It has always been challenging for service personnel to leave the military and adapt back into civilian life. Over the years the support these men and women have received has varied wildly, with some getting a lot of help making the transition to civvy street whilst others have just been left to sort things for themselves. Tonight we are looking at a certificate of service given to an airmen in the early 1950s. The hardback booklet turned up on the second hand market a couple of months ago with a leaflet offering some guidance on leaving the RAF:Opening the certificate, the first page has space for details of the airmen, in this case Leading Aircraftmen Alan Parston:This gives some basic personal information, plus his civilian trade on enlistment. The following pages have more personal information:And a space to record his superiors’ assessment of his ability and character:In these days of referees only being allowed to say positive things, it seems odd that in the early 1950s they could describe someone a being ‘poor’ in anything… The certificate goes on to give details of any courses the airman completed in the RAF:And details of his trade:The following page gives further into this and has space for any medals awarded, in this case the General Service Medal with a clasp for Malaya:Finally there is space for general comments from the airman’s commanding officer:Clearly the comments here are aimed at helping LAC Parston get a trade on release from the RAF, emphasising his skills and character as a hardworking and conscientious man. This is typical of many officers in the armed forces, who had a great deal of respect for their men and wanted to do all they could to help them secure their futures when they left the services. Bill Daly was one of those who got demobbed from the RAF in the 1950s:
Demob was creeping ever so close and I was still giving some thought to signing on for the third year but couldn’t quite bring myself to make a move. The longer it was taking the more I thought, ‘‘It’s going to be Demob.” However, one afternoon the flight Sergeant called my mate Norrie and I into his office. Norrie was also due for demob three weeks after me. He asked us if we wanted to go on a 4 week refresher course to RAF Bucheburg for brushing up on our civvy trade. The pool was still closed for my second winter, so we jumped at the chance and about a week later we were on the train for Bucheburg. The camp was situated almost inside the town. Everybody in camp seemed quite friendly. We had a two man room and the key to the door which gave us some freedom because obviously beds were not being made from one week to another, just on bull nights. The locals were a lot friendlier than the last time we were there. I remember one weekend there was a beer festival on in town. So we spent the weekend sampling all their beers and lagers. Which was maybe one or two too many as I was ill for a couple of days after it.
It was a good course, refreshing our memories of the ins and outs of our civvy trade, but as usual it all past too quickly and we were back in Wunstorf again. The pool was opened for summer and I was on life guard duty once more. After a lot of deliberation I decided rather than disappoint my folks back home and also suffer the digs and abuse I would get from the lads in the billet who hate national service, I decided to go for demob which was only about four weeks away.
And so, it quickly came the time for booking out of camp. I think it was a blue or green card with the names of all places I had to go to, to get it signed; the sports officer was disappointed I was heading home and did his best to get me to sign on. It was tough. The night before leaving I had a wee demob party in the Malcolm club. I can remember that night and how I was still wondering if I was doing the right thing. Was I going to miss all this? The RAF swimming championships were coming up soon in Celle, the rifle shoots in Sannalarger rifle range and the LAA shoots in the Islands of Sylk but would I really prefer working in a shipyard? There were also a lot of financial gains to be made signing on again, including a whopping back payment of a higher rate of wages. However, the choice was made. The next morning after an early breakfast I had to catch the 8 o clock camp bus to the train station. It was a really sad moment saying goodbye to the lads whom I had been closely knitted too for the last 17 months. Some of us would stay in touch long after.
It was an uneventful journey back to St Anne’s Lytham, UK, the demob station. I met up with some of the lads I initially joined up with, who were posted Middle East. Listening to some of their stories about the Middle East, I’m sure glad I missed it. It sounded tough going compared to Germany.
On pay parade for the last time, I marched up to the officers desk, gave a smart salute and collected my RAF pay and demob papers. Next thing I’m on the train with a lot of happy ex RAF lads heading for Scotland and home. I must admit in many ways it was good to get home and back into the old routine, out every night with the mates, having a couple of pints then off to the dancing. The one bad thing about the time in Germany was not seeing many girls as they were few and far between. Not a problem back home and it was good to have plenty more money to spend.