Bill Wain

1st March 2014

So Jim, you asked for life stories from ex 91st and I have come to the conclusion that although my story is nothing spectacular, it may be an interesting project for me, to test my memory.  I know for a fact that it is not very good, so it could be just what I need to stir up the old grey matter – so here goes!!




My reason for wishing to join the RAF was purely mercenary.  I was working as an electrical apprentice for Hartley (Engineering) Ltd, an engineering company in Stoke-on-Trent who produced sewage equipment.  My wages were £3 – 0s – 6d per week, out of which I paid my mother £2 for my board and keep.  It cost me 6d a week for my overalls and laundry at work, which left me with the princely sum of £1 to call my own.  I was fast approaching 17 ½ years of age and I found out that as an Aircraft Apprentice in the RAF I could be getting £5-5s-0d with accommodation, food and clothing (uniform) all thrown in – this required serious consideration!!


After a visit to the local recruitment office, my next object was to convince my parents that this was a good career move – being under 21yrs of age I of course, needed their approval.  My father was easy to convince – my mother was a different story.  Eventually, with the necessary forms duly filled in and signed by my parents I was invited to attend a three day ‘interrogation’ at RAF Halton in December 1958.


My memory of these three days are centred around tests involving, in my words, attempting to put square pegs in round holes, lots of questioning, a medical examination requiring you among other things to ‘cough’ and in my case, was there any known reason why I had ‘round shoulders’ – this particular one I blamed on my mother as she also had the same ‘defect’.  The only other abiding memory was of a Lancashire lad who seemed to do nothing but go on about ‘pies’ – this turned out to be Frank Parr, who became a lifelong friend and was ‘best man’ at my wedding later in life.  Having already been in training as an electrician I obviously wanted to join the Apprentices as an electrician

but as time went on it became obvious that many others who also wanted this trade were being pushed into other trades.  At last I was called for my final interview, at the end of which I got my wish and was accepted for training as an Electrical Fitter (Air).


January 1959 arrived and off I went on the train to Wendover, everything was strange but seemed fine. Then came ‘attestation’ and you were officially in the Royal Air Force, what a change then – kitting out, haircut and off to 3(A) Wing to be bawled at, belittled, treated like the lowest of the low and that was just from the ‘Senior Entry’ members!!!


Life eventually settled to a routine and so I began my training in the workshops and school.  I enjoyed the workshop side, even filing a round bar into a square one and learning to solder wires and other electrical components onto tag boards.  The school side was a different story – I had never got on well at school previously.


Things went downhill for me after the first eighteen months.  I decided this life wasn’t for me and applied for release on the grounds that I could not keep up with the training – I deliberately started failing ‘phase tests’ and my school work got even worse (if that was possible).  I was eventually ordered to report to the Station Commander who proceeded to read me ‘the riot act’ and told me in no uncertain terms to ‘pull my socks up’ and knuckle down to work as there was no way I was going to be released.


I decided that I didn’t really have much option but to comply and eventually settled to complete my training.  I passed out in December 1961 as a Junior Technician but unfortunately because of the ‘messing around’ I had done half way through, my aggregate marks fell just short of passing out as a Corporal.  So endeth my training, it was now time to join the ‘real’ RAF and do some proper work.




My first posting was to RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire and I was set to work in the Electrical Servicing Bay (part of the Electronics Centre) repairing and servicing components fitted to the Vulcan aircraft based at this station.  The SNCO in charge of the bay was a Sgt Searle, a nice chap, very easy going and after a short while I found he was a bit of a sucker for a sob story and many a time managed to finish early on a Friday to get off home to Stoke-on-Trent.  Anyone who was at Scampton in the Electronics Centre will also remember another person who most certainly was not a soft touch – Warrant Officer O’Sullivan, now there was a man you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of – he was very fair but very firm.


On my first summer leave when at Halton, a good friend of mine, from our school days, set me up with a blind date at the local cinema one night, her name was Margaret.  While I was at Scampton, Margaret and I got married and twelve months later along came our son Paul.  Three months after Paul was born we found out Margaret was again pregnant – oops!!  About five months later I was looking at Station Orders, as you did, and found I was to be posted to Singapore and I had to go to RAF Innsworth to be kitted out with my KD.  We marched out of our Air Ministry Hiring in Lincoln, got Margaret sorted out with staying with her parents and I started my embarkation leave.  I had only been on leave a week when I received a telegram ordering me back to Scampton to collect my necessary paperwork and off I went to the British Eagle Air Terminal at Knightsbridge to get my flight from Heathrow to Payar Lebar Airport in Singapore via Bahrain and Bombay.


