From Form 543A, Record of Service for R A Bembridge
21.8.43 - 12.9.43. Birmingham. Date of enlistment and commencement of service.
As I approached 18 years of age, I realised that as the war would still be on I would soon be 'called-up' to the armed forces. While I was still at school I held pacifist views, and thought I would register as a Conscientious Objector on being called up. However my ideas had swung to the other extreme by the time I received my call-up papers. Mr Reason, my boss at Taylor-Hobson, wanted to apply for a deferment for me, on the grounds that my work was important for the war-effort, but I had made up my mind that I wanted to go into the forces, so he took no further action.
I had to report to a call-up centre in Leicester (Ulverscroft Road, I think) where I had a medical examination, filled in forms, etc., and it was here that I said I wanted to train as aircrew in the R.A.F. I knew I didn't want to go into the Army. Fortunately my qualifications by then were good enough for aircrew, so I next had to go to Birmingham, I was still a civilian.
I spent two days undergoing tests, interviews, etc. at a block of flats in Bristol Road, Birmingham, which the R.A.F. had taken over for aircrew recruiting. I decided beforehand that I didn't want to be a pilot, but would like to be a navigator, I certainly didn't want to be an air-gunner, because I'd heard that they only lasted 6 weeks on operations before being killed! The job was so dangerous! I was soon informed that I could be neither navigator nor pilot; my personality, lack of sporting prowess, etc. were against me. I could, however, be trained as a Wireless Operator/Air Gunner (later abbreviated to WOP/AG), and I must decide there and then whether to accept this offer. The alternative seemed to be the Army! What a quandary, and no member of my family to talk it over with! I finally decided to accept and there followed a sleepless night in a strange bed in a house in Sir Harry's Road, Birmingham, where I wondered if my days were numbered now that I was to become an Air Gunner! Next day there followed more tests, etc. before I finally returned home to Leicester (This, by the way, was my first ever visit to Birmingham).