My RAF Journey Part 3
Ticket to Biggen Hill
The RAF sent a train and bus ticket to my father’s London address for me to report to RAF Biggin Hill (famous Battle of Britain station on the outskirts of Southeast London) to attend four days of aircrew selection assessments on a specific date. The problem was that my father’s address was not my address (another RAF admin slip) and I had never been to England – yet another boobed prerequisite that you had to have lived in the UK for five years before applying. I was a long-haired Joburg joller and a waiter at Mike’s Kitchen Greenside, wearing a black and white striped apron: only skilled in carrying hot plates and working for tips. But those tips were enough to buy a plane ticket to London. So off I went – just in time.
Day One at Biggin Hill comprised mostly maths, cognitive and logical problem-solving testing. Day Two comprised mostly hand/eye/physiological coordination testing. Only 8 of 38 candidates survived to Day Three: psychological evaluations by two Wing Commander psychologists. That’s when it all unravelled in a spectacular fashion. Within five minutes they became distinctly uncomfortable and enquired about my strange accent. The penny suddenly dropped that I hailed from South Africa. They halted the interview and disappeared to an adjacent office, where the calamity of their internal bureaucratic errors revealed itself. They were profoundly apologetic and advised that I was not qualified to join the service.
But after a short whispering debate, they had the courtesy to continue the interview, as I had come so far to make the effort to join the RAF. Day Four comprised leadership assessment exercises, but I was surprised that I was permitted to participate under the circumstances.
I have no idea what happened behind the scenes, but six weeks later a letter from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) popped through my father’s post box. I had been accepted to the military academy at Royal Air Force College Cranwell: the RAF’s Sandhurst (Army) and Dartmouth (Royal Navy) equivalent.
By this time, having given up on my dreams as a lost cause, I had returned to SA and was back running around a Mike’s Kitchen restaurant donned in an apron, carrying hot plates. How the universe can work in one’s favour!!