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Kent teenagers who joined Trenchard RAF Apprentice (Brats) & Boy Entrant Schemes

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Dave Smith:
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!

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 .


Apprentice life at RAF Halton article.  I have been aware for some time of MEMORIES OF LIFE AS A TRENCHARD BRAT ( 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:

I was particularly interested in Rob’s comments on

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.
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).

Dave Smith:
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?

What is interesting in my brothers (R.A.F) 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.
He volunteered for the R.A.F. in 1938 - as a volunteer reserve - My brother born in 1921 would
have been 100 this January.


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