A CHRONICLE OF FRUSTRATIONS
Douglas Holloway - Observer
36 Squadron BCAC, 267 Squadron
Doug died in 1998, when President of the Branch
This Personal Service History is not a tale of deeds of daring-do but a chronicle of frustrations and cock-ups.
My first encounter with Air Force matters, in 1937, was with the Air Defence of Great Britain, the pre-war forerunner of the ATC. However, nothing came of this and my education progressed until 1939 when I deferred my studies at Birmingham University until after the War on the grounds that it would be closed for the duration, as it was in 1914. A job was needed and, as I was studying engineering, a technical one so I found myself at a research laboratory carrying out work for the Air Inspection Directorate.
Come 1940 and I got the urge to become involved, taking the Kings shilling at the local YMCA: at the subsequent aircrew selection board I caused a minor sensation by declaring that I did NOT want to be a pilot but an Observer so I was styled U/T Radio Observer. (Radar was just coming on the scene.)
To my consternation, despite the dispensation for aircrew, I heard absolutely nothing I was reserved! And in a super category at that. After all I was working on engines such as Merlin, Vulture, Dagger, Sabre, Centaurus, etc. Despite this how can a callow youth of 19 be vital to the war effort? eventually a girl coped quite well!
My Father who had contacts advised me to go to the top; this resulted in my letter to the Secretary of State, Sir Archibald Sinclair; this in turn must have lit the blue touch paper for within three weeks I was reporting to St John's Wood. Needless to say my employer was not impressed and I was informed that as I had ignored the reserved status, I forfeited my right to employment after the war.
After initial training and Air Navigation School we were told that there was no further demand for Radio Observers and those who were suitably qualified were given the opportunity to join the PNB [Pilot/Navigator/Bomb Aimer] scheme which I did. Then followed Grading School in the UK and, after much hanging about in holding units, a troopship to South Africa. Elementary flying training was at Kroonstadt, a God-forsaken dorp in the Orange Free State.
At my interview with the Chief Flying Instructor he told me that I was somewhat marginal and with my history my best bet was navigation!
Of course this meant repeating EANS [Elementary Air Navigation School] (easy!) and then the final course resulting in my Brevet. However, as my navigation marks were good I was earmarked for Coastal Command; this entailed yet another course before I joined a crew in Egypt and Operational Training in Palestine.
By now it was 1944 and I was getting anxious lest we missed the activity we could see coming. The RAF never misses an opportunity to muck you about and when we arrived back in the UK, again after hanging about, it was to be sent to a Coastal OTU, to be brought up to date with the latest navigation equipment. As a result we did not reach our squadron until 1945.
The squadron was disbanded at the earliest possible moment, that is, 1st June 1945 and some crews were sent on a conversion course to Dakotas for trooping duties in the Far East. In due course it was our turn to be posted to Japan as part of the occupation force. With my usual good fortune I was told I was not going: believe it or not I was too old at 23 my release number was imminent!
So I became a spare body on the local station carrying out odd duties. After being Orderly Officer for several days continuously I rebelled and found my way to the HQ in Rangoon where I asked, quite politely, for a job until my boat came in. The Group Captain after some thought asked do you know much about medicine? no sir Well there is a Squadron Leader doctor going home on demob and the job needs to be filled; it is not very demanding there is no stethoscope involved and Im sure you could do it.
As a result I became for a short time the Officer Commanding No. 3 Hygiene and Malaria Control Unit, based just outside Rangoon, and with responsibility for the chain of RAF bases throughout South East Asia Karachi to Hong Kong.
So, after five years of procrastination and delay I at last had a worthwhile job which I enjoyed so much that I received several rockets for missing that boat home.
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page last updated 20 Nov 2011: © ACA Surrey Branch 2010