Eye Witness Account 1938!


This month I had the absolute honour and pleasure of meeting 93 year old Paddy Hamilton Crockard who enlisted at RAF Cardington back in 1938! Mr Crockard was revisiting the area with his family and very kindly agreed to meet me in Shortstown to share some of his memories of his time spent on the camp all those years ago. I never thought I would be fortunate enough to meet anyone with first-hand knowledge of life at the camp in its first year as a recruitment centre so this meeting was very special for me.

Mr Crockard was born on 23rd November 1919 in Ireland and as a boy and teenager had always dreamed of becoming a pilot. He had hoped to join the RAF at 16 but needed his father’s consent which was refused so it wasn’t until he reached 18 that he could apply to join. As soon as he was 18 after attending Grammar School and a Technical College he signed up at a recruitment office

in Belfast. It is interesting to note that although he enlisted in Belfast he was sent miles away to RAF Cardington for his “Square Bashing.”

Paddy arrived at Cardington in February 1938 and at this point would have been one of the earliest intakes to the camp which had only just begun operating as No 2 School of Recruits. It is known that in the early stages of 1938 RAF Cardington was not fully equipped to deal with the sudden influx of men and indeed Paddy recalls having to wait for a week or so for a uniform to be issued. Paddy also remembers that the camp seemed more like a Flying Club to him than a recruitment centre. Initially the training in the first year took three months and Paddy was paid the princely sum of 14 shillings a week with two shillings a week deducted for “billet damage”. This practice was a bone of contention for the thousands of recruits who were to pass through the billets throughout the years as of course the billets were kept in pristine condition at all times.

He has good memories of his time spent on the camp - he recalls a church on site, a NAAFI shop, and playing cricket on Wednesday afternoons and going to the cinema in Bedford on Saturdays. He also remembers being woken at 6.30am each day which he didn’t enjoy!

Paddy Crockard individual photo

Paddy in uniform in later years

jpeg 4 harry

Three generations of Paddy's family outside the Shorts Building at the old RAF Cardington site in Feb 2013. It is hard to believe that Paddy was here all those years ago in 1938! Brilliant!

One particular memory of the sheds sticks out for him – he recalls a spell of “Jankers” for a minor misdemeanour (probably a small drill practice error) for which he was handed a brush and told to sweep one of the sheds! Not an easy task I imagine. Another spell of Jankers was an order to run twice around the airfield (approx. 7 miles).

After completing his 3 month training at Cardington he was given one week’s leave and then remustered and went on to become a Flight Mechanic and Engineer and served in the RAF until 1948.

Once again I have to say what a privilege it was to meet Mr Crockard and I am so grateful for the information he has shared with us. Thank you so much.

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