In Defence of our Skies. Part 2.
I was very much earth bound, and out of initial training we were treated a little less unkindly. Not lovingly by any means; we would have been embarrassed if we had been. I was to be made a Motor Mechanic, and it began as follows….
After a short leave I arrived at RAF Weeton and found it enormous, it seemed like it stretched all the way from Blackpool (we could see the Tower when it was not raining) in the West, to Preston in the East. Of course it was not that big as it was something like 25 miles between these two first division towns. We were based in Number 1. School of Motor Vehicle Transport but shared our billets with any Tom, Dick or Harry that happened by. It was not unusual to arrive back at the billet to find your bed space and sometimes the bed itself, occupied by a complete stranger. After waking him we would reason with him, and if this did not work we would tip him out. But first you would assess him for size and the strength of your backup. The backup tended to dissolve into the NAAFI very fast if it was a 6ft 4 inch ugly individual with a disposition to match. Although the civilian instructors ran quite a tight ship, (I suppose that should be plane, not ship), outside the classroom was entirely different to the square bashing experience.
The course ran for sixteen weeks and turned out a batch of “Motor Vehicle Service Engineers” on its completion. It also made us AC1’s, with a bit more cash.
Each week another part of wheeled transport would be covered and at its end a test would determine if you progressed to the next section or back to the start of the current one. A midterm more stringent test could result in your exclusion and a 2 day exam at the end; covering all subjects, made you an AC1, or not!
The first week was Engineering skills. We cut a square of steel and into it, a square orifice of a prescribed dimension. We then cut another piece to fit exactly into the hole. Several of our class disappeared backwards at the end of the week.
Week 2 was Steering. We learned all there was to know about Ackerman links, rack and pinion, camber action, king pin inclination and lot more besides. It must have sunk in because it still means something to me 60 odd years on. What I learned has saved me a lot of money.
Progressing through suspensions, transmission, wheels, tyres and body repairs, to Engines, both petrol and diesel, we did everything you could possibly do to vehicles without actually driving them. That was another course!
The weekly tests were all multiple choice; which is my favourite, and my results even surprised me. I passed, as the previous comment will suggest.
We had some fun out of the classroom. With my home town pal John as permanent staff in the stores and knowing a few of the ropes we had a head start. We travelled regularly in the evenings and at weekends to Blackpool. It was in the age of “Wakes Weeks” when various northern towns would shut their factories and the workers would all head off for their only week’s freedom. Whatever the weather they would enjoy themselves or die in the attempt. If you were in the know you could tell the date by the accent. “Its Wakefield, it must be the second week in August”. OBJ was the beer that was sunk by the gallon. (Oh be joyful). No matter where the holidaymakers came from we did our best to help them enjoy their stay.
The variety theatres had the most amazing turns; many of them top American recording stars. I can’t remember how we got in to see them but I am sure we did not pay full price. We didn’t have full price! The Tower Ballroom was another venue we frequented. For reasons unknown the Pongoes did not get on well with the Yanks and pitched battles resulted. We would stand out of the way and egg them on, only to disappear before the Snowdrops and Redcaps arrived. Much batten swinging resulted in some sore heads, and then it was back to the dancing! We would bribe with a fag the man with the searchlight lighting up the Tower in a pre laser, laser show, to run his beam over the beach instead. Much more interesting! We got screams of abuse from various dark patches, and sometimes the bloke would join in as well.
We would hitchhike to Blackpool and Preston on alternate weeks to watch first Stanley Matthews and then Tom Finney dance along their respective wings. They actually had wingers in those days! With Watford in the 3rd Division South at the time it was great to see the top players of the day. The crowds were enormous and left little room for trouble. One match at Deepdale saw John collapse and he was passed over the crowds heads to sit on the ballast next to the touchline to recover. There was little if any room to travel at ground level, as I found out when eventually reaching the bottom of the steep terrace at half time, he was sitting propped up against the corrugated iron barrier which formed the players entrance. A few days later he was operated on for appendicitis.
Another favourite trip was to Preston to hear the Halle Orchestra perform. I think it was at the Free Trade Hall and Sir John Barbirolli was conductor. The whole outing; with a Gill of local brew, came to around half a crown. Even we could afford that occasionally, although a Gill is a painfully small measure.
