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Times Remembered 1
Times Remembered 2
RAF Hednesford. No 11 School of Recruit Training.
Website for RAF National Servicemen and Regulars.
This website was created by Carl Taylor who did so on behalf of Pat Honey (ex regular) and it followed conversations with John Kent, Bill Johnson and Ted Caton (ex RAF ERK'S) who along with Pat, as young men had completed their **Squarebashing** at the Royal air Force, No: 11 School of Recruit Training, RAF Hednesford on Cannock Chase in Staffordshire.
This website is only concerned with personnel who went through the **squarebashing** experience in the period 1950 to 1956 and has been set up as a forum for these EX-ERKS to reminisce and to provide, the opportunity to possibly make contact with past comrades.
An on site re union was organised by John Kent and myself on 10th July 2003, with the help of Staffordshire County Council Countryside Services, The Officer Commanding and Staff from RAF Stafford and the Officers and Cadets of Rugeley ATC and input from the NS(RAF)Association.
Some 60 photographs can be seen of this event in the Gallery.
We are indebted to Mr C J Whitehouse, the co-author and Publisher of a booklet entitled
**Kitbag Hill**, The story of RAF Hednesford
for permission to re produce a potted history of the camp and his "account of times remembered by a National serviceman.
For anyone seeking historical or any other information about the camp regarding the period from 1938 to 1950 and thence from 1956 onwards, they should acquire a copy of the book **KITBAG HILL** (ISBN 0 9512903 0 4 on which Copyright still exists) from: Marquis Drive Visitor Centre. Brindley Heath Road. Hednesford. Staffordshire. WS12 4PW. Tel: 01543 878690 enclosing £6 to cover cost and Postage etc.
How the website came about:
How all this came about by Pat Honey. ex 4109595. Hut 112, 4Flt, A Sqd, 1 Wing. Sep 8th to Nov 4th 1952, (photo Gallery Recruits 1952 - 008).
In August 2002 I trawled the web and visited Bill Johnsons personal **National Service** website and entered my details in his guest book and from that original contact, I received an E Mail, on the 8th October, from John Kent (photo 006) who was in the same intake at Cardington and in the same hut with me at Hednesford and on the Flt photograph taken at that time (photo 001) we are standing next to each other - middle row, 1st and 2nd from left - and then we found out we only lived 4 miles apart at present - so we met up again on Oct 28th 2002, a gap of 50 years - a small world indeed.
It showed me the potential of such a website and with encouragement from Bill and others I undertook the task, which I hope will ensure that others will be as fortunate as I in contacting past fellow conscripts ?
With my interest re awakened and now retired and living in North Staffordshire, out of curiosity I went back to Cannock Chase on Aug 11th 2002 and after having made contact with Malcolm Hulme (Staffordshire County Council Chief Countryside Ranger - South) who is responsible for the site of the old camp, I went walkabout - and the words written by Mr C J Whitehouse in Kitbag Hill summarize exactly my feelings that day:
**Anyone who has wandered through an abandoned Military camp soon feels what has gone from it. the semblance of life breathed into the steel, wood, concrete and tarmac, came with those whose fate it was to serve there and who, in leaving, took something with them which tempered their future life to a greater or lesser degree. Strangely some essence of their fleeting stay always lingers, to give pause to the quiet walker.**
How true that is, I did a circular walk and the nostalgic memories came flooding back, as a 17 year old Regular recruit, the arrival at Rugeley station, the cobbled yard, and the trip into the unknown in 3 ton lorries, no chance to relax, the shouted orders, the lining up, the first night thrown into an alien strange world, the making of new friends and for 8 weeks, a life of constant alert activity, trying to keep out of trouble, to avoid jankers !
My memory has not failed me and the following pieces in particular have stayed with me::
The **breaking step** when we were marched down into and up out of **Goon valley** the few minutes of relaxed walking and a chance to fleetingly look around at the surroundings.
Being a regular in my Flt I was often chosen to guard rifles when grounded on the parade ground at NAAFI breaks, which meant I went after the others and did not have to fight through the queues.
Padding the right shoulder with dusters before using the 303 rifles on the range, what a kick !
