Johnny Ball says National Service should return 60 years after axe to save kids

Johnny Ball says National Service should return 60 years after axe to save kids

Telly veteran Johnny Ball is ­calling for National Service to be brought back – 60 years after it was axed.

Johnny, famed for presenting science shows and Play School, left the RAF in 1959, a year before the forces took their last full intake of national servicemen.

The 82-year-old said: “National Service was the making of me.

“I wish we could afford it today, not for everyone, but for kids floundering around. You meet strangers from all walks of life. In Bolton my mates started to form a gang. The forces got me out of that. It was an absolute dream.”

From 1948 to 1963, when the last man was demobbed, about two million passed through the Army, Royal Navy and RAF.

Johnny Ball , right, served in the RAF for three years in the late 1950s

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Many saw active service in conflicts such as the Korean War, Suez and the Malayan Emergency. Johnny, who served as a radar operator spotting Soviet warplanes in the Cold War, said it was “his university”.

He was called up for two years and signed on for an extra year to get double pay and have a choice over his role.

Entertainer Johnny Ball has reflected on the importance of Nation Service
(Image: BBC)

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Johnny found he could use his talent for maths and pursued his dream of becoming a comedian. He said: “I left school in Bolton at 16 as a failure except in maths. I worked in an aircraft factory.

“But in the RAF I realised not going to university made no difference. I opted to be a radar operator, partly as it had the maximum chance of an overseas posting. I was posted to Wales!

“But at Aberporth I was working with boffins. Later I was sent to Germany to monitor the Hamburg-Berlin air corridor. I had three glorious years.”

Johnny Ball with his daughter, Radio DJ and presenter Zoe Ball
(Image: Instagram)

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Johnny, father of Radio 2 DJ Zoe Ball, spoke as the RAF Benevolent Fund campaigns to find veterans who need help – including former National Servicemen.

Air Vice-Marshal Chris Elliot, its ­controller, said: “Up to 300,000 RAF veterans aged over 65 are in need.”

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