Alfred Patrick John Dixon 1919-2000

This section of the story has been written by "Paddy" himself, and I leave it unedited.

Born 25th May 1919 at Dronfleld Road, Coventry, Warwickshire.

Father: Alfred James DIXON. Ordnance Engineer.

Mother: Gertrude Annie (nee ELKINGTON).

School sports Paddy aged 11 at Spring Lane sports field, Colchester. Nora tat left and Phyl onthe ground. "Old Mr. Walker is in the background.

 

The family moved from Coventry to Enfield Wash in Middlesex, soon after I was born and ran a popular pub called the "White House". I remember how spacious it all seemed at the time and how exciting the out-buildings were and admirably suited to the very young. I attended the local primary school for a couple of years before being sent as a boarder the the High School for Boys, Wellesley Road, Colchester, where I was to remain for seven years during which time I achieved one or two modest successes, regrettably few of them having any scholastic merit. These included Head Boarder, Head Boy, Scout Troop Leader, Captain of Cricket and Footbal, winner of three successive English prizes and the DIXON cup for swimming JEd. Ilds cup was one of Ay~ed James DIXON's cups that he wonfor motor-racing. AJ had the inscription on the cup filled in, re-inscribed and presented it to the High School as a cup for swimming. At the time Paddywon it, his father had just died).

The photograph below was taken in the garden of the family home at Soutlicliffe Park Road, Clacton-on Sea on my first leave in 1936. You can see the old fashioned uniform consisting of puttees, dog collar and breeches which were later discarded in favour of slacks and open neck tunic and collar and ties.

In 1929 the family moved to Clacton-on-Sea, Essex taking over a cafe and confectionary business in Station Road. Dad became very ill and Mum eventually had to give up the business to look after him and moved to "Winster", Elm Tree Avenue, Frinton-on-Sea. For two lomg years Dad suffered with cancer of the bowel and despite major surgery at London Hospital died in 1935. Before he died it had been decided to enter me for an engineering apprenticeship in the Royal Air Force and ease Mum's task of caring for the family on her own. I duly sat and passed the entrance examination in 1935 and in August of that year entered the Halton Apprentices School near Wendover, Bucks for a three year course. As was customary at the time, children usually did what their parents thought best and I have little recollection of being consulted although my secret ambition was to have become a professional cricketer.

I managed to pass out in August 1938 as an Aircraftsman First Class and was entitled to service both engines and airframes and was posted to Mildenhall in Suffolk to No. 149 Bomber Squadron.

Nine months later it was off to the Middle East for a five year tour of duty, which was customary in those days, and after an uncomfortable journey vis Ifis Majesty's Ship Dunera, arrived at Heliopolos, near Cairo to join 208 Army Co-op Squadron on 2nd May 1939.

In September the squadron moved by road to the Western Desert near the Libyan border and it was enroute I heard on the radio that war had been declared. For the next eighteen months I soldiered on. at a couple of desert encampments with the occasional Italian bomb falling but it was a halcyon period despite the shortage of water, the surfeit of bully beef and primitive living conditions. I found the desert to quite a memorable time. Even more memorable when I succumbed to malaria and after three attacks was evacuated to Alexandria hospital and eventually finished up at Abu Seeir near Ismailia to work on the bench testing of aero engines. I found this to be the most absorbing job despite the noise and necessity for night work in the hot weather. A lot more noise was to be heard one night when the camp -was raided by Stuka dive bombers causing sufficient damage to the depot for the test benches to be moved to Helwan, near Cairo. Our camp air defence at the time had been near a Bofors gun and the following morning we were somewhat astonished to find an unexploded 250 lb bomb embedded 10 yards from our hut entrance, from which we had scampered to an adjacent air rais shelter the previous night.

