‘When Pontius was a pilot’.
Posted by Big John on April 10, 2008
I know that I’ve mentioned my days in the RAF a number of times in previous posts, but today is a special day as it is the 50th anniversary of my conscription as a national serviceman, so I hope that you will forgive me if I wallow in a bit of nostalgia once again.
Many people today would like to see national service reintroduced. Most of them have no experience of service life and think that a good dose of military discipline would ‘straighten out’ our current crop of yobs and layabouts. I doubt that it would, for even in my day we had our share of tearaways and rebels and although many of them finished their service as better people it was not due to screaming drill sergeants or a few days in the guardhouse, it was because we were all in it together and being ‘exposed’ to our fellow man made us into more tolerant and mature human beings.
I think that a short period of some form of ‘service’ may benifit many of our present youth, but not in the military, for unlike my generation they have not been brought up to expect to serve in the armed forces, and attitudes in general and the military itself have changed beyond recognition.
Although many of us were not happy at the thought of giving up two years of our lives, most of us went without protest. Well, that’s not exactly true, for we all had our own little ways of ‘rebelling’, like my mate Ginger who had a permanent scowl on his face when on duty and would only say “sir” when reminded to do so; or Bernie who would whistle the Royal Air Force March when taking a crap. Some would walk miles out of their way to avoid saluting an officer or wear their uniforms in as non-regulation fashion as possible. I even knew ex-Teddy boy types who had their trousers tailored to look more like their beloved ‘drainpipes’: and many kept their hair as long as possible for as long as they could get away with it. A shout of … “Come here you scruffy looking airman” … was considered a compliment, and a recruiting poster displaying the message … ‘There is a place for you in the airforce’ … would always bear the scribbled postscript … “Yes, my f***ing place !”
Now bearing in mind that these were the days of the ‘Tony Curtis’ and ‘DA’ hairstyles, my initial ‘little protest’ came in the form of a ‘crew cut’, the very short style favoured by many American servicemen, but almost unknown in the UK at that time. I had this done the day before I reported for duty in the certain knowledge that my closely cropped hair would keep me out of the hands of the camp barber and his dreaded ‘shears’.
So on this day exactly fifty years ago I stood in line with my fellow nervous conscripts as a sneering flight sergeant gave us ‘the once over’.
The ‘chiefy’ walked along the line ordering lads to “straighten up”, “put yer feet together” and “stand nearer to the razor next time” … He came to me ..’ took one look … and quietly said … “and as for you … you clever little bugger … Well you can …
… GET YER BLEEDIN’ ‘AIR CUT !”