From: Charles Cormack, Lyneham Village
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 4:33 AM
Subject: Blasts from the past
The latest Old Bods Brief really stirred up memories as I remember Lofty Page only as an AQM, one of the few at the time who looked after the MAMS teams. I also fondly remember Gordon Spiers, Dan Archer and Dave Stevens.
Looking at your new additions from Oz, I wonder if Obie O'Brien is the same one who attended the Movements School at Brize and also filled a movements post in Singapore; it really is a small world.
In reply to Bass Hughes' reference to the dog, I believe it was Gibby who fell afoul of the dog.
Just packing my bags again as off to Turkey this afternoon but will try to remember the other names of those on MAMS around 64/65
From: Ian Stacey, Sleepy Hollow, IL
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 4:58 PM
Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #072211
Reading the letter from Basil Hughes did bring a smile to my face. According to UKMAMS urban legend at that time (mid 60”s) it was SAC “Gibby” Gibson who was bitten by the dog on the beach in the West Indies.
Gibby was apparently romantically involved with a dusky local and together with his dark suntan the only light coloured object left on the moonlit beach was his bouncing backside which attracted the dog!
Probably not true but what a great story anyway!!
Ex-soldier James Blunt in war of words with RAF
James Blunt, the award-winning singer and a former soldier, has run into trouble with military top brass after he complained about "gross incompetence" in the Royal Air Force. RAF chiefs have protested that they were not "helping to lose the war" in Afghanistan, after Blunt criticised the transport delays that forced the cancellation of his "morale-boosting" trip to entertain British troops in the country.
The former captain in the Life Guards launched a furious attack on the RAF following a 15-hour wait for a plane at East Midlands airport before the visit was abandoned. It was the third time a trip of his to the troops in Afghanistan had been thwarted.
The Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins was also one of the entertainers.
Jenkins sang "Silent Night" to the 160 troops stranded on the plane with them last December, but Blunt wrote on Twitter about their predicament and later blamed the confusion on "bad organisation, verging on incompetence". He also complained about the RAF's performance in an email to Mark Cann, the boss of the British Forces Foundation, which had organised the visit.
But it has now emerged that air force chiefs were incensed by the criticism and protested that the mix-up was not their fault.
Air Vice-Marshal North thanked the singer for "the magnificent support that you provide to our service men and women across the globe". But he added: "I wish to take issue with you with respect to your assertions that: the RAF is not up to the job; there is gross incompetence in the organisation and structure of the RAF; the officers of the RAF are not interested in the events of 20 Dec; the RAF is not 'fighting' the 'war' in Afghanistan; the RAF is 'helping us to lose it'; and that the RAF is failing to move soldiers around the world."
The air vice-marshal offers a two-page explanation of the problem trip, including the facts that the plane was not a Ministry of Defence aircraft and that it had been "unserviceable" when it landed.
In contrast, Jenkins received a letter apologising profusely for the inconvenience and thanking her for "in the face of adversity... entertaining the passengers as you did".
Blunt, who had frequently written about how he was looking forward to the chance to "sing the Taliban into surrender", was deeply frustrated by delays caused by the weather, repairs and aviation regulations. He tweeted at the time: "Plane delayed 6hrs (snow) then 8hrs (broken part) boarded but crew hrs exceeded; spent 5 more hrs in plane on runway as no buses!"
A personal letter from Air Vice-Marshal Barry North, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, details his riposte to Blunt s criticisms, including his claim that the RAF was "helping us to lose" the war.
From: Michael O'Brien, Brisbane, QLD
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 9:46 AM
Subject: RE: Blasts from the past
Alas, I wasn’t in Singapore when Chas was there, and notwithstanding my oft-stated desire, I was never granted the opportunity to attend the Brize School!
I’m not aware that any of the RAAFie-chappies had the pleasure of training at Brize, altho’ a couple did get to the Canadian Multi-modal course at CFB Borden in the early “noughties”, I believe (which I endeavoured to swing, but missed-out on by “one of those” hairs!).
Best Regards, from another colonial,
From patients to the prime minister
412 Transport Squadron can boast a long list of passengers since it began flying VIPs in the 1950s, including prime ministers, governors general, high ranking military officials, dignitaries, and royals.
