During wartime the birth of a child was a reason for celebration, just like it is today. Work colleagues of the father (mothers would have been expected to leave their job long before any child was born) would have liked to purchase a gift for the new-born but there were limited items available in the shops. A sensible alternative, and something that was seen as patriotic, was to purchase national Savings Certificates for the child. These helped the war effort in the short term, but could be banked in in peace time for a modest return and offered a nest egg for the child. Obviously these savings did not make an attractive gift, so tonight we are looking at a certificate produced to accompany such a gift, produced by the men and women of No1 Radio School:This certificate was produced in 1945:And is signed by a Group Captain:No 1 Radio School was responsible for training RAF wireless operators and had been founded in 1915 as the School for Wireless Operators. The name ‘No1 Radio School’ was first adopted in 1943 when it was one of fifteen such schools in operation. Oliver Johnson was trained at no1 Radio School and remembers:
At this time the RAF wireless trades were only three in number…the Wireless Operator, the Wireless Mechanic and at the top of the tree, the Wireless Operator Mechanic, us!
It was at Cranwell that the first Radio Location school was founded. This later became known as RADAR, an American synonym for RAdio Direction And Ranging. It was inevitable when the word Wireless became old fashioned, No 1 W.E.S. became No 1 Radio School and the RADAR establishment became No 8 Radio School. As a result of these additions to the electronics trades the number eventually shot up from 3 to 22, which included such dubious occupations as Teleprinter Operator.
There were 75 of us arrived at Cranwell in late September 1942. We were the 45th Entry of Apprentices at Halton, but at Cranwell we were collectively known as 4M9’s. The 4 indicated that 1944 was the year we would complete our training course and the M9 indicated it would be the ninth month of that year when we would do so, that is, September 1944. There were restricted numbers of Apprentices during the war and when we arrived, the Apprentice School was occupied by the 2M9’s, who were about to Pass Out, and the 3M9’s and 4M3’s. The Apprentice Scheme, as I knew it, was discontinued sometime in the 1950’s having run continuously from 1922…
Also on the north ‘drome were the aircraft used for our wireless operator training. On our course it was called simply Air Operating. I did this Wireless Operator flying training course in the summer of 1944. The aircraft used were the De Havilland Dominie (the civilian name was Dragon Rapide) and the Percival Proctor (the civilian name was Mew Gull). The Dominie was a flying classroom, in that it had a couple of sets of radio equipment and could carry half a dozen U/T (Under
Training) operators who time-shared the equipment. The Proctor was a two seater. The wireless operator sat side-by-side with the pilot, but facing the rear.
Our working day at Cranwell was organized into shifts, early and late. Early shift meant getting up, at the latest, 6.30am, in order to wash, shave, dress and get to breakfast before 7am. They shut the dining hall doors promptly and if one was locked out, no food. I see in my diary for 12th September, 1943, I got up at 8am and went to breakfast, it must have been a Sunday. It was fried eggs, a rare treat usually reserved for aircrew going on operations, so I went round twice without getting
caught, very satisfying. After breakfast, except for Sundays, it was back to the billet to make up the bed, as previously described. Then on parade and off to the first lesson. The working day ended at 5pm when on early shift. Late shift ran one hour later, so one did not have to get up until 7.15am, but had to work until 6pm.
The barrack blocks at Cranwell were typical pre-war RAF design, red brick, two-storey H-blocks, with large sash windows. Each dormitory had about 40 occupants. In each dormitory were a couple of wooden tables and wooden forms and forty ironed-framed wire-mesh based beds (with tensioning springs at top and bottom), with the aforementioned metal cupboard mounted above each bed. The floors were covered in brown linoleum of a very sturdy quality. At extremely regular intervals, at least once a day, except Sundays, we had what was called Flight Cleaning. The tables and forms would be scrubbed, the wash basins, mirrors and toilets, polished to a shine. The beds would be moved to the centre, one side at a time, and the floor beneath each row of beds polished, followed by the centre…
The course work at now No 1 Radio School, covered quite a number of subjects. Basic Electricity and Radio Theory, General Studies, Technical Studies, (about the different types of radios used on the ground and in the air), also Mathematics, Workshops, and Communications, which included the practising of Morse Code. In the well-equipped workshops, we made such things as the now old fashioned plug-in coil formers for receivers and transmitters, solid brass Morse keys and so on. We finally constructed a radio receiver making as many of the parts as was possible ourselves. The Communications part of the course dealt with Signals Office procedures and how to document for, and run, a Signals Office. In this part of the course we also spent many hours practising the Morse code. There were several classes, from beginners to experts. Because of my ATC training I started at 12 WPM (Words Per Minute). The top class was at 25 WPM, which I soon reached. The instructors were always changing and if the instructor for a particular class was a disciplinarian, I would pass or fail three consecutive tests, as was necessary, to be put up or sent down to the class of a possibly more lenient instructor. I used to write a lot of my letters in Morse classes, after all I was an expert after a couple of months, never mind two years! We had examinations and tests regularly. We usually did just enough work to pass these at the minimum level. I knew that I could have done better!