Life in the Mess

LATE NIGHT PORTER

Whilst security was not a high concern in the 1960s College Hall the main doors were always locked at 23:00 and the only entrance after that time was by way of the Hall Porter's Lodge and a signature in the 'Late' book.

Chris Edwards used to offer a less bureaucratic option to the College by way of his ground floor window on the corner of ‘C’ block. His window was always left open (on hygiene grounds) and late night revellers returning would often avail themselves of his open door hospitality. Frequently aroused from his slumbers Chris would always raise a cheery smile as inebriated colleagues marched across his bed past his sink, pausing sometimes to ‘wash their hands’, and from thence to the peace of their own rooms. Sadly Chris was lost in a  Vulcan accident during an Air Display at Glenview NAS Ill, USA 12/8/1978.

Mike Smith 91C

IMPECUNITY

There were two types of Cadet at Cranwell: those with private incomes from parents or, in the case of some Arabic Cadets, their governments; and those without external assistance, like myself, who were permanently financially embarrassed, or broke. On arrival, our meagre £14.00 per month was rapidly eroded, by Mess Bills, the mandatory £1.00 per month hairdresser bill ('Best deal you'll ever get, Sir-as many 'aircuts as you like for a pound'), and whatever we could get away with after falling into the unctuous clutches of Mr Young, the predatory manager of Gieves the Tailors, who had a small but very profitable shop on base.

There were a couple of income boosters available to the impoverished, including one affectionately referred to as 'Uncle Frank'. The said uncle was, in fact, an insurance salesman from Nottingham who, shortly after we arrived, was introduced as our saviour, who would recompense us for kit loss, including the many expensive items lent to us by Her Majesty. For some reason, it was explained that if we lost any government property, we would need to pay twice its face value: once for the replacement, and again for the loss of the item removed in consequence from store. I could never work out the logic behind this, but had equal difficulty refuting it. In any case, the threat worked, and we all dutifully took out an 'Uncle Frank'. The apparent affection for Mr Frank Ullyatt was in fact based on the inclination of some to be 'economical with the actualite' on making claims, providing short term funds to enable life to continue in the manner expected of a prospective RAF Officer. The quid quo pro, of course, was that Uncle Frank hoped, indeed expected, all claimants to spread the word about his professional services and, in due course, to take out a life insurance policy to help boost his own substantial income. Indeed, his little blue brochures, entitled 'Vade Vecum', would have today provided enough recycling material to keep the College warm and well lit for years.

Having exhausted the patience and credulity of Mr Ullyatt, I found myself after a year at Cranwell rapidly approaching financial meltdown. Such was my parlous state of affairs, that I received a letter from an obviously exasperated Manager of R3 Section, Cox's and Kings, Lloyds, one Mr Hogg, who made it clear that my tendency to use his bank as a means of maintaining my lavish lifestyle had to end at once. Specifically, he wrote:

Dear Flight Cadet Coville, I note that at the moment of writing you are overdrawn to the tune of £24-6-9d; kindly let me know by return what you intend to do to redress this imbalance'.

Feeling understandably outraged at the impertinence of the fellow, I took the letter to the bar to consult with my trusted friends, all of whom I knew could be depended upon to give sound financial advice. After a few pints, I was encouraged to write back to Mr Hogg along the following lines:

'Dear Mr Hogg, Thank you for your recent letter. I note that at the beginning of this month you owed me £9-7-4d. I did not write to you to point this out; kindly do not do the same when I have availed myself of a similar amount from your bank. You have the honour to be, Sir, My Obedient Servant.'

Having been chaired down to the letter box, where I posted the letter with a great flourish, we returned to the bar to turn our minds to more important issues.

The morning broke, and with it the reality of my folly. Too late, the post had gone. The following day, realising that grovelling was my only hope, I called Mr Hogg in his office in Pall Mall, to be greeted by a stony secretary's comment: 'Ah yes, Flight Cadet; we have received your letter. Mr Hogg will speak to you right away.' For some reason, this frock-coated gentleman refused to accept my plea in mitigation that I had had a few pints before writing the letter, retorting: 'You had been drinking, when I see that you are now overdrawn to the tune of £27-7-8d!' Fortunately, after explaining that I was determined to mend my wayward lifestyle, Mr Hogg kindly agreed to provide a 'consolidation loan', with the strict proviso that I used the additional funds wisely. I did, and went out at once to buy a new Limmo.

Chris Coville 91C

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