A glimpse into 1970s RAF culture

Today, clearing out my office for a reorganisation, I discovered the notes for a speech I had written for my dining out night at RAF Lyneham in 1975.

This stream of consciousness was delivered at the end of my first operational tour of duty, as a copilot on LXX Squadron (Lockheed C130 Hercules), based first at Akrotiri (Cyprus), then Lyneham.

At the time of its delivery I had just been posted from LXX to the RAF’s Central Flying School to train as a Qualified Flying Instructor.

The subject was: “How Being a Copilot Hasn’t Changed Me At All”. Here goes:

“Being a copilot for two and a half years hasn’t changed me at all.

Well, maybe a little.

No, that’s not true; it’s changed me a lot.

In fact I am unrecognisable now as the charming, gentle individual I was just that short time ago. I used to laugh a lot and loved everyone.

I can assure you that being the butt of all allowable flight deck jokes has not raised any animosity in my soul.

Well….maybe just a little.

It’s just made me a little antagonistic toward captains, navigators, flight engineers and loadmasters, that’s all.

In fact, to tell the truth, I HATE them.

Captains are sadists, navs are psychopaths, engineers don’t have emotions – just biological urges, and loadies delight in torturing everyone with undrinkable beverages.

Only copilots are human, and are still capable of experiencing the full range of human emotions – the flight envelope of the soul, you might call it.

I tell you what this is. The whole thing is a grand conspiracy to imbue the gentle copilot with sufficient malevolence, spite, vindictiveness and general nastiness to make him into a first class captain.

The ambitious copilot learns early the qualities required for command selection. If he’s wise he will privately cultivate a vituperative tongue and publicly display a character that would have done credit to a combined Fagin and Jack the Ripper – in fact just the type required to terrorise and reduce to tears a new generation of gentle copilots.

Copiloting the Herc

But, you see, they haven’t managed to get to me. Oh no.

I still have a balanced view of things. I’m still impartial in my judgement. I don’t hate anyone any more than anyone else.

Though I must admit that this hatred has spread a little from its original fixation on captains.

But I still have my reason. I don’t hate the paper boy any more than the milkman. I don’t hate my Mummy very much yet, which is not democratic. I mean why should she be different?

So I’m working on it.

You see, I’m determined to hang on to my sanity. They won’t manage to change me! Not me. I must not be vindictive and arrogant. I must hate EQUALLY.

I recognise I am not as gentle as I used to be. But perhaps that’s just a part of growing up. I used to love playing solitaire and Happy Families.

Now I’m more easily satisfied.

I sit down in the corner with my legs crossed pulling the wings off flies, which always makes me feel a lot better.

Do you think this has any significance? I am a little worried about enjoying it so much and I have this urge to progress to larger insects.

They will not destroy me. There is still some love in my soul, although I refuse to give it to anyone because it would be unfair to the others. So I lavish it all on me.

I have only recently become aware what a beautiful person I am. I am now capable of disregarding anyone else’s opinion of me – or any other subject for that matter – by treating them with utter disdain.

I suppose some would say I’m becoming arrogant, but that’s absolute rubbish! It’s completely natural to loathe people who are inferior beings.

By Jove I have just realised – in a flash of inspiration – that they HAVE got to me. They have instilled in me all the qualities of the ideal captain, but I can’t fly to save my life.

What will they do?

They’re sending me to CFS.”