I had the distinct privilege of serving as an Apprentice at Credenhill for two years and three months. Some regrets, but some good friendships made.
I was not the brightest pupil at my private school, but my father with a view to saving school fees, thought it might be a relief to him if I joined the forces. He had served as a Captain in WW2 in that very smart regiment: the Pioneer Corps. He spent his war years as second in command of an Italian POW camp in Kenya. Probably the best time of his life, never having to fire a shot in anger throughout the war. Prior to that he was a Territorial cavalry soldier serving in the Surrey Yeomanry.
I had always been interested in aircraft but did not have any desire or capability to fly. Accordingly, I decided to join the Air Training Corps to get some idea of service life. My father realized I would probably fail the Admin Apprentice entrance examination so he arranged for a private tutor to assist me with my dismal knowledge of maths. Strangely enough I managed to pass the entrance examination and was invited to RAF Halton for further tests and a medical to see if I was suitable to be a Supplier, whatever that entailed!
At school I had been very friendly with actor Oliver Reed and we shared a desk together for two years. He thought I was foolish joining the RAF, He did his National Service in the Royal Army Medical Corps and thoroughly enjoyed it, rising to the rank of Corporal and marching men about.
My father despatched me from Paddington station on the 13th May 1954 destination Hereford. For the first few weeks I did not know what had hit me and I lived in total misery. On my first day at Credenhill we were under the control of an odious National Service Regiment Corporal and I had the task of pulling up all the weeds surrounding our hut. This obnoxious man told me that he would make me work all night if I did not complete the task by 6pm.
The following day we were introduced to Corporal Reg Drinkwater and Sergeant Joe Salter (both of whom I am sure many of you will recall). Joe Salter I could tolerate and found quite amusing. Unfortunately I never took to Reg Drinkwater.
Having mastered all the drill quite easily I found the Supply training very strange and complicated learning about forms for this that and the other. Most of my fellow inmates were bright Grammar schoolboys who seemed to adapt well to everything thrown at them, whereas I had to struggle. Ultimately I was recoursed and put back two entries. During this time I worked in EPAS in the Equipment Section at RAF Credenhill awaiting the arrival of the 24th entry. Upon joining the 24th entry to start all over again, I felt quite distinguished marching them about as an eight month veteran.
From then on I quickly grasped the RAF Supply procedures and at the end of my Apprenticeship passed with flying colours and with credits. Unfortunately once again my maths let me down and I failed my final education exam and had to pass out as an SAC instead of a Junior Technician.
We had a few characters in the 24th: Malcolm (Canada) Dodd who climbed all the water towers on the base and painted 24th on them in white paint. Dave Shepperson who used to give a very good impersonation of a Hereford National serviceman with his beret all askew and his trousers too short. These unfortunates were referred to as “Bogmen” by the superior Apprentices.
Our Flight Commander was Flt/lt Dutch Holland who used to creep around silently in crepe soled shoes and drive a white Ford Popular. He would frequently recall situations “when he was an airman”. I often wondered what happened to him. He once gave me three days Jankers for losing a sock at the laundry and not reporting it.
Had some very good instructors at Credenhill. Chief Tech Fry who had won the Croix de Guerre at the Normany Landings in 1944 and Chief Tech Malum who was a very large fellow. These two gentlemen made a comical sight whilst walking up to our training huts and some of us would endeavour to copy their style of walking together. However they were two very pleasant instructors and very knowledgeable.
I was not sorry to leave Credenhill after two years of strict discipline. On the other hand I believe it probably set me up for life and Iam sure helped me to survive in the world of business. Anxious to join the real RAF , my first posting was to RAF West Malling in Kent Accompanied by fellow 24th member Derek Gould now sadly deceased. This was followed by a posting to 3701 Radar Reporting Unit Brighton in 1957 as a corporal, followed by St Mawgan, Christmas Island 1958 for the H bomb tests, RAF Mountbatten Plymouth, RAF Newhaven Sussex, Marine Craft Unit, RAF Tengah Singapore, detachments to Malaya, and Chiangmai in Thailand with 20squadron Hunters, RAF Bicester, RAF Tangmere, RAF Muharraq Bahrein, RAF Thorney Island.
Had to Wait until 1965 before making Sergeant. I decided to leave in 1969 and get a proper job. Just as well as I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 1971. On leaving RAF I went straight into Industry as a Stores and Transport Manager which I hated. Stayed for six months and left to go into Sales for Shannon Business Systems. I gained rapid promotion and set up my own company in 1981, retiring at the age of sixty in 1997.
I had some very nice postings whilst serving in the RAF and was very fortunate in that respect. Christmas Island was the worst of course. Had some good times in the RAF and a few bad ones. My dear wife died twelve years ago and I have lived here on the West Sussex Coast for fifty three years. I
always enjoy reading members’ articles and it is a pity there are not more. I have written a book about The Japanese occupation of Singapore 1942-45 which is fact and fiction, based on my tour there in the early 1960s. If anyone is interested it is available at Amazon and titled: Rising Sun Memories 1942-45 by Stuart James .
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