Fred’s travels with the RAF

During the war years, Nottingham was a city which welcomed huge numbers of RAF men from all of the many airbases in Lincolnshire. One of the most famous pubs was the Black Boy, designed by Nottingham’s greatest architect, Watson Fothergill. The famous hotel is the very large building in the middle of the buildings on the left :

Alas, this wonderful, wonderful building was demolished to make way for a supermarket and a very ugly supermarket at that. The Black Boy was a hotel which was very convenient for the dashing Brylcreem Boys, who could easily get to Nottingham from their scores of bomber bases across Lincolnshire. Once they were there, they could get up to whatever they wanted and the Black Boy had enough bedrooms to accommodate all of them. I saw a programme recently which said that the rates of venereal disease among RAF aircrew were so high around this time that serious measures had to be taken. It was decided therefore that any man diagnosed with VD would have his mission total taken back to zero. Once you had done 30 missions, you were taken off combat flying, so if you had done a decent number, around 20, for example, this would have been a huge disaster, and a life threatening one at that.

Fred used Nottingham as a place to get a connection for Derby. When he was at Elsham Wolds, I think he must have caught a train at nearby Barnetby and then either got a connection at Lincoln or gone straight through to Nottingham. From there he could easily reach Derby or even Burton-on-Trent.  The orange arrow points at Elsham Wolds and nearby Barnetby:

Fred was no fool and he soon discovered that there was a small railway station, almost in the centre of Nottingham, called, he thought, High Pavement. It was an open station which meant that there were never any inspectors there to check tickets as the passengers alighted from the train.

The smart thing to do therefore, if you were either coming to Nottingham to visit, or were just changing trains at Nottingham, was not to bother with buying a ticket, but just to get off, not at the main station, but at High Pavement. You could then either disappear into the city, or walk the short distance to the main station and then catch the train to Derby or to Burton-on-Trent.

In later life, Fred was to retain little memory of the details of High Pavement station except that there were lots of blue brick walls and you had to go down some steps on your way to the main bit of the station.

I don’t really know where he means, but this remaining railway-type blue brick wall may be something to do with a station in this area:

Fred often had a 24 hour pass, which would run from 00h00 to 23h59. He frequently used to travel, therefore, in the early hours of the night. At that time there were certainly very few welcoming faces on the platforms, except the members of the Salvation Army, who were always on hand to dispense cups of tea or plates of hot food, most welcome out in the damp fogs of autumn, or in the cold icy blasts of winter. In later life, Fred was always to say that the Salvation Army were the only religious organisation to show any practical interest whatsoever in the welfare of the forces. He would always try to give them a donation whenever he saw them, because they had done so much to help soldiers, sailors and airmen when they really needed it in the cold dark days of World War Two.



Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Nottingham, Personal

23 responses to “Fred’s travels with the RAF

  1. Chris Waller

    A fascinating story, and one which reminds us of what we have lost over the ensuing decades, particularly with regard to our railways. I have a feeling that those blue-brick walls may have been part of the old Great Central Railway which would have still been in operation in your dad’s time, though under the LNER banner by the 1940s.

    • I have looked at maps of old Victorian Nottingham without any success. Here are Nottingham’s stations in 1922…..

      Click to access nottsrailways1922.pdf

      and this is a lovely map of Georgian Nottingham……

      If you can find St Mary’s Church, High Pavement runs past it. To the west, going south, is Garner’s Hill which always had lots of blue brick walls knocking about, and my own belief is that there was a long demolished stop somewhere in this area. Garner’s Hill, by the way, goes off towards a lot of streets to the west of Carrington Street which will be demolished to build the main station.

  2. My father was the same with the Salvation Army. He felt they were the only ones who cared during the war, but the Red Cross got all the credit.

  3. Fascinating history of eventful times

    • Thanks a lot Derrick. If Nottingham had a proper decent medieval castle and the Black Boy Hotel for the tourists it attracted, we would make a lot more money from tourism than we do. The DH Lawrence museum in Eastwood has actually been closed down and as far as I am aware, all of the various Robin Hood Centres have gone bankrupt. I can’t understand how the city can have such famous people and not capitalise on it.

  4. I guess that would have been the Great Northern Railway line from Nottingham to Burton. It passed through the village of West Hallam where my family live. The station building is still standing. I moved to West Hallam in 1980 and was always surprised that there was no direct railway line from Nottingham to Derby. The town of Ilkeston, the third largest in the County had no railway station at all after 1964. It was reopened in 2017, three years behind schedule as construction was delayed due to the discovery of Great Crested Newts!

  5. Jan

    There was no station at High Pavement but LNER did have London Road High Level Station on its line into Nottingham Victoria from Grantham.

    • Perhaps my Dad was confusing High Pavement with High Level. I’m sure that he would not have baulked at walking from London Road to the Midland Station, where he could have got a ticket either to Derby or to Burton-on-Trent. Whatever the answer, I’m sure that, if there was a way of avoiding payment, the RAF would have found it.

  6. You need one of those railway books detailing old forgotten lines and stations, here may just be a picture to help you out with some of these old stories. It’s fascinating to retrace old footsteps, especially when they’re a close relations!

    • You are absolutely right. I’ve put some links into the replies above, although I think that “Jan” may have hit the nail on the head with his information about High Pavement and High Level. I think that I’ve hit the nail on the head, too, by pointing out the wily skills of the RAF at avoiding payment. One of my favourites was the one where you have no ticket, but wait for somebody to go to the toilet. Then you knock on the door and say, “Tickets, please. It’s OK, You can put it under the door”. Absolute genius!
      More seriously though, couldn’t those private railway companies have given people in uniform and with leave passes, free passage to their destination?

      • A very good point John, it would have been a fabulous gesture to allow free travel, even if limited in numbers. I must admit that trick is rather good, I might try it myself one day!

  7. Jan

    Barnetby was very well connected for rail travel. Fred would have had no problem getting to Nottingham as the various lines ran through the heart of Lincolnshire’s “bomber country”.

    This map shows his options. It is so detailed it even includes the miniature railway that used to be next door to the High School’s Valley Road playing field.

    • Thanks very much for that. It’s absolutely great! I well remember that railway because we live very close to it. The people running it let my daughter go have a go on it for a while when she was about six or seven.
      It was smashed to bits and presumably sold for scrap by vandals from those council houses in the Tring Vale estate.
      Oh how the police tried to stop them! You’d have thought what the vandals was doing was a cross between being completely legal and an unstoppable event like WW1.

  8. Jan

    If memory serves me correctly the miniature railway’s track was moved to the Ruddington transport museum.

    • Well, that’s really nice to know, It transported lots of little kids in its time and didn’t deserve the fate it had. Even the brick buildings were kicked down until there literally wasn’t a single brick left on top of another.

  9. Jan

    A favourite spot of ILP and DJP They have a memorial bench named for the them – ideal for a smoke!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.