– ODO- 14324 – 14462km
– Location- Hotel on a Lake near Barpeta, Assam, India
– Weather- 26-35 Showers in the morning
My time in the Air Cadets could be considered responsible for this crazy adventure. I was already sold on the Royal Air Force funded youth organisation by the time my dad showed me his “Blue Book” – every cadets activity log complete with his flights in the Chipmunk trainer plane. I was already spending every weekend at the local flying school answering phones, refuelling planes and even going in on the stormy days to fire up Microsoft Flight Simulator on the struggling office computer.
As soon as I was old enough to join I went to an open evening for 759 Beccles squadron the first of my weekly journeys, which continued every week for the next five years. My mum driving the 40 minutes each and every Friday night. Once to drop me off, home just in time for a curry, then back out to collect me, always late, chatting to one of the staff no doubt.
While the Fridays of sweeping the floor, marching and lessons on the theory of flight were just what I wanted as a tween most fun was had at the annual camps. I can never thank my poor mum enough for getting up at 5am each summer to take me to the same hall where I’d sit on an empty coach winding across the county stopping at cold brick halls and filling gradually with similar tired faces. Staying in RAF bases I knew the name but rarely in which part of the country we were.
At one camp closer to home in Norfolk we camped in tents arranged around a bonfire. Arriving well after dark on the Friday night we erected the thick canvas frame tents. Every morning we woke up, laid out our sleeping bags for inspection and cooked tins of beans on solid metal meths stoves. Splitting into groups (our flights) we’d rotate a series of exercises. As I sit here on an Indian river bank, waiting for fishermen and the local teens to head home for the evening before I can stealthily raise my bivvy, I remember one activity in particular.
We’d be lined up by the edge of a forest by a staff member. Ahead of us we were told there were three others hiding. We could see one person standing up in a black shirt right away. It would take some eagle eyes to spot another nealing in army issue DPM (disruptive pattern material) some way back. More and more we’d look and hunt for the third, when all of a sudden the ground at our feet would move and reveal them. They wore a gilly suit fully covered in the same grass and moss of the forest floor. That’s when we’d learn the four S’s and the M.
All could give away your position. Useful for the team exercises we’d be doing later in the weekend. Also useful, it turns out, when pitching a tent in an Indian farmers field.