RAF Cardington # 1
OldEric says :-) I was finally ordered to report to RAF Cardington near Bedford on the 16th November 1955. I was almost 22 years old. I arrived at my destination and I was herded along with many other recruits into the camp. RAF Cardington was one of the main RAF recruitment centres and it was here I became an AC2.... Aircraftsman 2nd Class, the lowest form of life in the RAF we were told.
The first day after arriving we were taken to a large store where we were "kitted out". We were provided with everything we would require during our service. Uniform, best blue and peaked cap, working blue and beret, webbing belt, heavy warm great coat, woollen gloves a water-proof cape and a big pair of heavy black boots. Shirts, underwear, socks and other incidentals, three of each, I believe. Knife, fork, and spoon with our service number stamped on the handles..... these to be guarded with your life, if you lost them you didn't eat, and a mess tin. Incidentals covered everything from shoe brushes to a darning kit. All these to be fitted into a supplied kitbag and backpack.
In part 2 I will tell you a funny story about the cutlery.
After kitting out we were given a searching medical examination and I think most of us passed. We also were interviewed about our chosen fields in the RAF and our suitability scrutinised. I must have been the only one from our hut to chose a wireless career and I was sent on my own to an office for my interview. I reported to the designated office and I was told to wait outside and I would be called. Waiting also was a tall lanky fellow and I asked him if he was hoping to be selected for the same as I. He said no, he was waiting while they figured out what he could do. He said his civilian occupation was in Time and Motion study and they didn't seem to know just what that entailed. I had never heard of time and motion study either and he explained to me what his job entailed. I think that is why it stuck in my mind all these years. Later in the early 60s I had first hand encounter with time and motion study, in 1955 this was a relatively new concept and as far as I can gather it was first used in 1950.
I was eventually called for my interview. Yes they said my Radio Officers qualifications were more than adequate to be selected for a 36 week Ground Wireless Fitters course but for one small problem. Did I have my General Certificate of Education....GCE with me? It must be sighted, the rules required it, and of course I didn't.Would I be willing to sit 3 mandatory GCE papers of 3 hours each starting tomorrow? I said yes, they were English, Maths and Physics. The maths and physics papers I found easy, they were way below the standard required for my electronic qualifications. The English paper had a choice of three subjects and the one I chose was a descriptive essay and I wrote it on Sydney Harbour in Australia which I had visited three times. The marking of the papers was very quick and on the 3rd day I was given the results. The small problem was solved.
During this time I had almost been away from my room mates for three days and they told me I was lucky I had missed a lot of fatigues. I did manage to catch fatigues on two other days, one day was helping to peel a big mound of potatoes and the other, I still have it in my minds eye was the cookhouse. I got the worst of all jobs in the tin room washing the big greasy rectangular cooking and serving tins. I donned on a rubberised apron and gloves and dunked the tins in a large sink of hotter than hot water in a large sink with about half an inch of fat and scum floating on the top. The idea was to remove as much fat and grease as possible and then rinse the tins in another sink of slightly cleaner hot water. Then when passably clean put on a rack to dry. We by this time had been at Cardington almost a week.
After a week we were shipped out to a basic training camp and I was sent to RAF Bridgnorth to the west of Wolverhampton. I didn’t see any of my room mates again during my service and unfortunately cannot remember or picture any of them.