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Catering Tales

Old 13th Sep 2018, 01:38
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Catering Tales

Here is mine

Many moons ago when I was a Junior Officer it was discovered that me and 2 of my mates had allowed our pistol quals to lapse. As the senior (?) of the group I was directed to organize a range day to requalify us.

So comes the day the 3 JO’s and the Instructor, Range PO and an Able Seaman gofer assemble at the range for a day of shooting. At 11:30 I sent the AB to the galley to pick up the 6 box lunches I had arranged.

At 12 we break out the lunches expecting the usual lame sandwich, bruised apple and a box of milk 3 days past it’s best before date. Instead we get cold lobster tails, with vegetables artfully carved into decorative designs, exotic fresh fruits and a bottle of high end fizzy water

Well it turned out there were 2 orders for 6 box lunches for the galley that day. The other was for the Minster of Defense and 5 assorted high level mandarins who were taking a Buffalo to an isolated Radar site to “visit the boys”

They were none too impressed with their lunches.........

A massive Shyte storm was soon directed my way, with accusations that we had stolen the Minsters lunch. Just when I started to get worried I was told it was “taken care off”.

Apperntly a 3 star called the Ministers Chief of Staff and asked how it would look if word got our that the Minister was upset over eating the same food as the troops.

That was the end of that and I can still remember how good that lobster tasted

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Old 13th Sep 2018, 02:01
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1972. My first posting as an airman. We were allowed to go to the Airmen’s Mess at 21:00 to have tea and toast. As the duty supper was at 22:00, there was usually beans on the servery, so it was beans on toast.
Fast forward to 1987 and now a Cpl. Amending the Queen’s Regs one day, I come across ‘Oc Catering is to provide a light supper I.e. tea and toast to all living in OR’s’. Off I go to the mess at 21:00 only to be told no you can’t have supper.
I phoned OC Cat next day and after a bit of checking QR’s, he said I was right, but please keep quiet about it!
On the next amendment, that paragraph was taken out.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 02:59
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Food was poor when I first joined the RAF, though plenty of choice - fried sausages, grilled sausages, baked sausages and if we were lucky, braised sausages in gravy. All on the same day.

I also remember breakfast where there was no fresh milk, but evaporated milk that had been diluted with water to go on your cereals. Yuck!

Exercises were always fun with meals in metal cans that were brought in hotboxes. Always pot luck as to what you were going to get. And we would get a big block of cheese wrapped in grease proof paper, where we had to cut all the dried edges off.

However, in the early 80s there was a step change. Cooks who took great pride in their work and high quality offerings. It was a pleasure going to the mess after that.

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Old 13th Sep 2018, 05:04
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Self-catering was a requirement on the kipper fleet at some locations. A trip downtown to the local supermarket in Andenes was necessary whilst on detachment to Andoya (northern Norway for the uninitiated). We trundled down the aisles picking out tinned culinary delights for a 9 hour sortie the next day, involving 12 epicureans with discerning palates. Visual cues were necessary, as knowledge of the written Norwegian language was somewhat limited, to say the least. We did, however, secure some frozen reindeer steak.
About four hours into the mission, and I was given first tasting of our reindeer stew. My taste buds were mugged, when it became obvious that the two large tins of potatoes added, were, in fact, fish balls of indeterminate origin. I ploughed on, finished the lot, and declared it a magnificent concoction. The next hour was one of consternation, as the rest of the crew struggled to find the same merit in this spawn of the devil that I had. I maintained my praise of the dish until the day I left the Squadron ...
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 05:45
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Cottesmore, mid 70's and the place is in a state of transition thus only a skeleton staff and.....a combined Mess.

All was well at this tranquil idyll until, that is, the arrival of 71 M.U We were working at Wittering, but, ostensibly, there was no room for our little party so, on arrival, we were pointed in the direction of Cottesmore.

It would be fair to say our arrival in said Mess, whose inhabitants were all attired in pristine uniforms and sporting regulation haircuts, induced something akin to major trauma and, strangely, we had no problem in finding a couple of spare tables. Had it been possible to install a mine field and machine gun emplacements with an electric fence between us and them, they probably would have. This was on the Monday and Tuesday was uneventful .

We returned Wednesday evening to find ?........a sumptuous buffet complete with alcoholic beverages no less, all laid out and, nobody around to consume it.

