The following was edited from an e-mail sent on 19/7/11.
I was called up in February 1952 and, after failing Aircrew Selection at Hornchurch, was shipped back to Padgate for my initial training.
At the end of the "square-bashing" it was decided I would be a Clerk/Accounts and I was posted to RAF(Unit) FTC (Shinfield Park) outside Reading.
The "other ranks" were billeted in antique Nissen huts at Whiteknights Park, which was a mile or so down the road from Shinfield. Being a new boy I was given a bed space farthest away from the pot-bellied stove in the centre of the hut and nearest the draughty door with the likelihood of waking up to find rain or snow had come onto the bed.
Each working day we were transported, by lorry, to Shinfield, where I was working in the Unit Accounts Office trying to master the delights of airmens' pay and allowances etc. so that I could pass my trade exam for AC1. I had just settled into the boredom of the work and started to make friends when the Squadron Leader in charge called me into his office and said that the Command Accounts Officers required a clerk and that I, being newest, had volunteered!
I duly moved up the hill and reported to the Command Accounts where I found I would be working with four civil servants and reporting to a group captain, a wing commander, two squadron leaders and a flight lieutenant. It was the job of these officers to regularly visit the other bases in the Command and audit their respective accounts and pay systems.
After the initial disappointment of being away from my new friends in the unit office, I soon settled into the various facets of the new job, which had very little to do with accounting and much to do with supporting the working life of the officers. I became very familiar with Queens Rules and Air Council Instructions and an expert in planning time-saving trips, for the officers, using Bradshaws Railway Guide. I eventually made LAC.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and it was made even more comfortable when Whiteknights Park was closed and we all moved into the new barrack blocks at Shinfield. Two- and four-bed rooms, central heating, hot water in the washrooms and the canteen just across the road. All this and good company. What more could a young airmen want? Oh yes, the WRAF block was next door and I had a romantic liaison with a young Anglo/Burmese aircraftwoman nicknamed "Petal".
It was with some regret that I left there when my two years National Service ended.
© Andre Francis 2020