Yet another ex National Service erk has just found and enjoyed your excellent account of radar life in the RAF in the fifties. Your account of the rigours of square-bashing is fascinating as its accuracy will be recognized by all of us who underwent the ordeal and have been fortunate enough to find your website.
My own two-year stint was November 1953/1955 as a radar operator in East and North Yorkshire and can relate to your spell at Leeming. I did my square-bashing at Padgate but the experience and memories match closely your ordeal at West Kirby and like your mate Graham, I was able to get home to Liverpool on a 36 as well as on the 48 (which of course was on/off repeatedly as a form of mental torture). The grim symbol of Padgate was a big black iron water tower and the popular folk-lore had it that distressed recruits were prone to throw themselves off the top of it when it all got too much.
After Padgate, I did the radar operator's course at Yatesbury and yes that scrumpy was a bit fierce what with all those bits moving round in it and it looking like it had it had just come straight out of the horse. I got posted to Patrington in April 1954 where the old Happidrome was still being used, but shortly after we moved to the newly operational R3 bunker site at nearby Holmpton. Patrington was a bit dull somehow, though a fortnight's detachment up the coast to the much cosier Bempton with its R1 single level Rotor site, in the summer of 1954 was a memorable diversion. Then came a lucky break as my name was one of only two picked out randomly by an admin clerk for an ace posting to Leeming GCI - which is where your site really caught my eye. My time there was October 1954 to demob in November 1955 so you would have arrived there about two years after I left.
Big changes seem to have happened in that year, 1956, because our GCI was just one nissen hut (rest room - airmen for the use of), a smaller wooden hut which housed the PPI cabins and plotting tables and a few bits of concrete huts behind for the Officers.
The Elsans (thunder boxes) were about 100 yards away (separate ones for Officers and other ranks of course) and one of life's delicate little chores was the emptying of said Elsans by whoever was on guard at night. The inner buckets would be carried very gingerly at arms length into the undergrowth to the discharging area where the contents would be committed to the wilds, making sure that the dispersal was downwind. Trouble was no-one wanted to wade into the middle of the area so the emptying always took place right on the edge which meant that the edge was slowly creeping nearer to the huts like a relentless tide. The radar gear, inside the peri track, was a supposedly "mobile" convoy of four vehicles which looked as though they had taken root.
They were, I think, a transmitter, a receiver (called Green Cabin), a diesel generator and a revolving flat aerial that looked like a bedstead. As you saw, after the awesome Type 80 display, the blips on this gear could make you run outside to witness an attack by five-mile long flying bananas.
We were billeted in the bottom four rooms of Block C :- C3 C4 C7 C8 (I was in C8).
The Station CO was a Groupie and our GCI CO was a gnarled Fl/Lt Fletcher. Admin and discipline were imposed by the unpopular Sgt Aughton and the only tech bod I can recall was a likeable Cockney J/T, Charlie Hollands who used to thud down the A1 all the way to The Smoke on a 350 Royal Enfield Bullet. Everyone else I knew will have gone when you arrived there in late 1957. The Green Dragon at Exelby was our regular Wednesday night out with their being no night flying, where Harry and Laura were mine hosts. The Javelins hadn't arrived and night and day GCI ops were with Meteor NF11s and NF12s. Your sunbathing episode reminds me of a very similar one we had, one glorious summer day. We were all happily sunbathing in front of the Section, idly watching and criticizing the efforts of the Meteor pilots when we noticed a single silver Vampire taking off (Northwards, towards us). As soon as it was airborne, the wheels were up and it suddenly turned very sharply starboard and came screaming directly at us on one wing tip at about 50 ft elevation, scattering two dozen sunbathers in all directions at panic speeds. I can still see those small strakes over the starboard air intake as I ran for my life - could this have been the same gung-ho Groupie?
When it came to jankers, Leeming had a cynical little trick to play. From a good half mile away the all-seeing malevolent SWO had spotted me slipping cold hands into my pockets and dispatched his hunter/killer Corporal to intercept and dole out a few days jankers. We had to line up outside the guardroom in full webbing etc. just as the local tea- time bus arrived to take our mates, in their civvies,off to the fleshpots of Northallerton (!?), giving us extra angst and dire warnings to them. Remember the Central cinema? - it's rebuilt as shops now and the superior Lyric cinema still stands but is closed and unwanted, while the bus station is a Kwik Fit . I used to go to The Buck and the Old Golden Lion (now a supermarket) where I used to thump pianos (and of course in the NAAFI and YMCA on camp) and I enjoyed the benefits of free ale and half-a-crown an hour at the Hole-in-the- Wall, Darlington on a few Saturdays.
It's strange how we oldies can remember so much of what we did 50 years ago and yet I often forget what I did yesterday. Like yourself I once jotted down my RAF memories but didn't keep them and there is one small gap that I can't fill that I hope you might be able to help me with. While I was at Leeming I was sent with two dozen others on a fortnight's detachment to Seaton Snook in April 1955 for a look at their R3 Rotor site and although I now know (from the RSG site) where the bunker was, on Brenda Rd., I can't for the life of me establish where the domestic site was. I had always thought that the Snook was the same place as the North Gare Breakwater (there are aerial bases on it - possibly WWII GCI aerials?) and that this was where the camp was, but I could find no traces when I went back there some years ago. I see from your website, a contribution from Neville Price who was actually there for a while and wondered if you could give me his email address, or give him mine (forward this perhaps?) and ask him to contact me as he can probably tell me what I want to know about Seaton Snook.
Thanks again for the excellent site, I've enjoyed rambling on and hope you can find time to reply. P.S. Oxford in 5 hours on your Dommie sounds like a good run but Bournemouth in 6 (averaging 50mph) would be a tall order even for a T110 on the roads of the fifties (yes , I'm still into bikes).
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