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Memories Of Credenhill – Alastair Cameron 303rd

Some Random Recollections of Credenhill or A Memoir for Johnny Davies, who asked me to get in touch. written by 807 Cameron, A.R. (2 Sqn, 303rd Entry: May 1965 – April 1966)

At the start of his book ‘Homage To Catalonia’ George Orwell tells of an encounter with an Italian militiaman, referring to the strong feeling of affection he has towards the other man.      In order to retain that feeling, however, Orwell concludes that he must ensure that he never meets the militiaman again.

Something of that feeling governs my attitude to reunions and various on-line methods of keeping in touch with ‘old comrades’.    Apart from not being very good at these things, I recoil at the prospect of discovering that those whom I thought I knew and liked long ago have become (or perhaps always were) complete strangers, that they tell me a past experience was not remotely like I remember it to have been, or – worst of all – they are no longer here.

However, since one of those ‘old comrades’ – Johnny Davies – was kind enough to wish to make contact, I thought I would jot down a few random memories of the days when we were two of Sergeant Jock Feeley’s boys in Learoyd and Malcolm blocks.   What I have written may already have been better presented by other 303rd boys and, after over fifty years, may not be accurate in every detail, but the following recollections are at least as honest as I can make them.   

We may as well start with Jock Feeley.   As our Discip. Sergeant he was one of the first faces of authority we encountered and, of course, he was a major presence in our lives.   Hailing from the Orkneys, he was a rotund little fellow with a harsh and penetrating voice, which he often exercised to good effect.   I can visualise him now, his wee arms swinging back and forth in unison, shouting at us to ‘Get out on parade’, or telling some unfortunate boy that he was on a charge or that he was a certain kind of idiot.  

There will be those who always thought Feeley something of an ogre, or even a joke, and we certainly mimicked him frequently and often unflatteringly.   However, I had at least one chance to see another side of him.   In November I went on compassionate leave.   Feeley came down to our trade classroom to pick me up, drove me round the camp in his wee Morris car to sign off, supported me when some ‘erk’ in the General Office wasn’t going to give me a free railway warrant, arranged for another boy, Christopher Derby, to come to the railway station with me, and finally lent me ten bob in case I was short of cash.   That was a lot to a thirty-bob a week apprentice.   I like to think that was the real Jock Feeley – he might bawl us out but, in the end, we were his boys, he wanted the best from us, and he would do right by us if the need arose.            The last thing I heard him saying about us, on the day of our pass-out, was ‘They’ve all done well’.

Our other Discip. NCO was Corporal Davies.   When Dad’s Army appeared on TV, Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson reminded me of Feeley and Davies, with Davies (was he nicknamed ‘Flash’?) the more ‘laid back’ of the two.

Davies was nonetheless capable of some choice expressions when we sprogs failed to respond to drill commands correctly, including a highly amusing ‘threat’ involving one’s ear – too ripe, I think, for even these pages.

Davies was a bit of a singer, and he did a Frank Sinatra turn at the Christmas pantomime, complete with the little hat.   I think he sang –                                                                                “It’s A Long, Long, Time

          From May to December.”

If so, it was appropriate, as it covered the time he was with us: he got an overseas posting sometime after Christmas and was replaced by Cpl Ward, who had previously been attached to a 302nd flight.    Apart from his big moustache I don’t recall much about him: by the time he came to us we had probably got to grips with all the drill training we needed.  

I appeared in drag at the Christmas pantomime, as Cinderella or some such character.    I had to come on stage and sing ‘Love Is Like A Violin’, but I had scarcely got going when, amongst other derisory noises from the audience, there was a loud voice (was it Derek Wilmott of the 304th?), urging me to ‘get back to Arbroath’.  

In the summer of 1965, there were three Arbroath boys at Credenhill – me, Colin Menmuir of 3 Sqn 302nd, and David Stewart of 2 Sqn 301st.   I had known both of them slightly at Arbroath High School, and it was nice to note two familiar faces.   However, apart from travelling home together for Whitsun leave, I did not see very much of them.  

Our flight was made up of people from all parts of the ‘United’ Kingdom – plus one, Pieter Dutfield, from Germany.   We had boys from Camelon, Ballingry, Wick, Portadown, Bridgend, Rotherham, Barnsley, Wallsend, Alnwick, Rushden, Norwich, Clacton, London and many other places.   Some brought strong regional accents with them which would regrettably become the subject of persistent mimicry.

