Gatineau/Ottawa
20 April 2001

 

We would like to extend a hearty welcome to the following new members:

Tim Pyne from Northwood UK

Bob Thacker from Somewhere, UK

Welcome to the OBA!


From:     James Gallagher 
Subject:  Greetings
Date:     Tue, 17 Apr 2001 10:53:00 +0100

Tony,

It is Easter weekend, and I have managed to find time to re-visit the UKMAMS OBA web site. You obviously have been very busy in the past months; congratulations on the recent award, for what is for me an impressive site and most enjoyable dip into the past.

An e-mail from my son Ben, who has just arrived in Bangalore as part of his gap year, prompted me to write a few short lines of memories of arriving in Aden in July 67. His last paragraph states  "I'm now in Bangalore which is not what I expected", or as the books tell it:  "The thought of getting on the next plane home is becoming increasingly favourable!"  These words brought the images flooding back.

It was 1967,  I was eighteen and had been posted to Oakington straight from the 305th Entry at Hereford.  Oakington, situated close to Cambridge, was a flying training station then, operating the Varsity aircraft (the Flying Pigs).  My days there were spent in the Supply Squadron learning the ropes, and later in the evenings in the "Fort St. George" in Cambridge also learning the ropes!  Weekends were spent at RAF Marham gliding.

The imminent withdrawal of British troops from Aden had meant the secondment of a steady stream  of Suppliers and Movers from stations around the country to the southern tip of Arabia.  One pleasant summer's afternoon, not to be outdone by the other stations, my Squadron Leader invited me to take part in this adventure; and, within a matter of days, I was boarding a British Eagle Britannia from Gatwick to Aden via Istanbul and Bahrain (these exotic places had been but strange names from old Air Force lags before this). The six-day war between Israel and Egypt had just ended, and Istanbul airport was a hive of military activity. The airport, which was in blackout, hummed with strange sounds, and there seemed to be silhouettes of military aircraft everywhere. Soldiers with hooded eyes, seemingly impassive, stood around guarding our aircraft; they looked pretty sinister to us. Were they friends or foe?  I remember the atmosphere was tense, and it suddenly dawned on me what being in the "mob" was all about!   Needless to say, we were not allowed off the aircraft and, after refuelling, some two hours later we rolled down the runway with a certain amount of relief etched in all our faces.

Our next stop, the island of Bahrain, smelt of a mixture of fish and Avtur, the heat was intense and the landscape seemed utterly alien. A squadron of Hunter fighter/bomber aircraft squatted on the tarmac next to us, they looked as if they meant business; another reminder that Oakington was another world away.  Locals in white dishdasha's and ghutra's seemed to glide around in the heat-haze, their flashing smiles were the first signs of  welcome we had experienced since leaving Gatwick.  After some pleasantries from a Movements Officer like, "get fell in",  we were put up in a small transit room consisting of about thirty bare bunk beds. We collected our sheets and pillow cases, which were of that air force grey-hue colour, and made up our beds. Air conditioning was not for the likes of us and so I spent a hot and sticky evening lying in my y-fronts, on my bed, listening to the swish-swish of the ceiling fans, and  wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.  Needless to say, when sleep came it was a welcome relief.

The following morning saw us emplaining for the last leg of our journey to Aden. As the now  familiar engines pulled us clear of the runway over the deep blue sea and Bahrain slid away behind us, what I didn't realise then was that a year to the day I would be back on the island transiting through to Sharjah to begin another adventure.

Tony, your memory of arriving at Khormaksar is not dissimilar to mine. It was mid day when we taxied to a halt, looking out of the porthole windows of  the aircraft, the glare was intense. Fitters and loaders, bodies nut-brown with the sun, buzzed around the bellies and undercarriage doing their thing. They wore nothing but desert boots and shorts.  I remember noticing their waistbands were dark with perspiration, and their knees were definitely brown!  I felt strange, very, very white and not at all part of this particular Air Force. This truly was another life. There was a thump as the steps bumped alongside the aircraft. Nothing had prepared me for the few next seconds when the passenger door opened and a rush of suffocating heat gushed into the fuselage which was like a furnace in seconds. My own body immediately seemed to sprout liquid, and trickles of sweat ran down my back. I was wearing a Harris tweed jacket, just the sort of apparrel for this environment!  Within minutes I was a wreck, and with the dreaded jacket clinging to my soggy frame, I limped off the aircraft tired and nervous, to what was for me a scene of desolation and despair.

The jagged red mountains beyond the airfield seem to crowd the scene and the wetbulb air sucked the breath out of us. There was a hive of professional  yet relaxed activity on the ground, but I didn't feel I was part of it, after all I was only eighteen and had come for the sun, oh, and the medal of course!

