Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Air Cadets


I know, I know. It isn't a traditional approach or a usual way to approach the A-Z blogging concept. Ie. A is for Apple – and where the creation story went wrong when Eve misled Adam with a pesky piece of fruit. And men were led down wrong paths by women ever since and snakes are always bad news.


But that is to say there is a traditional approach to an A-Z blogging concept. It’s a new idea, right? It’s a scary new idea, actually as the thought of blogging every day, except Sundays, for the whole month is starting to alarm me.

So why air cadets and am I seeking to resolve unresolved issues from my mixed up adolescence?

Perhaps because I never knew exactly what promoted me to join a pseudo military organization as a teenager beyond my love of aircraft, that failed to diminish when the model of a MIG 21 slipped its string on the ceiling of my bedroom and fell on my head. And to think I had spent so long getting those swing wings to work.

Whatever the reason something prompted me to accompany Aidan, the kid next door, who believed he was a character from a boy’s own war story, to go along to the Air Training Corps. We decamped to a Spartan hut on the edge of a shuttered RAF base where we met the CO (Commanding Officer), a diminutive man with red hair.

He had a model Spitfire on his desk. He casually mentioned he had been in the Battle of Britain. I could hardly believe a real war hero was here in this brightly lit hut on a Wednesday night on the edge of an old RAF supply base, surrounded by screwed up adolescents.

Seeing the cadets in their blue uniforms standing to attention didn’t inspire me to join. The idea terrified me. But I joined nonetheless and bought into the whole way of life, archaic blue books on air frames and map reading; saluting and drills on the parade ground, not to mention itchy trousers.

Then we’d go away on camp under the control of Corporal Earp who took his stripes so seriously that cadets from less regimented regiments would ridicule him relentlessly. There was nothing worse than sitting on the back seat next to Earp on the two hour trip home as his tormentors sang dirty songs about him and suggested in rather unsubtle terms that he was doing us in his tent. I should add that Earp wasn’t doing anything to any of us, apart from driving us crazy with his unmet power needs.

If Earp was embarrassing Sergeant Day was a menace. Although my family find this hard to believe I secured a reputation as the “bed pack king” of the squadron. When we were on camp we’d have to fold our sheets in a certain way at the end of our beds, so as they resembled a liquorice allsort.

Then we’d have to stand to attention while some officers inspected the tent, our bed packs and our boots. On one occasion, just minutes before inspection I was standing smugly next to the best bed pack in the whole world when Day marched in and snatched my bed pack. The officer came in and berated me for not having a bed pack. Of course it was bad form to tell tales on a Non Commissioned Officer so I endured the tongue lashing.

On another occasion Day informed me he wanted to see me outside the hut. He ordered me to stand to attention, punched me hard in the stomach twice and sauntered off.

We went to the ATC in or spare time. I was hanging out with the likes of Day and Earp adopting the dumb mantra of "drill, dress and discipline" when I could have been hanging out with girls instead. Scary girls, admittedly.

Eventually I earned stripes and got to bark at junior cadets on the parade ground. But by this time I was already becoming disaffected by the air cadets and the prospect of a life spent in half empty hangars writing supply orders.


Even the dream of flight belly flopped. The time we sat on the hard benches of a Hercules as it took off and landed 10 times, was the turning point. Each time we became more and more queasy. Then someone brought around the fizzy drinks. The CO was the first to reach for the sick bag (by this time the hero of the Battle of Britain had been replaced by an overweight nonentity who sold used cars for a living). He missed the bag, barfing on an NCO’s shoulder. That NCO promptly threw up and all down the line a barfing chain reaction erupted.

A few weeks after that episode an officer from outside the Squadron arrived to inspect us. This was the 80s which meant my hair was undergoing an unfortunate experiment. A bit like Flock of Seagulls without the courage to go all the way to a flock. A hint of seagull was more appropriate.

The officer stopped beside me on parade, eyed my hair skeptically and let rip a tirade.

It got me thinking about the mentality of grown men who spent their lives looking for blemishes on boots and bawling out adolescents with bad hair.

I walked out of the hut that evening and never returned.

Venture Advenure my bottom. I decided I'd rather hang out at parties and drink Thunderbird.

12 comments:

  1. LOL barfing chain. I knew someone in the equivalent (I think) CAP (Civil Air Patrol) over here. They spent 10 hours on the blazing tarmac in 95F temps "guarding" planes at an air show. There was some fainting and barfing going on there too.:)

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  2. Well I can't wait for B now, A was so good. I think you made the right decision to keep away in the end. Love your description of your hair at the time 'A hint of seagull was more appropriate.' That cracked me up. Have a good Friday. :-)

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  3. Ugh, how awful! I just don't understand the mentality of the army or any organization like it. Sometimes it just seems too cruel...

    I don't blame you for leaving! :P

    Great start to the month!

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  4. "A hint of seagulls" that right there just made me spit out some of the lunch I was just eating. Thanks for the laugh.

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  5. We have sea cadets back home, and I never had the dicipline to join.

    like your take on the A to Z

    http://baygirl32.blogspot.com

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  6. This was well done, David. Thanks for the chuckles here. You lasted much longer than I ever would have in such an organization, but then I don't think anyone would ever be able to convince me to join in the first place. I liked your entry for "A" in A to Z.

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  7. Great beginning! Strange what we can handle for a while then go 'nah I'm over this pettiness' and walk - good on you. I'd forgotten about the barfing chain reaction, now I'll be thinking about that for way too long.
    (Now to see if the hyperlink thing works)
    Sue@JumpingAground

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  8. That's quite an awareness for such a young guy. Glad you fled. This was a great story. Not to make you even more nervous, but you just set the bar pretty high for yourself. Good luck. This too shall pass (after z).
    xoRobyn

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  9. Yeah I knew I wasn't cut out for military life before now I really know! Thank you for sharing that story!

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  10. The barfing chain and the hint of seagull hair are brilliant. Awesome post David. Let's hope Sergeant Day got his somewhere along the line.

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  11. for sure Li, actually I did faint and barf at an air show too...glamorous. Thanx Frog, hope you have a good saturday. It's almost time for b. Thanks Jennifer, I don't understand the mentality of me for doing it. Cheers Oilfield. I hope I didn't ruin your lunch. Thanks for stoppin by Baygirl. Thanx Daisy, wow, I must have lasted three years. Sorry to make you think about barfing all the way home, Sue. The link worked - good luck with b, sorry c. You are too kind Robyn, can we go straight to z. Thanks for the comment, Hannah, the military life is kind of rigid. Thanks again Tim and hey - good luck with b,

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  12. Well, at least you lived to tell an interesting tale and think..if it had been interesting enough to stay back....where would this blog and A-Z Challenge be?? Its nice to take a different direction than go for standard prompts and standard things to say.

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