One of the first conversations I had, sitting in the NAAFI canteen, was with William Cassidy (‘Cass’), who came from Derry.   As I listened to him talking at some speed I thought ‘I can’t understand a word this boy is saying’.

Lining up for an early meal in the Apprentice Mess we heard, as we had at Stafford during our assessment, the half-joking advice along the lines of  ‘get out while you still can’.   Indeed, hardly any time had gone by before one boy decided that he wasn’t going to stay.   I think that he talked about going to London, but whether he had something lined up or was just going to take a chance I don’t recall.   What I do recall is that it very briefly crossed my mind to go with him.

In the event, I did stay, and I remember the collective swearing-in and the process of getting our service numbers, which we were told we would never forget.   I was horrified to discover that my service number began with ‘B0’.   I kept my fingers crossed that no one would pick it up and land me with a nickname like ‘Stinky’.   To be on the safe side, when I was asked for my full number, I always started with ‘b zero’.

‘Sprog’ entries usually had some apprentices from senior entries to help ‘nursemaid’ them for the first few months, and we were assigned Mick(?) Higgins, Ron Hugo and Johnny Rawson from the 301st.    When he left in August, Johnny Rawson sold me his pass-out boots for £2: as chance would have it they were a perfect fit, and he had put a magnificent shine on them, so they were already well bulled for my own use.  

Working boots still required a lot of attention, involving dipping a cloth-covered forefinger into a tin of shoe polish and making endless wee circles on the leather.   (Did some people put big dollops of polish on new boots and set light to them in order to get rid of the dimples?)   Boots could bring boot stains, though these provided a good standby excuse during bed checks, if you had neglected to wash your feet.  Getting studs on the boots made a big difference to the sound the flight made when marching together, but they were not without risks, and I once skidded and upended myself when the flight came to a sudden halt in the ‘trade lines’

Some items of kit were of more use than others.   Most of us discarded  the huge white china mugs, often by ‘accidentally’ breaking them, though one boy in the 51st kept his long enough to bring it to their fiftieth anniversary reunion in 2014!

Until we got our first proper uniforms our days were spent wearing khaki-coloured denims, though we had uniforms soon enough to wear best blues on Whitsun leave, only a month or so after we arrived.    We had to wear uniforms both going and coming back from that leave and going on summer leave, but we wore civvies thereafter.   We were initially issued with battledress blouses (I think we would have been the first entry to get them), but later we were issued with a second ‘best blue’ – I don’t know why.   Perhaps someone just wanted to give us more brass to clean.

Brass meant Brasso, Duraglit, button sticks, and match sticks to clean the crowns on the buttons.   Badges were polished (front and back), small packs and webbing belts blancoed, trouser legs and tunic sleeves given razor sharp creases, and kits laid out on beds (hospital corners for the bed coverings).

Barrack blocks also had to be cleaned, of course, and Fridays meant the regular ‘domestic evening’.    We put down horrible wax polish on the floors (was it orange?), then pulled and pushed the old bumpers backwards and forwards to get a shine on the linoleum.   

Window brasses had to be polished, curtains folded on the windowsills, beds lined up, toilets, baths, sinks to be cleaned, and so on.   In the early days there seemed to be so much bull that I wondered how people found the time to do anything else.                                                                                                                                          Eventually, I suppose, as we became more accustomed to it, it also became easier.  Getting an extra day of travelling time meant that Scots and Irish apprentices also got a break from the bull nights that immediately preceded periods of leave. 

An added bonus for me was getting a stripe half-way through the course, allowing me to dodge much of the barrack block cleaning altogether.      

When we first arrived, we were accommodated in Learoyd Block, (I won’t keep putting ‘Block’ in every time), though we later moved to Malcolm.   (We might have gone straight into Malcolm, but there was an ‘overspill’ of 302nd who could not all be accommodated in Campbell.)   When we first arrived, some of the lockers still had the names of boys from the 50th on them, giving me the strange feeling that they hadn’t entirely left.     The only major difference between the two buildings that I can recall was the colour of the flooring – it was brown in Learoyd and green in Malcolm.  

Boys in earlier entries who had to survive in the wooden huts would have thought we had it cushy living in the brick-built ‘T’ blocks, with baths, showers, drying rooms, study rooms, and so on.   I don’t remember being cold – judging from old photos, we spent a lot of time wandering about in our pyjamas – and most of the blankets in my bed pack remained folded up throughout the year.

