The Informality of the Wartime Army

By David. G. Major (Aerial Eng’; Crew chief; A/M; 310 DRS; Sec 6; Site 8)

Transcribed from “BAD News – Journal of the BAD 2 Association” Vol. 1, No. 4, September 1978

© 1978 BAD 2 Association

Remember that pile of crates that showed up around Nov. or Dec. of ’43 and were stacked out behind hangars 1 & 2? I do, because the assembly of the contents of those crates brought me one of my first tasks at Warton. I still remember the little notes we found in the luggage compartments and the decks of playing cards that were put there by the girls at the factory.

Those crates contained the first of 391 Stinson L-5s and Piper L-4s that were assembled (and repaired) at the world’s greatest air depot. I remember the first one to roll out of hangar 3 (or was it 2?) well, as work increased in the main hangars.

The task of light plane assembly was shifted to the new hangars across the field, down by the Ribble. It is here that our story really takes place.

I was given the job of preparing these Grasshoppers for test flight & then storing them until the enlisted pilots from the artillery came to claim their new, and “powerful” mounts, in which to become the “terrors of the Luftwaffe”. After test hop it was my habit to push theses Maytag Mustangs into hangar #31 and usually stack them on their noses to conserve space. As this was accomplished, a note of the serial number, date and location was made in a little notebook which I carried in my back pocket.

A Stinson L-5 Sentinal is refuelled at BAD-2.

One day whilst working on the ramp, a rather seedy looking L-4 taxied up and a young Sgt. got out and said that he had been told that we would store his airplane for him while he enjoyed a couple of weeks leave in Blackpool. “No sweat, leave it right there and we’ll shove it in the hangar for you ‘til you get back”. And so, at the end of the work day it was wheeled in among its younger cousins to await the return of its pilot. As usual I noted its vital statistics in my little book, closed the hangar doors and promptly forgot that the little wait of the artillery even existed.

A couple of weeks later, while I was working on the electrical system of a B-17 “Weather Bird”; the most cursed at airplane that ever sat down at Warton, (but that is another story) a stranger, wearing the chevrons of a S/Sgt. came up to me and asked if I remembered him. Of course I didn’t, but I asked if I could help him. “Yeah ya can”. He replied. “I’m the guy what left his Cub with you a couple of weeks ago.” The light dawned; I remembered then. “Didja have a good time in Blackpool?” I asked. “Just great”, says he. “But where is my airplane?” “Over there in Hangar 31.” Says I, in a most concerned manner.

“Well,” says he, “I have looked in there and can’t find it”. Giving him a condescending look I took him in tow and said, “Here, I’ll show ya.” We entered the open hangar door and I commenced looking around for that beat up excuse for Mr. Piper’s pride and Joy. I wasn’t having much luck, so I asked him if he remembered the number of the ship. He did, and spit it off the end of his tongue as if it was his ASN.

I reached for my little book and ran my finger down the columns of serial numbers until I came over to the one in question. I glanced over to the right hand column and I am sure that I must have turned white at what I saw. “Gee Sarg, I sold that ship to some guy last week who came to pick up a new Cub.” “What!!! You sold my airplane? What kind of an operation are you guys running here? Where’s the engineering officer?”

Here is where the G.I. ingenuity came into play. Knowing that if I didn’t act fast, I was in deep, deep trouble, I said; “Calm down. Here is a whole hangar full of new aircraft. Take your pick.” His face lit up like a Christmas tree. “You mean I can have any one of these new planes and no questions asked?” As he spoke he headed for the nearest Stinson. “Hold it… Hold it! I said you can have any L-4; the L-5s don’t count.”

He was only slightly put out but that was overcome at the prospect of getting a nice new airplane to replace the bag of bolts he had left with us. “You mean that I can have any of the L-4s in this hangar?” “Why no?” I asked. “Who’s to know ‘cept you and me? And I’m sure as hell not gonna tell!” “Terrific!” He exclaimed. And as I pulled the prop and got him started he quipped “I’m gonna send the rest of the guys up here for furlough. You not only have a great time in Blackpool, but ya get a brand new airplane to boot.”

And thus saying, he taxied merrily away, and off he went into the calm, cloudy Lancashire grey yonder. And I thought to myself, ere he flew outta sight: “He’s happy and I am if Captain Boland doesn’t check.” (He never did).

However, I have often felt a little bit sorry for the poor guy who came to BAD 2 for a new airplane & was saddled with the happy Sergeants cast off…. How much simpler things were in 1944.

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