(Post by David Bishop, from Oxfordshire, March 2021)
I left Bearsden Academy in June 1974, shortly after trouncing somebody in Athletics’ and winning the Sports Cup. I was surprised I was even allowed to take it home for the night – never saw my name engraved on it; never seen the Sports Cup since!
I made the decision to leave school in my 4th year and follow my dream to become an Air Traffic Controller. I was too young to join the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) or as an Officer in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as you had to be the minimum of eighteen. The next best course of action, was to be an Assistant Air Traffic Controller in the RAF, then become an Air Traffic Controller, so that is what I did!
On the 27th August 1974, I swore allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors at the RAF CIO on George Street and departed on the 28th to RAF Swinderby via Glasgow Central Station. What an eye opener it was to become.
During my time at Swinderby, I learnt the importance that was placed upon discipline, teamwork and self-reliance. Not forgetting the dreaded Gas Chamber, to give us confidence with our respirator. Okay, it was only CS Gas but it is a great cure for a cold. I went in with a cold (respirator worked), we had to walk about the Chamber, then we had to take the respirator off and give our full name and Service Number, as per the Geneva Convention then we were allowed out – we ran for the exit with streaming eyes, runny nose, and feeling like death, but after blowing my nose, my cold had gone!
What they did not tell you was amazing. I learnt how to make a bed pack out of 3 blankets and 2 sheets wrapped in a bed sheet. If it wasn’t good enough, then out the window it went, no matter the weather. Also, how to clean shoes… The toe caps were like mirrors and you could shave with the crease in your trousers, this was discipline. I could relate so many ditties, but you don’t have a sandbag!
The other notable point that I can print, we had one lad who was a constant fidget, the bugger would not keep still. This ‘upset’ our Corporal Drill Instructor, so he was called out and nailed onto the grass with 6 inch nails. After a couple of hours he was ‘released’, much to our amusement.
An interesting point about our Corporal Drill Instructor, his nephew, he told me, was a couple of years below me at Bearsden Academy! So, if anybody knew a Cpl Smith, later Warrant Officer Smith, Station Warrant Officer at RAF Abingdon, let me know.
Years later I met him at Abingdon, on a liaison trip from Brize Radar (we did the Radar for them) when booking in my car at the Guardroom, he was there… He actually referred me as ‘one of his boys’. I was so pleased I had a haircut that weekend! Sadly, he committed suicide years later, somewhere in Scotland. If you know where he died and his last resting place, let me know please, quite a few people are interested.
Rest in Peace W.O. Smith, you taught us well.
After eventually ‘Passing Out’, I went on a week’s leave. All my mates were at School and really, we had nothing in common then. So I departed again, this time to RAF Shawbury for (at last) my Trade Training.
All this was completed in 6 weeks and quite a few evenings. Pressure, pressure, pressure was the name of the game. Unfortunately no printable funnies, but I did have a few under age pints. Oh yes, to escape the pressure, I watched on Sundays, the series ‘Planet of the Apes’.
On the Monday we were due to finish, we filled out a sheet, as to where we would like to be posted too. This was referred to as a ‘Dream Sheet’, you will find out why soon enough. Being an Englishman from the South Coast, I put down Manston in Kent, Northolt in London and Thorney Island on the coast in Hampshire. So when I was posted to RAF Lossiemouth, near Elgin it came as no surprise to me!
Christmas came 2 weeks after and on New Year’s Eve, a mate suggested I join him at the Bookies. Reluctantly I agreed, I had nothing else to do. As I waited outside while he put his bets on, I noticed a horse called ‘Bishops Serf’ running, odds were 33/1… My mate said, “it had no chance”, so I put my last pound on to win. It actually won… I received more money than my monthly pay which was £28…
The last recollection that I can print, which related to my visit with my girlfriend in 1989, when I did a tour of the Highlands to remember where I went to on my 1st posting.
Well the hotel bar I used to frequent, I should say now, the hotel lounge bar, had changed quite a bit over the years. This place was my Elgin bolthole, I never ever took any of my girlfriends to this bar and this place was mine, so over our drinks I related this story to Carol. ‘One evening drinking with the lads about where we are sitting now, one of my mates said, “Hey Bish is that not so and so?”
“Bugger yes it is.” I said.
I said “Hi” to her, as she was with some friends, I didn’t invite her over and then my worst nightmare happened. Not one but two of my current girlfriends walking in, all in their various groups. So in the same place and time, we had the three (3) women I was going out with at the time, in a bar that I have never taken any of them too, together at the same time within 10 feet of each other. My first action was to leg it to the toilets to appraise the situation and see if could get out without being seen by the other two.
No chance the windows in the toilets were barred and no way out apart from walking through the bar. Bugger, bugger, bugger, no way out without being seen, thankfully one of my mates comes in and said “what’s your plan then mate?” I blankly stared back and he said “you are so screwed!” So I went back to join my mates at the table and try and wing it out of this situation I was in. All I could think of was just to grab my coat and sneak out. The best laid plans always go wrong, first one girlfriend, then the second and finally the third joined me at our table. A little scene happened with each woman saying how do you know him? He is my boyfriend, no he isn’t, he’s mine etc. and all I could do was try and slip under the table. Trouble is I failed, one slapped my face, the other slapped the other side and the third chucked my pint at my face, saying something like, “that’ll cool your face down”! The whole bar burst out into laughter!’
At that point, Beverley was in fits of laughter as well; and sprayed me with her drink… I then politely reminded Beverley that people are looking, but not as many as on that fateful night and I had not finished the story yet. ‘As I knew the manager back then, he chucked my shirt into the tumble dryer and gave me a towel to dry off. He said the bar and residents have not had such a good laugh for years!
(A few of the Aircraft I worked with: Shackleton, Jaguar, Gannet (849 NAS), Wessex, Chipmunk, Devon, Jet Provost Mk3 & 5, Phantom, Lightning, Tornado, VC10 and Tristar (L101). Not forgetting countless Civvy aircraft.)