DAI REES (1945-2010, RIP Dai)
Joining the Royal Air Force was an act of chance and impulse. By chance, I met my best mate Roy, coming down the wide, majestic and well worn stone stairway of the school's entrance hall. I asked him where he was going and was told that he was off to join the RAF - that seemed to be a good idea, so on impulse I did as well. On 19 Jan 1962, 10 days after my 17th birthday, I joined the RAF as an Aircraft Apprentice of No 1 Radio School, RAF Locking. At Locking I was to be a member of the 100th Entry, known as the Queen's Entry (that is a capital "Q", Ducky!). Whether she knew or not and whether we were or not, is completely beside the point, as we were ragged rotten by the Senior Entries regardless - our `aspired to title' just made matters worse. At Locking in 1962, there were nearly 1000 Apprentices under training as well as more than 700 adult trainees and Post Graduates; it was indeed, a very large camp. A bit different these days - sad. (This was written before Locking closed).
As soon as we were attested, the nice lads who lived in the bunks at the end of the room turned into tyrants. We had to line up and have our first "irons" inspection. Irons were the knife, fork and spoon that we had to carry with us all the time. These normally had to be clean, but the inspections made sure that they gleamed. When we finished our meals, we were supposed to clean our irons in tanks of boiling hot water situated just inside the Mess. This was OK if you were first in the queue but as junior entry, that never happened. By the time we got to use the water, it was like next day's soup. If you dropped your irons into this water, you had to wait for someone to drain it, but you couldn't do that as you had other commitments and if you left the lost item, it was rumoured that they dissolved away within the day. This was yet another of life's conundrums that were to plague us for the next three years. This particular problem was compounded by the fact that you had to use this "facility", because there always was a chance that your irons could be checked by an NCO at the exit; I licked mine and wiped them clean on a serviette. I washed them later in the sinks in the block. The very next day, we had our first "Short Arm" inspection - think about it. Embarrassing or what!
During our first week, we also got our jabs. This pleasantry took place at the hospital - there used to be hospital at Locking behind where the WRAF block is. We rolled our sleeves up and sat across a bench. We inched our way forward and had an injection in each forearm as we neared the end. We then stood up and had another in each upper arm, the next day we came back for another two vaccinations. We also took part in a Flu vaccine experiment, volunteers of course. Pity that we only discovered that we were volunteers after the event. Bearing in mind recent disclosures in the press about tests on troops years ago, I wonder if we really were testing Flu vaccine. Nonetheless, I have only been really ill twice since that test vaccination and I didn't grow another head that I've noticed.
We were also issued with our uniforms. Apprentices still wore the "Hairy Mary" which was like a No 1 but in the same material as the Battle Dress. I was too barrel chested for the "Mary" so I was issued with Battle Dress (BD) which was just being issued to the Apprentices - was I popular or what! The reason for this attitude was that if we were allowed down town I could wear civilian clothes. Considering we were not allowed off camp for the first six weeks, this mattered not and anyway this state of affair was not to last and we soon got our best uniforms (the T63); we then had to send our civvies home. My first T63 was a monument to sartorial elegance and epitomised the skills of the tailor. After careful and expert fitting, I was doomed to keep my jacket on all the time because the trousers came up to just underneath my breastbone and I had to wear braces. If I dropped the waist down to where it should be, the crotch was at my knees. My Greatcoat came down to below my knees and the sleeves covered my fingers even when they were extended. Despite constant protests, both items of clothing were considered to be correct by the tailor and every inspecting officer until our final kit inspection just before graduation. This officer did not believe that I had been issued with the coat or had gone 3 years without anyone saying anything. Indeed he was so convinced that I was lying that I would have been charged there and then for stealing the coat. if I had been unable to prove that this rubbish really was mine. Anyway, if I was going to steal a coat, wouldn't I have stolen one that fitted? That was the first of many anecdotal digressions.
