David Switzer

These reminiscences of Boy Entrant training have been provided David Switzer 24th Cook.


I will now admit to being the culprit who ensured that we had a new CO's pennant on the flagpole the day we passed out. Returning rather late from celebrating (the day before) our graduation, I along with Len Cornford and one other, considered that the Air Commodores Pennant was not to the standard required by our entry and requesting a new one would perhaps not solve the problem. Removing it completely would, and so the deed was done. The pennant stuffed inside my uniform we made our way across the square, (and that was unheard of in those days) only to be met by the Station Duty Officer who enquired what we were up to. We saluted and noticing we were not totally sober he enquired what entry we were, we were the 24th we told him in no uncertain manner and we were celebrating our forthcoming graduation!. He told us to get to bed!


The article, on the front page of the June 2003 edition of "The Chequered Band", brought back memories of the food boycott. I well remember being one of the very small "committee" who planned the event. The food in general was not of a very high standard and portions meagre, and so a "boycott" was proposed. We did not want a mutiny but did want to make a point, preferably without any individual being held responsible. It was decided that there was very little action that could be taken against anyone who just said they just did not fancy the fare on offer, and provided we all kept to that line, it would not be possible to take any action against any of us. We also decided that the two slices of bread, the knob of butter and teaspoon of jam, which was always available after collecting the main course, could be taken, along with the mug of tea, in order to mitigate the pangs of hunger. The boycott was reasonably effective; however, the twist to the tale is that it was organised by the 24th Entry Cooks! I think it was fair to say we "Cooks" were a little embarrassed with the fare on offer and "were going to sort out the RAF Catering"!

At a later stage in my RAF career, having been commissioned as a Catering Officer, I encountered the other side of the coin. In 1972, I was posted to Germany as a Flight Lieutenant being the first commissioned catering officer with the Harrier Wing at RAF Wildenrath. In the 1960's and 70's catering standards in the RAF were generally quite high but I recognised that catering for the Harrier Wing, I was on a hiding to nothing. The reason being that the cost of feeding a serviceman was based on a "Daily Messing Rate". Whilst on a normal station perhaps only 30% would turn up for breakfast during the week and at weekends only 20% for all meals. Those unused rations were then used to enhance meals served during the week. In the field, catering for nearly 3,000 personnel, appetites were sharper, everyone turned up for breakfast and there was no going home for the weekend. Shades of the Cosford "boycott" vividly sprang to mind!

What I could never understand was that in those days, we appeared to have an endless supply of fuel for aircraft and transport but a very carefully controlled allowance for the human element. I was also aware that one of my fellow catering officers, a Squadron Leader, had recently been demoted, following a court-marital for overspending. So, I had a choice, a Cosford style boycott or court-martial! Was this was going to be a no win situation, not if I could help it,

With the aid of my CO, (then Gp Cap, later Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick, Paddy Hine) and the Director of RAF Catering we set about the Treasury, who is "Godfather in these matters. I had had a previous run in with the Treasury over manning levels but determination and perseverance had won that argument. Despite advice that the Treasury would not bend, and against all odds, we persuaded the Treasury that a special rate should be authorised, it was, and my neck was saved and a re-run of the Cosford "boycott" avoided.