Time for my annual Christmas story:
The concept of 'Pantomime' is one that is rarely understood outside of Britain. Enough then, to think of it as Vaudeville meets funny fairy story, on stage ...with kids in mind.
In 1982 I was in Germany with the Royal Air Force and F4 Phantom Fighter jets. Which meant for the first time in twenty years of marriage (and long range flying) I now got home most nights. Pat, my wife, took full advantage of this when she was asked to produce/direct a Pantomime at the base theatre (theater). The show was to be Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
I became involved with making the costumes (I come from a family line of tailors). But one costume required was that of a 'two man' camel named Sam Super.
As I made him, Sam Super took on a personality of his own. It was a costume worn by two men and had a mouth that opened and closed by a mechanical device I made inside it.
Sam was quite a bad tempered character and made his mark on all that he came in contact with: it bit my hand when I was making the mouth; the back-end man was allergic to the fabric and had to be replaced, Sam also scared the life out of the kids in a German Orphanage.
Sam, however, was to write himself into the history of the station by causing not only a security alert, but for me to be called into the Station Commander’s office.
It all began when I put a little pressure on Roy the sergeant steward in the Sergeants Mess. Roy was a keen member of the theatre club who had been put in charge of publicity. He responded to my pressure in a way that gained us much publicity. He began one night by putting up ‘mysterious’ posters throughout the station (base). The posters didn’t mention the pantomime but he thought they would raise people’s curiosity. He also sent, in the internal mail system, small copies of the poster to everyone from the Station Commander downwards.
The next day as the mail was opened, telephones started ringing and blue lights started flashing. I was sent for by Group Captain Palin. On his desk was Roy’s poster, its message glaringly simple:
WARNING …. 'SAM' IS COMING TO WILDENRATH.
It seems harmless enough unless you know that SAM is not an expression that is liked very much on fighter stations, it means SURFACE to AIR MISSILE! It took a lot of fast talking to get us out of trouble, but Station Commander couldn’t keep the twinkle out of his eye.