Celtic Illumination, part 152, Aut Pugna Aut Morere, Fight or die.
Well, you’ve done it again. Your voracious reading has brought another award to Celtic Illumination, The Versatile Blogger Award. This time the nomination came from one of our own Illuminati, Brad Fonseca, a Canadian fellow in Canada. Thank you very much Brad. This just shows what good taste and how cultured you all are. I understand that I have certain tasks to carry out now so I will prepare everything once I have finished today’s blog. The goat is the tethered in the yard, the altar is prepared and the virgins should arrive shortly after tea.
So; it was my first day in Germany. Getting out of bed was very difficult and if I remember correctly the water in the shower was very noisy indeed. I dragged myself to the mess for some breakfast and was standing at the servery looking at a row of ties that had been pinned above the servery, when one of the ladies, reached forward, took my tie and snipped it in half with a pair of scissors. Luckily Gary was with me and he took me away to a table where he explained that this was ‘Rosenmontag’ (Rose Monday) the highlight of the German carnival.
It seems that, in Germany on Rosenmontag, a lady can cut off your tie and if she can match it up again that evening, you are hers for the night. I saw the row of thirty plus black ties and wondered if any of the fellows would actually go to the local town that night wearing half a tie. With a good feed inside me, I still didn’t feel any better, so set off to ‘arrive’. It was all very organised, you could tell that no air traffickers were involved. First I had to attend an arrivals brief. The Sherriff, the senior police person on the camp, kicked everything off by breathalysing everyone in the room. He wasn’t completely off his rocker but was showing us that if we had an accident, first thing in the morning, as a part of their standard approach, the civilian German police would breathalyse all concerned drivers. Everyone in the room failed the breath test and he warned us to be very careful.
There followed a selection of briefings concerning the role of the unit, the expected standard of behaviour both on and off camp, the wearing of uniforms off camp, and what we would be doing for the following two weeks. I had forgotten about the SWO’s working party and realised that I would be emptying the bins on Wildenrath for the next fortnight. Despite the fact that I had attended an overseas briefing at Honnington before leaving the UK I was now expected to go through the whole thing again.
The rock apes who ran this one watched far too many Rambo movies. I don’t suggest anyone try CS gas with oatmeal biscuits, perhaps a little cream cheese. It would certainly take away the taste of your breakfast. I don’t mean the first time you eat it, I mean the second time you see your breakfast, as it comes back out thanks to the CS gas. To make matters more interesting they put us on the rifle range wearing our full NBC kits. I was still a rubbish shot.
The following day I began the arrival procedure, which is wandering around camp and reporting in to every department, so in a way you were physically making sure that you were entered into their system. At SHQ I was told that I needed to open a bank account with a local German bank. Luckily there were two German banks on camp so I wandered into one and asked to open an account.
After my experience in the UK and aware that I was awaiting some form of disciplinary action I can freely state that bankers were not my favourite people. I have to admit I was taken by surprise. I reported to the counter and introduced myself. A young lady came to me and explained that she was the manager and would help me open an account. She pulled out a typewriter and very quickly filled out the required form. “How much would you like to borrow?” she asked, as she slid a cheque book and card across the counter to me.
“Nothing,” I said. “I just want to open an account.” “Yes,” she said, with wonderful Teutonic efficiency. “But you are in Germany now, you will want to buy a car, or go on holiday. How much do you want to borrow?” The pen hovered over the empty box and I was amazed. In England bank managers were very much a part of the class system. You had to crawl in to their office, normally all men, and almost beg for their permission to borrow some money. Here in Germany it was a business, and they made their money from charging you interest. I loved it. I still didn’t borrow any money and just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. I had made sure that I had gone to the families office and put my name down for a married quarter, I was told that it could take anything up to seven weeks.
The final place I had to report to was 92 squadron. It was situated somewhere on the far side of the airfield, too distant to walk, so I telephoned the squadron for some transport. A minibus arrived and I hopped on. We drove off, away from the main camp and into the clumps of trees that surrounded the airfield. It was a huge place. As we entered the squadron dispersal I saw my first phantom aircraft and thought it looked an impressive beast. The driver dropped me at the main entrance and after the regulatory deep breath I went in.
I reported to the admin desk who signed my official arrival chitty. I was now properly at Wildenrath. I was then told to follow the corridor to air ops. As I walked along I noticed that I was passing through a series of heavy steel doors. The walls were getting thicker and external noises were fading away. I walked in to the operations room and was taken back with the amount of information that was displayed. The walls were covered in statistics boards each split into little two inch square boxes, each carrying a certain amount of information.
One wall was half glass and I could see a similar set up on the far side which was manned by engineers. But standing before me, in a clump, was half a dozen men in green suits. They casually ignored me as I looked around. Then Bob Juckes came in. This was the fellow who had bottled the station commander’s daughter. We shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other. “Come on,” said Bob. “I’ll show you around.” Bob walked around the squadron, with me in tow, and pointed at various things and I don’t think I took anything in. It’s not that there was too much information coming at me it was just all so new, I had never come across stuff like this before.
It slowly began to sink in with me that I was in the real air force. Bob and I were in the aircrew crew room standing at the tea bar having a coffee. I looked about and saw all these men in green suits. Some were pilots and some were navigators but it slowly began to dawn on me that I was actually going to be working alongside fast jet pilots. We went back to the operations room and the pilot behind the desk got up and left, saying as he went, to Bob. “You’re in charge.”
Bob sat behind the desk and I stood in front. He worked his way around the room explaining what our duties were. A group of aircrew came in to the engineer’s side of the building; they were kitted out for flying and were reporting the conditions of the aircraft they had just flown. Once they had debriefed the engineers they came through to us in air ops. I noticed one of them was a wing commander and assumed that this was the boss of the squadron. He set his flying helmet down and signed some papers. Bob was dealing with him; he brought out a pipe and lit it. Once happy with his pipe he took a deep draw and looked at me. “Who is this?” he asked.
”Oh sorry boss,” said Bob. “This is the new chap.” I couldn’t believe that the wing commander walked over and offered me his hand. I shook it. “Good,” said the wing commander. “Welcome to ninety two.” “Thank you sir,” I said. “When do you start?” “Tomorrow boss,” said Bob, and I butted in. “No. I’m on the SWO’s working party. I’ve gotta empty the bins on camp for a fortnight.” I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that I would have to complete this duty; after all, air traffic had never stood up for me before.
“Phone the SWO’s office,” said the boss. “Tell him that I can’t spare any of my men.” Bob was already dialling. I couldn’t believe that someone would actually stick up for me. Bob replaced the receiver and nodded. The boss picked up his flying helmet. “Welcome to the Cobra’s, we don’t empty bins here. You’ve got two weeks to train him up Bob,” said the boss, who walked away winking at me. “What does he mean two weeks?” I asked, once I felt that he was out of earshot. “Oh,” said Bob, in a very matter of fact way. “You’ve gotta be up to speed in two weeks, because we’re off to Cyprus in a fortnight.”