University of Oxford
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George McBean's RAF Service in Britain

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 20:04 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

George McBean's father (also called George McBean) was in the RAF during the war. He never left Britain but still served like millions of others.

There were a couple of stories that he told the contributor. One that the contributor managed to confirm after his father passed away - that his father captained his local RAF football team in the final in Wolverhampton. All the years McBean's father was in the RAF, he wanted to serve overseas like his two brothers. He was told he was to go overseas the week of the cup final but was passed unfit for overseas duty because he was the captain of the football team! A photo of McBean's father with the team and cup confirms that he played football for the RAF team, though it does not prove the medical exemption. But mother confirmed the story of father's medical exemption - we have the medical officer to thank for the increased life expectancy of father!

Father used to make model brooches out of pennies of spitfires for pilots to give to their sweethearts. Defacing coins was an illegal activity, so father kept it secret! But these pennies were very popular. For example, father put pennies on a tram track and then folded and shaped them with safety pin as a brooch.

Father also made model aircrafts, but the contributor did not bring these. Father's favourite nephew was a navigator in a Lancaster bomber and was shot down.

Rudolph Hess's plane was taken to father's airfield, and it was broken into many pieces. Father kept a small piece of the plane, labelled it, and left it in a box with other stuff. The contributor said that they can't confirm whether it was true but had no reason to doubt it and the plane was certainly brought there in various states of repair. Father tried to make a ring out of the piece of Hess's plane - the contributor saw this and thought it was a bullet hole! But it was inappropriate material for a ring.

Alongside playing football, father was an artist. He used to draw and paint woodgrain during the war. When he came back, he became a house painter. The contributor is an artist, hence his artistic roots come from his father. The contributor still has his brushes and combs for making grain.

The contributor vaguely remembers occasions when father took him to a place in Stafford: the base he was at and the family that his father had stayed with. The contributor remembers, when staying with this family, a woman tucking him in so tightly that he couldn't move, like he was embedded in the mattress.

The contributor's mother was in the Women's Land Army, and she lived on a farm in the Scottish Borders. All mother's stories were about having a good time, and she made lifelong friends! The contributor has brought photographs of her. Lots of people talk about the frontline but camaraderie and work of people behind the scenes goes missing! Also, the ones that go through the emotions of losing family.

Father and mother met before the war.

Father rarely talked about the war. Although he was a spokesperson and was captain of the football team, he felt he had nothing to say. But his brothers and other friends' parents served in action overseas. The contributor felt lucky that his father did not see the horrors of the war firsthand! He was a standout parent in youth as he taught football to children in the school and gave them encouragement. The contributor grew up in poor neighborhoods in Leith. Father could only afford to buy one set of football boots for the contributor and his brother, so they each got one boot as one was right-footed and the other left-footed.

Father's older brother was in the RAF. He went overseas but the contributor doesn't know much about his experience.

Father's younger brother was in the North African campaign; he was a driver for a general, but the contributor said they weren't sure who the general was. Father's youngest brother drove him all over, including to Germany (for Nuremberg Trials) at the end of the war at the Nuremberg trials. He brought home toys from Germany that he later gave to the contributor, including a model aircraft that dropped bombs, a car, and a tank. Later found document from Nuremberg trials the contributor had kept for some reason. Father said the plane was too precious to play with! The contributor's uncle also gave him an Italian sportscar and a tank that fired caps. The plane worked with clockwork to drop the bombs, and it still works! But because it has a swastika on, the contributor keeps it in a cupboard, as he said he "doesn't want these things getting in the wrong hands these days."

The contributor brought in photos of his father's football team and a ticket, with one photo taken before the war.

The contributor also brought photos of themself with their father and mother in Portobello.

The contributor also brought in a German hat band, that was taken from a merchant ship that had been captured in Leith in 1940. The contributor has no idea how he ended up with it!


Item list and details

1 - Football team photos with original ticket envelope 2 - Other photos 3 - Penny brooches 4 - Part of Rudolf Hess' plane 5 - German hat band and badges

Person the story/items relate to

George McBean

Person who shared the story/items

George McBean

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor

The contributor's father (same name)

Type of submission

Shared at University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh on 25 November 2023.

Record ID

109176 | EDI021