Mr Ernie Culley has very kindly written some memoirs of his time with 242 and also a certain D Bader.He has given me permission to post this on here.
Below is the e mail i recieved.
I have just been looking at the Coltishall [Fighter station book]. My father who is 90 now and was at this station in 242 Squadron is in the group photograph. He still has the original. Is there any member of this squadron out their who knew my dad and would like to contact him. He was instrument man on the hurricanes.
Early in June 1940 I was posted to 242 Squadron at Biggin Hill. As most of the planes were in France, my first job was to guard the WAAF Quarters. I was given a Lee Enfield Rifle (which I had never fired) and told to repel any trespassers on the WAAF Site. Another job I had during that period was to sit on the main runway with a Veray Pistol ready to fire warning of hostile aircraft. After a couple of weeks the Squadron personnel were assembled on the airfield and loaded into Bombay Troop Carriers. We took off and all thought we were going to land in France and when we touched down we thought we had; some of us were pleased and some disappointed to learn that we were at Manston in Kent.
We were not there very long and a special train was loaded up with all our equipment and personnel and we were on our way to Coltishall.
Most of the airmen had never heard of it but to me it was amazing. I was born there in May1918 and most of my relations still lived there, one of the NAAFI girls was a cousin of mine.
There were two flights A and B. I went to B flight and we were soon busy servicing the Hurricanes. The pilots started to arrive, all casually dressed. They were very noisy and generally unhappy, because they had been badly let down in France. Their CO had left the Squadron leaderless. When they were told a new CO was on his way, very few seemed interested - they were apathetic.
The jeep arrived bringing Squadron leader Bader. He went into the aircrew hut; the pilots continued to lounge about. No one called to pilots “attention”. Bader took one look at the air crew, he stomped out of the hut to the nearest plane, asked the Rigger if it was serviceable. When told “yes sir” he clambered into the cockpit, started the engine and took off. By now the pilots (mostly Canadians) watched. He did a few minor aerobatics, flipped the plane upside down and came roaring back over the field. He came back the normal way up and landed. I was not in the air crew hut when he went back in but I was told he had a more respectful reception.
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Douglas Bader was a great motivator and air and ground crew were 100% behind him. When WO West told him of difficulties with spares, he went to the top to get them for his aircraft and they soon came.
When the Camp Commandant ordered the ground crew to vacate the Barrack block they slept in because it was not spick and span we all had to move into A hanger. When Bader came and saw us all sleeping on the floor he was indignant. I don’t know how he did it but next day we were back in our billet with a bed each.
Further proof of his concern for the well being of his men occurred at Duxford. We went for our tea and it was two sardines, jam and bread and spread. We decided to take our tea back to our flight. Two men went to the CO’s office asking to see SL Bader. When he saw the ration he was furious, ordered us all to get back in the flight truck and back to the cookhouse. He went to the serving hatch, banged his stick on the counter and asked the chief cook what he was doing serving such a meagre tea. He went in to the store cupboard, pointing to all the assembled goods, saying ‘give them that and that’. It was the best tea we ever had at Duxford but only once. It soon went back to normal. The cook staff were mostly Polish, as 303 Squadron was stationed there.
After returning to Coltishall I was sent to Matlaske, a satellite strip in case the main field was bombed. The Squadron then moved to North Weald and I was then sent to their satellite called Stapleford Tawney.
242 Squadron was a happy Squadron, except when pilots were lost and, as the war went on, reports of the successes of the combats were reported in the papers. When these accounts were published in Canada, the Canadians donated a sum of money to the welfare of the Squadron.
We were at Martlesham Heath when the money got through to our Welfare Officer. It was decided to organise a big night out for all the Squadron. On the big night, the troops were taken to Ipswich in
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Crossley wagons and, on arrival, all drivers took out the rotor arms of their vehicles. Unfortunately, one driver lost his so one truck load of airmen had to walk back to camp (5 miles). He was very popular after that!
When the Squadron went to Coltishall for its third visit, I was posted to Melksham in Somerset for a Group 1 instrument maker course. On completion of that course I learnt that 242 Squadron were posted overseas and I was posted to 278 Air Sea Rescue Squadron, near Grimsby with Defiants, Lysanders and Walruses.
925426 E.A. Culley Cpl.
3rd October, 2008
I hope this is of interest to people on here and if anyone does have any contacts of personnel who may have served with Mr Culley if they could let me know.
Once again Mr Culley i would like to thank you and your colleagues for the work they did and the sacrifices they made