Dad's RAF photos from the 1950's            

of Coalville & Leicester

Below are a few of my late father's RAF photos
taken in the early 1950's.

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Norman Haywood, of Coleorton near Coalville in Leicestershire,
joined the RAF in 1948, and signed on for 10 years in order to
get into his chosen trade of Radio & Radar Technician.

Aircraftman 3501380 was inducted at Cardington and did his
square bashing and basic training there, before being sent to
No 1 Radio School at RAF Cranwell for trade training.

There's some interesting RAF links at the bottom of this page.

RAF CRANWELL -- trade training
RAF Cranwell .. No 1 Radio School

RAF Cranwell .. No 1 Radio School .. which moved around quite a bit, but in 1948 was at Cranwell.
The road shown is still there, and that corner now boasts a large 2-storey secondary-school type building of the 70's.
It's almost opposite the main HQ buildings.
RAF Cranwell .. the spotless billet

The spotless billet. And it had to be like that every night ! Those high windows cleaned as well.
That arrangement of the brushes and buckets was almost universal practice in barracks and billets in all British units, across all three services. Most ex-soldiers would recognise this scene too.
RAF Cranwell - innaugauration of the 'new wall-light'

Innaugauration of the 'new wall-light.' There's always time for a laugh.
Some wag, returning spiked from
the NAAFI, must have tripped
apex-over-elbow in the dark outside
the billet one night, and so they
decided they needed a light out there.
So some artistic bod drew them one. And here it is ..
I bet they forgot the switch.
Norman is the one in shirt sleeves.
Even more fun n' games. And always time to muck about with someone's engine.
Being a radio man, Dad knew nothing about cars .. and he'd learn even less with this lot.
He was just a mystified onlooker with a camera.
It won't go !!

Even more fun n' games.
The caption here was ..
"It won't go !!"
I think I've found yer' trouble, mate!

"I think I've found yer' trouble, mate!"
Hark at that ... Sweet as a nut now !

								Cough .. cough !

"Hark at that ... Sweet as a nut !
Cough .. cough !"


This small selection of photos is part of the collection that I inherited after dad died in 1997. Fortunately, I had managed to go through some of them with him some time before, and so got him to identify many of the places and aircraft, though not many of the faces. But I do have some names. He was fortunate enough to have a camera in those days, and even more fortunate to have been able to have it with him and take so many 'on camp'.

Considering his trade, I think some may have taken a dim view of a rookie airman snapping away at anything he liked. He never said he was ever challenged. The few that I have don't tell any particular story, other than they give a sort of rough view of life for one groundcrew tradesman in the RAF in those years immediately after the war, and especially for those posted to Malta. For conscripted 'erks', who remained in the UK, or were posted to some of the world's trouble spots, like Berlin, Korea and Malaya, and later Cyprus and Suez, life wasn't anything like so comfortable.
CPSN EMPRESS of AUSTRALIA .. troopship in late 1949, in Grand Harbour, Malta  CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE
He recalled arriving at Liverpool Docks to be confronted by the sight of a ship, so massive it seemed to a 20-year old that had never been near the open sea let alone aboard a ship, it were bigger than a block of flats. Dad wasn't a particularly good or keen sailor, so his memories of the voyage are, understandably, rather scant. Ironic therefore, that he should find himself posted to Hal-Far, which serviced the radios and radars for the seaplanes down at RAF Kalafrana. Access to which was by bike down the lanes, through the villages, and over to the bay, and thence launch and small RAF craft of varying descriptions out to the Sunderlands moored in deep water. As he often said, he thought he'd joined the Air Force, not the bloody Navy! See further down for photos of HSL 2625, the Air-Sea-Rescue launch dating from 1943, upon which he had many a hair-raising ride. The Med might be the calming mill-pond for today's summer holidays, but in winter it can be as cold and as rough as the North Sea. The RAF had several craft down there, one of which was a very ancient and leaky steam pinnace ! He hated that with a passion.

