Through adversity to the stars
– My RAF Journey Part 10
On arriving back at Cranwell, a whole new energy had emerged. Spring was in the air and the trees glowed in fluorescent greens. The classical architectural College structures, peeking through the foliage, seemed to be less daunting and intimidating, and had become a nurturing place for learning, growth and higher orders of being. I had a new Flight Commander: Jeff Smithson. Jeff was a pilot – the only one of the DS – the others being from the diverse range of non-aviation branch disciplines. He and I connected immediately, with a common sense of humour and easy chemistry. He was aware that I was struggling with the officer program and committed to see me through the next three months, as I was clearly trying my best to gain a military commission and he deemed me to be a worthwhile investment.
I was as strong and fit as the best, hardened by physical adversity, and my academics began to improve to top-notch levels – which surprised me most. I had never excelled at anything academic before. With the endless demands for essays, I upped my game with in-depth research, vocabulary and the pursuit of grammatical mastery. I voluntarily delved into extramural activities of studies in military philosophies and technicalities as particular obsessions and built confidence in how they could be practically applied to the execution of modern warfare: the military’s fundamental raison d’etre after all. This translated well into my more original writings and public speeches on the future strategies of the Cold War. I was reminded by Jeff that Winston Churchill was a late starter as a cadet and almost failed at Sandhurst until he realised that consistency was rarer than talent or enthusiasm: once realised and by never giving up, could bring about a distinct competitive advantage over the naturally gifted and complacent.
I had more fun, saw my peers as friends, developed deep friendships and let my mischievous side restore itself. ‘Spoofing’, the RAF lingo for pranking, was the name of the game for alleviating stress and I participated in that wholeheartedly. It was no longer a world of survival. It had become a realm of infinite possibilities: ‘Per Ardva ad Astra’, the RAF motto of ‘Through adversity to the stars’, took on real meaning.