The Officers’ ball

A few weeks later on pay parade, Major Smyth called for volunteers to act as drink stewards for the officer’s annual banquet and ball. Most of the lads in the squadron turned up their noses at the thought of waiting on snobby officers and their ‘ladies’. Gordon and I thought it was a great opportunity to have a bit of fun and earn a few quid at the same time. We were given a crash course on how to serve with two spoons in one hand, along with a few other ‘need to know’s.

White steward jackets were distributed and Gordon suggested that we pool all of the tips and share them out at the end of the night. None of the others liked the idea, so Gordon and I instead worked as a two-man team. We made sure that our service was spot on, which ensured a nice tip at the end of the evening.

The way the system worked was that each steward had his own ‘float’ and all drink orders were bought by the steward at the Sergeant’s Mess bar. Each officer had a table of distinguished guests and all rounds of drinks were ordered by the host officer. As we delivered each drink order, Gordon and I loaded the price and made sure the amount was pretty awkward, so we had to wait patiently for payment and that giving change was a difficult proposition. Not wanting to look mean in front of their guests, the officers inevitably waved us away to keep the change.

The buffet table groaned under the weight of the exotic fare and there was plenty of food left. After the last guests left, we partied into the early hours on the remaining drinks and food, as we tallied up our spoils. The total of the other three lads’ tips fell far short of our treasure.

Last Holiday

The summer before I left for Australia was glorious.

Our group, which now included Coral, Ronnie and Christine planned for a special camping holiday to Cornwall.

We asked if Tommy and Audrey would like to come and so be able to hire a van as Tommy was the only driver.

Audrey and Tommy had already found out the great news that she was going to have a baby. As it was not due till next January but Audrey was still very keen to go.

We thought that if we hired a ten-seater Bedford Dormobile Audrey would be comfortable enough travelling in the front passenger seat and they would sleep in the back of the van. I think everyone’s parents were more comfortable with an older married couple going with us and of course Coral was still only seventeen

Tommy collected the van on the morning we were leaving and we were surprised that it did not have any roof bars. We had Uncle Ronnie’s bell tent and quite a few bags and equipment.  Luckily we had plenty of rope and it took a while to get loaded. Looking like a bunch of Hippies we set off.

The Dormobile was going okay except the brakes were very poor so Tommy had to use the gears to slow the vehicle down, especially on hills. We had good weather and got to Tintagel camp site before dark and soon erected our camp.

It was a great place for a seaside holiday and lovely weather On the craggy clifftop was an old Tintagel castle ruin purported to be King Arthurs castle, Camelot.

Audrey was four months pregnant and was not very comfortable sleeping on the narrow bench seats so they decided to go to a hotel for the night, just to give her a good night’s sleep.

We had a great memorable holiday but then it was time to set off for home. Traveling along the main highway we heard a bang. One of the suitcases had fallen off breaking open on landing!

It was quite funny collecting Ronnie’s belongings strewn along the highway with us dodging the heavy traffic, who were tooting and having a good laugh at our expense.

We continued on our journey home and by this time it was quite late. We decided we would find somewhere to stop and pitch the tent. We stopped at a few places but found them to be unsuitable.

A few miles further on almost directly in front of us in the headlights was a large grassed area. Tommy carefully drove over the curb and we set up camp in the dark. We were all exhausted and slept until we were wakened by the sound of heavy traffic. When we all poked our heads out of the tent, we were surprised to be confronted by early morning cars and trucks going to work passing by on both sides of us.

The commuters were as surprised as we were and tooted their horns in encouragement. We were shocked to find we had set up camp in the middle of a huge roundabout.  We had breakfast and loaded up and then set off on to our last leg of our Memorable holiday.

Next: PART 5 – ENGLAND TO AUSTRALIA

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