The kindly Customs Officer!

Pete Davidson

When I was in the Royal Signals (ohh so long ago) I spent a happy couple of years stationed at 234 Signal Squadron (Malta). I left Malta, along with everyone else, when Mr Mintoff decided to kick we Brits off the island back in 1971/2.

Anyhoo, as a part of the movement of troops and equipment off the island we were busy little bees shifting all sorts of stores from one place to another ready for transportation off the island. On one of these sundry jaunts, I managed to get my hand trapped between two rather large generators and wound up being casevac'd back to the UK.

I should mention at this point that our unit was the only one on the island with it’s own duty free shop/store and as a part of the leaving the island bit, the CO decided to raffle off (free raffle) the entire stock of this duty free shop. As a part of the raffle, I acquired three (yes 3) bottles of a well known, and very good quality Brandy.

So, there I was, arm in a sling, hand heavily bandaged sitting on a VC10 from Luqa airfield heading to Brize Norton (the whole plane only had six casevac passengers on it [if memory serves], so we were outnumbered by the crew), and each of us had our own “helper” in the guise of an air steward. Eventually we arrived at Brize, and being the honest (and naive) soul I am, I went with my helper to the goods to declare section (remember the Brandy). At the Goods to declare bench stood a somewhat dour looking Customs guy, so I figured I’d be paying heavily for my honesty. The guy asked me what I was declaring and I told him about the Brandy; his response was to suggest it was the cheapo stuff that is readily available in Malta. Not being fully with it, I argued that it was Napoleon Brandy and good stuff, to which he again suggested it might be the cheapo stuff… now my helper was gently nudging me and quietly suggesting it would be wise to agree, so I stated that it could indeed be the cheapo stuff. The Custom guy’s response was that in which case there was no duty due and to get on my way. Thanking him I trotted off very happy with the outcome, but getting some seriously strange looks from my helper…..So not all HM Customs people are after your dosh……