Members of the Branch Speak About Their Service History
Gordon Collinson RAF 1939-46 and 1952-59
 
Number  Rank                                     Dates
1323613  AC2                                      16.2.42 - 29.06.42
                  LAC                                       30.06.42 - 05.08.43
153065     Pilot Officer                          06.08.43 - 06.02.44
                  Flying Officer                        07.02.44 - 17.06.45
                  Sub. Lt. RNAS                     18.06.45 - 08.02.46
                  Lt. RNAS                              08.02.46 - 18.06.46
                  Flt Lt 248 Squadron A.T.C 1952-1959
 
1939
On 7th September I be gan work as an apprentice at the British Tabulating Machine Company (later ICL) in Letchworth. In 1940 the Company became involved in producing BOMBEs; the machines for decoding the German Enigma Machines. It was Top Secret and very few employees knew what they were working on. Later, whilst in the RAF and on leave, I visited the factory and saw a strange machine; thirty years later I realised I had seen a BOMBE.
 
1941
In April I became Cadet No 16 in No 248 (Letchworth) Squadron Air Training Corps. Had my first flight in a Whitley at RAF Henlow. On 15th August I was attested into the RAF on my 18th birthday with the ambition, like most young men, to fly Spitfires!
 
1942
In the February I was called up to the Aircrew Receiving Centre at St Johns Wood with the Selection Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground. I joined the Initial Training Wing in Paignton, Devon in the Spring where we were 'visited' by ME109s on tip and run raids. Whilst on a drill parade I was inspected by King George VI. By the autumn I had passed the grading course to determine suitability for aircrew as a pilot and transferred to RAF Heaton Park, Manchester, awaiting posting for training.
 
1943
In January I joined SS 'Andes' and set sail for Canada in full gale that persisted for the six day voyage that included various course changes to avoid U-boats. The ship was covered in ice when we reached Halifax. My flying started in No 4 Training Command at No 32 Elementary Flying Training School, Bowden, Alberta on Tiger Moths before completing Service Flying Training at No 34 Service Flying Training School at Medicine Hat, Alberta. I was awarded my pilot wings in August just before my 20th birthday I progressd to No 32 Navigation Training School, No 3 Training Command, at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island from September to October after which I returned to England aboard SS 'Aquitania' on a dead-calm sea all the way. Then to RAF Harrogate waiting for posting.
 
1944
I didn't have to wait long and in March I was posted to RAF Dyce (now Aberdeen Airport) on flying control duties. I did get a trip in an Auster into the Cairngorms with an Army pilot to watch Commandos training for D-day although we did not know it at the time. From April to June I was at RAF Croughton, Oxfordshire for a conversion course onto twin-engined Airspeed Oxfords. Got lost on my first solo flight and made a precautionary landing at what turned out to be Steeple Morden where the USAF had a Mustang squadron. They were very generous - fed me and took me in a jeep back home to Letchworth. In June I was posted to RAF Killadeas on Lough Erne, Northern Ireland for Catalina Operational Training until September. Whilst home on leave in the August I joined RAFA with a life membership which was a the princely sum of £5 in those days. On completion of training my posting came in and I was off to Gibralta on SS 'Orduna' in convoy to join No 202 Squadron flying Catalinas - no Spitfires! After just a month in Gibralter 202 Squadron returned to Lough Erne and were based at RAF Castle Archdale.
 
1945
There were nine regular members on our Catalina and we undertook many operations on anti U-boat patrols and convoy escorts without a single U-boat sighting until the end of March when we attacked a periscope and schnorkel tube but, due to a technical fault, the depth charges hung up; we had no more chances. With the end of WWII in Europe No 202 Squadron were quickly disbanded at Castle Archdale on 12 June 1945. Meanwhile there was an oportunity for me to transfer to the Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) and I thought that flying single engined aircraft might be a possibility for me. So I transferred and lo and behold I was posted, via Greenwich Naval College, to Lee on Solent to fly Seafires after a Harvard conversion course at Atcham. That proved to me that if you really want to do something you can find a way.
 
1946
From October 1945 I attended various courses on Seafire III at Yeovilton, Eglinton (N. Ireland) until April 1946; later at Easthaven in Scotland my demob came through. This was just two weeks before I was due to do Carrier deck landings! In the June I left the Navy to become a civilian again after my demob.
 
1952-1959
I joined the RAF VR (Training) to become the C.O. of No 248 (Letchworth) Sqdn, Air Training Corps where I had been a cadet in 1941. Gordon Overton, RAFA Branch member, was a Warrant Officer in the squadron.
 
Postscript
Several outstanding members of the RAF Association have been awarded National Presidential Certificates with the Queen's birthday honours list 2012. The award, the highest the Association can possibly bestow, is recognition of ongoing support and dedication to the Association. Our Branch President, Mr Gordon Collinson, is one of those so honoured. Those receiving the award have a wealth of experience and have made a range of invaluable contributions to the RAF Association and its work. The Letchworth, Hitchin & District Branch Committee and members congratulate Gordon on this achievement.