Vol 5

Page 5




Allan George


Allan George continues his memoirs of the life and times of an RAAF Radio Apprentice in the mid 60’s.


In first year a typical day started at 0600 when we got up (there was a reveille call over the PA but if you slept in until then you were going to be late). It was then into the showers, clean your room, down to the mess for breakfast, then back and ‘panic’ the common areas (on Tuesday mornings we got a special panic because the CO inspected). The poor blokes who were on corrective training (CT) had to do half an hour of running, marching etc down to CPE and back again, starting at 0630. And in the winter this wasn’t much fun. As first year “brats” we had to make up a bedroll each day.  Some guys had acquired extra sets of bedding and would just pull the bedroll out from their wardrobe and leave the bed made up. Once all the cleaning was done you changed into Battledress uniform for a short parade at about 0745 and then it was onto the buses for the trip into RMIT at about 0800.  On Tuesday we also had the full RADS CO’s parade, so we started at RMIT a bit later.  Somehow you also had to fit in sick parade if required.



The trip into Melbourne each morning on the bus was generally a relief provided you did not have to get on the senior course’s bus.  On our bus, which needless to say was always the oldest, you could get a little bit of extra sleep (always needed), or check out the “talent” along the way, or sing all sorts of songs that hormone rich ‘men’ of that age did.   Sometimes the trips were longer, many an hour was spent in traffic jams on New Footscray or Dynon Roads.


While at RMIT, our lunch was provided at the Russell Street Postal Exchange (PX) which was up past Bourke Street.  This was a fair old walk so we would have the Russell Street Grand Prix each lunch time as we fast walked to the PX each day. (We were’t allowed to run, that was considered most un-apprentice like).


We departed RMIT each day at about 1700 arriving back at Laverton in time for a short parade, (another one). This was when the DIs handed out more CT for what they found, or didn’t find, in our rooms during the day. Eg. if they found you had not stripped your bed down to make a bedroll, you would find your bed linen scattered all over the room and you had some extra CT for your trouble.


Then we were marched to the Mess to get whatever the ‘thicks’ had left us.  One night we were not marching well enough and our DI, one Fred Holtman (him again—tb) threatened us with half an hour’s extra drill. So—we played up some more, and sure enough we got it, however, by the time we got to the Mess, we were late, the evening meal was off (Fred was in for it) and there was no food left. They gave us freshly cooked steaks!


After dinner most of the young hormone rich lads would spend a precious half an hour of free time watching Denise Drysdale (Ding Dong) “go-go dancing” on some TV show.  This was followed by 2 hours of compulsory and supervised study to 2100.  We had the “rest of the day” free - to do our washing, ironing, spit polish shoes, write a letter home etc.  If you had a spare five minutes you could duck over to ASCO for a coke and lime, no beer!!   We also got a supper at about 2130.  At 2200, I guess it was, we had ‘lights out’ piped, which just meant that was a signal for the senior course to start their night’s entertainment on the sprogs. It really was a full day.


We went to RMIT for two years, but after the first year somehow life got a little easier, even if the studies didn’t. In our third year all our studies were conducted at RADS.


Being perpetually broke, we were always looking for ‘cheaper’ alternatives. Who could forget the "two bob" barber, FSGT Don McConville I think it was, a TELSTECH from RADS who came over every Monday night to give us hair cuts.  He was pretty good too compared to Jack the Ripper who used to have his barber shop in the Service Station end of the ASCO canteen. Jack drove a white Studebaker Lark and had a sign is his barber’s shop which said “hair today, gone tomorrow’. (He had another one too—If your hair is not becoming to you, you should be coming to me—tb)


You may recall there was a hedge around part of the Mess and around all of the WRAAFery. Well that hedge had two purposes—but we’ll go into that next issue:


Allan’s memories will continue next issue.



Strange things you hear.


In a fish shop.  “Can I have 2 dim sims, $2 worth of chips, 1 chiko roll and three potato scallops – no salt thanks”

As if the salt is going to hurt you compared to eating all that other stuff………...



Astute reader noticing the photo (above) of Win and Bill Coyer in our last issue asks whether the startled look on Bill’s face is because he’s just been sprung.  We’d also like to know what Win is saying to him.........is it  “Bill Coyer, I’m going to count to 5 and if you haven’t moved your right hand by the time I get to 5 you’re really going to cop it - 1, 1½, 1¾.....



The Caribou.


A recent issue of Air Force Today featured an article on that trusty old war-horse—The Caribou. It said that in order to keep it flying for another hundred years, the RAAF has amalgamated 35 and 38 Sqns  into the one unit now stationed at Amberley. We think that 35 lost out, and the now bigger unit is called 38Sqn. Air Force Today didn’t say how the amalgamation would allow the RAAF to continue to fly the A4, perhaps they need a few on the back line for Christmas tree-ing. It seems though, that no-one can make a replacement.


Anyone who spent time at 35/38 will have fond memories of the “flying oil leak”. It was customary for the Loady to always carry a cleaning rag in his flying suit, and as soon as the aircraft rolled to a stop, he’d leap out and wipe down the cowls before the pilots had a chance to see them.


Funny thing about Caribous, they seemed to always work better when they were away from home. Get them away on some exercise and they never broke down, or if they did, there was a bloke called COS who could always fix them. But back at Richmond (where they used to be) they couldn’t do two circuits of the Fitzroy Hotel without something going wrong.


The poor old sumpy certainly earned his pay with the Caribou, but he too soon learned to carry heaps of rags cleaning, and usually a file to fix the dents in the props. Radio blokes, as usual, had it dead easy. Apart from trying to fix that 180L2 HF antenna coupler thing, his only job on a pre/after flight was to wind up the loady’s “wander lead” and stow the spare head-sets. (Instrument fitters had the biggest bludge, all they had to do was wind the clocks and read the fatigue metre.)


We’ve mentioned the coupler before, so we won’t go into that again, but what a strange bit of gear it was. The only other bit of equipment that was any sort of problem was the Tacan. The one in the Caribou was about 1 cub metre in size, was made from cast iron, had 10 million valves and weighed 10 tons. It was mounted way down the bottom of the rack where it was damn near impossible to get out without a crane. Luckily, civvy Australia didn’t use Tacan, so it wasn’t used much, and therefore we would get quite a few miles out of a serviceable unit. On exercise it was always the first thing taken out and stuck in a corner, as the aircraft could then carry an extra couple of 44’s.


It was a slow, noisy, uncomfortable, draughty old aeroplane to fly in, but everyone who worked on them loved them. They’ve been talking about replacing them now for years, but to date there doesn’t seem to be anything that quite matches up, and there doesn’t seem to be anything on the horizon either.


There has to be a million “yarns” about trips away in the Caribou, like the time 38 went to “Pink Lilly” for an exercise, but when it got there it was raining, so instead of staying in tents like everyone else, as was originally planned, the whole crew stayed for a month in the Criterian Hotel in Rocky, and what a time that was, remember Les??  Or the trip to Leigh Creek where blue reflective tape in the shape of a caribou started to appear on every building in the town.


 If you’ve got a story (or 6) about trips away in the Caribou, please sent them in—we’d love to hear them.



John Boyne (elec), at Duago Is (just off Pt Moresby) in 1968. It was necessary to take one aircraft  of the 3 aircraft based at Moresby (Det A) and a whole bunch of blokes over to Duago to swing the compass– usually on a Saturday, and as long as you’re over there……….



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