In this enjoyable memoir, Ken Bartrop recalls an eventful RAF career which began during World War II and continued until the early 1960s.
In 1942, aged 15, Ken left home in Sheffield and boarded a train bound for No.1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire to begin training as an Aircraft Apprentice under a scheme started in 1922 by Air Chief Marshal Lord Trenchard. Known as ‘Trenchard's Brats’ by other ranks of the Royal Air Force, these underage Apprentices were trained in a variety of trades relevant to the maintenance of aircraft and their associated equipment before going on to join the ranks of the fully-qualified technicians and engineers who kept the aircraft of the RAF in good working order. Ken was a member of the 44th Entry of Apprentices at RAF Halton.
After undergoing training as an engine fitter, Ken was posted to RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey to work on the Rolls-Royce Merlin engines of the Supermarine Spitfires in use on the base.
In 1944 he was posted overseas to India, where, at Cawnpore, he served as a member of No.322 Maintenance Unit, servicing aircraft involved in the continuing conflict in the Far East. He returned to the UK in 1947 and would remain in the Royal Air Force until 1966, serving a variety of capacities at home and abroad as far afield as Singapore and RAF Habbaniyah in Iraq.
Ken completes the book by recording his activities after leaving the RAF, which involved a second career as a schoolteacher and, after retirement, a ten-year sojourn in France, when he and his wife lived on a ‘Domaine’ in Provence.
All told, it is a fascinating insight into a lifetime of experiences that will be of particular interest to those of Ken's generation as well as fellow former RAF Aircraft Apprentices.