Dad as a freckly faced youngster, he attended Fitzmaurice Grammar School in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. At some point he went to one of Alan Cobham's flying circuses and his love affair with aeroplanes began!
He started to build model aeroplanes from balsa wood and tissue paper.......
....a Bristol Beaufighter. His interest in aeroplanes also extended to his stamp collection, exclusively air mail stamps:
In early 1941, aged 17, he joined what was then the embryo Air Training Corps, 1102 Squadron (Melksham).
In his ATC uniform, little sister Pat hanging on! Dad's work was as a plane spotter, most evenings he and a few others spent time on the roof of Spencer's factory aircraft spotting, and also watching out for fires. The city of Bath wasn't far away, with Admiralty HQ there a regular Luftwaffe target.
Dad kept a regular diary which gives a good idea of work duties, ATC activities and home life:
Monday 11 May saw the award of a proficiency certificate for being a pilot, this was obviously a ground-based proficiency but probably included studies in airmanship, the understanding of the principles of lift and drag etc. ATC cadets also studied other aspects that would be necessary in service life such as learning morse code, developing navigation skills and keeping physically fit.
But he had bigger ambitions than being a mere ATC Cadet, as he writes here:
I joined the Air Force, that is, volunteered, at Salisbury, Wilts on 10th of December 1941. (Dad was then 18 years 4 months old). My medical and selection board was at Weston-super-Mare on 31st December and 1st January (1942). (At this interview Dad would also have passed an intelligence test) I passed this successfully (sworn in, paid two days airmen’s pay amounting to five shillings and threepence) and was put onto deferred service for a period of five months, during which time I went back to my ordinary life, (being now AC2 Wiiliams W. C. .)
All the necessary paperwork was in place:
At the end of five months I began to wait for the postman, but it wasn’t until the 22nd June before they finally arrived. I was very excited and decided to have a short holiday before going to A.C.R.C. (Aircrew Reception Centre) (known as “Arcytarcy”) in London.
The long awaited envelope, and its contents:
The following Monday I left my job and in the evening was starting my holiday in London. I had nine days. Four spent in London and five with my girlfriend in Alton. That was the last I was to see of her for a while and I know now that it was the last time I shall ever see her.
On Sunday 12th June 1942, I left Melksham and travelled to London, spent the night at my relatives and reported next morning, 13th July, at Lords (Cricket Ground). That day I filled in various forms, was put into No. 8 Flight and collected a uniform and kit. The Flight was then marched, (it seemed miles) to St. James’ Close (this was a modern empty block of flats overlooking Regents Park) which was to be our home for the next few weeks. It all seemed very strange, marching around in a body and still wearing civilian clothing, sharing a room with five other chaps (sleeping on the floor on beds made from three square “Biscuits” and two blankets and washing/shaving in cold water without the benefit of mirrors) and eating at long tables (in the Zoo restaurant, being given two plates on which porridge, and bacon and beans were slapped), hundreds at one sitting.
The next fortnight was one of medical examinations (including an “FFI”, free from infection which involved dropping one’s trousers and underpants while the MO looked for any overt signs of venereal or skin disease), inoculations, vaccinations, blood tests, fitting of uniforms and plenty of drill.
We were allowed out in the evenings. I soon paled up with some chaps and we would go to cinemas in various parts of London.
Volunteers for overseas were then asked for and I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. Exactly two weeks after entering we were told that we were going on leave. Two days of filling in forms and packing and then we were away on seven days.
They were rather uneventful days, having been away from home for two weeks they were not appreciated and I was longing to be back again.
When I got back I had to have some inoculations, draw flying kit and several large scale inspections. After a week of this we embarked on lorries which took us to the station and in the afternoon we found ourselves at West Kirby. Here we drew our tropical kit and had a rest cure for a week, spending the larger part of the day in West Kirby, Hoylake or Meols.
Max sent this postcard to Dick: