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ORAL HISTORY - 'TAFFY' JENKINS - FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 1997.
Taffy is his nickname. He was born 1921 and 'joined up' in 1939 with the RAF. He was Leading Aircraftsman, No.40 Group, Maintenance Command. He spent 3 years in Nova Scotia from 1941 to 1944 and then in 1944 he flew to Paris. At Le Bourget airport he boarded a RAF Dakota and flew to Croydon. RAF lorries took him from Croydon to Paddington Station where he caught a train to Reading. At Reading a RAF Woodcote lorry was waiting which took him to Goring Heath direct to Site 1, Hut 3. It was midnight. There was no electricity but 2 hurricane lamps. There were 30 lads in this planeload. The Hut was large and empty (150' x 50') with nothing in it - no beds, no mattresses, just one pair of trestle legs and an old door laid on top of them. He immediately bagged it as his bed and placed his great coat on top of it. They were all dog-tired and went to sleep. He was the only one with a bed. The next morning the lorry collected them and took them all to HQ site for breakfast. On the way back they had to collect their own beds and mattresses from Huts 4 and 5. When back at Hut 3 they assembled their beds. When he came to remove his great coat from the trestle table it had to be peeled off. The door had been painted green the night before and was wet that night when he used it as a bed. His coat was now RAF blue on the inside and green on the outside. This was his introduction to Woodcote. He spent only a few weeks at Hut 3 and then the rest of his time at HQ site. In all he spent 2 years there until his demob in 1946 when he left the area.
He recalls the Gas Defence Centre and recognised it from the photographs. The rooms with windows were for the storage and distribution of gas masks which were only available to RAF personnel. Another room was for gas training. The middle section that had doors in and out but no windows was for the practical gas training. 15 to 20 of them were pushed into this room in the dark with gas masks on while little whiffs of gas were let off. He found it all very claustrophobic.
He recalls that Site 3 was for the storage of aircraft equipment and ground equipment destined for operational bases in hot countries like India and Egypt. All the metal parts had to be prepared against corrosion and they used a hot jell to dip these parts into. These aircraft parts went to other Maintenance Units and those for overseas destinations went via Lyneham, Wilts.
Incoming goods came via the railway to Reading, Pangbourne and Goring where their wagons would be shunted onto the sidings for unloading.
Site 2 was clothing, and parts of Site 1, huts 1 to 4 were closed when he was there and their duties shipped to HQ.
A choir was formed by WO Pickering, which he joined and several concerts were given in Woodcote, and in Goring in the Parish Rooms. Pickering also formed the dance orchestra/band. Pickering was the conductor/leader, Taffy played the trumpet, Les Savage, a civilian who did not work at the Camp but lived near Savages Shoe Shop in Goring played the piano. Another RAF man played on the drums, another man the violin, another on Saxophone. They had dances regularly, every so often, but not weekly. They sent out buses to collect the Land Army Girls. Taffy built the stage.
Cinema shows were shown in the Airmens mess. They used to pinch white sheets from the Officers Mess (they did not have white sheets themselves) and hang them up. The shows were free and open to anyone to see. Iris Novell remembered them as well. Taffy remembers the George Formby films and the classic with Richard Todd.
The Fire engine was the usual RAF engine and tender. Charlie Clack was the Fire Chief. Although he was a civilian, he was an Air Ministry RAF Fire Fighter with his own distinctive uniform.
The HQ water tank provided the water for fire fighting and was full of stale water and frog slime. He remembers that one of the crowds in his unit was Bruce Woodcock the heavy weight boxer. When they all came back from off the booze all drunk, they put planks up to the edge of the tank from the ground to form a ramp. Woodcock stripped naked and prepared to ride a bike up the ramp and cross the water. They all bet a shilling each he would not make it. Woodcock pedalled like mad up the ramp and as he reached the water the lads pushed him off and he fell into the tank and came up covered in slime.