Being a tall beanpole, I was then and always later through my RAF career, selected as a **marker** on parades.
Egg and chips at the NAAFI and when we felt brave enough to sneak past the guardhouse, the odd trip to the mobile civilian canteens which parked outside the gate every evening and served delicious coffee, which we quickly took back to the billet.
So many bad things, like terrifying inspections, gas indoctrination, inoculations, VD films etc, being noisily verbally humbled on parade with "You there - WAKE UP - you are not carrying a bloody drain pipe"!
The longing for normality, my hut was on the eastern end of the camp and I could hear the trains and see the steam from the engines on the Hednesford - Rugely line. So close but so far !
With regard to any social life, those of us who had earned a 48 hr pass on our 6th weekend, but due to distance or other reasons could not make use of it, we were taken to a dance at Trentham Gardens on the Saturday night, the situation was almost surreal for Erks who had been so brutally deprived of "normal life" and if my memory serves me right, knowing we had a Church parade on the Sunday we all behaved ourselves!
All such memories inevitably get pushed to the back of ones mind with time, but the level of fitness achieved, the swelling of the chest and the sense of pride on the day of our passing out parade, are memories one never forgets.
As much as our DIs and PTIs were denigrated at the time by most ERKS, we, mostly now, grudgingly admit to owing them a debt of gratitude for turning us gangly youths into men who felt they could - and as many found out when posted to our then Colonial outposts they had to - take on the world.
I went on to complete 12 years, firstly with
300 Signals Unit 2TAF (Germany) at RAF Oldenburg
as a Plotter, then re-mustered to become a Plant Operator and spent 8 years with
5001, and 5003 Squadrons at RAF Church Lawford / RAF Wellesbourne Mountford bases and detachments at RAF Halton, RAF Bassingbourne RAF Gaydon in the UK and at RAF Nicosia, Cyprus
but in 1961 re-mustered again, this time into the
RAF Postal Service, serving at 16MU Stafford, relief duties at RAF Ouston,and with USAF at Fylingdales and finally i/c RAF Air Ministry Unit Post Office at RAF Kenley until discharge in 1964.
If you go to THEN and NOW in the Gallery, my camera records some of the Hednesford campsite as it is now, all that remains are the roads and paths, as per the map, the landscape is much altered over the last 46 years, many of the hut lines have been planted with belts of trees and the area to the south of the parade ground and beyond which was occupied by the Technical huts and hangers 9/10/11 were raised in elevation by graded piling of pit spoil and then grassed over and planted but where practicable I have matched some of the 1952 photos with today's scene.
If anyone visits the campsite, spend some time in the Cannock Chase visitor centre and Caf� where a small display can be seen and also a guest book for ex RAF ERKS can be browsed and added to.
You can now collect a Trail leaflet, which takes you for a guided walk around the old camp and this has been set up by co operation between Gerry Cleary, Dave Bland (2 ex DIs) myself and the on site Staffordshire Ranger Team.
As well as the new 11 Ton Commemoration Stone at the old entrance, installed April 2005 - the Rangers have also put up photographic displays at certain points on the walk.
Crown Copyright is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office".
Web site licence ref: DG 05/01/04/05/07 (MOD WSL 055).
: This material may be accessed and downloaded on to electronic, magnetic, optical or similar storage media, provided that such activities are for private research, study or in house use only.
: This material must not be copied, distributed, published or sold without permission of the Controller of HMSO.
With regard to the photographs shown, all have been donated for use on the site, they are not in any sequential order - they are in the order "as they came to me" - and numbered as such - and any additions donated will also be added in the same way, when indexed they are then re allocated to a folder by year to simplify access.
Basic information is on the photographs but a fuller index will be held by the website coordinators of any other information to hand or names of people on them.
I am always in search of any more visual information the actual site photographs, within the camp - where they were taken - for instance.
Due to implications concerning the Freedom of Information Act no names will be put to faces on this website unless I have the written permission of the people concerned to do so.
Many photographs have been reduced in PIXEL size to save space, on your computer you can open them out again to get more clarity if desired.
