Andy Vincent’s story (as related by him)
There has been a copper kettle by the family fireplace of each home I have lived in
for as long as I can remember. No one was sure where it had come from, but it was
thought my father had made it a long time ago and as such it was treasured.
My father was born in September 1906 and died in July 1979 and I knew very little
about his youth. Several years after his death, I was asked if I would like the kettle,
as no other family member was really interested in giving it a home.
The kettle has been by the fireplace at each house my wife and I have lived in ever
since and it has been cared for by my wife with the same sense of pride befitting a
At the Triennial Reunion on 25th September 2004, Mervyn Kelly encouraged me to buy a copy of ‘The Phoenix Project’, a book, which tells the story of St. George’s Church at RAF Halton, especially interesting as the old church was destroyed by fire and the new church was built during the 96th Entry’s time at Halton. All the more interesting as we were the Senior Entry and played a proud part in the dedication of the new church, by providing ushers, a guard of honour and the colour party that paraded the Queen’s standard for 1 S of TT.
During a ‘phone conversation with Mervyn shortly after, I was asked if I had read the book yet. I admitted I had only glanced at it, but promised to thoroughly read it cover to cover in case there was an exam later and I was asked questions at the forthcoming dedication of our Entry window on 7th November 2004 .
I started reading one wet afternoon and had reached the page about the Bristol Fighter lectern when I noticed ‘362708 Vincent F’ on the scroll on Page 66 of the Phoenix Project, which listed those apprentices who had assisted W.O. Tatem in the manufacture of the lectern. What a coincidence. My father was called Fred and at the end of 2003, a relative clearing out a drawer came across a discharge chit issued by RAF Uxbridge referring to a ‘362798 Vincent F’. This proved that my father had not only been in the RAF, but he was a member of the very 1st Entry at Halton and had been a coppersmith. So not only did we know where the kettle had come from, it had been a test job, but I had followed in my father’s footsteps to Halton without knowing it.
This was further reinforced when I searched back through some old family photographs sent to me by my brother earlier in 2004.
Amongst them were original photographs of my father’s time at Halton, taken by the camp photographer, a Mr Christmas of Aylesbury Road , Wendover. These have been included as a slide show.
The pictures showed my father in uniform, in PT kit outside his old hut with other brats and in front of an aircraft (which may be a Bristol Fighter) at the aerodrome. So it seems those normally workshop-bound trades like coppersmiths went on an airfield phase. I can only presume it was to acquaint them with the aircraft that they made parts for, maybe radiators, pipes, airframe and engine fittings, etc.
When I displayed the kettle, the discharge chit, the photographs and a summary of my findings at the Entry window dedication reunion in November 2004, Min Larkin, who was coincidentally our after-dinner guest speaker that weekend, said that these were valuable artefacts in the history of Halton apprentices and that they should be lodged in the apprentice museum at Halton.
I was pleased to be able to hand them over later that weekend to the museum curator, Mr Francis Hanford. Francis sent me a letter of thanks, which is reproduced in the slide show.
The great pity at the end of this story, is that no one had ever heard my father speak in depth about his time and experiences as a Halton apprentice and it took an old copper kettle, the burning and rebuilding of a church, the writing of a book about it and our very own Entry window project to bring all this to light and the tale to be told.
Andy Vincent, 686644, 96th Entry Airframes.
Photos relate to Fred Vincent 1st Entry RAF Halton - Coppersmith.
Andy Vincent can be contacted by phone or letter at:
30 Somerset View, Ogmore-by-Sea, S Wales CF32 0PP Tel: 01656 880587.