (during lockdown') two photos of my father at Cardington. One group photo and one he has written on the reverse: 'H' Flight Football Team, No. 2 RAF Depot, Cardington. I assume these are dated around 1938 when he joined the RAF and he was then posted overseas first to the Far East and then to India. My father Sidney Howard `Tink' Withey was an electrician in the RAF and I can only assume he was at Cardington at the start of his service. You may be able to tell more from the photos.” Thanks to Juliet for these items. I wonder how successful the football team was? – Jane Sept 2020.

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Colin Dalton far right back row at Cardington in March 1938.

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Colin Dalton. RAF Cardington 1938.

The photograph left, along with the names of the men shown above, and information below has been sent in by Colin Dalton who was named after his uncle who arrived at Cardington in March 1938. Colin is the smiling young man at the far right of the back row.


Colin went on to fly Wellingtons and Lancasters but was to lose his life on the 6th of September 1943 whilst flying over Munich.


It is very sad to think of such a young man being killed in action and we will never know just how many of the thousands of young men who passed through Cardington in WW11 were killed. As you will read below Colin had quite an eventful time in his young life and we salute him here.

Colin Dalton RAF Cardington 1938.

Hello Jane,

Here is a potted history of my uncle Colin after the war started:-

He trained as a Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner and after passing out was posted to 103 Squadron, flying Wellingtons out of RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire. His first Op was to Emden in Germany on 10/05/41.In July the Squadron transferred to RAF Elsham Wolds, near Brigg in Lincolnshire. His first Op from here was a daylight raid against Brest in Brittany, presumably against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. On his 20th mission on 24/10/41 the aircraft got lost in cloud returning from Frankfurt. They were down to their last 10 minutes of fuel when they found a break in the cloud and all the lights below meant they were over Eire, which was neutral and not subject to blackouts, and they all bailed out successfully. They were very near the west coast of Eire and another 10 minutes of blind flying would have meant baling out into the Atlantic. They were all quickly rounded up by the Garda Irish Police and sent to the internment camp at The Curragh. There was also a German internment camp at The Curragh for any of their flyers or sailors that ended up in Eire. This was to preserve strict neutrality.

The internees were allowed to sign themselves out on an Honour System, whereby they promised not to abscond after leaving the camp on parole. The internees could go to pubs, dances, socials etc., but had to sign back into the camp by 02.00 am ... a tough regime or what!! The only prisoner to break his parole was an American flying in the RAF. The Irish authorities immediately cancelled all parole privileges, which obviously did not go down well with the remaining internees. When the British authorities found out, he was returned to Eire and re-interned. He was beaten up on his return ... surprise surprise!!

One day uncle signed himself out and went for a pint. The navigator from his aircraft was also signed out and when he returned he was given Uncle Colin's form, which he immediately signed "C Dalton ".Another guy was dispatched to find Uncle Colin in the pub, where he was told to "bugger off, you've just escaped ". He stole a bike, a big stain on the family reputation, and managed to evade capture and pedal the 80 odd miles back into Northern Ireland.

Of the six crew in the Wellington, two remained in Ireland and married local women, four went back into Squadron service, of which two Uncle Colin and the Navigator who signed his parole form were killed. As the war swung against Germany, Eire released all the RAF allied prisoners. The pilot Ralph Keefer went onto Spitfires doing photo reconnaissance and the navigator, Jack Carter, went onto Mosquitoes. Jack was shot down in the Elbe estuary

near Hamburg and drowned before the Germans could rescue him.

After his "escape" uncle Colin was re-trained onto Lancasters and he joined 156 Squadron, part of No. 8 Pathfinder Group, at RAF Wyton near Huntingdon. He flew his first 156 Squadron mission against Duisburg in Germany on 26/06/43.With 156 Squadron he helped bomb targets mainly in Germany (including the V1/V2 Flying Bomb Establishment at Peenemunde), France and even Italy. He flew a total of 23 Ops with 156 Squadron before being shot down by a night fighter over Munich just before midnight on 06/09/43. In his last 5 days of his life, he flew 4 missions, intense or what?

He is buried in The Durnbach War Graves Commission Cemetery, some 30 miles south of Munich. It is a "small" cemetery containing some 2,500 graves, mainly RAF but also POWs who died in captivity. I have visited a couple of times and I noted that a large number of the Army graves were dated immediately prior to the end of the war. It then struck me that these guys probably died in the forced marching of prisoners from the East, in freezing winter conditions and with limited clothing, to avoid the advancing Russians.