If you wish to donate photographs for inclusion on the site -especially those that depict a part of the camp - then please contact me with as much information about the photograph as you can remember: email@example.com
For any enquiry about any photograph please give the INDEX No: on the photograph. Thank you for visiting the site.
Commemorative Stone for RAF Hednesford.
This story starts with Pat Honey and John Kent being re united in 2003 - 50 years after being flung together, for 8 weeks as young recruits, in Hut 112, 4 Flt, A Sqd, 1 Wing at RAF Hednesford on September 3rd 1952 passing out on Novemeber 5th.
Following our re union - and finding that we both lived within easy reach of the old camp site - out of curiosity we went back to Cannock Chase - firstly we found the new Visitor Centre and the small display concerning the ex RAF Camp (and other military history concerning the Chase) and then went for a nostalgic walk around.
It made such an impression on us both that we jointly felt that as it was such an inspirational day for us, we should endeavour to get other ex RAF recruits to also make the journey back to the site - and also a journey back in time to the unforgettable period in our lives spent at Recruit Training !
To this end I, being a retired Countryside Ranger, made contact with the Ranger Service of Staffordshire County Council (now custodians of the site) and especially with Malcolm Hulme (Senior Ranger South) who with his Staff turned out to be most helpful then and later.
He loaned us a wad of photographs left with him by visitors over the years and these turned out to be invaluable as a lot of them referred to a Cpl Blank - enquiries were made and we traced Dave Blank and found he also lived near us and as a Drill Instructor was keen to help us with future plans we had talked about.
The photographs also were the nucleus of the web site that I (Pat Honey) created about the Camp - www.rafhednesford.org and am still adding to.
All this interest shown spurred John, Dave and I on to organise a re union day at the site on July 10th 2003. This was done with the support of Staffordshire County Council Countryside Department, The Officer Commanding and Staff of RAF Stafford, the Officers and Cadets of Rugeley ATC and the National Service (RAF) Association..
John and I concerned ourselves with the organising and planning of the day and Dave with the help of Bill Buchannan (another ex DI) looked after the Parade aspect of the re union.
In spite of the short notice and also the fact that we started with nothing other than an idea, the day dawned sunny and warm (knowing Cannock Chase weather - it could have been so different !) and the event turned out to be a huge success with demands from all present that it should be done again while we were still able to travel and enjoy such an experience. Photographs of the event can be seen in the Gallery.
John and I concluded that, as the area is now in the custodianship of Staffordshire County Council and is designated and used as a public recreation area - apart from the small display in the Visitor Centre, there is nothing permanent to indicate that the site was an RAF Camp from 1939 to 1956 and in particular from 1950 to 1956 that it played a significant role in the processing of 81,000 recruits as part of the RAF National Service program of the time.
An approach was made by John and I to Peter Morris the Head of Staffordshire Countryside Services and after hearing us, he enthusiastically supported the idea of some permanent marker being placed on the site and through his endeavours and with the backing of English heritage, in January 26th 2004 a large stone was found in another of his Country Parks at Newcastle under Lyme and then on May 28th 2004 this was transported to the entrance of the old Camp on the Chase.
The original intention was to place the stone and a seat on the old roundabout outside the gates but it was found that as power lines now run directly over that roundabout, no crane can work within 20 ft of them so it was decided to site the stone just inside the entrance to the camp in front of the site of the old Station HQ.
When this had been positioned a black marble granite plaque was made and inscribed and then set in to the **mother stone** (This **mother stone** weighs 11 tons and photographs of its movement to the site and positioning etc can be seen in the "Gallery" of this website ).
It was always our intention to have a formal commemoration ceremony of the **Stone** and to invite representatives of Staffordshire County Council, Civic Dignitaries from other locally associated Councils etc, the nearest RAF and Local ATC Unit and to trace as many of the organisations associated with the history of RAF Hednesford etc as we could and of course any ex RAF Personnel who had served at the Camp.
This Commemoration Day took place on Sunday April 24th 2005 and the Stone was unveiled by Group Captain Fletcher from RAF Cosford in the presence of representatives of Staffordshire County Council, Rugeley DC and also most of the South Staffordshire Parish Councils.
Over 100 ex Hednesford Veterans paraded under the command of ex DI Neil Trotter.