The method used for travelling to and from Camp to Watford was forced on us due to our severe lack of funds. A lift on the camp bus to the Preston Road and then only our thumbs and friendly drivers to get us the two hundred or so miles south. We would stand no chance today; even in uniform, of getting a lift, but in those days people were much more helpful and trusting; and in truth less likely to be attacked or assaulted. How things have changed, I would not stop for a hitchhiker in this day and age, air force blue or not. There were no Motorways so a little geography and local knowledge was required. The aim was to bypass Manchester and get on the A5 somewhere north of Birmingham. Manchester was just too big. like a black hole, once sucked in it was a long job getting out again. Birmingham was similar. One very dark night I was sucked in and walked all the way from Castle Bromwich to Rugby eventually arriving home after eighteen hours on the road. There were very few vehicles on the road during the early hours in those days.
The journey back was a different kettle of fish altogether. It was by train and relied on having a valid and up to date ticket. This was either purchased by yourself for the full price or borrowed for a much lesser sum from a billet mate. (Ticket tout). The journey started normally by presenting your ticket at Watford Junction and boarding the train in the proper and almost legal manner. The carriages were normally very crowded with airmen, and seats at a premium, but we were all waiting for the stop at a very small station named Kirkam, just outside Preston. Now it was all down to timing! We knew the ticket collector was not up to handling all of the charging blue horde, but he would cope with the first fifty or so. “Don’t get to the barrier too soon” and make sure you are on the side farthest from our man with your ticket in the “other hand”. The collector would grab a few, but most got through. If you did get caught then you had lost and had to pay your tout; or buy the next one. If you got through cleanly then you gave back your ticket, or had one for your next run. Not entirely honest I would admit, but it determined if you could afford to go home on the next 48 pass, or not.
Money, or rather lack of it, was a really big problem, so when we were given a 48 hour pass and a travel warrant mid-term we were delighted. A group of us arrived at Preston station just a few minutes before the Mid Day Scot was due to arrive on Platform 9. This service thundered south, stopping only at Rugby, Watford; where it dropped off mail, and Euston, and did it in less than three hours. This was the optimum service as a through train to Euston would have cost us a return ticket to and from Watford. We had timed it right, as we presented our warrants the train pulled into the station and we piled in. Hats and jackets off we spread ourselves over the seats and anticipated a lengthy kip. It was a nice feeling to “be legal”. A group of airmen on a train with legitimate tickets were like hens teeth! Our euphoria was interrupted by the ticket inspector who called out “Manchester, all change”. We had piled into the local train that was running 20 minutes late. I blame the ticket inspector at the Preston barrier. I wonder if he was a relative of his colleague at Kirkham. We had to wait 11 hours for a train that stopped at Watford; we did not have the money for the Euston add on, and arrived home with the milk instead of the mail.
On course completion we were promoted to AC1 with a very small rise and awaited our postings to a permanent station with a great deal of anticipation. Would I be flying out to Hong Kong or Cyprus or perhaps the Gulf or Middle East. Anywhere with sunshine would do, as long as no one was actually fighting. As it turned out it was to be RAF Medmenham in Marlow’s, close to Henley in the Thames valley.
This was the real mans Air Force, and three of us arrived on a damp autumn Thursday, complete with kitbags and full complement of webbing and packs which made us stick out like three sore thumbs. The camp consisted of a set of scruffy tin sheds sited amongst tatty and half dead undergrowth of stinging nettles and other native flora associated with an area that flooded at the drop of a hat. It was terrible, and quite a shock to our sensitive ego’s. We learned that we were now part of 90 Signals Group, the only Group with Command status. This impressed us no end.
It was soon apparent that we were an embarrassment to the other staff as they all wanted to clear off early for a long weekend. Given a 48 hour pass we were told to B.Off. and come back sometime on Monday when we would be posted on to somewhere else. The good news was we weren’t staying there, but the bad was learning the signals stations were very often in remote and inaccessible places.
The next Monday the Welshman in our group was sent to Haverford West which is between Milford Haven and Fishguard. Very welcome he was to, isn’t it? The chap from Uxbridge went to Worth Maltravers near Wareham in Dorset and I got Barkway because it was also in Hertfordshire.
My first thought was “where the hxxx is Barkway”, my second, “thank goodness he did not miss read the county and send me to Herefordshire instead”.
