RAFVR 1940

RAF Volunteer Reserve 1940

RAF Trades 1


Taking Off 4aRoyal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
RAFVR_BadgeFollowing his medical he was classified as Grade I and the information was recorded on his Grade Card (NS55). He was interviewed by a Recruiting Officer from the RAF before returning home to await further instructions.  He received instructions to attend a 2 Assessment at an Aviation Candidates Selection Board (ACSB).  As directed, he packed a small suitcase, his Civilian Respirator and the requisite paperwork and travelled to No 2 Recruit Centre at RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire.  Over the next couple of days, he was medically examined and sat a General Intelligence Test (GIT) and an Elementary Maths Test (EMT).  On the 2nd day, he was interviewed by an Aviation Candidate Selection Board (ACSB7) and at the end of the process, the Board recommended him for Training as a Pilot.  He was sent before the Attestation Officer where, after formally signing his Notice Paper (Form 2168), he accepted the King’s Shilling and signed the Oath of Allegiance to his King & Country:
Commission certificate issued to Pilot Officer John Henry Searby, 1940

Having completed his assessment, he was enlisted in the RAF “for the Duration of the Present Emergency” (DPE) and placed “on reserve” (which was standard RAF procedure at the time); once again, he returned home to await further instruction.  It is not clear whether he was given a Silver RAFVR lapel badge to show that he was “on reserve”.  He received a letter from the Secretary of State for Air, which welcomed him into the RAF and advised him that he would be called up as soon as he was required.

Record of RAF Service

Original Cardington Site Plan

RAF Cardington. 24th September to 5th October 1940

Cardington1938.jpgThe 2 Airship Sheds ceased being part of the RAF Cardington site in the late 1940s and they were put to other uses. The fence was moved, so they were outside the main RAF Cardington Site.  The site of Cardington was chosen to build Balloons and Train Crews, also it was used as a Major Recruitment Centre and also a Demobilisation Centre, many RAF Personnel passed through its Gates.  There are discrepancies on Alan John Laird Craig’s date of birth RAF lists this as 1922 making him 18 years old at enlistment it may be that he was actually a year younger (17) and fibbed about his real age in order to Enlist, other documents state the correct year as 1923.

Taking Off 4b

Kit Issued
1 Kitbag
1 Housewife (needle, thread etc)
3 pairs Socks
1 Button stick
3 sets Underwear
2 Forage Caps
3 Shirts
6 Collars
1 white Flash to go in cap, indicating Trainee
1 Tie
1 Service Gas Mask
2 pairs Shoes
1 pair Sand Shoes
1 Great Coat
2 Sports Singlets
1 pair Gloves
1 Clasp Knife

Cardington was seething with 100’s of other Airmen all looking slightly bemused and some even looking lost.  I suppose I was no different, but I was determined to get on with it.  I was kitted out with all the paraphernalia that is deemed necessary for Airmen to look the part. At Cardington, we were all subjected to the treatment that could be given to a Civvie to convert him into a passable Serviceman. Within the 1st couple of days, we were introduced to ‘Square Bashing‘ which is the RAF jargon for Drill, with it’s ‘Up 1-2-3! Down 1-2-3! Halt! Salute! and all the other intricacies of learning how to march RAF style.  When we were not marching we were folding blankets, shining boots & polishing anything and everything.  In short, learning the art of ‘Bullshit‘ most of it of the baffling variety.  There were Corporal & Sergeant Drill Instructors (DI’s) bawling indistinct and at times contradictory orders at this bewildered and slightly scared ‘Sprog‘ Recruits. We all soon got the drift of what those Instructors meant and eventually, we were slowly turned into real RAF Types.  Our weekly pay as an AC2 was 2/- (10p) per week which was quite a drop for me after my Civvie job, but we were all in the same position and it didn’t matter to me as I was now in the RAF.  After 6 weeks of Square Bashing, Orders & Bullshit, I was posted to what was called a ‘Holding Unit‘.  A Station where ‘would be’ RAF Tradesmen were sent until there was a Trade Training Course available.

