Whatever happened to the Likely Lads......
When Rex Cole was a very young man there came into his life a requirement to take the Queen's
shilling, put on an off blue uniform and stamp about in mud and snow carrying a rifle while being
shouted at. Not that the shouting made any impact, nothing much did. Eventually when all the people
shouting got fed up with Rex and his friends, (by this time adversity had bred a sort of fellow
feeling amongst the damned), they sent them off to some other place where world war 2 equipment was
explained to them and they were allowed to play with it. None of this was ever useful as the world
had moved on in the eleven years since hostilities had ceased. What Rex looked like in uniform can
only be guessed at from this picture of another sufferer.
However in the interests of national security Rex and co., and kitbags, were put on a round
bottom tub which sailed from Harwich and eventually put them ashore on the other side from where
they were transported to the northern outskirts of Germany at RAF Jever.
Life in Germany brought some surprises to Rex. The equipment he played with was state of the art
and when he played with it the fate of the northern part of NATO and the west was often in his hands
unless he dozed off on the long night watch which happened from time to time. But best of all the
beer was cheap (after much trying he found a taste for it) and his friends shared an interest in Jazz
and skiffle. So much so, that they made a nuisance of themselves to the locals.
The Schutzenhof was the cheapest dance hall in Jever (there were only two) but this was
early days! The 'Downtowners' managed to open a broadcast on British Forces
Network with three numbers and thereafter fame beckoned. The skiffle craze
was fine but the chord sequences were limited and the Trad Jazz scene appealed. There was a
pukka Jazz band on base, the Jade Basin 5 plus 2 but some members had been demobbed and new blood
The excursion into radio brought with it an obligation to tour i.e. to put on a show at RAF
Rostrup hospital. The patients didn't really deserve it but were probably under orders as well.
Rex, Me and the Downtowners at the RAF hospital Rostrup show, Germany - winter 1958.
The Jazz Band were roped in as well and in the months afterwards, over many beers, Rex and
David managed to practice with the 'other ranks' band members and get to play at venues
which meant free beer and food.
Dennis, Maurice Gavan and Stan Howard With David and Digger Davidson at the back Rex must have taken the picture at the Gruner Wald.
Rex and friends had become 'us' a quite close knit group. Suddenly Forces life was not too
bad! 'We' were now inured to the food provided but other than beer drinking and playing Jazz
what else was on offer?
The camp swimming pool empty in winter.
Distractions were few and basic but Rex decided to demonstrate his absence of fear
by performing a highland fling over a substantial drop.
The passion for beer drinking impinged on all other activities and although on later mature
outlook was classified as a legitimate growing up phase, there was a pause for concern when regulars,
who had served a full year longer in post, developed worrying alcoholic tendencies Such as purple
skin blotches and periods drying out in sick bay. These were mostly Welshmen but the odd cockney
surfaced in some spirited, bizarre and often disgraceful scenarios much to our immature delight.
One such was Alf Scotcher who was probably destined for a glittering career in the City of London,
Street Market Trading or Prison.
Alf Scotcher recovering from excess
Life had begun to settle down, it was a nuisance to have to go to work underground at
Brockzetel to keep the western world safe but there seemed sufficient funds (£3 (£54.30=Aug10) per week top
wack) to allow our tastes to be indulged. A sort of routine evolved around taking crates of beer
to the NAAFI attic to have a jam session with other devotees. Jever beer was 7d (53p=Aug10) a bottle and
Carlsberg export 9d (68p=Aug10) in old money.
Digger, Gav and Dennis in the NAAFI attic.
Some could not join us as they were 'Officers' Flight Lieutenant Stan Howard, trumpet, always
seemed to be busy flying his Hunter jet and what Flying Officer Dave Watt did was a mystery but
it certainly wasn't flying anything. He came to life however when sat at the keyboard.
Dave Watt in full flow.
Musical opportunities and access to instruments abounded and at one time legions of people appeared
to be practising on cheap guitars all over the place.
Maurice Gavan with honking machine.
Rex had a go as well.
David's double bass with the cat which adopted us.
The local town Jever could be relied on to provide reasonable beer until about midnight after
which a trip to Wilhelmshaven could prolong the inflow until 5am. However the evening ended there was
always the problem of getting past the guardhouse into camp.
Sobering up and practising the walk past the Guardhouse.
This pattern of existence was fast becoming the norm and we needed to raise our horizons a little.
Given our limited income financing travel was always a problem so in a logical move Rex and David
decided to hitchhike to Amsterdam to meet other like minds to see what the city had to offer. It
didn't seem on reflection to present any problems. The Dutch on learning we were serviceman became
very friendly pointing out places we were passing where they had shot at Germans and eventually
we found ourselves booking in to a cheap hostel in the city centre. The next few days involved plenty
Two 'men about town' Rex and me Amsterdam 1958.
Rex and me Amsterdam 1958.
All good things come to an end and a succession of other people's demob parties began in 1958.
Judy, Danny, Gav, Tony, Digger, Ralph, Phil, Dennis.
Demob party for Tony Ewen at the Malcolm Club RAF Jever, 1958.
Eventually the band began to lose members and a memorable evening took place when our singer
Danny Sands had to say farewell.
Farewell to the Deutche's Haus, Jever for Danny Sands with Maurice Gavan on piano Germany 1958.
We occupied a large table as usual and made the night our own with Danny and Gav entertaining after we had replaced the
Our table at the Deutche's Haus, Jever 1957/58.
And a table somewhere else that served beer.
L to R: Maurice Gavan, Dennis Crewe, Danny Sands and Digger Davidson.
These salad days finally came to an end when a whole group of us were sent to England one month before demob to train for a Fire Service Mobile Column in event of hostilities. This resulted in anarchy and no end to the loose habits of the last two years. Whilst it may have been useful to conscript us for some alleged military purpose the resultant experience fitted us for life quite well and allowed another country to put up with our behaviour during the phase of steam letting.
Other random memories include:
The camp set in woods
Block 40 or 'Home'
The night we were upgraded to play at the top floor at the Strandhalle Hotel to replace the string quartet.
The sobering thought is that this was all 50 years ago, or really only the day before yesterday.
Rex and Wendy Cole
David and Celia Cobbold - 1961
and in 1968