ROMPERS GREEN was born in the spring of 1977 when final plans were under way for the re-shaping of the Lyneham Globe. Dave Marlow, who was then running the Globe, suggested that the magazine could do with a cartoon strip and I, unwittingly, volunteered to produce it. My original concept was to follow the adventures of a typical squadron crew, as they battled their way around The Route and, from time to time, introduce various members of the station's support elements to make the scope of the cartoon as wide as possible.
The central characters were born on the back of a 413L (Scandinavia South) en-route chart, which I still possess, and which must have been to some extent inspirational in the content of Episode One. Drawn on the business side of the chart is the southern sector of a flight to Tromsø and back. My log book reveals a round trip time of 8 hours 15 minutes of which one hour was day flying !
Popular legend has it that I came under heavy fire when the first episode appeared but this is not, in fact, quite true. There were only two opponents who made their feelings known, and one of them subsequently changed his opinion and became an avid reader. The other, so members of his squadron and various senior officers told me, was merely following the orders of his wife ! It did, however, make life a bit difficult for me. But my own Squadron Commander fended off the abolitionists until the Station Commander, Gp. Capt. 'Crash' Amos commissioned a special 'Naceval' edition, which became Episode Six. and to me has always marked the point at which Rompers Green really arrived.
I never expected to see various words from Rompers Green find their way into people's everyday vocabulary, but I still smile to myself whenever I hear someone refer to 'Selpest', 'Naceval', or 'Beereaze' (or even 'UK BAGS'!). It somehow makes all those midnight-oil sessions seem worthwhile ! Equally satisfying has been the spread of readership to units outside Rompers Green. (Even certain Air-Officers count among its readers !) It has even been reproduced in different publications, from time to time, including the annual 'Naceval Report' and Akronelli's own magazine. When I announced my intention to publish the Collection, there were just over 120 orders from off-camp, of which nearly 80 were from overseas. I was highly surprised, not to mention delighted at this response, especially as so much of the content revolves around in-jokes.
The spirit in which those at the sharp end of my satire have taken it all has been marvellous. It proves that most people, at any rate, can tell the difference between mickey-taking and criticism. There have been so many come-backs over the last two-and-a-half years that it would almost take another book to recount them. One of my favourite memories, however, is of a quick turnaround, one night in Belize, during the last part of 1977. We had just disgorged our cargo. It had been a hard day's night, with the usual batch of problems and frustrations and I was about to start engines for the last leg back to the delights of Nassau, and a good day's kip. Suddenly, one of the UK MAMS detachment officers lept on to the flight deck.
"Sorry about this, Chas," he said. "But we're going to have to delay you a bit I'm afraid. There's an urgent item of late freight to go back to UK."
I was livid. "It had bloody well better be important," I said to him. "And I hope you've got the damn paperwork ready, we're late enough as it is!"
"You bet!" he replied, thrusting a completed Air Waybill and manifest into my hand. I started to read. It was made out for some sort of vehicle. The axle-weights and dimensions were carefully entered on the forms-and so was the description. 'U/S. For return to UK for servicing. One by Rolls Royce UK BAGS Staff Car.'
The actual production of the cartoon has been almost as international as the adventures it has depicted. Two episodes were drawn in Cyprus, whilst awaiting spares or slip-patterns. Episode Seven was produced, bit by bit, during the course of a Hong Kong schedule. I drew the last two frames, early one morning in the empty dining room of the Mess at Kai Tak, just in time to hand the completed page to a departing 10 Sqn. VC10 crew, who kindly delivered it to the printers for me (thanks fellers !). Other episodes have been produced 'on location' variously in Glander, Seasau and Beereaze, which does not necessarily mean that I have been a Route Hog !
This volume contains every episode from June 1977, when it all began, up to and including December, 1979, when Ascart 4321 finally reached base from Akronelli. For those of you who missed the early episodes, it will be a chance for you to see how it all started. For those of you who were around at that time, I hope you will enjoy looking through it all again. It may revive some memories. This is, after all, not just a cartoon book, but also a chronicle of events that we lived through, not all of which were necessarily amusing at the time! The second volume will probably appear in the summer of 1982 when the last-ever episode will have been drawn, prior to my departure for the cold world outside.
No foreword would be complete without a few words of thanks. Firstly to my wife for tolerating my unsuccessful attempts to creep upstairs quietly at 3 in the morning, after starting work on half the episodes far too late. I would like to thank and apologise to Carol Drew and Pauline Waterson who, during their terms as editor of the Globe have fretted over the possibility of an empty page where Rompers Green should be. My thanks to Robin Walker, of Taylor and Sons the printers, for patiently tolerating my rushing in with almost every episode just before or, in some cases, after the rest of the magazine has gone for processing. Thanks indeed to those who, in the early months, kept the wolf from the door and allowed the cartoon to survive. And finally my thanks to all of you who read my efforts every month in the Globe, for it is after all, your experiences, efforts and frustrations which are subsequently re-lived by the heroes of ROMPERS GREEN.