I have always had a soft spot for the RAF because Fred was in the RAF and he talked about it a lot.
I have alway been fascinated by aircraft because Fred liked aircraft, ever since one of Sir Alan Cobham’s finest landed in Startin’s Field at the back of his house.
Fred always admired the Spitfire as the aircraft that saved England……
And he always said that the Wellington was “a reliable old crate”……
But he always reserved his most emotional words for the Avro Lancaster. “It would always get you back home, no matter what”, which wasn’t strictly 100% true, but it gave him sufficient faith to get into the aircraft in the first place……
I have always tried to do my duty and to carry out all of my obligations. This is probably connected with Fred’s belief that there were two types of men in the world. One kind was the fighter pilot who was mercurial and brilliant, but occasionally capable of great inconsistency.
In contrast, the bomber pilot was always dependable like some kind of stolid, courageous bus driver, who could always be relied on to deliver the goods, in considerable quantity, to the right place at the right time.
When I was young, I as always very upset when I was told that I was the bomber pilot type. I always felt that Fred was saying that I lacked flair and imagination, that I was boring and that I was incapable of the type of success which is spectacular and excites people. Only in later years did I realise how from Fred’s point of view the bomber pilot was exactly what you needed. As one author has put it, the relationship between the bomber pilot and the wireless operator was that “his fate was my fate”. At least nineteen times, therefore, Fred entrusted his very life to a bomber pilot, and then had this faith rewarded by not becoming one of the 55,573 Bomber Command casualties…..
As a negative, I have always been partial to a drink, because Fred always used to have a drink when he wanted to. With his PTSD, though, he had a much better excuse than me.
Another negative related to this is my own great anxiety in the face of any future event or, especially, a journey to somewhere unfamiliar. Fred had exactly the same problems. In his case, I suspect that he still had that old fear of getting into his bomber and facing the possibility of an imminent and violent death.
I always felt great anxiety about being sacked from my job because Fred always had the exact same fear. That was because he worked for a clay mining company before the war, and they did not hesitate to sack people. “One strike, and you’re out!” as you might say. Here’s Fred at Ensor’s, with the rest of the workforce. It’s around 1937…..
I have very little self-confidence because Fred was always very keen that I should never stand out from the common herd. He therefore prevented me from getting big headed by criticising whatever I did and at best giving it minimal praise. He would say “Never stand out. Never be different” because that was what the upper echelons of the RAF hierarchy wanted to happen. Unfortunately, to succeed, you need to stand out, and you will have to be different to do that.
Fred always used to watch out for me coming home if ever I was late. He would lean over the front gate as if by accident or coincidence. I absolutely hated it, and I could cheerfully have shot him. I hated the idea of being controlled. Now I have my own daughter, and although my methods have always been, I hope, a little bit more subtle, I have always done pretty much the same thing. Still, worrying about your child is better than just not bothering where they get to.
When I was a little boy, Fred took me to a local medieval church where I could see where Robin Hood used to sharpen the tips of his arrows on the stones of the back wall. I now live in Sherwood in Nottingham. Less than half a mile away is an ancient ford over a stream. This site has been seriously suggested in at least one book as the location of Robin Hood’s camp.
The local medieval church was St Michael with St Mary’s in Melbourne, Derbyshire. ……….
Some of the grooves for Robin Hood and his Merry Men’s arrowheads are visible in the bottom right of the picture. The church is Norman as is shown by the shape of the arch and the many concentric rings of decoration around the top of the door……..
The columns are stout and broad, just like Durham Cathedral, and the arches similarly rounded, not pointed. Notice the Australian flag which commemorates the links between Melbourne in England and Melbourne in Australia……
And finslly, as I slowly but surely morph into my own father, I have started telling the same old stories over and over again, just like Fred did.