An idyllic holiday destination now, Malta in 1950 wasn't quite so pleasant or funny. As my mother used to describe it .. "Hells, bells and smells". Only 5 years after the end of the war, with Valetta still largely in ruins and bomb damage everywhere, it is surprising that they enjoyed it as much as they did. She complained, when I was born up at the Military Families Hospital at Mtarfa, that dad didn't take her any flowers! After cycling in that 1950 high summer's heat, right across the island from one end to the other, he also stood accused of being late! I was born at 4am, he still had to finish his duty, and didn't arrive till 13.30. And where the hell he was going to get blessed flowers from on that dry, dusty, God-forsaken bomb shattered wreck of a rock, where even food was still in short supply, I've no idea, and I don't suppose he did either. It seems to me he did well to get there at all without suffering a stroke.

That became a family joke, but by February of '52, they were glad to come back. But at least, while they were there, none of our servicemen on the island were being shot at. He could easily have been kept aboard that bloody ship and sent to Korea, for that's where she was ultimately bound. Click the image on the right for a better view of this veteran trooper. A good 20% of her total voyages were in the service of the British military, some 74 voyages in all, and most of those through the Med.

Being a groundcrew technician, he generally didn't fly. Except on 'air tests' .. when he had to go up in the kite and test out the equipment he had repaired or serviced. Maybe that was when he was able to sneak a few photos. His collection of funny stories, and of flying with really mad airmen, usually ex-WW2 Czech or Polish bomber pilots, are a joy. People complain about low-flying now, but returning to base from stooging around the Fens with sections of tree stuck in the undercart were nothing unusual. Dad used to sit, or lay, in the bomb-aimer's position when his air-test was complete, and often had the shakes and heeby-jeebies by the time they landed. The work might have been hard, long hours, discipline, the usual bull, etc, none of which he was really cut out for, but the photos do show a real sense of fun, and that the lads, when all gathered together, were a force of practical jokers to be reckoned with.

It's only in recent years, getting to know other ex-RAF 'types', that I've come to realise that RAF humour was a thing apart .. different, wacky, off-the-wall. It's amazing how many of the comedians of stage and screen in the 50's and 60's were ex-RAF. And I have dad to thank for passing some of that on to me.

On the whole, I think he enjoyed his service career. One of my main memories of those days, as a young lad, was that having signed up for so long in the first place, he spent the next 10 years waiting to get out ... and then several more wishing he hadn't, and on a couple of occasions he very nearly went back in. I think that for most career servicemen serving the British Crown, it's always been a love-hate relationship. And it did give him a trade, and considering he was going to have to do two years anyway, a further eight as a sort of paid aprenticeship, with all-found married quarters for much of the time, he didn't do so bad in the end.

RAF YATESBURY -- first posting ..
RAF Yatesbury .. the lads

No fancy barrack blocks here ...
RAF Yatesbury .. AOC's inspection

AOC's inspection ... Colour Party at the Salute.
RAF Yatesbury ..

AC Haywood, 3501380,
front row, last on the right.
RAF Yatesbury .. getting some in !

Very hard to imagine my dad doing this.

RAF WIG BAY c.1949
RAF Stranraer .. Flyingboat station

at RAF Wig Bay, near Stranraer in Dumfrieshire. Sometimes known as RAF Stranraer, flying boats were stationed here from early in the Second World War. As far as I can tell, the RAF vacated the base and workshops in 1957. Dad tinted this b&w pic using photo tints, and I've followed his cue and used the computer to 'tint' the other two.
RAF Yatesbury .. AOC's inspection

Rather hazy and indistinct photos, and the colour tinting is mine. But I've not altered any detail. Here the RAF service launch is returning from the moorings of the two Sunderlands right out in the bay.
RAF Yatesbury ..

When dad first showed me this photo, I thought, 'nice shot of an engine cowl .. presumably a Sunderland's'. But when I came to scan them, enlarged and in great detail, I realised what those 'beach huts' were ... they're much further away than one would first think ... they've got ruddy great Sunderland flyingboats inside them. Hangers for Flyingboats! So he wasn't just taking a pic of a mate in a boat!

