Ex-South Shields cadet's journey to join RAF
When we featured a photo of Les Gustafson sitting in an ejector seat at the HQ of 324 South Shields Squadron Air Training Corps, it revived many memories for other fellow former cadet members.
One of them, Peter Carlin-Page, got in touch to tell us a bit more about the seat, taken from a V bomber, and other experiences he had with the ATC.
He said: “Great to see the shot of the ATC, with Les Gustafson in the ejector seat.
“I was the Flight Sergeant and the photographer was the father of one of the cadets and Gazette photographer at the time, Garnet Moore. He came along on many of our expeditions and produced an amazing article on the Second World War Flying Fortress propeller that we recovered from the Cheviots.
“I still have original article, while the propeller is still with the ATC Squadron in South Shields.”
More about the Flying Fortress and the propeller later.
First, Peter tells us how he got involved with the local cadets.
“I joined when the cadets were in the old Second World War huts, previously used by the anti-aircraft battery. I remember well, as a 12 or 13-year-old walking down the long dark path on my first night to be greeted by these older boys in RAF battle-dress. They looked amazing and rather large – some were even smoking – and I realised then and there that the RAF was for me.
“It was a winters night and the main hut was heated by a pot boiler fire. I was told that I was too young and would have to come back in nine months. I pleaded with them and they agreed I could come along but could not go shooting or to any RAF stations until I was old enough.
“I went back home and told my parents I wanted to be an RAF officer and fly.
“I worked out that I only needed five O-levels, including maths, English and science.
“I am afraid school began to take second place – my dreaming went on. Little did I know that only a few years later I would go to Biggin Hill and pass the officer selection. What happened up to that point is a rather interesting story.”
Tomorrow: Peter tells us more of that and how he bumped into the then Prime Minister in the Far East.