Celtic Illumination, part 159, Spit and polish.
Once again, with hindsight, it is possible to begin to understand why the double top secret cabal, who were structuring my life so that I would end up as the world’s leading Master Candle Maker, the High Chief of the Clan O Neill and the true King of Ireland, would present me with such undertakings. For the classical scholars among you, the Illuminati, you will already be saying Dodekathlon to yourselves. And how appropriate, with me being in the Mediterranean, that we should begin to understand that I was being presented with the modern day equivalent to Hercules and the twelve labours he had to face, the Dodekathlon.
Hercules had to serve a King, Eurystheus, for twelve years during which time he had to perform whatever the King asked him to do. Hercules was in despair as he loathed the king whom he knew was far inferior to himself. I had been signed up to serve twelve years in the air force, and as you know, held air traffic controllers in the same low esteem as Hercules did the King. It is only with hindsight that we can begin to understand the enormity of the task I had been presented with.
It’s difficult to compare incidents in my life with specific tasks that Hercules carried out although some are quite easy to match. For example, cleaning the Augean stables in a day could be compared to the liver incident in Watton abattoir. Obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, could be compared to me stealing all the knickers from the WRAF block at Swanton Morley. (part 131, a brief relapse) However, working on 92 Squadron would be difficult to compare. I was the lowest form of life on the squadron, even the admin wallaghs were held in higher esteem than I was, as they arranged for our wages to be paid.
As far as the aircrew were concerned I was ground crew and as far as the ground crew were concerned I was air ops, an aircrew side kick, a waste of space. As you can see, extreme diplomacy had to be employed for me to operate with any level of efficiency and as you are all aware, diplomacy is one skill a King must master. I suppose another skill would be trust and I had been entrusted with all the war codes for the squadron. Each member of the aircrew had a guide book, in which every procedure he might have to perform was detailed. As you will probably have seen in various movies and the like before drastic action can be taken, like firing a missile, the appropriate code words must be issued and responded to.
These codes words and procedures were set out in a small book. Each page was in a separate, clear plastic, envelope and the whole lot contained in a small green, plastic covered, ring binder. These were known as Noddy guides. Every now and again a code word would change and I would have to work my way through forty separate guides changing the code words. The real war guides were classed as Nato Secret, kept in a safe and issued only during exercises or war. I, along with the security officer, held the combinations for the safes where these guides were kept. There were other files and documents held there too, but I can’t tell you what they were, for I would have to kill you.
So; anywhere the squadron went so would the guides, and other stuff, which like the U2 aircraft, we can say didn’t exist. In Germany I would pack everything into a box and seal it. Along with the Noddy guides and other documents and files, that didn’t exist, would be maps and intelligence reports. I think the phrase they used was ‘know your enemy’ and with the amount of intelligence coming through they were determined for us to know everything about the enemy. I remember one report that said Russian ground crew would get slices of bread and spread boot polish over them. They would then leave the slices out in the sun, where the alcohol from the polish would soak into the bread and the polish would harden.
They would then scrape the caked polish off the bread and eat the remaining slices, getting extremely drunk in the process. One report even said that Russian ground crew would send aircraft off and claim that coolant, in the radar equipment, had been used and subsequently needed replacing when in actual fact they were drinking the stuff. I hoped that we never had to go up against the Russian’s, for according to the intelligence reports they sure could party hard. It wasn’t just the specific information and reports coming through that amazed me. I probably knew more about Russian aircraft than I did about the aircraft in our own air force.
I do remember one evening I was working my way through the war Noddy guides, changing a code word. It was a name, an ancient female name, and it was the code word for a survival scramble. I was with a lovely man Derek Aldous, a navigator. We were chatting away and I said to Derek, what’s a survival scramble. “Oh,” he said. “When we are told that a nuclear missile is on its way, we have a survival scramble. It would be assumed that Wildenrath would be taken out,” he said. “So any aircrew that can, will take whatever aircraft that can fly and get airborne. Once Wildenrath is gone they will decide, when airborne, where to land, if there is anywhere.”
Suddenly the possible finality of what you are doing sinks in. The other thought going through my head was that despite the fact my building could withstand a direct hit from a one thousand pound bomb, it didn’t really have much more effect than a brown paper bag, if we were expecting a nuclear warhead. I didn’t tell you what the code word was, it wouldn’t really matter as they change every month or so, but I do not want to take the chance that I may end up sharing a room with Julian Assange. So in Germany I would have packed all this interesting stuff in a box. Once the box was secure, which meant two loops of packaging tape, I would bring an armed policeman into the room and he would then guard the box and it would remain under armed guard until it was handed back to me in Cyprus.
Cyprus was full of spooks and spies and even aircraft that were not there but on the return, my box of Nato secret stuff would have grown in size and quite considerably so. Behind the ops desk was a little secure room where we kept the maps and documents and a couple of safes and we also kept the demijohns, full of very good brandy, that the aircrew would have bought and wanted taking back to Germany. Luckily as the contents were Nato secret there was no discussion allowed about what was in the box, which was now boxes.
Had the same copper turned up who had delivered the box, he couldn’t even enquire why there was now six boxes, as only one came out. I would seal all the boxes and once I was certain that the brandy was secure and safe I would hand the consignment over to an armed copper and wave it off. Next time I would see it would be in Germany and when the coppers had delivered it to me and left the squadron the brandy would be taken out and given to the aircrew, the Noddy guides put back in the safe and the world could breathe easily again as 92 squadron would be back at base. And no I’ve never even been tempted to cover a slice of bread with boot polish and see what happens.
By the way, I will be away for five or six days, from tomorrow and will be in the Highlands of Scotland with no internet access, so there will be a break in the blogging for a while. There’s 159 blogs so far, so you can either have a rest, or go back and read some of the earlier ones, there will be questions. Slainte.