Harry Turner's Episodes of Personal History
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One way out... (1943)

As I recall, Arthur's bid for a commission was tied up with the hope of getting through as a technical officer, with the promise of joining the boffins working on radar developments — at RAF Malvern, I think. It was all basics and training at the Yatesbury school, a long way removed from the experimental work that was currently going on, and Arthur [Clarke] had ambitions to twist radar techniques to space navigation even then!

After Arthur's departure from Yatesbury, the CO organised productions of some Gilbert and Sullivan opera, which dominated all Music Group activities, and thus ensured my absence. So the discussion group tended to take prominence as a ding-dong battle started up between Stalinists (officially tolerated, as the USSR was our ally) and the Trotskyists (anathema to officialdom, natch).

Both sides ganged up on a very junior officer supposed to keep an eye on our activities and report back to the Welfare Officer, since we were operating in the neutral area of the YMCA. The leading Trot occupied the next bedspace to mine, and had a locker full of subversive literature as well as an extensive library of 4th International paperbacks. After the debates and fights had gone on unchecked for some time, Frank was stricken down with 'flu and spent some time in the camp hospital, after which he was granted some sick leave.

I'd just come off the night shift and was in bed the morning he was due to go, when there was a visit from the Orderly Sergeant who announced that Frank would have to have a kit inspection.before he put his possessions in store. When Frank was halfway through laying out his stuff on the bed in approved fashion, the camp CO arrived, with a small entourage including the Welfare officer.

Frank started to apologise for not having his kit ready, but was then requested to open his locker. The CO then had a field-day, ordering the sergeant to remove all the books and literature. Frank, ever the barrackroom lawyer, insisted on having a list of everything that was confiscated...

Eventually, he got off on leave. However, on his return he was promptly posted to St. Athan, and a month or so after that, I had a letter from him saying he was back in civvy street, having been given an honorable discharge from the RAF, and was now stirring up industrial unrest... Got all his papers back, too! All this in 1943, too. ■

Letter to Steve Sneyd, 8 July 1988

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