We were never too sure if it was because, with social etiquette ( M.U etiquette that is ) in mind, we started on the beverages first before progressing to quietly demolishing the buffet that the residents got a "shade upset ".......we were summarily evicted from Cottesmore next morning and, miraculously, rooms had been found at Wittering !

It transpired said buffet was, in fact, not actually being provided on our behalf, but for some evening function which nobody had thought to inform us of...which was probably a good idea anyway.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 07:06
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Thumbs up No lunch for the groundcrew

During a TECEVAL at St Mawgan, I was detailed to pop down to the mess to pick up the Hot box, tea urn and loaves of bread. Jumped in the Landrover with my collegue and down we went. Lunch was waiting, so we picked up lunch with our weapons slung over our shoulders. Whilst walking out to the car park carrying lunch we were approached by two of the TACEVAL team who had managed to get onto camp. We were then taken hostage and taken off camp where we were 'shot'. We made a miraculus recovery whilst eating 'lunch' with the TAVEVAL team who aparently had not eatten for a while and was one of the reasons we were the target of opportunity. After lunch we were given 'you are dead chits' and driven back onto camp. We, now relieved of our, weapons, NBC suits and the hot box walked back into Nimrod line sans lunch to much derision and doubts about our perantage. Furthermore we got the rest of the TACEVAL off. What a result. Needles to say we were never sent down to pick up lunch again.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 07:31
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Coningsby dining out night late 80s. Prawn cocktail starter. By the time the staff cleared the starters away, several of the diners turned pale and excused themselves. Altogether at least a dozen of us went down with food poisoning. All hushed up, naturally.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 07:58
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No rations at all provided for the night shift guard force at Swinderby early-90s, despite the fact that late supper finished at 2100 and early breakfast didn’t start until 6 (“not entitled”, “they can’t all go at once so some of these chaps won’t eat for 10 hours”, “don’t care - not entitled”,) so the unedifying sight of the JO Guard Commander stealing bread, jam and biscuits from the cookhouse for his chaps while the cooks looked the other way.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 08:32
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Dining-in Night at pre-pongo Wattisham. The Stn Cdr liked pheasant, so had decreed that it should appear on the menu...

Pheasant being rather expensive, many portions were more like rubber chickens and tasted about as good. But many also contained lead shot having been rather carelessly prepared.

So for the rest of the dinner, the Stn Cdr was on the receiving end of lead shot at regular intervals - which goes quite a long way when flicked with a knife, as many of us discovered! He wasn't the happiest bunny...
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 10:20
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In flight catering on the V Force was somewhat less impressive than on the kipper fleet. The only provision for hot food was a soup can heater. This was so spectacularly inefficient that we used to reckon if you put a can in it after start up the contents might be luke warm by the time you were approaching top of descent on return from a five hour sortie.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 10:47
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Tanker, IIRC the B52 was and maybe still is able to use an electric frying pan. There is reference to the actor Brigadier James Stewart accompanying a crew on a 13 hour sortie over Nam and the crew using one to supplement their rations. Apparently it was the tail gunners job to get the rations, bacon,eggs, cheese and bread.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 11:45
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My first posting was to the joys of the Mess at Bawtry with courteous service, a cheese board that would be quite at home in the Ritz, and real RAF Chefs who sourced the ingredients and knew what to do with them. Compared with my second posting to El Adem, for those who were around in 1968/69 and remember the reality of the weekly fruit and veg kite arriving from Akro and only containing green beans and little else.
This was allegedly due to a mistake by the catering WO and resulted in my hatred of green beans for half a century.

Old 13th Sep 2018, 12:53
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Bruggen in the mid 70's had an excellent JR Mess, with a very scary WO. He would prowl the Mess with his spoon and any complaints were followed by a dip of his spoon, if the complaint was justified he would bring the guilty Chef out to apologise.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 14:06
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So for the rest of the dinner, the Stn Cdr was on the receiving end of lead shot at regular intervals - which goes quite a long way when flicked with a knife, as many of us discovered! He wasn't the happiest bunny...
Odiham, Christmas dinner in the airmans mess served by the officers, previous year there had been a food fight, so Staish stands there in his best blues and warns if anyone throws food this year they would be in his office Monday morning, hats off.......... a potato curls it's way through the air in his general direction, followed by various delicacies from the menu as he retreated through the kitchen door having taken a severe pasting.

