Royal Air Force Apprentice history (page 1)
When Lord Trenchard, the first Chief of the Air Staff, envisaged an
apprenticeship scheme for the Royal Air Force, the main focus was to be on
providing skilled engineers. However, Squadron Leader J W Cordingly, Commanding
Officer of the Royal Air Force Record Office at Flowerdown prior to its re-location
to RAF Ruislip, suggested that skilled administration too would be required and
that there should also be apprentice training for clerks in the Royal Air Force.
Training began at RAF Ruislip but was later undertaken at three other RAF units,
St Athan, Hereford and Bircham Newton. With the commencement of World War II,
many apprentices applied, and were accepted for, aircrew duties - although
one famous Commander-in-Chief was against this source of recruitment
stating "We can get as many aircrew as we like, and train them quicker than we
can get good, trained clerks'!
Indeed, as proof of the C-in-C's perception, many ex-apprentices
were 'poached' by Diplomatic, Consular and other Government Departments, and one
ex-apprentice retired as a Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police. With
the outbreak of war, the demand for experienced clerks increased, and promotion
could be quite rapid, indeed one Warrant Officer, known to the writer, proudly
boasted that he had never done duty as Orderly Sergeant!
During their service over the years, many ex-apprentice
clerks received state and bravery awards, with Flight Lieutenant Norman Baugh,
MC, a pilot and a former member of the 21st Entry, being especially worthy of
mention. Taken prisoner by the Japanese in Hong Kong in December, 1941, he
escaped on a makeshift raft into the Bay, and then overland, and, despite many
encounters with dissidents and illness, he eventually reached Bombay and was
flown back to the UK. On recovering from his privations, Flight Lieutenant Baugh
returned to flying duties in Burma where, sadly, he was killed in action in
January 1943. To appreciate fully what was involved in this escape, check your
Atlas and note the distance from Hong Kong to Bombay.
It would be inappropriate not to mention Air Vice-Marshal
W Carter of the 7th Entry, the only ex-Apprentice Clerk to reach this rank.
On pass-out, the Warrant Officer Discip told him 'Boy, you have given me
more trouble than most. You'll end up smashed into a hillside, or with an Air
Marshal's baton,' what prescience! '