Royal Air Force Career

My father, James Shaw, was called up to serve in the RAF in June 1940, interrupting his studies at Heriot-Watt. He first went to the recruiting centre at RAF Padgate on 18 July 1940 and then attended a six-month Flight Mechanics course at RAF Blackpool followed by a two-month fitter's course.

In 1941 he was sent overseas for the first time to RAF Debert, Nova Scotia. He was here for two years working on Merlin engines. New engines would be sent to Debert for a bench testing. One particular batch experienced early failures. It turned out that the feed and return for the lubrication oil had been reversed. In theory this should not have been possible as the couplings to the engine block were of different sizes. However the tapped holes in the engine block were the same size, allowing the couplings to be fitted in the wrong holes, defeating the purpose of the design. This story was told many times as it illustrates an important principle, 'if things can go wrong then they will'. [Any fool can label a box 'this way up', it takes a smarter fool to label the underside, 'this box is upside down'. In the UK one-way streets have arrow signs pointing the 'right' way, if someone drives the 'wrong' way they see no signs, except for the strange gestures of approaching drivers. Who is the bigger fool, the errant driver or the traffic sign legislator?].  

During his stay in Canada he made friends with the Sharp family of New Glasgow. Mr Sharp was a monumental mason. Mr and Mrs Sharp had two daughters, Daisy and Eleanor, and a dog called Teddy. Daisy was a great letter writer.

LAC James Shaw 1010811 and Teddy

In 1943 my father returned to the UK and attended a two-month Air-Sea rescue course at RAF Hawkinge. This was followed by a two-month instructor's course at RAF Cosford and a six-month course at RAF Innsworth. On 7 April 1944 he joined 140 Squadron at RAF Hartford Bridge, shortly moving to RAF Northolt. Following D-Day, in September 1944 the squadron moved to Balleroy and then Amiens-Glisy in France. At the end of that month they moved to Melsbroek, Belgium for five months. During that period my father made friends with the Strybos-Walgraef family in Steenokkerzeel. Amongst other things the family would do his washing in exchange for soap. [There seems to have been an exchange of letters after the war up to 1948. In typical fashion my father visited them many years later during vehicle testing in Europe]. From February 1945 until August 1945 the squadron was based at Eindhoven in Holland. It then returned to RAF Acklington, where it was disbanded. My father was then posted to RAF Colerne until April 1946 when he was demobbed. It was during that period at Colerne that my father met my mother.

34 Wing 2TAF
James Shaw III


Page revised 28 November 2012