For the next two years my bench and I worked at Helwan and again at Helipolis until I was posted home in June 1943. The journey on a hospital ship round the Cape (of Good Hope, South Africa) took three months, one of which was spent in fairly, rioutous living in Cape Town. It was a most depressing homecoming to arrive at Liverpool in the rain and see the devastation in the city, but this was soon overshadowed by the delight at seeing Mum again, who had moved to 'Sans Souci', Southcliffe Park, Clactob and sister Nora who was now the widow of an RAF navigator.

This picture dated 1937 shows No. I Wing, RAF Halton. I am second from right~ front row (The two men flanking the central figure in uniform were quite famous in their day. After graduating from Halton they became ace fighter pilots during World War 2).

For my part in helping to win a football competition my fellow competitors were allowed an excursion to the famous Brooklands racing track. In those days before the War, Brooklands was and had been for quite a number of years, a very well known motor-racing circuit. On this particular occasion I was enthralled to see at close range the famous Napier racing car. The actual races of the day I remember not at all, except one particular race consisting of Asutin Seven cam. This was a race purely for lady drivers !! The photo (below) was taken by Basil Parfitt - no 568307.

Fuica, Western Desert, Paddy on the left

On my return to the UK in May 1946 1 had the good fortune to join the Handling Squadron at Hullavington in Wiltshire who were developing servicing routines for the first Vampire aircraft, which gave me an insight into the mysteries of jet propulsion. From there it was to Feltwell in Norfolk and then to Wellesbourne Mountford in Wari-vickshire where I met my future brother-in-law Stan EVANS (see Chapter 51, with whom I became great friends. In January 1948 we were both posted to Finningley in Yorkshire and it was inevitable that I was introduced to his sister Marian and in April of the following year were married at Sheffield. After a short honeymoon in London we took up residence in the first of our many homes at Vine Cottage, Dedham in Essex.

Having completed my twelve year service engagement I was demobilised in June and headed for a career in civilian life. In order to pay the rent I took ajob at Dedham flour mill (the one John Constable painted) as a general hand which consisted maninly of humping sacks of flour.1 suggested an improvement to their automatic feed machine and was subsequently invited to become their engineer in charge of the machinery, a job which had a cottage nearby.

I often wonder what would have been our future if I had taken that job but by this time I had joined Ratcliffe's Garage in Colchester as a motor fitter. Soon after I was promoted to salesman and drove around the area selling spares and non-existant Vauxhall motor cars.

In August 1949 1 heard from the Air Ministry that my previous application for commissioning had been approved and was invited to attend the Officers Training Unit at Spitalgate in Lincolnshire. Marian and I debated long and hard on what to do and where our best future would lie bearing in mind that Chris was due in November and Vine Cottage would be a most unsuitable residence. On a personal note it had always been my ambition to be commissioned - I had been previously recommended in Egypt - and felt that I had to accept the challenge it offered.

Happily, Marian agreed and Mum, who had been to Canada for a few years, generously offered to accommodate Marian at Sea View, Layer Breton while I was away.

And so in September it was off to OCTU for a demanding three months training in Air Force Law, Kings Regulations, military history, flelderaft and a number of stringent tests in handling command problems, none of which were made easier by being so isolated and far away from Marian. However, I was allowed a long weekend pass in November and scooted off to Feering nursing home to see Marian and Christopher - a momentous occasion.

 

Marian and I were reunited again during a weeks leave at Christmas and with Mum's help and advice we were able to plan and arrange for Chris's treatment for double talipes at Great Ormond Street Hospital. In late January 1950 1 passed out as a fully fledged Pilot Officer watched proudly by Mum as I marched past the saluting base. And then it was yet another posting to Bircham Newton to the Equipment Officers School for four months studying supply procedures. I managed to rent a third floor flat in a terrace on the front at Hunstanton and at last managed to adopt a more normal mode of family life for a brief period before being posted to Compton Bassett in Wiltshire as Transport Officer. Mum, once again, cared for Marian abd Chris while I scoured the area for accommodation eventually finding a top floor flat in Bromham Rectory miles from anywhere. As luck would have it the rector died about a month after we had moved in and it was out on the street again and in desperation Marian and Chris were forced to move into the Kings Arms Hotel in Melksham. I couldn't afford to stay there as well, except at weekends and it took me some months before I located a pleasant ground floor flat facing the Green in Calne before we could be reunited.

