The SEVENTH Entry was attested at the Administrative Apprentice Training School RAF St Athan on 9 June 1949 and training was undertaken in the trades of Clerk Secretarial, Pay Accounting and Supply until February 1951. The Seventh Entry was the first Entry to pass out under the 1951 Trade Structure.
The 7th Entry of Administrative Apprentices – J M (Jumbo) James
I was browsing through the Apprentice Website t’other day and thought I’d have a look at what had been said about the 7th Entry. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was a big fat nothing. No one had written anything about the 7th Entry – I am about to put that right. Although my time with the 7th was limited to just nine months, more about that later, it is the 7th Entry that I started with, so here goes.
The 7th Entry arrived at Gileston Station on the 8th June 1949 and were ‘attested’, if that is the correct word, one day later, on the 9th June 1949. My service record started from that date, so it must have been right. Our numbers ranged from 592361 (Claxton) to 592384 (Tom Wilson). I sneaked in at 592363, one after John Higgs and one before Roy Barnes. Just 24 of us, a pretty small entry for those back in 1949. We were put into rooms, billets, D 1 and D2. I was in D 1 and the LAA in chargewas Bob Adkins. Within 2 weeks we were on ‘Summer Camp’ at Porthcawl and the photograph below shows just five of us, let out for the first time, on the front at that lovely sunny south Wales resort.
From the left, Roy Barnes, Derek Stent, Ron Cooper, JJ and John Higgs. I think that it was taken by a commercial photographer, because on the back of the original is some sort of official stamp. Our training must have progressed satisfactorily, because Christmas 1949 is recorded and another photograph came to light. This time I can put in all the names, except the girl, because fortunately I had written all the names on the back of the photograph. They are, back row, from the left, F Sawyer, R C Carter, Ron Cooper, Ian Dunn, John Higgs, JJ, Roy Bames. In the front, with the girl, is J Bradbury.
My own time with the 7th was, as I said above, limited to nine months only. I was playing rugby for the School, was it at Bridgend (?), when I broke both bones in my right leg. Bill Huggins tells me he was playing in that game! I was carted off to hospital at St Athan and the leg was put into plaster. I can remember that my father and step-mother came to visit me in hospital, but the hospital staff failed to set the bones correctly and, I think after about 6 to 8 weeks, I was moved to RAF HospitalWroughton, near Swindon, and the leg was re-broken and re-set. Tortuous times, but I survived that and, some time in the summer, I was sent, on crutches, to the RAF Rehabilitation Unit at Chessington in Surrey. Long months were spent exercising the leg and, eventually, in November, I was ‘returned to Unit’ and arrived back at St Athan. But my days with the 7th Entry were over. I was first re-coursed to the 9th Entry and, within a couple of weeks, because I was so far behind in Course work, to the 10th Entry. And there I stayed, eventually passing out with the 10th Entry. My memories of the 7th Entry are, sixty years on, pretty vague. I can remember, who can’t, Chiefy Davis. I met him some years later, in the Sergeants’ Mess at Wunstorf, when he was a dyed in the wool RAF Regiment Warrant OfficerAnother photograph shows Tom Wilson and JJ and a third one shows Roy Barnes between Tom and me.
The next group photograph shows the ‘lads’ of Dl, back row, left to right, Tom Wilson John Higgs, LAA Bob Adkins, Ron Cooper, JJ and John Higgs. Middle row – now there you have me, the one on the left is Roy Barnes, but the others I can’t remember. Front row is Campbell and A N Other. Perhaps someone else can come up with some names.
Obituary To Ron Purkis (7th) – Stuart Robathan (2nd)
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Ron. He was always in touch with myself and family in recent years through visits and on the phone. Ron and I were posted together to Christmas Island for the “H” Bomb tests in 1956/57. .We travelled together across the States stopping off in New York with just enough time to admire the outside of the Empire State Building, the LOA did not give us US dollars enough to take a lift to the top! We were assigned to the same tent in the Sergeant’s lines on the Island and so became close friends from then onwards. Ron was always the fitness fanatic and would disappear for hours training both as a walker and runner. I think Ron helped to organise an inter-service sports day and ran for the RAF and achieved a win for us. Both being Suppliers we also worked together in the early stages off-loading all the stores needed for Operation “Grapple” which was tough work with no mechanical assistance and so everything was man-handled. Ron was assigned to his permanent section as i/c POL and was responsible for the re-fuelling side of the “V” bomber force consisting of the Valiant and Canberra aircraft. I know he did this work with vigour and determination and only complained because of the lack of specialist equipment and unnecessary risks that were taken in the handling of aviation fuel in the primitive circumstances of a temporary island base. He was always cheerful, if a slightly eccentric character, devoted to his sport and later to his family. He had a passion for the ordinary folk around him and became a local councillor in Waterlooville to fight the corner for his constituents in any way he could. Even in his recent illness he was actively raising funds for a young girl in Southampton with terminal cancer, such was his concern for others. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his children and family at this time, his cheerfulness and concern for others will be missed.
