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.