RAF Morecambe – 5th October to 2nd November 1940
In WW2, there was RAF activity in Morecambe, but no airfield.
The activity was: 243 Sqn (No 9 School of Technical Training (28 Dec 1939 -17 May 1942).
No 9 School of Technical Training opened in November 1939 Training Flight Mechanics & Riggers.  The White Lund Site with its grass strip was utilised for the stripping and re-building of Aircraft which were brought to the site on RAFQueen Mary’s” (Low Loaders).  Three Hangars were used for this work, but local Garages were also used to give additional practical experience to the Trainees.  The Airstrip was almost certainly too short for take-off & landing, but Taxi Tests & Training for Aircraft movements on the Ground were conducted on the Site.  New intakes of Airmen were mustered for Training as Air Frame Mechanics and were marched around the streets and given Accommodation in Private houses known as Billets – locals with spare rooms were required by Law to accommodate Service Personnel.  This form of Billeting was unexpected as new Airmen thought they would be in an RAF Station Barracks.   They became qualified Flight Mechanics ‘A’ for Airframe and were promoted to Aircraftsman 1st Class and given a posting to a new Unit.


RAF Wattisham Tower

RAF Wattisham.jpgRAF Wattisham – 2nd November to 9th November 1940 – located in East Anglia just outside the Village of Wattisham, South of Stowmarket in Suffolk, England. Opened on 5th April 1939 as a Medium Bomber Station, the Squadrons there being equipped with Bristol Blenheim Bombers.  Part of No. 2 Group, No. 107 Squadron RAF and No. 110 Squadron RAF were Stationed there on the outbreak of War as No.83 Wing.   On 4th September 1939, just 29 hours after the declaration of War, Bombers from Wattisham took off on the 1st Attack of the War, against Enemy Shipping in Wilhelmshaven Harbour.  Ipswich Aerodrome was used by Wattisham as an Outstation for both Nos.107 & 110 Squadrons through 1940 & 1941.


RAF Wattisham Aerial

StationRoutine.jpgRAF Babbacombe – 9th November to 23rd November 1940
In June 1940 the RAF set up a Training establishment, followed by another at Torre Abbey a Historic Building near Torquay.  RAF Reception Centre at Babbacombe, near Torquay on where he received some Initial Training at No. 1 Receiving Wing (1RW) whose Headquarters were at the Norcliffe Hotel, Babbacombe, Paignton, Devon.  Torquay’s main contribution to the War effort was by providing Hotels for the RAF in which to Train Aircrew.  In addition to the RAF Hospital at the Palace Hotel, Nos. 1 & 4 ITW (Initial Training Wing) were formed at Babbacombe in June 1940.  Headquarters were at the Northcliffe Hotel whilst the Sefton, Oswalds, Trecarn, Foxlands & Palermo Hotels were being used for sleeping, etc. Postings were made from Babbacombe to Elementary Flying Training Schools.  Babbacombe Downs Concert Hall – With the advent of WW2 it was not long before entertainment had to give way to more important uses and the Auditorium became a Lecture Hall for the Aircrew Trainees of the RAF, although during this Period there were various shows including those by ENSA and the RAF Flying Training Command Band. This Wartime use was commemorated with a plaque presented by the local RAF Association, now on display in the Theatre Foyer.


From 1941 on much of the Music was supplied by an RAF Band. led by Sergeant, and later Warrant Officer, Gilbert Vinter.  Gilbert’s whole life was music. At the age of 9, he joined the Choir School of Lincoln Cathedral and rose to Head Chorister. In 1924 at 15 years of age he enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment as a Bandsman and attended the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall near London.  In 1930 he left the Army and attended the Royal Academy of Music. By 1932 he was associated with the BBC Wireless Military Band on bassoon.

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