Random memories from my time at No 1 School of Technical Training RAF Halton as a member of 210th Entry Craft Apprentices – September 1967 to June 1969
- A ride in a Rolls Royce from home to Marylebone Station to catch the train on the morning of 4th Sept 1967. (My dad was a live in head porter in a luxury block of flats in Portland Place London, so it was a weird unofficial perk of the job to get lifts around London from some of the tenants’ chauffeurs).
- Over 180 kids arriving on the 4th September and at least 25 of them getting back on the RAF coach, travel warrant in hand, to go back home the next day.
- Station dentist examining my teeth and asking me if I was a Londoner – apparently they could tell!
- That bloody whistle and the dreaded cry of, “5 MINUTES outside!” when you were nowhere near ready.
- Ripping sheets in half so you get extras to make up a spare bed pack to save time in the mornings.
- Wearing denims and plimsolls until we got issued with uniforms.
- Soaking your beret to shrink it and sharp it.
- Putting somebody in a bath and scrubbing them with bass brooms and Vim because nobody had seen them use a bath or shower for the first 5 or so days we were there.
- Ron shaking a bottle of tomato ketchup in the mess hall at lunch and the top being loose. It went all over him, even inside his glasses – boy did we all laugh!
- Cpl Aitken getting distracted during drill practice, so we carried on marching straight into the flower bed in front of the block at the top of the parade square.
- Cpl Aitken’s favourite catch phrase of, “ Swing that arm, or I’ll rip it off and hit you over the head with the soggy end!”.
- Sgt Maxwell ripping into us because “Some little f***ker has f**king complained to the Flt Lt about my f**king swearing when they’re on f**king parade!” When I f**king find out who it f**king is I’ll f**king rip his f**king head off name of apprentice shouted! Or words to that effect.
Honour guard and drill squad
- The Sgt DI from Queen’s Colour Sqn – had the right to wear a blue sash because of it – who never used a swear word in his whole time with us. I can’t remember his name to my shame as I really liked him. He was ic the honour guard, the one that did all the VIP visits and rehearsed on Saturday mornings when everybody else was still in bed.
- Doing a guard of honour outside the Officers Mess at Halton in the driving rain. The rain was coming from the left or right almost horizontal, so our shirts were dark blue on one side and light on the other. Thank god for great coats though.
- I seem to recall the VIP turning up, after the rain had stop but we were all still dripping and asking one of us if we’d been there long – I think he probably meant at Halton training, but it was funny at the time, with everybody obviously thinking, ‘What the f*** do you think? Look at us!’.
- The minor cockup we had mid-sequence, when we did the 30+ rifle drill movements without commands, for the display we did on our passing out day – it was at Airfields I think.
- Our first illicit trip to a local pub. It was going great with everybody getting a pint, until one of us, pretty sure it was Graham, decided they wanted a Mars bar from the cabinet on the bar. The landlord suggested we leave.
- Making Airfix airplane kits and filling them with match heads and the little capsules of lighter fuel you used to get. Taking them into the woods above 1 wing and setting them a light to see if they’d go bang – no tele in them days! I wonder if some of the bits are still up there somewhere, hanging from trees.
- Raiding the junior entry on 3 wing in winter complete with snow balls, in the early hours. The DIs knew it was us of course. Whole entry got confined to camp for the weekend and put on work details across the station. Some of us got the Sgt’s Mess, it was great, permanent staff gave us beer and fags.
- Making sure you got back before 22.00hrs on a Sunday night if you’d been home for the weekend.
- Sneaking back in passed the guardroom if you’d been out drinking and didn’t want the plods to nick you for it.
Marching about and general bullshit
- Fu Man Chu, as we called the Wing WO, based on his short statue, lack of hair and rather large and prominent forehead. He was standing in front of the whole wing on morning or afternoon parade. Wanting to get the attention of somebody who was fidgeting around, he shouts across to the unknown appo, “You laddie, the laddie with the hat on, stand still!”
- Again related to Fu Man Chu. Standing on morning parade waiting to march down the hill and then him noticing that one of the entries – I don’t think it was us – had put something like a pair of ladies drawers on the top of the flag pole.
- Moving to one wing and then being told to swap blocks with the other trades, because the boss didn’t like the standard they got the bull block to when there was a VIP visit – white bloody floor tiles! Sooties and plumbers did well out of that didn’t they!!!
- Cleaning the drying room floor with an old tooth brush to get rid of the water stains and then using Cardinal Red to make it look as tho it had never been used. I was really proud of that drying room – how sad is that!
- One of us falling over on the passing out parade practice and smashing up his face and jaw up so badly that he ended up in hospital and couldn’t pass out until 3 months later. Pretty sure I was stationed with him in later years and still remember he had the scars.
- The Queens Silver Jubilee at RAF Finningley in Summer of 1968 where we all did the route lining along the peri-track. During the rehearsal Red Arrows flew over us too low and covered some of the appos hats and uniforms in red, white and blue dye.
- On the day, it was so hot, that so many were falling over from the heat, that they were being sent back out once recovered, to fill the gaps. The public were in and standing behind us on the grass to wait for Queen’s procession. Can recall one woman putting an umbrella up over an appo to keep the sun off and him trying to tell her to move it before we did the present arms because we all had fixed bayonets – I don’t think it was me.
- First route lining I ever did in London from Horse Guards Parade out into Whitehall. It was a lunchtime so lots of people from the offices had come out to watch the procession. Loads of the young girls wearing miniskirts decided to sit down on the kerbs on the opposite side of the road to my line while they waited. How distracting is that for a bunch of 17 year olds with big weapons! Had fun winding up the appo opposite, by nodding to him to sneak a peak behind him to catch an eye full, if he dared.
- Hiding in a locker so you didn’t have to go on church parade on Sunday Morning.
- The blokes who used that floor shine coating stuff on their boots and shoes to save the hard work of bulling them. Great until it rained on them and the stuff turned white.
- Putting some fags, or chocolate inside your boots when they went for repair, in the hope the toe caps didn’t get scuffed up by the prisoner who was resoling them.
Summer camp in Wales
- Coming down off of the hill during a leg of the hike during the Welsh summer camp because one of the party had injured their ankle or something, so we could walk on the roadway instead. Meant we missed the next base camp by miles and the instructors had to come and find us. Great map reading boys (I was in charge!).
- All the hills and mountain tops seem to have bogs on top.
- Harrier jump jets flying below us along the valleys as we trekked along the hill tops.
- Somebody on the basic airframes phase, tying a knot in the controls to the tail rudder controls that they’d been tasked to change and rig, because they could work out what to do with the excess cable.
- One of us riggers getting an Avdel rivet gun mandrel stuck in the end of their finger because of a fluke accident. He was filing a piece using the technique wed been taught – finger along the file to keep it level and all that. The appo opposite, was using the pneumatic Avdel rivet gun. The mandrel shot out straight across the bench and into the end of the poor sods nicely pointed finger! I can still picture the instructor grabbing him and charging off at a rate of knots holding his hand up in the air, mandrel pointing at the workshop roof. I think we had to move all of the vices out of line with each other after that.
- The Hunter on the airfields phase jumping the chocks when the sooty slammed the throttle forward too fast as though he was doing slam checks, but without the double chocking. I thought I was in the s***, because I’d been responsible for doing the brake bleed.
- During the murder inquiry of the WRAF in the coal yard, getting locked in workshops with two others, because we were being re-interviewed by the police, because our stories didn’t tally on timings or something. I think we had to leg it back up the hill in our denims even, as we couldn’t get to our kit in another part of workshops.