 

Above: Officer Cadet Training Unit 1949 - Paddy extreme left, 3rd row up.

Right: Christopher 1949. The first momentous occasion.

The motley crew of the Equipment Officers School 1950 Paddy is standing on the extreme left.

 

All too soon it was time for another move to No 53 M.U. at Pulharn (an explosive depot) where I took overthe airfield storage at Bungay and we had a short sojourn in a bungalow opposite the station. The local publican had a terrace house in Harleston and I pursuaded him to offer it to the Air Force as a hired married quarter which we subsequently occupied and it was here that our second son Jeremy was born in June 1952 (another momentous occasion).

In May the following year I was posted to No. 86 ,viovements unit in Hamburg anct tfie tamily eventually followed me and lived in a lovely requisitioned house at Blankenese. This proved to be a most happv and eniovable tour and when the unit moved to Antwerp I remained in Hamburg to take charge of the detachment which was responsible for the movement of all RAF freight into and out of Hamburg docks. I well remember arranging a trip on one of the tramp steamers to take Chris to Hospital and was more than glad after the roughest of passages to disembark at Antwerp on the return journey and catch a train to Hamburg. We also managed a trip by Sabena airline which was a lot more pleasant way of travelling. In June 1955 we rejoined the unit at Antwerp and settled in a penthouse on the Avenue de France for a very pleasant couple of years. By this time I was the Shipping Officer and among other duties I made regular trips to Zeebrugge to supervise the loading and unloading of explosive ships and trains two years iater we were otr again, to w enesbourne Mountford as Plant Control Officer in charge of the storage and supply of airfield construction equipment and Marian and the children to a married quarter at Padgate, Lancashire until a married quarter became available at Church Lawford near Rugby where we spent a pleasant eighteen months. On a sudden impulse I volunteered for a secondment to the Lebanese Air Force and much to my surprise was accepted and flew out to Beirut in December 1958 and became Equipment Advisor to the Lebanese Air Force who had recently been equipped with six Hawker Hunter fighter planes and a small RAF training mission. A most interesting post working at the Lebanese Ministry of Defence and at Beirut airport. The family duly arrived somewhat later and we lived in three different flats in a most enjoyable two year tour of duty. Although I was asked to extend my tour we felt that it was time Chris had a check up at Great Ormond Street Hospital and we returned home by cruise ship from Beirut to Marseilles and then by road to Southampton via Paris and Ostend to a bungalow offered to us by our neighbours in Beirut which proved to be most disappointing. From there to another dismal flat in Manningtree and yet another in Angelfield House at Clacton while waiting for my next posting which was to be at Headquarters Bomber Command at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

 

By this time I had sat and passed the various promotion exams and was pleased to be granted the rank of Squadron Leader. My new job made me responsible for the chasing of spares urgently needed to keep our V bomber aircraft serviceable and the nuclear deterrent policy workable. It was a demanding job with little spare time away from telephones except for the ocassional progress meetings at the various aircraft factories making the spares for the Victor, Valiant and Vulcan bombers. We had taken a furnished house for a year called Templar Mead and our bio-est concern had become the education of the children which had suffered with all the various moves and they were clearly destined to undergo several more changes of secondary schools. After a lot of agonising we decided to send them to Endsleigh boarding school in Colchester which had a good local reputation and was near to Mum in Clacton and sister Phyl in Lexden. It was a great loss in 1962 when Mum died, a loss I still feel today some 27 years later.

