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Finally getting accepted into the air force

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Looking after French Foreign Legion soldiers
Ken Adam Artist
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Being at the University I tried to get into one of the university air squadrons, but they wouldn't have me. And so I joined the military... Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, which was a military formation which had been formed by the War Office for people like me and a lot of older refugees from all over the place, and we were stationed in Ilfracombe in Devonshire. And since I had two stripes from my OTC [Officer Training Corps] days at St Paul's I became a training staff corporal. And... the most amusing part was that when I went to the recruiting officer with the two stripes, he said, 'You're just the person I want, because we've got some French Foreign Legion who have just been kicked out of Narvik, and we want to send them down to Ilfracombe, so perhaps you would take charge of them?' And here I was, barely 18 years old, no experience at all, with some French Foreign Legionnaires who I think had been at Verdun, some of them, in the First World War, and who certainly had to be treated with a lot of diplomacy, you see. But that was not my life; I wanted to fly, in any case.

Sir Kenneth Adam (1921-2016), OBE, born Klaus Hugo Adam, was a production designer famous for his set designs for the James Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s. Initially, he trained as an architect in London, but in October 1943, he became one of only two German-born fighter pilots to fly with the RAF in wartime. He joined 609 Squadron where he flew the Hawker Typhoon fighter bomber. After the war, he entered the film industry, initially as a draughtsman on This Was a Woman. His portfolio of work includes Barry Lyndon and The Madness of King George; he won an Oscar for both films. Having a close relationship with Stanley Kubrick, he also designed the set for the iconic war room in Dr Strangelove. Sir Ken Adam was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, War Office, Ilfracombe, Devonshire, OTC, Officer Training Corps, St Paul's School, French Foreign Legion, Narvik, Norway, The Battle of Verdun

Duration: 1 minute, 39 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2010 and January 2011

Date story went live: 15 August 2011