INSIGHTS ON IVOR
Part Twenty Three
Another pleasant memory of Northwood I recall was the number of pretty WAAF’S stationed there. There was one particular girl who stood out as the most attractive and all the lads fancied her but fortunately for me, or perhaps it was just her good taste!, I was the lucky one she chose to take her out. The first date we had was when I took her to a party being held for one of our colleagues who was celebrating his birthday.
Many at the party quite naturally over indulged in two many glasses of the old John Barleycorn, including my date, which induced a slightly muddled mind risking a lowering of defences and willpower. But ever the true gentleman and not wishing to spoil any future dates I escorted her safely back to camp for which she was ever grateful. Talking of drinking too much brings back another memory of Northwood and a man we had in our billet who took a drink from a bottle of beer before getting into bed and then another gulp or two upon awakening the next morning.
We were very fortunate at Northwood having a football pitch and I remember we also had two young cricketers also billeted on the camp. One was medium fast bowler Alan Moss who played for Middlesex and England and Jim Parks who followed his father, also Jim, into the Sussex team. Jim the younger was not only a brilliant batsman playing for England in over forty Test matches but later in his career he switched to being a wicket keeper where his natural athletic ability was given full reign. His sporting prowess also extended to football and I shall never forget the match we played when I played in goal, because no one else wanted to do the job. I was doing alright until I saw Jim Parks bearing down at great speed towards me with the ball firmly at his feet and the look of a man determined to score a goal. That was the moment when it dawned on me why nobody else wanted to be in goal. It would be nice to say I saved his shot at goal but alas the ball hit the back of the net before I could get anyway near it. He was just a naturally gifted sportsman and a joy to watch.
The camp also had a tennis court upon which, on our days off duty, my best pal and I many fought many a duel on. It was this same pal who, with me, had a bit of a shock in the summer of 1951 when we were sent on an exercise for a few days, along with a WAAF Corporal in charge of us, to of all places, the vast Royal Naval Barracks at Chatham. You can imagine the ribbing us two RAF lads received from the Sailors and Wrens stationed there. Every time we came into sight we were greeted with calls of ‘Here
come the ‘Brylcream boys’. For those of you unfamiliar with Brylcream, let me explain, it was a very popular hair cream for men, widely advertised, and because the makers of the product sometimes used male models, who were dressed in smart RAF uniforms to increase their sales, it became normal practice amongst the general public to use that phrase whenever any RAF personnel passed by. After a while we got used to the comment and quite enjoyed it when it came from one of the Wrens.
We were very well treated at Chatham and were a little sorry when the four day exercise finished and it was time for us to return to camp. The WAAF Corporal in charge of us told us to make our own way back to camp. Now as it happened, my pal lived near Wimbledon and this was the time when the annual Wimbledon Tennis Championship was in full swing so we decided this was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. So with our hair gleaming with Brylcream we headed for the Mecca of Tennis.
I remember walking into these hallowed grounds for the first time and marvelling at the pristine condition of the grass courts. There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air of what was in store for the spectators. We watched an American player called Art Larsen arriving for a practice knock up on one of the many outside courts. What surprised us was that as he approached the baseline he was not only smoking but he threw down his lighted cigarette just behind the baseline and proceeded to practice as if this was normal practice. Apparently he was an inveterate smoker but this didn’t impair his tennis ability. He made it through to the quarter finals before being knocked out. The respective winners that year were two Americans; Dick Savitt winning the Men’s title and Doris Hart the Ladies. We were also lucky in seeing another great American player named, Budge Patty beat Swedish player Sven Davidson in an exciting match.
Seeing Wimbledon for the first time was something I’ve never forgotten and in all my subsequent years watching this so British traditional spectacle on television brings back those fond memories from 1951. Unfortunately we were enjoying our visit so much that we slightly overstayed our visit. The end result was that it took us longer than we thought to get back to camp. Our late arrival time back was duly recorded and the next day our Warrant Officer summoned us to his office enquiring as to the reason for our lateness. We meekly apologised and somehow talked ourselves out of it but it was a close call.
---End of Part Twenty Three---