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. 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 school, Harry served for 22 years in the USAF before going to work for the Civil Service, where he was employed as an aircraft technician at Warner Robins AFB, Georgia.
Doyle "Frosty" Frost and his family were at RAF Croughton several times in the 50's and early 60's and he has written of memories of his life in school at Croughton, Upper Heyford and Bushy Park. It's interesting to note that although there was a Grade 9 high school program at Upper Heyford students had to go to a boarding school for Grades 10 -12. Frosty's story follows Harry's story below.
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.
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Well now that we know we'll be going to school at Brize Norton it was time for the parents to get out the Sears and Roebuck catalog to order our school clothes now that we no longer had to wear uniforms and since there were so few of us the BX didn't have anything for teens. We didn't have the luxury of TV or computer games to keep us entertained during the summer so we rode our bikes all over the countryside or played ball. We found that on the other side of Upper Heyford Village there was a canal with good clean water or to us it was clean so that became our swimming place since the base didn't have a pool.
Behind our quarters was a large field and a small wooded area so we found enough materials to build our fort for campouts. I guess I should clarify that when I say we I mean most of the boys. The girls would watch us play ball or sometimes we would just sit on the green in front of our quarters and talk. I didn't think about it at the time but now looking back it must have been a lonely summer for the girls. From what I can remember, the girls never complained. All in all it was a fun summer. Our school clothes arrived in time and all but a few things of mine fit.
The construction crews had been busy during the summer and they had finished on some of the dependent housing. What they had built were actually apartment buildings, they were two stories and I don't recall how many apartments to each building. Now that some of the housing was complete, more dependents were arriving.
Well now it was time for school. The Air Force provided a bus with a British driver and to our surprise an Air Policeman as our escort. We had to laugh for we didn't think we were all that bad.. We caught the bus at the big parade ground near the main gate. We left that first morning pretty excited. Our trip took us through Oxford. When we approached the outskirts of Brize Norton Air Base we could see that a lot of construction was going on there just like at Upper Heyford.
I remember thinking with all the construction going on that they had completed a new school for us. We arrived at the base and the bus driver seemed to know exactly where to go. We were all looking out the windows to see our new school. The bus driver pulled into a parking lot with other buses. We could see a lot of other kids milling around in front of three old wooden WWII buildings. Our first reactions were shock followed by remarks like "you've got to be kidding me" and others. We had arrived at our new school.
Now that we had arrived at our new school, you can imagine how disappointed we must have been. After we finally got off the bus and started talking to some of the other kids we found out that we were not alone in our disappointment for they were from other bases too. We had kids from Fairford, Brize Norton and I can't remember if it was Burford Park or Burdrup Park, I know it was a military hospital. Now it was time to check in and go to our classrooms. They weren't hard to find for there were only 3 or 4 of them.
When we got to class we found there would be 2 grades in one room. I don't remember what my thoughts might have been about this situation but they probably were not very pleasant. Our Principal was a Mr. Fahner, after we got settled he came in and gave us a pep talk. I can't remember our regular teacher's name. There were only 4 teachers for the school and they were all men. The first day was like any other school, getting our books, assignments, etc. Of course we started getting acquainted with our classmates.
At the end of the day it was time to get on our buses for our long ride home. Our bus driver and our air police escort had been waiting for us all day and this was going to be every day. When we got home I remember telling my parents that I didn't want to go back. I wanted to go back to Bicester. My parents explained to me that I didn't have a choice. The Air Force had paid for everything at Bicester because there wasn't an American school available, now that an American school was available that was where I had to go. So no one will have a bad impression of my parents, let me explain. During this time the American G.I.'s were poorly paid and my parents could not afford to send me to a private school. It was back to Brize Norton the next day to make the best of what I considered a bad situation.
