d. A cadet remembers
The notes that follow were written by a flight cadet just before graduation
and give an excellent idea of a cadet’s life in those days, and
are a fitting way to close this important chapter in the Station’s
“‘As is inevitable
with barrack room life we soon learned to live and work together
and because none of us was keen on scrubbing
floors at night or doing extra drill in our spare time we made fewer
mistakes as the time wore on - at least, we were discovered less frequently.
At the end of 2 terms in the Cadet Block most of us could lay out our
kit for an inspection confident in the knowledge that there was nothing
wrong with it
We played soccer, rugby and hockey, and went on cross country runs.
We learned maths and elementary accounts and how to get up in the
morning. Within 6 weeks we could imitate any of our instructors.
In the evenings
we would prepare our kit for the morning and spend fortunes in the
After ‘Lights Out’ we would lie awake in our beds (dressed
by the right) and talk for a little while in subdued voices, while from
an airmen’s barrack block across the grass could be heard the sound
of a radio. At roughly the same time every night the same tune would
be played, and in the end we knew it backwards and couldn’t go
to sleep till we heard it. It was called ‘Heartbreaker’.
I remember also a certain night when Block 46 was surrounded by its pyjama—clad
inmates trying to locate a noisy cricket which had been worrying
us for some time.
The first 2 terms seemed to
crawl by despite the crowded hours, We returned from Summer leave
to find that the 18 month course had been
to 2 years and 8 months. We were not unduly perturbed because the
end seemed so far away anyway that 14 more months didn’t make
any difference. We had learned in the Science Block that if 14 is added
to Infinity the
answer is still Infinity.
At the end of the second term,
we managed to produce 2 one-act plays - the first sign of life from
any Digby Section of the College Society.
We made our own scenery and the effect was ghastly. Those of us who
had anything to do with ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ or ‘The
Man In The Bowler Hat’ still wince when we think about that night,
of the producer who forgot his lines and the prompter who had gone
Christmas leave came at last and with it the end of our days as Cadets.
From henceforth we were Flight Cadets, resplendent in our white shoulder
flashes and maroon lanyards. We celebrated the last night of that second
term in the traditional manner, and we will long remember that walk back
to camp, with the red light on the North Hangar in the distance which
would NOT stop revolving.
We started our first term as Flight Cadets in a blaze of glory. The
eyes of all were upon us as we marched back and forth on the square at
lunch time. The owners those eyes were thanking whatever gods they owned
that THEY did not return late from leave.
Life in the Flight Cadets
Mess was more conducive to work than the barrack block surroundings.
Occasionally we did some in our spare time.
there were 4 entries at Digby and it seemed that the future of the
Wing was at last assured. In the terms that followed, as the E & S
Wing grew in size and importance, we were all aware of some indefinable
going on around us, something vaguely significant. As our numbers
increased we began to win our sports fixtures and avenge earlier defeats.
eager for more and ready to accept any challenge. Flight Cadets were
representing the College at sports and our wing teams were wresting
trophies from the other Cranwell squadrons.
At the same time the Instructional Staff was slowly growing and the
lecture rooms filled out. Each term the number of faces at dinner increased
and by the sixth term the days when there were only 33 people in the
mess seemed far enough away never to have existed.
While all this progress and
growth was going on, something was happening to each us individually.
A ‘Wing Spirit’ was being born.
While our sportsmen were pitting themselves against other squadrons in
the stadium at Cranwell, the E & S Wing supporters were definitely
outshouting the other squadrons in the stands. This spirit was not confined
to the sports field. It was reflected in the extra-mural activities,
on the parade ground, and in the classroom. Digby was no longer just ‘a
course’, but Digby was — well –Digby!
Previous to that summer and autumn of 1949, the F & S Wing seemed
a part of the College in name only. To those members of the Wing, and
to most of those outside it, Digby was a little institution on its
own, but now, by its own efforts it had become in reality part of the
RAF College and a force to be reckoned with. We didn’t realise
what was happening at the time, but we all agree that those were ‘great
days’, and we regard it as a privilege to have been there while
it was happening.
What I personally will remember
most vividly about that summer at Digby are those lazy Sunday afternoons
spent watching cricket matches
on the sports field. I was not fond of cricket, but it seemed that
sitting out there in the hot sun or the cooler evenings, watching the
figures playing out their game, listening to the steady sound of bat
striking ball was a GOOD thing to be doing. Although Digby was not
all play and no work, the work never seemed to oppress us. In most
the work was done without much effort, and in all cases it was done
somehow, sometime. We learnt the theoretical side of our professional
subjects for that all-important background. We descended into the bowels
of the earth and had our photographs taken in miners helmets. We visited
the Player’s factory and came away with a free packet of cigarettes
each. We learnt as much from 3-day visits to Service establishments
as we did from a week of lectures. In our sixth term we watched the
Entry graduate. That was a great day for Digby. It was our Coming of
Age. The passing of No 1 Entry made us the Senior Entry . Some of us
were made up to Flight Cadet NCOs and the rest of the entry got away
with it. We could now sit at the top table in the dining hall and use
the front door of the mess, and we took a part in the general administration
of the Wing. We knew we were envied by all the junior entries because
we ourselves had envied No 1 Entry.
The Summer holidays came and
went, and we arrived back at Digby for the last time. Of course,
there were still the Final Examinations
to be overcome, but 10 weeks seemed plenty of time to worry about them.
Nine weeks later we decided it was time to get down to some work,
the fact that we passed gave us all a fresh burst of confidence.”