Digby - RCAF Digby
Updated: 23 Nov 08
CHAPTER 4 - AFTER THE WAR
c. Mar 1948 - 1953
In March 1948, the Secretarial Branch Training Establishment and Equipment Officers’ School left for Bircham Newton to be replaced in September by the Aircrew Education Unit and Aircrew Transit Unit. Shortly afterwards the AEU went to St Athan and No 2 Wing of No 1 Initial Training School was formed. In December the Station lost the ATU to Driffield.
RAF Digby was re-opened in April 1948 in Flying Training Command to house the Equipment and Secretarial Wing of the RAF College Cranwell. The flight cadets of Admin, Supply and RAF Regiment stationed at Digby constituted D Squadron of the College. t were trained at RAF Cranwell itself. The Station Commander RAF Digby was also an Assistant Commandant of the College. This included Gp Capt Lumgair.
There were no more movements until 1950, when No 1 Initial Training School went to Jurby and No 2 Initial Training School was formed at Digby together with the Instructional Leadership Course.
On 17 January 1950, the present Station Church was dedicated by His Grace the Bishop of Lincoln the Right Reverend Maurice Harland. The original Church, built and dedicated in the early 20s, had been dismantled during a previous building programme. The Church used to stand close to where the present Officers’ Mess is situated. During the inter—war years, the temporary Mess was to be replaced with a more permanent structure. The west wing of the Mess, however, was to be built where the Church (itself a temporary structure) stood. Accordingly, the Church was removed and the presently used building taken over. Incidentally, it had been the custom for Station Commanders to present a brass plaque to the Church, giving name and dates of command. Regrettably, when the Church was moved, the plaques disappeared, and to this day there is no trace of them. The only reminder of the old Church plate is the alms plate given by Squadron Leader Ridley mentioned earlier, and a silver sanctuary lamp in memory of James Graydon and Adrian Gordon Cole dated August 1928. We presume them to have been the victims of a flying accident. The lamp was discovered shortly after his arrival in 1977 by the Reverend Michael Hbwes, renovated by the PSA and now hangs once more in the Church.
The Station Commander, when the Church was dedicated, was Group Captain D Lumgair, who later became the Reverend D Lumgair, CBE. He was still attached by proxy as it were , to RAF Digby, since his first parish was Shotwick, in Cheshire. Shotwick, you will remembers was the old name for RAF Sealand, and with which Scopwick became confused.
On April 1950, No 1 Entry E and S Wing graduated (at Cranwell with No 49 entry). It was fitting that the reviewing officer should be Lord Tedder. Of No 1 (E & S) entry he said: “They are truly pioneers and have the right to share with Group Captain Seymour, the first Assistant Commandant, the credit for raising the Wing to the flourishing state in which we find it today.. these 12 can worthily take the place in the commissioned ranks of the Royal Air Force, and I am sure that the will derive nothing but benefit from having been reared alongside their fellows of the GD Branch that they will now help to sustain. All share the bond of training at the College and a common bond of loyalty to the standards and traditions of the College. I feel that nothing but good can come from an extension of the fellowship of Cranwell to include these additional Branches of the Service.”
On the last guest night of term, following the dining out of No 1 Entry, the Station cinema (undergoing yet another phase in its varied existence) was filled by staff and flight cadets waiting expectantly for the first revue to be presented by the Wing at Digby. One cannot help wondering whether the officers waited with some trepidation for the assault on the features of training. In the audience we e Air Vice Marshal Trinder, Air Vice Marshal Harcourt-Smith and Air Commodore Beamish.
The band played the Overture and the No 1 Entry revue began. As the Senior Entry was not numerically strong enough to produce a revue on its own, No 2 Entry assissted, and between them a most amusing programme was put on, with numerous noises off-stage .- not all of them intentional.
There were the inevitable skits on life in the Wing and somehow or the other thinly veiled references to certain well—known figures seemed to creep in, but all were taken in good part. The show was very varied, ranging from harmony singing to a ‘Hellzapoppin’ type of humour, and was most enthusiastically received. The party that took place later on in the Mess provided the grand finale, and it was generally agreed that the evening left nothing to be desired.
Sport, of course, played a very important part in the life of the cadets and cricket in particular was both popular and successful. The Senior Equipment Instructor, Wg Cdr Maggs, however, was extremely keen on athletics and expected all cadets to take part in a standards competition. As is so often the case, this sort of exercise was far from popular with the ball game players in general and the cricketers in particular. One Saturday night, long after dark, following a very successful afternoons cricket and appropriate celebrations several members of the team decided that it would be a good idea if they were to mark out an athletics area on the Wing Commander’s lawn. Cap comforters, denim overalls and plimsolls were the rig for this stealthy operation. The track was marked, the high jump prepared and the tug of war laid out. The whole exercise was achieved with no disturbance to the household until one member of the party decided to move a wheelbarrow of dahlia plants. Unknown to the cadets, Magg’s other passion was dahlias. The slight squeeking of the wheelbarrow awakened him and a green pyjama’d Wing Commander shouted “Who s there?” from a bedroom window. Remembering their GCT the cricketers froze, until thinking they could safely creep away, they returned to their Mess. They thought that they had escaped without being spotted, but next morning after Church the cricket captain received a most generous invitation from the Wing Commander and Mrs Maggs for him and the team to drinks at noon, when they would have an opportunity to inspect their handiwork ‘. Henceforth even the cricketers did their best on the athletics field.
