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.

My Dad’s first flight was a King’s Flight.

Today Dad recalls his first flight in a plane which took place when he was a teenage sailor and it was the King’s plane!

All the aircraft received a lot of attention and maintenance as they had to be constantly available and in spic and span condition. I recall one occasion when the King was to use his personal Dakota one weekend. We, that is our Safety Section, were detailed to polish the aircraft. The Dakota was an unpainted version meaning that the outside consisted of bare aluminium panels. It was our duty to metal polish the entire outside of the aircraft top to bottom, front to back, wings and all so that it looked like a mirror.

Several of us were hoping to go on weekend leave on the Saturday but couldn’t go until the job was finished. So we started on Friday and continued working all through the night until we finished on Saturday morning to go on leave. The reflection of the early morning Sun on the aluminium panels was blinding. One wondered if the King even noticed.It was in one of these King’s Flight planes, a Dakota, allocated to the United Nations that was the first time I ever flew. We in the Safety Equipment Section learned that one of the Dakotas was to be be test flown after a major service crewed by a pilot and a flight engineer. Three of us Navy men persuaded the pilot to let us go up as passengers and then persuaded the Section Sergeant to turn a blind eye to our absence for a hour or so. In those post-war days there was a lot of breaching of regulations and things happened with a wink and a nod.

And so we joined the crew of the Dakota which was fitted with about 30 seats. The pilot and engineer were in the flight cabin but left the door to the saloon part open so that we could peer over their shoulder. We were excited as the planes took off and were scrambling to look through the windows on either side to see the homes and fields diminishing as the planed gained height.

As we flew the pilot or engineer called out various features that could be seen below. The cities of Cambridge, Ely, Ipswich, Norwich. The rivers, roads etc. Suddenly we passengers panicked because as we looked out along starboard wing we saw that the propeller of that engine was stopped. We imagined crashing to earth 10 000 feet below and although we were parachute packers there were no parachutes in the plane. However, the pilot told us not to worry as feathering the propellers one at a time was, of course, part of the test procedure (A Dakota could fly on one engine). After a circular tour of the Fen country we returned safely to ground.

We were subsequently offered the chance to go with a Lancaster or Liberator to Singapore as a cabin crew member but this would mean a 12 day round trip and leave would have to be taken to do it. I was not prepared to forfeit a two week leave to go.

So they say when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.

I have so many reasons to be cheerful this week and they appear in no particular order.

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1. My husband and children collected me from BritMums Live. They were a bit late and I chatted to a Brewery member of staff who was having a cigarette break. Not like the old Kate at all. Interesting.

2. We called at a lovely country pub and the magic of the weekend continued. My 8 year old son get into conversation with one of the other customers who was clearly fascinated by him. “You have a very intelligent son” he told me. I thanked him in New Kate Style. Another customer chatted to us about Yorkshire. Then an elderly man whose birthday it was gave his birthday balloons to the children. It reminded us of an evening long ago when my toddler son held court with an archaeologist and held his own even though the guy was off the scale intelligence wise. Special evenings with that little bit of fairy dust about them.

3. I told a man he smelled nice. A stranger at that. New Kate style. Apparently it was Beckham. No not the bloke, the aftershave.

4. On Sunday we had a wonderful family day out at Portchester Castle. The childrne loved playing tour guide with their audio tapes giving them all the vital information. My husband and son climbed right to the top of the castle apparently with my 8 year old racing ahead whilst his poor Dad huffed and puffed. We treated to the children to a ride on horse and bow and arrow. They have had a year of having very little so I am trying to make it up to them now.

5. On Monday, my husband took the day off. We are of the view that the Monday after BritMums Live should be a Bank Holiday for all involved and their families. We had breakfast in a lovely town near us. I had Eggs Benedict for the very first time. Another virginity lost way too late. We had a wander round the shops and I finally changed my address with the bank. Then we went and packed a picnic up, collected the children and had a feast in the park. Happy days.

6. The children have enjoyed after-school club all week as I caught up with various things.

7. I have not cooked all week thanks to my husband. I am getting as bad as my late Mum who used to take Wimbledon fortnight off every year downing tools and doing nothing in terms of shopping, cooking or cleaning.

8. My teenager thanked me for some T-shirts I had bought him. More vitally he said he liked them which is great to hear as for a few years he has had zero interest in clothing.