 

Jeremy, Christopher & Paddy

 

RAF 92 NW Paddy front row centre

 

We also had the trauma and worry over Chris's operation at Carshalton Hospital in Surrey which happily proved successful.

 

From Templar Mead we moved to a married quarter in Burnham Beeches near the Headquarters. In Septemebr 1963 1 was posted to No. 92 M.U. which was a top secret maintenance unit where I was Chief Equipment Officer responsible for the storage and transportation of nuclear weaponry. For this tour we lived in a married quarter on the camp at Faldingworth and it was at the Market Rasen golf course that I started my obsession with the game Of golf. The job itself was quite unique but a bit scary living on top of, and dealing with such a heap of lethal iron mongery, and worrying all the time when one of my large convoys was on the road carrying nuclear capsules to London or the Lincolnshire airfields.

Sad to say Endsleiah School closed it's doord and after visitinga lot of schools recommended by the educational gurus we decided to transfer the children to Pierrepont School in Surrey. We were not too displeased therefore, to be posted to Headquarters Fighter Command in March 1966 and take up residence in another married quarter in Stanmore, Middlesex, although my job was rather tedious being concerned with the supply and support facilities of radar spares and equipment to our Fighter stations.

From there in March 1966, we moved to Cyprus and a furnished flat in Limassol. I was a Staff Officer at Headquarters Near East Air Force at Episcopi dealing with the provison and supply of explosives, fuels and clothing which proved to be a most interesting job including trips to Malta and Libya to inspect their installations. I also managed a trip to Kuwait as captain of the combined services golf team.

After a few months in Limassol we moved to a married quarter in Kensington village at Episcopi. Chris had left school and took a job as clerical officer at the Headquarters while Jeremy commuted to school by air for a few months until leaving Pierrepont to join the RAF school at Episcopi for a while before also getting a job as a draughtsman. It was an idyllic tour in beautiful surroundings, superb weather and working hours were only from seven until two, giving us plenty of spare time to enjoy the island and the excellent service amenities plus plenty of golf (handicap down to 4) and even the odd trip to a UN conference in Turkey. It was with great sadness that we left Cyprus after three years, in May 1971 and returned to 108 Douglas Road in Clacton which had Mum had bequeathed to us believing that we would always need a "bolthole" in our nomadic life style, and how right she was. It had always been a joke between us when I stayed there that I had to keep my "half' clean and tidy since I was paying most of the mortgage.

 

From here it was to No . 16 MU at Stafford as the Anglo-French Project Officer to liase with the various supply agencies procuring helicopters - a dull job with a lot of boring and interminable meetings at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. Added to this we had a rotten married quarter, the children had gone their separate ways and neither Marian or I liked Stafford at all. It was here that we decided the time had come to seek pastures new and I applied for early retirement from the RAF at the age of 52 instead of the mandatory age of 55. In preparation, I obtained membership of the British Institute of Management and attended a management course at the London Polytechnic sponsored by the RAF and also took a correspondence course in golf club management. The latter suf~ect appealed and at the third application I was accepted as the Secretary/ Manager at Ipswich Golf Club in Suffolk. I commuted there daily from Clacton for about seven months until we bought a bungalow at 117 Bucklesham Road, Ipswich which adjoined the golf course.

 

RAF Episcopi Combined Services Golf Team 1970

 

108 I)ouglas Road, Clacton-on-Ses, Essex

 

I enjoyed the job immensely for a few years becoming quite immersed in the management aspect which almost completely overtook my interest in playing golf. It was a delight to have achieved stability in our lives and a sense of permanence, which led me to strip our packing cases and use them as a floor in the attic. Little did I know that the fates had yet another move in store.

By this time the children had gone about their respective careers and in the case of Jeremy a wedding to Evelyn RATCLIFFE and to our dismay an emigration to Australia.

