Author Topic: Kent teenagers who joined Trenchard RAF Apprentice (Brats) & Boy Entrant Schemes  (Read 203 times)

Offline Dave Smith

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 280
BarrySX. How sad i was to read your woes regarding Halton. One of our-55th- Entry, who always seemed to be on jankers, wrote a book called, "The Brass Wheeled Holligans". I was proof reader prior to it being published & said to him," you never should have been an Aircraft Apprentice"! He replied, " I did it to get away from my terrible father"! He was a Leckie, probably the best trade for getting a job later on- but you never thought that far ahead did you? Later in life, he was the project engineer updating the whole of Finland's railway signalling system- from mechanical to electronic. So I can imagine an Instument Basher would have problems if "back home"; you had to go where the work was. When I left, as an Engine Fitter, although I had transferred to flying- trained in S.Rhodesia- for my last tour, I got a job at Napiers Engines & moved to Acton, where they were. My last job there was working on Hinkley Point Nuclear Power station; rather different but interesting. Engineering in all its forms can be applied to anything, for I became a design Engineer for Heating & Air Conditioning after that. Two other, Airframes, members worked at Dowty & Vickers, both on the TSR2. I was lucky & like most, made what I could of the situation; I suppose 1930 was a good year to be born? I met many National Service people & the same applied; those who made the most of what was available, generally enjoyed it. Those who joined saying , " I hate this" did indeed do so! I'm the Entry "Good Shepherd" & have organised many reunions & everyone, including wives, have had a great time reminiscing. Which is all that's left for us now we are 90!

Offline grandarog

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
Barry5X, Yes Rob Knott,s of the 84th .Didn't realize it was on their Entry website. My friend Geoff Richardson runs their site.
Sorry you didn't encompass the full benrfits of being a brat,.
Like you having seen what opportunities for work there were in Sittingbourne I joined up by my own decision.Mum wasnt impressed at the time but was very proud to attend Passout 3 years later. I never regretted my RAF career although I demobbed at 30 ,mainly because all the overseas postings were dissapearing and the future was uncertain.Civvie street unemployment was rife and I thought I would never get a job if i stayed another 10 years. My training at Halton stood me in good stead and I spent the rest of my working life in engineering. Thanks for your posts .


Offline Barry5X

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Grandarog


Apprentice life at RAF Halton article.  I have been aware for some time of MEMORIES OF LIFE AS A TRENCHARD BRAT (84thentry.com) by Rob Knotts.  Could this be the same Rob as you mentioned.

The article is in full on the following web site, and I would urge anyone reading this topic to visit this account of RAF Apprentice life, experienced by many:

http://www.84thentry.com/code/knotts2.html

I was particularly interested in Rob’s comments on

HOW IT ALL STARTED.
When I was born my father was aged 57. I entered Grammar School at 10 and at 15 gained a sufficient number of GEC ‘O’ levels, including Mathematics, English and a science subject to study for ‘A’ levels. However, at the time my father was 72 years old and could not afford to keep me in sixth form.  My uncle had served for 26 years in the RAF, starting as an Aircraft Apprentice at Halton so we had family experience of the life.  I had a great interest in aircraft and opted to join the RAF as a Trenchard Brat.
 
IT TAKES ALL KINDS.
We faced our future in different ways.  Many were apprehensive, some quietly confident, others smug.  A few were cynical, occasionally aloof, at first quite a lot worried bordering at times on being frightened of the future.  It took all kinds to be one of Trenchard’s Brats.
 
For me, joining the RAF was the last thing I wished for.  As I approached my teens I was dreading National Service and thankfully this was stopped.  In addition I had a brother 13 years older than me who was a Boy Entrant whose postings included Cyprus during the EOKA troubles followed by service at RAF Fayid in Eygpt (Suez crisis).  He left the RAF as a Cpl Tech at the age of 27 (9 years and 3 in the reserves) but found it difficult to get recognition for his training, service and skills and thus had trouble  getting work around the Sittingbourne and Medway area.  He ended up working in a general store located in Sittingbourne High Street followed by a stint at Ridham Dock unloading logs off boats.  This wasn’t a life that I desired. 
 
