|Flea ridden primates with penchant for masturbation.|
The official story as stated in 'Through Adversity - The History of the RAF Regiment' by Kingsley M Oliver is as follows:
"The term 'rockape' came into use within the RAF in the 1950s as a disparaging term for Regiment officers and airmen - who quickly adapetd it as a title of distinction, thus turning the tables on those who had intended to label them with a derogatory nickname. SInce then, a wide variety of theories have been advanced as to how and why this term originated, possibly most bizarre being an attempt to link the RAF Regt with the Rock of Gibraltar and the Barbary Apes which are maintained there by the British Army. In reality, the truth is simpler than fiction.
In November 1952, two RAF Regiment officers serving with the Aden Protectorate Levies at Dhala, in the Western Aden Protectorate, decided to amuse themselves by going out to shoot some baboons (locally referred to as rock apes) which came down from the mountains in the cool of the evening to forage for food in the plain - and throw stones at the Levy camp. Each officer took a Service rifle and ammunition from the squadron armoury and set off on forth to look for baboons. Unwisely, they went their separate ways and in the semi-darkness one of the hunters saw a movement on a rocky outcrop some distance away. Taking careful aim, he fired and was delighted to see his target fall - but horrified when he reached the spot to find his colleague lying with a bullet wound in his chest. TYPICAL BLOODY ROCKAPE MISTAKE
Flight Lieutenant Mason was still alive, although the bullet has passed within inches of his heart, and thanks to swift medical attention he survived to make a good recovery before returning to active duty several months later.
Although the incident itself did not gain much publicity a statement made at the subsequent board of inquiry did. Under questioning, the firer of the almost-fatal shot said, in mitigation of his actions, that his target had "looked just like a rock ape" in the half-light. This remark reverberated throughout the messes on RAF stations wherever members of the Regiment were serving, and it was not long before the term was in general use. But as a burly Gunner (RAF Regiment private) said to a penguin (the Regiment term for an RAF tradesman) in the NAAFI soon afterwards "you can call me a rockape - but make sure that you smile when you do!"
So there you have it, that is why we are called rockapes. I believe that the Royal Marines were called rockapes many years ago for their link to Rock of Gibraltar but I could be wrong.
I heard another explanation for the nomenclature of this august body about 28 years ago. As part of the selection course, the candidate for rockapehood is placed in a room that has one door, no windows or other exits,and nothing else inside it. In the centre of the empty room a large rock is positioned for the purpose of testing the candidate's abilities. The candidate then has two hours in which to either lose or break the large rock, if he is successful in this monumental task he is admitted into the brotherhood of the Rockapes.
Still rather be in the Pioneers than a Rockape.