It's a mission of a different nature that members of 412 Squadron find the most rewarding – flying medical evacuations of Canadian Forces members injured in theatre.
The squadron, based in Ottawa but belonging to 8 Wing/CFB Trenton has six CC-144 Challengers – three of which are the 601 series and can be configured for two different roles, the VIP role, which can seat nine passengers and four air crew members, and the medevac role.
In the medivac configuration, the Challenger can accommodate up to two stretchers, four to five medical crew, a host of medical equipment and four air crew.
When CF members are injured in Afghanistan, they receive medical treatment at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, and, once they've been cleared to fly, 412 Squadron's operation centre receives a tasking from 1 Canada Air Division in Winnipeg, giving the crew in Ottawa one to two days notice, sometimes less. The air crew will fly the Challenger to Trenton to pick up the medical crew and will then fly to Europe, typically for an overnight stop in Ireland, where they refuel, acclimatize to the time difference and adjust for an appropriate landing time at Ramstein.
"The key to medical evacuations flying is patient care," said Lt. Col. Brad Koskie, commanding officer of 412 Squadron. "One of the key aspects to [patient care] is, in the event that something goes wrong, we always have a hospital within reach."
Also dictating the flight profile is the critical nature of the injured. If the patient cannot be subjected to significant changes in pressure or turbulence, the flight pattern back to the patient's home unit – which could be anywhere from coast to coast – will be altered to ensure that their medical needs are given the highest priority.
"Medivacs are the more rewarding flights," said flight steward Cindy Desrosiers. "You develop a relationship with patients and make their journey, the flight home, more enjoyable."
As the squadron works at a high operational tempo, flying up to four separate missions on any given day, there is always one full crew of four on stand-by that can be available at the airport within one hour of a last minute tasking and airborne within three hours.
"We operate a 'no notice airlift,' or as I like to call it 'responsive airlift'," added Koskie. "The phone rings, we respond, whether it's hauling equipment or people, or to bring back the wounded soldiers from Germany."
From: Jeff Trenberth, Amberley, QLD
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2011 12:01 AM
Subject: RAAF Mystery Photo 072211
Ha Ha G'day Tony,
Was a blast working with you Poms it was one big team effort we all got along great you could have called us the "Banda Ache Multinational Air Load Team".
Thats my rude head in an Aussie 5AVN Regiment Huey flying down the coast of Banda Ache during Operation Sumatra Assist after the "big wave".
Sad time all round but got a few smiles from the locals as we Aussie and UKMAMS load teams unloaded hundreds of tonnes of supplies for them. Busy little hardstand at that time I will tell ya not too much parking space so it was basically a revolving door!
Wartime Dance To Take Guests Back To 1940’s
Members of the public are invited to join the Aerospace Museum Society’s popular 1940’s Hangar Dance taking place at the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford on Saturday 15th October 2011.
The event will transport guests back to the era of Big Bands, Jive Bunnies and Jitter-buggers with a fun packed evening of entertainment.
The dance will be located in the Museum’s historic War Planes hangar set against a backdrop of World War Two aircraft and artifacts: including the world’s oldest Spitfire, the museum’s imposing Lincoln bomber and its iconic Hurricane.
To further add to the event’s ambience guests are encouraged to “Get in the Mood” by donning wartime costume for the evening and dancing the night away until late courtesy of Paul Drakeley and his All Stars Band and Singers. Musical accompaniment will include Big Band favourites such as Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra.
Doors open at 7pm with dancing starting at 8pm. A fully licensed bar will be on tap all evening; together with a pig roast, at a small additional charge. Guests will also be given the chance to win some amazing prizes courtesy of a raffle. This year’s star prize is a painting by artist Steve Harper titled ‘By Dawns Early Light’ valued at around £400.
Tickets for the evening are now on sale at just £18 per person, with proceeds going to the Aerospace Museum Society and the Royal Air Force Museum Cosford. Anyone wishing to attend the dance should contact organiser Dave Leek on 07847 501935, for more information and tickets.
Visit www.rafmuseum.org or call 01902 376200 for information on the Royal Air Force Museum.
From: Mal Porter, Upton upon Severn
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 1:56 AM
Subject: CL44 Association and Belfast News
Just to record that the CL44 Association is alive-and expanding still. The 2011 reunion was held at the RAF Club in London and over 90 former 44 drivers, engineers and support staff (all knife and fork qualified) attended.
