91st Entry RAF Locking Apprentices

Golden 91st

This presentaion was given by Clive Crosby at the AGM of the RAF Locking Apprentices in March 2011 in recognition of the entry's Golden Passing Out Anniversary

Gentlemen, I have been asked to say a few words on behalf of the 91st Entry. I have been told this is the graveyard slot – everyone‟s' bladder is full or you need a drink or you are very sleepy. I should therefore add that there will be a short written test at the end of this presentation! These days, perhaps like most of you I only have a 10 second memory, however, today I would like you to travel back in time with me 50 years to a cold and frosty morning, you are wearing your Best Blue, greatcoats, flat cap, parade boots, white gloves and Blanco'd belt, you can even smell the Blanco! There is excitement in the air, you have been inspected half a dozen times - it‟s the passing-out parade 19 December 1961. Now I want you to take a quantum leap with me, we are going back another 3 years, this time it's Weston super Mare railway station; and it's raining. It‟s 21st January 1959. 136 boys are about to arrive to become the 91st Entry, some have only just turned 15, I am sure it would be child-abduction these days. We are from all walks of life and all over Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Southern Rhodesia and Malaysia. A fleet of RAF coaches take the boys to RAF Locking, their first contact with the Royal Air Force.
Two weeks induction, or thereabouts, Christian names all round , visit to the camp barber, jabs, sitting on a bench, shuffling forward, needle in each arm, issued with bits of uniform, dark green denims, 85th Entry nightly visits (they were not social calls), tipped out of bed - you know the rest. Then issued with our service number, 685211, I am sure you will all remember yours.
Eventually we signed up and took the Queen's shilling. We were perfect candidates, we had no hair, no clothes, no sleep and no name. The honeymoon was over. If I shouted at the top of my voice 'NCO' I wonder how many of you would spring to attention (remember that?) and of course 'GOOD MORNING, GOOD MORNING THE TIME IS 0630. Never to be forgotten after 3 years of repetition.
So it began, marching everywhere, parades all the time. The only good one was Pay Parade 'Salute, Crosby 211'. Our drill staff were Cpl Bullock and Sgt Flapper Atkinson. They must have drilled us well as we won the annual drill competition at least twice. Rick Atkinson emailed one of his many encounters with Flapper as follows:
'Flapper never remembered our names and was a notoriously bad speller. My time came when he advanced towards me on the parade ground with notebook screaming “you lad, what d'ya think you're doing what's yer name, what's yer name?” and before I could get it out - “ow d'ya spell it. 'ow d'ya spell it? “Atkinson Sarge – A-T-K.....purple rage, screaming 2 inches away from my face “think I can't spell me own name lad!”'
You may recall that in those days FLOOR POLISH was close to your heart, along with all sorts of other polishes. Mike Ford emailed to say that Day and Martin made the floor polish and it's been around since Dickens‟ time – he even mentioned it in Pickwick Papers. Apparently, Day and Martin supplied the military with polish for over 200 years. If you remember, we all slid around on blanket squares under our feet, polishing the floor.
We lost our boots one night; they all finished up on the sports field forming a large apprentice wheel. I am sure someone else got my lovely boots! Mike Ford also said that if anyone wants to rapidly boil water in a china mug with 2 knives, he is the man to talk to. However, there are two caveats – you could electrocute yourself or at the very least burn your house down. Talk to Mike. The entry put on several comedy reviews – 'How Appsurd' and 'Appsent Without Leave', to name but two.
To digress a little, Rick had organised a large table in the dining room last night for the 91st, needless to say when we arrived it had already been taken by a SENIOR ENTRY who shall remain nameless, nothing has changed really! During dinner, Nigel mentioned that he and others went to see the film Ben Hur whilst at Locking. He went on to say that Ben Hur spent a lot of time in the film as a galley slave and his stall number was 214 - Ian Davis's last three. This seemed to delight Nigel who obviously has an amazing eye for detail. Ben Hur's mantra apparently was HATE KEEPS YOU ALIVE. This all started because my room number at the hotel is 214!
Ian Morland was our Boxing Champion
Barney Harries was our Sports Victor Ludorum
It wasn't a happy camp. Poor Chris Donnolly was killed falling from a cliff to the beach below; it's a long story and great shame.
After our 2 day hike Don Donovan returned to find his tent had burned down. The Fire Picket had sorted it all out, there was little fire damage but so much water had been used that all the kit was ruined and he spent the rest of the camp in borrowed clothes.
We had all noticed an old very heavy WW2 mine on the beach as we passed by during our beach runs. It was all Rick Atkinson's fault really, he decided with helpers to clandestinely move the mine into the middle of Newquay, with a great big 91 painted on the side. One very dark night Rick and mates 'borrowed' one of the RAF Landrovers and somehow loaded the mine and delivered it to Newquay Park, a bit of damage occurred to the Landrover but the mine was okay! As you can imagine, the next day all hell let loose. Our Flt Lt Camp Commandant better known as Black Jack; paraded the whole entry, as he was doing so, he was informed that the RAF Landrover had been used and damaged. Things became quite tense, Rick's thoughts at this time, he recalls, was a long stay somewhere at Her Majesty's pleasure before being kicked out of the Airforce. The entry came to his rescue, we owned up en-masse. Punishment followed, we dressed in Best Blue and were doubled into Newquay, however, the 92nd who were sharing camp, rang ahead to the local press, we were turned around at the outskirts and doubled all the way back. It rained the whole time.
We eventually returned to Locking but Rick couldn't forget the mine so a group of us with Rick went back and brought the mine home. It was cleaned up and eventually paraded at the annual Boxing night. Jim Jackson dressed as Boadicea and the rest of us as slaves wearing nappies and a towel on our heads. We received a rapturous reception from staff and apprentices alike. The mine was eventually cemented in near our lines.
So we come back to that cold and frosty morning 19 December 1961; Air Commodore Disbury is the Reviewing Officer. 110 apprentices of the 91st Entry are on parade, they are men now, the boys have gone and we parade and have a Graduation Dinner that evening. The next day we all leave Locking and join the Royal Air Force.
Well, did we earn the Queen's Shilling, of course we did. We serviced the missiles, radar units, helicopters, aircraft, even flew the helicopters and the aircraft. So we became the Royal Air Force and maintained its standards, the ones thrust down our throats at RAF Locking. When asked where I trained, I would proudly say Locking Apprentice but more importantly I was a member of the 91st Entry.