A Little History. . .

The RAF Boy Entrant scheme ran from the mid-1930s to late 1965 where boys joined the RAF between the ages of 15 to 1712 and then underwent training in various occupations (or Trades) which fitted them for employment in the Royal Air Force. Training was suspended during WWII but recommenced in May 1947. The final Entry was the 51st who commenced training in January 1964 and graduated in July 1965.

Training was undertaken at a variety of RAF Stations including RAF Cosford, RAF Yatesbury, RAF Compton Bassett, RAF St Athan, RAF Hereford and RAF Locking. Training took 18 months and included not just the trade and basic training but also more general academic education. After their 18 months of training they then moved to regular RAF duty stations and commenced employment in the trade they had trained on.

The Boy Entrants scheme provided training and a focus in life for boys that sometimes had a poor education. In the early post WWII years, their education had probably been severely disrupted by the war itself.

Thanks to the RAF’s experience with aptitude and intelligence tests, and the knowledge that lack of education did not mean lack of intelligence, the RAF was able to train suitable candidates in appropriate trades and so assisted in creating the backbone of the RAF’s technical services during the years dominated by transient National Servicemen.

The Boy Entrant scheme ran alongside another Boys scheme called the RAF Apprentices who undertook 3 years training which run on similar lines.

 

A Fistful of Sparks - Airmen in signals-related trades wear an arm badge in the form of a fist clenchning zig-zags representing electric sparks. Originally it was worn high on both arms then limited to the right, but around 1951 it was relocated lower down to below any badge of rank. The rumour goes that the badge was initially introduced to excuse signallers from having to salute every time they took a message into the receiving officer.

 

The true origins of Trade Group 11 goes back to the spring of 1915, when the War Office decided to expand the new idea of directing gun-fire from batteries by Air Observation. A recruiting drive was started to get lads of good education to train as RFC Wireless Operators. (The start of the Boy Entrant Scheme). Radio Telephony was found to be unreliable so morse signals were sent back from the aircraft to the ground Battery Commander. Pre WW11 training for Wireless Operators was carried out at the Electrical and Wireless School located at RAF Cranwell. During WW11, with increased communications demand, RAF Compton Bassett commenced training Ground Signallers and DF Operators. In 1947 the training of Telegraphist Boy Entrants moved from Cranwell to Compton Bassett. In 1950 it was decided to introduce a new trade structure for Ground Trades. Trade Group 11 was born. Soon after this in 1952 Boy Entrant training for Telegraphists was moved from Compton Bassett to RAF Cosford.

In the Beginning - RAF Cosford. By 1934, plans were in hand for the rapid expansion of the Royal Air Force to meet the threat of Nazi Germany. One of the greatest problems was the provision of Technicians to maintain the aircraft during the first months of the war and to train men who would be mobilised later, these would be trained at No 2 School of Technical Training and Cosford was chosen as the site. Modern Barrack Blocks at a cost of 250.000 pound each were planned. Drawings were actually prepared in 1937 for the construction of 4 block to be named Fulton, Brancker, Salmond and Samson. In the event only the first named was built -FULTON BLOCK. The block was named after Captain Fulton, a Pioneer Aviator and Aeronautical Engineer who bacame the first Commander of military aircraft in Great Britain. Much local reaction appears to have been hostile to the building of an RAF Camp and locals complained about "spoiling some of the best agricultural land in the district".

 

What of the Cosford Railway Halt ? - NO - not complete yet ! 

Practically everything was manhanded off the lorries that came by road. All the trains stopped at Albrighton where an unloading party transferred equipment to lorries for the short trip to Cosford. It was said many locals were not too impressed by all this and went out of their way to be unhelpful - although all this quickly changed, what with the work and money it bought to the village.

Training commenced on 21st July 1938 under the command of GpCapt WJY Guilfoyle OBE MC who took up residence at Albrighton Grange. The rest is history and thousands of Boy Entrants passed through the gates of Cosford (Motto "Only The Beginning Is Difficult") until training ceased in 1965.

 

 

Save our SOS

 

It's about 100 years since SAS came into force across the world as the standard signal for ships in distress. But times have changed in the rescue business. Before the advent of radio if your ship got into trouble on some far off stretch of rolling sea, that trouble was not easy to get out of. Communication with other vessels could only be achieved with other ships within sighting distance, using either lights flags or flares. At the tail end of the 19th Century, radio changed that but one must remember that in the early days of radio there was no voice, if you wanted to say you were in trouble or even if you wanted to say anything, it had to be through the morse code! Also WT (Wireless Telegraphy) – or radio, opened up the possibility of reliable communication with ships that were out of sight of each other for the first time. The most important of all calls that a ship's Radio Officer could make was a distress signal indicating the vessel was in danger of sinking! If your ship got into trouble on its Atlantic crossing in the early years of the 20th Century you would not necessary have signalled SAS, it could have been CQD British radio operators on ships tened to have come straight from work on land-based telegraph and bought their operating signals with them. CQ was a general call to demand attention from all stations. The Marconi company suggested this signal be appended with a D to work as a distress signal. At a conference in Berlin in 1906 the international wireless telegraphy community got together to find something that would be international acceptable. And impossible to mistake. The Italians were using SSSDDD, Marconi were using CQD and the Germans SOE. It needn't have been SOS of course, the combination of the same number of dots and dashes being broadcasted without a pause could well be IJS, SMB or VTB – SOS won the day, coming into effect on 1st July 1908.