The grave of my uncle was not found until 1946 and as I was born in 1947, I inherited his name. As his grave had not been found, there was no confirmation of death, only a presumption, and his name was not on the village War Memorial. I noted this omission, as the War Memorial was near to the junior school and we used to play around it. This omission was promptly rectified once I was older, and I am pleased and proud to say his name is now where it rightfully belongs.

Best Regards. Colin Dalton "

Colin later added the following

"I hope you didn't find my reply too long winded, but as you probably gather I have a lot of respect, pride and admiration for my late uncle. I know he was not out of the ordinary, and just one of 55,000 that didn't come home from Bomber Command, but when I think of his death at 21 years old it really hits home.

Slight correction to my previous communication, his service with 156 Squadron was at RAF Warboys, which was a satellite station of RAF Wyton. The pilot of the Wellington from which they bailed out was a guy called Ralph Keefer who was gathering a lot of information about his wartime experiences and I communicated with him in the 1980's. He planned to write a book, but Alzheimer’s' disease prevented him from doing so. It was published, however, by his son Ralph Keefer Jnr. and is called "Grounded in Eire", from which I got some of the information I passed on. Ralph Snr also passed on to me a copy of a letter from one of the Wellington crew who had married and remained in Ireland.

I also got in touch with one of the four survivors from his Lancaster and he told me they were shot down by a night fighter. I have also got my late uncles' Flying Log Book, which is also a great source of information."

I feel extremely fortunate to have learned of this young man and am honoured to record his story here. Thank you Colin for sharing his life with us - Jane.

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Above: Alfred (left) with unidentified serviceman on guard duty possibly at Cardington. Undated.

Above: Alfred at Oldham in May 1940.

Mitchell Francis is searching for information about his grandfather Alfred Francis who served with the RAF from 1936-1945.

“Hello, I am writing to you in the hopes of gaining some information or at the least be directed to a source of which information can be gained. My grandfather Alfred Francis served in the Royal Air Force from 1936 to 1945 and was at Cardington camp for a time before serving in South East Asia and India from 1942, although Alfred enlisted in 1936 it is very possible Cardington was his home at that time. He also served some time in Manchester in 1940 with Army Cooperation Sqd, and he was 613 Sqd 11 Group after a time. His trade in the R.A.F was Driver and Mechanical Transport, he enlisted 22/11/36 and was demobbed 29/1/46 although on reserve. He was in England until after the Battle of Britain in which his sqd served in India and Burma. His dispersal centre was 102 Cardington.

The portrait photo (far left) was taken at Cardington in 1938 or 39, the back reads R.A.F Cardington Bedford No1 Balloon Training Unit and that he was stationed there when war was declared in 1939. The side on portrait was taken in Oldham on the 27th May 1940. The photo of my grandfather (left) and an unnamed member on guard my dad and I believe to be the front of Cardington HQ.” Thanks to Mitchell for sending in this information and photo – Jane. Sept 2020.

Above: Alfred whilst serving at the No1 Balloon Training Unit at Cardington around 1938/39.

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Update March 2021. Cassandra has kindly sent in another photograph of her father Eric Hooke. Thank you Cassandra.

George L Gray, RAF Cardington 1939


The photos (right and below) have been sent in by Jo Savage. Her grandfather was at Cardington in 1939. Jo explains:

“Hi Jane, please find attached photos as promised. The formal group one was taken 1939. Title above the picture is Cardington 1939, No 2 Depot. My grandfather has everyone's names written on the back. (Also attached) The other photos don’t have names. The single ones are my Grandfather George L Gray, but the others aren't mentioned – I am presuming the names are on the back but the pics are glued into his album.

There are lots of other photos, of his time in the RAF, but these are the ones pertaining to Cardington. Kind regards. Jo Savage. “

Grateful thanks to Jo for these great images. -Jane.

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Group photo ref No 2 Depot, Cardington 1939 inludes George Gray.

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This group photo was sent in from Stuart McLeay “I just came across your web site, and I am particularly interested to read the account about Peter Kavanagh, and to see the Flight Group photograph taken in July 1939. I am sending a photograph which belonged to my late father, Edward James McLeay. The photograph was described by my father as "Flight H". He attended a ten week Wireless Operator course at Cardington, arriving there on 3 May 1939 and passing out on 5 July 1939. Edward is in the centre row, 5th from the left.

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“He was 18 years old then. He obtained the signatures of the other recruits in the picture on the reverse of the photograph, and I attach a scan of that as well. My father has not signed it himself: there are 5 names in the top row, 7 names in the centre row (there are 8 men in the row, including my father), and 8 names in the bottom row (there are 9 men in the row - Sgt Howard is named on the front of the framed photograph).” Thank you so much Stuart – Jane.

Group photo ref No 2 Depot, Cardington 1939 includes George Gray.