bigjohn

There is many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

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    I was born in 1939 BC. That's 'Before Computers'. Luckily I survived the following events in my life, such as World War II, The London Blitz, Rationing, and worst of all... Archbishop Temple's School.

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    During the mid 1950s I was enjoying Rock 'n' Roll and being a first generation teenager, when suddenly, just like Elvis, I found myself in uniform during 'The Cold War'...and then

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    I became 'a family'. Which meant that I sort of missed the 'swinging sixties', but still managed to look a complete prat in the 70s, just like everyone else.

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    During the 'Thatcher Years' I lost my hair and a lot of people lost a good deal more. My career fluctuated to say the least as I was demoted, promoted, fired and hired a number of times, but still I managed to stagger on into a welcome retirement and to celebrate 50 years of happy marriage.
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Day One.

Posted by Big John on January 13, 2007

It was a freezing cold day in early March 1958 when the bus carrying me and my fellow conscripts rolled through the gates of RAF Cardington, the reception centre for recruits (willing or not) in Bedfordshire. I looked out of the window and saw a World War II barrage balloon floating high above at the end of it’s steel cable.

“I wonder what that’s for ?” said the boy sitting next to me.

“I believe that they make you climb up the cable before breakfast each day”. I joked, and then I saw that the poor lad thought I was serious as his jaw dropped.

When we left the bus we were lined up in threes by a plump, and to my surprise, kindly corporal who marched (well more like shuffled) us away to begin our new lives as aircraftmen in the Royal Air Force. 

I don’t remember too much about that first day of my national service, but I do remember being served my first meal by a scruffy cook who was wearing a grease stained beret, filthy ‘whites’ and who, as I stood in line, delighted in dropping a large ‘dollop’ of ‘grease with lumps in’ onto my plate from a ladle held just in front of my face.

The other thing that stands out in my memory is how bloody cold it was that first night. The wooden hut I was in with a couple of dozen other unfortunates had one stove in the middle of the room and no fuel. The only way to keep from ‘freezing to death’ was to feed the stove with everything that we could find that would burn; which left the barracks without a single wooden fixture or fitting.

I spread my civilian overcoat on top of the thin blankets and climbed into my bed. I lit a cigarette and lay there listening to some lad talking in his sleep and calling out for his “mum”. Someone threw a shoe at him and he shut up.

The next day we were due to start the process of being kitted out …

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… before being sent on to a training camp for a few weeks of ‘square bashing’. That’s me wearing my new unpressed uniform and  standing 2nd from the right.

I remember saying to myself … “That’s one down. …

…   Only seven hundred and twentynine to go.”

5 Responses to “Day One.”

  1. Ginnie said

    March of ’58, huh ??…that was about a month before I met my husband-to-be….good thing I hadn’t laid eyes on you then, John…you looked awfully “spiffy” in your uniform and would have given Dick a run for his money if I’d had the chance !!

  2. Terri said

    I sure agree with Ginnie….you were one dashing looking fellow in that uniform!
    I have no doubt you were happy when all those days came to an end.

  3. Terri said

    OH…PS….is there a problem with your page here? Because I got the top half and thought that was it….but had to scroll all the way down to get the photo and rest of your post.

  4. briggy said

    i reckon you’ll need to let that uniform out a bit now if you’re going to sign up again.
    ;-)

  5. Big John said

    I never liked wearing that uniform ( I wish that I had known that I looked ‘spiffy’ and ‘dashing’) and like most conscripts I never wore it when off duty.

    Re. your PS Terri. It may be that the image is a bit too large for the normal width centre of the page. I have now reduced it slightly.

    ‘a bit’ Thanks for the compliment Briggy. :-)

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