Travelling via Kings Cross I noted after Welwyn Garden City that each station took me farther from home. Knebworth, Stevenage, Hitchen, Baldock, Ashwell Morden and finally Royston. I made my phone call to Barkway and was told to wait for transport. When a Fordson lorry; (“V8 engine with a habit of blowing head gaskets” I recalled) eventually arrived I was told by its round faced driver, “get that cxxp off”; referring to my webbing and packs, “Chuck it in the back and climb in with it”. And off we went in the opposite direction to that which I had calculated. We were to collect stores from RAF Basingbourne before climbing steeply up the A10 towards London then whistling along a narrow lane with high hedgerows to RAF Barkway. I shared the back area with the stores fighting off sliding bags of potatoes and all sorts of tinned goods. We pulled up at a rather pretty guardroom and a round faced voice from the front seat suggested I may like to “GET OUT!”.
The formalities at the gate were few and I was directed to a billet no more than 50 yards away, dumped my gear on a spare bunk and reported to the SWO man. (Station Warrant Officer). He was a Sergeant and lived in a caravan in the village with his wife, and, as I later found out, any airman whose fancies they mutually took! In fact I am not sure that anyone actually met his wife. He gave me a potted version of what the station did.
We were part of a navigation system named GEE. (Long since defunct) Radio signals were transmitted from all points of the UK compass on a discreet set frequency which enabled pilots to triangulate on three transmissions and know roughly where they were. Our job, (I was already part of the team) was to monitor these signals and make sure they did not deviate from their determined frequency. A total of 65 personnel were required to carry out this function on a 24 hour basis and my job was to maintain the three resident vehicles. That was me and two others.
The business end of the station was a 300 ft wooden tower with lengths of wire hanging from it. These entered a Nissan hut where four operators peered into small green screens and talked to their opposite numbers in places like Worth Maltravers and Haverford West. Come positive/negative seemed to be the extent of the conversation. And that was it!
Four angular asbestos billets, a corrugated iron canteen come kitchen/officer mess, an MT Bay and a two storey HQ were the only other buildings and the whole fenced area was made secure by the pretty Guardroom with the ETR room at its rear.
My new billet contained most of the Radio men who came and went at all sorts of odd times. Two beds down the line was my round faced taxi man. He was L.A.C. Leslie Worm from the Elephant and Castle and one of the other Motor Mechanics. He was shrewd, not much happened in the camp without him knowing, or causing it. The only things I can remember about the rest in this first billet are rather fragmented. Woody came from Downham Market and had some connections with the motor trade but no motor.
Derek was a chemist and did a spectacular trick with a mouthful of petrol and a lighted match. He tried this once on the day before the AOC,’s inspection. The first attempt at blowing the petrol across the lighted match failed to produce ignition but soaked his tie and jacket front. The second attempt was much more successful, producing both a plume of yellow flame three feet long and setting fire to his tie. We put him out with a coat but had to hide him for the inspection as he was minus eyebrows and lashes, his face was bright red and he couldn’t shave. He also smelled like a petrol refinery. His vehicle. and source of fire eating liquid was an Austin 7 open tourer of I guess early thirties vintage. He would transport himself and three fare paying passengers via the A10 on a return journey to London most weekends. Les Worm would play the Post Horn Gallop on his Bugle as they went through the villages at speed. 40.mph. would be about the maximum. The guy directly opposite me has a name reminiscent of the Mafioso.
Benjamino Masara was married to a young lady called Rosina with an entirely English background. I wonder what they called their children? He worked in civvie street for a film studio publicity department, and would; if spoken to nicely, bring signed glossy photographs of the star of your choice. Mine was Doris Day.
The last man I remember had big problems. His parents were in the middle of a divorce and it seemed to me he was the scapegoat. He would describe to me in great detail the events of the previous weekend and I could do no more than listen. I hope he sorted his life out as I was not much use.