AIRCRAFT ... a few miscellaneous types
Is this a Sopwith Camel
or a D. H. Camel .. ?

a Soppy Camel

.... not at all sure.
Co-pilot doesn't look at all comfortable.
But just look at that expression on the camel's face!
cockpit of Avro Anson

Looking forward into the cockpit of an Avro Anson.
Bristol Buckmaster

Bristol Buckmaster
RP198 on Malta
Most if not all of these following photos
were taken on Malta, most probably at Hal-Far.
Dakota, bus and Lancs

The Dakota is not the main interest .. The half-decker RAF-pattern bus is very rare now and at least 3 Lancs can be seen in the background here on Malta .. which suggests this might be one pic that was taken at Luqua.
De Haviland Devon

De Haviland Devon.
The back of this photo is annotated,
"The A.O.C's kite."
A bit like a staff car, really.
Handley Page Hastings

Handley Page Hastings .. TG512.
Her sister, 511, is in the air museum at Cosford.
D.H. Hornet

De Haviland Hornet, probably at Hal-Far, Malta
Le0 .. French bomber of WW2

The note to this simply says ..
'Leo (French)"
Looks like RAF markings to me ...
did we borrow some ?
Avro Lincoln .. the nose and cockpit

Avro Lincoln .. the nose and cockpit of "THOR II" ..
a veritable mighty beast. She can be seen in the background of the previous photo; note the length of those bomb bays!
Gloster Meteor IV

caption on back says,
"Gloster Meteor T7, possibly with an F4 behind it
.. for delivery to the Egyptian Gvt"
Unsure now if this was at Luqua.
Fieseler Storch

The infamous Fieseler Storch, here on dad's visit to the French base at El-Aouina near Tunis, now an international airport. Seen here in French colours, I wonder if this is the one that Herr Rommel left behind. Nearly 3,000 were built by or for the Germans, and there's about 20 that can still fly!
Hawker Tempest

Hawker Tempest ..natural successor to the Hurricane, and a real bind to enemy road and rail transport. Tanks didn't welcome them very much either.
Avro Lincoln .. the nose and cockpit

Vickers Valetta .. the workhorse that replaced the DC-3.
Gloster Meteor IV

I knew dad had been to Tunis .. but had no idea a flight of aircraft had gone with him. These were also taken at the French base at El-Aouina. It was supposedly an exchange visit .. some French must have come over to Luqua or Hal-Far, which may explain that Leo at no19 above.
Fieseler Storch

One of the photos that I erroneously thought was RAF Watton ... hah! More of the DH Vampires that went over to Tunisia on that visit .. and where Norfolk turned out to be Norf Africa ! Note the Stork in the background, one of the three dead giveaways.
RAF Safi Strip .. the radio shack

Some of the lads in the radio shack at RAF Safi Strip. It says on the back, "Safi" ... but I wonder if this is at Hal-Far

HMS St Angelo ... the HQ of the Mediterranean Fleet.

HMS St Angelo ... the HQ of the Mediterranean Fleet.
Dad must have really liked this photo, for later, he used it to experiment with photo tints, the big craze with photography in the 50's before colour film became more widely available ... and cheaper.
I think he captured the mood of the place, and its history, very well.

three RAF craft of the Marine Unit

The three RAF craft of the Marine Unit moored out in Kalafrana Bay. RAF personnel stationed anywhere on the island had the use of a 'lido' they could use for private swimming nearby, hence the tents and bod in shorts.
The RAF pinnace ...

The pinnace ... not Norman's favourate mode of transport at the best of times.
HSL 2625

The ASR launch, HSL 2625, with her complement of 5 aboard. These photos were rather over-exposed, but he was only using a Box-Brownie.
HSL 2625

Very little detail of the mast and rigging is visible, but I've done what I can with them.
HSL 2625

Maintenance routine on an island in the sun.
HSL 2625

On the stocks.
Get the paint out, Buffer.
Oh no! That's the Navy.
HSL 2625

There's nothing so relaxing as messing around in boats. Nice work if you can get it. Must be time to splice something.
HSL 2625

The caption reads,
"Geordie, Brodie, and Me !" So dad is on the right. On another photo, it says that Brodie was awarded a BEM.

