Leslie Collett

Photo:Leslie Collett in his RAF uniform.

Leslie Collett in his RAF uniform.

Natasha Collett

'War's been declared'

Leslie Collett recalls the day war broke out.

Posted overseas

Leslie Collett talks about being posted overseas.

Awaiting demobilisation

Leslie Collett talks about waiting for demobilisation.

Wartime memories of life as an Aero Engine Fitter serving in Rhodesia.

A particularly bad raid

Leslie was eighteen years old and working at the Woolwich Arsenal when war broke out in 1939. Once bombing began in 1940, Leslie and his co-workers at the Arsenal suffered heavy raids. Leslie recalls one particularly bad air raid:

'This particular week  we’d had...air raid sirens, nothing had happened. So being eighteen odd, we was, ‘Oh, we ain’t going down the air raid shelter’. So we got a board down and were playing three card brag ...and all of a sudden, BOOM, right down the end of the factory, BOOM. Then another one, BOOM, up went the board, money and everything, started running...I just managed to get to outside the shelter when the blast hit me and pushed me against the brick wall and I was knocked unconscious. But the mates who I was playing cards with they all got killed.

Overseas service

Leslie was eventually called up and joined the Royal Air Force as an Aero Engine Fitter. Prior to being posted overseas he served on a number of RAF bases in England. Leslie clearly recalls the day he left for overseas service:

‘I'm peeling potatoes for the landlady in the billet and a runner comes up from HQ and says, ‘You’re wanted immediately’. So I go down there and he says, ‘Pack your kit, there’ll be a small service van to take you to Liverpool docks. You’re posted overseas’. I thought, ‘God, blimey’, so I’ve done that and some WAAF took me all the way t o Liverpool docks and...she drives alongside the quay and I go aboard and within a quarter of an hour the ship sailed.'

After a long journey Leslie finally arrived in Africa:

'I ended up in Rhodesia which is Zimbabwe now, cos there was... two or three airdro mes there wh ere they was flying at night and day. Aircrews would come in from England. ..and then they were separated...to be fighter pilots or bomber pilots [depending on] how they went throug h their course...And that’s what we were doing through the whole part of the war.

A vast experience

Considering his war experience, Leslie feels ‘it was a vast experience. I see the countries around the world which I would never would have done. I mean, it was an experience to go to Blackfen before the war. Nobody moved about much in them days.' 


Interview with Leslie Collett
Interview with Leslie Collett (196k)
To read the full transcript of Leslie's interview please press the above link.

'War's been declared'
'War's been declared' (72k)
Transcript of audio clip with Leslie Collett.

Posted overseas
Posted overseas (88k)
Transcript of audio clip with Leslie Collett.

Awaiting demobilisation
Awaiting demobilisation (73k)
Transcript of audio clip with Leslie Collett.

This page was added by Malin Lundin on 03/02/2012.