Wartime Heritage                                   ASSOCIATION
  The Reluctant Engineers' Coveted Wings Flight Lt. Bernard Hyde   Bernard   Hyde   was   almost   fourteen   years   old   when   World   War   II   began.   Born   in   Sittingbourne, Kent,   he   thoroughly   enjoyed   his   childhood,   especially   the   chance   to   enjoy   the   open   spaces   in   the woods   and   fields   around   his   village.   His   childhood   came   to   an   abrupt   halt,   in   a   sense,   with   the resounding   call   to   arms   throughout   Britain.   Recently   Mr.   Hyde   recalled   his   days   as   a   youth,   anxiously awaiting the opportunity to serve his country. My   father   decided   that   I   should   not   waste   my   technical   schooling   and   discussed   my   future with   the   owner   of   a   light   engineering   company   who   agreed   to   employ   me   as   an   apprentice.   By   now the   Battle   of   Britain   was   in   full   swing   and   like   many   other   residents,   time   was   spent   looking   towards the skies. It was here that I struck up a friendship that was to last for many years. Peter   and   I   were   both   reluctant   trainee   engineers   and   both   had   one   ambition   only,   to   fly. Peter   was   dead   keen   on   joining   the   Fleet Air Arm   as   a   pilot   but   fate   sent   him   into   the   RAF   where   he won   those   coveted   Wings.   Peter   and   I   kept   our   noses   to   the   wheel   and   settled   down   biding   our   time until we were old enough to volunteer for aircrew duties with the RAF. There   was   a   slight   problem   because   the   age   for   joining   the Air   Training   Corps   was   sixteen   and my   sixteenth   birthday   was   not   until   September.   When   I   was   asked   how   old   I   was   I   replied,   without batting   an   eyelid,   ‘sixteen,   sir.’   Of   course   the   new   C.O.   knew   that   I   had   lied   but   allowed   me   to   sign   up   just   the   same.   We   were   in   and well on our way to joining the RAF. Most people were certain that the war would be over by Christmas. How wrong could we be? Of   course   being   in   the ATC   was   great   fun,   making   lots   of   new   friends   and   feeling   very   important   in   our   dog   collar   tunics   with   items of   insignia   attached.   RAF   drill   and   discipline   were   most   important   and   I   enjoyed   learning   how   to   wear   a   uniform   and   march   like   a   real airman. I became so keen that one of my duties was to instruct new recruits the elements of marching and how and whom to salute. In   1942   Peter   and   I   volunteered   for   aircrew   duties,   were   sworn   in,   took   the   King’s   shilling,   and   clutching   our   silver   badge   returned   home determined   to   remember   our   service   numbers   without   which   airmen   could   not   get   paid   or,   for   that   matter   receive   uniform   or   food.   Even today   if   somebody   claims   to   have   been   in   any   of   the   armed   forces   the   question   is   always   asked,   ‘and   your   last   three?’   Any   hesitation brings a query, were they really an airman or whatever.   Every   day   we   would   gather   and   wait   for   instructions,   we   were   all   desperate   to   receive   news   of   our   posting   overseas   to   continue our   training.   I   suppose   we   were   concerned   the   war   would   end   before   we   had   become   operational.   How   silly,   we   might   have   been   killed but   the   thought   never   occurred   to   us. Time   passed   until   one   day   with   my   other   mates   our   names   were   called   and   we   left   our   cosy   billets and   returned   to   the   camp. Then   it   all   happened,   fourteen   days   embarkation   leave,   farewell   to   tearful   mother   but   with   a   light   heart   back to   Heaton   Park.   Under   tight   security   (we   were)   marched   into   a   cinema   and   given   a   lecture   on   how   to   behave   in   Canada.   In   the   morning, dressed in full marching order clutching a pack of dubious sandwiches, we boarded buses and were driven to a railway station. The   draft   of   RAF   aircrew   were   soon   on   board   the   'Aquatania'   and,   after   finding   our   troop   deck   and   dining   area,   were   soon   lining   up   at   the shop.   For   seven   days   we   sailed   through   the   Atlantic,   going   south   and   then   west   and   then   a   bit   north,   all   the   time   the   ship   was   making zig-zag   course.   I   vividly   remember   sitting   on   the   deck,   back   to   the   cabins   looking   at   the   sea,   one   minute   all   I   could   see   was   the   ocean, looking   down   into   the   rollers,   next   I   was   looking   at   the   sky.   What   excitement,   we   had   seen   this   on   the   cinema   screen   but   here   it   was   for real. Once   cleared   for   mixing   with   civilization   the   time   came   to   be   posted   to   our   respective   training   stations.   Where   the   other   220 cadets   went   I   do   not   know,   my   group   of   30   trainee Air   Bombers   boarded   a   proper   train   and   were   escorted   to   RCAF   Fingal,   No.   4   Bombing and   Gunnery   School   wherever   that   might   have   been.   But   we   were   not   bothered,   suffice   it   say   that   we   were   to   start   our   training   and become Aircrew! The   training   was   intense   and   the   weather   became   hotter.   In   classrooms   we   stuck   to   the   chairs   as   we   struggled   with   mastering   a vast   amount   of   knowledge,   never   did   we   dream   that   so   much   was   involved   in   navigating   to   the   target,   identifying   the   target   and dropping   a   bomb.   We   were   taught   the   art   of   plotting   courses,   signaling   by   Morse   code   and   using   a   signal   lamp,   aircraft   recognition, meteorology,   gunnery   on   the   ground   and   in   the   air,   which   included   the   art   of   taking   a   Browning   '303'   machine   gun   to   pieces   and reassembling it. About   a   week   before   graduation   day   six   cadets   from   the   course   were   summoned   to   the   Chief   Ground Instructors   for   an   interview.   Ken   Hogg,   a   much   older   man   than   myself,   went   into   the   office   ahead   of   me   and came   out   with   a   dejected   expression   on   his   face.   I   was   very   apprehensive,   certain   that   I   had   failed   the course.   Ken   did   nothing   to   relieve   my   fears,   he   said   that   all   six   of   us   had   failed   and   would   be   returning   home. I   was   called   into   the   office,   saluted   and   stood   to   attention   in   front   of   several   officers.   I   was   amazed   and delighted   to   learn   that,   not   only   had   I   passed   the   course   but   that   I   had   been   commissioned   and   on   graduation day,   following   wings   presentation   was   to   remove   rank   badges   and   eagle   shoulder   badges   and   wear   a   white brassard indicating that I was now an Acting Pilot Officer.     By   now   we   were   anxious   to   return   home   and   join   an   operational   squadron   and   help   fight   the   war.   And   so   my   short   sojourn   in Canada   came   to   an   end.   It   was   time   to   pack,   board   a   train   and   escorted   by   a   gaggle   of   Service   Police.   On   arrival   we   joined   the Mauritania   and   where   I   found   myself   one   of   the   privileged   class,   sharing   a   cabin   with   five   other   new   Pilot   Officers   including   Ken   Hogg.   I became   very   friendly   with   Ken   and   remained   so   until   he   died   six   years   ago.   He   turned   out   to   be   a   really   good   friend,   so   much   so   that   he became my daughter’s Godfather. Bernard   Hyde   flew   as   Second   Pilot   on   271   and   8   Squadrons   Transport   Command,   both   in   Europe   and   the   Far   East.   In   1945   he   met   his future wife Marian, and he currently resides in Kent, UK.
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   Bernard Hyde (RAF Veteran)
Bernard Hyde
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The Reluctant Engineers' Coveted Wings Flight Lt. Bernard Hyde