There was one occasion when I might have felt cold.   The fire escape in Malcolm was at the far end of the bedrooms on the left side of the block and one night, when some of us were still living on the top floor, I woke to find that some of my mates were carrying me and my bed to the far end of the room, with the intention of putting me outside on the fire escape platform!

Returning to bull, particular terrors were the AOC’s and AOC-in-C’s inspections, which involved staying up till the small hours, cleaning the block and laying out our kit on the beds.   The first one, coming early in our year, was a particular ordeal.     A particular source of discomfort for me was the vice-like grip my service cap had.

I remember another parade, held in a hanger, not related to these particular inspections.   When dressing that morning I couldn’t find my front collar stud, so I used a spare back one, which of course was much shorter.   Halfway through proceedings the whole arrangement came undone, and my collar was hanging half on and half off.   Fortunately, our flight was not inspected: if anyone had come near me I would probably have had to pretend to be suddenly taken ill.

During one early drill session our Flight Commander went berserk at some poor permanent-staff airman who violated the sanctity of the parade ground by taking a short cut across it on his bicycle.

Probably because we were recruited in the spring and thus perhaps short of immediate school leavers, our entry was very small, consisting of only three flights.    ‘Small but perfectly formed’.    The Summer 1965 issue of The Hereford Magazine described our 2 Squadron flight as ‘exceptionally keen and raring to go’, though not everyone was quite so keen: in addition to the boy who left before attestation, three or four others left after only a short while.

In our first term, the 51st – the last of the old Boy Entrants – were still there, as well as the 301st, 302nd and 303rd, so the overall apprentice population was quite big.   Boy Entrant ranks went as high as Warrant Officer, Malcolm Cooper being the last.    Group Captain Shaw was Station Commander when we arrived and, later in the year, he was replaced by Group Captain Cartwright-Terry.   Harry Bunting was the Apprentice Wing Commander throughout our time, with King and then Harding as our Flight Commanders.   (Initially, we thought King was ‘the bee’s knees’, but somewhere along the line he became not so popular, though I never found out why.)

Sergeant Drinkwater was still there, and Harborne was the Wing Warrant Officer.   ‘Sprogs’ had to be especially careful not to incur Harborne’s displeasure by mistakenly saluting him.   Flight Sergeant Davis was the senior 2 Squadron Discip. NCO.   It was he, I think, who signed all the F208s – the notes to our parents that we had been granted leave.  Flight Sergeant Thynne-Russell was his equivalent in 3 Squadron.

With four entries to feed, the Apprentice Mess was quite crowded at mealtimes.  There was often a lot of noise, especially when boys started chanting or rhythmically banging cutlery on the tables.   A song often sung in the Mess then was the Animals’ hit ‘We’ve Got To Get Out Of This Place’.   Other appropriate songs popular at the time were ‘Homeward Bound’ and  ‘These Boots Were Made For Walking’.

Another verse, sung by the Clk Sec apprentices to the tune of ‘The Red Flag’, was –

‘Squaddie Walker is a farce,

Stick his recourse up  ***  ****’. 

I presume that this was no personal reflection on Squadron Leader Walker, who just happened to be OIC 2 Squadron at that time.   Recourse was – like ‘jankers’ or a Saturday session in the tin room – something to be dreaded; fortunately, I managed to avoid all three.   Our flight both lost and gained through recourses and, early on, a few unfortunate boys experienced the ‘ joys’ of the tin room.

I have tried various sports in my life without being much good at any of them, and Credenhill was no different.    I played football, cricket, volleyball and even hockey (just once).  

I did get my school colours for cross country running.  The citation on the certificate refers to ‘skill and enthusiasm’.   I was fairly enthusiastic, but there wasn’t much skill involved in putting one foot in front of the other.   I think went for it because it was a sport where people didn’t bump into you or hit you with anything hard.   I didn’t shine, though.      I don’t expect there was a lot of competition for a place in the team.   It did result in a number of enjoyable excursions with Richard Hogg to ‘away fixtures’.

It was a good idea to get involved in some sort of sporting activity as soon as possible, as the Wednesday afternoon alternative was, early on at least, a session of classroom cleaning.

Returning from one Saturday event (possibly a run) we listened on the radio to the news that Hereford United had scored an upset victory over Millwall in the second round of the FA Cup.   Millwall were hardly football giants, but Hereford were then only in the Southern League.   On one of my few Saturdays in town Christopher Derby and I took in a Hereford home game, late in their 1964-65 season, though I have no idea who provided the opposition.