Discipline in the forces in those days really was harsh. You stood up whenever an NCO came in the room and you stood to attention until told to relax and you never ever spoke to an officer until he spoke to you. Encounters with authority was always tinged with danger. I mean, can you imagine being charged for looking at an officer or an NCO the wrong way ? It was known as Dumb Insolence and you could easily get into trouble, and serious trouble if you had a squint or facial twitch! Later on, this and other similar nonsense was dropped from Air Force Law; even so, I still did a weekend's fatigues for blaspheming, but I digress again. Military discipline, was made worse by the extraordinary powers and privileges of the Apprentice NCOs. There was a Lights Out regulation enforced throughout the RAF. As trainees, we had to have our main lights out at 2200 hrs and our bedside lights out by 2230hrs. Apprentice JNCOs had an extra 30 mins, the same time as adults but Apprentice SNCOs and WOs could keep their lights on until 0030 hrs - so what? Nothing really, but it was over 90 mins longer than adult airmen and SNCOs. Apprentice SNCOs also had en-suite accommodation and this was in 1962!
Another example of their power and authority, was the NCO Inspections. Every Tuesday, almost without fail, we were subjected to an Apprentice NCO Kit and Bed Space Inspection. To add to the fun, our NCOs invited their mates from other squadrons to participate in these "Jamborees". These inspections, sanctioned by the Station hierarchy, meant that from 1830hrs on, we had to stand by our beds with our lockers open. We were then shouted and screamed at by pimply faced NCOs (some were kids younger than we were) as they took their time and enjoyed themselves whilst inspecting us. What they were actually doing, was venting their petty spite and soothing their childish frustrations on helpless individuals - to whit, us. Having an open invite like that meant that, apart from the shared fun (only their's), it also got the job over and done with before lights out at 2200. It certainly was not fun or pleasant for us to have our kit smashed or ripped out of our lockers and strewn across the room or even thrown out of the window. These antics were accompanied by acerbic and constant merciless criticism and ridicule of ourselves and antecedents. Many a young lad was reduced to tears by this ritualised bullying. Whenever a regular NCO or Officer was present, these inspections did what they were designed to do, ensured that our kit reached and maintained a high standard of excellence. On those very few occasions, the inspections were quite bearable and in most cases, instructive. These moments of sanity were few and far between and the only way out of Tuesday's misery, was to ensure that our kit was immaculate or, as I often did, get on kitchen fatigues. Kitchen fatigues were unpleasant, they were hot, smelly and dirty but the permanent staff were always friendly and often did the worst bit, the tin room, themselves. They also kept us provided with plenty of toast, chips and tea and, more importantly, they provided a cast iron alibi that kept us away from our billets.
We no longer considered the possibility of survival when the hardest NCO on the Wing walked into our room mid way through a Tuesday night's conviviality meeting. He walked up the centre aisle to the bed space opposite me and started to rip apart my friend's kit quickly reducing him to a pile of quivering protoplasm. Having your kit immaculate did not always help, as fault was often found even when it wasn't present and Roger's kit was always brilliant. That evening if Lady Luck smiled upon me, there was a blue moon, and I was very, very lucky, I would only suffer 2nd degree slaughtering when it came to my turn. As it happened, the NCO was Welsh and we had a nice friendly chat about home. He quietly pointed out where I could improve my kit, congratulated me on where it was good, thanked me for my efforts and then moved along to the next bed space where he proceeded to wreak havoc again. I had actually got through an inspection unscathed. Cymru am Byth, OK! Funnily enough, we met many people in those days, who said that we were lucky having it so easy, because in the old days, discipline really was tough!
