The beginning – Alconbury.

My story is complicated so I guess the best place to start is at the beginning, before I was born, before I was even thought of, to try to tell the story of the people involved, their associations,the circumstances surrounding my beginnings and the resulting consequences to my upbringing.

I was born in late 1965 and so cannot remember the sixties but I imagine most of us have an image in our heads of the 60’s and what life was like at that time. It was a time of rapid changes, the ‘black and white’ of the 1950’s was replaced with the multi-colour and the psychedelia of the 60’s. Post war austerity ended and mass consumerism took over as increased employment in factories and industries meant that people had more money to spend on goods and leisure. More women were employed in the workplace, there was the emergence of the the Women’s Lib movement and rules on equal pay and opportunity were established. Advances in technology, colour television and transistor radios enabled people to enjoy TV and listen to music. Conscription ended and suddenly young people were free to choose what they wanted to do.

It is universally acknowledged that one of the greatest changes at the time was to the music scene. There had already been influences from America such as ‘Rock and Roll’, the Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley but it exploded with the emergence of groups such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who and artists such as Jimi Hendrix. Song lyrics influenced the young, encouraged rebellion, disregard for the establishment and the standing up for their rights and beliefs.

We can all imagine the clothes of the 60’s and the influences of fashion icons such as Mary Quant who popularised the ‘mini skirt’ and clothes of simple shapes and strong colours. Together with models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, they bought fashion to younger people and clothes that were unimaginable the previous decade were now youthful with psychedelic prints and vibrant colours.

In 1963 ‘The Profumo Affair’, a heady mix of sex, lies, spies and government,resulted in a public mistrust of politicians and the relationship between the government and the press was changed forever. Previous deference to figures of authority was converted into mistrust and suspicion.

There was a place in England where people were able to delight in the changes and freedom that came about in the 1960’s. It was at RAF Alconbury, situated in the Huntingdon area of Cambridgeshire. Growing up, there was often talk of Alconbury, evenings spent there and the American airmen but it is only as I have looked into my beginnings that I have discovered more about it’s history and the things that went on there.

Alconbury had opened as a satellite airfield in 1938 and handed over to the United States American Air Force (USAAF) in 1942 during the Second World War. After the war the base was handed back to the RAF and sat mothballed. Later on, increasing tension in Cold War hostilities created a need for the USA to provide a military presence in Europe and in 1951 Alconbury was again allocated for use as an airbase with USAFE ( United States Airforce in Europe) officially moving in in 1953 and remaining until 1995.

I have found out that during the early 1960’s, The Airman’s Club at RAF Alconbury became known as the ‘Aquarius Club’, and was regarded as one of the best nightclubs in the UK. Every week on Friday and Saturday evenings, two or three coach loads of women, mainly from Huntingdon, but also from the outlying areas of Corby, Northampton and Leicester would make the trip to the airbase to socialise with the airmen.

 

 

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