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    I was born in 1939 BC.
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    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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‘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 … 



7 Responses to “‘When Pontius was a pilot’.”

  1. As you say, those who favour a spell in the armed forces for yobs have usually never been in the forces themselves. And how wise is it to teach incipient young criminals how to handle powerful weapons and to kill people? A recipe for disaster.

    I would make one exception, however. I would like a law to be made that whenever our country participates in a war or “military action” somewhere, all politicians, without exception, must undertake a tour of duty as serving soldiers in the war zone. A minimum of 1 year, say.

    If every country adopted this law, we would see an end to war within a generation.

  2. Betty said

    I would like to see a law passed that would require every person, upon high school graduation, or when he/she becomes 18 yrs. old, is “conscripted” into some form of national service, depending on where he/she is needed. There would be a possibility of choosing one’s area of service, but everyone would have to serve the country for two years.

  3. My fifty was in 2005 and two years before that I had belatedly joined my regimental Association and had the constant get a haircut Leighton! I had shoulder length hair
    but got it cut down to a GI with white walls for the 145th birthday celebration in Clagary.
    We had about six hundred of the old sweats turned out and the thought of that massive chorus singing out, “GET AN HAIRCUT LEIGHTON!” was more than I was prepared to bear.
    Ha ha,


  4. Ginnie said

    I can just imagine you in those years, John…I’ll bet you kept just one step ahead of your superiors and I’m sure your fellow servicemen loved it !

  5. Norman said

    Thanks again John.But can you explain what a “DA” is?

  6. Big John said

    Come on Norman ! … I bet you were always combing your ‘Duck’s Arse’. 😀

  7. Terri said

    Ahhh, those were the days, huh?
    Tell us about your upcoming trip over to France….you said you’ll be renting an apt. there. Whereabouts?
    And is it the end of May you’ll be over there? We fly to Paris 2 weeks from this coming Wed. and I’ll be there till May 12….will our paths cross?

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