We continue to monitor the (limited) future of the Guppy at Bournemouth although engineers do continue to work on the aircraft despite the many problems they face (no type certificate for the 44 or the Tyne engine).
Additionally, we are well aware of the perilous state of the Belfast at Cairns. Despite a 'wad' of paperwork supporting the fact that the aircraft had been purchased by an Australian company, the date for payment of the deposit came and went without a cheque in sight. The Heavylift engineers under Steve Dodson were called back to Cairns to start the scrapping (last week) and this magically had the desired effect; a cheque appeared.
However, all is not gold that glitters twould seem and I await the next instalment of the Belslow saga.
Best regards and I hope this impels Pete Clayton to get off his bike and e-mail me.
From: Charles Collier, Devizes
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2011 11:24 AM
Subject: 70th Birthday
Having now reached my three score years and ten I have been richly entertained by my family.
Firstly, I was told that we were to stay with our daughter and her man and I was to take my cycling kit. This I did and the next day - my birthday - I was lent a racing bike and with a colleague and Christian (daughter's boyfriend) took me out on a 30 mile ride down around Dunsfold Airfield where the "Top Gear" programme is made.
We got back in time for lunch and then in the afternoon we went for
a drive in the countryside ending up at Bisley, the National Rifle Range. In my early days I was a crack shot and enjoyed the sport and was proud of the crossed rifles on my uniform sleeve.
So, it's not too bad being at the latter end of one's life and being entertained like that. Mind you I still have a mother in the system fast reaching her 100th birthday so I'm still kept in order
Rgds to all
Well I was very surprised as I haven't done any competition shooting for half a century, I got good grouping of shots in the bull! And this result was consistent throughout the series of ten shoots.
Then a very enjoyable dinner in the evening with the whole family.
From: Mike McCann, Harrogate
Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2011 3:38 PM
Subject: RAF Masirah Reunion
Great newsletter, as always.
A quick request: You may be aware that there is to be an RAF Masirah reunion for those who were incarcerated there anytime between 1971 and 1973.
So far, roughly 40 hearty souls are attending, five of whom are ex-movers. Could you put this out as a crie de coeur to those who might like to attend, that there are still seats.
It takes place over the weekend of 9/11 Oct, in Harrogate. I am particularly looking for John Illsley and Roy (Paddy) Harper, but all movers who were there (or any others for that matter), are welcome.
(Click the MSH baggage tag to send Mike a message)
From: Alex Masson, Chelmsford
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 6:48 AM
Subject: At it again!
We were out last week at our local TESCO’s , our chairman, his wife and myself. In the four days, Wed, Thurs, Fri and Sat we raised £1599.20p - Not bad in view of the current financial climate! Last year we managed £1,885 - just goes to show!!
The convoy departed Amberley at 3:00am on Monday, August 8 and was expected to arrive at Edinburgh at 10:30am on Friday.
The convoy will pass through Toowoomba, Moree, Dubbo, West Wyalong, Hay and Mildura.
Local communities can expect to see the aircraft being towed on the back of a trailer by a large prime mover. The F-111 will have its wings and tail fin removed.
The F-111 fleet was retired by the Royal Australian Air Force in December 2010, after 37 years’ service.
Air Force bomber begins final journey
to South Australia
The Transcontinental Port Augusta
A retired Royal Australian Air Force F-111 aircraft began a four-day road trip from Queensland to South Australia today (8th Aug 2011).
A Defence Media spokeswoman said the journey provided a special opportunity for regional towns along the route to give the aircraft a ‘send off’, as the F-111C – serial number A8-132 – travels by road from RAAF Base Amberley to RAAF Base Edinburgh.
During that period, A8-132 was arguably the most important aircraft within the RAAF F-111 fleet, due to its role in clearing new weapons for use.
Over 30 major trials were conducted by ARDU using the aircraft. Following completion of the last trial in 1988, it was returned to the main fleet and resumed duties as a strike aircraft.
Arriving in Australia in 1973, A8-132 logged a total of 4991 flying hours during its career.
A8-132 is one of eight F-111 aircraft currently identified for preservation. This aircraft is being relocated to RAAF Edinburgh, South Australia, where it will be placed on public display later this year.