This was a happy billet with no particular problems so it couldn’t possibly last. The two incidents that stick in my memory directly associated with hut number 3 was the Fire extinguisher war raged almost to the death between us and the Cooks billet and the Great Horticultural Scam. The first incident lasted several days and resulted in a complete lack of serviceable extinguishers on the camp and all sorts of terminal uniform deformities. We won! The second was definitely cruelty to officers, or one particular officer. Our Adjutant was a Flight Lieutenant, who as a Squadron Leader had a good war flying Spitfires or something. I would imagine he took demotion to improve his pension rights when he ran out of German bombers to shoot down. He was, to put it kindly, a little confused. His little Adjutants dog, which was really only a waddle on four legs, was also well past his run by date. This pair took great interest in the billet gardens, different interests I would add. During what passed as a weekly inspection he noticed a strange plant reaching for the sky in a warm corner, and was seen to visit and study this specimen at times other than scheduled. He held long discussions with our tame chemist as to the possible family and origin of this specimen and we all did our best to make sure the required trace elements were made available by watering it with all the various liquids we could lay our hands on; and some we didn’t dare actually handle. This may have been the reason for the contorted shapes that prevented our leader from recognising the Onion from the cookhouse and also eventually caused its final wilting demise. I doubt the extinguisher war had not contributed. The Adj. was quite upset, and the smell was unpleasant on a warm still evening
It may be the time to describe the complete chain of command of commissioned officers. You have met the Adjutant, more of him later. The Commanding Officer was a Squadron Leader with no known attached scandal. This made him rather dull and uninteresting He however owned a very pretty, but rusty one and half litre SS Jaguar which appeared to be his only real interest. The car disappeared one day to much speculation as to its fate, only to reappear two weeks later in what can best be described as a resurrected state. It was now pale blue a colour that set off to perfection the beautiful lines of its immaculate curves. It displayed now with pride its leaping silver Jaguar on the equally gleaming radiator cap. The rear window, roof and boot lid had classic lines yet to be bettered by modem designers. It was therefore something of disaster when, with the CO sitting on the floor with his legs under the front bumper polishing the Chrome radiator grill the high rear corner of a fifteen hundredweight Bedford radio maintenance vehicle contacted and triangularly punctured the Jaguar in the area of its greatest beauty; by the side of the rear window. Fortunately for the car and less so for the CO, the hand brake was off! When he managed to get out from half way along his car he was unhappy with the driver of the lorry and also a funny colour. For a change we were nearly all sympathetic in a deferential manner. There is little else to be said about our CO. We had no dirt on him so he was considered boring.
This was not the case with his second-in-command so we will go back to him.
Our Adjutant would be well into his second century by now so it would be difficult for him to sue me for telling the truth. My memories of him are numerous and may appear a little farfetched; I can assure you that what follows is fact, only modified by my recall. He lived with his wife in a cottage in the village; that is when she wasn’t before the “Beak” for some “under the influence” misdemeanour. Her targets were Taxi drivers, Bus conductors and the occasional Pub Landlord. She was banned by both the landlord and the Magistrate but did not seem to recognise the jurisdiction of either of these two worthies.
The Adj. also had an SS Jaguar, two and half litre this time. Both older and rustier than the CO’s but with a very superior long fluted bonnet. The car and man were a perfect match. A well worn uniform cap worn at just the right angle, a cigarette held between brown gloved fingers and followed by a little fat dog he looked the epitome of a Battle of Britain spitfire pilot on his way to his Spitfire and glory as he lowered his tall but bent frame into the Jag. He was not that brave though. He stayed on camp most nights in the officers’ quarters! He demanded a cup of tea from the Duty Airman at half past seven but no one liked delivering it due to the smell. We were fairly sure it was the old dog with four legs, but not 100% certain.
The dog could do no wrong despite finding it difficult to actually walk. It struggled up the road in front of the HQ dragging an enormous Hare. The Adj. was delighted that his companion had run down and killed such formidable prey. We did not tell him that we had seen the corpse laying on the grass behind the MT section for some days and that it was in an advanced state of decay.
In the winter months his old Jag. was not easy to start, so in contravention of all sound practices he had fabricated a device to keep the chill out of the engine. Two carbon rods from a dry battery were passed though a rubber bung and wire soldered to them. The other end was plugged into a bench lamp as the car sat over the open pit in the MT workshop. The bung was inserted into the radiator filler in place of the cap and when energised produces a small amount of steam and a hissing sound. Ohms law could be used to determine the Potential Difference between various parts of the car and earth. The type of footwear worn also had considerable affect on the fun factor. Plimsoll’s were best! We would stand and watch visitors come into contact and very quickly disengage. The dog had a habit of cocking his leg against the wire wheels and never seemed to learn his lesson, these were the only occasions he was known to break into a trot. He finally met his fate by falling down the pit under his master’s car. Our man was inconsolable on finding him dead at the foot of his bed the next morning. He still stayed on camp most nights!
