Jabs and Pay Parades - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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Jabs and Pay Parades

At the start of our second week we had our initial inoculations - or jabs as they were always called. Recruits on the more advanced flights had made sure that we were all absolutely dreading the experience. We had to form two lines in alphabetical order, hands on hips, with both sleeves rolled up as far as possible. Two medical orderlies swabbed our arms followed by medical officers who gave us an injection in each arm. One injection was anti-smallpox and the other was called TABT - the latter was to provide protection against tetanus and typhoid and came in two doses, one in our first week and the other in our final week at Bridgnorth. We were relieved to note that the MOs did not use the same needles for everyone in spite of what we had been told. Four lads actually fainted, three after one or more of their jabs and one as the needle first approached his arm but before it penetrated. All had to be lifted from the floor.

The injections themselves didn't hurt; it was the after effects that were most unpleasant. Late that afternoon both my arms started to ache and swell, and later still I developed painful cramps in my stomach. I noted in my diary, written the following day, that: "I retired to my bed at 6pm, absolutely frozen and wracked with pain! I was not alone." Yes, yes, I know! Of course, I didn't mean there was someone else in my bed: I meant most of the others had similar symptoms. Odd how perfectly normal expressions can be misconstrued these days! By morning I had completely recovered, apart from a lingering stiffness in my upper arms.

Our first pay parade was on 3 September. What a tedious and long drawn-out affair that was. Our entire squadron of four flights, almost 200 recruits in total, paraded together in a large hangar. That alone took about 20 minutes to organise. Already seated at a trestle table was the Paying Officer, a very young pilot officer who was looking extremely apprehensive. In front of him were, neatly laid out, many bundles of £1 notes held together by wide, flat rubber bands. Alongside the notes there were piles of two-shilling pieces, 10 to each pile (there were 20 shillings to the pound for those not old enough to remember). Perhaps the officer's apprehension was because he was shy at appearing before so many airmen, or perhaps someone in the Officers Mess had told him that if any money went missing, or if he gave any of us too much by mistake, he would have to make up the deficit from his own pocket. The paying officer was attended by a flight sergeant, standing alongside him clasping a clip board. As soon as the four flight corporals had reported that we were all present and correct on parade, the flight sergeant barked out his instructions in rapid succession without any pauses:

"When I call out your name, come smartly to attention, shout out 'Sir' and your last three, turn to your right, march smartly to the front, halt in front of the officer and salute. I'll call out the sum that you'll receive and the officer will lay it on the table. Smartly pick up your money, salute again, turn to your left and return to your place in the flight. Make sure you collect the correct amount. Once you've left the table it'll be too late to make any changes."

Our flight was the first to be paid and I was about fifteenth in alphabetical order. Under my breath I practised: "Sir, zero three five". By the time it was my turn to perform I had had plenty of opportunity to watch others going through their performances, but I was so worried that I might make a mistake that I completely forgot to ensure that I had picked up the correct amount. The most incongruous part of the whole pay parade was the flight sergeant's act, which continued, something like this for each recruit as he halted in front of the officer:

"AC2 Cunnane, A. Two pounds and fourteen shillings, Sir. That's two one-pound notes and seven two-shilling pieces, Sir."

Whether this breakdown was for our benefit or for the pilot officer I knew not but the same flight sergeant carried the same procedure at all our subsequent pay parades at Bridgnorth.

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