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Young and old join forces in Swaffham

PUBLISHED: 09:57 17 March 2010 | UPDATED: 11:40 08 July 2010

THEY were pimply, callow youths in their mid teens and had progressed from children into young adults against a background of three years of the country being at war with Germany.

THEY were pimply, callow youths in their mid teens and had progressed from children into young adults against a background of three years of the country being at war with Germany.

It was nearly 70 years ago, and a different world from today, when the group of mates decided that they would get some excitement themselves by joining the newly formed air cadet unit at Swaffham.

Their enjoyment of the cadets was to be short-lived because they were called up for National Service and afterwards their lives took them in different directions.

But this week they were able to wallow in a couple of hours of nostalgia when they spent an evening in the company of their young 21st century counterparts.

And as the “old cadets”, now in their 80s and all from Swaffham, watched the youngsters of 2010 take part in various activities during a usual Monday drill night they couldn't believe it was all so long ago.

Harold Clarke, a smartly turned-out gentleman aged 84 with a striking white moustache, vividly recalled joining the cadet unit in April 1942: “We all knew each other and were friends at school”.

“I shouldn't like to be a teenager today when a lot of them, apart from these youngsters here tonight, are involved in drugs and anti-social behaviour. In the days when I joined the air cadets we made our own entertainment, we were not aware of drugs. The only pills we took were for a headache,” he said.

Harold was called up at the age of 16 when he served in the army and was first based at the Britannia Barracks in Norwich.

He volunteered for the Indian army. “The six of us who joined all stayed together”, he recalled

On his return to civilian life he went into the building trade with various firms in Swaffham.

Eighty-year-old Desmond Murray also joined the air cadets in 1942 and really enjoyed his time with his mates and when he was called up into the army he worked as a fitter.

Alan Green, who is 81, said he and his mates all had a good time in the air cadets. “I recall that the Naafi was in what is now the Assembly Rooms and if we cleared up the plates and cups from the tables we would get free sausage, bacon and chips.”

He joined the RAF and spent most of his time at RAF Swanton Morley, near Dereham.

He recalled having a good time in the RAF and would go to the American bases where they would enjoy ice-cream and cigarettes.

Eighty-two-year-old Peter Cator said he also enjoyed his time in the air cadets.

“We did not go around breaking windows and causing trouble”, he said. He became involved in airfield construction in Holland and Germany and ended up in the Russian zone. He was later involved in the Berlin Airlift.

Flt Sgt Daniel Parker, 18, said joining the air cadets was the best thing he did. “I first went along on an open evening and within 10 minutes I was completely hooked on it,” he said. He has qualified as a solo glider pilot.

He said it was great meeting the founder members. “It is because of them helping to start the cadet squadron that our cadets can enjoy being members in 2010,” he said.

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