Royal Air Force days
Created by Peggy 11 years ago
Meeting Jim by Trevor
I first met Jim in Germany about September 1955. We were in the R.A.F. and quickly became good friends. I remember being intrigued by his London accent, he was no doubt baffled by my broad North Derbyshire accent. Probably still is!
Jim has always been the most generous of men, with that in mind it wasn’t too long before I asked a favour of him. Jim had a pale blue knitted sweater which was just right for the cool German autumn.
“Could I borrow your sweater Jim?”
Throughout the years of our friendship I was to hear “Yeah sure” many, many times.
The next favour I asked was, thinking about it now, a bit much. We were all in what was know as 4 M.F.P.S., which stood for 4 Mobile Field Photographic Section. We worked in the basement of a large building, the 2nd Tactical Air Force Headquarters.
There was a rota system for Duty Photographer. This meant that for a month the airman would have a camera, a fairly large, cumbersome wood and bellows job. Jim had already done his stint and as it was a 24 hour a day task he had been called out during one particular night, this was to an accident.
I didn’t know how to work the camera, so when I was told it was my turn, my heart sank. I had passed an ‘exam’ at the ‘school of photography’ in England, but that meant nothing.
What to do! Ask Jim’s help.
Jim was lying on his bed, or pit as they were more widely known.
“I’ve got a big favour to ask.”
“What is it?”
“If I’m called out to use the camera , will you come with me and work the camera for me?”
So much relief, no messing about, this was Jim at his brilliant and most generous best.
In our room there were five beds, nice and cosy like. Nobby Clark, Jim, Bruce Moore, Peter (along with Jim and myself we were to become the 3 musketeers) and then myself. Jim’s bed was next to the window, good thing as it turned out. We had all been out for a drink one night, and on getting back quite late, Jim felt a bit under the weather and had to open the window, leaning out, he was ill.
Two or three months later Jim’s horticultural career was born. Outside the window had grown a magnificent tomato plant, complete with two very ripe tomatoes on the vine. Jim insisted that everyone look out at his wonderful creation.
Needless to say, no one had the nerve to sample them. Shame!
One evening, Jim and myself went out for a drink, as always we had changed in to civvies, after a few drinks, we were making our way back ‘home’, when the conversation went something like this: -
Jim: “Why don’t we go for duty supper?”
Me: “But we’re not on duty.”
Jim: “Let’s try anyway.”
Me: “We’re not in uniform.”
Jim: “Don’t worry about that.”
Duty Corporal: “Have you been on duty?”
Duty Corporal: “Sorry, you have to be in uniform, and
prove that you’ve been on duty.”
Jim: “Yeah alright then.”
Me: “Told you we wouldn’t get any supper.”
Jim: “Let’s go and change in to uniform.”
Changed in to uniform, how daft we must have been, back up to the Duty Corporal.
Duty Corporal: “Have you been on duty?”
Jim and Me: “Yes.”
Duty Corporal: “Go and get your food.”
Food was an awful looking whole fish, bread and a large cup of insipid looking tea. Was it worth it? No!
Before Jim and myself had even sampled any of this ghastly repast, we heard the ominous sound of heavy boots heading our way. Two burly R.A.F. policemen appeared by our table. Oops! We were in trouble.
“We have reason to believe that the food you are consuming has been gained illegally, you are therefore under arrest.”
I look toward Jim, hoping that his London type brain would get us out of this. No such luck. Up to the guardroom. I refused to take my hands out of my pockets, and told the S.P.’s to stop playing, “Bloody tin soldiers.”
Jim was given 4 days ‘jankers’ and I was given 7 days for being ‘bolshie’. Our punishment consisted of dressing in our best uniforms and walking up to the guardhouse at lunchtimes and in the evenings. It wasn’t too bad at all. For 4 days there was Jim to keep me amused, the other 3 days flew by.
By now I wasn’t sure whether Jim was a bad influence on me, or the other way round.
When I first met Jim, his fellow Southerners called him ‘Jack Spot’ after some character of the day. The reason I mention this is to highlight another one of Jim’s nights out. We had all been drinking one evening, again, and on the way back Jim suddenly started running. This was a most unusual pastime for Jim. Even better was the fact that as he ran, he chanted
“Jack Opek! Jack Opek! Jack Opek!”
He was referring to a fine athlete called Zatopek who had won three gold medals at the recent Olympics. As we caught Jim up, gasping for breath, Jim not us. We knew that Jim’s run for gold, was just as important to him, as Zatopek’s were to himself.
Eventually, of course, we all left the R.A.F. I often think that the standard must have risen, after we had all gone, but the laughter and friendships that we enjoyed, and still enjoy, over 50 years later can never be taken away from us.
The winter of 1956 – HMFPS Germany – the “Boys in Blue” first met - Me, Trevor and Jim. Trevor and I doing our 2yr National Service & Jim slightly longer. It wasn’t as Jim Bailey that I knew him, though. For several months he was “Jack Spot” to me. In the Services you got to meet a lot of those odd people from “up north” - Jim being from South London was quite strange to them and the only person they had heard of from the Smoke was the gangland leader Jack Spot – and so the name stuck. Glennyse’s father, in fact, never called him anything other than “Spot”.
Jim (second from left) and Trevor (back right)
Jim (back row left)
Jim stationed in Germany
Jim (back row far right)