It was just over 33 years ago, when a bunch of waifs & strays, from all walks of life, descended onto a train platform in the Metropolis of Wendover. There were Jocks, Geordies, Taffs, Paddies, Swedes bashers  - and even a few from Birmingham. 

Life was somewhat different then, it was the early seventies – the age of skinheads, greasers, reggae music, progressive rock, and coal strikes, power cuts, the introduction of vat and the birth of the 223rd entry gathering outside ‘york’ flight in no 3 wing. The first impressions of Cpl Jock Young and Sgt Barney Meehan and the impressive Flt Lt O.K. Plumpton  - some never stayed overnight, and went straight back home to mum. 

There were some characters who evolved into strange nicknames …Skin Fisher, Pancho, Pink Panther, Pompey, ‘Alfie’ bass, rocky, there was one that even had a name for his comb – ‘Wilbur’.  

The first months were spent square bashing, school, more square bashing, filing bits of metal to fit into other bits of metal and more square bashing. Films about ‘sexually transmitted diseases’ taken from the 50s and ‘How to live through a nuclear attack by hiding under a door’. We had some strange instructors  - some civilian, some servicemen who’s service life had started just before and some after the war and some of them  - the Boer war!!! But they were pretty fair with the smoke breaks 

Life was very social at Halton, we were visited by senior entries, who hadn’t come to offer us tea and sympathy, but just wanted us to enjoy our stay by making put our beds back together – others were so nice, that on our move to Comet flight, on our entry night – 223 days from our attestation, they decided to help us clean our centre decks using scouring powder and floor wax. But we just laughed and cleared it all up, ready for our inspection the following morning. 

Our first trips to London, to those seedier places, Soho, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, we stuck out like sore thumbs – well we were dressed in best uniform. The sight of these young lads sitting in a club Soho at 4 o’clock in the afternoon with their best caps placed over the strategic place!!!, spending our wonderful weekly wage of £2.50 (all in), we could all now smoke, drink, do what we want, and all at the tender average age of 16!!!, the thrill of getting caught drinking under-age by the cops, expecting to be put inside for Xmas, but that never came 

The smell of Brut, the loon pants, doc martins, Crombies, Ben Sherman shirts, braces, the Smaaart Taart – and that was only Don Tanner. Putting wigs and pillows in our beds after bed checks and sneaking off to discos, meeting our girlfriends, and whatever we did after those after hours??? 

The walks to Dunstable, summer camp in Wales – wet one week and dry the next – oh those blisters, oh those sheep!! The dead one in Flt Lt Chews’ sleeping bag, complete with death certificate – that would have made news of the world these days – even panorama 

The two years passed quite quickly for some, and not quick enough for others. We lost many a good mate after some acedemic problems, some re-mustered, some fell by the wayside. Those final months of airfield training, square bashing  - we even had a rehearsal the night before our graduation, 10 times round the square  - some one shouting ‘ eehh  gimp!!’  - I wonder who that was Wg Cdr? 

Thirty three years have passed like 33 minutes, we are all here , still the same people inside – a lot older, and some of us a lot wider, but we are here today to dedicate this marvellous window and to especially thank Bob Rodham and Yvonne for all the work in bringing us back together today.  There are some that don’t want to know, and i feel sorry for them, but they were sad 33 years ago, and a leopard cannot change its spots.  

Our thoughts also go out to out to the families of our two absent friends – Dave Crerar and Steve Davies who are no longer with us. But they are still here in spirit looking down on us and thinking ‘poor sods’ 

Ladies & gentleman, I give you the 223rd Entry Craft Apprentices,

(Ian Hovey)