Aireborough Historical Society

A Teenager in Wartime Yeadon Part 3



Title A Teenager in Wartime Yeadon
Name John Denison
Gender Male
Date of Birth 1926
Currently Residing Salisbury
Subject
In August of 1942 I set off on my bike and instead of being able to enter by the main gate found the road cordoned off and I was diverted... through a different entrance.
I was astonished to find that a stick of bombs had been dropped by a lone raider.
A Part of my job was to deliver mail etc throughout the various departments/workshops so that I was able to go and see the damage which had been caused mainly to the Drawing Shop where I saw a massive machine upended like an inverted V, steel bars were scattered everywhere.
I was not permitted to enter the area of the Works Canteen, apparently due to the presence there of an unexploded bomb.
Unfortunately five people were killed and many others injured.

It was about this time that I had a fall-out with my father.
In those days children and young teenager were 'kept in their place' and, in my opinion did not exercise their wills in the way which is now common.
At about the age of five I began to be taught to play the piano to follow in the footsteps of my Dad and Grandmother, a teacher of music.
Somehow my parents managed to 'foil' the 2s6p for me to attend The Grove School of Music where Madam Luty taught the piano.
By the time I was 15 I was pretty accomplished.
Earlier I had listened to modern music from Radio Luxembourg but only when my Dad was not present as he strongly objected to this 'rubbish'
The crunch came when I got hold of a piece of sheet music called 'Cow, Cow Boogie' and commenced playing same.
Dad descended and I was told not to play this stuff to which I retaliated by saying if that was the case I would not play anymore and actually never did.
If there is anything in my life I have regretted it was this since by the time I reached my twenties I had completely forgotten how to play and couldn't even read music.

I Joined the Air Training Corps and was classified as a trainee PNB (Pilot, Navigator, Bomb Aimer).
We did quite a bit of foot dr...ill and arms drill with wooden rifles which stood me in good stead later on.
Our instructor was Sgt Goodwin who was an understudy to Fl/Sgt Peter Wallis, later a well known entertainer, particularly at the Peacock Inn.
We also learnt Morse which, to divert from my theme, came in useful when later, in Freetown, Sierra Leone I would "talk" by lamp with ships in the estuary.
Aircraft recognition was my thing and with another lad name of Rowbottom were the experts being chosen as representatives in a competition at Leeds University which at least proved we were not 'the best'.
My friend Frank Wood, became a corporal and in due course volunteered for the RAF and became a pilot trainee.
As for me, with my lack of height and weight, I could not see myself in a similar role being more suitable as a rear-gunner which I did not fancy at all due to flying experience.

We went for a couple of camps with the ATC.
The first was just a weekend at Topcliffe when I got a flight in an Airspeed Oxford.
Next, at Dishforth, we stayed for three weeks and I flew in a Halifax, it was here I saw the cramped conditions of a rear-gunner and his remoteness from the rest of the crew.
It was here that I also fired a Browning automatic rifle and found I had an aptitude for this sort of thing.
This camp was mainly Canadian airmen doing their pre-operations training.
The day we left a Halifax crashed at night across the Great North Road and we saw that it was completely burnt out except for the centre section but, amazingly, the whole seven crew escaped.
So, I did not enter the RAF but was snapped up by the Army even though not the best physical specimen.

I had bought a book 'Janes aircraft' which showed 1/72 scale drawings of aircraft and from this my friend Frank and I started making models in a hut at the back of his house.
This was none of the 'Kit' stuff which did not exist at that time but from blocks of wood fashioned by use of a minimum of tools mainly a penknife.
We exhibited our models at a fair where they were auctioned, again for the 'War Effort', they made a good price so we were happy but I would have thought we would have wanted to keep them as so much time had been invested in making them.
I now remember that I also had a return to model making when I built a flying model of a Spitfire from balsa wood which I entered for a competition at Arrow.
I won first prize which was a hand operated bench drill which to this day is in my workshop and is occasionally used.
Making such models was very popular at the time but I must confess that I had a lot of help from our Canadian lodger, Tom Sherry, who later became a Yeadon resident.

Yeadon, at that time, was a pretty dirty looking town since all the stone buildings were black from the smoke belching from the numerous mill chimneys.
It is almost unrecognizable now that so much cleaning has been done.
During the war it was also pretty noisy so that visitors would comment on the constant roar of the Bristol aero-engines which were run 24 hours a day in Carlton.
For us residents it got so that we did not even notice it until our attention was drawn to it.
On top of that was the noise from Avro aircraft being flight tested, particularly the Lancaster's.
We, in South View and Rockville Terrace got the brunt of this being right in the take-off path with the heavy planes passing over at just a few hundred feet.

Early in 1944 I was directed to attend a Medical Board in Bradford as a result of which I was found to be 63" tall weighing in at 94lbs so was medically graded B1.
Surprisingly I was not sent of to a PDC (Physical Development Centre) although this happened to a former school fellow, Derek Roberts.
He would, in later life take over Lucas's grocery store in the High Street.
A week after my 18th birthday I was informed that I must report on 7 Dec to Pinefield Camp, Elgin, for Army Training and so, on a Saturday night my dad saw me off at Leeds City Station.
My joining up date was the 3rd anniversary of the infamous attack by the Japs on Pearl Harbour.
D Day had happened six months earlier so we were quickly informed that we were not there to train for a 'cushy' number in Europe but to go out to take on the Japs.
Not good news considering what was then known about these soldiers.
Written April 2013

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