It was a sad day when our new MT Corporal arrived. He moved into the cooks billet and in the evening played the piano like Russ Conway and bought everyone drinks. The next day he moved us MT. merchants into the Cooks billet with him. He swiftly formed a liaison with the SWO. man which was not good for us and started that night with a really annoying habit. Beginning at the farthest bunk after lights out, me!, he would call, “Alan”, “Yes Wally” was the required reply, “Good night Alan”, “Good night Wally”. This would continue down one side and up the other and if someone did not reply he would keep on saying “good night” until they did. We knew from experience that he would be half sitting up in bed whilst annoying the hell out of us all and it did not come as a surprise to hear a loud bang one night; then silence from Wally. I waited for a few seconds and being nearest to the switches turned on the lights. The cooks would bring back an enormous cast iron saucepan of very thick Cocoa for the lads and it was buried in the asbestos inner skin of the hut, just where Wally’s head should have been. He was lying down or I would have been an accessory to murder; in thought if not deed. Most of us did not know who did the dirty and those that did were not saying.
The antics that Wally together with the SWO man and his wife got up to were a legend locally, and a drunk Wally at lights out was a bit worrying. But we coped! There was always the subtle saucepan ploy.
The other hazards had more of a personal choice about them. The wooden radio tower on the camp was one of a pair, the other being 400 yards or so down the road in a field. This, after a few beers presented a challenge that could not be ignored. One misty night a group of us decided we must conquer its slippery heights and proceeded to first use the internal ladders that sloped as they covered the first six levels. The last two stages were reached by ladders affixed vertically to the outside of the much narrower sections. RIGHT on top was a platform around one yard square and it was on this we sat with our legs dangling over the side. We could see for miles over the mist that hid the area we would fall on with one false move. We must have been completely mad!
Football was responsible for most of the limps to be seen around the camp. In addition to the normal hazards presented by a bunch of bored suicidal maniacs in overalls and football boots kicking seven bells out of the ball and one another, there were the flints. No matter how many were picked up and thrown clear another crop appeared like mushrooms; and always with the sharpest edge upwards. Smoking on the pitch was also a hazard. Blocking a shot with my backside the ball ignited a box of Swan Vesta’s in my back overall pocket and only their swift removal in clouds of smoke prevented a nasty burn. As it was, sitting down was not pleasant for a few days.
Every Wednesday afternoon was reserved for sports; and weather permitting, we would visit the “Green Plunge” on the Royston/Cambridge roundabout for a swim, which just about satisfied the criteria laid down. The complex also contained a cinema and cafe where a fair amount of coffee would be consumed whilst listening to Kay Starr singing “Wheel of fortune” on the Juke Box. It was at the pool that I met Margaret, 63 years ago.
It was back to the thumb to get home. Once I had walked along the lane onto the A10 for the two mile lift to Royston, it only required a short walk up the hill towards Baldock and another lift to the A1 and the A444 turn off just south of Hatfield to arrive in Watford. It rarely took me more than 90 minutes and I was never late for the kick off at Vicarage Road. The people providing the lift were very varied. Dirk Bogarde picked me up in his Rolls Royce and an American in a gigantic tanker lorry. Nearly everybody was prepared to stop and most wanted to know what being an Airman was like. I perhaps embellished the recall a little because in all honesty the life was not exactly glamorous.
I learned to drive along the Barkway station’s only road in a small Hillman van with a canvas tilt covering its rear end; the sort you see the aircrews being taken out to their Lancaster bombers in the old films. A few local trips with Wally and I was on detachment back to Weeton to take my test. After hijacking a bed I reported for two days of written and verbal examinations and then on the third day into the back of a three ton Bedford QL lorry; where six of us were taken to Blackpool. We were called one by one and clambered out of the back and mounted this beast by climbing into the cab the size of a garden shed via the front wheel hub and a little step. The shed contained an enormous steering wheel (which required several turns from lock to lock) and a gear stick about three foot long. At one end of this stick was a large black knob and at the other a “crash” gearbox, i.e. it had no synchro mesh and required “Double Declutching” to have any chance of changing gear. This process; once mastered, is no problem, but it does not come easy to start with; so I was a little bit nervous. My first gear change was fine and dodging the trams and milk floats ( they looked altogether different when viewed from above), I went on to make what I thought was a good effort and even managed the “down” changes without playing too much of a tune on the gears. We were not told our fate until the afternoon back at the camp. I had passed, and was delighted. I would now be able to collect the rations from Bassingbourne and take the football team to away matches, thus relieving some of the boredom. I was now a Driver Mechanic.
