The Longest Night Of The Year
Corporal Ted Stenning was not a happy man. Here he was in the guardroom of RAF Habington at 3 o'clock in the morning on the last Sunday in October.
"Bloomin' rich innit" he muttered aloud, "lumbered with Orderly Corporal on the one night the blinkin' clocks go back".
He was convinced that the extra hour he would have to do before being relieved was deliberate on the part of the RAF authorities.
He adjusted the clock on the wall so that it now read 2am and slouched over to the table in the corner. "Refreshments, airmen for the bloomin' use of", he muttered as he surveyed the various items of tea making equipment.
He picked up the stained kettle and filled it from the tap over the sink. Returning to the table he plugged the kettle in and waited for the noise from the heating water that told him it was working.
"Now where's me bloomin' mug?"
Glancing round he noticed the offending receptacle on the desk where he'd left it. He strode across the room and reached it just as the phone rang.
"Blinkin' marvellous" he moaned, "I can't even get a cup of bloomin' tea".
He sat down heavily and let the phone ring while he prepared his telephone voice. Lifting the receiver, and in what he believed was a refined tone, said
"Guardroom, RAF 'abington, Horderly Corporal speakin' ".
After a pause a timid voice said "is that the Guardroom?".
Corporal Stenning rolled his eyes to the ceiling and thought 'isn't that what I blinkin' said'.
"It is", he replied, "hoose that speakin'?"
"This is 687455 Leading Aircraftwoman Wilson speaking".
Well get on with it he thought but instead said "L.A.C. Wilson, what can I do for you?"
"Oh, Corporal", she said, "all the lights have gone out in the WAAF block and I'm stood here talking to you in the pitch dark".
During these events the camp was being patrolled by Senior Aircraftman Graham Nicholls. He was the duty fire picket and a man who took life seriously. His job was to patrol the camp looking for fires and he would consider it a personal failing if he didn't find one.
As he turned the corner of the Airmen's Mess SAC Nicholls stopped short. He could see the Guardroom, with its lights blazing, and, he was certain, white smoke pouring from the window. He immediately broke into a run and aimed for the fire bucket hanging just outside the door. Without breaking his stride, he grabbed the bucket and threw himself through the entrance.
Corporal Stenning was explaining to LAC Wilson that the duty electrician would be summoned when the door flew open with a mighty crash. Instinctively, he threw himself back in the chair, his eyes fixed firmly on the column of water hurtling through the air towards him. His right knee banged the edge of the desk just as he took the full force of the icy cold torrent. Letting out a ferocious roar Corporal Stenning crashed to the floor followed by various sodden items from the desk. The final indignity was the telephone, tinkling its bell, as it struck him on the head, momentarily removing all sense of reality.
SAC Nicholls stopped in his tracks as the scene unfolded before him. He looked around the room for the flames and spotted the violently steaming kettle. As if in a trance he followed, with his eyes, the path of the steam from the kettle spout to the ceiling and across to the window where it vented to the outside.
His attention was quickly drawn back to the tangled mess on the floor as Corporal Stenning groaned and began to move. Cold and wet, with an aching knee and pounding head, he raised himself painfully to his feet and glared at Nicholls.
"You stupid little airman" he roared, "I'm gonna have your guts for garters. I'm gonna make you wish you'd ....".
SAC Nicholls slowly backed out of the door then broke into a run as the irate Corporal crash to the ground once more with the telephone wire coiled round his ankles. He didn't stop running until the Guardroom was no longer in sight and when he did stop, to catch his breath, he found himself outside the WAAF block.
Leaning on the pillar by the block entrance SAC Nicholls bent forward, with his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. As the pounding in his chest began to subside he heard a noise in the doorway and deftly stepped behind the pillar to avoid being seen. To his surprise he saw Flying Officer Butterworth, the Orderly Officer, come through the door with his left arm around the immense shoulders of Corporal WAAF Phyllis Bell. SAC Nicholls remembered her being pointed out to him during his first night in the NAAFI at RAF Habington.
He had joined a group of airmen who were listening to the exploits of the oldest airman on the station. He was proud of the length of service he'd accumulated and looked upon himself as a father figure to the younger ones. He nudged Nicholls as Corporal Bell walked passed.
"That, my boy, is Corporal Phyllis Bell. Strictly off limits as far as you are concerned. She will only entertain being chatted up by the officer classes".
Nicholls watched her as she passed and for the first time in his service life decided that there was, after all, a disadvantage to being an officer.
She wasn't just amply proportioned, she was a giantess. Much discussion went on about the engineering miracle that must have been achieved in the manufacture of her bra. Nicholls had heard it mentioned that the same engineering principles were used to develop a parachute that would safely deposit two men, in full kit, on the ground at the same time.
Unfortunately it had to be abandoned, such was the wind resistance it came down too slowly.
"Darling Phyllie", said the officer slipping his right hand inside her tunic blouse.
Nicholls couldn't believe his eyes as he watched the officer's arm disappear past the elbow. There was a hell of a risk, decided Nicholls, in trying to get too close to Phyllis Bell's chest. If she coughed you could be seriously damaged.
"I've just got to go to the Guardroom to check with the Orderly Corporal", he said. "Give me an hour and then come to my window in the Officer's Mess. You can get into my room without being seen and we'll spend a wonderful night together. Don't forget to turn the power back on here, will you my sweet?".
"All right, Rodney", said the WAAF, "I can't wait 'till then, kiss me first".
