Monday, 8 June 2009

New Camp: RAF Bruggen, Dutch/German Borders

It was with mixed feelings that I said cheerio to all my friends and colleagues at RAF Hospital Wegberg, although the leaving party was thoroughly enjoyable. Quite a few drinks but not enough to make me incapable before I hit my "pit" that last night at Wegberg.

RAF Bruggen was totally different from Wegberg but pleasant enough. We had a large theatre/cinema which was handy and a darn good NAAFI too. I found my quarters comfortable enough, though not quite up to the ones I'd just left; still, I was not going to complain on that score.

The office I occupied was excellent and I had it to myself. The job was varied but still included quite a lot of typing tasks, including cutting stencils giving various orders and instructions. Dealing with travel warrants for the multitude of airmen/women was another part of my duties. All-in-all it was purely clerical/admin stuff which came quite easily to me.

The best part of this job was when my boss, Wing Commander North... (a Battle of Britain pilot a few years earlier) popped his head into my little den saying "Fancy a flip Harfleet!?" followed by, "Well, grab a 'chute then ... c'mon, quickly now." I would scamper after him and clambered into this little two-seater trainer aircraft and off we'd zoom into the skies over Germany.

He was a brilliant pilot and he seemed to enjoy having a passenger present as he swooped and twisted, climbed and dived, rolled and banked for at least half an hour, often longer.

These "flips" were something he loved for keeping his skill as a pilot up to scratch, but more importantly perhaps was the need to keep logging his "flying hours". He used to get flying pay in addition to his standard pay; don't know how much it was worth to him but I thought how wonderful it was to get extra pay for doing something you love to do! A lovely chap, now probably flying around heaven as a guardian angel. One of "the few", justly honoured by Winston Churchill during WW2.

The Commanding Officer of Bruggen was another ex-fighter pilot, now a Group Captain. He was a really good C.O., much like and highly respected by all on the camp. He had this great love of music and one week we discovered that he had invited the mayor of a town called Echt, in Holland, to give us a concert in the camp theatre. The town band duly obliged and it was a delightful evening's entertainment.

We then learned that our station band was to return the compliment by travelling across the border into Holland and play in the town square. Bruggen's RAF Band was pipes and drums! Our C.O. was a huge fan of bagpipes! Apparently, the day prior to the Echt parade, one of bagpipes had developed a fault. The C.O. simply ordered one of our jet fighters to fly to Glasgow and pick up a new set of bagpipes! To Glasgow and back to Bruggen in a matter of a few hours. Hate to think of the cost of the flight; probably logged it as training.

Everybody I spoke to thought it was going to be a great Sunday, which is when we were all invited to spend the day in Echt ... each airman attending would receive the freedom of the town.

Continued later...

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