So why did I join up?  My mother unfortunately died when I was 15 and she and my father ran a Pub.  So I found myself attending school by day and helping my father behind the bar at nights, a task I thoroughly enjoyed.  My father had discussed my future in that when I left school I could join the business, so my future was decided – or so I thought.  My father then remarried and my future suddenly became uncertain, confirmed by my father asking me what my plans were.  The next day at school a master came in to ask if anyone was interested in taking the RAF entrance exam.  Thinking on my feet I raised my hand thinking this will ease the pressure from my father on me.  I was surprised to have passed the RAF exam but even more delighted to find out that I had failed the medical that followed.  But that wasn’t the end of it, my father then questioned this decision and I was sent on another medical which I passed, which meant that I found myself on my way to RAF Cardington for further exams, tests and interviews.  At Cardington we were taken to RAF Halton for the day and I thought this is not what I want, and next day when offered an Instrument apprenticeship I told the Officer I didn’t want to join and went home.  At home, my father went bananas when I told him what I had done and he said "sit there and don’t move".  He then phoned the local RAF recruiting office at Chatham and asked for the telephone number of RAF Cardington and spoke to the Officer who had offered me the apprenticeship.   He said “My son has just come home and he has changed his mind, is the offer still available?”  This was news to me.  Of course the offer was still on the table and within days with railway warrant in hand I was off to RAF Halton to sign my life away for 13 years.  My father’s parting words were “Son, in the RAF you will always have food on the table and a roof over your head”. 
 
My time as an RAF Halton apprentice was of mixed feelings - I totally enjoyed the experience, the training and the friendships, but I had no interest in Instruments or aircraft (still don’t) and felt that I was in an open prison, sentenced for doing nothing wrong.  It takes all kinds to be a Trenchard Brat.
 
Imagine today, a teenager signing his life away for 15 years at the age of 15!  (Remember - Years served in the RAF before the 18th birthday didn’t count).

Offline Dave Smith

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 280
Barry. Like, I suspect many others asked that question, " No idea"! I DO remember the twin towers incident though because I happened to be visiting a friend that afternoon & he had the TV on.  Incidentally, we weren't allowed radios so knew nothing of the world outside! Alan West(50th) was a snag with me & as such were allowed to go to 2nd house cinema. Afterwards, we would listen on his clandestine radio to AFN ( American Forces Network) & hear all the latest records by Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, &?( Peanut Vendor- anyone?). Snag was another purely Halton rank. On a pass to London, I was asked once ( nicely as I recall) by a couple of "snoops" what the single stripe was? "Snoops"- white caps like the R.N., what was their nickname? & red caps in the Army? Anyone?

Offline castle261

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 470
  • Life is for living - Love is for giving.
What is interesting in my brothers case was - He worked at Short Brothers on the Esplanade -
as a sheet metal worker - Later in the war a circular asked for people that worked making airplanes - report to so & so. He replied thinking `at home - on civilian wages - dances on Saturday night - what could be better. He applied - was sent to Bowness-on-Windermere to make Sunderlands - He met & married his Dolly Girl - He only went back into the R.A.F. - to get de-mobbed.

Offline Barry5X

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Dave


If I remember correctly Engines and Airframe were simply HEAVIES.


Where were you when Kennedy got shot? 


It was a Friday Bull night.

Offline Dave Smith

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 280
The wheels have turned & RAF Locking is the Radio School. g' Your Bumper immediately brought to mind, Bull, as in night! Fridays in my day. We Engines & Airframes always referred to the other trades- Armourers, Electricians & Instruments as the "gash trades".

Offline grandarog

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
I have always been very proud to have been a "Trenchard Brat"
If any of you would like to message me with your E-Mail addresses I will send you a PDF file about Apprentice life at Halton written by my mate Rob. Its too big to post on here.
Well worth it.

Offline grandarog

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
Talking of slang terms ,The best one of all was "Gash" with its many meanings .           There was also "N" for infinite quantities of anything, Rookie or Rooks was an exclusive  term for a junior entry member of Apprentices and Boy entrants.
National servicemen recruits were Sprogs or Boggies.
   A civilian would never understand the Camaraderie and Loyalty of the Apps and BE community's.
 Dont forget the ultimate tool to keep you fit and muscular,the infamous "Bumper" :)

Offline Dave Smith

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 280
Barry. " Gun Plumbers". Airframes, " Riggers"; Engines, " Greasers"; Electricians, "Leccies". Boy Entrants were also at the Radio School(I will have to get the OLD brain working to remember where!).

Offline Barry5X

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Hi Castle261
 
Born in Eastchurch in 1944 and having a father that was stationed there, I was fully aware that RAF Eastchurch existed, however it wasn’t until last week that I read the “Final Letter” of the RAFBEA (RAF Boy Entrants Association) and discovered that some Boy Entrant training was carried out there.
 
Surprised and to confirm this fact, I carried out further research using an internet Search Engine and came across a web site entry dated 3 Oct 2003 from 552414 Jim Stewart (also known as MOFF) who stated.
 
“This is MOFF I was at RAF Eastchurch in 1938 as a boy entrant training as an Armourer.  Left Dec 1938 for RAF Catfoss Yorks”
 
https://www.militaryforums.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=4570
 
As you stated your brother was a volunteer and not a Boy Entrant, nevertheless a Boy Entrant in 1938 would have been born between 1921 and 1923 so MOFF would be around 100 at this time!
 
