A Madeley Life Story – Jack Smart’s memories of 80 years in Madeley

Home to England

I was given a white shirt, red tie and a pale blue shirt and sent back to Boufarik to collect all my kit. This I did and went back to the hospital. Two or three days later I went to the RAF station Maison Blanche and boarded a Liberator with two others: it had three or four seats for passengers. At 9.30am we took off for England. We passed the Pyrenees in the distance ( I could see snow on the peaks), over vineyards in southern France. At times the aircraft was like a yo-yo going into air pockets. I had a packed lunch.

Eventually, after flying at about 5,000 feet we suddenly dropped to about 1,000 feet. We landed at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire, at 2.30pm. We went through customs. The only thing I had was a box of cigars for my father and some American cigarettes. A van took me to RAF No. 1 General Hospital at Great Wroughton. I had to stay for three days while tests were carried out to see if I was bringing any disease into the country.

Afterwards I went home on 14 days leave to be told to report to RAF Halfpenny Green near Stourbridge; a very awkward place to get to from Madeley. So I had a taxi to take me – it cost £2 10s. I went into the workshops, measuring cylinder boxes, checking valves etc. That station maintained its rigid discipline of parades, examination to see if you needed a hair cut etc. The main camp was full so I went into a Nissen Hut outside the camp. I came home every weekend, getting a lift to Much Wenlock and then waiting for a bus which brought workers from the naval base at Ditton Priors. I had an uncle in Much Wenlock who was a stone and monumental mason, so I stayed there until it was time for the bus. I had a taxi to take me back to camp each Sunday night. I had only been at the camp for 2 or 3 weeks when V.E. Day was declared. They said “You can have tomorrow off”, so I immediately set off for Madeley. I kept walking and walking until I came to the Folly public house at Ackleton. It was closed. I knocked the door and I bought a glass of shandy. Still I kept on walking. Eventually I got a lift to Sutton Maddock, so the next part was easier.

I had been at that camp for 6 months when they said I was posted to Devon. I thought “Jack’s not going to Devon”. Some of the personnel had never been anywhere else but Halfpenny Green. I thought “Why don’t they send one of them”, so I went on special sick. This gave me access to the MO. Within the hour he said “I will send you to the Bridgnorth Training Camp”, which had a small hospital. I was in a ward for about a week when I was transported to the hospital at RAF Cosford. I went into a room and met Air Vice Marshall Sir Stanford Cade, consultant to the Air Ministry and to Westminster Hospital.

He said “I will operate on you and you will be able to wear an open-neck shirt because I will only leave a faint scar around your neck.

True to his word I went into a small ward with two others. One was the solo cornet player for the Besses of the Barns Band and the other was a Jamaican. Both of them had to have a kidney removed. Within ten days I was sent to Stretton Hall near Brewood, absolute isolation. I was glad to get away from that place. I went on leave and then reported back to HQ.

The country was calling for members of the mining fraternity to leave the services on Class B. I said “OK”, and was sent to RAF Weeton for the suit and equipment and received three weeks leave. Had I waited another four months I would have finished and had about eight weeks. For my time in North Africa I received the ribbon of the Africa Star and Clasp.

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