Celtic Illumination, part 151, Willkommen in Deutschland
The only information that I had been given about my posting was that I was being sent to join 92 squadron at RAF Wildenrath in Germany. I knew nothing else about the squadron or the role I would be expected to play. As luck would have it another fellow, Gary Palmer was posted on the same day, from Watton, to Wildenrath. Gary was joining 19 squadron, so we were able to travel together. Gary had been stationed in Germany before, so I considered myself to be very lucky that I would be traveling with an experienced fellow.
Irene had been dropped at her mothers in Liverpool, as we didn’t know how long it would be before we would be allocated a married quarter in Germany. Our household possessions had been packed away in cases and sent to Germany so I carried all my personal equipment and uniforms in my kit bags. I do remember that it was a Sunday we were travelling on. I had been staying with Peter Chidgely and his wife Gail. Gary and I reported to the lodge bar, on the Sunday lunchtime, the moment it opened, for our final session with the troops. It was great fun and we used the land rover to get us, and our kit bags, in to Norwich train station where the troops gave us a twenty one gun salute on our departure.
Had they been real guns instead of brightly coloured water pistols I think the locals in Norwich might have been much more concerned than they already were. We had a great laugh and set of for Luton airport. It was as we were waiting for the flight that both Gary and I noticed some military flavoured coppers observing us from behind a glass wall. I didn’t want to arrive in Germany in even more trouble than I was already in. I was in trouble for buying a barrel of beer, to be given away in the rugby club, at my final session there. This was common practice.
I had gone to the sergeant’s mess and paid for the barrel. I had my wages coming in from the abattoir and I had my RAF wages going in to the bank. I think there was also some extra money coming in, associated with my posting overseas, so I was quite flush, however I could see that there might be a small overlap in my bank account as each lump of money would come in on a different date. I went down to the bank on the high street, one lunch time, and asked the assistant manager for a one hundred pound overdraft.
I showed detail of the monies I was expecting in and also explained that the RAF took bouncing cheques, or financial mismanagement, as a very serious issue. I wanted to be careful and cover my six o clock. The assistant manager assured me that the overdraft would be no problem, so I was able to go ahead and spend whatever I needed. I had then been notified by the clerk at the sergeant’s mess that the cheque I had left, for the beer, had bounced. Only an idiot would do such a thing, so I asked if I could come down take the cheque back and give them the cash instead. I was told no, that the cheque was in the system, and I would have to be disciplined.
As you may expect I reported to the bank and asked to see the assistant manager. He was at lunch so I was able to see the manager. I explained that I wasn’t happy, I had been told that I had an overdraft facility and now the bank were bouncing my cheques I wanted to know what was going on. The manager checked the records of my account and declared that there was nothing in writing therefore his bank was right to bounce the cheques. I explained that his assistant manager had given me permission but the manager insisted that as there was nothing in writing I was in the wrong. I explained that I thought he was as useless as his lying assistant and stormed out.
There was no point in pursuing the matter as the assistant manager would probably be as stupid as the manager, although I did learn a very important lesson and was extremely careful with all my financial transactions from that moment on. It still didn’t alter the fact that I had committed a serious sin and would have to wait until I arrived in Germany before the matter could be dealt with. Not the sort of thing you want to happen when you arrive at a new unit, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. I was determined to arrive as a smart young airman.
As Gary and I kept an eye on the military police, I wondered if something had happened at Norwich train station, or if someone had complained, or if we were in trouble for using the land rover to get to the station. One of the coppers came out and over to us. He asked Gary to follow him and I could see Gary chatting away to the coppers behind the glass wall. Next thing, is that Gary is handcuffed to some glum looking fellow, and I wondered how long it would be before I would be wearing the steel bracelets from Sheffield.
Luckily I wouldn’t. Gary had been identified as the largest person travelling and a prisoner, who was being sent back to Germany, had been handcuffed to Gary and would remain so for the duration of the flight. Heartbeats were set back to normal and I enjoyed the flight. It was quite exciting to actually arrive in Germany. Gary and I reported to the guard room and were given temporary accommodation, which meant sharing a room with twenty other fellows who like us, had only arrived in Germany.
It was strange sharing a room with twenty other chaps again but nothing really out of the ordinary, so it was easy enough to settle in. Gary had been to Wildenrath before so it was nice being with someone who knew their way about. We went to the mess and had tea then Gary told me that there was only one place to go when at Wildenrath, the rugby club.
Normally I would keep my head down when arriving somewhere new. I would watch and listen before announcing myself, Gary was a little different. To say he was loud would be an understatement. There was a good crowd in the rugby club so I would have ordered beer and sat quietly in a corner. Gary however stormed in, announcing that Wildenrath’s rugby future was secured as the two best prop forwards in the RAF had arrived. We were welcomed with open arms and joined straight in to the scene. I was quite stunned as Gary had announced that we were to drink double brandies.
I wasn’t really a brandy drinker, in fact I wasn’t really a shorts person, I preferred beer, and lots of it but I couldn’t get over the fact that the coke, for we were drinking brandy and coke’s, I couldn’t get over the fact that the coke, used as a mixer, was more expensive than the double brandy. As you can imagine it wasn’t very long before I was everybody’s best friend. I can remember feeling quite happy; it may have been something to do with the double brandies.
One fellow, part of a larger group, was standing beside me. “Hi,” he said. “Just arrived?” “Yes,” I said. “Today.” “Where are you posted to?” he asked. “Oh, here,” I said, not realising how stupid my answer had been. “No,” he said. “What unit?” “Oh!” I said, understanding my mistake. “92 squadron. I’ve been posted on to 92 squadron.” “Great,” he said, smiling at me. “I’m on 92 squadron as well. Do you wear a green romper suit or a blue romper suit?” “Pardon?” I asked, not really understanding his question. “Do you wear a green romper suit or a blue romper suit?” I still didn’t understand what he was talking about but luckily Gary did.
“Aircrew wear green flying suits, groundcrew wear blue overalls. He wants to know if you are aircrew or groundcrew,” explained Gary. “Ah!” I said, now that the proverbial penny had finally dropped. “Neither,” I explained. “I’m in air ops.” I was quite surprised to see my new chum being jumped on by all the friends with him and wrestled to the ground, which was quite handy as I was down there too. You see he had punched me in the face and split my lip. Quite a good punch too, caught me off guard and had me on the floor.
Seems that each squadron had two air ops guys. The other fellow on 92 squadron was being court martialled for smashing a beer glass in the face of the station commander’s daughter and the groundcrew felt that this brought shame on the whole squadron. It was double brandies all round and ‘hail fellow well met’ abounded. I can heartily recommend double brandy and coke as a sleeping draught. But what I would not recommend is turning up at your new unit, late, looking like a dog has dragged you through a hedge backwards, with a busted lip and a hangover that could throttle a donkey.