I was born in 1927 at Bracebridge Heath, Lincoln, my parents were Arthur (b.1890) and Mary (b.1893), I had two brothers Ronald Arthur born 1921 and Jeffrey Hubert born 1923.
Originally Dad was a wheelwright before joining the Royal Field Artillery, Gunner 1st Class, Signaller reg.no. 49330, on the 15th January 1908 at Manchester. After his initial training he was posted to India on 16th October 1908 and returned to England on the 7th January 1913. He left the forces in January 1914 on reserve. He was recalled in July 1914 and his regiment was posted to France, he was involved in the retreat from Mons and on the 3rd November 1914 at Ypres, he was badly wounded (shrapnel in his legs) being the only survivor of the gun crew. He was repatriated to a military hospital in Oxford on the 5th November 1914. He returned to France and in the rat, flea and lice infested trenches he contacted trench fever and nephritis and was repatriated to England 3 times. He was also gassed several times and finally returned to England on the 29th January 1917. He was awarded the Military “WW1 Silver Badge” which he wore at all times before the war finished so that ladies did not give him a white feather.
I remembered gas mask being given to all the family in 1938, in a way everyone was surprised to hear Neville Chamberlain on the radio to say that Britain was at war with Germany. That evening I and my friend were out in the village when the air raid siren went off, immediate panic us two boys ran into each other and I fell and broke my nose but instead of being one of the first when war broke out to be in Lincoln hospital my father straightened my nose and told me I would be OK.
Before WW2 started Dad was a painter and decorator and the largest job he ever did was painting the Hangers, Offices, Workshops etc on Waddington airfield to camouflage them.
Before the war my father had taped the windows (diamond shape) and instead of black out curtains which every house had he made a wooden frame covered in roofing felt which could be easily attached to the outside of the windows. As we lived so close to the airfield Dad built us an air raid shelter in the garden. As we lived in a village food rationing was not a major problem and we ate horse meat and pork, vegetables which were grown in the garden or allotments. The family always had a Christmas cake.
We lived 1 mile inline with the control tower at RAF Waddington airfield so most days I saw planes on the airfield, taking off and landing or in the sky, (Hampden’s, Avro Manchester, Lancaster’s, later Wellington’s. When Wellington’s came back from air raids over Europe you could often see holes in the fuselage. Wellington bombers on one raid dropped thousands of proper-gander leaflets over Germany but several most have stuck to the plane as they were scattered all over the airfield. Searchlights were a common occurrence, unfortunately so were plane crashes (take off, landing or missing the runway).Very sadly Mum died in February 1941 and Dad died in May 1941, just after Dad died the Germans on a moonlight night bombed the airfield destroying an air-raid shelter killing RAF personnel both male and female. Heinkel machine guns sprayed the airfield with bullets. They also bombed the village Church. On several occasion I saw “Dog Fights” in the sky above the airfield and village. After Dunkirk (1940) the government must have been very worried about a German invasion as all road signs were removed and in the large fields around us where German planes/gliders could land Telegraph poles were erected to stop them being able to land. After Dad died our aunt (Dad’s sister Alice Wright nee Dickinson)) came to live with us before the I moved to her house in Claypole, Newark in August 1941, this was a major change in my life as my two brothers did not come to live with us. I attended the village school. Balderton airfield was only a mile away so on a daily basis I saw many aircraft (Hampden, Lancaster, Halifax, Blenheim and Dakotas). There were many military airfields in close vicinity:- Winthorpe, Swinderby, Wigsley, Fulbeck, Ossington and Syerston so most days the sky seemed full of aircraft. The family moved to Balderton, Newark when uncle died. Interestingly like the majority of civilians in the area I was not aware that Frank Whittle’s jet engines were being tested on Balderton airfield. In 1944 I remember I was near Balderton airfield when I saw a plane in the sky circling the airfield, panic it made a funny noise and had no propellers, it landed and went straight into the hangar. Later I learnt it was a plane with Frank Whittle’s jet engine in it, a Whittle’s Meteor. I remembered the day when a Hampden bomber crashed in Grove Street Balderton killing a mother and her 4 children. I attended the local school in Balderton. All “Street Lights” were turned off and all motor vehicles head lights had a “hood” fitted (Black out Lights) which meant the beam only shone directly in front of the vehicle so driving at night was extremely difficult.
Before D-Day (1944) on the sides of the road between Stubton, Dry Doggington and Westborough thousands of rounds of ammunition were stored on the grass verge with a couple of RAF guards stopping people pinching it. Also alternative black & white lines bands were painted on the fuselages and wings of RAF planes for the purpose of increased recognition by friendly forces to hopefully to stop friendly fire.
The land heavy clay land on which Balderton airfield was built (originally grass runways but concrete in 1943) was owned by a farmer, Jim Hall. My uncle George Wright had a Dairy Farm, and his son Arthur when Balderton airfield was built supplied agricultural tractors and trailers for carting soil, carrying building materials etc to the local aerodromes Balderton, Fulbeck and Ossington. To earn money after school and at weekends I worked for the local garage “George Walmsley’s” whose main work was repairing small trucks that worked on Balderton airfield.
I often saw searchlights and when there were heavy bombing raids by the Germans on Nottingham or Sheffield you could see the flames from Newark. Sadly many planes crashed landed in the surrounding area mainly due to pilots being trained at most of the local military aerodromes. Many parachutists did their training flying in old WW1 Handley Page bombers, opening the door then walking on the wing before pulling the rip cord. There were also a large number of gliders. In 1944 the American air-force arrived in big numbers.
I joined Balderton Scouts and every weekend we collected waste paper with a small pony and dray, the paper was baled and sold to the local waste paper collectors, this money sponsored the scouts. Later in the war Italian Prisoners of war were billeted on Sconce Hills in Newark and they worked on the local farms. I went to work for Brooks Garage on Farndon Road, Newark, interestingly the department for Agriculture parked their trucks on land behind the garage. Brother Ronald married in August 1941, he worked for Barnes Removals of Lincoln and often collected evacuees from the major towns:- London, Sheffield and Coventry and brought them back to Newark. He joined the RAF in late October 1941 and was posted to West Africa before returning to 58 Maintenance Unit, Lincoln Road, Newark. One of the jobs was to collect crashed aircraft using a mobile crane. Brother Jeff worked for the railways and when he asked to leave and join the Navy his request was rejected as it was a “Reserved Occupation”.
Reg Dickinson 9th February 2018. Nottinghamshire