By Willie Keays.Engines.

I was a Cpl Tech on Station Flight at RAF St Athan when I did my first Orderly Corporal in 1961. I was working on East Camp, mainly No 4 S of TT, with a trainee population of Boy Entrants (B/Es). The billets in which they lived were the typical WW2 Lines of wooden huts built at the start of that war, interlinked by corridors that ran behind the huts and in which ablutions, drying rooms and other service areas were located. The B/E lines were lettered N and O. There were 12 huts in each row making a total of 24 huts in a Line.

One of the most tiresome duties the Orderly Corporal had to carry out was a bed check at 22.00 hrs. This entailed him visiting each hut with its nominal roll in hand with the time-honoured call of 'Stand by your beds!' Each B/E had to present his F1250 as the Orderly Corporal passed by. The bed check was, to quote Shakespeare, more honoured in the breach than in the observance. If carried out diligently the poor bloody Corporal would be doing it all night. I only did it rigorously the first time to the great annoyance of the lads. After the bed check the Orderly Corporal retired to his bunk in Wing HQ, another wooden construction, and prayed that he would have a quiet night.

It was deep into one night during a stint as Orderly Corporal that I was woken by a frantic pounding on the wall of Wing HQ. I opened the window and could see in the dim light a pyjama clad B/E banging on the wood.

'Corporal, Corporal, come quickly, a B/E has hung himself in our Drying Room!'

I didn't stop to phone the Orderly Sergeant; I figured speed was of the essence. Get there quick! I remember dashing after the B/E as he ran up the sloping interconnecting corridor of O Lines. I remember the cheap lampshades of the bulbs illuminating the corridor. My heart was pounding, my breath was gasping and my mind was fearing what I would find. He turned into a drying room. I rushed past him expecting to find a purple-faced body hanging from the metal pipes. The only thing hanging there was pair of "shreddies".

'Is this the right Drying Room?' I screeched as I grabbed my guide by the arm. He just stood there looking stupid and rubbing his eyes.

'Oh, Corporal, yes, this is our Drying Room.' He rubbed his eyes some more, than with a pathetic grin, 'Oh, Corporal, I must have been dreaming!'

Acting or not; payback for a rigorous bed check; I dunno!?

On another occasion, after I had got to know the B/Es of the 49th and 50th Entries as an instructor in the Engine Shop, I was Orderly Corporal on a Sunday. One of the Entries was off to Summer Camp soon and the B/Es were getting their kit together. I was resting in my bunk in the afternoon in Wing HQ when I heard a thump. Eh? Wow! That was some bang. I had gone out to investigate when a B/E rushed up.

'Corporal, Corporal, come quickly. B/E C*** has blown his hand off!'

The injured B/E was sitting on the grass between N and O Lines. His left hand was hanging in bloody shreds.

'Get a chair and a towel!' I ordered. 'Wrap his hand in the towel and hold his arm up! It won't bleed so much.'

His mates did as they were told. I ran to the Wing HQ where my Mini was parked and drove it to where the injured B/E was. I told one of his mates to get into the back of the car and the others to help him into the front passenger seat. The B/E told to get in the back held the poor lad's arm up as I high-tailed it to Station Sick Quarters. There was an MO on duty so having handed over our wounded hero I went back to find out what had happened.

B/E C*** had been preparing some little surprises to take with him to Summer Camp at RAF Woodvale. Taking lengths of about nine inches of hydraulic tungum tubing he had hammered flat a double fold of an inch at one end of each tube. He had then filled the tubes with a mixture of weed-killer and sugar. Next he had hammered the other end flat, also in a double fold. Jetex fuse would later be inserted through a hole drilled in the tube and hey presto, a handy little banger. The flaw in this procedure, and you don't have to be a plumber to figure this out, is that the second hammering would be with the tube filled with explosive. Not a good idea especially if you're holding the tube in your left hand. He had made half-a-dozen of these before one blew up.

The Admin Staff had turned up so I took a few steps backward and let them get on with it. I heard later than B/E C***'s hand been put together in hospital. He was, I had been told, a keen drummer. I don't know what disciplinary action was taken against him; maybe none.

I've sent Brian two other tales from my 'Orderly Duties'. How about you? Disasters, achievements, funny tales, horrible tales? Think about it and write them up for our delight. I can't have been the only one that Fate visited!