Geoff Twine And His First Uniform

There is no doubt that anyone who knows Geoff Twine, who was Probus President 2008/9, is also aware that he was in uniform for many adult years. Probus members of a certain number of service years heard the remarkable story he told at one of our meetings some time ago about the three years he spent in the depths of a slate quarry in north Wales where, as member of the RAF Bomb Disposal Unit, he was literally defusing and disposing of thousands of bombs that were stored there after WW2.

Perhaps being in uniform has always had a fascination for Geoff because it has emerged that when he was ten years old he joined the 1st Southbourne Sea Scouts. His family ran a farm close to Chichester so the sea was commonplace to him as were boats. At the time it was 1942 and due to wartime security measures private citizens were barred from using their pleasure craft – but not the Sea Scouts whose headquarters were adjacent to Chichester harbour. Because his Sea Scout group were affiliated to the Admiralty at Portsmouth not only did they row or sail most weekends using a selection of boats but the Admiralty gave them a whaler for competitive activities in Portsmouth Harbour.

Geoff Twine Sea Scout image

With the adjacent RAF Thorney Island home to various wartime aircraft there were occasions when disasters occurred and the Sea Scouts could leap into action in rescue bids trying to save stricken aircrew from Printsted Harbour. A Wellington bomber taking off northbound was cut in two by a Mosquito flying east to west. The rear gunner and his turret fell into the mud but although two members of Geoff’s Sea Scouts, only 14 or 15 at the time, waded out to attempt a rescue, unfortunately, the crewman was dead.
Another occasion was when an RAF Beverley crashed into the sea short of the runway at RAF Thorney Island. A fellow Sea Scout used his father’s boat and saved a number of the crew for which a special thank you parade was held for him

Geoff made his own canoe which saw him load it up with camping gear and paddle from Itchenor to Birdham Lock and then hike to Wittering for an overnight camp and then reverse the journey the following day. As a fourteen-year-old, it was expected then that such solo adventures were needed as markers on the path to becoming a Senior Scout.

It was as a fifteen years old Senior Scout that in 1947 Geoff attended the first post-war international  Scout Jamboree at Sens in France. Still memorable was the devastation caused during the war that had ceased only two years earlier. Geoff still has his identity badge issued for the Jamboree together with many other badges swapped with Scouts from other countries.

After the Jamboree Geoff seemed to lose his enthusiasm for Scouting, but that may be because he discovered girls. And anyway, National Service was approaching and a lengthy career in the RAF became a chosen path with some experiences that could form a story for another day.