The Biggs' Boys
By Ken Stofer
Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved
Biographies of The Vidal Brothers
<Ron and Jack Vidal lived at Maple Bay near Duncan on Vancouver Island. With the threat of an approaching war they considered joining up together>.
Biography of Jack Vidal
Ground Crew, No. 150 Squadron, RAF
I was 18 years old when my brother Ron and I, after discussions with Captain Biggs, left on September 11th, 1938 to join the RAF. We went by boat from Victoria to Seattle and then by bus to New York, then the Cunard Liner the Acquatania to Southampton. There were only a few passengers on board. People were aware a war wasn't far off and did not want to be caught in England. We third-class passengers had the run of the ship. We arrived in Southampton on September 20th.
After enlisting Ron and I were separated. I joined up at Uxbridge on the 23rd of September, 1938. I completed an aero engine course at St. Athan, Wales and was posted to about three stations in England during my career.
The day before war started I was flown to France in a Imperial Airways Ensign. A wild party that night in a farmer's wine cellar was where we heard that war had been declared.
In France we worked on Fairey Battles of #150 R.A.F. Squadron. As the Germans advanced we moved our airfield every second night and slept in ditches or barns. Finally all the planes that could fly left for England. About 30 of the ground crew headed for Dunkirk, but enemy action forced me and my group towards Brest.
The only ship in port was the Dutch Motor Ship S.S. Zealand. There were only eight seamen aboard, the Chief Steward being the ranking officer, so with our help and his know-how we took the ship to Plymouth. We had already been listed as missing in action. A church service had been held for us.
Soon after I was sent on a R.A.F. Commando Course and then posted to Gibraltar where I spent several months putting Spitfires together, unloading them from huge crates. I spent a short time at Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa, on Sunderlands. Then on November, 1942 the invasion of North Africa.
----- Jack Vidal
(Unfortunately the author was unable to obtain more information from Jack Vidal.)
Biography of Ronald Vidal
Instructor, Halton, St. Athans, RAF
My brother Jack and I went to England on the Acquatania, a long skinny boat nearly 1,000 feet long with four funnels. Jack says the old man paid our way "Glad to get rid of you" ha, ha.
We departed New York, destination Southampton, England. There were other Biggs' boys with us, Wilson from Duncan, Neilson a logger and Sharpe, whose family had the Ford garage in Duncan.
We were about a day in London, staying at the Union Jack Club near Waterloo Station, before joining up.
I remember as soon as we were sworn in a guy came along and said, "You and you. Haircuts!" Lots of the boys were mad about that, some had real nice long hair and now it was trimmed to about an inch long.
I parted with brother Jack here and went to Cranwell for square-bashing. I recall my square-bashing Corporal's name was Carrington. I guess you would have good reason for remembering someone like that. After square bashing I started my instrument-makers course, spent a year on it. Everything to do with automatic pilot, oxygen equipment, all aircraft instruments, except anything to do with armament. School started about 9 or 9:30. We had one and a half hours for lunch and finished at 4pm. Then back to our huts. We didn't work on Saturday or Sunday; they were free days. Wednesday afternoon was sports day and you could do what you liked. I bought a 3-speed bike and I used to ride to the local village of Sleaford, near Cranwell to play tennis.
Now and again there was a route march and I liked walking and marching so if there was one going I'd go on that.
At Cranwell I was put in charge of a hut of about 28 personnel. I don't know why they selected me. I had a little room of my own at the end of the hut. There was a room opposite for cleaning materials; brushes and what not. One winter, just before Christmas, it snowed. I got up and got the lads up to march them off to breakfast. I looked out the window and one of the guys went past the window in his bare feet and in his pyjamas. I recognized him as a lad from my hut, so when he got around to the front of the hut I opened the door and said "Come on, get in here. What the hell you doing out there?"
"Oh, I'm just looking for a fag. I'm dying for a smoke." The huts were close and some of the guys in the other hut had flicked their butts out the window. They shouldn't have been doing that, but here's this guy out there in his bare feet trying to find a butt. So I gave him what for, "Can't you get a cigarette from your own guys?" and told him to get inside, but quick. At Cranwell there was a north aerodrome and a south aerodrome, and all the buildings were down the middle. About 11 a.m. on the day following the declaration of war, Jerry sent a few bombers over at low level from the North Sea. The air raid sirens sounded so we dashed out to the shelters. They were about four feet deep in water. We had to disperse on to one of the airfields. We went to the north drome. They told us not to gather in groups, but to spread out. So over Jerry comes and drops a string of bombs right down the middle...shook the ground of course...shook the hell out of it. But we were okay, safe on the north drome (a lucky decision).
At the end of the course our marks were read out and we were told all those over 80% will be instructors. I had 84%.
I was posted to RAF Halton, not far from London , then to St.Athan, Wales, about 10 miles west of Cardiff. I cycled into Cardiff to go to dances. For a while I was in a nice big brick block, but then they shoved us out into some old (1914-18 war), wooden huts, that happened to be there. No stove - nothing - no heat at all, and by this time it was late Fall. Just clammy and cold. All the sheets were wet when you got into them.
I got pleurisy on the right side. Seven of us in the hut got it. I was in hospital for about 8 weeks at Weston-Super-Mare. That was close to the end of the war. I stayed there for a little while until I was sent back home.
I was sent back up to Liverpool then to Halifax and train to Vancouver. The war is over by now. I was discharged from the R.A.F. and came home a civilian the same way I had left. I had tried three times to transfer to the RCAF but they wouldn't entertain it.
After the war I worked for ten years at a garage in Duncan GM dealership. I went on a years home study of radio and TV and then I went to Toronto to the radio college of Canada. I returned to the island and did a little bit of TV servicing.
I married a Vancouver Island girl from Cobble Hill in 1947 and we moved to Victoria in 1955.
----- Ronald Vidal
Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved
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