The Biggs' Boys

By Ken Stofer

Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved

The Equipment Assistant

   "Where's your voucher?" This question usually marked one's introduction to the stores, where to the uninitiated, there appeared to be a bounty of equipment all ready for the taking without any questions asked. Unfortunately it was by no means as simple as that, and that is where the Equipment Assistant came in. It was his job to see that nothing was issued without that little piece of paper, that bane of a Section's life - a voucher, and also to extract from the victim his signature, which he was often loath to give.

    The Equipment Section was responsible for the receipt, storage and issue of all items of equipment from beds to clothing; from the smallest nut and bolt to the engine of an aircraft. Every article that went to furnish and maintain a Station was the job of the Stores and while sarcastic remarks were tossed their way about the "cushy" job of a "Storebasher", as an Equipment Assistant was usually termed, it was never fully realized that there was a lot more to it than was imagined by the disgruntled airman who couldn't obtain a new tunic.

    It was not all a matter of handing out a can of paint or exchanging sheets every other Monday morning. All transactions had to be carefully recorded. A strict check had to be kept of all issues and receipts of stores and above all to see that sufficient stocks of equipment were held on the station so that occasions wouldn't arise, when for example, an aircraft was grounded owing to the stores being unable to supply a vital piece of equipment. When such occasions did sometimes arise, it was probably due to the demands made by the Station Equipment Section on the Equipment Depot not being met, and until such time as this equipment was received, the Flight had to curb its impatience.

    All Equipment Assistants had to take a course of training before they were posted to a station. A wartime course by necessity lasted only six or seven weeks, compared with a pre-war course of six months. It entailed a great amount of study into the intricacies of storekeeping.

    In fact it was jokingly said that many embryo Equipment Assistants went stark mad before half their course of training was over, and that those who did survive left the course with a fixed and glossy stare and sometimes took to drink.

   It was a fallacy that Equipment Assistants were able to equip themselves with new outfits of blue whenever they desired. Far from it! It was as difficult to persuade the Flight Sergeant of the urgent need of a new collar as it was to get him to modulate his tones when he was Orderly Sergeant.

    When the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, (WAAF) or "Waffs" was formed, women were among the new recruits drafted in considerable numbers to take their place as storekeepers by the side of the men. This, naturally of course, to some degree, changed the approach and attitude of the airman holding the voucher when facing a pretty lady in blue on the other side of the counter.

    However, throughout the war the Stores continued to be a source of permanent irritation, but their backs were broad and even if they couldn't always "dish it out," they could take it. It mattered not to the Equipment Assistant whether he issued his stock or retained it. In fact he was eager to issue it, as what he didn't have he couldn't lose.

  The "storebasher" was seldom given the consideration he or she deserved.

Copyright 2001 Ken Stofer, All Rights Reserved

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