Back Row (left to right) Robinson, Scolefield ( CT'd), Horton, Barnes, Drew, Storer, Furness, jackson, Newman 124.
Front Row: Heaney, Thompson, Tim Smith, Burnell, Price Stephens, Finnigan, Yates, Kirby, Chapman
top row l to r Chris Phillips aka Cheesewire (civvy st), Roger Livesey, Steve Suckling, Jerry Horn (civvy st), Harry Ward (225), Alan Samuals aka Sam, John Brooker, Trevor Jenkins aka Jinx, Paul Davies
bottom row l to rJohn Bent (225) yours truly, Paul Bickley aka Bugs, Alan Tranter, M.O. Emerson aka Doc, Kevin Church, Kevin Wynn (225 then civvy st), Peter Dray, Eric Grummitt, Paul Newman (225 then transferred to maritime)
It was thirty years ago and the passage of time and a surfeit of malt whisky has dimmed the memories but I will attempt to recall as much as I can. Apologies in advance for incorrectly spelt names.
224 entry was born on September 7th 1971. As I recall, there were 61 assembled in the NAAFI to sign the yellow form, followed shortly afterwards by a `smart` haircut and lunch for the first time in Fulton Block. I had never had `lunch` before and was surprised to find that it resembled a small dinner where I came from.
We were appointed our accommodation on the top floor, C Flight of Fulton Block. This would be our home for the next two years. Shortly afterwards, we were taken to the stores which I think were in G Lines where we collected holdall, shoes, boots, shirts, PE kit, beret, blue webbing belt and overalls. We were also `measured` for our uniforms although I suspect the tape measure used fell somewhat short of industry standards. Back to the block where we changed into this ridiculous outfit. I think we spent about two weeks wearing the overalls, this being a cunning plan to make sure that every other apprentice knew that you were `sprogs` and took great delight in making sure they called you the name at every opportunity.
I think we then went to the bedding store (I Lines ?) where we picked up blankets, sheets, pillows and a quite magnificent `counterpane`. This resembled granny`s curtains and smelt a bit like them too. Instructions about do`s and don`ts as an apprentice followed, the most significant things being never to talk to green shit, add Sir, Corporal or Sergeant to the end of every sentence as appropriate and the beer bar was out of bounds to anyone under 18.
Following this, we packed our civvies into the holdalls which were then locked away. Your`e in the Air Force now we were told, in case anyone had not noticed !.
The administration of 224 was carried out by Flt. Lt Bing, Sergeant Harvey and Corporal Newman (I think that was his name). We may have started with a different sergeant but I am not sure. Bing was a nice guy who`s previous posting was flying Gnats at valley. Sgt. Harvey was harsh but decent. He had been trained in the art of mental torture and the Iraqi Secret Police would have been proud of him. Cpl. Newman was a short forthright jock whose sole purpose in life was to make people walk in a co-ordinated fashion called marching. By August `73 we were as good as any of them and better than most. I don`t know what happened to Newman, he is not in the passing out picture. I think he might have been de-mobbed or posted.
I was in Air Comms, AKA C Class. We were, and I recall this straight from memory, Bent, Bickley, Brooker, Church, Davies, Dray, Emerson, Grummitt, Horn, Jenkins, Livesey, Newman, Samuels, Suckling, Tranter, Ward and Wynn. I suspect I will never forget that class listing as it was called out at least five times each day. I am missing one name from the class photograph, I apologise to whoever I have left out. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Over the years, I think we lost about 9 in total. I think about two of 224 vanished within a week. I`m not sure what happened to them, I suspect they were just not cut out for apprentice life and were handed a travel warrant and their civvies. Another four changed trade (two drivers, a clerk and one went to Halton), a couple were CT`d and one or two were down entried. We also inherited a couple from other entries.