HSL 2625

And finally, we have HSL 2625 heading off into some Mediterranean weather.

no planes ... just a bus !

and a more light-hearted tale that has little to
do with the Air Force, but was still all their fault really.
Our trolleybus home at RAF Watton

Of course, there were planes here ... it's just that dad seems to have run out of film when he got back from Malta. More likely, times were hard. Really hard. I remember this old trolleybus really well. It was parked, along with several others (indeed, another bus can be seen on the left in the next compound) down in one corner of the camp. I get the impression that one compound was for the caravans, homes, etc, of NCO's, and another for ordinary airmen ! When dad was promoted corporal, mum was forbidden to mix with her former friends, for she was now an NCO's wife, whereas they were only 'airmen's wives'. The snobbishness of our armed services then was unbelievable.

Married quarters in 1953 were still almost non-existant, and so the RAF allowed airmen to provide their own mobile home, and the RAF would site it for them. There was mains water, and electricity, but that was about it. Rough cinder paths connected the various vehicles to the main compound gate. I think we were locked in at night!

Dad and grandad had aquired this beast from a dealer in Ipswich, and as far as I know, it was more or less already fitted out. Mum always maintained it was an ex-London Transport trolleybus ... but I have found out since it was an ex-Bradford 1928 Karrier trolleybus, and a very distressed, mucky green as I recall it. Maybe it suited the RAF that it was painted green, as a sort of camouflage in order not to frighten the enemy. But there were whitish caravans and other buses in other colours on site, and the fact that green seemed to be its original colour did eventually lead to a positive ID as to its northern origins. It was withdrawn from service in Bradford in around 1948.

Our trolleybus home at RAF WattonNaturally, all seats were removed, making it quite spacious inside. Even so, it would still have only been the then regulation 7' 6" wide. Eight footers weren't allowed until well after the war. The downstairs saloon became the living-cum-dining room, and a kitchen with sink and worktop, cupboards, etc, were over the twin rear axles where the long sideways seats would have been. The dog, an alsation ex-RAF guard dog, slept in a large basket under the stairs. Dad is pictured here burning the midnight oil, no doubt studying for his next qualification, compass in hand as he chewed on a pipe. The only clue that this may just be the inside of a bus is the curve of the roof. Those shelves are in fact in the blocked up window of the back of the driver's cab.

A large water tank lay across what had been the rear parcel shelf immediately over the top of the stairs, and where the back seats had been, a bath ! Then came my bedroom, and the front upstairs saloon was sectioned off to make my parents bedroom, with all the unnecessary windows blanked out. At the side of the full-cab downstairs, where the electric motor would have been, was the toilet, the door of which is just behind that chair. The loo was probably of the Elsan variety. Emptied on Mondays. Pheew!

When dad was posted to Wellesbourne, there were no married quarters there to be had either, so the RAF towed this bus over there for him, by a succession of wierd and wonderful vehicles that I only have a vague memory of now, tractors, petrol bowsers, etc. The journey I do remember, mainly on account of the trouble I got into. I was 3 years-old, and didn't understand the seriousness of the law that said passengers must not be carried in any towed vehicle. And of course, how else was dad to get mum and myself some 150 miles cross-country over to Warwickshire from Norfolk. Dad rode in the truck, or tractor, with his mates. We rode inside, naturally. Along with the dog. Keeping very quiet, and not daring to even peep out of the curtained windows.

Until we got stuck under a low-arch railway bridge somewhere in or near the middle of Wellingborough or Kettering or suchlike. I know it was the centre of a small town, and the bus fastened itself to the brickwork by way of it still having the original trolley girders attached to the roof, seen in the photo. The poles had been removed, but the girders left in situ, making the bus two or three inches higher than a normal double-decker.

