Alan (Al/Geordie) Jopling
Hi chaps, remember me? Thought I would put "pen to paper" so to speak, and run my last 37 years past you!!
Well, like everyone else, my first posting to RAF Stanbridge was a bit of a culture shock - mainly because you didn't have to call the corporal "Corporal"!
Life was idyllic - plenty of birds, booze, gambling - was I having a whale of a time and only 17! Enjoyed my FIRST spot there - at least there was about 12 guys I knew when I got there - they were all from our entry!! (Remember that boys?).
June 67 - not long after I'd turned 18 - and I was in Kuching, mopping up after those guys who had such a bad time during the Confrontation (not!). On the way through Singers I was introduced to the classic Bugis Street - which provided me pretty much with an insight to what lay ahead for me in Kuching. More birds - but they were called something else (really, I caaaan't recall), booze and yes, I did get to Kuching Horseracing track - and even backed a winner! This period in my life was the beginning of what I would call my "Mispent Youth"!! Oh, but boy did I enjoy it!
However, all good times have to come to an end sooner or later and it was to be that I sent the "closing down" signal to Singapore from Kuching using the communication system that was so popular with Wells Fargo - Morse Code! My taxi was awaiting me - a bloody big Beverley - to wing me away back across the watter back to Singapore - but sadly - not to finish me tour there - I was being penalised and posted to that penal colony for eunochs and monks called Gan! Addu Atoll was the ideal desert island but it wasn't my ideal. However, I was gainfully employed in commcen Gan for a short while until one day, it was a Sunday - I remember it well - I thought I would go down to the beach for a swim. Well - you wouldn't believe it - but I broke me bloody neck didn't I. Not diving off the jetty - oh no - just running off the beach doing a belly flapper! Totally sober as well - never had a drink that day. At the time I was unaware what damage I had done - but I was still walking wounded. I managed to get to sick quarters where they instantly decided to place my head between sand bags and stated Gan was not the place for me. (see how easy it was to get away from Gan!!) I was casevaced to Singers and then back to UK to Wroughton (Orthopaedic wing I'll have you all know!) For some unknown reason that amazing Sergeant in the sky had been looking after me and I recovered from my ordeal without damaging any spinal cords or vertibrae - many thanks to the nurses and doctors.
I had some considerable time on sick leave but eventually got posted to 591 SU. This was the "Hotel" unit of RAF Digby - however I only done one hotel because before I knew it I was winging off to the Island of Aphrodite to see a bird called Venus! Epi was my destination - but my wasn't it a drab place. I think the women there were monks and eunuchs! Fortunately, I was "a chosen one" to do a detachment to Akrotiri - they were short of staff so they asked for some "special operators"! they must've liked our style - because they kept us there and this was to be the second phase of my "misspent youth"! More birds, booze and gambling - how long can I put up with it I kept asking myself. Anyway one night a copper told me how long I could put up with it - and promptly "hoyed" me in the cells for not having my F1250 on me and being drunk. I got to know these coppers quite well over a period of time! What a great tour I had.
Eventually I had to go home again, I had a young lady waiting for me back home who still wanted to go out with me (true!). Her name was Anne and we had this arrangement (well I did) that when I was away we could do our own thing! We'd been good friends for about 3 or 4 years I tell you. Anyway, PMC decided to give me a cushy posting "up North" because I'd been so hard done by over the years they posted me to RAF Bawtry. But once again, they don't let you have too much of a good thing, and I won the raffle for an extended holiday (All in) to that wonderful Omani Island called, yes, you've got it - Masirah.
I really enjoyed Masirah, no women, plenty booze, loads of salt in your tea, horrible osmosis water - yeah it was alright. Of course the highlight of your day would be when Sheila came around. Sheila? That was our friendly Bambi type animal that visited the billets each day - and don't ask me why! Masirah was short lived because - once again - Al to the rescue. They wanted an "Ace Operator" to assist in the commcen down at - yes - you guessed it again - Salalah.
Ah, Sunny Salalah by the Sea. When I got off the Argosy walking towards all these 45 Gallon oil drums to the air movements, there was a message draped alongside them saying "Merry Xmas" and this was in June 72. I later found out why the message was out there! Anyway, got through this final six months dodging mortar bombs and pint glasses without much ado. Went home again in December 72 and married Anne 2 days before Xmas. It was bloody freezing.
As luck had it PMC realised it was a bit cold up in Geordieland in the winter and once again wanted me (and my new wife) to have another spiffing time at RAF Stanbridge. Had another good tour there - being careful not to let Anne suffer from any of the rumours that may have preceded our posting there!