I flew out to Singapore onboard a Bristol Britannia – someone had said the Britannia was nicknamed the ‘whispering giant’, I can vouch for the fact that after 24hrs on board it didn’t live up to it’s name!!  My posting was to 64 Squadron RAF Tengah (Javelins) but found on arrival that they were fully staffed with ‘leckys’ so once again I found myself working in the Electronics Centre.  This did me a big favour actually as I had been dreading having to work out in the sun.  All my life I had never gone nice and brown like the majority of people, I had always gone bright red and come out in blisters.  The Electronics Centre was of course air-conditioned which gave me the opportunity to acclimatise to the sun nice and slowly.  After about six months, low and behold, I had actually gone brown which was a good job as shortly after I was moved to 81(PR) Squadron working ‘first line’ on Canberra PR7’s and T4.  Overall I really enjoyed my time on this squadron, we had a good crowd of blokes and we all got on well.


With the help of another ‘lecky’ who arrived at Tengah at the same time as me, who also became, and still is, a lifelong friend, who lent me some money and helped me to put down a deposit on a ‘Guest House’ in Singapore City, I managed to put in a ‘Call-Fam’ and just got Margaret out in time.  Being pregnant she was not allowed to fly within the last eight weeks of her pregnancy date.  When she arrived we settled together in a rather ’tatty’ bungalow, rented from an ‘Indian Gentleman’ at Jalan Batai, Sembewang Hills Estate – off the Upper Thomson Road, opposite the Pierce Reservoir.  Around two months later our daughter Pamela was born in the British Military Hospital, Singapore.  At the end of twelve months we were offered an Air Ministry Hiring, a large brand new bungalow – the catch was that it was across the causeway in Johore Bahru, this meant the hassle of passing through customs twice a day as Singapore had broken away from the Federation of Malaya on the 9th August 1965.  We decided to accept the bungalow and moved into 58 Jalan Keranji, Kebunti Park Estate – what a difference from our previous home.


As you know, an accompanied tour of duty usually lasted 2 ½ yrs but this wasn’t to be so in my case.  As stated earlier I had originally been posted to 64 Sqdn, but although I had never actually set foot on the squadron my records must never have been altered to show this and when 64 Sqdn was disbanded and returned to the UK, I was also sent home early.  I finished up only being in Singapore for two years and three months.  Just to add salt to the wound I was posted back to RAF Scampton – oh the joys of Bomber Command!!


I eventually arrived back at Scampton and found myself on first line servicing of Vulcan Mk2 aircraft on ‘F’ dispersal.  I remember the first time I was sent out to marshal in one of our planes – a hell of a difference to the Canberra’s I had been used to.  Around ten months later I was told to report to the Armoury, it appeared I had been transferred there as an armament electrician – otherwise known as the No 7 man on a Blue Steel Loading Team.  My job was to rectify any faults that developed on the aircraft side of the Blue Steel arming and release systems, check out and electrically connect the missile to the aircraft when loading and in the case of a live warhead, carry out final checks of the missile electrical system and electrically connect the warhead to the missile.  In reality there was little for me to do so I spent a lot of time on a David Brown tractor towing ‘dummy’ missiles from the missile section to the various aircraft dispersals and return.  I was also licensed to collect the warhead from the SSA and transport it to the ‘Pod Loading Bay’ as it was called.


While I was in the Armoury I came into contact with another rather ’obnoxious’ lecky named Bert Runcey.  I had been a Corporal for quite some time and although past my time qualification, I had never bothered to take my trade exam for promotion to Sergeant.  Bert was responsible for changing all that – he decided he was putting in for his promotion exam and I decided I didn’t wish to have him ordering me around, so I also applied for my trade exam.  It turned out that we both passed our exams and were both promoted to Sergeant at the same time.


A little time before my promotion I had applied for a ‘last tour of duty’ posting.  Sure enough I had no sooner put my tapes up when my posting came through – but the posting was for Corporal Wain.  At first I was told I would have to re-apply but after a lot of persuasion I was finally allowed to take up the posting as a Sergeant and I finally got away from Bomber Command.  The posting was to Central Helicopter Flying Training School, RAF Ternhill, Shropshire.


