The following article was published in the RAF Regiment Magazine about the Autumn of 1965.
It was a hot
windy morning on the docks, Montreal, Canada. The ship, The Empress of England,
which I was in process of boarding would soon deposit me in Liverpool, England.
A few hours passed, then whistles blew and recorded band music came over the
ships public address system. I was on my way. Thousands of streamers were
attached to the dock and, as we pulled away, each one separated until the last
link with Canada was gone.
of the Atlantic was fairly routine, no storms and very little fog. There was
something laid on for entertainment every night, but six days of spoon fed
entertainment gets a bit much.
arrived at Liverpool. The city of Liverpool gave me the impression of a solid
mass of greyness with the sun just barely breaking through the murky sky. After
a month or so of knocking around Liverpool area, I decided I had better move or
die from some horrible respiratory disease. This led me to take the big step and
join the Royal Air Force.
I went to the
careers Information Centre in Liverpool to gather some information about the
Royal Air Force. The man behind the desk in the blue uniform and handlebar
moustache was about the most amiable person I have ever met. He couldn’t do
enough for me. He gave me information on all the wonderful and interesting trade
groups that were open at the time – these were Nursing Assistant and Trade
Assistant General. After looking through the prospects of these fascinating
jobs, I decided there must be something at least half decent which one can do in
the Royal Air Force. This is when I found out about the Royal Air Force
Regiment. Basically, I was looking for something which would give me a fair bit
of travel, and a fairly decent job. This the Regiment could provide, at least
that is what the friendly man with the moustache told me.
on the dotted line, to donate five years of my precious youth to the Royal Air
Force, I was whisked off to Boot Camp. I call it Boot Camp because all I learnt
was to shine footwear, press uniforms and force myself into awkward positions on
the parade square. After six weeks of inconvenience, during which I remained as
inconspicuous as possible to my NCO’s I passed out. I don’t mean physically
but I certainly felt like it a few times.
I now had five
glorious days leave, which I spent in London, seeing and doing all the things
one sees and does in London. The days went all too fast and finally it was time
to report to the Regiment Training Depot, Royal Air Force Catterick. All through
basic training we poor gunners-to-be were always being reminded of terrors of
Catterick, therefore upon arrival we were a bit apprehensive of the place.
The first week
at Catterick was spent doing menial tasks while we waited for our course to
begin. Finally the starting day of our course arrived, our stone faced NCO’s
appeared and immediately wanted the
cement floor of our Secco hut polished. As nothing is supposed to be impossible
in the forces we did so. The seven weeks at Catterick can be best summed up by
quoting Thomas Alva Edison, “Success is 99% perspiration and 1%
inspiration”, and believe me we perspired. We froze on the moors, sweated in
the gym and almost drowned canoeing. The day we awaited most earnestly arrived
and we passed out, all of us, which was a general shock.
came through, nearly everyone of us was going overseas. We were due to leave on
January 23rd for the mysterious Far East. So after arriving in
England on July 16th, approximately six months later I was on the
move again, this time at the expense of the Royal Air Force.
The trip over here was very interesting with stops at Rome, Beirut,
Tehran, New Delhi, and finally Singapore. As we got out at Singapore we were
knocked back by a sudden blast of hot humid air. This was our first introduction
to the weather for the next two and half years. I and a few others were to go to
a place called RAF Butterworth. As no one seemed to be too interested in us, we
had a two week holiday in Singapore. Too much of a good thing can get rather
trying, so we reported to Air Movements. With a look of surprise Air Movements
had us on the next flight to Butterworth, and here I shall expect to stay for a
There are some fascinating spots for leave in this area. One can enjoy
the scenery of the West Coast of Malaysia, visit the impressive city of Kuala
Lumpur or just enjoy being in the sunshine. Some misguided individual make the
great mistake of not moving farther than their bed space for their whole tour;
this is a great folly. As far as I am concerned there is only one place for
leave in this area and that is Thialand. If a man has little money he can go to
Haadyai, which is just across the Thai – Malay border. In this small town he
can enjoy all the exotic pleasure of Thailand at a relatively low cost. If he
has saved and planned for his leave there can be no better place than Bangkok,
capital of Thailand. Words cannot do justice to this city, one has to see it to
appreciate the beauty of its majestic temples, the warm friendliness of the
people, and the wild and mysterious places of entertainment at night.
The Royal Air force Regiment is nearly the best of the Air Force to be
in. That is, if you enjoy visiting new and exciting places, doing a type of work
that usually involves little routine and receiving a wage that is adequate.
Adequate, if you plan your wage wisely to enable you to see all the interesting
places in whatever area you might be. Where I shall go after this tour is over,
is only known by the Gods. I will have two more years to do, so I hope it is
somewhere interesting. I think at the end of this five year period of my life,
the desire I have to travel, excitement and unusual will be satisfied and I
shall hope to return to a more static type of life back home in Canada.
'Streaky' en route to China Rock from Singapore on board 'Arromanches'