World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        John Schofield 

From Blackpool To Basra

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John Schofield
Location of story: UK, Iceland, The Azores, Egypt and Iraq.
Background to story: Royal Air Force


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Anne Payne of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of John Schofield.

By John Schofield

I was 17 years old at the outbreak of World War 2, a year out of school and a junior clerk with a firm of solicitors. The furthest I had been from home was on a week’s holiday in Blackpool. In the summer of 1940, I joined the Home Guard and became a teenager among First World War veterans, and others who were either too old or too infirm to join the forces. In retrospect, I was not unlike young Pike of Dad’s Army.
Apart from rationing, the blackout and listening, from the safety of an air raid shelter, to Sheffield being blitzed, my life in those days had hardly been touched by the war. It all changed however, in 1941 when I was called up into the RAF. My Home Guard Commanding Officer advised me to tell them in the RAF that I had been in the Home Guard, and I would then be exempted from the initial square bashing. The first time I was on parade in the RAF, the sergeant asked, “Has anyone been in the Home Guard?” “Yes sergeant,” I replied. “Have you brought your Home Guard boots with you?” “No sergeant.” “Then you had better get them or a chitty to say that you have handed them in. Meanwhile, you can only have one pair of boots instead of the regulation two pairs.” I never did get out of square bashing!

I spent the first year and a half in the RAF being trained as a Wireless Operator Mechanic, first at Blackpool and then Compton Bassett in Wiltshire, and finally at Cranwell. While I was there, Frank Whittle was testing the prototype of his jet aircraft on the three-mile long Cranwell runway, and we were sworn to secrecy. Then I was posted to bomber command at RAF Elsham Wolds in Lincolnshire, where I arrived in style. I was picked up at Barnetby Railway Station by a RAF truck, and taken to the guardroom on the outskirts of the aerodrome. Having checked in there, I had to report to station headquarters, which was about three quarters of a mile away. There was no transport, so I started the long walk, carrying my kitbag and back pack, when an open topped Rolls Royce pulled alongside and the high ranking army officer at the wheel, offered me a lift, and so, I arrived at the SWQ like a VIP. I was told later that the army officer was the Earl of Yarborough who owned the land on which the aerodrome was built.

I was only at Elsham Wolds a short time before I was transferred to nearby RAF Kirmington, which is now the Humberside airport. A few months later, I was transferred to Coastal Command and posted to Reykjavik in Iceland, where I celebrated my 21st. birthday. The Icelanders are a very proud race and they resented having their country occupied by the British; there was no fraternisation.

The squadron I joined in Iceland, was preparing to move to the Azores and I was soon back in the UK. After a short leave and a change to tropical kit, we were taken to Devenport where we boarded the Royal Navy Cruiser HMS Glasgow. The crew of the Glasgow welcomed us aboard and waited on us, although we were passengers on a cruise ship on our way to the Azores. Unlike the Icelanders, the Portuguese in the Azores, welcomed us with open arms.

Shortly after arriving on the island of Terceria in the Azores, I was posted to the Air Sea Rescue Service as the wireless mechanic responsible for the maintenance of the radio equipment on the two Air Sea Rescue pinnaces. Almost immediately, one of the two wireless operators reported sick and was found to be unfit to go to sea and so, in addition to being the base mechanic, I became a wireless operator on one of the pinnaces, and spent the rest of my time in the Azores, mainly at sea.

The war in Europe was over by the time that I returned to the UK in 1945. Within six months however, after being stationed first in Beccles in Suffolk and then in St. Eval in Cornwall, I was transferred to Transport Command and sent abroad once more, first to Egypt and then to Shaibah near Basra in Iraq. I spent the long hot summer of 1946 in Iraq before my demob. number came up. After almost five years in the RAF, I flew to Egypt, then crossed the Mediterranean by boat to Toulon in France, and then went by train through France to Calais. The ferry took us to Dover and a train to a Demob. Centre somewhere in England. Twenty-four hours later, I was home as a civilian, and a different person from the youth of 19 who had only been as far as Blackpool before the war.



Molly's Story

By Actiondesk Sheffield

People in story: John and Molly Schofield
Location of story: South of England and Belgium                        A4552553
Background to story: Civilian


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Bill Ross of the ‘Action Desk – Sheffield’ Team on behalf of John Schofield.


My wife was typical of lots of girls of her generation. She was not a heroine, but she did her bit to help us win World War Two. She did not pass what was then the equivalent of the Eleven Plus examination, and consequently, she only had an elementary education, and left school at the age of fourteen. At the outbreak of war, she was sixteen years old and was in domestic service. At eighteen, she volunteered to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service), and was trained to be a height and ranger finder. On completion of her training, she was posted to an Anti-Aircraft Battery.


When on duty, she assisted with the firing of the Ack Ack Guns by predicting the height and range at which the shells had to be fired by the men of the battery. Her Ack Ack Battery was eventually stationed in Kent as part of the defence of London, which was then being blitzed by German Bombers.


During the build up to D-Day, the battery remained on the south coast to defend against attacks by enemy aircraft, whilst the troop and materials were being massed there in readiness for the invasion of France. A few months after D-Day, the battery went over to France and then into Belgium, and it was in Brussels that my wife celebrated V.E. Day in 1945. I say my wife, because despite the war, we found time to get married. It was a typical wartime wedding; she was twenty and I was twenty-one. We were both on leave and had to get a special licence on a Friday, and were married on the following Tuesday. I was on embarkation leave, so we did not see each other again until after the war in Europe was over, which was more than eighteen months later. After the war, Molly settled down to be a loving wife, mother and grandmother. We were able to celebrate our Diamond Wedding Anniversary last year (2004), but sadly, she died last November. We had spent more than sixty happy years together, which is something I will be grateful for to my dying day. Pr-BR