The floors of our accommodation blocks were covered in blue linoleum and this was polished to a high gloss every morning for at least 2 hours. In the evening, hand bumpers were on the go, backwards and forwards and up and down, non stop from about 1900 hrs through to 2200 hrs when the main lights went out. Our Blanket Packs always had to be perfectly squared off and immaculate. They had to remain in that state from 0615 hrs to 2200 hrs, and unless we received specific authority to do so, even sitting on our beds between these times was forbidden. Our beds, lockers and bed spaces always had to be spot on, because the rooms were inspected by an officer, each and every day! Each morning our beds, lockers and bed packs had to be lined up with each other as if on parade. When this was completed, we left to start the morning's working parades and Tech. Meanwhile, the Billet Orderlies carried on with the polishing and whilst waiting their turn on the bumper, aligned the stripes on the counterpanes - that took for ever to do. The rest of the block had to be cleaned as well, even the toilets. On Sundays, after Church Parade, we were allowed to make our beds up and relax until the evening, then we started the bullshine again. (Once, about two years into our time at Locking, I actually over heard an inspecting officer comment that the block was immaculate but wasn't too much effort being expended on cleaning and bull? Needless to say, nothing changed).
About twice a year we had to endure a Full Kit Inspection (FKI). This was when we stood to attention beside our beds whilst an officer checked every single item of clothing and equipment issued to us and in an 18 man room, this took forever. In order for him to do this, we had to lay out our kit on our beds and hang up our uniforms in our lockers. That really meant everything, apart from what was at the laundry and what we were wearing. The amount of clothing available and on display was precise, and as the RAF dressed us from the skin up in those days, this meant that there was a lot of kit. (Although I never checked, I was once told that if you wore your best uniform, No 1 Hat, boots and Great Coat, etc, then all your remaining kit could be packed into your holdall. This kit then weighed 441bs which funnily enough, was the weight allowance on board an aircraft. When you consider that you had to take all your kit with you when posted, it posed a few difficulties when travelling overseas, particularly if you wanted to take civilian clothes and KD)! Tangential thinking again, anyway prior to an FKI, all your kit and equipment had to be washed, brushed, cleaned, ironed and folded in the proscribed manner.
The kit was then set out on the bed, not in any old way, but in a laid down, stylised and symmetrical format. The folding and ironing ensured that any fold facing down the bed, was flat, even and square. This ensured that the individual items, when placed in relation with other kit, could be easily seen, identified and counted. Uniforms had to be cleaned, brushed and ironed with all the brasses shining. Our knife, fork, spoon and mug had to gleam and sparkle, and our rifle had to be cleaner than an operating theatre instrument. We were issued with purple plimsolls which had to be polished so that the canvas was black, the rubber bits and soles had to be intact and polished to a shine. Shoes and our two pairs of boots had to be spit polished to a high gloss on the toecaps and heels. The underside of the shoes and boots were simply polished but the bit between the heel and sole had to gleam; studs in the soles and the metal cleats on heels and toes of parade boots were polished with Duraglit or Brasso. Our brushes, cleaning cloths and button stick had to be washed, ironed or polished. The polish (boot and Brasso etc) containers also had to be scrapped clean of paint and polished! The work was so much, that some guys did all the heavy grafting the evening before the FKI and laid out their bed ready for the inspection. This meant that they then had to sleep on the floor. Another alternative, was to set out your mattress ready for the inspection and put it on the floor. You could then sleep on the springs until the next morning. I partially solved this problem by always having most of my kit folded ready, this kept my lockers neat and thus setting up for an FKI was a bit easier. I then washed and ironed my clothes as I used them. It also helped during those Tuesday inspections that we couldn't avoid. Somewhere in my parents' house, I still have some kit folded ready for an FKI. The polishing of the floors or the cleaning of the block did not stop during an FKI preparation, in fact it got worse.
In those days, the badges, buttons, belt clips and buckles on our uniforms were made of real brass. "Stay bright" anodised buttons were appearing on the scene, but we were not allowed to have them. However, if we polished our cap badge with silver Duraglit and then brushed it hard with our issue nail brush, it produced a finish like a "stay bright" badge, and it didn't need to be polished everyday, either. Buttons did have to be polished every day but they too responded to the Duraglit treatment; you had to be careful and had to use a duster to prevent scratches. When the NCO Apprentices found out that the illegal badge or button that they had just 'found', was actually quite pukka, it was a real pleasure to see their dismay. The practice drove them to distraction as they couldn't really tell us not to clean our brasses, could they? Petty, but we were fighting back. Perversely, an old "King's Crown" brass badge that had been polished so much that detail had been worn away, was a prized object, even though it had be polished every day. No matter what polish we used, the brass always had to shine like the sun both back and front, as did the brass work on our webbing.
