07 June 2002


New members joining us this week are:

Tony Place from East Sussex, UK

Pete Spear from Wetherby, UK

Welcome to the OBA!


From:     Phil Clarke, Vienna,
To:         Jack Riley, Urangan Qld., Australia
Date:      31 May 2002 05:32
Subject:  Loyal Greetings to HM

Nice one Jack - you're always coming up with things I wish I'd thought of.

As a matter of interest, Margaret (the trouble and.........) got the kids at her school interested in the Royal Family.  About 4  years ago they sent the Queen a huge card on some occasion which I cannot remember, and amazingly they not only got a reply from a Lady in Waiting, but 6 months later a visit from Princess Anne in her “Save the Children” capacity (the school has about 18 different nationalities - a lot being the kids of real refugees). When Margaret mentioned to her that the kids had written to the Queen, she remarked: 'Ah, that explains a lot!'

They then sent the Queen Mum greetings on her 100th Birthday, and again received a reply from a Lady in Waiting.

When our Royal Family takes the trouble to reply to some unknown infant school in Vienna, it makes me think there can't be too much wrong with the system.

Keep coming up with those ideas.

Cheers Phil


From:     Howard Firth, Kharmis Mushayt,
Date:      02 June 2002 04:34
Subject:  Re: Info on King Khalid International Airport

Hi Tony,

Sorry for the delay in replying but have just returned from visiting the old country. It doesn't get any better! 

I can understand why so many of the OBAs settle abroad. I myself have only 11 months to run, 7 of which will be here in the land of nonsense. Still the pay is good.  I have bought in South Africa for retirement and looking at the OBA listing will probably be the first in that part of the world.

As for the info requested by US Medic Tom Thweatt, I can supply him with a general overview and will do so. As for contacting the RSAF I will have to try through Riyadh. I am in the deep South, 100 miles from the Yemeni border, Bandit Country!  So any type of inquiry is viewed with suspicion, especially if you have been circumcised as well!

Best regards.

Brilliant site


[Ed:  Thanks for that Howard.  I'm sure Tom will appreciate any info you can gather for him.  I was going to make a comment about your circumcision - but nah! wouldn't be appropriate...]


From:     Peter Spear, Wetherby,
Date:      03 June 2002 07:29
Subject:  Re: Your Old Boys Briefs 011901

Hello Tony,

Just a few lines from Peter Spear.

With regards your reference to "Boot" and Alpha Team. We all have pleasant memories of different tasks we had.  I particularly remember a job in Nairobi.  On one of our "jollies" out to Lake Naivasha, Boot took a photo of the lake, which was ruined by a piece of orange peal obscuring the view!  On that particular job, the whole team was thrown out of the "Starlight" night club!

Then there was the time when the A team were resting on the beach in Nassau after a couple or so hours of working on Hercs. We are all in bathing cossies and who should stroll onto the beach, dressed in a flying suit and designer sunglasses? The famous Ray Couchman -  do you remember him?  Boot shouts out in a loud voice, "Bloody hell it’s Biggles!!"

On another occasion Boot persuaded us to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa after a few  beers - he honestly thought it was a straight climb!!!

Finally there was the time when we were on task in Teheran, and our team leader bought the dirtiest, oldest, reesty old kettle in a grotty old market for £20.   I ask you!

However, like a lot of your correspondents, I am close to retirement, but it does not stop we older ones wanting to travel. Last year I took the wife right round the world.  We arrived at Raratonga and I thought to myself , “I bet no MAMS Commandos have been  here.”  How wrong I was, a US Air Force ex-MAMS fellow had signed the visitors book at the airport.

Well, I will sign off now.  Regards to any other "Alpha Team” members who may read this, in particular Dave Benson, John Evans, Tony Pyne, Boot Pratt and Jim Marchant.  Sadly, I learned that Tony Barrell had died some years ago.

Please enter me on your members page.

Kind regards,


[Ed:  Very happy to have you along Peter, and looking forward to many more tales from the Alpha Team when they come to mind...]


From:     John Holloway, Shrewsbury,
Date:      05 June 2002 12:05
Subject:  Square Bashing

Hi Tony,
There’s a programme started this week on ITV called “Lad’s Army” where about 30 lads are taking part as National Service recruits circa 1950, and it really brought back some memories.  I got a great laugh seeing the antics that they got up to starting right at the beginning where they are kitted out with heads shaved etc.  Also on the programme they were shown how to make their beds with the bed pack each morning; blanket, sheet and blanket, wrap it around then lay out their eating irons and mugs, and afterwards making the bed with the ’Hospital Corners’.