This arched bridge was one of those where a high vehicle could just clear it by taking the middle of the road. But this one didn't clear it. And it was a mainline to somewhere, a good four tracks or so, almost a tunnel. So here we were, being towed by either an RAF petrol tanker or a tractor or something, and we came to a grinding, screeching halt. The traffic backed up, and no doubt a few horns were pressed and curses aimed at the poor, luckless airmen assigned to tow this thing. And now, it wouldn't go forward, and it wouldn't back out. We were truly fast. Mum, who was already expecting her second child, was frantic and couldn't do anything, but keep out of sight.

The dog was frantic too, and I must have misunderstood her whining and scratching and clawing at the back door for the need to pee .. so I let her out. Whereupon, tasting a wierd freedom, she bounded off up someone's high street, no doubt scenting her long awaited German or Soviet prey to which she had been trained, and disappeared. And to the consternation of pater, whose windmilling arms were trying to direct traffic along with several policemen that had arrived, as they all pondered how to get this damned thing free. People were much more patient in 1953. But even so, I think it was at that point, 3 years or not, that I knew I was forritt. RAF discipline was tough on a child.

In the end, the police must have either turned a blind eye to this minor offence, or told dad he would be reported to his CO. I don't suppose the police had a form for it. And I don't think there was a nasty outcome, other than I got a walloping for letting the bloody pooch out and embarrassing him in the first place.

We did recover the dog, eventually. And the bus, oh yes. Well, that was released from custody by the simple expedient of letting her tyres down. Mum reckoned it was propelled out by the vibration when a London express thundered over the top of us. I'd love to have had a video of the scene.

Still, we went on our lumbering way to Warwickshire, and mum came home by herself in a taxi from hospital in Leamington with my new baby brother, all wrapped up in a flowing shawl, one bitterly cold winter's day in February of 1954. I sat in our one wooden-arm easy chair inside our bus and held him very carefully in my little arms. For my brother Jeff, his first home was a freezing trolleybus parked in the middle of nowhere, taking our tiny part in the defence of the realm. And he has no recollection of it whatsoever.

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Royal Air Force Air Sea Rescue & Marine Craft Section
A terrific set of pages dedicated to the memory of all personnel and crews that organised
and manned the RAF rescue craft in all corners of the globe.
Also with many links to other sections and squadrons through the ages,
particularly 202 Sqn that appears to have been on Malta during the time my father was there.
In fact, I've no idea which squadron, if any, my dad was attached to.
We're radio technicians so attached, or were they freelance, servicing sets on whichever
aircraft or squadron that happened to be on their base at the time?
Were techies posted to a station, or a squadron, or did it depend on other factors?
There's a question. Or two.

a brilliant site on RAF Watton
Covers history of station from 1937 to closure, squadrons, aircraft types,
and many, many stories from people that served there.
Also has a tremendous archive on the Washington bomber ...

RAF Yatesbury
Dad did his 'trade training' here, to be a radio/radar technician and fitter.
He would have been amused at me posting this link ... he hated the place,
on top of a windswept hill, lousy transport to the nearest town, nothing to do.
Beautiful location though, on the Wiltshire Downs,
but not appreciated by many young men in those days.

.. dedicated to the Gloster Meteor, a celebration of Sir Frank Whittle and his revolutionary jet aircraft,
it's development and time in the RAF, and with other air forces around the world.

A very informative visitor site for the Aviation Museum at the old RAF station at Ta'Qali,
well worth a visit if you're on the island. Should be used in conjunction with the site below.

Superbly set out site covering the history of flying in Malta,
and detailing the siege and WW2 in great depth.
Should be used in conjunction with the site above.

A fascinating site. Includes a link to our "Coastal Forces Veterans".
I didn't know there was so much interest in the various types of power boat,
high speed launches, etc, used by our Armed Forces over the decades.
I only know about them because they were interested in the photos of HSL 2625 above.

Rob and Val's Home Page
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