The AOC’s inspection mentioned earlier was one of the less boring events. Having polished and painted everything, and even pressed our Best Blues, we were formed into a guard of honour by the front gate on a very warm humid day. The man was late and after half an hour the Adj. was looking a bit hot and bothered so told us to stand down. This to us meant, collapse on the grass and light up! When the Air Commodore in his Humber Super Snipe pulled up at the barrier we had to swiftly put out our ciggie’s, find our rifles, and form up again to present arms as he passed. He was very good about it. After all it was him that was late. We all sloped off to stand by our beds awaiting the inspection and hoping he would choose another billet. But no, ours was it. As the AOC walked through he commented, reference our old Snail stove, “that this type is being replaced”, tapping the round lid with his leather gloved hand. He was not to know that it had only been painted that morning and the black paint was no more than pleasantly tacky. The lid came up with his glove and fell to the floor, rolling under a bed. I must say the self control deserved a medal and we only dissolved into hysteria when he was hopefully out of earshot.
The one event that definitely sticks in my memory was watching the TV one morning and learning my boss had died. I walked over to tell the CO. the King had died and he was not prepared to take my word for it, so phoned someone! After about an hour phoning and asking “is that right the King is dead?” someone phoned him back and confirmed it. He ordered a parade and we lowered the flag to half mast, all passes and leave was cancelled and football matches postponed, camp cinemas were to be shut, but we did not have one anyway. When the State Funeral took place we paraded again and Les Worm played the Last Post on his bugle. It was quite touching with the wind wiping the sound away accompanied by the flapping of the half mast flag. I thought the performance of the lads was quite good too.
I noted with interest the date chosen for the Coronation of our new Queen Elizabeth coincided with my demob date. The 3rd. June 1953. So although I would not be at the parade lining the streets for hours on end, I was still required to take part in the preparations to hone our team to clockwork and gleaming perfection. We all had brown knees so were not easy to control on the parade ground. (The road in front of the MT. Section). If we decided we were not going to be very cooperative it was a shambles and on the odd occasions when the spirit hit us we would have done the Guards proud. Another bone of contention was our uniforms, particularly our berets. No two were the same colour and many had been moulded into shapes not originally intended. The MT section’s hats were 25% Brylcream and 25% engine oil. The Best Blue jackets had all been pressed with wet cloth and brown paper to produce creases that made them look a little less like short dresses. Again, no two the same. We pointed out that Wally’s jacket was pressed in this manner and that seemed to do the trick. He had more influence than plain good behaviour and two stripes warranted. How?
Around this time I was promoted to SAC.(Senior Aircraftsman) I never did find out why I was given my third prop. I had earlier received my two prop sew-on Badge as an LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) and did not know the reason for that promotion either.
I travelled to Wythal Birmingham to get demobbed. All was all very quiet due to the events in London. The procedures were much the same as the induction; but in reverse, with lots of signatures to be obtained and a medical to insure I was at least as fit as when I came in and still had roughly the same number of body parts. I received my discharge certificate and a travel warrant in the right direction on the 4th June 1953. I was now a class “H” Reservist and as such I could be called back at Her Majesty’s whim. It happened only once and I found myself on a Top Secret H.Bomber base somewhere in Eastern England for what turned out to be the coldest two weeks of my life, before or since.
That is the end of my story and the only mementoes I have left are my Discharge Certificate and a number stuck in my head for ever. 2518714.
Final Comment. I would suspect most modern youngsters would not accept the treatment we received without suing; and almost certainly winning cases, regarding deprivation of Human Rights, assault, and even claims of mental and physical abuse. Heavy damages would be paid together with years of counselling. The thought that anyone should be punished; as we were, for breaking the rules, seems completely unacceptable today. No doubt we were naïve, but in the main it was an experience that built us up, rather than knocked us down. The world was a very different place in those days. I must say that boredom figured largely in my time on a permanent station, but for other National Servicemen; some engaged in actual warfare, they apparently did their jobs well and enjoyed some of it. My only regrets were not getting my trade in the Air Force, and not travelling. In both instances I have since reached beyond my expectations work wise and travelled most of the world.
Per ardua ad astra. (Through adversity to the stars) just about sums it all up.
Alan Orchard 12 December 2014