Kitted out at Cardington shipped out to West Kirby for square bashing and then on to
Innsworth for trade training as Cook II. Innsworth was an endearing place not
at all like West Kirby where I had left all the high spirits and screaming
corporals behind - No!! Innsworth was the serious bit of service life - issued
with a full set of whites and aprons we looked the business. Our main
instructor was a Corporal Deat'h by golly this man knew his stuff and gave us a
real good grounding in the basic skills of cookery making basic rouse and
pastries eventually moving on to meats. Copious course notes and instruction
manuals gave us busy nights in with not a lot left for our previous leisure
pursuits although towards the end of the course I can vaguely remember getting
back from The Bat & Ball after consuming a good few pints of raw scrumpy, I
am certain that a good few of my favourite brain cells were left behind at that hostelry.
Picket duties guarding the Waafs quarters was not without it's dangers as the
little darlings used to lay in wait and abduct the unwary and heist him into
their ablution block for some kind of pleasure that they seemed desperate
for...the penalty for being caught in there was too dire to contemplate so I
was always on guard to escape that fate although trying to avoid staring at
deliberately scantily clad females through uncurtained windows was a real bind I can tell you.
Eventually the course ended and our postings were announced...I was to be
posted to Middle Eastern Command so all the jabs and dental inspections were
undertaken, I had to have three fillings and on the day i had them I came out
of the medical hut marching back to our billets, a small fragment of the
material was irritating my gums so I quickly spat it out whereupon I was
reprimanded by an Officer in an adjoining building and promptly issued with a
252 for spitting on the parade ground - my shambolic protest through swollen
lips made not the slightest difference and off to the main guardroom I went -
jankers for three day's ensued. After still more gear was issued from the main
stores which included K.D. and "Silk Pyjamas" (Wow) I was emplaned to
somewhere in the Middle East, destination unknown - an RAF Hermes took off from
Blackbushe airport and we landed at Valetta Malta for refuelling and then off
over the sea to Fayid in Egypt - landing at 04-30hrs we were shown a pile
containing army bell tents and an army Sergeant shouted the order to get a tent
- put it up - get a couple of biscuit mattresses and GET SOME KIP.....Welcome to Egypt.
We all had great fun sorting those tents out eventually we managed it and got ourheads down on those bug infested mattresses, just as we had settled there was ahigh pitched whirring and loud bangs as the Hermes we had arrived in startedits engines up and when all four of the beasts were whirring merrily the sandblew merrily at us from their slipstream when the engines were throttled
up to move off - the force blew the bell tents right across the sand leaving us all grasping our kit and hanging on for dear life - it was at this point the Sergeant arrived back laughing his head off and barking the order to get your kit together and marched us to the cookhouse for breakfast - this was where we were introduced to the wonderfully delicious tinned bacon and tinned sausages with margarine in a liquid state due to the heat despite being in a chatti - what price West Kirby after this place eh !!!...After three days acclimatisation and selections a full parade was organised with a few hundred RAF personnel - 8 of us were selected to remain and the rest was marched off - they were bound for duty in Aden...
I was interviewed by a selection Officer and informed that I would be going to RAF Ayios Nikolias in Cyprus the other seven were destined for Nicosia and Akrotiri - we were all Regulars -and as the main lot were National Service - they got Aden !!!!. I boarded a Viking of the Queens Flight (No Kidding) and did the short hop from Egypt to Cyprus crossing the beautiful turquoise blue sea eventually landing at RAF Nicosia Airport - 1955 saw the heightened Eoka Terrorist activities and as we threw our kit and ourselves into the back of an open topped Bedford RL the driver gave us some brief survival instructions - lay flat on the floor keep to the sides and don’t put your head above the sides or tailgate and if anything is thrown on board - throw it out as quick as you can !!! Welcome to Cyprus lads!!!.
Ayios Nikolias was a large sprawling camp with large cookhouses and dining rooms - this looked like a camp that would take a lot of feeding around the clock so I wasn't particularly looking forward to being there, again I was interviewed and my trade test results were evaluated and then I got the news that I was to be posted to a small radio station where the camp cook, a corporal Wise was time expired and due to return to the U/K so I got my kit together again and off we went to RAF Heraklis situated just a few miles outside Nicosia, this camp looked nice and manageable, only one guardhouse at the main gate with a short road up to the Cookhouse with a mess and living quarters attached...introduced to Corporal Wise resplendent in super bright whites who gave me a quick tour of the kitchen, stores and mess hall and then off we went to see the C.O. a Flight Lieutenant Murray who seemed a nice chap apart from a disturbing little "Hitler" type of moustache just under his nose meticulously trimmed to perfection, Flt Lt Murray was billeted in married quarters in Nicosia.
The cookhouse was a brilliant little unit fitted out with decent gas fired ovens and all the latest kitchen equipment, working in this environment was a doddle and I really appreciated the posting, on the down side was the tented accommodation I had been assigned but happily I was soon re-billeted into a brick dormitory after Corporal Wise had left for Blighty, it soon became apparent that living in a tent may well have been preferable as the nightly red
line of bed bugs made their way to your bed which as you know we fondly referred to as "our pit" - I was soon introduced to the wisdom of putting bed legs into tins filled with kerosene, a cunning plan to drown the little buggars....Opposite the camp were fields upon fields of cultivated black grapes and water melons dead handy for the mess extra's without any cost to Her Majesties Government, we all did our bit didn't we!!.