By reference to a recent reply to Grandarog on this topic and the use of RAF Slang;  Armourers were known as Plumbers.

Offline Barry5X

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Hi Grandarog


Your reply in calling me a “Rook” was of course expected and warmly received, however I wondered if the readership of this forum fully understood the meaning of this piece of RAF Slang.


As such I carried out a search on the internet using 3 words “Rook RAF Slang”, sadly with unexpected and unacceptable results.  Unexpected as the first 4 web sites accessed had no reference to Rook at all:


Glossary of WWII RAF Slang & Terminology (natureonline.com)  http://natureonline.com/37/56-ap4-glossary.html


A Guide To Understanding RAF Slang And Terminology (forces.net)  https://www.forces.net/military-life/fun/guide-understanding-raf-slang-and-terminology


RAF Slang and Acronyms (rafaberporth.org.uk)  https://rafaberporth.org.uk/page25.html


RAF slang - Wikipedia  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAF_slang#R


……… and the 5th web site accessed had an explanation that stated that:


“Rook” was a Boy Entrant term for a new entrant.


RAF slang | Military Wiki | Fandom (wikia.org)  https://military.wikia.org/wiki/RAF_slang


As an ex RAF Apprentice, I am sure that like me you will find this inaccuracy of the term “Rook” being related solely for use by Boy Entrants, totally unacceptable and therefore needs to be corrected.  I believe it is only right as it was you that started using RAF slang on this forum, that you initiate action to rectify matters.


So with due respect to a senior entry member and fellow Brat:


Sir, may I have permission to request that you “grab yourself a mug of char (or a standard NATO coffee) a wad or a dead fly pie and get it sorted.


I have the honour to remain, your obedient servant. 


Ldg App Barry5X (Rook)

Offline castle261

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 470
  • Life is for living - Love is for giving.
Thank you Barry5X - My elder brother joined the R.A.F. - as a volunteer  reserve - in 1938 - later
leaned he was an Armourer at R.A.F. Manston in 1940 - while we were in Wales.
He would have been 100 - now.

Offline grandarog

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 410
Hi Barry (99th Rook),
                              Welcome to the forum. There are at least 2 of us ,now 3 on here I was 86th Halton.  :)

Offline Barry5X

  • New Member
  • *
  • Posts: 11
The Royal Air Force Apprentice scheme began in 1920, having been devised by Chief of the Air Staff Hugh Trenchard and approved by Winston Churchill.  Following the graduations of the Apprentice Engineering Technicians (known as Trenchards’ Brats) from No 1 School of Technical Training Halton on the 24th June 1993 and from No 2 School of Technical Training at Cosford on the 7th October 1993, the RAF Apprentice Scheme ended.  It is estimated that over 40,000 passed through the RAF Apprentice scheme


The Royal Air Force Boy Entrant scheme began in 1934; a shorter training scheme in length of time which ran in parallel with the Apprentice Scheme.  The Boy Entrant training was introduced in order to give boys from more disadvantaged backgrounds or with lower educational qualifications the opportunity of a Royal Air Force career.  The scheme was run until the graduation of the 51st Entry in 1965.  Before the scheme was suspended in 1940 due to WWII hostilities a total of 4,026 Boy Entrants had entered training, the majority who were trained at RAF Cranwell, but some went to RAF Farnborough to be trained as photographers and others to RAF Eastchurch to become Armourers.  The scheme was resumed in 1947 and before it ended in 1965 an additional 30,602 boy entrants had graduated.


Combined, the Apprentice and Boy Entrant schemes trained over 75,000 tradesmen who were considered to be the “Backbone of the Royal Air Force”.


Marshal of the Royal Air Force Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard, GCB, OM, GCVO, DSO was a British officer who was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force.  He has been described as the "Father of the Royal Air Force."


There was some commonality between the two RAF schemes; joining for both was for boys between 15 and an half to 17 years of age.  Lengths of engagement were the same and generally for 12 years or 9 years and 3 in the reserve (time taken from the age of 18).  A brass “wheel” badge was worn by both on the upper left sleeve and the hat bands were either coloured (Yellow, Red or Blue for Apprentices) or chequered (2-coloured for Boy Entrants).


The detailed history of these schemes is to be found at the following web sites:


RAF Halton Apprentices


http://www.oldhaltonians.co.uk/


RAF Boy Entrants


https://www.rafbeainfo.org.uk/final-newsletter


Despite there being a 13 year age gap between me and my older Brother Brian, we both followed a similar path.  We both went to Sheerness Tech and left to work on a farm.  We (like our father before us who was stationed at RAF Eastchurch as an Admin Clerk during the war) both joined the RAF; Brian as a Boy Entrant (6th Entry) as an Instrument Fitter (General) and me as a RAF Halton Apprentice (99th Entry) as an Instrument Fitter (Navigation).