13 May 2009

13th May

51 years ago today, I joined the Royal Air Force as an Air Electrical Apprentice in the 89th Entry at RAF Halton. How I came to join is a little story in itself so for anyone that doesn't know, here is the way it went.
I was in the Lower 6th at St Bede's Grammar School in Bradford, studying for my 'A' Level GCEs, having not done very well, but just well enough, in my 'O' Level GCE's. I was studying Maths, both Pure and Applied, and Physics. Unfortunately for me, I suffered Appendicitis just as the September Term started and spent 10 days in Bradford Royal Infirmary. This put me back in my studies and, coupled with wanting to spend more time with my girlfriend than doing homework, I never recovered. A secondary reason was the inability of my Maths teacher to be able to teach me. Mr Charlie O'Dowd was his name and he was undoubtedly a very clever man but somehow he could not get through to me. I put up with the situation until some time just after my birthday (I cannot remember exactly when) and then I decided to leave school. The problem was that I conveniently forgot to tell either the school or my poor parents. I simply went out of the door in the morning and came home at the appropriate time in the evening. The funny thing is that I cannot remember what I did all day or for how long I played truant. Eventually my parents found out and my Pop went to see the headmaster, Monsignor Sweeney, who told him that I had reached the level of schooling that I could attain.
So, now what to do? My Pop suggested that I might like to join the RAF, following in his footsteps, and, as that seemed like a reasonable idea, I went down to the RAF Careers Office in Bradford and told them that I wanted to join as an Apprentice (Pop, quite rightly, thought I should have a proper trade). The Careers Office staff thought that, as I was over 17, I should wait until September and then join in Men's Service and be paid the full rate; being an Apprentice did not seem a good idea to them. When I told this to Pop, he went ballistic and promptly wrote to someone in RAF recruiting, probably an Air Vice Marshall, which prompted a request for me to attend RAF Halton for a medical and interview. Having attended that, and obviously passed, I was required to attend again in May and consequently signed on 13th May 1958.

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