I suppose it's because I have so much time on my hands these days, that all these memories come flooding back to me.
I was on my usual web site the other night - the Ex service one that I joined over two years ago. In fact it was there where I found my old navy pal - the one I had thought was dead as I saw his name on a casualty listing after the Falkland war. Anyway someone mentioned the caravan site which is right next to RAF Kinloss up in the north east of Scotland.
In fact it lies between the RAF base and the village of Findhorn, which was a beautiful, small, fishing village when I was a young lad. Yet it has become a village of some controversy over the past few years ever since a foundation moved in and took the entire place over within a matter of years. The foundation even took the name of Findhorn in its title.
That is the present however; my story goes way back to 1950 to when my father was de-mobbed out of the RAF after returning from the Middle East where he was during the last part of WW11. He was sent to RAF Kinloss as his last posting prior to coming out.
Later on in life my parents moved into the nearby town of Forres where they opened up a café and B&B business. I asked my father one day why he called the café The Neptune. He went on to tell me that it originated from one day when a Neptune was coming in for a crash landing and all the ground emergency staff were all rushing into position to help. My father was on a bicycle peddling as fast as he could towards the spot where the aeroplane was crashing, spewing its contents all over the runway. He was dodging the wreckage as he got closer but then a wooden box came hurtling towards him and knocked him right off the bicycle. It was while he was picking himself up that he noticed that it was, in fact, a first aid box and its contents had spilled out during the impact with his bike. He picked up a pair of scissors which had the name Neptune engraved on them. He kept them and, later on, named his café after the aeroplane that had crashed.
Anyway, back to the caravan story. After my father had been de-mobbed he had nowhere to live so they bought a caravan and sited it on a piece of waste ground right next to the RAF base. That was now home to both my parents and my older sister; I was not yet born at this time, but was on the way! A few days after they were settled in a friend of my father, who had just been de-mobbed as well, bought a caravan and sited it right next to my parents one. After a few weeks had gone by there were quite a few caravans on that land and they had managed somehow to find a supply of electricity and water both of which, I do not think, were actually legal! A small point to mention when survival is at stake. So there was, in fact, a small community of ex RAF personal living together in caravans which, in itself, seemed quite harmless due to the fact that there was no housing of any other kind to be had anywhere in the region.
Then, one day, my father received a letter from the defence department. It was actually addressed to Cpl (Mr) G Smith. It then went on to say that they were all, in fact, squatting on the land illegally but, since the land was not owned by the ministry of defence, there was not a lot they could do about it apart from contacting the Scottish Office. So my father, who was an academic person, penned a return letter to the MOD. He informing them that if the Scottish Office could find a suitable spot where they could all relocate to, they would then move off the land immediately but, until that time came, they would all stay where they were at present.
Of course the MOD and the Scottish Office were looking into all other different possibilities on evicting them all from the land but, as time went by, more and more ex RAF personnel were moving onto the land with their caravans and increasing their numbers brought them more security. In time, however, I had arrived on the scene thus adding to the space problem. So my parents managed to get a loan and bought the property which later became our home and, of course, the café. The café did, indeed, do well bearing in mind that at that time all service personnel were not allowed to go beyond the town of Forres. So, as my father said, he had a captive customer base.
I can still remember that busy kitchen as I sat on 'the box', as we called it, while the steak, eggs and chips were being cooked and rushed through that swinging door into the café. Ah! 'The box' I hear you ask. Well that turned out to be a piece of furniture from the caravan days. It was an RAF packing crate for an engine part of a Neptune aeroplane!