4 thoughts on “Pull up a sandbag…

  1. Monday 1st March 1971

    I left my home town in Dartford in Kent on a cool but bright morning. My parents saw me off at the railway station and I started my long journey to RAF Cosford where my career as Air Photography Operator was about to start.

    It felt like it took forever to travel the 180 miles through London and up to the West Midlands, a journey I had made a few months previously, whilst in the Air Training Corps on a ‘see what you think’ visit.

    At last we arrived at Wolverhampton where we had to cross platforms and get on a rackety old train that would take us to our final destination and my new home for the next year Royal Air Force Cosford, home, then, of the only indoor athletics running track in the country often seen on the TV.

    There were quite a few ‘newbies’ on that final train although I didn’t know it at the time I would be working, learning and having fun with some of the best chaps in the world. Still in contact with many of them and mourn the passing of others. We eventually arrived at our destination, cold, bleak and snowing slightly and we were asked to exit the station and head towards an awaiting coach that would take us to the infamous ‘Fulton Block’.

    We were each allocated a room on the ground floor and asked to select a bed and place our belongings in the wooden wardrobes beside the bed – one tall and the other half its height. Our beds weren’t made, but all the sheets and blankets were in a tidy pile. A standard metal framed bed with springs and a foam mattress, and a mat on the highly polished wooden floor

    All the NCO’s Cpl Jim Clarke and Sgt Gilligan were all very pleasant to us calling us Mr this or Mr that. Sgt Jim Pomoroy came later in the year and remained until the end of our course, as I think Sgt Gilligan, either retired or was posted.

    Our first mealtime beckoned and we all trundled off to the mess which was at the end of the corridor, we were directed to where our tables were and these were ours for the duration of the course. I don’t remember what we had to eat as the day was very full on and memory has faded a bit.

    In the evening we went up to the NAFFI for a drink, those of us that were old enough could get an alcoholic drink if I remember correctly and the younger chaps had to stay with tea, coffee or other soft drinks. I very rarely went up to the NAFFI after that.

    After returning from the NAFFI, we made our beds and prepared for the next day which was going to be very intensive, loads to take in and a milestone to start our RAF Career.

    We were awoken around 6am by someone playing on a trumpet, a sound I grew to hate very quickly. A quick visit to the Shower / Wash Room and get dressed ready for breakfast this I do remember all the usual bacon, eggs, sausage, beans, fried bread and toast etc. plus cereals of all kinds. Enough tea or coffee till it comes out of your ears, milk, and fruit juice. You could take whatever you wanted but you had to eat what you took, waste was frowned upon.

    After breakfast we returned to the room and made our beds and prepared for the rest of the day whatever it held in store for us. We soon found out when our Cpl Jim Clark courteously requested us to follow him to our official attestation into the Royal Air Force. We were all ushered into a large room on the 1st floor of Fulton Block where we all took the oath of allegiance I think it went something like this

    “I, Christopher James Mercer, Swear by Almighty God that I will be Faithful and bear True Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in Duty bound, Honestly and Faithfully Defend Her Majesty, her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all Enemies and will Observe and Obey all Orders of Her Majesty, her Heirs and Successors, and of the Air Officers and other Officers set over me.”

    From that time everything changed, no more Mr Nice guy, Mr this or Mr that!! it was something like “Right you ‘orible lot’ down stairs now and out onto the road line up in rows of 3 facing the building. We were then ‘marched’ off to get our haircut and pick up our bits of uniform and start our basic training. To be continued…


  2. Well done, brings back memories of so many years ago, (my “baptism of fire” was at Wilmslow then Wellesbourne Mountford). Was it really nearly 60 years ago? Time flies when you’re having fun!


  3. My story starts from the town of Ramsgate as a 16year old who at the time was an Aprentice Manager in a Mence Smith Store – now part of the Boots Empire.- I went to RAF Cardington for the weekend in spring 1960 with around 200 other 15 to 17year olds with the aim of joining the RAF as a Boy Entrant. After the medical & various tests, a small group of us were taken aside thinking that we were for the chop – but no we were the successful ones.
    September 1960 comes round and all my paperwork was sent to me with the instructions. I had previously had many happy times away from home at Scout Camps so was used to leaving home – but this was so different – it was permanent – not knowing what to expect but still very excited at my future career in the RAF. I am sure that we left London on a special “Troop” train full of future Boy Entrants – we arrived at Cosford Halt – a very modest station – in fact as it still is today. We were met buyer somebody called a Sargeant – a bit like a Grandad who was so kind man and helpful – even called us Gentlemen – he took us by bus to our lovely wooden hut – not one of the posh brick buildings – we were part of ITS. The very friendly Grandad Chap showed us around and was so helpful in every way. The first thing next day after a great breakfast was being taken to a very large hanger to swear in – 400 of us all joining up together. This was followed by an amazing experience from our nice Sargeant Grandad Friend who seemed to do a Jekyl & Hyde thing and had a total personality change into a very load shouting machine who instantly marched us off to the barbers – I was not bothered as I had a good hair cut two days earlier and told the barber – big mistake he took so much more off and seemed to enjoy doing it. One of our lot looked just like Tommy Steele with a great bushy blond mop – the glee in the barbers eyes still stays with me today – it was like this time that Samson had his hair cut and lost all his strength – this lads personality changed instantly.
    To make up for all this stress was the fact that I gained some of the best friends and comrades that I have ever had in my life and seven of us still meet up 66 years later – Cosford will always be a very special part of my life and I would never have changed that – Thank You RAF Cosford , the 41st Entry and all those involved in forming my early years in life. I truly believe this training and that of the Scout movement since my 8th birthday styled my life. Having been elected Deputy Mayor of Ramsgate and four weeks ago receiving the Honourary Freeman of Ramsgate – the first for 58 years – I give credit to these special 13 years @4 months I. The RAF Keep up the great work that you are doing.
    Boy Entrant of the 41st — Corporal Ralph Hoult from Ramsgate

    Liked by 1 person

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