"So you've come for a spot of sun have you?" were the opening words of welcome the following morning when we trooped into the briefing room. A ramrod straight Warrant Officer from the RAF Regiment glared at us. "Well let me show you a few snaps of holiday makers like yourselves - only they are not going home."  With these  words he proceeded to turn over pictures that had been face down on the walls of the room. The scenes in the pictures  were awful, one was of a body lying close to a car, "Ian here was getting fuel down the Maalla road when he was shot in the back," "Mike, or what is left of him, was standing next to a booby-trapped milk churn." The officer's voice dronned on an on as we took in the awful scenes of fellow visitors;  they, like us had been in this room.

The next four months were a mixture of comfort and discomfort; as the families had all gone back  to the UK we lived in former married quarters, there were eight of us to a house. These houses did not have airconditioning and the water was rationed from 07:00 hrs until sometime the next morning.  We used fill the bath before we left for our shift so we had the opportunity of a wash after work. New words were introduced to us;  "Stims" (ice cold drinks), "Banjos"(cobs), and "Irons" (knife,fork and spoon). Arabic of sorts was spoken, "Shufti",  "Bint", "Baksheesh",  "Salaam" and "Insh'Allah" were all words and phrases that became part of our daily culture. We had great experiences; I scrounged trips up-country in the Agrosy and Beverley aircraft.  I sat in the mess listening to the Special Forces guys who had just returned from Operations; as they drank their beers they built empty beer-tin mountains on the tables. We watched nightly firework displays when either the NLF or FLOSY  decided to lob motar shells over the perimeter fence. I was on guard duty out by the standby powerhouse one  night (miles from anywhere), when they hit an Air India DC-6,   Alan Bully and I nearly bricked ourselves as we were convinced this was a pre-emptive strike before coming for us!  I was introduced to the Sterling machine gun, and when travelling between RAF Khormaksar and Steamer Point, used to cradle this dangerous toy in my arms, wondering if this was the trip that would test my mettle!

Finally, when the time came for me to return to Oakington, I boarded the aircraft happy to leave  in the knowledge that I had made some great friends  and had a unique adventure.

Happy Easter - Am out to the Gulf again next month and promise to get up-to-date pictures from Sharjah

Jim

[Editor's Note:  Many thanks for the contribution Jim.  I have added the pertinent text to the Khormaksar Article]


From:      Jim Aitken qldr@dingoblue.net.au
Subject:   When Pontius was a Pilot!
Date:      Tue, 17 Apr 2001 16:17:15 +1000
 

Greetings Tony

So who is the 'senior' Mover?  I thought I was in with a chance as I was in Air Movements at Lyneham in April 1953, but Jack Riley has blown me out of the water with his service in Air Movements at Changi in 1949.

I have had some recent correspondence with Guy Jeffersen in the UK who runs an interesting site  on the "potted histories" of some 790 Military Airfields of which many are operational no more.

I enclose the e-mails I have received and if you feel the 'history' is of possible interest to other OBA's Jeff is happy to allow the mini histories to be reprinted.

So when did the Air Movements trade designation come in to being?  Could there have been Movers at Broadwell on the eve of the D-Day landings?  Certainly Clyffe Pypard has a place in Air Movements history....thats for sure.  Literally thousands of pax must have had a night there during its time as a 'transit hotel'.

Hope the Easter Bunny found you this year.........(*_^)

Cheers

Jim Aitken

P.S.  For John Holloway (Old Boys Briefs 041201) Oh yes John, I got to Idris, El Adem , Habbinaya AND Aden, fortunately only as a visitor!

Hey what a blast from the past!  The F/Sgt was 'Chiefy McKenzie' a canny Scot who smoked cigarettes through a cigarette holder. But you are right - he tried to be 'fierce'.

Yep - I saw the Naafi Club at Chippenham being built

[Editor's Note:  Thanks Jim - The Potted Histories look very good.  I have sent an e-mail to the author requesting similar items for Brize Norton, Lyneham, Abingdon and Benson]

 

From:        Ken Davie kendavie@yahoo.com
Subject:     Blether
Date:        Thu, 12 Apr 2001 07:48:20 -0700 (PDT)

"Blether" - Used predominantly in Scotland, I think. It means a cosy chat, but conjures up pictures of old ladies bent over the fire, cups of tea in hand, happily gossiping about the happenings of the day. A good blether. Nothing like it, as my old Mum used to ( and still does!)
...Best ...Ken

 

From:     Tim Pyne  
Subject:  MEMBERS LIST
Date:     Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:54:06 EDT

Tony,

Please can u add me to your members list.  My details are: Charlie team 1981-2, Kilo 1986-88, Delta 1993-01.  I am posted on the 26 Apr to PJHQ Northwood Middlesex and will advise with new tele no.