We had our characters. Pete Dray (middle, front row) would go on to be the sergeant apprentice and was always immaculate in his appearance, even in his pyjamas. We all suspected he had tapes on them but never found out for sure (only kidding Pete). `Timmy` Thomas (back row, third from right) was in my room and could fart for England. After lights out, Timmy would entertain the room with a selection of numbers from his repertoire. I think Timmy also held the record for rolling the thinnest cigarettes. My mate Kev Church (middle row, fifth from right) was also in my room. This man had the sex drive of a rutting stag and spent most of his time recalling previous exploits or planning future ones. Jenkins won the scruffy award hands down. I used to marvel at the way he could don his battledress and transform himself into a burst sofa. I think he did it to wind Sgt. Harvey up. It clearly worked as I recall on one occasion, Harvey threw his bed pack, webbing and boots out the window. If you don`t believe me check him out, back row, second from right. John Price-Stevens (middle row, third from left) would become the first one in the entry to own a car. It was a pity really because he couldn`t drive. He practised by driving round and round the car park at the café in Codsall, on one occasion, actually falling out of the car whilst it was in motion. He was a good lad though because it was him who lent us the car battery used to detonate the smoke bombs at our passing out parade. Alan Tranter looked like a spider and was a magnificent climber. I once saw him do a circumference of the C flight corridor without touching the floor. He came to visit me at Brize Norton a couple of years later on a Honda 400 Four. It dwarfed him. I think `doc` Emerson became the most busted apprentice on the entry. I think he was made up twice or possibly three times, I believe once he got as far as corporal before returning to the ranks. Yours truly didn`t do much. That`s me, fourth from the right, middle row. Haven`t changed much although considerably thinner on top. Roger Livesey`s claim to fame was that his folks knew Max Bygraves. Roger (back row, fifth from right) had a great fondness for music and drumming. He introduced me to the big band sounds of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and the like. To this day, whenever I hear any of the old big bands, I remember Roger, fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth, beating the daylights out of his locker. I remember Roger only smoked Guards cigarettes. He was also a very keen film buff, and after lights out, would ask questions about who was in what film etc. etc. I believe Roger may have invented the trivia craze without knowing it.I have many memories of my time at Cosford. I remember the cinema (the Astra ?), the swimming pool and the climbing wall. I can still smell the aeroplanes in the hangers over airside and the smell of the polish applied liberally with bumpers to the floors. I also remember the `bollock rot` you got from walking on the polish in bare feet. I remember the giant toasters in the mess which must have turned out millions of slices of toast over the years. I remember the great apprentice sport of `stacking` beds. Usually performed after lights out, the unsuspecting victim would be upended, ending up in a heap of blankets and ironwork. I remember creeping round the heating ducts under Fulton Block and `Roof Running`, another popular, if dangerous apprentice sport. I remember some of our lads getting a kicking from some skinheads coming back from Wolves one Saturday night. I remember the TATB jabs we got down in sick quarters. I think about half of us ended up in bed from that jab. I remember sleeping under parachutes near Lake Bala and walking miles down the railway track to get a beer and some fish and chips. Happy days. I remember the night before passing out, creeping around the square planting our smoke bombs made out of coke cans, weedkiller and sugar. They were wired with cables ripped out of the old Radio Cosford network on the roof of Fulton Block and fused with detonators hand rolled from match heads and black powder. When we set them off next day, Sgt. Harvey was purple. We had a shield made for the entry. I believe the motto was "It came off in my hand chief" or something similar. I have lost mine but I think we had a lot made. After passing out, I only ever saw a couple of the entry again. I kept in touch with Kev Church for a couple of years but have long since lost contact. Alan Tranter came to visit me at Brize and I saw Doc Emerson at Lyneham a couple of times. I left the mob on the 15th December 1976 and have not knowingly set eyes on any of them since. The 14th of August 2003 will be the 30th anniversary of 224 passing out. Maybe, just maybe, we could generate enough interest to mount some sort of reunion. I would be prepared to act as a first point of contact to measure the level of interest. If there is anyone out there who thinks it might work and is prepared to form some sort of alliance to get it going, e-mail me. If it does not happen, so be it. My best wishes to any of 224 who happen by. If I have offended anyone by writing this missive, I apologise. I can only say in my defence I have not intended it. My thanks to Terry Hunt for hosting the site. Keep up the good work, I for one am glad such a site exists, even if just for old time`s sake.
26th February 2001
The night before passing out a group who were a bit worse for wear got into the swimming pool through a previously left open window and filled the pool with large balloons. We got a bit out of hand and got thrown out by modplods I think (bit hazy after all these years ) as we were getting a a bit to rowdy, skinnydipping and general merryment. There was supposed to be a big inspection the next day so hope it was more colourful than normal.
At some time just before passout some wag got white paint and drew big Snoopy on the lawn outside the fulton block offices. They ended up with the fire hoses washing it off the next day
Someone used to raid the kitchens so we could have a feast with some of the very big cans of peaches and pears.