Nicholls bit his knuckles to stifle his laughter as he watched the Officer extract his arm from the tunic and stand on tip-toe to reach with his lips across the gargantuan bosom. 'If she wants to get into his window', Nicholls thought to himself, 'he'll need double patio doors'.
Nicholls decided to follow the Officer. He realised that Corporal Stenning could be in trouble over the state of the Guardroom . He could help if the Corporal would give him time to speak before carrying out his earlier threats.
As he peered through the Guardroom window Nicholls could see the officer standing with his hands on his hips yelling at the Corporal. Nicholls could just imagine what retribution the Corporal was planning for the airman who had rushed in with the fire bucket.
The Officer moved to the door and SAC Nicholls could hear him clearly.
"When you are relieved at oh-nine-hundred hours report to my office. I'm going to put you on a charge".
He slowly shook his head as his worse fears were confirmed, the corporal was in deep trouble.
Nicholls gazed through the window at the wet, dejected Corporal, years of undetected crime was about to end. 'Never mind', thought Nicholls, 'all is not lost'. He had conceived a plan to save them both - as long as the Corporal would listen.
Bravely, Nicholls stood in the doorway looking at the slumped back of Corporal Stenning. He was holding a mop and trying to clear up the mess on the floor. With trepidation the airman cleared his throat. The Corporal spun round and at the same time launched the wet mop like a spear. It thudded into the wall beside Nicholl's head and fell to the floor leaving a dirty stain on the paintwork.
"Corporal", said Nicholls, ducking into the room and darting over to the table, "we can both get out of this if you'll just listen. Butterworth won't dare charge you if you'll please listen".
The Corporal stopped advancing on the pleading Airman and lowered his hands.
"Whadda ya mean", he growled.
Nicholls explained what he had overheard at the entrance to the WAAF block.
"So if we go to his room on some pretext and catch him red handed, he won't want it known that he had a WAAF in his room. He'd get cashiered for that".
Corporal Stenning smiled as the scene was played out in his imagination. Nothing pleased him more than to get one over on an officer.
"So I don't need to send the electrician then", he said. "The swines turned the lights out themselves so 'e wouldn't be seen".
The recent hatred he felt for Nicholls evaporated as he realised he was in the clear.
"'elp me tidy up", said Stenning cheerfully, "then we'll go and get 'im".
A little over an hour later Corporal Stenning and SAC Nicholls were crouching under the wide open window of the Orderly Officer's room. The window had jammed open when Phyllis Bell had eased herself inside.
"Oh my darling Phyllie, your bosoms are so large".
"Yes, and you are so small and dainty".
"Oh, er.... um... try just using your thumb and forefinger, my sweet".
"Ahh, that's better".
At that point Corporal Stenning and SAC Nicholls stood up and shone their torches through the open window. The sight that greeted them earned them both free drinks in the NAAFI for months to come.
Corporal Phyllis Bell was sitting on the bed naked from the waist up and somewhat reminiscent of a barrage balloon ready for take off. She screamed and her voluminous bosoms quivered wrenching the arm trapped between them and causing Flying Officer Butterworth to cry out in pain.
The Officer was lying on the bed, naked apart from his shoes and socks. He was extremely thin and pale and the Corporal made a mental note to change his nickname to Olive Oyl. But the sight that earned the drinks, during the re-telling of the tale, was that of Phyllis Bell's thumb and forefinger holding a certain part of his anatomy in the manner of a cocktail sausage at a Buckingham Palace garden party.
She jerked her hand away without remembering to let go. Rodney Butterworth was lifted off the bed by the appendage and let out a blood curdling scream. This caused Phyllis to release the member and the officer crashed to the floor.
"Sorry to disturb you, sir", said Corporal Stenning, "we noticed your window open and was worried that you might have had burglars". They kept their torches shining on the couple who were by now struggling to put on their clothes.
"Turn those lights off Corporal", said the officer, "there's a lady present".
"Ooh, you are a gentleman, Rodney" said Phyllis adoringly.
"I think we'd better keep them on sir, you're trying to put your head and shoulders through the lady's brassiere".
At this point Corporal Bell gathered up what she could, ran out of the room, down the corridor and through the Mess exit. The two airman watched her run over the grass towards the WAAF block and Corporal Stenning couldn't help but wish that she was able to play for the Station rugby team.
'She's unstoppable' he said to himself.
The airmen looked back into the room.
"About our appointment at 09:00 hours, sir, the Guardroom is now back to normal. I don't think we need bother the Station Commander, do you sir"?
The officer paused and glanced up at the two airmen.
"I s…suppose not Corporal", he replied, dejectedly.
Half an hour later, safely back in the guardroom, the two airmen were each trying to drink a mug of tea with tears of laughter streaming down their faces as they relived the events of the night.
"Did you see the way she picked him up"? said Nicholls, trying without success to stifle his giggles. Corporal Stenning had, at that point, just taken a swig of tea which he promptly ejected like an aerosol at the telephone in front of him. As if in protest the instrument began to ring and with great difficulty he attempted to answer it.
"Is that you, Corporal Stenning", said a timid voice he'd heard before.
"LAC Wilson", he replied almost choking, "what is it now"?
"I'm just reporting all the lights are back on now".
"Thank you", he replied. "Should they go out again, knock on Corporal Bell's door. She is now qualified to fix them".
LAC Wilson looked at the instrument she was holding in puzzlement as she heard the shrieks of laughter just before the phone went dead.