Our issued `58 Pattern Webbing consisted of a belt, bayonet frog, rifle sling and small pack. Luckily, the big packs, ammo pouches etc, had recently been withdrawn, even so, the small side packs were bad enough. The webbing was normally blue and had to be freshly blancoed every day. Once we got used to this, there was no real problem getting the kit ready every day except that on special parades, the webbing had to be white! This meant washing, brushing and ironing the webbing until all the blue blanco was removed, (The heat from the iron melted the blanco which could then be blotted and mopped away with newspaper). The cleaned webbing was then whitened and the brasses polished. The day after the parade, it all had to be blue again with highly polished brasses! The trick was to clean the webbing thoroughly once and from then on it was just a matter of applying a very thin layer of blanco - it looked better and the blanco, blue or white, cleaned off quickly and easily.
The cleaning of our issued .303 Lee Enfield rifle was another on going chore. It was used for drill and ceremonial purposes. It could not be used for firing as it had been drilled out through the breach, and the breach block was made of a copper alloy, so we were able to keep it in our lockers. This weapon was then bulled ready for drill parades, drill competitions and practices, snap, NCO and FKI inspections and the monthly Wing or Station Parades. I regularly stripped my rifle down to its smallest component part and cleaned it thoroughly. However, the first time I did this job, all the things that had to shine were washed in hot soapy water then cleaned with wire wool, polished with Brasso or Duraglit and then oiled; the brass butt plate was removed, washed and then carefully scraped and polished back and front as were the screws holding it to the butt (this area was often checked by over-zealous NCOS); the woodwork was also washed thoroughly, then when dry scraped with a razor to remove the oil and grime and to reveal the grain. The wood was then carefully sanded and stained to accentuate any figuring before being French Polished until it was like glass. The black bits were painted matt black and the rifle was then reassembled with all working parts and barrel lightly oiled. The bayonet received similar treatment and honed to a razor sharpness - don't ask me why; on every parade where bayonets were fitted, someone always got sliced. The freshly blancoed sling had it's brass bits polished and it was then fitted to the rifle, so tight that it twanged - another knack. It really was an anorak's dream. (For our Graduation Parade, the RAF, ignored this 3 years period of dedicated anarakism, and issued us with "real" weapons, all dirty and dull and covered with linseed oil).
Oh yes, we also had Tech studies from 0800 - 1700 daily.
We had to have our parents' permission to smoke and had to carry a certificate to that effect. Regardless of age, we were not allowed in pubs and could not own a car or a motor bike. If you were caught with a motor vehicle of any sort, it was an automatic 28 days inside! Six weeks after arriving at Locking, we were finally allowed off base. In those days we had to wear uniform when walking out, since all our civilian clothes had been posted home - this dress code continued throughout the first year. It was no problem having to wear uniform all the time. After all, there are women that are attracted to a man in uniform! I never met one though, dear. A year later came that wonderful day when we could wear civilian clothes again. Actually no, what we could wear, was mufti. Mufti is an old term and to all intents and purposes means a civilian uniform. In our case, we had to wear grey flannel trousers, with turn ups. (The trousers measured 17" around the bottom of the leg, no real problem today, but this was during the days of drainpipe trousers and real skin tight jeans - so 17" trouser legs were like Oxford Bags or flares). The remainder of our ensemble consisted of a plain white shirt, a black, double breasted blazer with an RAF or Entry crest on the pocket, an RAF Locking tie (or the RAF tie), RAF issue service shoes and RAF issue socks - in those days they were a purplish grey. We were real cool dudes, well after uniform we were. We were also now allowed in pubs if we were over 18 and could smoke.
