Boys will be Boys!

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An old friend, Ben Davies,  telephoned me this morning. 

At first, to my shame, I had difficulty in placing him, as we last met more than fifty years ago.

As we reminisced the mists of time rolled back and I suddenly 'pictured' his young face as a Boy Entrant Telegraphist, of the Second Entry, R.A.F. Compton Bassett. 

I was moved  to write  this poem, which is dedicated to all my old comrades and the R.A.F.B.E Association.

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There I was, fiddling on the internet,

A little tweak here, a little peek there.

Quite suddenly I stumbled across it.

And past memories soared up into the air!


I remembered then, fifty five years ago,

When I was young, at the top of my form.

How I  joined the R.A.F., as a boy of sixteen,

And other memories then began to dawn.


For I had stumbled across a web site,

That was set up to cater for me,

And many other young adolescents,

Whose lives would be linked, inextricably!

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You see, we had joined as entrant boys,

And we had not the slightest idea,

Of the sudden shock, we were about to undergo,

But, quite soon, it became very clear!


Stand to attention! Keep your mouth shut!

March at the regulation pace!

Pick up that litter! Do as you're told!

And keep that smile of your face!


Keep your thumbs along the seam,

Don't stand there, like a sack.

What on earth made you join up?

Be quiet! Don't answer back!

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Scrape those brasses! Polish that glass !

Slide, on pads, across the floor!

Square those blankets and those sheets!

Oil those hinges around the hut door!


Get to work and 'bone-up' those boots.

Give the toe-caps a lustrous shine!

The back of a toothbrush, polish, spittle and ink.

The more enterprising used a spot of urine!


Keep up the 'bull', you'll not sleep tonight!

There's an inspection, first thing in the morning.

If the officer's gloves find one speck of dust,

You're on a charge, without further warning!


They called a charge a 'fizzer', a 252,

It was serious, certainly no lark!

I remember the punishment they gave to me.

Sieving dustbins, by torchlight, after dark!

Oh! yes, Inspections caused quite a frenzy,

We were rushing about, all on the 'go'.

Our hut wasn't there to be lived in,

It had been put there merely for show!


Everything so strict, no liaisons allowed.

Looking back, I really do wonder,

Just how we adapted to this very hard life,

And Sgt. Bell's voice, which sounded like thunder!


Earphones were the order of the day.

Dots and dashes made our ears ring!

Condensers, resistors, circuits and valves.

Fault finding became the 'in thing'!

And what other memories do I recall,

That have lain dormant, so deep in my mind?

Sgt Bell's pace-stick, thwacking someone's legs,

An action, I thought then, so unkind!


I was not at all pugilistically inclined,

But a typed list on the notice-board appeared.

We had to fight each other, of about the same weight

And after that I was then, 'volunteered'!


Mike Thomas fought at light heavyweight,

Whilst my weight was registered as light,

But we had to submit to a training regime,

That kept us awake half of the night!


We trained, we skipped, did press ups and all,

We practised weaving, defence and attack,

And then we had to run, for mile after mile,

Way out to the 'White Horse' and back!

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A lot of this, you know, by dawn's early light.

Frozen by every breath we had to take.

Then to the cook-house, for a mug of sweet tea.

Before the rest of the 'Boys' were awake!


Later on, when I'd got to 'know the ropes',

Sgt Bell said, "Test out your punch, just in case."

"Pretend you're in the ring, at your very next fight,

And punch me right in the face!"


Well I was never one to disobey orders,

And I gave him a good 'un, to make him think!

Do you know, he just shrugged his shoulders,

And didn't give as much as a blink!


Now, I've used just a touch of poetic license.

He threw up a hand and caused me to slip.

But my left lead still hit the target.

As evidenced by the blood blister on his lip!


And Flt. Sgt McDonald, now what can I say?

Sardonic, humorous and benign.

Describing his many words of wisdom,

As pearls, being cast before swine!


'Midst it all though, there was a friendship,

A deep and true camaraderie.

As we took a great pride in all that we did.

By doing it, so faultlessly!


We swung our arms, in sweet accord,

We marched as if we were one.

Many eyes were raised when we were on parade.

Our performance could not be outdone!


Addressing an officer to the front!

Inclining direction on the march!

Double time, change step; we performed with ease !

And caused many an eyebrow to arch!


In a sense I was very privileged,

Because I marched along at the side.

And these lads showed such precision,

That I experienced a real sense of pride!


On the day of the passing out parade,

I carried a glittering sword.

And I witnessed a superb marching display,

As not one action was untoward.


Thus our time, as boys, came to a glorious end,

And we all went our separate ways,

But the memories, and the very hard times that we shared,

Will be with me to the end of my days!


To those who helped shape our very young lives,

Flt Sgt McDonald and Sergeant Bell,

And others I'm afraid whose names I, sadly, forget,

Yours was a job that was done very well!


Later on, at a commissioning parade,

I, once again, carried the sword,

But, in my mind's eye, I was a Boy Entrant again,

And it is them I now,  vociferously, applaud!

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For, whatever we did and wherever we went,

We maintained an essential precision and pride.

You can still tell a Boy Entrant, by the swing in his step,

And the exemplary length of his stride!

 by I. Waswun

Author: Trevor Durbidge   Copyright 2003 [TJD].   All rights reserved.    Revised: October 30, 2007 .

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  I would welcome any comments from 'the boys' as to how I can improve this page. If anyone has any other photographs that would be appropriate to include, or indeed other experiences to record, then please let me know.

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