RAF Cardington Camp

RAF Servicemen & Recruits 1937-1939

It is recorded that by the end of the Second World War over 250,000 men and women had passed through the gates of RAF Cardington. Here are some pictures of a few of these individuals who served their country. If you have any photographs and stories of anyone connected to the station please make contact and help build up a record of ALL(!!) of these brave young men and women. Indeed if you recognise anyone in these photos please get in touch.

Kenneth Rogerson 1939 jpeg

Signing up in 1939 - Kenneth Rogerson 3rd from left 2nd row

More details of Kenneth can be found in the Eye Witness 1939-1945 Section.

Cardington 1938 Martin Turner
M Turner RAF

Martin Turner

Kenneth Jackson 1939

Sent in by Tony Jackson this photograph could possibly be of a group of young men at Cardington in 1939.

Tony explains " Please find attached a photograph, which shows my father, Kenneth Jackson, top row, fourth from the right, in a group which I’m assuming (BIG assumption) was taken at Cardington. My father’s service record shows his enlistment on 19th April 1939 at ‘2 Depot, Cardington’. He was there until 30th June 1939, when he was transferred to RAF Wattisham. If the photograph was taken at Cardington, I hope it will be a useful addition to your collection, and perhaps someone else will recognise a family member.*

Tony continues "I was able to get my father’s service record from the RAF in 2009, although it’s only now that I’ve begun to try to find out more detail. After Cardington and Wattisham, his record showed him from January 1940 at BAFF HQ in France. There are only a few things I can remember from what my father told me, but one thing that sticks out was his escape from St. Nazaire on the doomed troop ship ‘Lancastria’.
He always said that the fact that he smoked saved him as he went up from below deck to the open air because he wanted a cigarette just as the bombs started to fall on the ship.
After that he was at various other stations (Yatesbury, Hawarden, and Shobden) before going to Libya and Egypt with 52 Squadron. I assume he was also in Italy as he had an Italy Star, but this isn’t obvious from his record. He wasn’t an airman, but he seemed to travel around quite a bit. I have photographs of him in Brussels and Hamburg in uniform in 1946, but again this isn’t on his record. He had signed up for 9 years, but he continued after the war as a reserve until 1959." Thank you Tony for sending in this photograph.

*It would be lovely if anyone can confirm that this photoraph was taken at Cardington - if anyone recognises anyone else here please make contact.

Ivor Morgan 1938 (2)
Ivor Morgan 1938 back postcard (2)

This photograph was sent in by Anthony Wellard which includes his father in law Ivor L Morgan. The back of this photo shown left is marked "Passing out at RAF depot Cardington 1938."

Thank you so much Anthony these types of photos are so interesting it is hard to believe they are over 75 years old!

Hello Jane,
Please find attached the photo for the March 14th - May 19th intake in 1938. I have put the names below, but I was interpreting my uncles' handwriting,so I can only hope I got them right.

Here is a potted history of my uncle Colin after the war started:-
He trained as a Wireless Operator/ Air Gunner and after passing out was posted to 103 Squadron, flying Wellingtons out of RAF Newton in Nottinghamshire. His first Op was to Emden in Germany on 10/05/41.In July the Squadron transferred to RAF Elsham Wolds, near Brigg in Lincolnshire. His first Op from here was a daylight raid against Brest in Brittany, presumably against the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

On his 20th mission on 24/10/41 the aircraft got lost in cloud returning from Frankfurt. They were down to their last 10 minutes of fuel when they found a break in the cloud and all the lights below meant they were over Eire, which was neutral and not subject to blackouts, and they all bailed out successfully. They were very near the west coast of Eire and another 10
minutes of blind flying would have meant baling out into the Atlantic. They were all quickly rounded up by the Garda Irish Police and sent to the internment camp at The Curragh. There was also a German internment camp at The Curragh for any of their flyers or sailors that ended up in Eire. This was to preserve strict neutrality.