Touched lucky (sic) again didn't I later on in '73 - posted to TCW at Benson. Met Taff Blackburn, Mick Atkins, Steve Atha and probably some others I can't remember. Had a canny time, didn't see the missus and the new baby for almost 2 years due to loads of detachments, but that's life and PMC decided to give me one of them postings where you were always certain to get your tapes - HQ Afnorth - Norway - pillaging, raping, boozing - it was all coming back to me!
Had an excellent time out there (we had another daughter born in Sandvika) - got offered my tapes if I would go home early - no chance - too much money to be made on the Black Market (well it was in my nature wasn't it). But they did succumb later when I was posted back to UK - but where did they post me back to - yes you've guessed it - RAF Stanbridge!! (with my tapes of course).
Well we didn't stay there very long because demob was looming up - 6 months to do. I came out in March 79 and went into the "boozing business" (It was in my blood - so to speak) only this time I was on the money side of the counter. I was a club steward for a short time in Gateshead.
That short time was until the August when I re-enlisted again. (the other man's grass wasn't greener for me!) They "took me in" again but slapped my wrist and said I could only be an SAC! Being a betting man I called their bluff and got me tapes after a year - having worked under a corporal at Waddington, who made life quite hellish, for me as a 30 year old SAC! (However - revenge is sweet - I got my third and later he was demobbed as a Cpl!).
Once again PMC gave me a diamond of a posting - Bampton Castle. It was so boring I volunteered for TCW again! We did almost 6 years at TCW Brize Norton, had a good time and another daughter! (I think it must've been the vinegar in the beer over all these years!) I visited many amazing places such as Salisbury Plain (several times), Northern Ireland, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Falklands, but of course interspersed with nice places like the Bahamas, New Zealand, Greece, Cyprus etc! Done a stint as an instructor on TCW and being awful to the new "recruits". Making them dig trenches and keeping them awake at night - you know the usual things! We were almost institutionalised at Brize, having been there so long, we lived in a local village called Bampton and even the people there thought we were actually indigenous to Bampton.
We left Brize on the crest of a wave as I had been selected (asked actually) to go on recruiting! (has this story gone full circle?) I asked PMC cheekily if I could have Newcastle or Sunderland and to my amazement they said "wey aye man"! I done three years at the CIO in Sunderland and reduced the city's level of unemployment quite significantly over that period. ("wanna job son? Howay in here!!) I was at Sunderland CIO and Wally Shatford was at Newcastle.
From recruiting we all went back to Cyprus, second tour for me but only the first for Anne and the kids. We were posted to 12 SU. We lived in Limassol for 3 months and it broke the kids' hearts when they heard they had to start school at 7.30 am!! Well they survived their ordeal and we moved up to Epi into quarters. The job was quite boring, I took on a secondary duty - yes you've guessed it - bar manager for the Albatross Club (12 SU own club). This broke the boredom for about 18 months. Anne had a job as a waitress in Moguls restaurant on the camp and I was involved with Amateur Radio. I short toured by 6 months on this tour and we returned back to the UK in Aug 91.
I done a few months at Northwood while Anne and the kids stayed at home in Gateshead. As demob was looming (again) I put in for our last tour of duty at Boulmer and got it. I done two years of commuting daily from home to Boulmer but decided to PVR before I thumped my "line manager" (a Chief Tech - no more said).
I opened my own business, running a cafe for almost two years during which time life was a bit stressful. I sold the cafe and decided it would be better if someone would pay me for a change - a good days work for a good days pay. So in 96, I got a job on computers with the NHS, but side stepped into the disability services business whereby, (after coming up the ranks!), I now manage the Wheelchair Services and Loaned Equipment Department for Gateshead Health Trust.
I have one daughter who is currently in the RAF as a Supplier (since 97), another daughter married to a Cpl in the RAF, and the youngest daughter is still at home with us (but Anne says if she doesn't get her room tidied up she'll be finding her own place!). We have two grandchildren, Adam and Keira who are soon to be posted to Cyprus in June with Mam and Dad. How I envy them - but will still get our hols there!!
Hope you've enjoyed this BOOK lads (apologies for it being so long, but there's 37 years in here!) Life has been good to me and my family over the years, and I do hope it has been good to all you and your families (We've had our ups and downs like most people but we're not on this planet long enuff to make wars!!)
All the Best
Your Mate and Mine