One of the girls that I cycled to school with and I became very close friends and I would take her to the movies and we would hang out together and eat our lunch together at school. She was one of the British officer's daughters. Now back to Upper Heyford. The Army was building like crazy but mostly military projects, they had not gotten to family housing, schools etc yet. About September, 1950, more dependents arrived. There were six boys and two girls in my age group. Some were Army brats and some were Air Force brats but they were a welcome sight to me. They were enrolled in school in Banbury. They were provided with bus transportation to and from. I still had to ride my bike to catch the bus which I didn't mind because my close friend rode with me.
The other brats and I got along fine and in most part a pretty close knit group. My two best friends were Bobby and Jimmy West, they were Army brats. By the time we got home from school every day it was almost dark so we didn't see too much of our friends except on weekends. On weekends we would go to the movies on base if we were allowed in. You see in those days the British had a movie rating system similar to one we have in the United States today. I have forgotten how their classification went but I remember that unless the movie was a comedy or family type movie, you couldn't get in unless you were sixteen or older. The only movie theater on Upper Heyford was controlled by the RAF and most of the movies shown were British movies.
They had finally built a gym and a lot of the AF and Army units had formed basketball teams so another pastime was watching basketball games. We were allowed to use the gym and the equipment which we did quite often, Special Services would offer free tours once a month on Saturdays. We took full advantage of the offers and went to a lot of neat places like Windsor Castle, and Henley on Thames, just to name a few. So as you can see we kept ourselves busy. When school was finished in June we were told that in September we would all be going to an American school at Brize Norton AFB near Oxford. My feelings were mixed but I had the summer to look forward to.
Welcome to the 1950's. During WWII, RAF Upper Heyford was used as a pilot training base for RAF pilots, and occasionally POW's were held there, in the buildings that would eventually become Upper Heyford High School. After the war ended, the base was leased to the USAF and the base gradually grew in size as the Cold War began. I was first there in the mid-50's, we lived off base for awhile in Maids Morton, where I attended an English primary school. We eventually moved on base and I went to Upper Heyford elementary school. I don't remember a whole lot about the base back then, except the dentist office, with the old slow speed belt-driven drills, and the barber shop, where my Dad used to take me and my brother Brian. Once a week we'd go next door and watch "Wagon Train" with our neighbors, the Masons. I also have a vivid recollection of walking down that long sidewalk that led to the old barracks one day, and walking around a few of the buildings... guess I was staking out our future Hadite turf!!
Harry Webb was also there around that time, only several years earlier. He was 13 when he first arrived in England. Harry's family left England and went back to the States in July 1952. After high shool, Harry served for 22 years in the USAF before going to work for the Civil Service, where he is still employed as an aircraft technician at Warner Robins AFB, Georgia. He is now 66 years old, has been married for 41 years, and he and his wife have one daughter, who is now 37 years old. Harry has been kind enough to describe what it was like being a teenager at Upper Heyford back then, and has also contributed a few photos. Thanks so much Harry!!
We were stationed at Turner AFB in Albany, GA in 1948 and early 1949. My Father received orders for Marham, England. My Mother and I sailed from New York aboard a troop transport ship called USS Maurice Rose. It was outfitted for dependents so the voyage was very nice. It took us 7 days to get to Portsmouth. We were met by my Father and took a train to Downham Market.
We took a taxi to a little village called Fincham, it was about 4 miles from the base at Marham. My Father had found us a nice bungalow for quarters. Fincham is located about 25 miles from Kings Lynn. We were the only American family living in the village.
The village only had a 3 room school house and the students were divided by age. I was 13 at the time so I was in the highest bracket since at that time, at age 15 you were finished with public school. My parents didn't buy this so I had to go to Norwich for an 8 hour test to get into what the English called Grammar School. They were the same as our Jr. and High School. I passed the test and was enrolled in Swaffham Grammar School. The Air Force paid for my uniforms and transportation.
I went to school at Swaffham for 6 months and it was tough, it was an all boys school, we had to wear school caps, which I hated for they messed my hair up, school blazers, white shirts, school ties, grey flannel trousers, black shoes. At that time, all the boys wore short grey flannel pants until they were 15. I refused to do this so my parents had a meeting with the Headmaster and he made an exception. Since I was the only American in the school, I didn't win any friends by this. The subjects I was required to take were English, British History, Chemistry, French and some I have forgotten. The Professors were very strict and I was caned (spanked) a few times. Looking back now it was a very rewarding experience.
We were transferred from Marham to Upper Heyford early 1950. In 1950, Upper Heyford was a RAF base, although the base had U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army stationed there as well as the British Air Force. The purpose of the Army being there was to help construct a runway, hangars, housing, and all types of other buildings. The base was pretty small at the time. A two lane road separated the main portion of the base from the housing area. We moved into enlisted dependent housing. The officer housing was on the main portion of the base. The enlisted housing was terrible. There were about 20 two-story duplexes built in a circle with a green in the center and I think there were 3 or 4 circles. Our house had no front yard but a large back yard. We had a small living and dining room, a small kitchen, and a small bathroom downstairs. Upstairs were 2 small bedrooms. No central heat or a/c. We heated with coal in a fireplace. No heat in the bedrooms, you just used a lot of blankets.
There were other dependents already there when we arrived but no kids in my age group. The base had a small snack bar, BX, commissary and NCO club, and a service club. NO SCHOOL! The elementary school kids went to school in one of the buildings close to the housing area. It was back to a British school for me. I was enrolled in Bicester Grammar School. I can't remember how far Bicester was from the base. There were two British officer's daughters that lived on base and three girls that lived in Upper Heyford Village that also attended Bicester. We had to ride our bikes about two miles then leave the bike's at some lady's house and then catch the school bus on to our school.
The school was co-ed, which made it a lot nicer than Swaffham. At Swaffham, all the teachers were men (old grouchy men). At Bicester, the teachers were men and women and for the most part pleasant. I started to fit in a little better. I think this was because there were girls around. I played cricket and rugby and I was pretty good at both or I think I was. At Bicester we still had to wear uniforms which by now I was getting used to.