Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

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Looking Back – Ted Huntley (24th)

After watching Alan Bell’s excellent 25th Anniversary video, I felt pangs of nostalgia and the years rolled away for a little while.  Thinking back to when I first reported to RAF Halton for an interview, to see if I would make good admin apprentice material; sleeping in a very cosy, centrally heated billet whilst it was cold outside.  Some weeks later being picked up at Hereford railway station by Cpl Drinkwater and signing on for 12 plus years while we were all well under 18 years old.  Afterwards going to a cheerless wooden hut with a stove at each end, and there was snow outside, those were the days? Well, one day anyway, the 5th January, 1955 to be exact.  But, making friendships that would literally last a lifetime.

Afterwards postings to various parts of the UK and the joy of never having to make a bedpack.  For myself it was Biggin Hill for 15 months where I was demob clerk, the only time I handled personnel documents and used some of the knowledge accumulated over two years at Hereford.  There were many other Clerk Sec apprentices there as well, but I never heard shorthand mentioned.

After 15 cosy months I was selected for duty as a typing instructor at (you’ve guessed it) Hereford for 2 ½ years.  I was very lucky to be back in such a beautiful part of the UK and enjoyed my time there.  I told the selection panel I was too young (not yet 19) and immature and I was right.  But, it helped me to grow up and speak up.

This was followed by 2 years in Aden at RAF Steamer Point working in the registry.  Has anyone ever been  told that you are doing a good job when they are automatically responsible for any missing files or correspondence.  I managed to enjoy the sand and rocks of Aden but certainly not the job.  After two years back to the UK on HMS Nevesa,  going through the Suez Canal when it was very anti-American and seeing huge coco-cola signs.  Whilst in Aden I had to fill in security clearance forms of many, many pages, reason unknown.  My next posting was to Honington, Suffolk, which had 2 squadrons of V Bombers, Victors, and 1 squadron of tankers, Valiants.  My job was i/c Air Wing orderly room which as very easy and explained the security clearance.  I was told that I would be there for 5 years.  The most memorable thing was the Vault, very reminiscent of TVs Get Smart.  A huge steel door about 12 to 18 inches thick guarding a room which contained details of the targets and routes to Russia, for those wanting to commit suicide.  After 22 months I was summoned to the station orderly room and told at about 10005 hours I was on PWR, at about 1006 hours I was told I was going to Cyprus.  The quickest 5 years of my life.

My next post was as SASO’s Clerk at HQ NEAF.  This was when I realised I should have taken a shorthand refresher course at Hereford.  I was replacing Alan Brears, 21st Entry, who had been promoted and was now C-in-C’s clerk.  It turned out the biggest part of the job was typing out replies to invitations saying the Air Vice Marshal and his wife regretted that they could not attend a drinks gathering etc. owing to a previous engagement. 

My direct boss at HQ NEAF was Fg Off Dreena (?) Dickson, PA to SASO, who was not only extremely good looking but very intelligent and a pleasure to work for.   She very deservedly ended her service as a WgCdr.

After NEAF I made Sgt (at last) and was SNCO I/c Strike Wing Orderly Room, RAF Akrotiri.  Again, not a demanding job but a very enjoyable job.  I also managed to get a 6 month extension at Akrotiri and so had 3 ½ years in Cyprus.  And, I was working with Peter Reed, 30th Entry, another life long friend, even if he is a brexiteer!

After Cyprus back to the UK where I woke up the following morning to sleet pounding on the window.  Possibly the most miserable waking moment of my life.  Only 12 months left to serve and I was off to RAF Medmenham, a most delightful part of the English countryside on the River Thames, between Henley-on-Thames and Marlow. Before Medmenham I went to the Officers Selection Centre at RAF Biggin Hill where I met the late Peter Cowper who was also applying for a commission.  We both failed, although Peter stayed on and ended up as a SqnLdr.  Well done.

I was by now I think demob happy and did not really care.  My job was IRIS4.  It consisted of an inspectorate of a GpCap, WgCdr, 2 SqnLdrs and me.  We had our own aircraft, a Handley Page Hastings, and used to go on trips around the UK and overseas as far as Hong Kong, checking out radio frequencies, emergency channels, aircraft landing aids etc.  I had to log calls made whilst in the air and then type extensive reports back at base.  A very enjoyable way to finish my service.  A stop at the main gate as I was leaving for the last time.  I turned around to see safety and security, was I doing the right thing?  It turned out I was.  If you are ever in Brisbane look me up.

PS  Anyone remember what IRIS stood for?