I had the dubious pleasure of graduating from Halton as a 20 year old substantive corporal airframe fitter. This was compounded by the fact that the posting I was given was to a Category 3 aircraft repair outfit – No 60 MU Aircraft Repair Flight (ARF). The minimum rank accepted on the ARF was J/T and the average age of the corporals was 30+.
As I approached RAF Church Fenton camp gates in my Austin A40 Devon Saloon it was a warm morning in September 1961. My posting instructions were to report to the No 60 MU Orderly Room. As I passed through the gates I saw a sign to No 60 MU which I was about to follow when something happened to delay that!
There was a raucous shouting: “That car stop at once, I say that car halt now”. I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a small, rather portly RAF corporal policeman running helter-skelter after me! I came to a halt; the window was down so I waited for him to catch up with me. Almost breathless, he told me that he was charging me with driving without due care and attention; failing to book into the guardroom on arrival; and finally, failing to stop immediately when ordered to do so by a superior officer. It was at this point I decided to get out of the car and counter these ridiculous suggestions. As I emerged I noticed his expression change as he saw the corporal stripes on my ex Halton serge blue tunic. I said I objected to him saying that he was the superior officer. I told him that I was a substantive corporal and that I suspected that he was either an Acting or Temporary corporal! His expression changed dramatically then; to a bright red hue as he rocked back and forwards on the balls of his feet in a complete quandary about what to do next! He then turned around and marched himself angrily back to his guardroom.
Being left to my own devices I made my way to the 60MU orderly room, filled in the paperwork, and was then told that the OC, Wing Commander Dunphy wanted to see me. I was to go to the outer office where I would meet his batman, a Geordie AC2 whose dialect I couldn’t understand. The door opened and I walked in, saluted and was asked to sit down and take my beret off. He explained the workings of the ARF commanded by an ex-brat Flt Lt Alderson and that as I was a full corporal without experience he was going to put me working with another ex-brat Cpl Tech Tony Dovner. He thought that I would be well suited to the cat 3 world with my Halton training and said he knew this because he had commenced his life as a brat at Halton as well. I was to make my way to the corporal’s canteen at the other side of the hangar and make my name known to Cpl Dovner. As I walked over the hangar floor I heard the conversation going on which said: “Have you heard the latest: there’s a brat from Halton posted in and that’s not all: he’s coming here as a substantive corporal! There was uproar. I thought now is the time to kill this so I walked in and said to them that they were talking about me! This quietened them down. Oh it’s you is it? Yes, I said. Is Tony Dovner here? Yes, came to voice from behind the tea counter I looked at him and saw that he was a tall elegant Gregory Peck look-alike!
That’s my story at the commencement of working life.