Life soon settled down into a regular routine with some fantastic nights spent in the camps homemade bar aptly named "Ye Stagger Inn" with bottles of "Keo" and "Komandarier St John" putting everyone into a jolly mood with the odd party games of who could stay hanging on to the ceiling fan the longest or "Sing or show your ring”, yes, life on active service had its moments to a young innocent man fresh from the cotton mills of Lancashire. Suez reared its ugly head and things started to hot up with "Big Nebbies" paying regular visits to check out our vulnerability in case of an attack, our vast weaponry in times of emergency or war consisted of a 303 Lee Enfield (of First World War vintage) and a clip containing 5 rounds issued to each man, as I was a Cook Corporal I got a Smith and Wesson 38 with leather holster and told to shoot through the kitchen fly screens if we were attacked, I wondered just how effective that would be with only five rounds in the chambers and a hair trigger to boot!! as it happened we did get buzzed overhead by a Russian Illusion bomber just before the sky filled with transport aircraft dropping trucks, jeeps and field artillery guns all just yards away outside the perimeter of our camp, it turned out the invasion was the French Army dropping from Nnord Atlas troop carrier aircraft, one or two of the G.M. trucks on parachutes never made it and came down like lead weights as the parachutes failed to work this caused some hefty thuds and ground shaking which was a bit disconcerting when I was trying to mash the potatoes ready for lunch and the last thing I wanted to do was make holes in the fly screen. The French Army re grouped and headed for the main gate of our little camp and that's when the fun really started as they were going to be bivouacked on our land with all their vehicles, so now the catering requirements were suddenly more than doubled and no one had even bothered to let us know they were coming soon, my kitchen was alive with the sound of French speaking army cooks, one in particular could speak very good English so I latched on to "Chicko" a five foot nothing Frenchman who was a decent cook, together we devised a great plan whereby we would take it in "Turns around" one day they would eat our food and the next we would eat theirs, our lads soon accepted the arrangement mainly due to the fact that the French didn't drink tea with their meals oh no, they only drank Vino which they brought in 5 gallon Gerry cans....suddenly Lunch and Dinner became more of a social event when the French were doing the catering but you should have seen them gesticulating when they had to eat our fare, on reflection these were very happy day's although at the time it was deadly serious alas the "French Armie Algerique" were carted off to invade Egypt and our little bit of comradeship was ended.
I have a myriad of tales mainly about my service time in Cyprus but alas, page space for the "Cooks Site" is limited so I will sign off whilst the goings good...
Following item sent in by Ian (Swin) Swindale03/05/2012
On leaving home to take the Queen's shilling I enquired of my father (ex-flyweight champion of the Indian Army and a 26-year Pongo) "So, how does it work ?" "Oh," he replied, "Easy really; make friends with the cooks and the police; get on all the sports teams you can; keep your nose clean oh, and NEVER volunteer !" Great advice which stood me in good stead - but I always found that volunteering was good fun and, usually attracted more pay, leave and excitement.
What larks! As a former ATC cadet, and, by extension being able to dress myself unaided, I had to "get them nasty Airmen" (110 in `C' Squardon) from A to B ie from the gym to sick quarters for their jabs. How times have changed ! Everyone standing in the road with their left sleve rolled up and along came the white coats sticking their pins in all, except "the boxing team to the front"! As we jogged back someone asked "Does it hurt Swin?" "Not at all" said I, at which he fainted dead away!
I was an athlete, rugby player and Warwickshire Wing ATC boxer. Sadly, the news got back to the PTIs and I was put in the inter-squadron boxing competition held in th PT/Drill hangar, There's a picture in your photos, of five DIs; the big chap on the right approached me and said "Right Lofty! All our wages are on you, so make sure you do the stuff, or your life won't be worth livin'." Welcome to the Olympian spirit!
Although not as sacrosanct as it is held in the Army, being on the boxing team had it's rewards (see Dad's comment above!) and after squaring our bedspace away after breakfast, we used to run down to Moreton - funny how no one has mentioned the dance (and fights) at The Haigh Hall, - have a leisurely coffee and jog back for drill having missed morning billet inspection - nice!
Funny how you never remember the `rainy days'; I know being called up wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I heard an awful lot of chaps say "Well I hated every minute, but it did me the world of good and I'm glad I did it". Personally, although a `Regular' I found that if you made the most of the experience, the RAF had a lot to offer; education opportunities were boundless and one could gain any qualification, likewise sporting opportunities; I played rugby for the Service and was RAF discus champion which, being in the RAF team took me all over the place and got me into the England athletics team.
Being a cadet had taught us weapon training so, the extra sixpence a day for being a marksman was very acceptable, it was, after all, half a day's pay ! Pummel, pleading ignorance, wound up the sights on his bren gun and sprayed the funnel of a passing tug boat... "gutrs for garters and feet won't touch were phrases utter from the RAF Regiment instructors who looked after our Ground Combat Training. Great lads but, I wasn't mad about the gas chamber where the they would show us the delights of breathing CS gas without the protection of the gas, mask and always before we went off for a 48hr pass !
I went on to become a PTI; and was Commissioned from RAF Duxford onto aircrew but "Square- Bashing" was the basis of my RAF career and always held good memories of commerarderie and "All-in-th-same-boat" mentality and teamwork. Thanks chaps for good times and good pals. Yours aye, Swin