"Dear Mum" Chapter 17
I had only been in Cornwall for a few days, when I realised that the place was a favourite holiday destination. We had Newquay just down the road from the camp and there were hundreds of female holidaymakers coming and going, but a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ready “Tottie”. Then of course there were the local girls the “Oggies”. They were there all the year round of course, but only came into their own when the visitors had all gone back to where ever they had come from. The RAF used The Sailor’s Arms, in Newquay High Street. I got to know one of the barmaids there, she was from New Zealand, her name was Jan and we went everywhere together for a while. When the Sailor’s closed she was busy with clearing up for a bit and then a select group of customers used to pile back in and the bar was jumping for many hours to come. Being the boyfriend of a barmaid had a lot of advantages. The “Grockles,” which is the generic term for tourists in the West Country, could never understand, why, when they had been standing at the bar for half an hour trying to get served, by merely winking at the barmaid I could get immediate service. Jan had a little red Sunbeam Talbot and if it was wet we used that and if it was nice, which most of the time it was, it being the West Country and not Northern Ireland, we used my Triumph. I only went fast when I was on my own. More or less. It was a very nice summer.
29th. October, 1962. RAF St. Mawgan.
Dear Mum, as you can see from the address I am still here. Last Tuesday the Cuban Crisis flared up and until Thursday, we were going there and you can imagine the flap. All the aircraft to be put serviceable and loaded up with spares, Khaki Drill etc. to be issued, packing etc. Then Thursday we were told that it was all off and we were still going to Canada. Then Friday after packing cold weather equipment and clothing we were told that everything was off! Anyway then there was a rumour that we will be going to Ballykelly! Big Deal! However today the news is very good and we may be going to Canada after all. We still have tropical and cold weather kit.
I met a girl called Wendy. She was extremely slim. She was clever, with a good job and a little car, - a local with a strong Cornish accent and I found her one of the sexiest girls I have ever not made love to. We used to go out in her little car and neck for hours. She was a girl of strong principles and even though I think I was ready and able at this time, we never did it. She had the shapeliest legs I had ever seen on an English girl. Her legs were so thin that her stockings were a bit loose. But it looked so good. I was starting to lust after her. It went on for a few weeks and then I went off on one of my detachments and did not see her for a few months and then out of the blue I heard she was married.
The Squadron life was a lot like 210. Except that the Station was a lot better and the location was infinitely better. We had a nice crowd, the same sort of detachments and work and I soon fell into a routine. I was a Corporal now too and so I had my own room, albeit small. I had enough money and firmly fixed in my mind was the thought that when my five years came to an end, then I was going to go abroad as a Civvy. Singapore had done that much for me. I could fill up my motor bike on 145 octane AVGAS whenever I wanted to go a long way. It did not do much for the valves, but it went a treat and the big advantage was that it was free. Romeo, who actually used to race motorbikes while he was in the Far East, used to put a squirt of Castrol “R” in his tank every time he filled up to make it smell nice. It certainly did that. Several of our mates started to do it. One bloke overdid it and he put so much in that the cumulative effect was that it did not all dissolve in the petrol and one night, coming across Bodmin Moor, the level of the oil in his petrol tank came up over the reserve petrol pipe to the carburettor. It was the longest walk he had ever done pushing a heavy motorbike.
It was about this time that I passed my car test. I had one or two lessons and as I had been riding Motorbikes since I was about 12. I did not have much trouble. In fact I was so well prepared for the emergency stop that as soon as the tester banged his hand on his clipboard, I was on the brake and he fell on the floor. I apologised of course, but he was impressed. No seatbelts then either. He asked one trick question – How would you turn right off a Motorway? The M1 had only recently opened and when I said I would look in the mirror, indicate right and if all clear pull over, he had the decency to warn me I was wrong and passed me anyway.
21st. January 1963 RAF St. Mawgan,
Dear Mum, Once again it is all off. We heard Wednesday that we were not going to S. Africa. We are getting to be the laugh of the Station. The Penguin Squadron, - All Flap and no Fly. Today at 8.30. (Sunday) we were all dragged out of bed to go snow clearing. We had about 4 inches last night and it had drifted all over the place. In Cornwall!
While I was on 201. Detachments were coming up all the time. We nearly went to Canada, and South Africa. We got kitted up to go all over the place, only to be told at the last minute that it had been cancelled. We had the normal detachments to Bodo, Gibraltar, back to Ballykelly, up to Kinloss, in Scotland, to Maine in the USA and the best of the lot, 3 months in Nassau, in the Bahamas. We took 4 Shackletons, 80 men and stayed in a Luxury hotel, - the Royal Victoria, with a 10 US$ a day extra allowance and working every other morning. It was the detachment to end all detachments.
The detachment to the New Brunswick Naval Air Station near New Brunswick, Maine, in April, only lasted for 10 days. There could not have been many Englishmen visiting Maine in those days, as the locals had never before seen real Englishmen. They could not get enough of us and we had invitations out from four or five families every single night of the stay. Everyone we met had some sort of connection with the old country. “Hey, I used to know a guy called Fred from Liverpool, I can’t remember his other name, but maybe you know him.” They seemed to think that England was a tiny little village, where everyone knew everyone else. What they lacked in general knowledge they certainly made up for in hospitality.
The USAF had divided every trade into minute details and to service their planes they had about 100 different specialities. We had Airframes, Engines, Electrics, Radio (Radar and Wireless), Instruments, Armourers and Photographics. They had specialists to do each one of about 6 different bits of Radar equipment. Once more we had a lot of contact with the local girls. Two of us were at a bar one night with a crowd all hanging on our every word, when it was decided that we would go to another Base for a drink at another bar. The girl I was sort of with, had the car and said would I drive? When I got outside I saw that it was a gigantic Ford Thunderbird. Wow, would I drive? It was snowing hard and we went only about 3 or 4 miles with everyone screaming at me to get back on the right side of the road. Luckily there were very few other cars about and it was hilarious. I can’t remember how we got back that night, but I was still a virgin.
The summer of 1963 was beautiful. I had Jan, the New Zealand Barmaid, on my books and I met a lovely blond from St Austel, called Lynn Cheesewright, - she was a bit sensitive about her surname. She was into horse riding and loved my motor bike, so we were always going of to the beach on the South coast of Cornwall. She actually lived in a little village called Mevagissey. She persuaded me, somewhat against my better judgement to go with her when she went riding. The only horse they could find for me that was big enough was a gigantic lumbering carthorse named Timber. In spite of my size, this massive animal dwarfed me and even though it was quite docile, once it broke into a trot, I found it completely uncontrollable. I hate to think what would have happened if it had managed to canter.
The ride lasted about half an hour and I only survived by allowing Timber to follow Lynn on her horse all the way round the ride. There was nothing else I could do in any case. I don’t think he really knew I was there as he ignored all my attempts at control. I did learn to ride later in The Gulf and once I had mastered the principles I always looked back on this first attempt with some amusement. It was not exactly funny at the time. If I had fallen off I would have needed a parachute. Lynn and I lasted some time, but as usual when nothing seemed to happen we drifted apart.
28th. September 1963. RAF St. Mawgan.
Dear Mum, We are going to the Bahamas tonight. That is the very latest anyway and of course we have been very busy getting all the spares ready for it. Anyway the next letter will either be a postcard, or me “n” disappointed.