Sunday, 12 May 2013

A Nice Night Out

The entrance to RAF Habbaniya
The long window of the restaurant at the RAF Habbaniya Social Club abutted the chicken run.  These window tables were popular with airmen because, sometimes, while locked in combat with a pugnacious  steak sandwich, you might be lucky enough to witness a newly-decapitated chicken, neck thrust forward, hurtling past in headless denial of its imminent appointment with the chef .
Apart from playing cricket in temperatures of 120+F, this was just about as exciting as things got at 'Hab'.

OK, there was the cinema and the swimming pool, and the NAAFI was located just yards from our billet, well within staaggering distance after a heavy night on Younger's Double Century. The NAAFI, though, had its limitations; no girls, the inevitability of Jock Sneddon getting legless and singing mournful Scottish songs until dawn, and with only the dubious 'closing time' pleasure of  spraying fire extinguishers over the slumbering occupants of adjacent billets after 'lights out'.
Myself,(left) and Gordon Benbow, relaxing at the YMCA before
 moving out to Cabaret Andalus for the night's action.

 Now and again though, we did manage a night out in the fleshpots of Baghdad, which meant an overnight stay at the YMCA.

Before my first Baghdad visit, I'd written to tell my mother, a devout and 'proper' Methodist lady, about the trip. Her reply contained dire warnings of the appalling disasters, mostly involving unspeakable diseases, that could befall a young innocent who might be tempted to venture in to one of the lust filled drinking dens known to abound in Oriental cities. I felt no need to respond to this.

There were four of us on the trip, all Baghdad 'virgins', but  psyched up by other comrades' tales of exotic nocturnal experiences with beautiful women, which essentially confirmed mother's warnings, but in a much more acceptable way. Thus, brimming with testosterone, we made our way to the Cabaret Andalus, highly recommended as a treasure house of feminine delights.

The atmosphere was exciting. Smoky and noisy, with Oriental music and belly dancing that had our teenage tongues lolling helplessly. Eventually, oh joy!,  some gorgeous girls came to our table and got cosy. Which turned out to be a problem, because they were all downing 'shorts' at our expense, and with beer at 45p a bottle and us lads on four quid a week, our ability to entertain was limited. The ladies, however, maintained good humour, even when the cash ran out. Benbow's chick even had a smile on her face when she gave him a playful push in the face, that sent him and the chair toppling over, an incident which resulted in us being forcibly removed to the street by the bouncers.

Things didn't get much better after that. We got lost, and arrived back at the YMCA about 3.00am, skint, a bit pissed and somewhat downcast by our brief and humiliating skirmish with the ladies of the town.
This lady,  posing on the banks of the river Tigris, was not
 present  at the Cabaret Andalus humiliation.

The gate to the YMCA was locked, and the surrounding wall must have been eight feet high, so as I was the smallest, I was elected to be bunked over to see if I could open the gate from the inside I was dropped twice, and there was a lot of swearing, but just as I was about to get over, a night watchman came bursting out of the shadows, shouting and waving a 303 rifle in our direction. My support team, predictably, panicked and dropped me hard on the ground, knocking the wind out of me, and I lay there helpless while the shouting, and rifle-waving continued around me. In the middle of this fracas, a taxi drew up, the passenger got out, rang the bell on the YMCA gate, which was opened almost immediately, and the guy disappeared inside.

After an internal dispute as to who should have seen the bell, we made our peace with the watchman and got in to the YMCA, a thoroughly ignominious ending to a totally ignominious evening. Of course, back at camp we told our mates what a fantastic time we'd had and how gorgeous the girls were. We went to Baghdad again on several more successful, occasions,  but steered well clear of Cabaret Andalus.

I can laugh about it, now.


  1. Only you could turn a disaster into a story that made me laugh. I suppose it could have been worse - a matelot friend of mine - who is a generation younger than we are - tells a tale of discovering the "girl" on his lap wasn't. Luckily this was before he'd parted with too much cash, or, incidentally, his clothes.

  2. Entertaining, as usual!

    And what a handsome young chap...

  3. Dear Sir, I would like to ask if you can contact me regarding your photo of RAF Habbaniya signpost I am intereted in for my own research regarding ex-RAF member.
    Thank you in advance.

    Dear Sir, I would like to ask if you can contact me regarding your photo of RAF Habbaniya signpost I am intereted in for my own research regarding ex-RAF member.
    Thank you in advance.