World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                           Jack Gillard 

RAF Spitfire Fighter Station Exasperation

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jack Gillard
Location of story: Perranporth Cornwall



Location: RAF Spitfire Fighter Station, Perranporth, Cornwall.

Jack Gillard, 2828 Squadron, RAF Regiment.
Stationed at Perranporth, Spitfire Fighter Aerodrome.
February 1944 as a member of a Bofors Anti-aircraft gun crew.

We had been moved off the Ack-Ack site for a few days to take part in a refresher course of foot, rifle and other small arms drill and practice.

After the steady routine of the past few months on the Bofors gun site, the activities of the training course were quite hectic.

When on the gun site, we had our own volunteer cook for the 14 of us. All the food was cooked on a little coal fired stove. Whereas we now had to take our meals once again in the camp Cookhouse which was situated about half a mile away.

Our meals, many a time were very poor, due to the severe food rationing, so if it was raining we had to decide whether it was worth getting ‘wet through’ for.

Life on the aerodrome – In the Winter on the aerodrome, was to say the least, grim. The wind and rain made things very unpleasant and we all became somewhat depressed. I remember if someone dropped his plate – usually whilst standing in the long queue as the food was plopped on to it with a large serving spoon, a great cheer would echo around the dining room. I think it was a humane protest against the silent monotony – except for the rattle of cutlery – the greyness and exasperation of the compulsory routine in there.

But we could not really complain, many other servicemen and women and indeed civilians were suffering deprivations far worse than we were.




Tea and Rock Cake at Canteen

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: Jack Gillard, Dorothy Mary Gillard
Location of story: RAF Defford in Worcestershire, Honeybourne, Worcestershire
Background to story: Royal Air Force


Tea and Rock Cake at Canteen

Jack Gillard

ON VE Day I was stationed at RAF Defford in Worcestershire, an aerodrome which took its name from a handful of houses and a railway halt. Victory in Europe didn't come as a swift and sudden end to the conflict with Germany. We had realised for some time that the end was only a matter of days away, whereas VJ day, a few months later, came out of the blue quite unexpected. However when VE day finally did arrive, there were no extraordinary scenes of jubilation on the aerodrome, we simply felt a drained sigh of relief that the nightmare in Europe was at last over and done with.

Not being able to get off the camp, due to there being no transport, except one little bus on Saturday afternoons to Worcester, about eight miles away, my WAAF friend and I celebrated VE Day evening in the camp Salvation Army canteen with a cup of tea and a rock cake each. (We married a year later after we were demobbed).

While sitting there, we reflected on the dark periods of the war, when simply being alive and well was a daily celebration.

My personal memories drifted back to the early part of 1942 when I was at a RAF bomber station at Honeybourne - also in Worcestershire, from where the RAF made brave efforts to bomb German targets with their old type aircraft.

I recalled standing on the airfield perimeter, and as the daylight was quickly fading, myself and a couple of other airmen watched the large bomber aircraft taxiing to the start of the runway.

The noise of their thunderous engines filled the trembling airwaves, and seemingly shook the ground we were standing on. Very soon these aircraft and their crews would be in a world of their own, and up to a point, masters of their own destiny, but in reality dependent on their own ill or good fortune.

At this particular moment, I fancy that whilst waiting for clearance, there would be very little light conversation between them.

With every second seeming like an hour, they would be anxious to be on their way.

Thankfully the welcome coloured flare from the watchtower pierced the sky, giving the signal for the first of a number of planes to go! With the brakes holding it captive, the plane's engines were revved up to a crescendo until the whole aircraft shuddered with pent-up energy and power, then in the twilight of the lovely evening, the outline of this black sinister monster with its belly full of explosive death and destruction was given its freedom to move down the runway until it could gain sufficient momentum to fly like a giant bird; but as yet it was nothing more than a potential holocaust on wheels, hurtling along at 200-plus mph, and with the end of the runway drawing nearer and nearer with every passing second; we watched in silence but felt ourselves saying Lift-off! Lift-off! Lift-off! for God's sake Lift-off!!! and then at last with a long sigh of relief, we saw it gently take to the air - just clearing the hawthorn hedge surrounding the airfield. Gaining height, it then circled the aerodrome, waiting for the other aircraft to go through the same procedure.

When at last they were all airborne, they slowly disappeared into the distance, with the trembling sound of the engines growing fainter and fainter. With both darkness and silence settling over the airfield, we stood for a moment longer, and then turned away, each with out own indelible memories of the scene we had just witnessed and the thoughts of those planes and airmen in the lonely expanse of sky, making their way to their `target for tonight'.

Jack Gillard and Dorothy Mary Gillard.