Celtic Illumination, part 213, In the club.
One member of my syndicate was a woman of the female variety. She was pretty worn out at the end of the exercise, as most of us were. Being a gentleman I took her rucksack and dumped it on top of my own. We jammed her hands into the straps on my rucksack and I pulled her off the battlefield. The moment I realised that there was no transport whatsoever I hoped I would make it back to Hereford with my extra load. Thankfully she found her second wind and was able to power herself along, although I still carried her rucksack for her. The further you move away from the exercise area the more you begin to focus on yourself and the state that you are in. Aches and pains begin to have a life of their own.
Back at the accommodation there would have been about one hundred of us, all stinking to high heaven, and about six showers. There was commotion in the shower rooms, which I stayed well clear of. I dumped my kit and lay on my bed. I was too tired to even consider taking my boots off. Everyone faced the same procedure now. First off would be a nice warm shower and then we would have to clean our kit and then we would have to clean the barracks. After all that we had been told that there would be an end of course party that evening. I don’t think any of us were in the mood for a party; we simply wanted to rest, to be warm and dry. I can remember lying there, staring blankly into space when a movement caught my eye. One of the toecaps on my boots had slid off, just the enamel paint; it must have been the dampness.
Because I waited until the shower rooms were free before I went and had my shower I was late getting to the party in the evening. I know, not my usual style at all. It was in a huge ballroom and most people sat with half a pint of weak shandy and stared at it in silence. No one was in the mood for being jolly or even had enough energy to get seriously hammered. The following day was the final day and we would be told if we had been successful or not and would then be allowed to leave. I gave my pillow a good talking to that night and warned it that I was not in the mood for any funny business. It seemed to work as the following morning I was hangover free.
Despite the fact that the senior instructor had told me that they thought I was a natural leader I still wasn’t over confident about my de-briefing. There was the attacking the sandbag incident, which I could hopefully explain away as a combination of physical exhaustion and poor light conditions. What I couldn’t explain away was the raunchy marching songs I had forced my syndicate to sing. Knowing the air force I wouldn’t have been surprised if some of the complainers on the course would have reported me to the instructors on the occasions we tried to get the whole course to join in. Even though the GST staff had impressed me with their ability to recognise my natural talents and abilities, I still wasn’t convinced that they had any grasp on man management or leadership.
It was a strange morning and we all sat about waiting as we were called in and de-briefed on our performance. There were five areas that they had focused on. Again; it would have been nice to have been told these beforehand. One of the areas was the video we had to watch of the scuffle in a bar after which we had to write a report and prepare charge sheets for the individuals involved. Many of us had rushed this part of the course as, well; I suppose I can only speak for myself, but the fellow at the bar, getting into trouble, would have been me. And I had no intention of putting anybody on a charge, ever. I had been on enough of them myself. Plus, we were told that once completed we could nip outside for a smoke.
My Sergeant sat there like a chorister, holding a file in front of him, which he read from. If the top grade had been one, and the lowest grade five, I was told I had achieved two ones and three twos. Not a bad performance I thought, could have been worse. It was nice when he lowered the file and actually handed me my new rank, shook my hand and congratulated me. I was then allowed to put my new rank on, much better that simply walking over to clothing stores with a chitty. It was after my de-briefing, when I came outside, I met the girl off our syndicate who was quite pleased that she had passed. As we walked away she told me that she had achieved five ones. That cemented my belief that they didn’t really know what they were doing.
I wasn’t looking forward to Monday morning when I would have to report to Wattisham and air traffic control. Before then I had to go to Liverpool and collect Irene and the boy child. I was looking forward to that as I enjoyed going for a drink with my father in law and listening to his stories about his days on bomb disposal during world war two. He was a very funny man. We were back at our little house on the Sunday and I began to get myself ready for the following day. One thing I still hadn’t done was check out the local club. The village we lived in was known as Shotley Gate. It used to be a Royal Naval training station known as HMS Ganges.
The unit had been closed for some time and was now known as Eurosports. The married quarters remained and that is what we were living in. Half of the houses were populated by American service personnel and the remainder by air force personnel from Wattisham. Two houses had been given over to the community, one was used as a nursery school and the other was known as the Families Club. This was a huge house which had a bar and had even been extended to include a dance hall. Dance hall may be a bit grand to describe the two portacabins that had been attached to the rear of the house, but that is what it was used for.
Dave Magee in Germany had told me about this place. It was a real drinking den and he was very proud of the Families Club as he had been one of the founders. On the Sunday evening I wandered over and found a nice little compact bar. The beer was good and very cheap, so I settled in and had a good night of it. I met a fellow in there who was an air trafficker. He was also a member of the committee that ran the Families Club. I think his head was so far up his own arse he suited the term ‘pretentious,’ but then he was air traffic. At one point in the evening he suggested that I should not swear as there were ladies in the club and it really wasn’t the done thing. Dave Magee would be ashamed at the attitude of this fellow although he would have been proud of my reply, before I walked out of the club advising them where they could stick their membership, their pompous attitudes and their club.
The following morning I drove to Wattisham and went to headquarters so that I could begin my arrival procedure. Headquarters was exactly the same as every other unit in the UK, so I went straight to admin and reported. I was a little taken aback when I was told that the chief clerk wanted me, immediately. I hadn’t really done anything that wrong that I could remember, and chief clerks were not known for welcoming people with a cup of tea and a biscuit. The only thing I could think of was that he was in some way connected to the Shotley Families club and my fellow air trafficker had dropped me in it. If he had, he could guarantee that his life would be miserable from that day onwards.
I knocked and when instructed went into the chief clerk’s office. “Ah,” he says, when I had introduced myself. “I’ve got a signal here about you.” He rummaged about on his desk and produced the signal. “You’ve been accepted for aircrew training. Your course starts in February and I have two questions for you. Do you still want to be aircrew?” “Yes,” I stammered. “Of course.” “Secondly, are you aircrew fit?”