I did manage to get hit with something hard a couple of times.  Once, during a football game, I got a pile driver full in the face.   I lay on the ground, hoping for some sympathy – which, of course I didn’t get.    Later on, while in Gibson helping to ‘nursemaid’ one of the 304th flights, a guy from Campbell came in a bit worse for drink and socked me in the jaw.   Hero that I was, I retreated to my wee room and shut the door.   I didn’t snitch though – he might have hit me again!

I nearly got hit a third time, this time back in Malcolm.   Towards the end of ’65 some 302nd boys seem to have decided to give one of our boys a ‘doing’.   At first, they went into the wrong room – the one I was in – but luckily for me they must have realised their mistake before setting about me.    In fact, I slept through all of it: the first I knew about anything was when the Orderly Corporal woke me up in the early hours to ask if I was ok – I incoherently mumbled something and went straight back to sleep.   I never fully discovered what had happened, but I think our boy finished up in Station Sick Quarters, while the ringleaders were rewarded with a fortnight in Cosford.   (A spell in Cosford was the most dreaded fate of all.)

SSQ brings to mind the legend of the Credenhill ‘ghost’.   The version current in our day was that, during World War II, a Luftwaffe plane crashed on the hill – the crater-like ‘dent’ in it was even said to have been created by the crash.   After being taken to SSQ – or whatever the building was in those days – one injured crew member was then supposed to have got up in the middle of the night and hanged himself.   His ghost was then ‘to be heard’ walking through the building – affording a perfect inspiration for nocturnal apprentice jokes!

I had two short stays in SSQ.   During our year there was a big outbreak of German Measles, and I caught it.   I can’t remember exactly what sent me there the other time but, whatever it was, it led to me having a couple of injections in my buttocks.   As my bed had no screens  this proved to be a source of great fun to the boys in the other beds.

On one occasion reporting sick led to me led to missing out on the flight’s rifle firing with live ammunition – at least it cut out the risk of me killing someone!

Naturally, I also remember the reason I was supposed to be at Credenhill in the first place, which was to learn to be a good ‘shiny’.  To this day the smell of creosote sometimes makes me think of the wooden huts on the ‘trade lines’.   Our trade instructors were Sergeant Stanley Weyman (Stan), Corporal Michael Smart (Mick) and Corporal McEwan, though I forget McEwan’s first name.   At first, there was also a civvy instructor, but he left, and his class was divided up amongst the other three.    I was in Stan Weyman’s class, and I thought he was a first-rate instructor.   

Under Stan’s guidance we became familiar with the multitude of RAF forms: we learned how many copies of this and that you filled out, who got what copy, and who was entitled to sign any bit of paper.   We learned about the wee bits of coloured plastic that went in the Kardex trays, what colour of file cover went with what security classification, how quickly you had to deal with the various priority levels of signals, how many days embarkation you got when you were posted to Germany and how many days disembarkation leave you got when you came back from Singapore.   I remember learning the acronyms – 2TAF, AFME, NEAF, FEAF, RAPO – the progression through the ranks in List I trades and List II trades, Gen Apps, railway warrant entitlements, what crimes and misdemeanours were recorded on the F120s and what on the F121s, the levels of punishment that a Station Commander could give, how long you had to serve to get a full pension and so on, and so on.   And, of course, there was the welcome order to “take five”, granting a break during classes.

We had sessions in our class’s mock station, Slieve Donard, and I also remember learning to touch type on the old machines, with the shields over the keys.

Gradually, our trade books became thicker and thicker, as each lesson’s hand-outs were added.   I wonder how many of us kept them after passing out, for use at the real stations we went to.  

Before our first trade test I felt afraid of letting the class down by failing: I was greatly  relieved  when it turned out that I had done well.   Accustomed to being near the bottom of the class in my secondary school, it was good to find myself near the top of this one.   Having a good memory helped me stay there.

I think it was just doing well in trade tests that got me my stripe.   As a leader of other boys, I wasn’t up to much: and, if apprentice training was supposed to be ‘character-building’, I missed most of that bit.   However, I do recall a moment of wholly unjustified arrogance when I went some way towards hinting to Flight Lieutenant King that I should be made Sergeant Apprentice instead of Derek Clements (‘Clem’).   Measured against all-round performance, Clem was the obvious choice.   I certainly wasn’t.    

I was once given a chance to drill the flight, and a pig’s breakfast I made of it.  

All I managed was a fair impression of a dog barking – loud and totally incomprehensible.   I gave an order – some boys went this way, and some boys went that way!   Think what I would have done to a pass-out parade!

