398th Bomb Group

The Humour was Always There – Somehow

By Malcolm 'Ozzie' Osborn
UK Friend of the 398th
October 2004

I suppose it’s only natural that if you place 1300 young men in a muddy, dangerous environment like Mudhampstead was, then there will always be tales of humour as well as the pathos that was occurring almost daily. Percy Knife was a local Englishman employed by the Air Ministry as an electrician covering the whole of Station 131. A wonderful character with a great memory and a wealth of stories.

Walking past one of the innumerable Bell Tents dotting the English Countryside, by the accommodation blocks, one cold November day he was surprised to hear a loud ‘Whoof’. Suddenly one of the tents burst into flames and five young men tumbled out laughing their heads off. They had set up a portable oxygen cylinder, with a tank containing waste engine oil, and had jury rigged their own form of oil fired central heating, which went very wrong indeed!

Percy’s next example actually caused him quite a headache. He had a problem with the circuit breakers coming out in the power house and cutting off the meagre supply to the accommodation areas. It happened 3 nights in a row at roughly the same time.

The fault was proving very difficult to locate, in fact there was nothing to find at all, but that did not stop those breakers from popping out that very night again. At last, by creeping around and keeping his ‘ears to the ground’ the culprit was discovered. An enterprising young man had found a Searchlight carbon – had found a way of connecting one end to the live of the supply, the other to the neutral via a crude switch. He plunged the carbon in a pot bellied stove filled with coal/coke – then marvelled at the 10 seconds of instant fire ignition before it blew the breakers out. Problem solved.

A cartoon in ‘Yank’ magazine shows a B-17 buried in the thatched roof of a typical English country cottage. The two hapless pilots are standing at the front door, one is saying to the other “Damn, I hate these apologising jobs”

Yet another shows a B-17 in a back yard of what appears to be central Berlin.
The crew are scrambling over a large brick wall, with the pilot already at the kerb edge, with his arm raised shouting ‘TAXI’.

Air Crews themselves have many tales of humour, often of a more subtle nature, but very funny too. When flying missions, pilot and co-pilot shared the control handling, but on the run-up to the target the pilot usually exercised the right to take over.

Imagine them both sitting hunched up in their seats, sitting on their flak vests to protect the ‘Family Jewels’ and trying to make as small a target as possible to the intense flak barrage bursting all around them. The pilot calls for a control adjustment to the co-pilot who – looking out of the window at the flak – points to the console and replies “I am damned if I am going to stick my arm out there”.

Oh yes, ‘All This and Humour Too’

Malcolm 'Ozzie' Osborn

Major Tom E. Marchbanks Having Some Fun.

On the reverse of the original he had written
"the long cold walk from the latrine back to the billet".

Note: The above article has been placed on the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association web site to share our history with a wider audience. You may view, download, print, copy and link to our content as you wish as long as the uses are personal or educational. 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association web page content cannot be used for commercial purposes nor placed on other web sites whether commercial, personal or educational, unless authorized in writing by the 398th Bomb Group Memorial Association Official Board and/or the author.