Well it turned out that things were not as bad as I had first thought. We all started making new friends and that was the key. The teachers were better and nicer than I thought they would be. As the school year progressed, we had school dances at different bases. I don't know who arranged them. We had one at Brize Norton, one at Upper Heyford and one at Fairford that I can remember. I do remember that the Air Force provided the transportation and facilities for us. The dances all turned out good. This was pre-rock and roll so all the dances were slow, two step or waltz with a bunny hop or hokey pokey thrown in every once in awhile. A phonograph and 78rpm records provided our music but, we had fun.
What was frustrating was the boy and girl situation. You could like a girl or she could like you but the only time you could see each other was at school or at one of the dances unless of course she or he happened to be from the same base and most of the time this wasn't the case. It was one of those things we had to accept even though it wasn't easy. The school year ended a lot better than it started. We said our goodbyes to friends and got on our buses to go back to our respective bases.
Well, some of us got busy helping our parents packing for the trip back to the States, others were trying to figure out how to keep themselves occupied during the summer. Upper Heyford had grown and was still growing. I would miss friends like Bobby and Jimmy West, Dick Strum and Sandy Waggoner from Upper Heyford. I would also miss Glynell Colwick, Judy Blakney, and Sue Strasberg from the other bases. I heard later that Brize Norton School lasted one more year and closed. I was told that students were transferred to a boarding school in London and that it was a DOD school. I think I would have liked that.
I will have to say that this experience was very rewarding even though I didn't realize it at the time. My parents and I left Upper Heyford and boarded the ship at Southampton and it was the USS Maurice Rose again.
Upper Heyford / Croughton Memories
Doyle "Frosty" Frost
Father was stationed at R.A.F. Croughton, from 1951 through 1956. As there was no bus service for school at Croughton or Heyford at the time, we went to English schools. Came back to the States ‘56, to Stead AFB, Reno, Nevada. ‘57, he was transferred to Keflavick, Iceland for isolated duty, and we went back to live with maternal grandparents in Devon, England. Landed Liverpool, 12/31/1957.
Dad was reassigned to Croughton October, ‘58 and we moved back to the Midlands. Elementary school for sister and brothers was at Croughton, but there was no Jr. High there yet, so I went to Heyford for seventh grade. Eighth grade was back to the brand new Croughton Jr. High.. Graduated from there, June, ‘60.
I was sent to Heyford for the ninth grade, (freshman high school,) that September. Our classes were in the old WWII P.O.W. barracks, across from one end of the flight line. More than once I got a chalk board eraser tossed at me for staring out the window as the B-47’s came and went. It was just too good to be able to sit and daydream in class. Bus rides to and from the school were by civilian hired coaches. The only teacher I can really remember was Mrs. Lansbury, the “home room” teacher I had.
I remember one time, a B-47 landed, with part of its vertical stabilizer and horizontal stabilizer missing. The plane landed safely, and they moved it down to the compass rose across from the school and erected burlap screens around it. I watched that in awe, and that’s when I got the eraser tossed at me. Didn’t even remember hearing my name called. One of our classmates had a dad that flew on them, and told him, “Official: plane was damaged by an eagle smashing into it, at 35,000 feet.” Problem being, later found it had been hit by cannon fire from Soviet MIGs that had attacked it over the North Sea.
About that same time, Dad and Mom bought a house in the village of Claydon, with a nice yard, garden, and garages built by the Italian P.O.W’s from Heyford during the war.
Next school was tenth grade at Bushy Park, a boarding school at South Ruislip, London. Students from bases in Africa, and Europe, as well as all over the U.K. Bus ride to school Sunday evening, and back home Friday Evening. I dropped out that December, because of health issues. Hitchhiked from the base hospital back to Croughton.
Sister was at Heyford while I was at Bushy Park, for her ninth grade. Next year, she went to Lakenheath, for her tenth grade, as Bushy had been closed down.
Side note: I ended up graduating from high school a year ahead of when I was supposed to, as I took my H.S. GED while at tech school, in the USAF, at Chanute AFB, Rantoul, Illinois.
Doyle "Frosty" Frost