Off At Last

Chatty's picture

Borden, nothing but a bad memory. Hard at work in the Depot at West Moors, "Oi Chatty, J.B. wants to see you in his office" "What have I done now?" I ask myself. Can't think of any glaring misdemeanors. Room's tidy, kits OK. Better get there quick or else he'll have something else to moan about. Grab the Depot Bike (it really was a bike) and proceed at blistering speed in the general direction of the Depot HQ area. I say general direction, because, as anyone who has ridden a Depot Bike will verify, it had a mind of its own, as well as being a target for sabotage by any one of the disgruntled "Chunkies" "You wanted to see me Sir?" "Ah, Chatfield, good news. Your posting to Christmas Island's been confirmed, you're off in April, Elsey is going with you". Frantic phone calls to tell everyone of my good news. The best news being that we didn't have to endure a second helping of Borden and its tribe of Zombies. No more pot bellied stoves, no more chances of being pointed out by the local talent as a J.Cloth wearer. We were departing directly from West Moors. I could handle that. Another round of Kit issues, this time issued by a known storeman who wouldn't dare issue weird shaped, oversized lumps of cloth. This time we're going for tailored designer wear. Slightly exaggerated statement, but at least it fitted and looked the part. What do I need?. Passport, jabs, courage. Mainly in that order. Passport was no problem, had that sorted in a flash (no pun intended). Jabs. Not particularly overjoyed at the thought, but it was a day out at Tidworth Military Hospital. Grab a "Champ" and off we go. My appointment was for 14.00hrs. It wasn't until about 16.30hrs and a lot of enquiries that I discovered that it was Military Hospital procedure to make all afternoon appoints for all concerned, 14.00hrs. After an armful of all concoctions known to medical science, a blood test, dental check and various other seemingly time wasting procedures, I was let loose to return to the normality of West Moors. Two weeks embarkation leave was now the next thing. Wasn't going to moan about that. Two weeks at home in Bognor Regis, the excitement of it all was almost more than I could cope with. From Bognor to Christmas Island, who says life can't be exciting. As always the leave shot by, back to West Moors and the big adventure. This is where the courage part rears its ugly head. How does a person get to far away tropical paradises. He flies. I'd never flown, I dreaded the thought of flying, sadly there were no alternatives. The day arrives, 17 April 1963. Alan and I, kit bags and suitcases at the ready, No 2 dress pressed to perfection begin our epic adventure. Phase 1. Stinky train from West Moors, I'm sure it was the same one we got to Borden 14 months earlier. If it wasn't, the graffiti artist certainly was well travelled. Our Port of call was B.O.A.C. Air Terminal in London. By now I was becoming a quivering, nervous, unintelligible idiot. (what's new?) Alan was frantically trying to convince me that flying was the safest form of transport. Who's he kidding, Bloody Boeing 707s were going down faster than they could build them. It can't all be pilot error. Enter the Air Terminal, suave, brave, devil may care, who was I kidding? Approach the counter, the one thing in favour of flying was that the Ladies at the counter definitely took the mind off impacting into the ground at 500 mph. "Can I help you?" said the vision in B.O.A.C. designer wear. Various thoughts and pictures flitted across my addled brain, but I'll keep to the story, anyway I was wearing Drawers Cellular, Mans, Olive Green, so what's the use? Purely out of basic survival instincts, I posed the following leading question. "What are we going by. Comet or 707?" "707 Sir" The following are shamefully the words I uttered. "******* hell, they're always crashing" Without as much as a pause, beautifully poised, and seemingly unaware of my turn of phrase, she smiled and said, "not ours Sir". What a woman, I still feel immense admiration at such control.