PJHQ is the Perminant Joint HQ responsible for all operation planning and airlift, based in the bunker at HMS Warrior at Northwood about 6 miles from  Northolt, (where I will be living in the Mess.) Will definitely be a change from 8 years on mobile I will keep u informed.

Rgds

Tim Pyne

 

From:    Ian Berry iwberry@supanet.com
Subject  Re: Photo Recognition
Date:    Sat, 14 Apr 2001 10:19:39 +0100

Tony,

Have just got back from a weeks holiday in Malta, hence delay in replying. The rogue's gallery is hilarious and I'm sure I can fill in gaps.

To start with the answers to your first queries are:

The JT was Tony Suart, MAMS Eng, now working I believe for Shell and lives in Stanford-in-the-Vale, Oxon.

The uniform parade includes l-r Flt Lt 'Uncle' Bill Wellman whom I traced years ago to Portsmouth. Sadly after a long spell in the Omani Air Force he retired to lose all his savings in a Gulf Bank collapse. He may have moved on to Scotland. Next are two guys from my team, JT Gordon Gourdie and FS Ken 'The Hustler' Browne. Ken recently retired and lives in Aylsbury. We (my team) all keep in touch and have a get-together at least every other year.

No doubt more info as I keep reading my e-mail.

Regards

 

From:       Ian Berry iwberry@supanet.com
Subject:    Re: Handing over
Date:       Sat, 14 Apr 2001 11:25:45 +0100

Tony,

Pulled out my copy of the F540 but Mike Slade just 'stole away' in the night without a fanfare or final message. The date was August 1971 but I can't get closer than that!

By the way in the Rogues Gallery:

Ted Moore was the other JT.  He left the RAF in 1974 and went back to Worcester, no trace since.
 

Hugh Curran (Curren), still big mates and we live close to each other. Hugh now flies as a Loadmaster/Bag Man for Heavylift flying out of Stansted. He's now primarily on the Airbus freighters but flew a long while on the Antonov 124 Ruslan - I actually flew with him once down to Ascension, sharing the rear hold with a bunch of  Russians!

Dave Eggleton now lives in Rowstock, Oxon and may still be working. He had a cancerous growth removed a few years ago and is in fine fettle.

Chris Twyman I now discover is out (Sqn Ldr Retd) and works for the Royal Navy in Norfolk,
Virginia.

Tony Pyne works in a travel agency in Melksham, Wilts, he initially joined the Assn but has never renewed. I did the very last RAF schedule to Salalah with him in Dec 1977....

Incidentally I saw John Belchers comment ref Goose Bay. I don't know if its true or not but will find out as I'm going there on Det for a month 18 Apr -  21 May, I'll try an find an internet address but no guarantees. You'll also notice as a regular this is the best trip I can get, only Oggies get trips to the States!!

More later no doubt.

Regards

Ian

[Editor's Note:  Many thanks for both of the above Ian]

 

From:     Ian Berry iwberry@supanet.com
To:       Howard Firth HFirth@deso.dpa.mod.uk
CC:       UKMAMS O.B.A. ukmams_oba@hotmail.com
Subject:  UNCLASS MAIL
Date:     Sat, 14 Apr 2001 16:46:05 +0100

'H'

I noticed you were in Saudi, whatever you're doing I don't envy you. Are you still parented by Northolt or have you moved on?

In response to your query the only solid contact in South Africa at the moment is Don Hunter who is in J'oberg and is still working for Cathay. He says he's done 15 years in the States followed by 8 in Hong Kong, he gets all the bum postings doesn't he? His e-mail address by the way is: http://www.don_hunter@cathaypacific.com .

Tony 'Chomper' Lamb moved to SA on retirement to join his daughter, I've no idea where though and that was over 10 years ago.

There's nobody else out there as far as I know apart from Jim Buchanan's sister and an ex-member of UKMAMS who 'did a runner' at the end of the  Zambian Oil Lift - you'll have to speak to Ian Stacey for more info!

Hope this little bit of info helps. Cheers for now.

Ian

 

From:      Bob Thacker Robjthacker@aol.com
Subject:   Membership
Date:      Sat, 14 Apr 2001 12:49:55 EDT

Hi Tony,

Congrats on the web site and please include me for membership.  It seems unbelievable to me that a quarter of a century (or more) has gone by since  those days.

Teams: too many to remember Years: 1968 to 72 and 74 to 79.  I left the in RAF in 1979, tried  the airline business in Scotland but left after a year over a slight disagreement about how much they wanted to pay me.

