Page 14 - March 2018
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       view of the whole busy scene - the noise   At least I had set eyes
       was deafening, and as I looked down upon   on this body of men
       the rows of gleaming, roaring machines,
       I could see little ant-like figures standing   who were a legend
       around or scurrying between the gigantic   throughout the Air Force
       presses - mostly standing around!
         “So there”, I said to myself, “are the   would show me some of the men who have,
       machine Room Sergeants” - at least I had   have such control over these vast pieces of
       set eyes on this body of men who were a   machinery”, I said. “Certainly”, he replied,
       legend throughout the Air Force; a lost   “let’s see if we can find any of them.”
       tribe of senior NCOs who knew nothing   After ten minutes or so we found four
       about service life, and who openly admit-  or five of them drinking tea and having an
       ted that not one of their number had ever   informal chat in an obscure corner. Mr.
       been on parade.                       Hodges was obviously sorry to disturb
         I descended the highly dangerous flight   them, but they were quite nice about it,
       of steps and stood, dazed and bewildered   and did not seem to mind the intrusion
       - finally I walked over to a figure standing   on their privacy.
       watching pieces of paper being sucked into   “This”, said Mr. Hodges, pointing to a tall,
       a whirling mass of wheels and rollers - “Can   pleasant looking chap, “is one of my best
       you tell me where I can find Mr. Hodges?”   men, Sergeant McKing, and over there is
       I said - there was no indication that he   Sergeant Page”. The last-named was clutch-
       had heard me. “Where is Mr. Hodges?”   ing a kettle - “he never lets go of it under any
       I shouted - still no movement. I stepped   circumstances” whispered Mr. Hodges. “So
       close to him, “Where the x!!x ox!!x is Mr.   I have heard” I answered. I was introduced
       Hodges” I screamed. An expressive thumb   to several other Sergeants and then to two
       was jerked in the direction of a small room   Corporals. “How is it” I asked Mr. Hodges
       in the corner, and here I found Mr. Hodges.   “that these men are not Sergeants also?”
       Tastefully attired in a neat brown dust-coat   “Just a formality”, he replied, “they will be
       he appeared all that an efficient executive   within a week or so, but we don’t like to
       should be, and I could see at a glance how   promote them from AC2 to Sergeant in less
       the machine room acquired its reputation.   than a month, it looks bad”.
       “Could you tell me”, I asked, “how you are   By this time, however, my nerves were
       able to control this jumble of men and ma-  shattered by the noise and I stumbled
       chines?” “Tact”, he answered emphatically,   towards the stairs. I was just going up when
       “just talk to the men and oil the machines   I saw a bicycle upside down below me, with
       and all is well”. “And could you tell me,” I   a corporal working on it intently - “Cor-
       continued, “how is that they never attend   poral Maunders”, said Mr. Hodges, “our
       any of our more formal functions, such   best mechanic”.
       as parades?” He clutched my arm, “Never   “Thank you for your help, Mr. Hodges” I
       mention the word ‘parade’ down here”   screamed, and staggered out into the peace
       he whispered harshly, “it might cause a   and quiet of the passage.
       lot of trouble.”                       In case they forgot what the ulti-
         Realising that I had put my foot in it I   mate target was, this little picture was
       hastily changed the subject. “Perhaps you   hung on the wall...
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