Royal Air Force
Administrative Apprentices Association

Multum A Parvo

Member Articles

Tony Burchall (38th Entry)

I arrived at Bircham Newton in September 1959. It was cold and bleak and I thought ‘what have I let myself in for’ (or words to that effect). After a few weeks of attending early morning working parades, standing there freezing, I made a momentous decision to join the band. They, after all, just sat in a nice warm hut and played with their instruments instead of getting frozen. Although I had no musical talent whatsoever, I was taken under the wing of the father figure of Sgt Bloomfield
and sat in the nice warm hut every morning instead of having to go on parade. I was given the choice of learning the drums or the trumpet – I chose the trumpet – wrong choice! as soon as I attained a reasonable standard of proficiency (reasonable was stretching it a bit) then I was added to the list of those who had to go on parade and play the calls. Now if I had opted to learn the drum I would have stayed in the nice warm hut playing rat-a-tat on it. Playing early morning calls is no easy task for a novice especially when the mouthpiece is freezing and your lips are chapped and cracked – the most that usually came out of the end was best described as a squawk – certainly not identifiable as a trumpet call. Summer camp was the worst. We trumpeters had to do 5 calls a days, Reveille, Come to the Cookhouse x 3 (don’t remember if there is a proper name for it) and Lights Out. The drummers got away with it again! I still to this day rue my decision to opt for the trumpet. However I persevered and eventually was awarded with promotion to the giddy heights of Corporal Trumpeter. This provided further adornment to my sleeve and therefore enhanced my pulling power. The band even became proficient enough to be able to perform ‘Beat the Retreat’. We were in great demand and performed
this spectacle at least twice a year. My favoured memory was when we played a gig (I know all the technical terms) at the salubrious venue of Reading dog track. We were just getting into our stride when they started testing the electric hare and it didn’t half make a noise -put us right out of our stride. Happy Days