Since 1980 I have been working as a financial advisor (R Thacker Associates - talk about the blind leading the blind); but I'm still in business after 20 years so it can't all be bad.

Heavily into Gliding for the last 7/8 years - recently bought my own sailplane and have flown it for 10 mins since September due to the lousey UK  weather !!

I notice you have a very slimline photo of me in the rogues gallery - times have changed!  Children are now grown up (sometimes not) but still require financial inputs on a regular basis!!

Hope things are going well for you and yours.  Look forward to hearing from you.

Bob (and Dawn) Thacker

[Editor's Note:  Really nice to make contact with you both again]

 

From:      John Belcher john_belcher@lineone.net
Subject:   540
Date:      Tue, 17 Apr 2001 19:08:37 +0100

Tony

Just been going through some back issues of Team Brief and came across a 'From the 540' article  for March 1973:

Australia / Indonesia. Special Sqn Ldr Bryan Morgan, Flt Lt Chris Twyman, FS John Evans, Sgt Dave Barton, Cpl George Lynes and SAC Tony Moore. Belfast task to move F100 Sabre simulator from Williamstown, Australia to Indonesia.

Looks like 1 team member has been left out of the Sqn Diary!!!

Also

Feb 1973 Abingdon Special Flt Lt Chris Twyman, Sgt Dave Barton, Cpl George Lynes, SACs Tony Gale
and Tony Moore. Loading and securing of Egyptian  relics (Tutenkahmun's treasures) on a Britannia for Cairo.

NB Whilst the OC Sqn Ldr Bryan Morgan was watching the aircraft take off, Dave Barton sidled up
to him and patted his pocket saying   "Have I got the best trophy ever for the crewroom!"   OC's reply was unprintable.

John

[Editor's Note: Many thanks for those snippets John. I well remember the "Tut" move - the stuff  turned up at Abingdon in a seemingly non-descript moving van - but, surprise-surprise, this van was, on the inside, just like Fort Knox. If I remember correctly, the SAS, looking every bit like regular civilian moving company people, accompanied it.

We were a bad lot in those days, we had policeman's hats from all over the world adorning the crew room, and outside there was a ship's anchor relieved from Malta and a huge concrete milestone which was purloined from the jungles of Malaysia!  According to John Belcher that milestone is still  outside the UKMAMS Headquarters at Lyneham.]

 

Phil Clarke saw the following item in the Daily Telegraph on 18 April:

RAF to sell off emergency services
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent

Daily Telegraph of 18/4/01

RAF Ministry of Defence

THE RAF is to privatise emergency services and refuelling operations at nearly 100 airfields, including those in Germany and Cyprus, raising fears that operational effectivness may suffer.

The Ministry of Defence said yesterday that it was negotiating with three consortia to sell off  the services as part of a £4 billion, 25-year "private finance" contract. More than 2,000 staff, many of them civilians, will be transferred to the companies who win the contract but the MoD said job cuts were expected.

The winner will have to provide emergency fire and crash cover; aircraft refuelling; movement on the ground; air cargo handling; and keep runways and aircraft clear of snow and ice. But a spokesman said it would not compromise security or operations.However Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: "These services will be provided at some of the most sensitive military sites in the country. There are bound to be questions about security."

The Government has sold off a number of MoD services under its Private Finance Initiative scheme. Critics say that although the low bids submitted to win the contracts appear to offer savings, costs escalate once the Armed Forces have lost the capability to undertake the tasks themselves.

The three bidders are Approach Services; which includes BP and Lex vehicle leasing; Airside, set up by Amey Ventures and British Midland Handling; and Logicair, which includes Serco which bid unsuccessfully for the national air traffic control contract.

[Editor's Note:  The mind boggles. What "Einstein" thought this one up!]

 

From:      Phil Clarke ClarkP@laudaair.com
Subject:   AW: RAF to sell off emergency services
Date:      Wed, 18 Apr 2001 14:56:17 +0200

Hey Buddy,

I suspected your reaction would be along those lines.  I felt exactly the same upon reading the  news, but had only Austrians to discuss it with!

All is well this end but a little bit of news - Austrian Airlines, of which Lauda is now part, now fly to Toronto direct from Vienna 5 days a week, and it will cost me about 50 quid a ticket, so expect me before the summers out.

Tony - e mail me your telephone number right now!

Phil

[Editor's Note:  Thanks for the phone call Phil - it was great speaking to you after all these years!  We were both 16 years old when we first met on 25 September 1963!]

 

Well that's it for another week.  I did receive a very informative booklet from the RAF Changi  Association with the station history, and will precis it somewhat before adding it into the Changi Article.

Have a great weekend!

Regards

Tony