Sixty years ago

Now let me think….sixty years ago; what was I doing then?

I know I was eighteen at the time and I was just about to join the RAF for my National Service. The year was 1953.

My life was pretty sheltered until then, living at home with my parents, and going out with mates most evenings. So I looked on the idea of joining the RAF as something of an adventure, a trip into real manhood at last, with other blokes, protecting England from any foe! Perhaps I might be a pilot, and tear about the sky in one of those lovely Meteor jets, kings of the air in those days!

Little did I know! On joining day, I had to travel by train to a place called Padgate in the north of England where I, and several other chaps who were on the train, were met by a corporal with a bus. He got us all on board and drove us to the RAF Station at which we were to be inducted. As we approached the gates I noticed a couple of planes, parked on the verge just outside, and as we passed them the corporal glanced over his shoulder and shouted, over the engine noise, “Get a good look at those kites boys – they’re the closest you’ll get to a plane in the next two years!” And he laughed merrily at his own humour, a joke he most likely recited every week, to each incoming group of recruits.

As it turned out, he was telling the truth!

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I never did get to be a pilot and I never got close to any aircraft again, during my whole service. In fact, rather than flying, I did the exact opposite. Most of my service, apart from initial training, was spent underground, operating a radar set. But that all came later.

As I’ve said we went to Padgate to get inducted, kitted out with uniform and given our various jabs. It all took about five days and during that time we were left pretty much to our own devices. We played cards, listened to the radio, drank beers in the NAAFI and generally had a good time; we thought being in the services was a great life!

Then, on the fifth day we were put on another bus and, accompanied by two corporals who sat at the front and took no notice of us, we headed for Wilmslowe, where we were to do our initial training. Half an hour later we arrived and the bus pulled up in front of a row of low, single storey buildings. All was quiet for a few moments, as we all peered out at what was to be our new ‘home’ for the next eight weeks’,  just a low murmur as we absorbed what we could see.

Then, suddenly, the two corporals, who had travelled with us went completely insane! They both leapt up, shouting obscenities, waving their arms about and rushing up and down the length of the bus, screaming at us to get outside! We were  all in total shock, some in tears, as we scrambled off the vehicle, and it took most of us nearly a week to get over it, to start enjoying the very healthy life provided by ‘square-bashing’. By the end of the eight weeks, I was as fit as I had ever been before, or have ever been since – a really worth-while experience that taught me respect for others, discipline and camaraderie.

Some of today’s youth would be well served to experience the same!

photo credit: bill barber via photopin cc