 Someone I remember when at Bridgnorth doing my square-bashing was the DI Corporal who was a right b*****d. When drilling us in the “Stand at Ease Drill” he explained that the feet should be 18” apart, but of course most of us were not  reaching that distance.  So he made us get our white ceramic pint mugs and place them about 18” away from our right foot.  He then ordered us to stand at ease with the expected results; broken mugs littering the parade ground.  We then had to buy new ones from the NAAFI,  and boy was money scarce!  

Our Sergeant was a blue-eyed Irishman.  I remember on one occasion he was so pleased with our perfect in-line marching, keeping the three lines perfectly straight,  that he fetched the Squadron Commander out to see us do it.  Of course we made a complete balls-up of it and made him look like a right pratt, however, later he got his own back when marching us to the mess for dinner by making us about turn  half a dozen times just as we were nearing the mess entrance. Ah, happy days.
Also I remember, just like in most cases, where you get about thirty guys all together, we had the corporal’s favorite, the clever dick, the know all, the joker, the idiot, the no-hoper and the tick-tock man!!!  I hasten to say I was none of these!!!
One thing about it all, the DI’s went out of their way to humiliate us bawling and shouting and making us do things that seemed damn stupid at the time.   I suppose having stuck it out we actually beat them in the end of our twelve weeks which I suppose was the object of the exercise. We went in like lambs and came out lions!  I know I was pretty fit when I finished, and ready to take on the world.
Cheers for now.
p.s.  Just a quickie to see how your gray matter is -what was, or is, a ‘Tick-Tock Man”  anybody know?

{Ed:  You've got me on that one John - does anybody know?]


[Ed:  My brother, Clive, somewhat of an electronics whiz, works for the FAA calibrating the ILS at different US Territorial airports.  He was recently transferred to the International Division based in Oklahoma City.  He has been writing “Travelogues” keeping us all in touch when he is on his overseas trips.  I take the liberty of copying his latest offering to you.  It makes me wish I had kept a “diary” of sorts during my travels, apart from the log book.  Anyway, read on and enjoy….]

From:     Clive Gale, somewhere in the South Pacific
Date:       02 June 2002 07:08
Subject:   Travelogue 060102

It’s four o’clock in the morning and I am awake again without the help from the local entertainment. When we got back to the hotel last evening, I tried for the third time to get a movie on the television. A free movie is part of the deal that we have with the hotel.  All I got was static, so I called down again to cancel.  This time the sent an engineer to my room, to tell me what I already knew, there was something wrong with the signal.  While he was there I pointed out the ants that were trying to walk off with the telephone on the night dresser.  They asked if I wanted to move rooms but I was not going to start doing that at 10:30 at night.

In the morning the front desk called and told me that I had to change rooms so that the room could be fumigated.  I told them that I wanted a room in the new tower and not the tower where I was. The room I was in, besides the ants has wallpaper bulging off of wall, mould growing in the bathroom and generally run down.  She asked how I knew about the new tower telling me that they were both the same.  When she heard that I had stayed at the hotel before, she backed down and I got a beautiful room in the new tower.  I had better explain, we get rooms at a rate determined by the US Government at most hotels.  Normally the set amount is competitive; sometimes a little more than they are getting locally. Sometimes, especially during the busy times, we are getting rooms at much lower rate.  Hotels don’t give the best rooms to folks not paying the regular rates! We are in the heart of the Japanese tourist area; they do not get regular return business here so one of our guys had made a deal with the hotel.  We would have our crews use the hotel as long as there were some perks, free breakfast, free movies, free laundry and supposedly accommodated in the new tower.

We met at 10:00 a.m. to go out to the jet, the pilots were going to load the flight plans into the aircraft computer, I was going to help Darrel wash the aircraft, service the oxygen and check the tires.  Before we started to do that I went to check my equipment and started checking the data that was on my computer.  It failed again, we tried everything we knew to clear it up but it did not want to play.  We isolated the part that was wrong and ordered a new part from Oklahoma. That won't arrive until Monday afternoon, flexible!  Bill and Perry had left having completed their chores. Darrel and I completed our work, stopped by the gym to pick Perry up and headed for the hotel. 

5 o’clock, time to go to dinner, we had told Lisa that we would go back that evening for dinner. Doing the math in the cold light of day my colleagues realized that we had dropped about $150 - $170 in the bar the previous night.  Fortunately only about $35 of it was mine; I rarely drink so only had a couple of soda pops. Bill and Darrel had been drinking more heavily and none of us realized how much advantage the bar girls had taken of that.  Did I say we got a “Free Dinner”?