We also attended classes of instruction in General Defence Training, where one instructor’s response to a wrong answer was frequently “s****”, or “utter s****”, or perhaps both – presumably depending on how wrong you were.

The only GDT lesson I specifically remember was the one involving our exposure to tear gas.   I recall walking round a table in a wee room, then running over the grass with my eyes wide open, in order to clear them.

(Talking of grass, there was an occasion when a group of us had to run across a field carrying something like a small cricket scoreboard – rather an uncomfortable exercise).

I remember  the Education Officers – Squadron Leader Benson, and Flight Lieutenants Bunce and Shannon.   At that time, I had a cousin living in Newport, and he recalled Shannon as a Geography teacher at the school he attended.    I have a vague recollection of, much later, seeing Benson on ‘University Challenge’.   Was that possible?   There was a team representing Aberdeen University, one of whom had the name ‘Benson’, and looked just like him.  

Education classes did reinforce an already growing regret that I had learned so little when I was at school.    I put up a fairly dismal showing when Clem and I took part in the HBS general knowledge quiz.   We scraped through the first round but, in the second, practically every question put to me got either no answer or the wrong answer.   

Many of us smoked, though in theory at least we were supposed to show written permission from parents first.      For many, the day would start with an early morning gasper, and I think we were sometimes allowed to smoke in the classrooms.

Money was often tight and, as the week went on, smokers frequently resorted to paying well over the odds for a single fag.   One of our flight had a good scheme going: he didn’t smoke himself, but on Thursday pay day he would buy a packet of ten or twenty and, come the following Wednesday, he could sell them singly at a big profit.   I expect he is a millionaire now!    I once sold a single Cadet for a shilling (Cadets were about the same size as Woodbines).  

Though decidedly immature for my age, I was one of the oldest boys in my flight.   In late 1965 I reached my eighteenth birthday and the weekly pay in my hand rocketed from thirty bob to three pounds: after that I was rarely, if ever, short of cash.

We had our week of summer camp at Crickhowell (in September, I think), during which a group of us got lost in the hills after a heavy mist suddenly came down.   Fortunately, we found a way down and got back on the right road.   On the same exercise, another group enraged Jock Feeley by cadging a lift in a lorry, instead of walking back to camp.   They were caught out because they passed him on the road (did someone make things worse by waving to him as they passed?).  

Summer camp gave me my only experience of compo rations.   I remember being told they made you constipated, but I can’t recall whether or not they had that effect on me.

On two occasions we visited Cosford to experience trips in a Chipmunk.   Walking out to the plane wearing the single parachute-cum-cushion was an awkward process and prompted suggestions relating to accidents in one’s trousers.   We were instructed to wear our woollen socks so that, if the plane caught fire, though we might be burned to death, at least the nylon socks wouldn’t stick to our legs!

The first trip was my first experience in a plane, and I thought it was terrific.   ‘Patchwork quilt’ really did seem an appropriate description of some of the countryside I could see from above.   On our second trip, however, my pilot decided to do some banking and turning, making me feel decidedly queasy. 

Having said that, it might seem odd to note that, later on in the year, Clem and I, along with James Wilson and Peter Van Meerkerk from 3 Squadron, formed a short-list of candidates, one of whom would be selected to train to gain a private pilot’s licence.   I didn’t volunteer or apply; I was just told that I was picked.   The preliminary interview was held at Credenhill and, after the usual questions about my personal background and interests, an officer asked me if I knew what kept an aircraft in the air.    Of course, I hadn’t the vaguest idea!   All I could come up with was the usual witty remark –   ‘a good ground crew’.   It raised a smile, but I might as well have got up and left at that point.   In the event, Clem and Wilson progressed to the next stage, with Wilson getting the final nod for the training.

Other things flit across the mind – for example, going with John Carter to Hereford Fire Station for rescue training, as part of our Duke of Edinburgh’s Award participation.   There were others with us, but I can’t recall any of them. 

(I still have my badges, certificate and record book).

There were also visits to the swimming baths, but I had to give that up due to earache.

I also recall duty serving – fire drills – compulsory church parades in the first term – trade training on Saturday mornings in the second term – compulsory savings, entered in our Post Office books – ‘unauthorised civvies’ – occasional visits to a distant pub to enjoy a pint of scrumpy – feeling queasy during trips in MT buses – overnight leave journeys in crowded trains – falling asleep in Crewe station and being woken by Cass and Johnny Davies returning from one leave – a day trip to the seaside (Porthcawl?) – wherever it was, I think it was spoiled by the fact we had to wear uniforms.