In comparison to Scampton, this place was like a holiday camp.  I was designated as SNCO in charge of the Electrical Servicing Bay.  I was allocated a married quarter on camp and used to come home for my lunch.  Apart from the very occasional Orderly Sergeant, the only other thing I got roped in for was Queens Colour Escort and that wasn’t any real problem.  When it came to the AOC’s inspection we were the last on parade and the first off.  Other than that I did a Sergeants Mess Dinner and a Officers Mess Dinner.


So my twelve and a half years, serving Queen and Country, were over – nothing spectacular about the time but I did manage to complete it ‘undetected’   i.e. I never got charged but that doesn’t mean I never did anything wrong!!!





I had applied for a number of jobs before my release date but in 1971 jobs weren’t so easy to come by.  I did however manage to get a job as an Electrical Fitter at British Rail Engineering at Crewe which I started the day after my last working day at Ternhill.  I stuck it out for two years and hated every minute – I found it very difficult to adapt and accept the poor standard of workmanship compared to what I had been used to in the RAF.


My next move was to a forklift hire company, Greenham Fork Lifts, a subsidiary of Taylor Woodrow.  I started there as a Field Service Engineer and shortly after as Workshop Manager and Assistant Depot Manager.  After being offered, and refusing, two positions as Depot Manager firstly at Manchester and later at Burton on Trent I was, strangely enough, advised that I was being made redundant.


After two months on the ‘dole’ I managed to secure a position with the Local Education Authority as a technician at Newcastle-under-Lyme College of Further Education.  In order to get promotion later to Senior Technician I moved to Stoke-on-Trent College and stayed there for the next sixteen years.  I was eventually again made redundant – part of a cost cutting exercise when the useless Director of the college got it into £8 million worth of debt, which had to be paid back mainly by a large reduction of staff.


My next move was into the world of drug running – no, not what you are thinking but a Pharmaceutical Distribution Company delivering various drugs to Chemists, Hospitals and Doctors surgeries.  This ended with me leaving after being told I was required to start working out of their Warrington Depot – I was currently living and working in Stoke-on-Trent.  As I had put myself out of work there was, of course, no Job Seekers Allowance payable.  It took me two months of living off our savings before I managed to get a part time job with a company who produced and distributed frozen meals to the general public (Meals on Wheels) and other outlets including the WRVS.  Three days a week I did bulk deliveries to the WRVS in Bristol, Gloucester, Hereford, Ross on Wye and Bromyard.  The job increased to five days part time when it was found that I was ‘computer literate’ and I was moved into the office in an administrative role.  Six months before my 65th birthday I was once again made redundant and decided that was enough – I retired.


I have now been retired for a little over seven years and enjoyed every minute of it.  O.K. so I might not have accomplished great things during my working life or earned great salaries but……………

I have been very fortunate, up to now, to have enjoyed good health.  I have a wonderful wife who has always supported me through the good times and the not so good times.  I have a son and daughter of which I am very proud.  I have four grandchildren who are a credit to their respective parents and I have three great-grandchildren who are fantastic.  Come on now – what else could I possibly wish for.




Bill Wain


R0685096 A/A Wain.W.B.  91st Entry No 1 School of Technical Training Royal Air Force Halton



P.S.  Back at the very beginning of this I said I was going to do it to shake up the ‘old grey matter’.

It has done and I have found it very enjoyable.  I urge you all to have a go, it’s well worth it.



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The reunion at the Bailbrook House Hotel went extremely well. Sadly only 18 of our number were able to attend and I suspect COVID had a lot to do with that. However, 31 guests sat down to a splendid 3 course meal on the second night. The hotel lived up to its recommendation and I have to thank all the staff for looking after us so well. Those of us who went to the Aerospace at Filton enjoyed the experience – the ribald comments by our riggers on the state of riveting being used on a Blenheim adding to the fun. None of their work would have passed the eagle-eyed instructors on basic workshops. Thankfully, this aircraft is for static display!

The Bell Hotel at Winslow that I chose as our base for the Reunion at Halton turned out to be very good as well. Bob French turned up in his wheelchair on the Friday night, having forgotten that he had only booked for one night. However, even though the place was full, the hotel managed to fix him up with a temporary room. On parade at Halton were 10 from the entry and also on parade was our refurbished banner – still the orginal but now strengthened and with the paint uplifted.

We still have no news on 63 of our members that seem to have vanished without trace. It would be good to try and track them down but I suspect it will not now happen.

5th Oct 2022