This is the story of two winters and the leave journeys during my tour.
My policy was not to ask for time off unless I needed it, which meant I usually got the time off, unlike one friend who was always taking time off and it stopped his promotion hopes; it didn't help that he was always bucking authority either.
The first winter-I asked for the afternoon to catch the train from Elgin to Aberdeen on the initial stage of my return to Bristol, and from there problems arose. The train left Elgin on time, but by the time we got to Keith the track was blocked by snow and we had to catch a bus to the next stop at Huntly. We arrived in time to miss our connection to Aberdeen by five minutes, after waiting for the next connection we missed the Edinburgh train by ten minutes.
We waited for the next train and missed the train down to Bristol by twenty minutes, at this point facing a wait of several hours I decided to station hop rather than sit waiting as I had little money and was freezing cold-the only thing I could afford was a yoghurt and at the time I didn't like them.
I set off on my long journey to Bristol, station by station from Edinburgh to Birmingham via Doncaster and Sheffield and finally arrived in Birmingham at 10:00 pm having missed the last train by about twenty-five minutes, I had a wait of over five hours, but at least I had got that far. I arrived at my parents at around midday after travelling for almost a day.
The following year was a totally different experience as I flew down in a Hercules C130 transport plane,
while being marvellous at its job as a transport plane which is capable of short runway landing, made able by the contra-rotating props, the only other plane capable of this-to my knowledge-is the Fairey Gannet.
The 'Herc' is not passenger friendly, if you recall the adventures of Kate Todd flying out to the ship in NCIS, that is how it was for me. I was walking back from lunch on the day of leaving for my train journey and as I entered our section, my sergeant called out, "Al, pack your bags, I booked you on a flight from Kinloss; be at Air Traffic control in an hour."
After a quick "Thank you," I rushed back to the room and grabbed my bags ready for stage 1-the bus to RAF Kinloss. We arrived at the line hut and disembarked ready to climb aboard our transport. Until then I had never flown, most of my trips had been by rail.
We took off from Kinloss and flew down to Brize Norton, nr Swindon via Macrihanish, nr Glasgow and Leeming in Yorkshire, although the journey took only about four hours, it seemed longer in the cargo hold of a transport plane. The view as we circled the runways was weird, you get an odd perspective from the rear doors of an aeroplane.