We left Fred last time in Blackpool doing his basic training with Sergeant Parry. All of the RAF’s young volunteers were billeted in boarding houses which, in peacetime, would have accommodated holiday makers. Here are Fred and his friends:
And here is the section with Fred in it. It always reminds me of the RAF version of “Where’s Wally?”:
The boarding house landladies in Blackpool were paid for every recruit they took, but a substantial minority saw this as a fine opportunity to profiteer, accepting money for meals that were never to materialise in the quantities that the payments might have implied. Instead, these unscrupulous women either ate the food themselves, or, more frequently, sold it to their neighbours, who were themselves short of food because of rationing.
In the boarding house where Fred was billeted, thanks to their particular greedy grasping landlady, the individual portions served, were, at best, markedly small. One day, after Physical Training on the beach, Fred and his friend Jacques, came back early from their exercise.
Jacques was Fred’s best pal at this time. He was the son of a Yorkshire farmer, with the physical build, and indeed the appetite for food, to match his origins. Here is the group as a whole in a formal class photograph:
And here are Fred and Jacques as a close-up :
If you remember, Fred and Jacques had come back early from their Physical Training on the beach. Fred went straight upstairs to wash and make sure he was properly dressed for the meal. Jacques, however, went immediately into the dining room where he found a whole ham, meant for twelve hungry young recruits, waiting in the centre of the table. Jacques, clearly accustomed to Yorkshire farmer sized servings, immediately presumed that the meat was for him and without further ado, he ate the lot.
The reaction of his colleagues when they eventually arrived from their afternoon’s exertions, has not been recorded for posterity, but at best, they were not very impressed.
One of the other men in Fred’s boarding house had a knowledge both of chemistry and of the behaviour of dogs. One fine, sunny day he went down to the local chemist’s shop, and bought a very large quantity of aniseed concentrate which he then proceeded to dilute:
He took this magic potion and laid scent trails through the streets of Blackpool, all of which led back to the boarding house. He then continued the trails inside the building, entering through both the front and the back doors, leading up the stairs to the different floors, then onto the landings, into the bedrooms and into the bathrooms. In short, his aniseed trails reached every single square inch of the property. Aniseed is desperately attractive to dogs. Once they get the scent…
…off they go, like addicts to their next fix:
They just cannot resist that aniseedy smell:
The result was one glorious afternoon of revenge, as every dog in Blackpool, driven crazy by the overpowering and intoxicating scent of aniseed, arrived at the house and ran berserk, up and down the stairs, careering backwards and forwards along the landings, chasing in and out of the rooms, widdling, piddling and scent marking up every wall and in every recess and corner as they went.
Never make an enemy of the RAF.
17 responses to “Fred joins the RAF (4)”
Two good stories for the price of one!
I wonder if I smell of aniseed? Dogs are always pestering me!
Perhaps you have had contact with a dog or some other animal that they can scent, or perhaps they can smell traces of food. I suppose with a nose millions of times more sensitive than ours, the dog’s world is a very different one.
They just smell my fear!
REPLY: I can’t believe that a man who has walked the back streets of so many European cities could ever experience fear. My daughter’s friend bought a retired cocker spaniel drug detector dog from the local police a few years ago, and his view of the world was very different from the usual one. “Ayup, Missus! Why’s your dog standing there barking at me??”
I doubt if anyone took on Jacques. Great dog revenge
You may well be right, there, Derrick. He certainly was a big lad. My Dad was about 5 feet 8 inches, so looking at the picture he must be 6 feet 3 or 4 inches tall, far too tall for aircrew. And happily, he seems to have survived the conflict.
I was 6′ 3″ but not built like that 🙂
Very amusing stories! Jacques was a big bloke, wasn’t he? Not a man one would argue with. Good job he was on our side.
Thank you, Chris! RH Jacques was surely too big to get into most of the aircraft used by the RAF in WW2. I can just picture him dragging Lancasters out of the hangar without help from anybody else. And hopefully, he went back to the farm and the hay bales in 1945!
You certainly have a sense of humor today, John! Yet still I learned something. I never knew about aniseed and dogs, maybe because I’m not very fond of licorice.
It is a rather strange substance with a fairly unique taste. I found out the other day that it is actually from a plant because the shop owner was giving away dried liquorice to favoured customers. My bit is rather woody, almost as if it came off a tree, and it doesn’t taste of anything at all. The next stage is to try it as incense but to do that I need to wait for my wife to go out for an afternoon.
That’s brilliant! I must remember that one for the next time I’m annoyed with the neighbours!
It really is a wonderful revenge. It’s on the grand scale, messy and horrible, yet nobody actually gets hurt. And what happens is perfect for a seaside landlady, who cannot afford her establishment to smell of urine. I think that any group of RAF recruits must always contain somebody who has a speciality, some area of knowledge that will prove useful in times of need!
And I think she totally deserved it! These guys were due their meals as was everybody else, and for her to short change them, was only asking for retribution!
What would be the correct ratio of anise seed concentrate to water? One never knows when one might need the formula.
I’m sorry to say I don’t know. Personally I would experiment by visiting either a dog walking area or the local dog show day after day with a different mixture until I hit upon the right one. One thing I do know is that I managed to keep pesky dogs and cats off the drive and garden by liberal use of vinegar. That is certainly not on their list of finest smells!
Profiteering occurs wherever there is disaster or need. Here the drought has seen many farmers in deep trouble due to drought and some farmers selling poor quality hay for rather large prices.
Don’t forget, though, that the boarding house owner already had her own rations, which would have been just the same as those of the people she was selling to. And even more important, a lot of these young lads risked their lives fighting for her and 50% of them would die. Arguably, WW2 brought out a lot of bad things in the character of the British civilian, from black marketeering to the workers who went on strike. These included miners, dock workers and ship builders if my memory serves me correctly. I know that the American forces were absolutely amazed that this could occur in wartime.