8 December 2002

RAF. Thoughts of National Service

OldEric says:- When I resigned from the Merchant Navy in June 1956 I was employed by Siemens Bros. as a Radio Officer and 22 years old. It was a conscious decision, the reason will be told in an earlier episode of my life. I knew I would have to do my two years National Service. To be exempt I would have to serve in the Merchant Navy until I was a minimum of 26 years old. On completion of National Service I would be 24 years old.

I had quite a bit of accumulated paid leave, six weeks I think so I thought I would enjoy the break. After awhile I became bored, my friends worked during the week and I didn't have much to occupy me. The weekdays dragged waiting for the weekend activities. I spoke of this to one or two friends who were at University and they suggested I try a temporary job at the bottling plant of Youngers Breweries in Beezon Rd in Kendal where they worked during the summer breaks until I was called for National Service. Youngers needed summer staff so I easily got employment with them.

I enjoyed this temporary job working alongside friends and I kept putting off informing the authorities that I was eligible for my National Service. September came along and I thought I must do something, if I didn't they would catch up with me sooner or later. I sent in the required form and I duly had a letter back informing me they would let me know in due course. September became October and my friends went back to their studies at University and I continued on at the Brewery. I learnt to stack crates of bottles and the trick of throwing the crates well above my head and how to stop full barrels of beer rolled down a steep ramp and into the cellars. If you missed it was a broken leg. The labelling machines were the prize jobs and I only got on to them occasionally. My friends gone the job became mind numbing, how could these men work at this job year in year out, some of the old ones from when they left school? Some told me they wished they had had an education to do something else. They too found the job mind numbing. I felt glad I had my qualifications and multiple choices of career paths in front of me.

October came and I thought the authorities had forgotten me until a letter arrived near the end of the month informing me to report to RAF Cardington on 16th November. I gave in my notice at the Brewery and had a few days off to clear up my affairs before catching the train. I was on the move again and curious to see what was ahead of me.

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