The internees were allowed to sign themselves out on an Honour System, whereby they promised not to abscond after leaving the camp on parole. The internees could go to pubs, dances, socials etc., but had to sign back into the camp by 02.00 am ... a tough regime or what!! The only prisoner to break his parole was an American flying in the RAF. The Irish authorities immediately cancelled all parole privileges, which obviously did not go down well with the remaining internees. When the British authorities found out, he was returned to Eire and re-interned. He was beaten up on his return ... surprise surprise!!

One day uncle signed himself out and went for a pint. The navigator from his aircraft was also signed out and when he returned he was given Uncle Colin's form, which he immediately signed "C Dalton ".Another guy was dispatched to find Uncle Colin in the pub, where he was told to "bugger off, you've just escaped ". He stole a bike, a big stain on the family reputation, and managed to evade capture and pedal the 80 odd miles back into Northern Ireland.

Of the six crew in the Wellington, two remained in Ireland and married local women, four went back into Squadron service, of which two Uncle Colin and the Navigator who signed his parole form were killed. As the war swung
against Germany, Eire released all the RAF allied prisoners. The pilot Ralph Keefer went onto Spitfires doing photo reconnaissance and the navigator, Jack Carter, went onto Mosquitoes. Jack was shot down in the Elbe estuary
near Hamburg and drowned before the Germans could rescue him. After his "escape" uncle Colin was re-trained onto Lancasters and he joined 156 Squadron, part of No. 8 Pathfinder Group, at RAF Wyton near Huntingdon. He flew his first 156 Squadron mission against Duisburg in Germany on 26/06/43.With 156 Squadron he helped bomb targets mainly in Germany (including the V1/V2 Flying Bomb Establishment at Peenemunde), France and even Italy. He flew a total of 23 Ops with 156 Squadron before being shot down by a night fighter over Munich just before midnight on 06/09/43. In his last 5 days of his life, he flew 4 missions, intense or what?

He is buried in The Durnbach War Graves Commission Cemetery, some 30 miles south of Munich. It is a "small" cemetery containing some 2,500 graves, mainly RAF but also POWs who died in captivity. I have visited a couple of times and I noted that a large number of the Army graves were dated immediately prior to the end of the war. It then struck me that these guys probably died in the forced marching of prisoners from the East, in freezing winter conditions and with limited clothing, to avoid the advancing Russians.

The grave of my uncle was not found until 1946 and as I was born in 1947, I inherited his name. As his grave had not been found, there was no confirmation of death, only a presumption, and his name was not on the village War Memorial. I noted this omission, as the War Memorial was near to the junior school and we used to play around it. This omission was promptly rectified once I was older, and I am pleased and proud to say his name is now where it rightfully belongs.
Best Regards. Colin Dalton "

Colin later added the following

" Hello Jane,
I hope you didn't find my reply too long winded, but as you probably gather I have a lot of respect, pride and admiration for my late uncle. I know he was not out of the ordinary, and just one of 55,000 that didn't come home from Bomber Command, but when I think of his death at 21 years old it really hits home.

Slight correction to my previous communication, his service with 156 Squadron was at RAF Warboys, which was a satellite station of RAF Wyton. The pilot of the Wellington from which they bailed out was a guy called Ralph Keefer who was gathering a lot of information about his wartime experiences and I communicated with him in the 1980's. He planned to write a book, but Alzheimer’s' disease prevented him from doing so. It was published, however, by his son Ralph Keefer Jnr. and is called "Grounded in Eire", from which I got some of the information I passed on. Ralph Snr also passed on to me a copy of a letter from one of the Wellington crew who had married and remained in Ireland.

I also got in touch with one of the four survivors from his Lancaster and he told me they were shot down by a night fighter. I have also got my late uncles' Flying Log Book, which is also a great source of information."

We are extremely fortunate to have learned of this young man and feel honoured to record his story here. Thank you Colin for sharing his life with us.

Samuel Kennedy RAF Cardington 1939

7_Squadron_Cardington_1939 Front reduced

The photograph above and the signatures below were sent in by Brian Kennedy who explains:

“I came across this photograph whilst clearing out the belongings of my late father and thought it might be of interest to you. It shows my father, Samuel Kennedy shown back on the far right of the back row. The reverse of the photo shows the signatures of many of his colleagues.”

