John Hester ( 681560 )
January 1956 we all started at No 1 School of Technical Training, RAF Halton as
the 82nd Entry of Aircraft Apprentices. If I recall correctly, the weather was, to put it mildly, cold
and wet. Not an auspicious start. The
next 6 weeks are a blur of being issued with kit, Square – bashing, PT,
Medicals, Jabs, Haircuts(?) and Bulling. I
was then put into 1 Wing 2 Squadron, (Block 13 Room 4). The Academic and Technical training passed without too much
hassle. I managed to keep
sufficiently ahead of the Examiners and passed out with grades in the middle of
the Entry. As for sport, I quickly
caught on to the fact that cycling got you away from the camp on a Wednesday
afternoon and weekends, and also provided a legal set of civvies of sorts.
(Jeans, T – shirts and jumpers were allowed, as well as the riding kit
of racing vest and shorts). I rode in 25 mile Time Trials for the School several times
against the Army Apprentices from Arborfield, and also in the RAF Hillclimb
championships at RAF Innsworth.
I met Doreen, my wife to be, while on a weekend pass in
February 1957, and we got married in September 1959. We have 3 daughters and 6 grandchildren
My time in the Mans Service passed without too many
hiccups, the main one being sent to Bahrain during the first Kuwait Crisis in, I
think, 1961 while on Emergency Standby Draft.
That was when Iraq first thought about taking over Kuwait, but didn't
actually invade that time, and no shooting took place.
When I left the RAF in October 1968, after 12 years
service, I joined Sperry Gyroscopes Ltd working on the bench as an assembler
repairing returned instruments. After
1 year I transferred to the Test Department and spent most of the next 8 years
or so working on Marine Equipment, mainly collimating (optically aligning) the
various rotating axes and lines of sight of, and mechanically testing Ships gun
aiming Radar Directors. I did get
onto HMS Coventry, a Type 27 Frigate, and also on to The Ark Royal.
That was a huge ship, and we were escorted everywhere while on board,
partly so that we wouldn't get lost! I
finished my time at Sperry's as a Senior Test Engineer.
When I left Sperry's I joined a company called Pennwalt
Sharples Ltd as a service and Commissioning Engineer. They manufactured industrial Centrifuges of all sizes from
small bench machines weighing around 10 lbs, in total; up to massive machines
with rotating components weighing up to 5 tons, and a gross weight of around 8
– 9 tons. I think one of the more
dodgy places I visited while working for them was Iran. There was quite a lot of shooting and burning of Cinemas and
beer shops, as well as part of The British Consulate in Tehran. During the 6
weeks I was there. Eventually I`d
had enough, made a rather feeble excuse and left just a couple of months before
the Shah was finally deposed by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
I said I needed to check several things with my Office, and as all the
International Telephone and Telex lines were permanently down I would have to
return to the UK. I also went to
Egypt a couple of times, visited several of the Iron Curtain Countries (Romania
was not pleasant, Yugoslavia wasn't too bad, and Hungary and Czechoslovakia as
it was at that time were OK), most of the Western European and several
Scandinavian countries as well. Iceland
in December is COLD! I did this
sort of thing for nearly 10 years, and then came "In House" as the
Pilot Plant Manager, doing test work to determine the correct machinery to carry
out a prospective customers` process requirements.
This meant working with all sorts of materials, ranging from very smelly
effluents of various types, many different chemical and pharmaceutical products
and foodstuffs, in fact anything where solid particles needed removing from a
liquid. I did this for 11 years or
so before being made redundant with about 3.5 years to go to retirement.
I then moved to a small company making Oxygen Regulators
for breathing sets and hospitals for 8 months. I then moved on again, to the
Transport Research Laboratory for roughly 1.5 years, as a Lab Technician,
servicing atmospheric pollution gas and particulate analysers in several
outstations around the country. The
rest of my working life was spent as a Company Receptionist/Telephone Operator/Dogsbody
for a small company making surgical appliances.
This was certainly the easiest job I had throughout my working life, as
if I did 12 hours actual work in a 35-hour week I'd had a busy week.
They knew I was winding down to retirement, and even tolerated me reading
books during slack times --- a very understanding and happy crowd of people so
far as I was concerned.
I retired in October 2003, and now spend time doing
voluntary driving work taking people who now find it difficult to get about to
Hospital and Doctors appointments, and other types of visit such as shopping,
etc. This is organised by a local
government charitable organisation.
Halton gave me a thorough grounding and training, which prepared me for a varied and interesting working life, both during and after my time in the RAF.