One day while we were grounded at Elmdon, because of low cloud, another instructor and myself had been down to the local pub for a glass of beer when we heard an aircraft in the area followed by some big thumps. We assumed that there was something going on at the aerodrome and immediately got in the car and drove straight back there. Once we arrived, we met the CO at the top of the airport building, dressed only in his pyjamas, with a pistol in his hand and waiting for the aircraft to come back. In the meantime it had dropped four or five bombs on the aerodrome, before scattering back into the cloud again and vanishing. However, the bombs that had been dropped left big craters in the grass airfield, including one that was only twenty yards away from the main building - definitely a close call!.
In the meantime the baby was on the way and Doris was taken up to Danbury Palace in Essex. Danbury Palace was a property belonging to a general and his wife that had been turned into a maternity home for the duration of the war. My son, Peter, was born on September 21st, 1940, during a German air raid on the area. That turned out to be quite a night and, after taking care of Doris, the doctor actually had to help extinguish some fire bombs on the way to give her mother the good news that all was well. Peter was named after Flying Officer Peter Scott, who was my co-pilot during my training at Montrose, and was also the Best Man at my wedding. I was then given a very welcome weeks compassionate leave to go home and see my son and my wife.
On my return to Elmdon I made three successive applications for a posting to the Elementary Flying School at Cambridge. Shortly after I was sent for by the Station Commander and told that, if I really wanted a posting, he would give me one. But, meantime, he was going to put me up for a decoration but he wouldn't go ahead with that if I was going to be posted. I told him that I didn't want the decoration but only wanted to be stationed near my wife and son so that I could get home and see them. I was then posted to Cambridge and shortly afterwards was put in charge and promoted to Flight Lieutenant and told that I was to take over the command of a detached flight at Bottisham, a satellite of the main aerodrome at Cambridge (which was Marshal's at that time).
A couple of months after I had moved over to Bottisham we were grounded one day because of low cloud and I had sent my deputy over to the main aerodrome at Marshal's to collect an aircraft and bring it back. All the instructors, including myself, were inside the timekeeper's hut when all of a sudden there was a horrendous noise! It appears that on returning he had flown through the top of my car and ripped the roof off and ended up by crashing the aeroplane. He was later court-martialed for low flying.
Some weeks later I was detailed to carry out some night flying instruction with the rest of my flight on a grass airfield near Caxton Gibbet, just North of Cambridge. All we had was an electric flood light and goose-neck flares along with a telephone line direct to RAF Duxford to keep me informed of any enemy action. It was about 11:30 that night that we received a warning of a German aircraft approaching our area, at low level. All lights were extinguished. Two student pilots who were airborne solo at the time were then told to fly to a rendezvous and circle until the flare path had been relit and then return and land. Unfortunately, one had been coming in to land when the lights had been switched off. At that same time the pilot of the enemy aircraft had spotted the lone flyer and opened up, shooting his tailplane away. The pupil pilot managed to scramble out of his aircraft after it crash landed and the next thing we saw was him walking towards us as we jumped out of the ditch that we had been sheltering in. The pupil pilot had a shrapnel wound in the neck but the doctor in attendance managed to get him off to hospital without any trouble. We moved the flare path over to one side away from the crashed aircraft and then, after we had received the 'All Clear' from Duxford, carried on with the night flying program which we managed to complete without further incident. I got back to my bungalow about six a.m. and had only been in bed about half an hour when an RAF vehicle turned up with the CO's instruction for me to go to the main aerodrome and report to the Commanding Officer. When I walked into his office he said, "You had quite an exiting night, last night, didn't you? But, did you also know that there are some ten unexploded anti-personnel bombs straight down from the first landing run? Perhaps you would like to fly over and have a look. You'll find some of the bomb fins sticking out of the ground". This I did and then when I saw them I thought to myself, "Well, we certainly did have a lucky night, didn't we"?
Go Back to Chapter Headings