Naughty sailor – a scam to get leave and travel in style

Today my Dad talks about carrying out a scam as a sailor to get leave from the Navy, hitch-hiking and flying home on leave.

The RAF was more generous in allowing weekend leave than was the Navy and in any case we had a “scam” going on which gave us extra weekends. With the RAF, to leave camp one had to have signed by one’s section Officer a leave card which indicated the time of leaving camp and the time of return. If you wanted an extra weekend one of the RAF men in our section a London Jew named Greenbaum (his rank was a lowly aircraftsman) would expertly sign my leave card with a fictitious name followed by Flight Lieutenant. This got you out of the camp.

It was a tedious journey in those days to get from Bassingbourn to Yorkshire. All unofficial leave had to be at one’s own expense and I was always short of money. Hitchhiking was the only way but road traffic was very thin on the ground. I had to find my way to the Great North Road (the A1) about 30 miles away by thumbing and then thumb my way 150-160 miles to home. The A1 only was wide enough for two lanes of traffic, one in each direction and having to keep changing cars, it was usually an eight hour journey home and the same back.

I realized that if I could get to London to where in Edgeware Road the Great North Road started (actually at Marble Arch) I could more easily get a Northbound lorry that with luck would take me as far as Wakefield in one hop about 4 and a half to five hours away.

The next thing was getting to London but this could be done by cadging a lift on a King’s Flight plane. The various planes left frequently to pick up their VIP passengers at Northolt in West London and so on various occasions I flew as the sole passenger in magnificently furnished aircraft to Northolt, flashed my false pass to the guard on the main gate to Northolt and was easily able to hitch a passing life to Hyde Park onto the Edgeware Road and home.

Unfortunately the return journey was a more mundane hitch-hike as I could never rely on there being a flight available at Northolt. In any case as VIPs were constantly in and out of Northolt security for entry was quite strict and my false pass may not have stood up to scrutiny.

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