Isle Of Man, Two, A careless death The second visit to the Isle of Man was an entirely different experience, we were now Petty Officers with the privileges that entailed. The work if anything was harder, and the sets we were learning were much more sophisticated and in some cases as big as a small kitchen. When one can walk into a large high-voltage transmitter, it seems to have less threat than putting one’s hand within a small one, with the result when a Radio Mechanic left the door of a set open while functioning on full power, an operator, who regularly dried his clothes inside the set ‘On Standby’ – the heat of the huge valves would dry his clothes in an hour – walked in and was electrocuted. This act was analogous to throwing an electric fire into a bath. I’m sure the practice of hanging washing in a dangerous area went on, long after I left the Service, you see, we all, by necessity, had the philosophy that ‘it could never happen to us’.
The Italian Prisoners Several blocks further along the front at Douglas, in a loose compound, surrounded by a barbed wire fence nothing more than a gesture to security, the Italian internees were still housed, but when we arrived they were about to be moved out, block by block and we were instructed to supervise the clearing out of the hotels and boarding houses they had been occupying. These men were prisoners, in spite of the fact that they had held jobs at every level in British society, and one can but guess at the trauma incarceration had caused them and their families. The one aspect which pervaded all these lodgings was the way these prisoners had decorated their prison. There were murals on walls, pictures on windows giving a stained glass effect and the quality of the work, in many cases was breath taking. I have often wondered if the returning occupants retained those works of art, as many had a religious flavour, it is possible that they might not have been acceptable, but the quality was irrefutable.
Leydene The Cabooshes The fact that we were Petty Officers had no effect on our accommodation at Leydene – a top bunk, on a tier of two, in a row of twenty, on each side of a standard Nissan hut, with a coke burning, fat bellied stove and steel chimney set in the centre, and one chair each. That was home. The top bunk was just below the shelf running the length of the hut on which stood the small suitcases and hat boxes, safes where anything valuable or of a deeply personal nature was stored, and that was the limit of privacy. At night rats would sometimes run along the shelf above our heads looking for food and cats would produce kittens on the beds of the lower bunks. We had a cat called Vera frequenting our hut, a strange creature, with hind quarters like a rabbit, she could jump prodigious heights with ease. Vera adopted me. I would wake up to find a furry creature snuggled down under the blanket, face on the pillow, purring like a Morris 8 going up hill. So it would be no surprise that the instructors organised alternative accommodation, away from the Tannoy system and Vera Lynn, where one could relax, sleep read and write. The cabooshes were small brick huts which housed machinery for the sets we were teaching and, because we serviced them, we had the keys, and so our irregular behaviour was unlikely to be discovered.. Occasionally we had to make them shipshape for some inspection, but as we generally scheduled these as well, we were never caught on the hop. We were the men in charge, the officers were merely there to make up the numbers.
The Silly Side Of Leydene A student, on a long course, had built up a relationship with one of the Wrens billeted in Leydene. She slept in a dormitory high in the main building, overlooking a flat roof. He was in the habit of climbing onto the roof, entering the room through one of the windows, and getting into bed with her, quietly, and leaving before the others woke. If the others were aware of what was going on it was never divulged, but in the end they were rudely awakened. The Wren was suddenly taken ill, and her replacement in her bed, was a woman in her forties, stern and prudish. You’ve guessed it! The sailor got in beside her. The rest was pure Ealing comedy.
With the war ended people were looking to the future. One guy intended setting up his own business in radio repairs, and was collecting stock towards that end. The authorities, aware petty thieving was rife had everyone below Wardroom rank searched before leaving on the bus. I saw the man queued up, searched. tying shoes, while the driver was revving the engine. An accomplice rushed up, a bundle of washing clutched in his arms shouting that the man had forgotten his laundry. It was duly handed in, the bus took off and another load of valves, condensers and a B28 receiver were on their way to his new shop at a certain port in the North of England.