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Sylt 71 Sqdn in 1953
written by Stephen Hill

"Sylt air firing etc" - From Gutersloh and Wahn we went on air firing exercises to RAF Sylt. The drogues were pulled by Mozzies. Sylt was a great place in the summer, The locals on their way to church would parade along the beach front to view the nudes. But Sylt was a swine of a place in the winter. Kites on the pans built up a quarter of an inch of ice over night . But the food was absolutely superb. At Sylt you were treated as a civilised person - table clothes, side plates for bread instead of slices of bread for side plates, - fantastic soups - in fact, all the meals were great. I never had such superb food at any other station other than Brise Norton where I was invited to the American Mess for breakfast and it was fantastic - however - no side plates as the whole meal was served on compartmentalised ali plates. Their billets were tips with very strong crap games going on at different ends of the room. Over the wire was pretty good too at Sylt there was a "pub" about three fields away from camp that we used most nights - I never understood why the place was never raided. It was always crowded with bods.

It's better that you're drunk" Over the wire on a fine balmy summer’s night with Mac, Yorky, and one or two ill-assorted 71 bods on exercise at RAF Sylt. Over the fields (two I think), to our local, a farmhouse that seems to have been converted into a drinking den the day before. The night was merry, with plenty of conversation with the locals. Time to go, I went to the toilet, Mac went outside, and Yorky went to the convenient fridge standing next to the toilet. Yorky handed me the bottles of whatever and I passed them out to Mac. Then Yorky and I popped our heads around the door and said our fond auf weidersehn’s. We tottered ‘round to the back of the ‘pub’, and helped Mac pick up the bottles, then legged it across the field were we selected, after due consideration, a likely looking semi made out of straw stoops. We passed the bottles in rotation around the assembled bon vivants and drank all the bottles dry, but were not too concerned with their content, why should we, it was a pub fridge wasn’t it, and it was free? Well, our taste buds must have been pretty well shot because, lighting up for a relaxing drag we saw that the bottles, as well as some being quality hooch, had among them a varied assortment of condiments etc. We weren't sick. We didn’t feel ill . We were just amazed in that befuddled after glow, it tasted OK, it’s all gone, but I’m sure there was more. when we started!

Paddy the rigger on 71 Sqdrn went up with Sgt. Basher Bates in the sqdrn meteor from Gutersloh to check some minor malfunction. Pulling out of a dive when the air brakes were applied and released Paddy rocked forward and back grabbed the hood ejector - away it went - hit the tailpiece - Basher looks round, can't see Paddy - he's looking for this glasses and his shoe on the floor - Basher thinks, "strewth " - or words to that effect - "Paddy was a bit quick off the mark" - goes over the side himself - meanwhile Paddy looks up sees that Basher's gone. and thinks - "strewth" or words to that effect and promptly gets out himself. Both land, Basher safely, but Paddy lands in a farmyard and crooks his ankle - well so he sez - he certainly made a meal of it over the coming weeks. I suppose it must have made a good impression at the courts martial, Irish brogue an'all, Scot free the both of them.

There were a fair number of Northern Irish of both persuasions at Gutersloh. I shared my room with Paddy Gorman 2nd TAF boxing champion and clerk to the sqdrn. He and his mates would go over the wire for lager, then bring it back to our room. I think the idea was to solve the Irish problem over a few drinks, but someone always spoke out of turn and a barny would start. At which Paddy Gorman would halt the mayhem and say " If anyone hits him (me) in bed I'll murder yez". All agreed that I should not be inconvenienced and proceeded to knock seven bells out of each other. Paddy always asked me if I had had a good night and my answer was always the same. A little noisy, but other than that fine. Of course the thing I never told anyone was that, when in Sylt, Paddy, after a heavy night out over the wire, would mistake the towels over the ends of the beds as a urinal. I never put my towel over the bed end.

After hours over the wire and - Back to the pit, but first a convivial bit of the crack in the bog. Well, Cpl Turnbull, I may have been a bit leery with your request to me to shut up, but I’m sure my reply did not warrant a right hander on the chin. And there was no point in getting shirty because I said ‘Have another go that one didn’t work’ At which he said a polite good night and we all called it a day. Good night Corpse. I must admit that the next day my chin felt like the squadron had been doing circuits and bumps on it. Although he owed us one, for when we’d 26ed under the mainplanes of the Vamp that he’d just taken it off its cradle - forgetting to lock the undercarriage. (It was a mesmerising sight as gently waddling it tried to park its nether regions ont’ pan), I didn’t expect such personal and intimate service..

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