Like Eric, I too was amongst those poor unsuspecting saps in September 71 who changed from being addressed as "gentlemen" to "you shower of shite" at the stroke of a pen, and then the meeting with Sweeney Sod, I had my hair cut a mere two days before but was still a long haired hippy to him and then there was one whose name I forget, I don't think he lasted long, who really did have long hair, out came the chrome garden shears, Sweeney laughed and the poor bugger cried. At least he lasted longer then the bloke in the next bed to me when the lights went out for the first time in C Flight, next morning he was gone, picked up his suitcase which was still unopened and walked to the Guard House in the early hours, ticket in hand he vanished into the night.
It is said when looking back you only remember the good times, and I do, but there are huge gaps between those good times that tell me things were not always sweetness and light, I do however recall the two weeks of jankers I did, sweeping all the rubbish and debris from under the cookers in the mess, only to have half of it pick itself up and walk away, that put me off going back for a second slice of rice pudding, you could have repaired roads with that stuff. Alas Eric has got one slight detail amiss, we were Sprogs till we had done 1 year and 1 day, whilst in the snug and comfortable one piece fashion statements we had to endure for the first few weeks we were Shit Sprogs.Sgt Harvey did come later, the one before him I cannot recall his name, however I do remember the Discip Cpl who showed us the ropes for the initial 6 weeks, Cpl Little, spelt with a C and pronounced bastard, had his peaked cap altered so the peak was on his nose from under which he glowered at everyone who dared to cross his path, we mastered (ha!) the art of bulling, blanko and the bed pack. I was in Room 95, the one nearest to the Naafi and the mess, it was here Cpl Little, all 5ft 4 of him, reduced a 6ft bloke to a wreck of tears, all due to his bedpack not sustaining the required 3 revolutions a good bedpack should, but literally fell apart when grasped, till he left, which was not too long after that fateful event, he was known simply as Abortion, I still to this day cannot think of his real name, I imagine that will haunt him to his dying days. However even he could not perceive the machinations of one Dennis Williams from Eastrey in Kent, who managed to get the Cpl to demonstrate the art of boot bulling with one of his boots and then feigning all innocence asked him to show him again with the other boot, 10 of 10 for cheek, it worked!
Oh the short cuts that were employed to get the perfect turn out, shaving the insides of the number two's along the seams to ensure a good crease, even rubbing on soap so the crease would stick together, it did however go spectacularly wrong when on parade in the rain someone's trousers began to develop soap suds, oops! The use of Dual floor polish, in neat form gently applied to the toes caps and left to dry was a favourite and one that worked, gleaming shoes the result. All fine till someone I cannot remember who took one stage further with the use of yacht varnish, worked fine right up until the point where he, on parade came to crashing halt and one toe cap veneer was left rolling about on the floor before his now very dull boot. Paul "Bugs" Bickley had the best shortcut ever, he used his contacts to obtain extra sheets and blankets which he sowed together with cardboard to make the perfect bed pack, which he shared with mates on jankers.
I met some great people, some who would share their last fag, some remained friends after they had parted from Cosford, some I met again later, Dennis Williams was best man at my wedding and still keeps in touch occasionally, I also met some that I wouldn't give the time of day too outside the boundaries of being stuck with them, I will not mention names. I too remember some of the pranks, one in particular was on Phil Barrett, who I believe now has his own company, well done that man. He had the habit of standing at the bottom of his bed and throw himself backwards, till one day all the springs were disconnected and the whole thing supported by cotton, so with his usual aplomb he threw himself back and straight through the frame, the sort of boyish pranks like this where a regular occurrence, like the water bombing of Ben the Squadron mascot that had a kennel below one side of the wing, he had a habit of barking at night, so water filled condoms had a penchant of falling from the skies, nothing to do with us, honest, into the kennel compound till one night the dog handler got a direct hit, the bollocking everyone got from Sgt Harvey and loss of weekend pass stopped any further action.
Phase two, the weeks holiday in deepest darkest Wales, just as Eric remembers, walking into Pandy for a beer and chips, before a route march to Blyner Pennant the next day, round the huge hill of Aran Fawddwy, hell of a steep road up and down, best night ever for comfort was the para teepee, next day to demonstrate the hunting traps we had made to catch food in survival situation, Paul Newman had put a ice lolly stick sign with BOO on it below a rabbit hole with the explanation to Flt. Lt Bing that when scared after reading the sign, the rabbit would yell out in fright and all he had to do then was wallop said rabbit over the head with his boot, as they say on Eurovision, Nil Point!
