Having been a member of the “Our Mansfield” site since, I think, 2011, I believe that it’s time for me to explain why I qualify.
I was born on 19 December 1942 at Victoria Hospital, someone must have leaked the information that I was about to arrive as, shortly after, the Luftwaffe arrived to celebrate my birth by dropping flares around the hospital. I think the truth may be that they were looking for Sheffield but that doesn’t sound as good. My mother was Dorothy, daughter of Charles and Annie Noakes-Mooring of 82 Moor Street. My Grandfather, Charles, ran the family basket making business on Pembroke Street. My Father was William, son of Hermann and Elizabeth Gorner of 19 Terrace Road, on my birth certificate he was stated to be a labourer, his workplace being Crown Farm Colliery. As my parents were living at 19 Terrace Road that was my first address but not for long. In 1943, my Father joined the RAF and so, being wartime, was not expected to be able to come home very often having to undergo Recruit training followed by Aircrew training in the category of Wireless Operator/Air Gunner which, fortunately, he did not complete until the war in Europe was over. Consequently, my Mother chose to return to live with her parents where we stayed until 1950.
Due to my Father’s service I saw little of him which, I am sad to confess, had a lasting adverse effect on our relationship. My Grandfather fulfilled the Father role as, following the end of my Father’s training, he was posted on to Lancasters at RAF North Luffenham in Rutland which I can just remember visiting in 1946 and being inside a Lancaster. In 1948, the Russian blockade of Berlin began. By this time my Father was flying as a Signaller with Transport Command on Dakotas so he, like many other aircrew, was called upon to join what became known as “The Berlin Airlift”. Interspersed with his flying duties at home he was regularly detached to Wunstorf and Lubeck in Germany to fly in Yorks and Dakotas which were ferrying food, fuel and other essential commodities round the clock into Berlin despite harassment from the Russians. This ensured that I still saw little, if any, of him.
Although the Air Lift did not end until 26 September 1949, my Father’s commitment to it ended at the end of February when, I presume, he must have taken some leave before returning to normal flying duties in early March. We chose to have a week’s holiday with his parents who by then had moved to Southend on Sea. That week’s holiday then became a very enjoyable six months stay for my Mother and me although, naturally, I had to go to school locally but that was no problem compared with the delights of Southend. We returned to Mansfield in August or September in time for me to resume my schooling at Moor Lane school.
In February 1950 we were allocated a council house, 6 Mellors Road on the estate where Westfield Lane met Abbott Road, commonly known as the “Orlit” houses. Shortly after that my Father’s time in the RAF came to an end and he returned home, finding work at the Quortex on Sutton Road, the same place that my Mother worked at before my birth and continued as an outworker afterwards. Within six months he was back in the RAF, having been unable to settle in civilian life, this time he was posted back on to flying duties at RAF Watton in Norfolk, from where he was able to come home, if not every weekend then every other weekend, subject of course to his flying commitments which, at times took him out of the country.
Returning to my schooling, I can’t remember exactly when I started, I can only presume that it was following my fifth birthday which was in December 1947 so it must have been sometime in 1948, but I only had to go to the top of Moor Street to Moor Lane Infants School, under Miss Rowell. Our move in 1950 saw me start at Broomhill School, in the Infants for a few months and then, in the September, into the Junior School, of which much has been said on these pages lately. I started in Class 1A1 and the following year was accelerated into 3A1, followed then by two years in 4A1. I did well there but that was all to come to an end. Having passed the 11 plus in 1954 I went to the Mansfield Secondary Technical School where I just did not shine at all.
By this time my Father had been posted overseas. He had, since rejoining the RAF tried to get us to join him in Norfolk but my Mother consistently refused saying that she didn’t want to disrupt my education and, although she didn’t say so to me, I believe that she was reluctant to leave her Mother who had been widowed in February 1951. My poor performance at the Tech. suggested that it might benefit me if we were able to live together as a family so in September 1955 my Mother, myself, a three year old sister and a two year old brother left Mansfield for RAF Bahrain.
Bahrain was a total contrast to Mansfield, a mixture of primitive and modern. Naturally, I had to go to school but the only English speaking school was part of a Convent and the majority of teachers were nuns and the level of education for my age was less than that which I had experienced at Broomhill and nothing like proper secondary education.
A period back in Mansfield, living again in Moor Street, followed our departure from Bahrain. This included a return to the Tech. School, a period I have no pride in and is best forgotten. We left again in February 1957 to move to Long Stanton in Cambridgeshire, adjacent to where my Father was stationed at RAF Oakington on a ground tour as an Air Traffic Controller. I went to the school in another nearby village, Willingham, where I found my “educational feet” again and did quite well. More importantly, I met my future wife there, we were subsequently able to enjoy over 50 years of married life and I also developed a lasting love for Cambridgeshire, the Fens and all of East Anglia.
My Father returned to Bahrain again in 1959, for the second of three occasions, and I joined him and my family in the September for a year. I returned home in September 1960, for another short stay in Mansfield prior to joining the RAF in January 1961. So began a largely interesting and memorable career. Enlisting at Cardington in Bedfordshire, followed by recruit training at Bridgnorth in Shropshire and then radar training in Somerset. My first posting, in the September, was to RAF Watton in Norfolk, not just to the same station that my father served on in the early ’50s but to the same part of the airfield that his Squadron had been situated, now taken over as a Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile site.
After a career that saw me living all over the country I ended up in Finningley in 1985 for a very happy two years. Sadly this post at Finningley was disestablished in 1988 which meant a move to Henlow in Bedfordshire. By then things were changing so much that I felt that it was time to leave, which I did in 1989, missing what I used to know but not missing what I left. I had, in a sense, come full circle. I joined the service at Cardington in Bedfordshire and left from Henlow in Bedfordshire, which just happened to be the parent station for Cardington.
Fortunately, we had bought our house in Saxilby, near Lincoln, in 1985 so there were no housing worries. I just had to find work to ensure that the mortgage was paid, which I did.
My wife and I would still make occasional visits to Mansfield, especially for the market. In the late 1970s, early 1980s when visiting my parents at RAF Waddington, a must was a visit to Mansfield market but it is quite a few years since our last visit. We felt certain that we could get some Nottingham lace there for our daughter so paid for at least three hours parking, on a Thursday, to give us plenty of time to get round. Within half an hour we were back in the car, very disappointed. It also used to be a must for my father, my father in law and myself to partake of a glass of genuine Mansfield beer. I can’t even do that now. The name, if it still exists, just doesn’t taste the same.
I sometimes wonder what happened to those people that I knew, although I am in touch with some. From Moor Street there was Alan Morton, Michael Binch, Pat Cockayne, the Endersbys (Peter, I believe, joined the RAF around the time that I did), the Fell family – the father was a cobbler. From the Westfield Lane estate, on Mellors Road, names such as Hoult, one member of the Stevensons I am in touch with, Mears, Florence, Cairns, Smalley and Cash. I am also in touch with two members of the Halleron family on Westfield Lane. There were also those on Wainright Avenue and Pratt Close, whose names I cannot remember, with exceptions such as Overton, Halpin, Hackett and Boyer.