Francis Bennion portrait

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BBC WW2 Peoples' War archive

 

‘My Malcolm Club prize-winning story’

by Flying Officer F. A. R. Bennion RAFVR (191712)

 

From BBC WW2 Peoples' War archive - Article Id: A8978241

Doc. No. 2006.011

 

[From my unpublished autobiography.]

Malcolm Club Monthly Bulletin No. 6, March-April 1944
(Click to obtain a legible version of the picture)

 

As a sergeant pilot, Coastal Command, I was stationed in the Mediterranean in 1944 waiting to join 221 Squadron. The Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder (later Lord Tedder), was anxious to further the wellbeing of RAF other ranks in the area. For that purpose the Malcolm Club was operated FOR THE AIRMEN, as its slogan was.

 

When Tedder was Deputy Supremo to General Eisenhower in North Africa, Wing Commander Leslie Scarman (later a distinguished Law Lord and first chairman of the Law Commission) was his personal Staff Officer. Scarman was a founder member of the first Malcolm Club, which was set up in Algiers in 1943. After the war, Scarman, was involved in the welfare of the individual clubs, which became spread through the RAF. On the death of Lord Tedder in 1967, Scarman agreed to become President of the Malcolm Club.

 

My picture shows the Monthly Bulletin of the Malcolm Club. Superimposed is the short story for which I was awarded a prize by the Air Chief Marshal. My prize winning short story was-

 

DEBUT (PRIZE-WINNING SHORT-STORY)

 

She was a big, blonde woman, with corn coloured hair sweeping up in a roll from her baby-sweet face. Just now a frown furrowed the ivory of her brow, and her vivid blue eyes seemed to have tremendous worry behind them. She was waiting for something - something possibly unpleasant, for she paced restlessly up and down the room, her high-heeled shoes making no noise on the thick pile of the carpet.

 

The room was very small, and there was little space for perambulation. She sat down suddenly in the austere wooden chair and glanced at her watch for the fiftieth time since leaving her home in Wimbledon some two hours before.

 

God, how the time dragged.

 

She hadn't thought it would be as bad as this. Nervousness, yes, but not this all-pervading fear, which seemed to start from somewhere in her stomach and travel all over her body till her knees felt weak and her fingertips shook with fright.

 

She thought of all the months they had spent coaching her at the Announcers' School. She couldn't let them down now, she just couldn't.

 

Ten more minutes. How could she stand it? She rose unsteadily from the chair and opened the door. There were some messenger boys in the hall outside. She beckoned to one of them.

 

‘Fetch me a glass of water, please’, she smiled conciliatingly.

 

The boy looked surprised. ‘There's a faucet in the studio you've just left, Miss.’ he said.

 

‘Oh’ she murmured faintly, and followed him into the room.

 

‘There you are, Miss’.

 

She fumbled for a coin, but he was gone before she even had her bag open. The water made her feel better. She was ready for the ordeal now, even if her knees were a bit shaky still. She looked at her watch again. Five minutes. A panel slid back and a man's head poked through.

 

‘O. K.’, he mouthed cheerfully. She nodded. Three minutes. She took another turn up the room, then pushed the chair over to the table and sat down. She coughed and looked at her watch again. Almost time. She thought of them at home. They'd be having tea now and wondering. A warning buzzer went, with shattering effect. She clutched the table top and waited, her heart pounding. The round disc in the panel before her glowed red.

 

She spoke into the microphone. ‘That was a B. B. C. recording.’ she said.

 

F. A. R. B.