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1 Intake JEATS 1952

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The First Reunion June 1996


My name is Michael Lynton Tweedie (A24997, No 1 Course), and I have been asked, very nicely too I might add, to jot down some of my memories during the first year of training as a JEAT'. I believe I am the oldest J/T, so please excuse any memory lapses.

So here goes ---- apart from the usual pre-enlistment tests, like “pee in this bottle” and “turn your head and cough”, the JEAT story began on the 23rdJanuary 1952 at RAAF Base Rathmines, a former flying boat base on the shores of Lake Macquarie, just near Toronto and south of Newcastle. This is the day 42 keen, eager and bushy tailed teenagers gathered for the adventure of their lifetime. As quite a few years (68) have passed, some things have been remembered quite clearly, while others are either gone, or scratchy at best. They probably won't appear in chronological order either.

My first clear memory is of the inoculation session, with boys collapsing after waiting in the very hot sunshine, then reacting to the after effects of the needles. One just passed out on the lawn outside the Medical Centre, and another fainted as he was entering his hut. It wasn't a nice experience for any of us.

Now to the Staff & Instructors – C.O. SQN  LDR Hoare, Adjutant, FLT LT Vardy, then FLT LT Altwasser (a tennis fanatic Canadian), a W/Off. ??? (name forgotten) F/Sgt Sargent - imagine, on enlistment you're called Sargeant ( forget AC, LAC, & Cpl, go straight to Sargent) Marvellous. Sgt Degney and Cpl Stuart (Drill Instructor). Also, I must mention the base WOD, one Tony Martin. He must have been delighted, having 12 months to terrorise these youngsters, and he did!

As we were all underage, smoking and drinking were forbidden. What a challenge!!! One Monday night (panic night) Graham Moss came to my room for a visit and lit up. Just then Cpl Stuart was doing his rounds and called Graham to the doorway. He hid the ciggie behind his back, thinking it was safely hidden, but Stuart kept him talking till the cigarette burnt down to his fingers. The only one who didn't laugh was Graham.

Life settled into a routine, wake-up, shower, strip bed and fold sheets and blankets --- one blanket, sheet, two blankets, sheet, one blanket and all wrapped in the 5th blanket. Sheet change every Monday night, then start all over again. We were subject to “Kit Inspections” every 3 months or so, and one lad (name withheld for security reasons) was missing singlet and underpants for at least two inspections. When the reason was discovered, he was frog-marched to the showers and doused in cold water. It was found that he had been wearing the same underwear unchanged right through the winter months. Needless to say, his popularity went below zero. 

The village of Rathmines was NOT a bustling community. The main feature was the general store, run by Mr & Mrs Reed. I have fond memories of the “Blue” flavour and colour milkshakes. I still miss them. Mr Reed --- Herb or Herbie – also ran the local taxi service, and he was the most obliging cabbie you could find. Nobody ever imagined that a VW would have the same name. He drove a Ford Twin-spinner and that car took some immense punishment over the local goat tracks, laughingly referred to as roads. Next to them lived a lady (not sure if her husband was around) who took in washing and ironing for us. I think she must have had shares in a starch company, as she used a LOT, so much so that freshly ironed trousers could stand up by themselves, and it took a lot of effort to separate the legs front to back so you could put them on. Same with the shirts. Never been fond of starch to this day. 

One time, somebody organised for some girls to be brought down from Newcastle for a dance (Not that type of girl – keep a clean mind!) They were very nice girls and I managed to attract one - named Edith – and I remember Arthur Payne linking up with one who's father managed the Great Northern Hotel opposite the railway station.

This romantic attachment started a new weekend routine for us two. Early Saturday rise, catch the first train from Toronto to Newcastle and arrive in time to make a quality check of the relevant brew after the morning pipes were cleaned. I can remember going to the Saturday night dance at the City Hall, but some other parts of Saturday are a bit on the vague side.

One other memory concerns Roger Bailey and Barry Eckert. Roger had the ability to hypnotise Barry, almost at will, and my first thought was that it was an arrangement between them, but one occasion made me think again.  Barry became as rigid as a plank, and Roger positioned him with his head on one chair and his feet on another, face up. This is very difficult to do when you're in full control of you're senses.He then got a couple of the bigger boys to sit on him, and there was no movement from Barry at all. I hope all the “messing” Roger did with Barry's head did not have any lasting effect .

Finally, I have heard that the JEAT Scheme was not well received in some quarters, and the suggestion that it created an “Elite” group. Personally speaking, I have never felt like an “Elite” person. I was and am, proud to have been selected as one of the first to be enlisted. (The Pioneers maybe?) So, to those who cut short the program to just 8 Courses, by doing that, you created a unique (not Elite) group, and for that I say “Thank You”.

Lyn Tweedie

November 2020

We marched and marched

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