MY LIFE AND TIMES: The second blog by Bob Hopkin, now of Africa, March born and bred

14:24 24 April 2014

An Avro Anson.

An Avro Anson.

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If the first blog wasn’t enough to deter you, then here is some more of the same.

A fleet of Knowles lorries from 1956.A fleet of Knowles lorries from 1956.

Not that I think I’m a particularly interesting person but I have been fortunate enough to live in interesting times.

Towards the end of the last episode I implied that I gave up on March quite early in my youth and, to some extent, that is true. However while I was living there I did enjoy the same topics as my dad – automobiles and aircraft.

The first of those was due to my father’s career as a mechanic which he started at Wayman’s Garage in Broad Street.

Located between where the current Barclays Bank and Marshalls sports goods shop now are, the garage was a wonderland for me, containing as it did many noisy lathes and milling machines all driven by belts from a mass of pulleys hanging from the roof.

Bob Hopkins (as a child, centre) with his mum and dad in MarchBob Hopkins (as a child, centre) with his mum and dad in March

From there Charlie moved to Knowles Transport in Doddington, then Wimblington, where he was the workshop foreman, that is of himself and one other mechanic!

Dad was responsible for the maintenance of all of Knowles lorries and their recovery when they crashed or broke down. This picture shows the Knowles fleet in, I guess, the 1950s.

The aircraft connection was a natural I suppose with all the air bases on our doorstep thanks to East Anglia being closest to Russia in the midst of the Cold War.

Too short sighted to join the RAF, I took a poor second best option and joined the Royal Observer Corps.

The ROC was a legacy from WWII when radar was in its infancy and struggled to distinguish friends from foes and bombers from fighter aircraft.

The result was that the Observer Corps manned spotter posts out in the country to track and report aircraft movements visually. As the need for that diminished we were then expected to try to survive a nuclear attack and report on radioactive fallout levels from underground bunkers.

I still recall a chilly night in the March bunker at the end of Burrowmoor Road, close to the present golf course, where two of us radioed in fictitious Geiger counter readings from a simulated attack on London.

One of the perks of the job was the occasional trip in an RAF plane and my first ever flight was in this Avro Anson from Warboys air base.

It was so slow I still believe it only left the ground thanks to the curvature of the Earth.

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