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Aldergrove, Northern Ireland.

 

The base in Northern Island was outside Belfast. It should have been really nice but some strange people populated it. I didn’t believe racial hatred could be this strong. It twisted people up. It was all beneath the surface. The church divide went so deep, but I was too naïve to make a connection but in Belfast it was BIG business! It was the Church of Ireland against Roman Catholics. Your life, job & where you lived was involved. Of course, I knew nothing of this & even when it was pointed out, it was too far fetched for me to accept. In the RAF or in the streets I lived in, what religion you were was academic & of very little interest! I would have no idea & cared even less. Sure we would argue religion for hours but it was a discussion of views. Even if the views were held deeply, there was no hatred. I'd heard of people hating other just because of their colour. Although I didn't get it, at least that was obvious & you could tell, just by looking.

After being dumped because a guy had a motorbike, I was interested in the women of course. But it was all very familiar. Just like the Methodists, everyone was a professional virgin. I was on familiar territory. I had a Phillips 16 track reel-to-reel tape recorder & met up with a girl in a choir. I pretended I wanted to record their voices … ya right! My, they were very strange people. I took her to the theatre or a concert once. The only thing that impressed her was that the women in the next seat had a Dior coat on! To be honest, there are girls like that everywhere. It's just that it struck me they were all very strange. I didn’t like the atmosphere at all and started looking for a person who would swap postings with me. (Difficult. Aldergrove wasn’t exactly attractive as a posting).

Some of the lads went down to Lough Neagh, the largest inland lake in Europe (or some such distinction). We were nearly eaten alive by midges. I have never run away from flies before, but we sure did that time! They were as thick as clouds!

We also had a classic Irish conversation one day. I think we were in Antrim & wanted to get a bus back to camp.

“What time is the next bus to Aldergrove, please?”

“That’ll be half past eight sir” Just about to say thank you & he finished off the sentence “Tuesday morning”.

Aldergrove had the distinction of being the only place where I went on guard duty for real! I was standing on top of Air Traffic with a sten gun at 3am, waiting for the IRA to turn up! Of course they never came. I’m sure they used to get merry on Guinness and decide to keep us awake by spreading the rumour that a raid was on.

I wasn’t there long & got promoted to corporal. This didn’t mean much, expect I got more pay  and importantly, there was a corporal in the ATCC (the air traffic control centre) at Barton Hall, Preston, who was interested in an exchange posting. To do this, you needed to find a person of the same rank & profession that wanted to do the exchange. Had I found my mad Irishman? Barton Hall was just north of Preston on the A6. It was an emergency centre, which helped aircraft in distress. It wasn’t a bad posting, just no real aircraft. It would do until I got a descent posting! Little did I know I was going to end up there for 7 years? Stuck in a hole, looking at a green screen & never seeing a real live aircraft! It would see me married & have children, apart from a brief trip to Germany; it was going to see me out of the armed forces.

 

Next, on to Preston.