When I was 6 or 7 in the early 1960s we lived in Lee-on-Solent near Portsmouth. Nearby was the Royal Naval Air Station and when the doctor gave me a couple of months off school to sort out my bronchitis I amused myself by walking along the road to watch the Sea Furies and Fireflies doing circuits. I used to sit on the big warning notice which told people not to park on the road at the end of the runway because of the dangers of low flying aircraft.
I still remember the distinctive smell as they did power checks etc prior to take off. I decided that that was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Fast forward to leaving school in 1965.
After reading all the glossy ads that joining with a permanent commission and learning to fly after the basic sea training was the most sensible course. After being at Dartmouth for a term we were herded together to be told that the Labour Party Defence Minister, Dennis Healey, had decided to scrap all the fixed wing carriers by the end of the 1970s, of which there were still five in commission, and that we could train to be helicopter pilots or observers in due course but that the last fixed wing pilots would be taken from people who had joined the previous year.
If only I had joined short service I could have had a crack at it like several chums at Dartmouth, but God knows if I'd have made the grade.
My first flight was in one of the Tiger Moths that were kept at Roborough, Plymouth and about all I remember about it, apart from being a bit chilly in winter, was that it was awkward to land and frequently got airborne again if the landing was too firm. By coincidence someone who keeps some vintage aircraft on his section nearby has just flown a Tiger Moth over the house.
Flying training proper was done at RAF Church Fenton after the unit had moved there from Linton a couple of years previously. It was a cheap and effective way of sorting the wheat from the chaff and we lost four out of ten of the course there. Then on to the Hiller at Culdrose in Cornwall and the subsequent years flying helicopters in various parts of the world. CharlieOneSix kindly told me about a group of Chipmunk enthusiasts who had formed a syndicate and who were having a get-together at Perth so we met up there in 2007 and I was back in the air again in a Chippy I had last flown in 1970. Can't say I enjoyed it though, it was cramped and uncomfortable after so many years in helicopters but I did manage a (sort of) barrel roll!