Memories of the 1st Entry Part III
I suffered the ignominy of ‘jankers’ only on one occasion: W.O. (???) (one of the instructors whose name I cannot remember, but was a sneery, critical sod, but fortunately not an instructor on any of my subjects) noticed that the underarm stitching on my tunic had come adrift due to my improved build and excessive “Git ‘em up. Reach ‘em back”, and told me to sew it up. I hadn’t done so by the following day when he deliberately sought me out to check. He charged me with “disobeying an order”, which got lessened to “failing to carry out an order”. 7 days C.C. After the “orderly room” – the disciplinary trial – when he had become aware of my blank F.121, he asked me had I never been on a charge previously. When I said not, he was very surprised. Obviously he had taken me for being a bad character for some reason, and had set his mark on me.
Apart from having to report in webbing at those inconvenient times, this affected me not at all. Why? At that time I had been roped in to a drama group, at Station level, which was rehearsing for a production of that wonderful hissing and booing play “Maria Martin”, (or “Murder in the Red Barn”), in which I played the detective or policeman, or whatever for the period, who caught him. (Can’t remember the character’s name, but it was a peculiar one!) Somehow I’ve always been quite lucky with circumstances like that.
A most attractive young lady played Maria Martin – worked at the Station Hospital. When I got posted back to St. Athan some years later I looked her up.
One very poignant memory during this drama group period: When a basket of costumes arrived – where from, don’t know – there was a First World War R.F.C. airman’s uniform, complete with badges and buttons. Never to be forgotten.
Yes, in those days throughout the R.A.F. we had to parade formally to receive our pay. his formality lasted for many, many years, until the time came when we were considered to have joined the thinking, intelligent classes and could have our pay paid in to a bank account. For us, as apprentices, our pay was 1/6d per day (7½p in modern English), from which we could draw 10/- (50p) per fortnight, the rest being put aside for leave periods. Our pay parades were held indoors in the NAAFI, where an accounts officer doled out the money (a 10/- note usually), in response to the clerk calling out our names from a ledger of sorts, to which we yelled back “Sir, knife, fork, spoon (our last three), marched up, saluted and held out our hands. Witnessed by another accounts clerk that the proper entry had been made in the ledger. And this other accounts clerk was a dishy young lady.
Our very first pay parade was, of course, for the princely sum of ten shillings with an extra shilling – the “King’s Shilling” – as a long established tradition of accepting the “contract”. As a separate coin it was no different to any other shilling – mine being a slightly worn coin with the head of K.G.5; but I kept it for many years as the token of what it represented, until it somehow disappeared: probably got mixed up with other money and spent.
In your bit about pay parades you failed to mention that at 17½ we went on full pay of 28 shillings a week, and were actually paid £1 a fortnight.
Thanks Ken! I didn’t attain that age until three or four months before the end of training. TWKD)
The cost of living, for us – with practically everything provided on tap – was very reasonable, insofar that we needed only to buy the occasional shoe polish, brass polish, the odd tea and bun in the NAAFI, and 6d (2½p) admission to the cinema. But for me it wasn’t enough, having at least two lady friends (at a time), and wanting to go to Cardiff on a Saturday. But somehow I managed, and without recourse to the pontoon schools which sometimes met in the billets.
Weren’t exactly a parade. They almost invariably took place in the dining hall at lunch time, when Sgt. Bradbury (usually) came in with the bag of mail, and called out our names as he took the letters out one by one. I got some Ooohs and Aaahs once when I got four letters in one go. At the time I was writing to pen friends as well as communicating with two girls in Cardiff.
Who can remember the original 1250s – our identity cards. I believe (although my memory is a bit vague on this) that F.S. Graves, being a keen photographer, having a 35mm Leica, undertook to take all our photographs shortly after we arrived at St. Athan. Anyway the original 1250s were pink cards about A6 in size, and folded in two with the photograph and description on the inside.
Somewhat later, possibly the following year, these pink cards were superseded by the smaller blue type, with an even smaller photograph. They weren’t plasticized in those days, as they were later, and they used to get sadly manhandled. Part of my story about 1250s is about the time when the photographs were being taken for the small blue ones: We were all paraded in a nearby hangar and photographed, this time by the R.A.F. professionals. When the photographs were supplied, complete with brief personal description, for some reason I was collared to complete the cards. Why me? I never knew. It wasn’t easy; the photographs had to be stuck down with “cow gum” (whatever that is – a foul, white, greasy substance) and the descriptions written in block capitals clearly in Indian ink. This took a long time – particularly for about a hundred or so apprentices at that time. And it made me quite disgruntled because it had to be done during my leisure time one day, and under supervision in the unit headquarters. And every card had to be serial numbered and accounted for.
Those apprentices who had attained the age of 17½ – and nearly all attained this age during their apprenticeship – were permitted to smoke, but only if they were in possession of a valid smoking pass. This consisted of an index card (5½” x 3½”) folded in two, with a host of conditions printed within. I was never a smoker, therefore I never applied for one, therefore I can remember very little of the conditions of the permit. One significant condition that I can remember, however, was that the holder was not permitted to smoke whilst walking out in uniform. Stands to reason, really, as it reflected quite a slovenly attitude on the person.
When I went to call on Ken Roost in Stevenage with my photo-album, he showed me his original Smoking Pass, well kept. (Did he need this at home?)
As is my wont, I soon made up a special pass of my own. A “Woman Pass”. Not hard to do, and with access to one of the Gestetner duplicators I ran several off. Perhaps someone still has one??