There are 37 Canadian airmen buried in Scopwick Church burial ground who lost their lives while stationed at Digby. The Cross of Sacrifice was unveiled there by the Air Member, Canadian Joint Staff on 1 June 1950.
On 3 May 1951, No 421(F) Squadron RCAF, which had been formed at Digby in April 1942 as No 42 Sqn revisited its birthplace for a few hours.
The Red Indian Squadron, which had become a regular squadron in the Royal Canadian Air Force Defence Group, had been sent to England under a reciprocal arrangement, to acquire experience in the latest technique of air operations. Clearly, the visit was treated with great ceremony. fig 11 shows an unknown Canadian flight lieutenant being given the unusual privilege of inspecting the Queen’s Colour on parade. From Digby, its members attended a special memorial service at Scopwick Church burial ground and afterwards inspected the graves of their comrades. These include the grave of an American airman who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force, Pilot Officer J G Magee, whose poem ‘High Flight’ (found among his papers after his death in action) became widely known in both Canada and the USA, although it is less well known in this Country. It runs:
1951 saw the formation of No 2 Grading School (later 2 Aircrew Grading School) at Digby. This was to give flying training to would-be pilots and navigators and grade them as to their suitability for training and, implicitly, to confirm or correct the results of the aircrew selection procedure at RAF Hornchurch. The actual training and grading was carried out by civilian instructors of private contractors Airwork Services Ltd. Entrants to the RAF who would be navigators or pilots enjoyed 12 hours of flying experience on the DH82a Tiger Moth on a course lasting no more than two weeks. The cadet courses were on the whole accommodated at RAF Cranwell in the wooden huts still providing some College rooms. Airworks was later renamed VT Aerospace and continues to provide the RAF with maintenance, training and support including maintaining the Search and Rescue helicopters
1951 was also the year that Ashby-de-la-Launde acquired its Village Hall. One of the original Station buildings from presumably the 1920s, the building was used to provide cover for folding parachutes during the war. It was moved to its present position in the village, on ground donated by Whitbreads.
Not all Digby cricket was of a high standard, as described in 1950. On 28 July 1951, officers and their ladies watching from the Lemon saw a cricket match fought out in an atmosphere as tense as any accompanying an inter—Squadron match. It was the occasion of the Gentlemen v Players match, when the Assistant Commandant led a team of 14 Gentlemen:of Digby (the E & S Wing Senior Entry and the ‘Living In’ officers) against all—comers providing that their numbers did not exceed 11. The match was full of incidents not covered by any rule books, but unfortunately resulted in a ????. Rumour has it that after the match peace again returned to the Churchyard where WG had been spinning in his grave for the previous 3 hours!I Therre is no truth, however, in the ruinous that the Lemon was re—christened the Oval as it is now known -- in honour of the high standard of play.
In August and September, Nos 1 and 2 Squadrons of 2 Initial Training School left Digby for Kirton Lindsey leaving No 3 Wing here.
Flying training at No 2 Air Grading School continued to stream aircrew; Plt Off Smith did not go solo in Aug 1952 due to his inability to land the DH82a and so remained a navigator.
February 1953 saw the departure of 3 Initial Training School. No 2 Air Grading School followed. Regrettably, no note has been made of the date of the last operational flight from Digby. All we have recorded is that, on 31 March 1953, ‘a board of officers took over the tower an Bldg 106 (south Hangar) from Messrs Airworks Ltd’.
Sports success in 1953 was upheld by the Station soccer team which won the Lincoln Wednesday League and Knockout Cups and the Lincoln Hospitals cup.
Coronatio month? The ranks of military personnel in Parliament Square as part of the procession and guard for HM Queen Elizabeth II's coronation included the flight cadets of D Squadron E & S Wing.
In September 1953, the E and S Wing was moved to Cranwell as building work on the College building was finally complete, allowing D Squadron (E and S Wing) to re-join the other squadrons at Cranwell. Since its arrival in 1950 several hundred future officers had passed through its various courses including such personalities as the future Air Commodore Brian Opie.
now went on to a ‘Care
and Maintenance’ Basis
until 1 October 1954, when work was started, in anticipation of our
Digby Oral Histories:
- A History
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