We are very fortunate to have such records. The signatures are very clear on the back and someone had thoughtfully written “7.Squad 1939. Cardington” as well. Please take a close look at these names you may know someone. Thanks must go to Brian for sending these fantastic images in.

7_Squadron_Cardington_1939 Back reduced

RAF Cardington 1938 Jack Richard Crane

Crane group jpeg

We were very pleased to hear from Peter Crane who has sent in these images of his father Jack Richard Crane who arrived at the camp in 1938 at the young age of just 17.

“My father Jack Richard Crane sadly passed away aged 96 in March this year. Amongst his effects I have a photo of him in his uniform when he joined the RAF and a group photo at Cardington dated 7th Sept 1938. The photo has most of the recruit’s names on the back where they signed it. My late father who was born 15th Dec 1920 joined up as soon as he was old enough and trained and served throughout the war as an aircraft engineer. He served in France and managed to get back to England at the time of Dunkirk although I believe he was further up the coast. As well as being stationed at many of the UK airbases he also served in Ireland, Iceland, South Africa, North Africa (Palestine, Libya, Egypt etc.) He eventually attained the rank of sergeant before leaving after the war.
My father passed away March 6th this year aged 96 and was born on 15th December 1920. That would make him 17 when he was at Cardington. The individual picture of him in his uniform I believe to be earlier and was sent as a postcard “to Grandma with love" just after he joined up. It was only when he got older that he spoke much of his time in the RAF and just gave us snippets of what went on. I know that as soon as he was old enough he left home and caught the train from Brampton in Suffolk to London to join up and it was his first time away from home. He trained as an aircraft engineer and when he left the services after the war had attained the rank of Sergeant.
In the group photo he is in the front row bottom right. The recruits obviously got their friends to sign the back of the photo but there are fewer signatures than people.

Crane group signatures denim

Above: Signatures found om the back of the group photo. Dated 7th September 1938

Crane  to grandma

Above: Photograph of young Jack Crane in his uniform.

He served all over the UK including Northern Ireland, Europe (France), North and South Africa (Libya, Egypt, Palestine, South Africa etc.), Iceland. I do not have his service record but I know he travelled all over.He was awarded WW2 stars and always said that he should have also received The Atlantic Star but never did. He was in France with his squadron when he and a few colleagues had to go and try to fix a Blenheim. During that time his squadron was hit by the Germans and he was lucky that he was not with them or he could have been a casualty (a large number of his friends were killed). He and his mates could not get back to them and they made their way to the coast, helped by local French people to just a few miles up from Dunkirk where they got back to England on a small boat.

He was stationed at a number of airfields around the UK and remembered that when in southern England (I am afraid I do not know the airfield) there was not room for him and others to stay at the barracks as the camp was full. They had tents in amongst the outer perimeter trees. There was an attack from the air and he remembers running to a Foxhole gun emplacement to try to fight back. Unfortunately many aircraft that were lined up were destroyed and there were a lot of casualties on the main buildings of the camp. Hence he had another lucky escape. He spent quite a long time in North Africa and recalls diving of rocks and swimming in the Nile.

His time in the RAF was a big part of his life with a lot of good times and unfortunately bad moments which he kept to himself. I have his medals and am very proud of him. It will be good if any recruits in the picture are recognised by their relatives. It will hopefully be added to your archives.

Our grateful thanks to Peter for sharing these photos and information with us.

George L Gray, RAF Cardington 1939

The following photos have been sent in by Jo Savage. Her grandfather was at Cardington in 1939.
Jo explains:

“Hi Jane, please find attached photos as promised. The formal group one was taken 1939. Title above the picture is Cardington 1939, No 2 Depot. My grandfather has everyone's names written on the back. (Also attached) The other photos don’t have names. The single ones are my Grandfather (George L Gray), but the others aren't mentioned – I am presuming the names are on the back but the pics are glued into his album.

There are lots of other photos, of his time in the RAF, but these are the ones pertaining to Cardington. Kind regards. Jo Savage. “

Our grateful thanks to Jo for these lovely images.

