Extract from the reminiscences of Aircraft Artificer 4th Class (Ordinance) Maurice Ayling, formerly of 1843 Squadron,, working up in Australia as a part of the reserve No. 3 Carrier Air Group.

HMS Nabstock 4th June - 15th July1945

 

 

The airfield was still occupied by the R.A.A.F, in the process of being handed over, and we were the first Squadron to be supported by "Nabstock", after its location there on 1st June.

 

It was a pretty relaxed establishment, with many bolt holes in the perimeter fence. There was also a fairly large contingent of W.A.A.A.F in two or three rows of the huts. Returning from our first run ashore into Maryborough, an oppo and I walked down the main road of the camp which, because of its proximity to the sea, was blacked out, and turned up a side road into what we took to be our hut. It was very late, so we were very careful to make no noise. Having felt my way to my bed space, I sat on the bed to take off my shoes and felt someone in it! I quietly made this known to my oppo who had made a similar discovery. Suddenly, a female Aussie voice let rip "What the bloody Hell do you think you're at?" We had turned up the wrong side road - we shot out of there like a pair of scalded cats! Some of those Aussie women would have had the likes of us for breakfast!

 

I had had my 20th birthday in the Red Sea on the way out, and was now entitled to draw my tot. In the ship, we had had the normal Jamaican rum, but I must confess that I was not enamoured of 'Grog', - 2 parts water to 1 of rum. In Australia, we were issued with Aussie rum, considered to be a pretty inferior tipple especially when watered down. I therefore opted to change from 'Grog' to 'Temperance' (G to T), and was not very popular. My messmates thought I should have drawn it and shared it around. Not on your Nelly! I was just coming to the end of my training and rating to PO.

 

 There were four of us on the Squadron from the same entry of Apprentices, me, Jimmy James, Darby Allen, all (0), and Bill Ellis, an (L). There had been 5, but Stumpy Tucker left us for South Africa on our return to UK from the US. Hitherto, we had been advised that we would be rated PO Air Fitter and have to do some more courses to become Artificers. This was the case with those who had trained at Halton (RAF). Fortunately for us, there was a very switched on Gunnery Officer at Maryborough, having as his senior rating, an AA4 from 3 entries before ours. We were therefore rated correctly for ex-Newcastle-under-Lyme Apprentices, as Acting. AA4, on 1st July.

 

However, there was no slops at Maryborough and therefore no PO badges to be had. Our new messmates donated some rather tatty cap badges and gilt buttons. Strictly speaking, we should have retained our red badges and black buttons while in the acting rate, but the CO gave us permission to wear gilt, as that was the only available distinction of Petty Officer  status. 

 

As Artificers, of course, we wore no trade badges, and un-shipped our Air Fitter badges.  Since Bombay, we had our tobacco issue in Indian manufactured cigarettes labelled Players, Senior Service, and Woodbines, which Jolly Jack described as camel, horse, and donkey shit. Just how horrible they were was illustrated when I offered one to the father of a young lady who had taken me home as a trophy. He, usually rolling his own, eagerly took one from my packet with the sailor looking through a lifebelt.  Having lit up, he exclaimed "Jeez! where'd you pick that camel crap up?".

 

Even though it was Aussie winter, it was hot at Maryborough, which is well up the coast above Brisbane. There were therefore many of the noises of the tropical night, including frogs. All of this was new and fascinating to us youngsters. The citizens of Maryborough were very good to us. One armourer trapped a young lady who had her 21st birthday while we were there, and almost the whole of the Squadron. armament section were there. The family was delighted to have so many from "The Old Country" and, for once, they behaved themselves reasonably well. (FAA armourers were noted as a rip roaring bunch).

 

Darby Allen and I had a few problems at Maryborough as we had joined the Squadron as Able Rates under the supervision of three or four Leading Air Mechanics, who were now our subordinates. In peace time of course, we would have been moved, but we had to stick it out. The Chief Air Mechanic (0) I/C the armament section was not much help either, letting it be known that "he couldn't stand jumped up Tiffs". It must be understood that there were few Aircraft Artificers in those days and that most of them were Ordnance Artificers from the other half of the RN, with little understanding of aeroplanes. While I was at Lee after passing out, there was only one Artificer, and he was a 'direct entry' from civilian life i.e. he had been called up as a skilled tradesman.

 

 "Nabstock" provided my first opportunity to sample a passion fruit.  A young lady and I ate one each sitting on the front door steps of her home at about 0100 one balmy evening. This was particularly memorable in that that was all the passion I did get! It was also as good place for sea food.

There was a very intensive period of flying at Maryborough, requiring a considerable amount of second line support. Although this was good in many respects, there was a dearth of spares, probably because the MONAB had not been in commission long enough. MONABs had to support both UK and US manufactured aeroplanes, but could never hope to support every type in use by the BPF at any one time.

 

 Our next move was ordered for July 15th to Jervis Bay...

 


Maurice Ayling

 

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