9. My daughter continues to enjoy doing arts and crafts helped by a lovely package from Baker Ross

10. I am planning a little trip to France with my brother. My challenge is to find my passport!

11. I had magical moments at BritMums Live. Even my worst bits were amusing in their own way. I learned a lot and will be posting about that soon along with my lovely moments from the Saturday.

When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you so get smiling!

    What were the World War 2 Aircraft kept at RAF Bassingbourn?

    Today, my Dad’s memoirs talk about the planes he maintained including the King’s Flight.

    At Bassingbourn were stationed two Bomber Squadrons and King’s Flight. The Bomber Squadrons were one of Lancasters and one of the American Lieberator bombers. These aircraft has been converted into troop carriers and most uncomfortable passenger carriers they were.

    We were responsible for the maintenance of the aircraft’s emergency dinghies located in the wings and also for the parachutes carried by the reduced crew. The war being over there was no need to carry the three air gunners and the bomb aimer who were paret of the crew. They thus carried pilot, co-pilot, navigator, engineer and wireless operator. In addition, they carried one or two aircraftmen unskilled who is this day and age would be called cabin crew.The interior of the aircraft had had all wartime fittings removed and had had canvas seats fitted along the fusilage. This enabled about 30 soldiers to be carried in most uncomfortable circumstances. The purpose to bring back to England quickly those troops who had been involved in the war against the Japanese in Burma and involved a flight to Singapore and back. The planes left England empty and flew the following route with refuelling and overnight stops at Rome, Cairo, Bahrain, Karachi, Calcutta and Singapore, a total of 6 days flying. The return journey would have the same touchdowns. Hence the round journey took about a fortnight when the plane was serviced and then repeated the trip.

    King’s Flight consisted of a number of aircraft not as the name implies solely for use of the king (King George VI) but also for a variety of VIPs. The aircraft for use of the Royal Family were the aviation version of the American C47 (Dakota) a twin engined propeller driven plane. There was one for the King, one of his Queen and one for the two Princesses. The Royals did not fly in the same plane. In addition to these three Royal planes there were other planes, a mixture of Dakotas, Avro Yorks and Auro Lancastrians and a sprinkling of other types which were used by dignateries e.g. Winton Churchill, Clement Atlee (PM) Ernest Bevin (Foreign Sec) other Ministers and then the leading military people. President Jan Smalls of South Africe, Field Marshall Montogomery and others.

    In addition, there were about ten Dakotas for the use of the United Nations Heads of State.

    BritMums Live 2014 – my worst bits

    1. Heading North from home to London. Have I become a Southerner after all these years masquerading as a Northerner?

    2. Wanting to be in two places at the same time over the weekend. Firstly the lovely Montcalm hotel was hard to leave even for the learning and social delights of the conference. Secondly, inadequate Mummy went and missed the children’s school fete on Saturday.

    3. Forgetting my BritMums Live ticket and then finding it was in my handbag all along on my return home.

    4. Getting the various wires/cables for my laptop and phone mixed up. Such a technophobe.

    5. The absolute feats of engineering with tights and underwear I now need to hold all that excess flesh in even a little bit. What lies beneath – scary thought!

    6. Not having enough time available to chat to all the bloggers I would have liked to. It is the nature of the beast when working and at such a well-attended conference but it is always a little sad when you miss someone.

    7. Not realising quite how bad my roots were until I returned home and my 8 year old son told me in no uncertain terms.

    8. Not remembering to pack my dress for Saturday properly so that the creased look was trending on Saturday.

    9. Felt it was made pretty clear that some of my dinner companions were not happy with the dinner venue I had chosen. It was a shame and a little upsetting for me although I have to say I did enjoy the food and conversation.

    10. Leaving whilst Benjamin Brooks-Dutton was speaking in Room 1. I went to look after room 4 but I still felt bad at not staying and honouring his story.

    11. Not making the most of lunch in terms of eating so that by the evening, I suddenly realised I was very hungry.

    12. Learning that I have missed out on some tricks when it comes to blogging and writing that I could have implemented years ago. I had so much to learn. Spinning that, it should make for an exciting year ahead.

    The truth is I had my best BritMums Live yet and you can read about that in a post soon.

    BritMums Live 2014 - My Worst Bits