There was a boxing tournament in one of the hangers, when we all had to turn up wearing, I think, greatcoats and plimsoles.    There was at least one church parade in a hanger – probably on Armistice Sunday.

I remember hobbies night, though I can’t recall which night of the week it was.  As you would have guessed from my reference to the pantomime, I joined the Theatre Club.   Trying to go to my first meeting I could not find the Theatre.   I wandered all over the place and eventually gave up and went back to Learoyd.   Nobody missed me!  

We listened to HBS a lot (Cass was an enthusiastic member).   There was a particular ghost story broadcast more than once – I can’t remember the title, but I think it ended with someone calling out ‘Bring out your dead’.   Evening broadcasts, as I recall, finished with a rather overblown rendition of the Last Post.   I presume we got the National Anthem as well.  

We also heard BBC broadcasts.   There was one particular music programme every Sunday morning, featuring the current ‘Top Ten’.     Unfortunately, the BBC at that time was only allowed to broadcast a certain quota of recorded music, so we often had to listen to Eric Delaney and His Big Band playing some of the hits instead.                            

The NAAFI canteen had a juke box which, in addition to current hits, rather bizarrely contained a record of ‘The Easter Hymn’, from Mascagni’s opera Cavalleria Rusticana, – and in our day it was played a few times.  

We also frequented the NAAFI shop and the newsagent next door, which would take in your photo snaps for development.   I wish that I had taken more. 

There are things I have little or no memory of.   I don’t remember any haircut.   I can’t recall much about our training timetable and, though we had lots of tests, notably ‘1st Inter’, ‘2nd Inter’ and ‘Finals’, I don’t remember actually sitting any of them.

While I remember the Apprentice Mess, I have scarcely any memory of the food dished up.   I do recall the ‘conveyor belt’ toaster, and the suspicion that the milk was diluted and the tea laced with bromide.   The toaster brings to mind the practice of, especially on Sundays, trying  to persuade someone to smuggle some toast out of the Mess so you could stay in bed.

It was common practice for boys in the senior entry to sell things before they left.   In addition to Johnny Rawson’s boots, I bought a jacket and a Credenhill tie from two other 301st boys in Nicolson.   Not only do I still have the tie, I have occasionally worn it.   It originally belonged to a Boy Entrant in the 50th.  

Too soon for some, and not soon enough for others, our own year ended.    My trade class had an evening meal in Hereford.   Stan was supposed to be presented with an engraved tankard, but it wasn’t ready, so we could only give him the receipt.  

I remember going to the Theatre to get our results and postings.    From our flight Raymond Saggers, Stephen Poyntz, Christopher Derby (and me) won prizes.   In the end, as far as I am aware, Stephen outshone us all by rising to Wing Commander.

Luckily, the weather on April 28th was fine, and we had our parade outside.

James Wilson (3sqn) leading the parade.  Immediately behind are –

left:   Anthony Leyland (4sqn)

right: Derek Clements (2sqn)

Alas, for me, it all came to nothing.   Adult service proved to be, for the most part,  a miserable and stifling experience, which I was glad to both reject and forget.    If truth be told, my interests, priorities and values were beginning to change even before I enlisted, so there was doubt from the start as to whether I was making the right choice.   Lacking the courage to do something bold to get my ticket, I settled for serving the minimum three years required of ex-apprentices, before purchasing my discharge in the summer of 1969, at the seemingly colossal cost of £250. 

Life after adult service has been fairly unremarkable. (I nearly wrote ‘life after death’!).    I went ‘back to school’, then on to St Andrews University, where I gained a degree in Modern History.    Some long-term health problems, affecting both me and my family, restricted my employment opportunities, but I muddled through, usually managing the ‘Ardua’ when I had the chance, without ever coming near to the ‘Astra’ in terms of money or status.   The last decade or so before retirement was spent in the area of community learning, tutoring family and local history groups, and this led to my spending some of my retirement years writing a book on the history of a school and its community in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.   As I write I am still trying to find a publisher who shares my opinion that it is a masterpiece!

I suppose that’s it, really.   I have given up trying to put the year into proper perspective – setting the little it led to against what I felt about it at the time.  

I’ll leave the last words to Thomas Hardy, one of whose poems begins –

 ‘A time there was –‘

Make of that what you will.



(It may mean something, or it may mean nothing, but Credenhill apprentices are the only people who ever called me that, and I have never invited anyone else to do so.)