Vol 4

Page 5




Allan George




Our mention of a young lad's life after  joining the Air Force's apprenticeship scheme bought quite a few letters about the times. Allan George, well known by a lot of people,  joined the RAAF in 1965 as a radio apprentice on 19 Appy, and is still in there (That makes 35 years continuous service - I think he just beats you Col). He writes:-


"Appies in the mid 60's were paid 10 pounds ($20) per fortnight. Up to, and including 19 course (my course), we had to sign up for the duration of our training plus 12 years service.  The two combined gave us about 14 years and 8 months. I understand that this was the longest return of service obligations in force at the time - including that for pilots or the academy.


From 20 course onward the sign-on period was halved to training plus 6 years.  We had to be over 15 and under 17 at enlistment.  Most of my course was over 16, but I was 15 and a bit and only about five foot nothing tall.  I started on size 00 uniforms and had to change them fairly regularly due to the growth caused by that "great food" that was provided to us by the Laverton Airmans' Mess, however, we did have free exchange of uniforms while Appies.


We were technically in our apprenticeship for five years but were treated as Airmen once we graduated, however, we didn't get our final certificates until the five year point.  In my case I was still not 18 when I graduated. In fact, I was still not 21 when I got back from Vietnam and could not legally buy a drink in my home state of WA and couldn’t vote anywhere, although those who went to Vietnam will recall we could vote there if you were under 21.  I did in the 1969 election I guess it was, we had a postal vote and I had no idea who we were voting for or which party they represented!!!



A bunch of us enlisted in Perth on Monday 11 Jan 1965 (but who's counting), there were 5 radio Appies and about 12 for Wagga. We were put up overnight at the Perth YMCA (an experience), then taken out to RAAF Base Pearce for a ride in a Herc. This was my first flight on an aircraft, and was much the same for most of the other blokes. We went to Richmond via Edinburgh where we overnighted, and I got to go to my first ASCO but only the dry side. Next day we dropped off the Wagga Appies then went on to Laverton where CPL Bruce Main met us and our world changed.  The first order I got was to have a shave, and at 15 years old I didn't need one?


Most of the other course members were there when we arrived, 35 in all at the start. 4 dropped out in the first month and returned home and another 4 left during the course. 27 of us graduated in August 67.  The second group of four that dropped out went across to “thicksville” as  Tels Tech trainees.  (Bob Measly, ??? O'Connel, ??? Vincent and Terry Hogan I think were their names)


Uniforms were issued and we were then supposed to pack up all our civvie clothes and send them back to our parents. However, we managed to find a way of keeping some in the ceiling of the blocks - just in case. For the first 3 months we were allowed Saturday morning in Melbourne in either our uniforms or our “Poof Suits” a double breasted jacket with the RAAF crest on the pocket and broad grey trousers and a Squadron tie that was wider than a dinner napkin.


After a month or so we were also allowed Sundays off, provided you were not on CT (corrective training). Before you got Sunday leave you were marched to the Church Service and if you did not go to church you spent an hour on the Bull Ring - consequently we were all very religious.  We also had religious instruction on  Wednesday nights. Padres A.J McAllister and J.J. White (John White was also in Vung Tau when I was there).


The first week was fairly quiet, as we were the only course at the school. After about a week the D I’s (one was big Fred Holtman who was not much older than us and had been in the Air Force less time) gathered us on the lawn and said that the senior course would be back the next day and things might be different. That was an understatement, difficult would have been more to the point. Boy, did things change then.  Needless to say we “sprogs” were the centre of their attention and found our sleep patterns not as regular as before. We were bunked up in 16 room huts, but apart from the block CPL/APP we did not have doors.  I guess that was so the senior course could make sure were sleeping well?


We went to RMIT each day at about 0800 and returned at about 1745 in time to get what ever the "thicks" had left us to eat in the mess. We had compulsory study each night Monday to Thursday for 2 hours.  Needless to say we were not allowed anywhere near the boozer.  Wednesday afternoons we had sport and again on Saturdays. We did not qualify for free phone calls home or any of that stuff. 




Bruce Purcell and Rolf Roelfsma (facing camera) outside appy Hut 451.



We did get two travel warrants per year, one in May and one at Christmas. We went by train and had to get over and back during the two week May school break. The West Aussies only got about 8 days at home and 6 days on the train (some of us would pay the extra to fly so we could get more time at home). North Queenslanders had a like problem.  19 Course was one-third cane-toads (If you did a survey of any course in the 60’s and 70’s it would be 1/3rd Queenslanders - see the back page - tb).  We had a bloke on our course (Woodmansey) whose father was the Police Commissioner on Nauru Island and he had to go the final part of his journey home by boat. He no sooner got there that he had to come back.


We had (???) to go to a girl's school in Essendon every second Friday or Saturday night for dancing lessons - with real live girls. Lowther Hall if I recall correctly. While there the hawk-eyed teachers were appointed to monitor any impromptu anatomy studies.  The girls had to be in the Hall before we arrived and were not supposed to be let out until we were on the buses and out of there.  However - where there was a will, there most certainly was a way..........


On the subject of pay, if in ‘65 someone had suggested that one day my annual salary would be higher than my service number I would have thought they were mad.


Allan’s story of life and times as a “brat” will continue next issue. In the meantime the RAAF Air Power Studies Centre, RAAF Base Fairbairn, ACT, (Ph 02 6287 6621) has published a book on the history of the Apprentice and Engineering Cadet schemes, titled "From the Ground Up”. It costs $17.95 incl. postage.



Ken Barr (ex-34 RMT) at the recent Brisbane reunion.



Visitor Counter
Counter since March 2017



Back      1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Forward