Cardington 1939 Group photo G L Gray for web
Cardington Postcard Rear G L Gray for web
Cluster g l gray for web
3. Stanley Boydell 1937

Sent in from Barry (surname unknown) is the photograph shown left. The description reads "RAF Cardington. M.T S.O. June 1937"
Barry informs us" I am attaching a photo for you to put on your site .
It is a picture of my wife's Uncle who is no longer with us. His name is Stanley Boydell , the picture does give some clues. If you do have any records for him I would appreciate it if you could let me know,or where I could get them for my wife and her family. I do know he played the drums in a service band at one time." If anyone can help Barry find out more please make contact via this site.

The picture shown left has been sent in by Jamie Smith and is of his father James Henry Smith who was at Cardington in 1939/1940.

"My father did his training there on Barrage Balloons in 1939/40 before being posted to the cricket pavilion at Mosley - Birmingham. I do not have his number. The photo is of my father taken at that time. James Henry Smith of Tiddington, Stratford-on-Avon He was a chauffer-gardener, joined up end of 1939 as a Voluntary Reserve and did his course at Cardington.”

Thank you for sending in this photo Jamie. As this was at the start of the war it is more than likely that James was at Cardington for at least six weeks possibly 12 - Jane

Post script – Jamie trod the same path as his father and joined the RAF in November 1952 at Cardington and went on to become a Sgt. His photo can be found in the 1945-1965 Peoples Gallery section.

James Henry Smith

Barrage balloon operator James Henry Smith who was at Cardington 1939/40.

Kenneth Joseph is looking for details of his father John William Joseph who arrived at Cardington in 1939.

“I wonder if you could help me please. My father John William Joseph service No 1195994 enlisted at Cardington l believe in 1939, and enlisted after April 1940. Could you tell me where he went after leaving Cardington for his training as a Flight Mechanic? All l can gather from his notebook was a training school in Blackpool in December 1940 with 22 Squadron and his class was E8-1941 and entry No 58-1941.

He was l believe invalided out in December 1943. He was in 22 Squadron and then 152 Hyderabad Squadron. Hope this info is o/k and thank you for your time.”

Can you help Kenneth? Does anyone have any information about the two squadrons his father served in? Maybe someone has knowledge of these squadrons and can fill in the gaps for Kenneth. Please make contact if you can help. Thank you. Jane May 2020.

15. John William Joseph

Flt Mechanic John William Joseph

Alfred Francis 1938-39 and other dates at Cardington.

alfred francis 3

Above: Alfred at Oldham in May 1940.

alfred francis 2

Above: Alfred( (left) with unidentified serviceman on guard duty possibly at Cardington. Undated.

alfred francis 1

Above: Alfred whilst serving at the No1 Balloon Training Unit at Cardington around 1938/39.

Mitchell Francis is searching for information about his grandfather Alfred Francis who served with the RAF from 1936-1945. He has sent in some details and photos (shown above) but is looking for further information and hopefully someone may step forward and be able to help him.

“Hello, I am writing to you in the hopes of gaining some information or at the least be directed to a source of which information can be gained. My grandfather Alfred Francis served in the Royal Air Force from 1936 to 1945 and was at Cardington camp for a time before serving in South East Asia and India from 1942, although Alfred enlisted in 1936 it is very possible Cardington was his home at that time. He also served some time in Manchester in 1940 with Army Cooperation Sqd, and he was 613 Sqd 11 Group after a time. His trade in the R.A.F was Driver and Mechanical Transport, he enlisted 22/11/36 and was demobbed 29/1/46 although on reserve. He was in England until after the Battle of Britain in which his sqd served in India and Burma. His dispersal centre was 102 Cardington.

The portrait photo was taken at Cardington in 1938 or 39, the back reads R.A.F Cardington Bedford No1 Balloon Training Unit and that he was stationed there when war was declared in 1939. The side on portrait was taken in Oldham on the 27th May 1940. The photo of my grandfather (left) and an unnamed member on guard my dad and I believe to be the front of Cardington HQ.”

Thanks to Mitchell for sending in this information and photo – fingers crossed someone may be able to help him. – Jane. Sept 2020.

Sidney Howard Withey 1938.

6. S Withey service book
H Flight Withey 1938

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