LAC Albert (Barny) Barnard and LACW Pat Peck

After 'Passing Out' at Redcar. Albert is back row extreme right

The Tea Wagon at 157 sqn A Flight dispersal at RAF Valley, Anglesey. At that time the camp was shared with the USAF - hence the liberator taxiing in the background.Albert is in front of the queue!

Pat on mainplane next to fuselage, believed to be a Wellington.

All the A Flight 157 sqn personnel. Albert is nearest the prop of the port engine.

Members of A Flight 157 sqn in front of Mossie. Albert is extreme left.

Fabric Training Course.WRAF learning to patch bullet holes on Wellington wing.

Ground crew in front of the 157 Sqn CO's Mossie runabout. Albert is second left.

Pat is 5th from right on front row of this large group in a hanger.

Celebrating Christmas in the Airmen's Mess.

THE STORY of PAT and ALBERT BARNARD

Pat Peck was from Gorleston in Norfolk. Albert Barnard came from London. They both joined the RAF and found themselves posted to RAF Swannington when it opened in 1944. The war lasted just another year, but their union lasted for the rest of their lives.

Albert revisited what remains of the camp at Swannington in December 2002, when I was priviledged to meet him and listen to some of his memories of the events there during 1944 & 1945.

Below is an account of these recollections, together with wartime photographs which Albert kindly allowed me to reproduce here.

Albert was 20 years old when he joined the RAF in 1942. He qualified as a top craftsman Carpenter 1 Group 1, having in addition studied aerodynamics, hydraulics and general maintenance - ideally suited to working on the airframe of the Mossie, the 'Wooden Wonder'.He was posted to 157 squadron at RAF Predannack,Cornwall, only to find when he got there that the squadron had moved to RAF Valley, in Wales.

When he caught up with them he was delegated, not to hanger duties but to A Flight to carry out normal daily inspections, and night shifts to despatch aircraft on their missions, to receive them back and to refuel them.

It was on one of these occasions that he acted in a way that I am sure would today be recognised with a bravery award. Albert described the incident ....

  "After marshalling the kite into the dispersal bay nearest the A Flight office/crew room and having positioned the petrol bowser in front of the aircraft, I smelt burning. I traced this to beneath the navigator's seat. I called to the airman, already on the mainplane unscrewing the petrol tank caps, to get to the office and report the fire, whilst I restartd the tractor and moved the petrol bowser to safety.

On returning I saw the oil bowser on the grass in the same bay where the aircraft was alight, and moved it to safety. By then the Mossie was burning fiercly and the canon shells were exploding in the direction of other aircraft in the same bay. I hitched on the towing cable from the tractor to the main undercarraige wheels, and getting the airman on duty to steer the kite via the long bar attached to the tail wheel, we removed it to safety towards the control tower area. The aircraft burnt to ashes."

With the launching of V1 'Doodlebugs' from the other side of the English Channel there was a serious threat to London and the South East. One of the few planes capable of the speed necessary to catch them was the 'Wooden Wonder'.In July and August 1944, both 157 and 85 squadrons were temporarily transferred from Swannington to RAF West Malling in Kent. Albert throws light on this period:

   "When the VIs started to come over the Channel the mossies had some success in exploding them. 157 A & B Flights, and I believe 85 squadron were sent to West Malling.The aircraft were modified to use a higher octane petrol and, when refuelling, gloves had to be worn. The manifolds were removed and stub exhausts fitted to give extra speed. To the best of my knowledge, the pilots were permitted to pull the booster tit for a specified number of seconds to get that extra bit of speed.

It was on one of these missions that Sq/L Matthews of A Flight returned to base having exploded a V1. He had dived on it and it was a question of shooting at it and go through the resulting fireball or peeling off and letting it go on. The result was that every bit of dope paint, lettering and roundels were scorched off his mossie, including the fabric on the rudder. The canopy and windscreen were blackened with soot, except where the wipers were used."

There were of course lighter moments. The boys would get to Cawston for a beer or two and occasionally travel to Norwich, where 'The Bell' was a favourite haunt.

The Church Army Tea Wagon would pull up on the perimeter in front of the maintenance hanger.Here the various RAF personnel would queue up for their tea and wads. Albert would get in the wagon to help serve.One young lady, an assistant from the parachute section (having become redundant from the fabric section), on several occasions kept her fingers in the handle of the mug as she handed it to Albert.They would have a good laugh, and soon started courting. Albert had met his Pat!

Albert recalls:

      "For the celebrations of Victory in Europe, the acceptance hanger was emptied and a bar was set up and extended to the whole length of one side. A good portion of the concrete floor on the other side was treated with aircraft dope paint to make a dancing surface wich was surrounded with trellis work and bunting, and there was a huge bonfire away from the hanger. It was a happy night. I can recall a chap called 'Pinky' returning the next morning with a bucket to salvage any beer left in the barrels!"

Albert remembers other fun moments:

      "I can remember playing for RAF Swannington Hockey team. I also remember converting two drop tanks with a sail to mess about on the Lakes (Haveringland Hall).The shed that housed the sluice gate on the side of the roadway between the two lakes (which had different water levels) was used for snogging!

After VE Day a weekly Sports Day was introduced and a troop carrier used to go to Caister-on-Sea for a day trip with a huge inflatable dinghy lashed to the roof. Pat and I had a whale of a time!"

Pat and Albert married on December 1st 1945. Pat was then dischargd from the service, but Albert was moved on to at least five different airfields before being discharged in 1947. They set up home in London.

Sadly, earlier this year Pat died. On 1st December 2002 - precisely 57 years to the day of their marriage - Albert and a family group fulfilled Pat's wish by spreading her ashes within yards of where they had met back in 1944 - under a tree on a patch of grass adjacent the old site of the hanger at Haveringland......

Albert returns to RAF Swannington, December 2002.

December 1st 1945 - Wedding Day....& Pat in Civvy Street!

R GIBBONS © 2003