Celtic Illumination, part 110, Stand still that man there!
I took my time getting ready on the Monday morning. I would have to go through an arrival procedure at Cranwell before I could go to air traffic control. Thankfully as I was on detachment I wouldn’t have to be a part of the SWO’s working party. I decided that the first thing I should do was to sit down and have a strong word with myself. If anything had been recorded about the events of the previous evening, then my six month period of being a good boy had not got off to a good start. In fact it might have stalled before it had even started.
I was genuinely worried. If Valley found out, about my slight transgression in the laundrette, my aircrew application might already be in the bin and I wouldn’t know anything about it until I returned to Valley in three months’ time. I sat down with my breakfast and began to give myself the talking to that I knew that I needed. There was just one problem. I didn’t know where to begin, and to tell the truth, had I actually done anything wrong? It really was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nothing was damaged, no person was hurt. I was having a hard time figuring out what I had done wrong. In the end I did the only decent thing a person could do and I tried to forget about it.
I went to station headquarters where forgetting about things was proving to be impossible. The arrivals procedure meant that I was given a chitty. This chitty contained a list of departments I would have to arrive with. Part of this process was to introduce you as to where each unit was situated on the camp. Clothing stores, admin, bedding store, bike store, the station library. Every time I presented my chitty for signature the person would point at the badge on my jacket and ask. “What’s that?” “Mountain Rescue,” I would say. “Oh we don’t have a Mountain Rescue team here.” Now tell me something that I don’t know.
The chap in charge of the bedding store was very important indeed and showed me to my new room. I was given a bed, in a four man room which already contained three other chaps. I suggested that I would be fine in the twelve man room, as long as I was left alone. He had already asked what the badge on my jacket was although he didn’t understand the significance of it. Someone in the room had laid out clothes on the spare bed, which was now mine. I had no way of knowing who they belonged to so I collected them, carefully and placed them on the centre table in the room. It was quite a simple layout, four beds, one in each corner. The room was divided, on each side, with lockers and a large table sat in the centre of the room for writing letters or whatever. I placed my bags on my bed and decided to unpack later. As I was progressing, in double slow time, it was lunch time before I had actually completed my arrival so I had a leisurely lunch and then decided that a leisurely stroll to air traffic control would be the order of the day.
This was RAF Cranwell. It was where officers were trained, it held the staff college and it also provided initial jet flying training for pilots in the Jet Provost. I didn’t really know much about any of what went on at Cranwell. There were far too many people about to enjoy a sneaky cigarette on the way to air traffic so I pretended to be very military, well; I made sure that I kept my hands out of my pockets. It certainly was a busy little place and people were darting about here there and everywhere.
I first glimpsed air traffic control and wondered what sort of time I would have there. Two large groups of men were doubling along the road way coming towards me. I thought it would have been some sort of NBC training as they were all in combat gear and probably off for a stint in the gas chamber or on to the ranges. They all looked at me and I could see the strain on their faces. I smiled as I knew their pain. I was quite surprised when both squads stopped and I assumed that the blocks to my left would have been their accommodation blocks. There were at least fifty people in both groups.
Then I heard someone screaming, “Airman! Airman! Stand still!!” I wondered who was getting a bollocking and turned to check it out when I discovered that there was a good chance it was me. A chap dressed from head to toe in cabbage gear, our name for a camouflage suit, came running towards me screaming “Stop! Stand still!!” and all those other military flavoured commands designed to make someone stop what they were doing and stand still, basically.
“Airman don’t you salute officers?” I though it the most strange question however I noticed the tiniest blue line on his shoulder and realised that this would be a baby officer. In fact, on closer inspection I realised that they all were baby officers or officer cadets if you will. He produced a notebook and a pencil asking, “Name, rank and number?” “John Games,” I said, hoping Docker would see the funny side of it if it ever caught up with him. “MT Flight,” adding a number I had made up in my head. “I’ll be reporting you to your flight commander,” he snapped. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that he had a long way to go before he would be taken seriously, compared to a real beasting by a SWO, this fellow didn’t even register on the scale.
We exchanged salutes, well he saluted me and I gave my best impression of Fred Scuttle, we then turned and departed. All the baby officers started doubling in the opposite direction. I knew I had to get away from there as quickly as possible, or at least before he found out I had lied, so I quickened my pace and reminded myself never to take this route again.
I made it to air traffic control without further incident and was invited in to meet the SATCO. He was a very friendly chap and we sat and had a coffee together as he welcomed me to Cranwell. After the polite chit chat he asked if I knew why I was there.
I said no, and further explained that I had been told the order for the detachment had been issued from Innsworth.
He began to explain. “Prince Charles is coming to learn how to fly fast jets. We asked Innsworth for two assistant air traffic controllers, they said they couldn’t provide two, but what they would do is send one high intensity air trafficker.”
I was about to ask who the high intensity chap was but I had a feeling that it was me. I had never known that such a distinction existed and didn’t know if it were bullshit or reality. Yes it was nice to think that my abilities had been officially recognised but was it really true? But at the same time, being very good at a shit job wasn’t exactly something to write home to the parents about.
We finished our chat and he shook my hand. I got the feeling that I might like it at Cranwell and I promised myself that I would stay out of trouble. I left the SATCO’s office knowing one thing, well two actually. One was that I would keep my head down, work hard and stay out of trouble. The second was that I would have to have a word with Prince Charles as this was the second time our paths had crossed and it would appear that I was the one coming off worst, again.