Joe Scala

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EXCERPT 1: The beginning of the war

Interview with Mr. Joe Scala, 15/3/1995.

Q: So were you called up?

A: I volunteered actually, not because I’m heroic! I volunteered because I thought, if I don’t volunteer I’ll get stuck in the army and just have to march about! But if I volunteered, I could join the airforce which sounded very nice and glamourous, so I went along. Would you like me to tell you how I volunteered? (RD: yes, go on) I went to -1 don’t know how I got the contact, but I went to this recruiting office in Euston, almost facing Euston station. There was a drill hall and I lined up there with lots of others lined up there, and we eventually got in to this big hall, and there was a long, long table with officers in airforce uniform with wings, sitting behind the table all along, and we had to go in one at a time and be interviewed.

And it came my turn, and he said ‘What would you like to do? Why do you want to join the airforce?’, I said ‘well I’ve always wanted to join the airforce’. And then he said, ‘Well, what do you want to do?’. I said, ‘well, to tell you the truth, I want to do something for the war, but I never want to kill anyone!’. So he said ‘Well, cook!’, so I said ‘you’ve never tasted my cooking!’. I’m 18 and a half, 19, remember and I’m talking to this man with all this gold braid on him, and he says, ‘Well, general duties’, I said ‘what does that entail?’, he said, ‘well, sweeping and ??’.

Well I said, ‘No, that’s not what I want. I want something exciting!’, and behind him on the wall, there was this beautiful, magnificent motorboat jumping out of the sea, and it was an RAF rescue launch, and I said ‘Actually, that’s what I wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to do that’. So he said, ‘Well, that’s very difficult. It’s a very, very small unit, and there’s only a few scattered here and there these boats, it’s not like big airdromes of them, you just live in a house and put the boats out and put them to sea’. So I said, ‘that’s what I really want to do’. ‘Well, you seem very keen, he said, ‘but I must tell you that in this section, the marine ? section, are these sons of millionaires who’ve been brought up on yachts all their life and know everything about it, all these young fellas, or stevedores off the river Thames, the barger/es?, who have served five years apprentice and can handle boats’. He said T can see you are eager, so couldn’t you just tell me, are you in anyway loosely connected with the sea? Just loosely, you know, I’m just trying to help you, just loosely!’. So I said ‘Yes I am’, he said ‘What’s that then?’, I said, ‘Well my dad’s got a fish and chip shop!’, (laughter)


I was up in Norwich, or somewhere – Gorseland, up near Yarmouth. I was up there on Air Sea Rescue, I’d been to Africa and come back, and now I was stuck up there, all nice and brown and I was freezing. Anyway, and there was going to be this big celebration on VE day, so I said…

RD: Is this VE day, or VJ day?

JS: VE day, I think…yeah it was VE day, because that was it. And really we thought the war was over. And I just came out on the train, down to London, I went to Whitehall and joined in the festivities – everyone dancing, old Churchill being propped up by a fella on each side of him, in case he fell off the back of the big open car that he was on, saluting everbody. And the next day I went back.


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