The term 'Rockape' came into general use in the Royal Air Force in the 1950s as a disparaging term for all ranks of the RAF Regiment
I suppose many stories have been told as to how the name 'Rockape' originated. Many of them wildly inaccurate, and during my time in the Regiment almost everyone believed it came from the barbary apes on the Rock of Gibraltar because at some time in the past an RAF Regiment Squadron had been in residence high up on the 'Rock'. However this link with the rockapes of Gibraltar is probably apocryphal.
The following account was related to me by Wg.Cdr.Roberts. 3 LAA Wing in 1959) which was also confirmed by other Regiment officers at the RAF Regiment Depot Catterick. However some doubted its authenticity and insisted the name came from the barbary apes of Gibraltar ( the most popular theory). Perhaps we'll never know.
In 1952, two RAF Regiment officers serving in Aden decided to pass some time away by going out and shooting some of the baboons, which were referred to locally as rock apes.
Armed with lee-enfields, it is not known how they got them out of the armoury, they set off to look for some baboons. (this type of behavior by officers is known as 'high spirits' similar types of behavior by other ranks is known as hooliganism) In the darkness they separated and when one of them saw a sudden movement a few yards away he opened fire. To his delight he saw his target topple and fall but to his dismay on inspection, his target had been his fellow officer who was lying seriously wounded with a bullet in the chest. Miraculously he lived but there was a board of inquiry and it was here that the term 'rockape' used to describe an RAF Regiment airman (of any rank) originated. Under sustained questioning the officer came up with the excuse that his target had looked 'just like a rock ape' in the dark.
The story spread and the term Rockape became in use generally throughout the RAF.
Gradually the word 'thick' was added to' Rockape' by the Penguins (as a term of abuse) due to the Regiment being trade group 22. In a heirachy of 22 we were bottom and to the 'much cleverer penguins', who, no matter what job they did, and who were always in a trade group above us, we were thick.