Chris completed a three year teacher training course and marriage to Pamela SMITH.arian and I took stock of the situation and since I had become somewhat disenchanted with the golf club we pondered on what we should do. Refiring in Ipswich for the rest of our lives did not appeal and we considered Spain, Portugal and Cyprus as possible anchorages. About this time in 1980jeremy had an unhappy divorce and we decided that a holiday in Australia might do us all good and it may turn out to be a suitable retirement home, which proved to be the case after a pleasant month in the sunshine of Perth in Western Australia.

And so about a year later we flew out to our new home which was to be 20 Hillside Crescent, Gooseberry Hill in the foothills near Perth. Much to our delight Chris and Pamela were able to join us later.

Jeremy met and married Bonnie BARKER and in 1988, 1989 and 1991 we became proud grandparents of Rachel, James, Patrick and Daniel (four momentous occasions). -,

 

List of Units and Places

1935-38            RAF Halton, Bucks Apprentice training

1938-39            Mildenhall, Suffolk 149 B Sqn.

1939                 Heliopolis, Egypt208 AC Sqn

                        Western Desert, Egypt ditto

1940                 Abu Sulu, Egypt 102 MU Test Bench

1941                 Helwan, Egypt  111 MU            ditto

1942                 Heliopolis, Egypt109 MU          ditto

1943                 T6mpsford, 138 Sqn

1944                 Woolfax Lodge, Lincs 1651 CU

1945                 Tuddenham, Suffolk      32 Base

1946                 Upwood, Suffolk 2 LSU

1946                 Bari, Italy ditto

1946                 Pomigliano, Italy ditto

1946                 Hullavington, Wilts       3 FrS

1947                 Feltwell, Lincs  3 FSTS

1948                 Wellesbourne    3 GTS

1949                 Finningley, Yorks         3 SFrS

1949                 Feltwell, Lincs  3 FrS

1949                 Mistley Farm Mill, Suffolk -

1949                 Ratcliffes Garage, Colchester

1949                 Spitalgate, Yorks OCTU

1950                 Bircham Newton, Norfolk Equipt Officer School

1950                 Compton Bassett 15 Sqn TT

1951                 Nth Coates, Lincs          XF Course

1952                 Pulham 53 MU (X)

1953                 Hamburg, Germany       86 MU

1955                 Antwerp, Belgium         ditto

1957                 Wellesbourne    ACB

1958                 Beirut, Lebanon LAF

1960                 High Wycombe, Bucks HQBC

1963                 Faldingworth, Lincs      92 MU

1966                 Stanmore, MiddxHQFC

1968                 Episcopi, Cyprus HQNEAF

1971                 Stafford, Staffs  16 MU

1972                 Ipswich Golf Club

1982                 Kalamunda, Australia

 

Abbreviations

 

AC

ACB

BC       Bomber Command

CU

FC        Fighter Command

FSTS

FTS

GTS

HQ       Headquarters

LAF     Lebanese Air Force

LSU

MU      Maintenance Unit

NEAF  Near East Air Force

OCTU  Officer Cadet Traininj

Unit

SFTS

Sqn      Squadron

x          Explosives

 

           

 

 

Where our caravan has rested (or where we have called home since we married)

Sea View Cottage, Layer Breton, Essex

1949     Vine Cottage, Gun Hill, Dedham

1949     Sea View Cottage, Layer Breton, Essex

1950     Hunstanton, Norfolk

1950     The Rectory, Bromham, Wilts

1950     Kings Arms Hotel, Melksharn, Wilts

1950     The Green, Calne, Wilts

1951     Holten-le-Clay, Lincs

1951     The Bungalow, Harleston, Norfolk

1951     Wilderness Terrace, Harleston, Norfolk

1962     Blankanese, Hamburg, Germany

1952     Conzestrasse, Blankanese, Hamburg, Germany

1953     Penthouse Flat, Avenue de France, Antwerp, Belgium

1955     Married Quarters, Padgate, Lincs

1955     Married Quarters, Church Lawford, Warwicks