This is the beginning of the six-year period which had fun moments as well as scares.
The story of my six years in the Royal Air Force began on November 6th, 1974, when an eighteen-year old Alan Place turned up at the recruiting office in Bristol, from the moment I took the oath until I finished my tenure, six years later, I officially became a number and as any service man or woman will tell you, “You never forget your number.”
I joined up with five other lads from Bristol; Pete Brewer, John Amos, Brian George and two more whose names I cannot remember and it was not long after leaving the office I had the first of many encounters with service humour; I was asked by Pete, “What was I going to be?”
After many years of taking photographs, some of which my late father said were good-that was a real compliment as he hardly had a good word for me- fate destined me to carry on in the trade during my tours, “Photographer,” I replied to Pete’s question.
John decided to change to change Photographer to Pornographer, then-fortunately- decided they couldn’t call me Porno, so I got nick-named Pernod, the name stayed with me through basic training and trade training; it wasn’t until my first posting the name got dropped and I wouldn’t hear again until a few months before I came out; more about that in due time.
We got on the coach to go to Temple Meads train station and got our train which was heading for RAF Swinderby, Lincolnshire, to start basic “square bashing.”
This journey was the first time I had been on a major train journey and the longest trip since our family left Yorkshire in the winter of 1963, so I was on edge from the beginning; even if I was travelling with other people.
Things went to plan until we got to Nottingham and then the wheels came off the trolley. Pete saw a young lady and went to chat her up, making us late for the next connection from Nottingham to Grantham, fortunately the schedule wasn’t too rigid and the missed train didn’t matter too much as we had to wait for some lads from Scotland to arrive, before we set off in the back of the lorry for “Swinders” or “Swinditz” as the camp was joking re-named by our group.