Friday, 16 January 2009

Boys in blue

Fast forward seven years from the preceding post, and here I am again shamelessly parading in public, but watch out - this time I've got a gun.

In line with many boarding schools, ours had a Combined Cadet Force, compulsory, of course.

The boys who were seriously interested in pursuing a military career signed up to the infantry section, while the teckies headed for the Signals platoon.

All the toughs, oiks and alpha males (so it seemed to me at the time) ended up in the naval section.

Which left the RAF squadron to be made up of an assortment of pacifists, misfits, Airfix fans and random boys who had identified it as the least hideous option.

No prizes for guessing my choice.

Actually, though I would never have admitted it at the time, being in the RAF section was terrific fun. Outings to RAF stations (fab food in the mess), flights in training planes ('Take the controls, lad!') and field-day route marches ('We're lost.') more than compensated for the dreary routine of bulling of boots, polishing of brasses and square bashing.

The parade above was for Speech Day 1967, towards the end of my final term at the school.

Days before, the penny finally dropped that if one had to dress up and stomp around like this, then one might as well look as good as possible. At the very least, one owed it to one's fellow conscripts - and, let's face it, to one's audience.

And if that meant mirror-bright boots, knife-edge creases and pin-sharp responses to orders, then I was up for it.

I can't make any pretension to motivation based on military pride. To be frank, from my point of view this was the nearest I was ever going to get to being in a chorus line. And, if I could help it, I wasn't going to be the sad hoofer who was out of step with the rest of the line.

I'm in the centre column. Beret three sizes too big.

The boy yelling the orders (with admirable élan) is Witold Mintowt-Czyz, who is now a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon.


Mike Peatman said...

A splendid description, especially the Airfix fans bit.

latestarter said...

"...least hideous option."

What a good description. I ended up in the RAF CCF for much the same reasons.

The chance to fly in a little two-man Chipmunk was something to add to the list of life's achievments - recompense indeed.