Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

Multum A Parvo

Member Articles

Alan Bell (29th Entry)

I was looking at Entry photo taken either late ’57 or early ’58 and it made me think of how athletically slim and trim we all were in those days. No doubt most of us still on the planet look a bit different today 50 years on. I know I do after only half heartedly vowing from time to time to give up chips.
Mind you a lot of the early trimness was down to the grub in Trenchard Mess which was so awful most of the time it was better to starve rather than risk it. I can still remember once standing in line for the daily dose of awfulness, watching an extremely un-female WRAF ‘cook’, fag in mouth, stirring a smelly cauldron of boiled (and boy do I mean well boiled) cabbage complete with nutritious woodbine fag ash and obligatory inclusive meat ration of around half a ton of caterpillars. This accompanied by Steak and Kidney Plaster of Paris Pudding a la Dead Dog and yes, wait for it, Pom. Anyone for seconds? Yuk!!
Remember the Orderly Officers complete with 16 stone DI minder doing their rounds? ‘Any complaints lads?’ Now there was a joke if ever I heard one. ‘Certainly not Sir’ lied us innocents in chorus (taking due note of the promise in those piggy DI eyes of the dire consequences of saying otherwise).
Of course there were those like me old mate Harry Trumbell and Ron Anders who voluntarily kept fit playing silly games like Rugger, Football and Squash. And yes, there were some others that actually got to the gym on a Wednesday afternoon then spent their time knackering themselves jumping over vaulting horses and climbing up ropes.
Voluntary exercise? Not for me mate. The trick at Hereford was to get to the back of the flight being marched to the gym and casually drop off as it passed the
Malcolm Club. A good sports afternoon for me consisted of coughing on a fag or two, playing a couple of frames snooker and a few games of darts. Eat your hearts out fitness freaks.
I did try boxing once. Honest I did. However, my reputation for the more civilized barroom lifestyle remained intact in that the match lasted approx minus 5 seconds. I quickly decided to take a dive as soon as I saw the size of the glove on the other bloke’s fist.
On to the real RAF and a gradual progression to that haven of weight, the Sgt’s Mess. Heaven! A place where nobody told you to go home and where you really had to prove your mettle to get a place on the schooner race team and beat the backsides off the visiting Officer’s Mess lot.
Then to France to live. That gastronomic paradise with its haut cuisine, oceans of Bordeaux Cru, Cognac and good monastery brewed ale at… (no I won’t break your heart and tell you how cheap it is).
There you go then. No point then in lingering over 50 year old photos and wishing you were slim again. Looking back on it I am in doubt that that my very early and intuitive expertise at the art of a good skive started me offdown the slippery slope to purgatory and the resultant bit more round the middle.