Sometime later, it was alleged that I was in possession of illegal civilian clothing and shoes - that is to say: 14" bottom trousers, sheepskin jerkin and winkle picker shoes. My Flt Cdr made the discovery, and despite my protestations of innocence, he got one of the NCOs to charge me. Luckily, I had received permission from him and the dep Fit Cdr to wear the different items of clothing and I had several unimpeachable witnesses to that claim. The shoes did not belong to me - I wore a size 7 and these were a size 9. The formalities still went ahead but faced with the weight of evidence in my favour, the charges had to be dismissed. I had made my boss look a clown, and I was now a marked man.
Another small hassle in those days (told you), were the daily working parades. In the morning and in the afternoon, we were lined up in front of our living accommodation, inspected and harangued. In the morning, we were also marched onto the parade square for another, more intense inspection and more vitriolic haranguing. This culminated in a formal march past and we were finally on our way to Tech. Dependant on the mood of the NCO's this march down to Tech was the end of the morning (afternoon's) bull. However, the "walk" was still punctuated by the normal yelling associated with marching squads. Sometimes it served as another excuse for further beasting - like drill movements on the march - or doubling backwards and forwards en route to the Tech Blocks. There was a way out of the morning nausea which ensured you were never inspected and always had an unhurried and properly cooked breakfast - Religion.
Strange thing religion, I mean what is an Atheist? If you don't believe there is a God, or gods, surely that means that you must believe something is there in order not to?, or is that too much like Terry Pratchett? I attended Church by my self from the time I was allowed out, thus from the age of three, I used to go to Morning Service, Sunday School and Evensong with Band of Hope on Monday. I also went to any baptism, confirmation, wedding or funeral. I even followed the cortege to the cemetery (it was one of my playgrounds). Chapel, Baptist or Sally Ann, it mattered not and this fascination continued until my early teens and I discovered that girls were different. I still believe, but I consider that it is mine and God's business how I believe and not some self appointed mediator. I also feel that most of the trouble in the world have been caused by the blind observance of the sayings of one or more of these "mediators" who have taken it upon themselves to interpret God's Will. Then there are politicians, Gay Rights, racial bigots, lawyers, and the gutter press!
Gosh, that was heavy, anyway I was, and still am, a Confirmed Protestant and the only time my church was open during the week, was Friday, so I had to go to the Roman Catholic Church which celebrated Mass every morning. In order to attend church; I had to get up 15 mins early - big deal. I also had to cook my own breakfast, but it was always fresh; I was allowed to have real milk instead of the reconstituted stuff served to the masses; but best of all, I missed the parades and inspections. At this point, I should add that despite my original motives, I did take these morning services very seriously, and at one time seriously considered becoming a Catholic. One day, 10 of us were summoned to the squadron offices for allegedly missing the morning's working parade. I protested and said I was in church, as did the other lads. Our Flt Cdr knew better and phoned the RC padre who said that there was no one in church that morning. Again I protested and the padre was asked once more - he said that no one, especially me, had been at Mass. This meant I was for the chop big time, missing the morning parade, being caught lying - twice, and the Flt Cdr was still out to get me. He asked my religion and when I said C of E, said that I was not allowed to go the an RC church. My reply was that there wasn't an RC padre in the world that would not accept me into his church and it was my right to go to any church I wanted to. He disagreed, was this yet another demerit? We were all charged and told to report back to the squadron offices at 1200. During the morning break, I visited the padre who remembered that I was in church that morning. He didn't know my name so he wasn't able to confirm my presence when the boss had phoned earlier - in fact, I was the only person in church that day apart from the priest. Anyway, Father Duffy resolved the problem in my favour later that morning. The irony of the situation was that I, the only C of E, was actually at church. All the others, who really were Roman Catholic, were in bed - they all got 7 days jankers. Anyway, I had made the boss look a clown once again, so now I was a doubly marked man. He did get me in the end, and I was caught, charged, dealt with and signed on 7 days jankers, all within 30 minutes of the offence - I missed a drill parade.
