their third year of training, was lights out at 2145hrs, when their former school chums were still out enjoying themselves with their girlfriends. Despite the harsh standards of discipline, most ex-apprentices are only too willing to tell you about the occasions when they broke bounds, climbed in and out through windows stealthily in the dead of night, to avoid being caught by patrolling RAF Police.27 It was a point of honour for apprentices to break as
many of the rules as they could, hopefully without getting caught. With an average of 2,000 boys in residence at any one time, the establishment of RAF
Police at Halton, known as ‘Snoops’ to apprentices, was higher than normal. The RAF Police could often be seen patrolling local towns, especially on Saturday evenings when their chances of nabbing a few apprentices in the local pubs or dance halls were high. Apprentice Flight Commanders were always busy during lunch hours hearing charges but never more so than on Mondays when they were usually faced with a crop of charges resulting from apprentices enjoying themselves beyond ‘lights out’ on Saturday nights. Some apprentices clocked up cricket type scores in days of ‘Jankers’, but someonehad the good sense to rule that punishments awarded for ‘youthful’ offence were to be erased from apprentice records on graduation. However, manyapprentices believe that this antiestablishment activity contributed as much to the development of the famous Halton Spirit as did all of the communal living,sporting activities, marching with bands and discipline.
Apprentice Technical Training
Technical training at Halton was divided into three distinct, but closely co-
ordinated departments: Trade, Academic and General Service Training.28 Initial trade training was carried out in the workshops and later in a mix of workshops and on redundant aircraft positioned on the airfield. The trades taught evolved with the ever developing advances in aeronautical engin-eering but they were principally engines, airframes, armaments, instruments, electrics and wireless.29 A pass mark in all aspects of his trade training was an absolute for an apprentice to graduate. Until 1951, this mark also governed the rank at which an apprentice graduated.
Academic training was comparable with that of a good technical college and was to National Certificate level. ‘Schools', as it was known by apprentices, was held in a purpose-built college building which had a well-stocked library and excellent engineering science laboratories.30
which, when they number 3,000, will cost the country £55,000 a year, and even now it costs between £30,000 and £35,000 a year.’23 But, once again, the point was not pursued.
For the first 50 years of the scheme apprentices were classified as minors and their officers and SNCOs acted in loco parentis. In addition to their responsibilities under the tenets of normal military discipline, each apprentice was issued with a small booklet entitled Standing Orders for Apprentices.24 This contained a myriad of rules which severely restricted an apprentice’s freedom to spend what precious spare time he was allowed as he might wish. ‘These rules are necessary for your own benefit,’ apprentices were often told by their superiors. Some of the rules were reasonable for boys below the age of 18, such as ‘Apprentices are to take a bath twice a week’ and ‘Apprentices are prohibited from visiting public houses and consuming alcohol.’25 One of the oddest rules was, ‘Females are not to attend the monthly Apprentice dances.’26 This reflects contemporary society’s deeply conservative approach to sex before marriage. Perhaps the most resented rule, especially by older apprentices in