WThe Wartime Memories Project - RAF Initial Training Wing, Blackpool

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The RAF selected Blackpool as one of its Training Wings due to the availability of accomodation. As a popular holiday town there were a large number of guest houses available to house new recruits. The open expanses of the seafront, the pier and the winter gardens were used for "square bashing". In total 769,673 recruits recieved their training at Blackpool.

Blackpool was also home to No. 5 School of Technical Training where recruits learned the skills to become air mecahnics.

My Grandfather was Frank Lawson Smart was born April 1901 in Scotland. He served in World War 2, stationed in Blackpool with the R.A.F. He was Ground Crew, a Lead Mechanic responsible for the balloon Barrages. His wife's name was Elizabeth Lindsay Smart and they lived in Brechin.


During the days OUR CORPORAL (Bless Him!) took us marching round the streets.

There was one particular street, we frequented for arms drill, the Corporal used to climb on to the roof of an raid shelter and shout orders down to us. (I'm sure it was a psychological move on his part).

street shelter

If anyone defaulted in a particular move he would bark out "You stupid airman" and other quips (much stronger if there were no civvies in ear shot) then he would order us to hold our rifles above our heads and run up and down the road as a penalty.

On one such occasion we were running with rifles held high when I heard such a clatter behind me, the Corporal jumped off the shelter and stormed into the Squad singling out one of the 'ERKs' who had dropped his rifle. He told us to get back into line then began to deal with the offender. He took two objects from his pockets (which looked very much like grenades, probably blanks) handed them to the unfortunate airman and ordered him to hold them high in the air and run up and down the road daring him to drop them. The arms drill was a daily routine.

When we were marched around the streets, despite the horrible weather that seemed to persist in Blackpool whilst we were there, we used to have quite a laugh as we marched past civilians, especially the young girls (don't forget we were young too). All sots of remarks were bantered to and from us. Some of the older people's remarks tended to be more 'sober', almost apologetic but the youngsters comments called for 'nearer the knuckle' answers of which we were quite capable. Our Corporal remonstrated with us using 'stock phrases' (Ha! Ha! Unprintable here) that he had, no doubt, composed and uttered to other Squads before us.

I remember we used to stop at one particular cafe where we could have a cuppa and cake, the Corporal used to go to an inner room (we came to the conclusion he got his break free of charge for ' bringing in business').

One day not long into our training we had to parade for jabs, of course, we are in the era when one needle did umpteen jabs until it was blunt, invariably this could be indicated if you saw a trickle of blood coming from someone's arm, the trick was to keep tabs on the change of needles and endeavour to get in on the new one. The queues for the 'jabs' were quite long and it was not unusual to witness some of the lads slipping into a faint long before they reached the 'dishing out area'.

one needle did umpteen jabs

Having had our injections the squads began to line up on the road in readiness to march off. I was chatting to a chap next to me when I felt a tug on the belt of my uniform I turned and the lad on my other side had slumped in a faint. I put him in a sitting position with his head between his legs fortunately I had water in my 'water bottle' so I gave him a swig. He had 'come round' by the time the rest of the chaps 'fell in'. I felt sorry for the poor --d as he was the erk who had dropped his rifle a short while ago. There was a saying that went "There is one in every squad".

This was our one.

I never thought of it before but I now wonder how he 'faired' throughout his tour of service. He looked a likely candidate for an office 'wallah' but then again he may well have turned out to be an Air Ace. Who knows?

Along the Central sea front Esplanade we, at times, would have to line up 3 or 4 deep, the N.C.O. in charge would count a number of ranks and issue various fatigue duties to be carried out when 'dismissed'. On these parades a friend and myself would ensure we were positioned nearest the sea side of the Esplanade and when the order 'Dismiss to your Duties' was called we jumped onto the beach and ran along close to the wall until we reached the North Shore where we then 'surfaced' and mingled with the crowds in the Amusement Park. There were always a fair number of girls walking around the Park and invariably we would make dates to go dancing in the Tower Ballroom the Winter Gardens or whatever.

Thinking back I cannot remember ever going into a Pub all the time I was in Blackpool but I did partake of a drink or two at the Bars in the Ballrooms, when I could afford it, which was not very often. Having said that most of the girls I dated would not let me pay for anything, as one of them explained they were on holiday from their work places and if they did not spend out, they wouldn't consider it to be a good holiday. They also realized that we, in the Services, were not exactly over paid during our training period. Even so it took me a while to accept this fact and I showed my appreciation by giving them a good time whilst they were in my company.

A rumour that we were to tackle an assault course on September 29th '42 became a reality. We were taken, along with other Squads, to the designated plot. Fortunately our Squad was not the first to attempt the course so we stood by watching the others. They were struggling with various obstacles and thought to myself " this isn't what I joined the Air Force for"

We moved slowly nearer the setting off line and when we reached it we paired up to tackle the course, I was not over excited at the prospect of climbing fences, crawling under nets or any of the other 'niceties' that was prepared for us but what could I do at this stage of the exercise? Our N.C.O barked out the order that we were to Go! Go!.

The first obstacle was a 6 or 7-foot wooden fence to climb and drop over, we had to approach it two chaps at a time. When my turn came, I commenced to run forward with another Erk; halfway to the fence a plan came to mind. My mate got there first, up and over he went then I reached it, climbed up, and would you believe, I 'twisted' my foot when I jumped down, imagine my disappointment not being able to finish the assault course. Strange as it may seem by the time the lads had finished tackling the assault course I had made an amazing recovery and was well able to join them in the trek back to where we did our arms drill.

When we arrived there the Corporal told us to smarten up as we were to have a photograph taken of the whole Squad. Apparently this was the norm before the lads parted company before leaving Blackpool.

575 squad, Blackpool Sept 1942

2 Wing. 3 Squadron. D Flight. 575 Squad. 29/9/42

I was in Blackpool for about 6 weeks and in summing up I enjoyed the arms drill and shooting range, (honest!). I got quite good at target shooting on the ranges and it goes without saying my leisure time was also very pleasurable.

At the end of my Square Bashing I was informed that I was being posted to Yorkshire. I was issued with a rail pass giving me free passage to Pocklington and on the 8th October 1942 I began the journey to my first operational unit.

Doug Storey
Read more about Doug`s RAF Experiences


Blackpool 12th December 1941

Peter Scott.

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List of those who trained at Blackpool.

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