Jankers was fun. We had to be checked off at the guardroom at 0615 in working dress. We turned up again at 1800, again in working dress for an inspection and fatigues. Then at 2200 hrs we reported again in Best Blue for an inspection by the Duty Officer. On weekends, we reported every two hours in different uniforms through out the day. With these inspections, you had to be very careful that you were not picked up and charged again. Many a lad ended up with a total of a month's jankers following a simple 3 day punishment. Once I was on 3 day jankers and on Day One, we were marching up to the guardroom passing the Astra cinema on the way. I was noticed by the cinema manager who asked the NCOIC to stop the flight, he then asked to speak to me. I was the chief projectionist at the time and was supposed to be working that week. The manager got my fatigues transferred to the cinema which meant that not only did I miss all the inspections, but I actually got paid for doing my jankers.
One good thing in those days was the pay system itself. The pay wasn't very much, but we were paid weekly, and in cash. We also got paid a fixed amount and any residue was credited to us. These credits, together with any leave pay were paid out just prior to us going on block leave. This leave pay often exceeded £100 and that sort of cash in our pocket gave us a good feeling: after all, it was a lot of money in those days. No bank accounts for us erks, we were paid on Pay Parade. During this archaic ceremony, we were lined up in the indoor sports arena in 3 T Block, and when our name was called, answered with a `Sir' and our last three. We then marched forward, halted, saluted, repeated our name and last 3, presented our ID card, checked that the amount stated was the same as the amount given, signed for our pay, picked up the money, saluted, took one step back, turned left, got picked up for a haircut by a DI, and then paid any bills to an NCO who was waiting at another table for our money. Now, you try doing that with a DI yelling in your ear, 1000 lads watching you, a floor like glass, studs in your boots, and a slightly bewildered officer hoping that the cash imprest balanced correctly at the end of the parade. These weekly pay parades, albeit in a more civilised manner, continued for airmen until at least 1968 when our pay started being paid into a bank.
On Aug 3 1963, I married Pat, she was 17 and I was 18. I paid for Pat's dress, the bridesmaids' dresses, the flowers, cars and a £26 honeymoon. In 1963, like now, you had to ask for permission to get married, but in those days this permission could and often was, refused. Faced with the definite prospect of being told no, we just got married and I told the RAF some six weeks later. This was a fait accomplis, since the marriage was well and truly consummated by then although not yet fruitful despite the strong beliefs of neighbours. I was now the highest paid Aircraft Apprentice in the RAF, pulling in some £11 a week and saving £11 a month - Pat was getting £4.2.0 Marriage Allowance which she collected from the Post Office each week - this money later went up to £6.6.0. Some time later, this allowance was paid directly to me, and I, like other married personnel, had to sign an affidavit in which we promised to pay our wives £6-6-0 a week (£6.30). (Some years later, my brother had some problem with his first wife and her family. Her mother wrote to the RAF asking about details of his pay. An officer wrote back and said that it was none of her business, nor his wife's and indeed all she (and all other wives) was entitled to, was 6 guineas per week).
On the 29 Aug 1964, a moment in my life occurred that I will always remember, it had the most intense and profoundly emotional effect on me that it is still with me today - Cary, our first daughter was born. I was 19 and I was actually allowed in to see the birth. Her arrival into the world filled me with a wonder that has surpassed all other experiences - but I never saw the King.. The other children's arrivals were wonderful as well, but Cary was the first and I was still a kid myself.
