RAF Wilmslow - Recollections - Colin Edwards

Colin Edwards writes: "I have just come across the web site with its picture of the entrance to RAF Wilmslow, it revived memories of over 60 years ago when I arrived there from Padgate.

The long lighter coloured building with 8 windows and an entrance facing down the road towards the gate was the camp HQ. In the photo I can make out the sentry boxes either side of the door ; the right hand one is where, during the bitterly cold winter of 1947, I used to stand on sentry-go for 2 hours at a time with an occaisional 15 paces to the left, about turn and back again, otherwise the soles of my boots would become frozen to the path, occcaisionally a "jankers wallah" had the job of scattering sand about my feet and along the path lest I should slip on the ice and skewer someone with my bayonet.

Sentries were only allowed to step back into the sentry box in "inclement " weather and I got the impression that no sentry had dared to do this since the earth's last Ice-age ! the drill instructors' definition of inclement weather would make a polar bear think about getting an extra fur coat !

During the hours of darkness one lost all sense of the passage of time and I used to close one eye and line up the top of the flagpole with a star in the constellation of Orion in the hope of judging how soon it would be before I heard the stamping of feet and shouting of orders as the next sentries fell in to march up the road from the guard room that you see on the left of the photo.

The guard room had beds for the sentries , in the 4 hour periods between one's 2 hour periods on sentry-go one was allowed "rest" ; all that this meant was that one could unclasp the buckle of one's webbing belt and lay on a bed with one's rifle always within reach.

The most terrifying aspect of being on sentry-go was the ordeal of keeping a straight face during the ceremony of lowering the flag at the end of the day. The parade of orderly officer, NCOs and the rest of the guard faced me across the grassy area around the flagpole just in front of the HQ building, they could all see me but not each other and I knew that as the flag was being lowered, running quietly through most of their heads were the bawdy lyrics that airmen set to the tune that the bugler was playing.

In 1947 there were full length mirrors by the guard room so that airmen could check that they were immaculately dressed on leaving the camp, such mirrors were all over the camp which had a reputation for discipline. The Drill Instructors were a fearsome breed wearing caps with peaks that covered their eyes like horse blinkers, forcing them to march around with heads thrown back in order to see. They wielded immense power, ruling the lives of recruits with a rod of iron and their general bearing and manner would make Mr Makay of "Porridge" look like a primary school prefect.

At 19 I went straight from school into the RAF and didn't mind the discipline too much, but most of the recruits had left school at 14 or 16 and it took them some time to get used to it.

On the website Guy Jefferson asks about the Rifle range, it was down by the river Bollin that flows north west from Wilmslow, the river water was boiled for both making tea and cleaning out the burnt cordite residue from the rifle barrels."

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