This evening we crossed the island to go to Pirate's Cove; there's a souvenir shop and restaurant where they are reputed to serve great food.  One of the other claims to fame is the Japanese soldier who was found here in 1976; still thinking that World War II was still on.  I looked for some local information on it but besides some newspaper clips on the wall which I did not have time to read, I could not find out any more information.  I had a deep fried Tuna steak sandwich that was pretty good.
I woke up early again, decided to do my laundry.  By 4:30 I had my clothes in the washer and was working on this journal. 5:30 on my way back to the room from the laundry, it was getting light and I noticed that the tide was in and the lagoon was pretty deep.  I had not gotten to the water yet as every evening the tide was out and not really enough water in the lagoon to go snorkelling.  By 6 o’clock I was on the seaward side of the lagoon drifting quietly over coral heads with clouds of fish swimming with me. I stayed in for about an hour, not venturing out of the lagoon and over the reef on my own.  I saw lots of fish and coral that I could name and lots more that I had never seen before.  The water was warm and with the occasional colder areas it was very relaxing.  I saw several Moray Eels with their bulbous heads sticking out of holes in the coral, even close into shore.

Climbing the steps back up the cliff to the hotel, I realized that I had over done it a little. My chest is still congested, aftermath from the bronchitis, the high humidity was making it difficult for me to get my breath.  The first stop on the way back to the aircraft was to the Base Exchange where I brought a decongestant cough syrup.  That brought swift relief. 

We had been talking to the technicians in Oklahoma, they asked us to do a little trouble shooting on my system in the aircraft.  Following their suggestions we found the problem; damp connections on the recorder.  The last place that I would have thought to look! We managed to fix the aircraft and will start our schedule tomorrow as originally planned.  The pilots went to file flight plans while Darrel and I finished up. We decided to spend the day exploring the island; we spent the next 6 hours driving down jungle covered roads, along the bottom of cliffs and visited a few of the military bases.  We stayed mostly on the coastal plains and did not venture into the mountains, there was far too much to see as it was. There was a Japanese Kamikaze Submarine outside of the Naval Base museum, I did not know that they existed, but there is was as large as life.  About 40' long, conning tower and periscope, with two torpedo heads making up the bow!

Well that’s about it for now, I don’t know when I will be able to get back onto the net, probably not until we arrive in Hawaii next Sunday.  Meantime I found out some interesting historical facts.  I thought the US took responsibility for all of these islands as they took them from the Japanese.  How wrong can you be?  When the US defeated the Spanish in Cuba during the Spanish American war, all the islands previously controlled by the Spanish became protectorates of the US.  More trivia, I remember seeing a film years ago, about islanders that use big round stones, like wheels for money.  Seems that was a true story, the Island was Yap, and that is where I will be tomorrow night.

p.s.  I finally got to see the movie “Blackhawk Down.”  If and when you get a chance to see it, a  lot of the avionics suite in the smaller helicopters was designed and installed by the author of this journal!


Ethel is a bit of a demon in her wheelchair, and loves to charge around the nursing home, taking corners on one wheel and getting up to maximum speed in the long corridors. Because she and her fellow residents are a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic, they all tolerate each other; some of the men actually join in.

One day, Ethel was speeding up a corridor when a door opened and Mad Mike stepped out of his room with his arm
outstretched. "STOP!" he said in a firm voice. "Have you got a license for that thing?" Ethel fished around in her handbag and pulled out a Kit Kat wrapper and held it up to him. "OK" he said, and away Ethel sped down the hall.

As she took the corner near the TV lounge on one wheel, Weird William popped out in front of her and shouted, "STOP! Have you got proof of insurance?"  Ethel dug into her handbag again, pulled out a beer coaster and held it up to him. William nodded and said, "Carry on, Ma'am."

As Ethel neared the final corridor before the front door, Bonkers Brian stepped out in front of her, stark naked, holding a very sizeable (for his age) appendage in his hand. "Oh, no!" said Ethel, "Not the breathalyser again!"


New on the site this week?  There are 11 photographs added to Images 2000 taken earlier this year in Kabul, Afghanistan, courtesy of Royal Norwegian Air Force Air Movements Corporal Frodden.  I have a lot more on hand and will get them onto the site as soon as I can.

I have created another website of sorts, piggybacked onto the OBA site.  This one is designed for the purpose of the 50th Boy Entrant’s 40th Anniversary Reunion.  There is a complete listing of all the chaps I joined up with.  Please have a look over the listings when you get a chance, and if you recognize anybody there, and know where they are, please let either myself or John Philps know.  The site is at
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Well, that's it for this week

Have a great weekend!

Best regards