THERE AIN'T NO THERE........THERE!
When I was a young boy, my Father would pack the family up the last two weeks of July and take us on vacation to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Sitting on the shore of Ossipee Lake year after adolescent year, I marveled at the distant mountains on the opposite side and at how constant and familiar they seemed to remain each returning year. Indeed, though I rarely visit there anymore, when I do, I relive the sense of constancy and the familiar feeling of sameness, of De Ja Vu that I first experienced many years ago.
When my wife and I planned our trip to Ireland to visit our daughter in Dublin, I of course included a side trip to London and to Bentwaters. I was well aware what the ravages of time and progress had done to the appearance of the base, but I was none the less saddened to see so much of it gone, particularly the domestic side. Indeed much was unrecogizable to me. I am pushing sixty years of age now and I left Bentwaters in August of 1970, after spending three very interesting and happy (for the most part) years there. Slowly, and with the help and patience of Jon Saunders (who is doing yeoman like work on the Museum), locations and buildings came back into my mind's eye and with them many memories. The old entry control shack, where we spent our coffee breaks, an all too brief respite from the frosty VA guard or perimeter posts. The CSC building, which now has blast wall revetments on the outside,and lets not forget the clearing barrel during guard mount, the SP's version of the water cooler (where gossip and rumors were disseminated along with the ammo, some of which were even true). The MMS area, and who could forget the towers? Different from my era, but still burned in my memory. The control tower, the runways, the NAPA (non alert parking area), my re-emerging recollections of them swam in many different channels in my head as nostalgia for these 'mountains' of the past began to come to the fore.
The upcoming opening (target date sometime in May) of the Bentwaters Cold War Museum, was a highlight of our trip. With Jon Saunders as our guide he took my wife and I on a sneak preview of the site. I would venture to say that even the most dedicated Bentwaterite (for want of a better word) would find the facts accrued and displayed here surprising. The meticulous accumulation of AF,RAF,Bentwaters/Woodbridge memorabilia is astounding, and one has to wonder and be amazed at the amount of time and energy it took for Jon and his able volunteers to amass this information and put this Museum on its feet. I believe that this will be, and should be, the focus of any returning ex-GI's visit, regardless of rank, outfit, AF or RAF, pilot, cook, maintenance, AP's or SP's. Indeed, here are the 'mountains' I, and I am sure others, have been searching for.
My stop in London was cut short by unexpected events, and the time I had to mosey around my old haunts was severely limited. I missed seeing the 'D' House, Lancaster Gate, Speakers Corner, and Hyde Park. My old watering holes were no doubt long gone, though it would have been fun trying to find a few of them. The Oak Rooms,the Q Club among others. On my train ride out of a vastly different from my memory Liverpool Street, I was sad I had missed these places where I misspent much of my youth. On my way from Bentwaters however, and reflecting on the never to be seen again places there, I felt a sort of acceptance for not seeing all of my past haunts in London. I seem content with the memory of these places as they stand in my mind's eye, where they remain as they were in the late 60's again the 'mountains' of my past.
See John's pictures of Bentwaters by clicking on this link .