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RAF Cardington in the Second World War 1939-1945 - The Wartime Memories Project -

The Wartime Memories Project

- RAF Cardington during the Second World War -

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RAF Cardington

   RAF Cardington is near Bedford. it began life during The Great War and was home to the R100 airships. Cardington was home to No 2 Recruitment Centre and No: 1 Balloon Training Unit.

Today only the two huge airship hangers remain today.

Squadrons stationed at RAF Cardington

  • No 1 Balloon Training Unit
  • No 2 Recruitment Centre.


If you can provide any additional information, please add it here.

Those known to have served at

RAF Cardington

during the Second World War 1939-1945.

  • Bower Herbert . Cpl.
  • Keer. Norman .
  • Leeks. Harry Edward .
  • Willmore. Thomas James .

The names on this list have been submitted by relatives, friends, neighbours and others who wish to remember them, if you have any names to add or any recollections or photos of those listed, please Add a Name to this List

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Norman Keer.

I volunteered for the Royal Air Force (the Brylcreem Boys) in May, 1942. Having waited to be called up for a number of weeks, I wrote to remind them. The next thing I knew, they sent my call up papers. They must have thought I was very keen, as they invited me to attend a medical at Poplar Walk, Croydon. Well with a specimen here, and a cough there, I was passed as fit. There was only one snag-as a parting gift they gave me a dose of flu. My calling-up papers invited me to report at RAF Cardington in Bedfordshire on October 8th 1942. Grandpa came along to East Croydon to see me off. Then it was on to Yarmouth for our initial training. We were allocated a billet at a house in Wellington Square, where we set about making ourselves comfortable. Life at Yarmouth was OK, that was until the Nazis paid us one or two flying visits, usually at breakfast time. They came whizzing down the High Street, with machine guns blazing: I suppose they were after the "E" Boats, or our bacon and eggs. There was a rumour that a Wellington Bomber had been shot down and was found to contain bodies of Germans. They were probably trying to discover our defence secrets - Radar etc - as they were set up on the East Coast. Anyway the passing out parade went off OK and I was posted to Hull as I had volunteered for the RAF as a Radio Mechanic. Near my billet was a school which we attended for instruction and also the technical college - now Hull University. It was a most interesting course, originally at least a two and a half year course, now condensed into six months. March 1st 1943 was half way through the course and the exam seemed to have gone OK. However, on April 4th. I was called, asked some technical questions, and was told that I was on the list for CT (Cease Training). I can only say that it was a terrible blow, and the worst shock I had ever had, up to that time. I felt that I had been punched in the stomach, and the feeling lasted for about a week. So next stop was to RAF Sutton on Hull. After that I had to consider the opportunity of remustering to another trade in view of my recent failure. For this remustering, I had to go to a distant RAF station for a trade test as I had decided to go for a Radio Operator, as I had learned the Morse code in the Home Guard. Well, having gone through the trade test, the examiner's eyebrows shot up, and was so amazed at my result, that he went over to his assistant, then came back to me and said that had passed the test with 98% pass which was marvellous and usually unobtainable. So I was good at something - that's news. My training with the Home Guard had paid off. Next stop a spot of leave.

I was then posted to RAF Blackpool and put on a Morse code course over Burtons the tailors. After a week or two of this I used to get headaches as the Morse speed was so slow. If and when you maybe fail the course, they said that you "had gone for a Burton”. While at Blackpool, we unfortunately found we had bugs in the billet. So we had to have all our kit dealt with at the local hospital. You never know where they may have crept to.

Anyway we were-on parade as usual one day, when the WO called out a list of names, and said “Report at the orderly room at 10.30, you have volunteered for the Navy”. Well it was a bit of a surprise, what next I wonder? I reported and went home on 7 days’ leave. Having left our RAF kit at Uxbridge at 11.15 a.m. on October the 8th I arrived at HMS Royal Arthur at 5.45 p.m. the same day.

The changeover from RAF to RN was not really to my liking, although I probably would not have travelled to such exciting places had I stayed in the RAF. The RN uniform is a bit peculiar to get used to, and although I suppose it was looked on as being “tiddley" as they say, it was really not very practical when compared with other service uniforms. The uniform was rather thin, and I caught a chill in the kidneys. While I was there I had to stand to attention in respect to a rating who had just died of meningitis. Was the RN not a very healthy place then? I would find out. There was one occasion when we were being given a lecture by an RN officer. There was some talking and larking about. He said that if we didn't shut, he would give us a bottle. What on earth was he talking about? It sounded like a load of rubbish to us ex RAF lads. I must say that the RAF seemed to be a fairly gentlemanly service and what were we to make of the RN practice of waking the lads by banging on their door with a wooden truncheon with a metal end? I suppose it was an updated version of a rope's end used in the days of Captain Bligh. Of course there were duties to be done. Guard duty was on top of the water tower via a vertical ladder, past some pumping machinery. As it was November, it was a frosty night, so we made some cups of "pussers kye": a form of special chocolate grated into boiling water. Lovely but very hot. November 11th, basic training completed, and I was posted to the Isle of Man. Of course I was not alone, there were quite a few WT operators who came over from the RAF and the Army. So on the train to Fleetwood in Lancashire where we arrived at about 6.30 in the morning, brrr. Unfortunately the sea was rather rough when we went on board M. V. Snafell and had lunch. It was O.K. but I had my eye looking out of the porthole at a boat in the harbour that was bobbing about like a cork. The trip was rough and mal-de-mer was top of the menu.

On arrival on the Isle of Man, I was billeted at a house on the front in Douglas, and we had another course of instruction. This time RN morse, working up to a speed of 22 words a minute (Army and RAF speeds were 18 words p.m.) also transmitting and receiving procedures. Well I passed the necessary tests, and became a Wireless Telegraphist. My posting came up and I went to HMS Mercury, the RN Signal School near Petersfield, Hampshire. More courses. Some of the lads would lose all their pay on playing cards. We learned many things, including RN codes. It was very interesting. Well there was a most beneficial tradition in the RN, it was the rum ration. There were three grades: UA - Under 20 years of Age; G for Grog (i.e. rum issue); and T - Temperance. Well some kind sailor gave me his ration while I was underage. The ration was usually "two and one" i.e. two of water and one of rum. There are also "Neaters" which I hope is self explanatory. After that tot of rum I went and lay down, and slept for two hours.

While at the signal school, there were physical events in which we all had to take part, like an assault course. In our class there was a thick b---er who came from Dunmow. We were supposed to climb along a rope between two poles. It was a matter of doing it slothwise, head first, feet trailing. Well he was ahead of me, and although he was a large chap he was abysmally slow, in spite of him being shouted at loudly. I was behind him, had just got onto the rope and was looking upwards, when out of a clear blue sky comes a thumping great boot on my nose. It wasn't a great shnozzle before, but became rather swollen. I let go of the rope with my hands, and hung upside down by my feet. A wash in cold water helped a bit, and washed away the blood so I was really not too bad. And do, you know, that lout never even apologised. Well time and training went on. l was one of the "Jim Crow's" party who had to go round the main building, checking for all blackouts to be drawn. I was just checking the WRNS' floor and opened a loo door (unlocked) and found a young lady sitting on the pan. Another door opened on to a bedroom with a number of young ladies therein partially clothed (scream) they didn't even invite me in.

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