Before the first year we had only bikes as transport and I remember many a chippy run to Albrighton, 1p charge for chips, 2p for fish and 5p for half of chicken, they must have dreaded us going in, 26 chips, 17 fish and chips, etc. It meant my chips were paid for and also the person I borrowed the bike from, usually Steve Suckling the nicest scoucer I have ever had the pleasure of being in his company. One person I recall was both the luckiest and unluckiest guy I knew at the same time, he came from Ulster so before leave he had permission to grow his hair, unlucky because of his accent and fact he had a lisp, people on pay parade will know of whom I talk but a more genuine person I have to this day have yet to meet. Sgt Harvey went purple on a number of occasions one being the morning parade after the first showing of Monty Python at the Astra, we went on parade that morning in shirts sleeves, trousers rolled up and a knotted hanky instead of beret, he went ballistic! "My brain 'urts"
Anything or anyone that people could have a laugh at became an instant target, the butt of many jokes, including myself when I quietly asked for details on married quarters, yes I was just 17, but had met the lass I knew I would spend the rest of my life with, so Sgt Harvey's cruel streak manifested with a full Saturday morning lecture on the subject with lots of references as to why this lecture was being given, I think his lack of humour had something to do with him being married to a WAAF Discip, everything by numbers? But those who laugh last etc. Parents open day had Paul "Bugs" Bickley rushing into the room with descriptions of this stunning blond coming along the corridor, I put my hat on and left with the same stunning blond, touché. My wife of 37 years now.
Alas all good things etc.
I was down entryed to 225J, but still was invited to the pass out do in Wolves, where a very drunk Alan Tranter tweaked a strippers nipple, the resulting slap sent him flying, what a night. I met some again, Alan Samuals, Kev Church, Paul Bickley, Steve Suckling. Bugs later whilst at Sealand, dossed at my married quarters while he and his wife were waiting for their own, Kev Church was sat next to my week overdue wife at the cinema in Chester whilst we watched Confessions of a window cleaner and Blazing saddles, half way through he leant to her and said "you wont scream if anything happens will you?" My daughter was born next day.
Ah memories are made of this.
I will be going back to Cosford this year, almost forty years on to watch the airshow.
Best wishes to all there and thanks for the memories, there are so many more I could write a book.
The first Sgt was Newman, the Cpl was Jock McNee, I referred to some letter I had written my then girlfriend,ye gods did I write such guff then
I remember shaking hands with my dad (for the first time I think) as I left home to catch the train to Cosford. Arriving at the station and being met by Cpl McNee who asked “what trade are you laddie”, electronics I reply at which point I got my first lecture as he explained that the answer was either Radar, Comms or Nav Inst. This wasn’t the only time I was going to be red faced.
I recall us being taken to Fulton Block our home from home for the next 2 years. By the next morning we had already lost one guy who just seemed to disappear in the night. I was in the Radar class and remembering our trip to the barbers for that compulsory first hair cut. In our class was an Irish lad, suitably nicknamed Irish, who had long hair and the barber started with him cut one side then made him wait while the rest of us had ours done till he finished the job on Irish.
Those wonderful hours bulling the floors only for the senior entry (216) to smile as they slid delightfully down the middle of them with their boots on. Making bedpacks that you just knew would end up on the floor or worse still out of the window if the leading apprentice took a dislike to you. Worst of all “blanko” for the webbing belts and packs. For the life of me I couldn’t get the hang of this and would end up with a mudpacked effort that would be all cracked before the inspection. I too remember getting our kit issued, those wonderful denims and a greatcoat that according to the label was made the year I was born. I like John started in Room 92 but moved to one of the 5 man rooms and eventually to the one nearest the discip office which was not good as Sgt Harvey and myself had a love hate relationship; he loved hating me. Those days on the parade ground with Cpl McNee threatening to rip your arm off and smashing you with the soggy end, the tick tocking which only got worse the more you were shouted at. The fear that the guy behind you would faint with bayonets attached. I remember the room raids from the senior entries as they happily through everything about at early hours and you just wanted it to be your turn. Jankers, what a joy, only did them once myself but did have weekends confined to camp working in the mess, for several what I will call misunderstandings, during my time.