Whilst they did not visit the sewage works, when they were coming back late at night sometimes 2am in the morning and wanted to get into the camp without passing the guards, they used to get in through a hole in the fence on the HQ side near the sewage site.
The charging room was for the charging of lorry batteries. The forge was a welding shop and blacksmith. The Bulk oil compound was for engine oil for motor transport. The dope store held the dope for the repair and maintenance of the old early aircraft. They had parts for the plywood and canvas Avro Anson and Handley Page, both early bombers. Iris Novell remembers her dad bringing home some of the silver canvas used to patch the aircraft. Her dad made her kites from it. There were no bombs, arms or munitions ever held at 70MU.
Taffy recalled the Police and their activities already well detailed in other notes. The Police were Air Ministry Police with black uniforms and peaked hats and white shirts. Not unlike the civilian police at the time. They were not armed. There was a lot to pinch. Each of the 38 sheds held something different, but a lot contained items small enough to take. Site 3 had dental equipment, medical stores, scalpels, operating equipment. All had to be dipped for anti corrosion before dispatch. Another had clothing, and RAF belts and RAF knives were worth pinching. One local 'spiv' always seemed to have his lorry loaded with something that he could sell and enough to hawk around the local farmers (probably lorry/tractor and other motor parts). This particular 'spiv' had his lorry repaired at the camp, at HQ workshops, by RAF men. After all the motor mechanics were there to keep the fleet of RAF lorries and 4 to 6 buses running. They also had 60-foot low loaders for such things as aircraft wings and fuselages which were also there.
The Boiler house on Site 1 heated the hot water for No 1 site only as he can recall that metal pipes that were lagged in felt and painted black with bitumen paint connected the buildings. They were on pylons (probably plinths?) up above their heads. It may have also connected to HQ but seems unlikely to have reached Sites 2 and 3.
Taffy slept in the barracks at HQ. Remembers the Annual Inspections. They used to paint white the side of the coal heaps that could be seen. Remembers VE day. Played in the band for the VE dance. On VE Day they had boxing matches on the green opposite the Alms Houses at Goring Heath and organised races for the adults and children. He also used to play football there. Seems to think that the German POWs at Basildon Park were SS. Some escaped and were never caught. There was a fence all around HQ site and on Site 1 on the west of the road to Crays Pond. Thinks the M & E Plinth was probably a brick base on which held the electricity transformer. The anti freeze or de-icer was for de-icing aircraft at such places like Nova Scotia. They could not get enough of it out there.
Did not know what or why the Camp had the Hocket. Thought that there were 600 to 700 people maximum on site. There were no POWs used as a labour force at the camp in his time.
Taffy's father in law was Cecil Brown, born 1892 and served and wounded in WW1. He first started at Milton in 1938 and went to 70MU when it opened. He was 2nd in command, employed by the Air Ministry as a Civil Servant. He retired aged 65 in 1957 and died in 1976 aged 84.
Taffy remembers the Miss Worthington and confirms the previous notes about her. Cecil Brown used to invite her back to his home for tea on occasions.
Remembers Big George and Little George who collected the toilet slop buckets. When he was getting nearer to demob Taffy worked in the Airmens Mess and had to watch BG & LG collect the pigs swill for the King Charles Pub. He had to make sure that they only took the scraps allowed and did not take any food from the pantry. George complained that his boots pinched. Taffy allowance was 2 pair of boots, but he 'acquired' a third and to cut a long story short, he sold them to George for 30/-.
In the demise of 70MU they stored office furniture, filing cabinets, and heavy metal dustbins.
After the war when he returned (and married Barbara Brown) he worked in Taylor Penn, making gold and silver pens and pencils under the trade name of Swan. He thoroughly enjoyed those years and looks back on them with affection.
(Paris was liberated in August 1944. General De Gaulle marched triumphantly through the streets on 26 August. Control of 70MU passed to 57 Wing on 28 August 1944. It seems likely that Taffy was in 57 Wing (although he cannot remember) and that this was the date, within a few days, that he arrived in Paris.)