In November 1964, we stopped training and over the next 4 weeks, we were examined on the past three years' work; to say this period was intense would be an understatement. The only good thing about that month was that if we were not in an examination, we could do as we pleased. We did, we went across country to Halton and "decorated" the camp with paint, weed killer and banners just before a royal inspection. As a consequence, the police forces from three counties were searching for us on our return trip, but they never caught us. Our Flt Cdr knew who the guilty parties were, as did the Wing Warrant Officer, but to publicly acknowledge the fact would mean that they would have to take punitive action. The Wg Cdr was all grins when he gave us a collective and verbal roasting. He couldn't condone our actions, but thought it was a wizard wheeze: after all, Locking was being ignored and Halton was getting the Royal Visitor - Queen's Entry, remember? As a `punishment', it was implied that guarding the Spitfire at the main gate against a retaliatory raid by the Halton Apprentices, would be a good idea. We stood at that gate for 24 hrs a day, every day, until we left Locking - the miserable swine never turned up either. This behaviour was classed as "high spirits" but I suppose that nowadays it would be called vandalism. In essence it was, but in our defence, we always were made to pay for any damage caused to property. Our aim was always to embarrass authority and shout our identity to the world. Identity was very important to us as it acted a shield against the harsh discipline and actually did what the RAF was trying to do, engender a sense of teamwork and belonging. Anyway, as an Entry of 150 plus, we often went out en masse, normally to confront the Teds on WSM beach. More often than not, we were in groups of 10 or 20 in the Entry Pub - The Queen's - it's called ~ Super Drug nowadays. (At first, even when we weren't allowed in Pubs, we used to use them, but since the ban applied to Apprentice NCOs as well, they couldn't report us without dropping themselves in it. Adult NCOs would just tip us the wink and we'd leave discretely). In the early 60's, the RAF was trying to ease "High Spirits" out the door, and we Apprentices were frequently gated for escapades that would have been ignored a few years previously. Mind you, nowadays the gutter press would fill their boots and we would be thrown out of the Service. When I was at Locking some 30 years later, there were several DE courses that never went out with each other as a group apart from their last night together - also sad or what?
On the 9 Dec 64 it was finally all over and the 100th Entry of Aircraft Apprentices marched down to the Assembly Hall in 3 T Block to receive the results of our sweat and endeavours. The atmosphere in the hall was electric, 3 years of constant effort, stress and study, admittedly flavoured by a certain amount of fun, devilment, joy, frustration, grief and pain, were in the balance. As the results and our postings were read out, the tension and relief flooded away. This release was emotionally overwhelming, decidedly intoxicating and quite palpable. Me? I was 26th out of 153, a Jnr Tech at last, and, with 2 years accelerated promotion, I would be a Cpl by Dec 65 and I was posted to HQ(U)BC, where ever that was.
We practised our graduation parade for the next few days.
On 15 Dec 64, the day of our graduation parade dawned, well we think it did. We didn't actually see the sun come up, as the entire South West was blanketed by a thick fog. All that Pat, my parents and the other guests could see of the parade, was the rows of white webbing flickering through the gloom. Everyone did their best, even the tick tock lads who still couldn't march after 3 years of DIs damaging their throats yelling abuse and raising doubts about our species, mentality and parentage. Suddenly, on that one day, they finally realised that marching was just like walking, only stiffer and straighter. Some of us actually had our hair cut to a short back and sides - our DI was impressed since he had spent the past 3 years trying to get us to have a proper haircut - what ever that was? The parade was excellent, with every one trying their best and every trick learned on those damned drill parades and drill competitions was brought into play - in fact we wanted to do the entire parade without a word of command, but the OC got nervous and said no. Pity about the damn fog! The sound of the pipes skirling through that damp grey miasma, and the slow crunch of our boots echoing around the square as we marched off in slow time, which although gut wrenching and emotional for us, must of been quite creepy for the spectators. To be honest, the mechanics behind parades were old hat by then and as soon as it was over, all we could think about was the party that evening.
Sometime in the distant past, one of the lads suggested that we book a group called The Rolling Stones for our graduation party. In 1962, the Stones were an unknown quantity, so we decided that we could not afford the necessary £250 and waited until later to book a group - I think we had the Small Faces? If we had booked The Stones, we could have sold tickets and packed the Winter Gardens to the rafters. Then all of us could have had the party of our lives in London on the profits. Opportunities missed !!!