8 Intake Mangoes 1954

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Who could ever have foreseen as we arrived at Wagga Wagga on a hot January day in 1954, confused, bedraggled and bewildered that fifty years later we would be celebrating the occasion. We arrived at the RAAF School of Technical Training from all states of Australia, young boys aged between fifteen and seventeen. 


On arrival at the Forest Hill RAAF Base we became aware that our intake had been named the Mangoes by the senior apprentice squadron. Anyone with the audacity to ask, “Why Mangoes?” was quickly told, “Green on the outside, yellow on the inside and too many of them give you the shits.”   Besides this RAAF apprentice tradition of bestowing a name on each new intake, we were also subjected to various initiation rituals by the senior third-year apprentices. The most spectacular was the blanket toss as shown on the cover photo of this book. Other initiation rituals included being seconded to clean the senior group’s huts regularly on “panic” nights, and other servant tasks like polishing shoes or brass. Anyone who objected or resisted generally copped twice as much attention, so one quickly learnt it was easier to submit. 


Generally the senior apprentices protected us from the second-year apprentices who also attempted to use us as servants. The only consoling factor one had at the time was that one day we would be the senior group and the roles would be reversed.   As a new group it bought us together more quickly because we were all being subjected to the same character testing. Initiation, together with the first six weeks spent on the parade ground being drilled, was a tough introduction to an apprenticeship.


Receiving multiple injections for various overseas exotic diseases at the hospital and then being required to drill immediately afterwards on the parade ground for hours (in the middle of summer) caused many apprentices to faint or become sick. Times have changed as one could not imagine such treatment occurring nowadays without a public outcry followed by a parliamentary inquiry. Several recruits dropped out and returned home during this period.   


The mid-fifties was a unique time in RAAF history: the Korean War had finished, the jet was about to replace propeller aircraft and the Cold War had started. We seemed to be in the right place at the right time. The transistor radio had been invented. Rock ‘n’ roll was all the rage. It was an exciting time to be young and to be experiencing the world that was changing around us.   


Whilst no one can take away those memories, we are now fifty years older. Some have passed on. Those of us left are all physically less able, grey-haired or bald with too many health problems. 


Although, one thing in our favour is that we are much wiser from life’s experiences.

We marched and marched

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We finished our Apprenticeships

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