Shortly after coming to Canada I enlisted in the Army Reserves (RCASC), being at a loose end and becoming bored with the constant boozing and high living of the times. The O.C. General Military Training was a tall, mustachioed Scot, one Sandy Cameron, who looked me up and down on my first parade and then complimented ‘the rakish Air Force tilt’ of my beret. In conversation later, he remarked that he had been RAF Regiment and RAF police in his National Service and later was a Liverpool PC (not a cushy job!). I clearly remember making some remark about Rock Apes and saying that several of the Apprentice School instructors were RAF Regiment types.
Fast forward to my commissioning and subsequent reserve and regular force career: looking back on this during my halcyon retirement days, I begin to wonder whether that remark was to my later benefit or not. It seems to me, with the passage of time, that many of the extra (ceremonial) duties I was assigned, certain taskings that came to me and not others, could be traced back to said Sandy Cameron and his penchant for ‘networking’ in the military community in Toronto; he rose to command a Service Battalion and then to become Chief AdC to the provincial Lieutenant-Governor and was on first-name terms with nearly all the senior officers, regular and reserve, in the area.
Most notably, my first Regular boss was posted to become the Commander at Canada’s Baden Solingen base. When he came back to move his family he had a small get-together in his house: much beer was consumed (mostly by him) and then he unrolls classified blueprints of his new base and says: ‘ Mr. Mount – you were in the RAF Regiment: how would you set up defences in this place?’ Being loath to dispute his statement (he being known to become rather unpleasant when in his cups), I just had to wing it, applied basic infantry training and advised him to cut down all the trees for 500 yards from outside the fence (this being the time of Bader Meinhof and the Red Brigades mayhem in Germany). He did it and subsequently send me a note saying I was now persona non grata in the Black Forest! However I was able to pass through that region at a later date and wasn’t detained by the locals, so I think he may have been joking.
Apparently he, or Colonel Cameron, passed on to his successor word of my ‘experience’ in the RAF Regiment, from where it got to successive base commanders when I was posted to the base in Toronto (the only army officer on an air force base, reporting to two navy superiors – the joys of the unified Armed Forces. Now somewhat returned to three separate identities). Where often I found myself tasked with escorting elderly WWII Air Marshals and Generals to various functions, even commanding the honour guard for the funeral of Air Commodore Johnny Fauquier (Pathfinder). Plus my own detachment command which got me a seat at the Base Commander’s semi-annual luncheon for lodger units (usually a three hour affair with no return to work afterwards!): a not-so-humble captain in among all the colonels and generals and assorted bigwigs. I never gave it a second thought at the time but in hindsight the circumstantial evidence points toward Mr. Cameron and revenge for the ‘rock apes’ remark!
So I am left to wonder how all these people got this (mis)information. I have a copy of my Canadian Forces personnel file: it mentions RAF service but makes no reference to the Regiment. I certainly had experiences which might otherwise not have come my way but for the dissemination of this ‘fake news’! On the other hand, my career might have been a lot more placid and uneventful and I’d have nothing to reminisce about! I suppose mine was no different than many others: some things we talk about, some things we joke about and other things we neither talk or joke about.
So yes, in the balance I’d say the RAF Regiment was a blessing. I must admit their part of the training stayed with me; the Supplier parts didn’t – I became an army Trucker! ‘Per Ardua’ indeed!