Ken Roost (1st)
I was saddened to learn of the death of Ron Purkis (7th). He was diagnosed with Cancer of the Gullet prior to the 2008 reunion. He was confident he would beat it and attend that reunion. He did not make it but that did not dampen his confidence. I last spoke to him earlier this year when he did his best to be very upbeat and talked ofcoming up to see me. He never made it and he passed away on the morning of Tuesday, 18th August. He was cremated atPorchester crematorium on Wednesday, 26th August. I never knew Ron as an apprentice or while he was serving. Our paths crossed due to our shared interest in race walking. I first met Ron in 1973 when I was serving at Henlow. Ron invited walkers from Henlow to compete in a race he was organising inStevenage. I went along and that was the beginning of our friendship. I left the Air Force in 1974 and bought a house within walking distance of where Ron lived. Ron and I soon became firm friends and training companions. The cycle tracks of Stevenage turned out to be an ideal facility for our training together with some of the country roads linking the local villages. We trained together, with another Stevenage walker, until 1980 – a very fruitful period for all of us. Ron, as a member and one time secretary of Stevenage and North Herts AC, did much to promote walking in the local area in the 60′ and 70’s. In 1975 he joined Verlea AC and moved on to Metropolitan WC in 1976. 1975 was the occasion of the 50th London to Brighton Walk (approx. 53 miles). Ron had attempted the event as a younger man but had failed to finish. He put that all behind him in 1975 coming home in 13th place in the very laudable time of 9hrs 10mins 11secs helping the Verlea team claim third team spot. 1976 was to see Ron take on the challenge of staging the RWA National 20 miles Road Walking Championship in Stevenage. He not only successfully staged the race but even found time to take part in it himself. He received many congratulations for staging it over a traffic free course – unusual for a race of that length. Ron finished in 77th place out of 129 finishers in a time of 3hrs 8min 8secs. 1979 saw him admitted to the Brotherhood of Centurions – a most exclusive association. The only way in is to walk 100 miles in a recognised race within 24hrs. Ron’s big test came at Ewhurst in Surrey in June of that year. A record field of 107 starters commenced their long trek at 6pm on a Friday evening over a 10 x 10miles lap course. Ron crossed the finish line 19hours 35mins 45secs later in 9th place. A magnificent effort and all the more amazing as it was his first attempt at the distance. He was admitted to the Centurions Association as Centurion No 652. Circa 1980 Ron left Stevenage eventually returning to his home town of Portsmouth and settling in Waterlooville. He continued his walking and coaching other walkers and fostering young talent. During the 90’s Ron served for two years as the RWA Coaching and Development Secretary. He also took an interest in local politics and was elected to his local council as a Liberal Democrat. He became disillusioned with his party, defected to the Tories and lost his seat at the next election.On the death of Ron’s second wife, Linda, approx. 4-5 years ago, he wrote many poems in her memory and published them in book form. Ron was most proud of his membership of our association and the Centurions Association. One represented the comradeship of the wheel the other the road. Both are the result of shared experiences. Ron and I had a good six years training and competing together and we pushed, shoved and cajoled eachother to greater and greater efforts. Our lives were the richer for it. I think I owe you, Ron. God Bless. RIP.
The late John James
From Dixie Dean (40th) – 12th May 2015
I attended John James (7th Entry) funeral service today at Bury St Edmunds Crematorium. An excellent and friendly service. It was well attended, including around 20+ members of the Coastal Watch (Felixstowe). John joined the Watch in 2002 and had been their Deputy Manager of Training. The Watch started after HM Coast Guard closed many of their coastal stations. A member of The Watch ( an ex RAF aircrew) spoke during the service of Johns devotion to his duties with them.
I spoke to John’s wife and daughters and said I was attending as a ex RAF colleague/App and also as a representative of the RAF Admin Apps Assoc ( hope you do not mind my discretion on the latter). The family were extremely pleased that our Assoc was represented. Johns apprentice days and his service in the RAF were mentioned in the family tributes during the service. John’s wife remembered me as we had spoken on the telephone some years ago when I met up with John for lunch.
When we gathered outside after the service, a USAF KC135 Tanker (a Boing 717 – military version only), from RAF Mildenhall flew low overhead which prompted a comment ”Who organised that!!?” A pure coincidence – but a fitting tribute nonetheless!!
John lived at Bedingfield, near to me, but I had not realised he had moved to Framlingham some 3 years ago which is even closer – only 4/5 miles away . He had been so unwell during this period, which was the reason for the move, to be closer to medical facilities etc. I did not know how unwell he had been and I do not suppose our Assoc also knew of this, which is a shame because I could have visited him.
I will send a copy of the order of service by post to Bill Huggins. I passed on his good wished etc to the family. Bill had telephoned them which they very much appreciated.
In short, a very fitting tribute to John’s ‘final parade’.
The closing music was ”The RAF March Past”.