was brought home to me that 'Tactical' also meant 'Mobile', in as far as having to
move from base to temporary base in a short time according to the demands of a
changing war situation. At Jever there was no control tower; all Air Traffic Control
functions were carried out from caravans in a yard at the rear of Flying Wing HQ.
The controllers operated 'blind' and could work from any concealed position
adjacent to an airstrip. The only person at Jever in visual contact with aircraft
movements was a Senior NCO
in the black and white chequered caravan to one side
of the runway threshold. Among the caravans at the back of FWHQ was one for the
Duty Pilot. It was his task to maintain contact with Group regarding the scrambling
of Battle Flight
and other matters relating to tactical (as opposed to training) aircraft
movements. When it was my turn for such duty there was no briefing as to what
was expected of me. On the telephone line to Group was a person of, to me,
unknown rank or status who was called the 'Ops B'. He was the person who gave
orders to Jever. There was an almost indecipherable instruction manual for the Duty
Pilot to read, and to sign as having read and understood, when coming on duty.
Everyone I spoke to, without exception, said they didn't understand it either but
signed it regardless, it was so appallingly written. Nobody could tell me who 'Ops B'
was, and all I asked were in awe of his voice when the phone rang. All chosen for
this solitary duty in this cheerless caravan were, like me, in a mixed state of near
panic and boredom, entirely through lack of proper briefing or training. As with the
absence of any instruction about radar, this was a serious gap in our training which
so easily could have been corrected.
Also on the 4th, the same day that I had been on my first Battle Flight
duty, the Squadron
celebrated its second birthday in the evening and held an all ranks party in the loft over the 93 Squadron
Airmens barrack block. Ex-Luftwaffe barrack blocks
such as this were substantial structures with reinforced concrete floors at all levels.
The loft floor was no different, and the loft spacious and high enough to
accommodate everyone. Access was via a built-in let-down ladder.
Following my Battle Flight
stint in the morning I, and some other pilots and Airmen were detailed off to go and set things up. 'Tables fold flat' were found and
taken up, sheets were laid as tablecloths, and some greenery and Christmas-style
decorations were hung to take some of the bareness off the roof space. The cases of
beer and other drink were fetched from the NAAFI
. Glasses were borrowed from I
know not where, and just before teatime some substantial sandwiches, ham rolls,
and the like (to serve as blotting paper and soak up the drink) were fetched from the
Malcolm Club. With everything ready, all ranks were placed on their honour not to
enter the loft until party time. Nobody did.
It goes without saying that the party was a success, so successful that I can remember little of it except having to leave early. The Erks had their own band, a
precursor of the soon to be popular skiffle groups. I dimly recollect the Boss
appropriate words and 'Al' Paterson
telling some tale or other before the party
descended into a dirty song session at about the time I made my way, super
carefully, down the ladder and back to my room. No work was done after all, or
nearly all of us, were on Station Commander's
Parade the next morning.
Such parades were held at intervals from almost weekly to no less frequently than once a month. They were generally loathed by most participants but, on the
other hand, recognised as good for discipline and personal pride. One of the larger
hard-standings was used as the parade ground, and with two Flying Squadrons
comprising the Flying Wing, two Regiment Squadrons comprising the Regiment
Wing, the Admin Wing and Tech Wing, they were massive affairs with several
hundred men for the Parade Adjutant to shout at. I paraded as a Supernumerary
Officer with the Squadron
. As such, I had no orders to give. I just had to obey them!