Odiham, summer, tasty looking ham salad on the servery, helps myself and sits down, flips over ham to cut it and finds the underside covered in fly eggs.... wanders up and points at it, Sgt Cook rapidly withdraws the salad, but does not tell any of the other unfortunates tucking into it for fear of a riot.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 14:22
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As a Metman I did deployments with both the army and [once] with the Harriers. I have no complaints about the HF.
As for 1 BR Corps, sumptuous breakfast with, inter alia, fresh baked bread rolls. "The caterers need practice on deployment too". But did some mess silver [really!] have to deploy?
No complaints at all.

I expect a fair few sections like us enlivened night duties with airfield mushrooms, into the frying pan within 5 minutes of plucking. At Leeming and Topcliffe the night shift took it in turns to bring in bacon, eggs, sausage .........
When the Duty Pilot came in for his early heads-up, the place stank of the fryup. On occasion he was just in time for a modest offering.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 14:30
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Originally Posted by ImageGear View Post
My first posting was to the joys of the Mess at Bawtry with courteous service, . . . Compared with my second posting to El Adem, for those who were around in 1968/69
Of the first, when I went to get some cheese. "This is a Group HQ Sir, we serve the cheese.

Of the second I still remember the finest Fillet Mignon I have had. The Route was closed as the Hastings had been grounded and the aircrew feeder staff had little to do but serve our lone Ranger crew the finest of foods. We had taken 96 pints of fresh milk out.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 14:46
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Best ever service meals I had were at Bruggen, the cook who wanted to be a professional Chef when he left the RAF would use QRA as an excuse to practice, he work through his book of superb recipes and as he was only cooking for the crews he would ask us groundcrew what we fancied,he would work with us on a menu, then go off to plunder the catering stores, he was a delight to have on as our cook and we prayed he would be on our shifts, even the aircrew hoped he would be on.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 14:54
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St Athan Officers Mess kitchen wasn't usually locked ,so us poor hungry UAS bods would help ourselves to steak, microwaved,after we returned from the bar or somewhere off base after hours. One night we were rumbled by a RM Major and two naval officers ,who were there also looking for a late night supper. They promised to keep mum if we cooked them one each as well, which we did. Soon after that episode ,the kitchen was locked .We circumvented that one by going through the roof, which took some doing. Soon after that they put a padlock on the fridge and freezer, so our late night eating was finished.As an aside, I did hear some poor W/C ask for steak for lunch in the mess one day and being told there was none, tutted that in 20 years in the RAF, steak had always been available!

Last edited by rolling20; 13th Sep 2018 at 16:31.
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Old 13th Sep 2018, 15:27
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At Chittagong (May, 1943), there was an accommodation problem. Our few officers could be fitted in the Mess on the station. But there was no room for the influx of aircrew NCOs. We were dumped in a transit camp in the town. As the Squadron came to readiness at dawn, we had to up at first light and out to the airfield, long before breakfast in the transit camp.

A bunch of hungry and resentful sergeants faced the prospect of flying the Squadron's first operation without even a mug of tea. Our M.O. (Dr "Pete" Latcham - I'm glad he survived the war) was rightly indignant. He got hold of an empty and cleanish four-gallon can, borrowed a blowlamp from the engineers, scrounged the makings of a brew from somewhere, and made the best mug of tea we'd had for a long time. He couldn't get much in the food line for us except emergency rations: "Ship's biscuits" and a tin of jam (plum, I think). Not much but better than nothing. Well done, that man! I'll always remember that "breakfast". As it happened, we didn't fly that day. But the fur flew, and from next morning there was early breakfast for us in the Transit Camp ......
Old 13th Sep 2018, 15:50
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ITW, Newquay, summer 1941. We'd only just arrived: the Airmen's Dining Hall was in the commandeered "Trebarwith" Hotel. Cold meat (probably "Spam") and salad for dinner tonight, chaps.

One chap had not examined the lettuce he'd just picked up carefully enough. Back at the table, when he turned it over on his plate, there was an inch-long black snail busy munching away at it.

"Orderly Officer ! - Any complaints ?" .... Despite silent hard prodding by his two tablemates, our lad was far too shy of authority to say a word. The Orderly Officer and Sergeant hadn't noticed the snail, and walked away.

No - he didn't eat it ! But he never lived it down for the six weeks of the Course, and had to answer to "Snaily !" for the rest of his time with us.

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