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Library Reference Number: 026

The Leas-Hoylake

Peter Rae,  Scottish Saltire Branch, ACA.

Peter Rae qualified as a W.Op/AG and flew his first operation in a Hampden aircraft on 8th March 1942.  While elsewhere on duty, Peter's crew set out on a mission and never returned. Posted from 106 Squadron to 207 Squadron based at Bottesford, he completed an operational tour flying in Lancasters.  Duties allocated to aircrew on completion of an operational period could produce surprising results; Peter describes his own experience:-

Peter Rae, mid-upper gunner of Lancaster EM-F.  Photo courtesy 207 Squadron Archives It was the middle of September 1942 that I completed a tour of operations with No.207 Squadron at RAF Bottesford.  Having been granted seven days home leave, I returned to Bottesford to find that the Squadron was preparing to move to RAF Langar, and everything was in turmoil.

It was early in December before my posting came through to No.2 A.C.D.  Enquiring at the Orderly Room as to what A.C.D. meant, I received the usual response - "Your railway warrant says West Kirby, get there and you will find out!"

Arriving at the small R.T.O.s Office, they sent for transport which duly arrived in the shape of an Ambulance which was the first surprise.  Ten minutes later, I was dropped off outside a huge sort of mansion house, where I was informed that this was No.2 A.C.D. viz "No.2 Aircrew Convalescent Depot for NCOs."  (No.1 ACD I discovered was for Commissioned Ranks and based at Loughborough).  The two units were based on an idea by Britain's two leading orthopaedic surgeons, Mr. Watson Jones and Air Commodore Clark.

The Commanding Officer at "The Leas" was an elderly squadron leader named Dawes (Daddy), who was reputed to hold No.4 Pilot's Licence, he certainly knew all the top brass in London - all first names stuff when he was ordering materials to enable me set up the training unit.  Many of the injuries suffered by members of aircrew arriving at the unit were so severe, that many operations and surgical treatment would be required.  This meant gaps in between, with sufficient time lapse to allow previous surgery to be effective before embarking on further surgery.  All this meant a long time away from flying duties, my task therefore, was to set up a small training section to keep the boys up to scratch.  As it happened, I was the first instructor to arrive and got the heavy end - one hut divided in two, one part for Wireless and one for Navigation, we also had a Link Trainer.  The hut was sparsely fitted out with bare walls, fortunately an electrician arrived to help me install equipment and turn the place into full working order.  Other staff members who arrived were mainly senior P.T.I.s many being ex-football players - a Red Cross nurse and a local G.P. who was on call.

Peter Rae, mid-upper gunner of Lancaster EM-F. Photo courtesy 207 Squadron Archives The aircrew patients were mostly all in plaster of one form or another.  In categories you had -the legs - the arms - the hips - the backs - and a few necks.  It was quite a sight to see the 7-a-side football matches - the legs v the hips, or even the backs v the arms etc.   No heavy tackling was allowed for obvious reasons!

At week-ends, the local bus to Hoylake stopped outside the gates and the boys would pile out on their crutches, sticks, walkers etc., and would come back later plastered in a much different way, - and without any of the aids they had started out with.  Next morning, it was my job to go out in the Ambulance around all the pubs in Hoylake and West Kirby to collect all the various aids which were very much needed when sober.

During my time as a member of staff at No.2 A.C.D., (fourteen months), I witnessed some very remarkable improvements to many quite smashed-up fellow airmen.  One example, a Flight Sergeant whose left leg was broken in twelve places between knee and ankle; he left The Leas fit, with his damaged leg only one inch shorter than the other.

To conclude, I might add that the Hoylake Golf Club decided to make us temporary members, supplied us with clubs and all other necessary equipment.  We could only play the inland holes during this WW2 period, as the others were covered in barbed wire and mines.  We considered this a very nice gesture from the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.  What had started off as a complete mystery on completing my ops tour, finished as a most interesting posting. . . .

Footnote: Grp/Cptn. Christopher Moore, CBE. (present Secretary of The Royal Liverpool Golf Club) has confirmed that as a school, 'The Leas' was evacuated to the Lake District in May, 1940, and the premises were taken over by the R.A.F.  The school remained in the Lakes until Christmas 1945 when it returned to Hoylake.  On return, they benefited by being able to convert a considerable number of buildings which had been erected by the RAF.   A second gym was converted into a chapel; other buildings were converted into a theatre, an indoor cricket net, a rifle range and a cricket pavilion.

One of the senior members of the Royal Liverpool Club remembers an aircraft being parked on the land at  the West Kirby end of the site which could be seen from the road.   He was uncertain whether this was to kid the enemy that this was a major airfield, or perhaps just to remind the locals that this was RAF property.  He also recalls that his brother played golf with some of the aircrew patients, some of whom played in singlets and shorts, while among other injuries in evidence, he remembers one aircrew patient who played golf with bullet holes in his leg.

Acknowledgement is made to The Royal Liverpool Golf Club, for added interest to Peter Rae's aircrew memories.

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