30 December 2002

RAF Compton Bassett 1 Overview

OldEric says :-) I was sent to Compton Bassett near Calne in Wiltshire for my trade training as a Ground Wireless Fitter - Communications. The course was for an intensive thirty-six weeks. Like my arrival at Bridgnorth I again have no recollection of my arrival at Compton Bassett until I was in my assigned billet.

Soon after my new arrival paperwork had been completed I had a pleasant surprise. I was called to report to the Administration Office where I was informed that orders had come through to promote me to the dizzy heights of SAC...Senior Aircraftsman, three ranks up from the lowly rank of AC2.... Aircraftsman 2nd Class. Better still the promotion was backdated to my first day of entry.... I didn't remember this until I was reading my RAF papers recently. My pay was backdated too, also extra trade allowances were back-dated to day one. My SAC's pay plus trade allowances almost doubled the pay of my course mates still with the rank of AC2.

The reason for my promotion was due to my Merchant Navy Radio Officer's qualifications courses following closely the Royal Navy Handbook in Radio Telegraphy and Telephony in the basic theory stages and the qualifications were recognized in the armed services. In our hut of thirty men I was elevated to in-charge of the hut and I had the first bed by the door. Here as at Bridgnorth huts, kit and ourselves were inspected but only once per week now, not daily as at Bridgnorth and now it was my head on the block if the hut was not up to scratch. . We still had to make our beds daily as per the regulations and although not inspected daily the huts were subject to random inspections. The weekly inspections were reasonable, we still had to lay out our kit for inspection and place it on our beds to the set pattern and the floors had to be buffed to a high shine, no dust on ledges and windows to shine and we had to be smart and tidy in our selves at all times.

Some of the weekly inspection chores were by rote basis such as buffing the passageway floor between the two rows of beds, cleaning the stoves and other multi user areas. We had one bad apple in the barrel that used physiological warfare against authority and his share of the chores. He was clever at disruption; he had a clever mind and was the bane of every ones life. We suffered him for thirty-six weeks rather than warfare especially inspection days.

The rest of our course mates were mature and with an attitude of get on with it. All were two year National Servicemen in their early to mid twenties and were ex university graduates, electrical/engineering apprentices or cadets with a few in the office professions thrown in. They were all a good bunch except our rotten apple.

Our course work followed the same pattern as any educational establishment, we moved from lecture room to lecture room, to practical workshop to laboratory all in different buildings, but with one exception. We marched in columns of three between buildings. At the finish of a class session the students would mill around outside, form into columns of three and I as of senior rank marched them from the side and rear to the next venue. Now there was trouble, I would shout "Attention!... By the right, quick march." Everyone would move off on the right foot and I would often move off on my left if I weren’t careful. That is if you remember my problems on the parade ground at Bridgnorth.

Turning corners was a bigger problem. Now and then I would forget my left from my right and at a junction give the order to turn left and immediately countermand the order with go right, used to often end up with a disaster and hilarity. I got better after thirty-six weeks or was it everyone got used to me?

On this high-pressure thirty-six week course all were bright only one or two floundered, many spent hours studying and only one didn't pick up his books at all after hours. His name was Leadbeater and he came from Lancashire, his only real interest was his girlfriend and every free weekend he would catch the specially laid on bus transport back to Lancashire. He was besotted with her. He was an ex university graduate and bright and we all expected him to pass but to our surprise at the end of the course he came out top by a wide margin. I think he must have had a photographic memory; he certainly hadn't had any electronics training before.

I, with my electronic training found the course relatively easy except for one or two specialized areas and I didn't do too much study after hours. At the end of the course I came in at the lower top half. I envied Leadbeaters brain.

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