I first met John Wyatt on the 16th October 1956 in Billet D.1 Initial Training Squadron, 29thentry Boy Entrant at Royal Air Force Cosford, where were we accommodated, together with 21 others as U/T (under training) Photographers II.
Who gave him the lasting nickname of ‘Woody’ is to me uncertain, but I have subsequently and quite recently been informed that it was he who was responsible for inventing nicknames for most of the occupants of D.1. which, certainly, in my case lasted throughout my service life. Thanks ‘Woody’! because after 53 years no one of my service acquaintance ever knew my real name until I attended my first RAFPA reunion in 2011.
One of the most amazing things I shall never forget about ‘woody’ was his infectious and zany sense of humour. Indeed, whilst we progressed through our Photo II training course there always seemed to be a rivalry between us as to who could out-do the other in corny, and one-line jokes. In retrospect I would humbly like to pronounce our little competition a draw.
Apart from being trained as photographers, and of course with our affiliation towards comedy, it seemed that we had little else of interest in common. During those Cosford days ‘Woody’ joined the Boy Entrant Station Band, while I concerned myself with model aeroplane construction, as hobbies and sporting activities were a compulsory part of our curriculum activities.
After passing out from Cosford in 1958 I never set eyes on or ever heard of ‘Woody’ again, until his smiling face of recognition greeting me upon my arrival at the Stourport Manor Hotel for the RAFPA 2011 reunion with a rather vocal ‘Noddy!!’ I equally responded with a similar outburst of ‘Woody!!’ After 53 years we had recognised each other instantly, and we both immediately entered into banter containing some of our really ‘old’ and bad jokes.
That particular reunion represented the first of only three reunions that I met and conversed with ‘Woody’. It was during one of these reunions that I learned from him that during his service life he had actually re-mustered from being a photographer to become a ‘clerk’ (‘Shiny’ or ‘Scribe’). Also it transpired that he had actually been posted to RAF Changi Singapore, during the middle sixties, which coincidently was during that time when I was there too. Paradoxically we were both totally unaware of each other’s presence on the same station.
Each of our three meetings at successive RAFPA reunions always found us either deep in conversations in attempts to catch up with our life events of past 53 years or just exchanging ‘old’ and often regarded silly jokes.
For me the reunion of the RAFPA 2013 was the most poignant because for some unknown reason ‘Woody’ and I indulged in more talk and banter than hitherto previously.
So much so that later I felt that on that particular Saturday evening, after the formal dinner, we had found little time to converse with other comrades present.
With the benefit of hindsight I feel very privileged to have had some real quality time with ‘Woody’ because I was totally unaware of his illnesses and had on several occasions remarked, innocently, how young and well he looked. I was even so bold to suggest that he appeared to be both more youthful and in better health than myself.
All I can add now, at this time, is that I regard John ‘Woody’ Wyatt as one of the most bravest individuals I have ever known, and it is to my great sorrow that I missed so many years of his life. Who knows ‘Woody’ we could have both ended up on the stage, had it not left two hours earlier.
I, ‘Noddy’ will not forget you, R.I.P. mate.
By kind permission of the RAF Photographers Association magazine ‘Flashback’