A crane lifts A8-132 onto a truck prior to transportation to RAAF Base Edinburgh. (Dept of Defence)
A8-132 holds special significance for RAAF Edinburgh, due to its extensive use as a flight trials aircraft by the Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) between 1979 and 1988.
From: Tony Gale, Gatineau, QC
To: Keith Parker, Melksham, UK
Sent: Friday, July 29, 2011 6:24 PM
I am currently taking my old flying log book and placing all the entries into a spreadsheet with a view to creating a Google-Earth type map… Back in 1971 I flew into Bait al Falaj in Oman, the landing in the Argosy, as I recall, being quite hairy, the pilot having to twist and turn through mountain passes to get to the airfield.
When I tried to locate Bait al Falaj, all I'm getting is an old Fort which is now a museum in the city of Muscat.
Was I imagining this airfield? What became of it?
From: Keith Parker, Melksham
Sent: Sunday, July 31, 2011 5:53 AM
Subject: Re: Oman
No you didn't imagine it, Bait was a small airfield with a large white building close to the rocks and yes it was a hairy ride, it was the one and only time I have ever been in a Herc where the loadie opens the rear door and backs up as far as they can to get a full run at the rock face and rev up, let go the brakes and shoot forward taking off as soon as possible. Then at the last minute as you say it would turn left and fly through a valley with mountain tops higher than the wings. I also did it once in an Andover, but that was easier, I also did it it in an Argosy, That was a whole different thing!!!
The place itself still exists and is now part of Muscat, to find it you will need to look approx between Muttra (the old capital city) and the very posh Al Bustan Palace Hotel on the coast then move inland.
The rock formation is still there and part of the runway is still there which is accessable from behind the.... (wait for it) Pizza Hut and is used by the kids for roller skating.
There used to be a Sunday market there years ago where you could buy Frankincense.
Hope this helps with your quest
Cheers for now, Keith
The very narrow airstrip at Bait al
Falaj was surrounded by mountains
From: Alex Masson, Chelmsford
Sent: Sunday, August 07, 2011 10:45 AM
Subject: Christmas Island: The Mutiny
I have been asked recently several things about the testing of the hydrogen bombs on Christmas Island and in particular if we as loaders handled any radioactive material.
The answer is “Yes” – I unloaded a couple (if not three; one per Hastings load) of massive lead-lined circular flasks held in a boxframe girder construction. They were heavy as hell and most awkward to handle with the primitive loading aids available on the island at that time.
There was more interest shown however in the ‘Mutiny’ which occurred on the Island – and which according to official sources didn’t happen! Here then is a first-hand report:
The Christmas Island Mutiny
It was in 1956 that many of the Royal Engineers, having just finished a tour of duty in war-torn Korea, were on a troopship bound for the UK when the decision to use Christmas Island for the series of hydrogen bomb tests was made. To save costs, the British Government, instead of allowing them home to the UK, diverted them to Christmas Island to build the runways, the hard standings and what few permanent buildings there were in the initial stages. They objected, but they were promised that it would only be for six to nine months at most. They weren’t happy but, as is always the case, the lads ‘bit the bullet’ and set to work without too much complaining. They did a fantastic job and when I arrived in late 1956 most of their work had been done. With the runways and building facilities completed, the buildup of the other necessary trades poured in and the bomb tests were scheduled for May 1957. There were to be three Bombs dropped for ‘high air bursts’ over the island of Malden, roughly 400 miles away to the southeast.
The three tests were conducted in a relatively short
space of time in May and early June. On the 22nd
June 1957, shortly after the last of the three bombs
was exploded, I flew down to Malden Island to live
under canvas at ground zero along with the Sappers
(engineers) to backload all the flash recording and
other equipment used to monitor the bombs which
the Sappers were now recovering.
I was there for a week sending this equipment back to
Christmas Island using two Dakotas a day.
After a couple of weeks I noticed that a lot of this equipment was coming back from Australia and on drawing my CO’s attention to it he laughed and said I was mistaken. Eventually he saw my handwriting on some of the packing cases and agreed that the stuff we had sent down to Australia was coming back. We were wondering why this was happening but as the bomb tests were over, parties were now in full swing and we all thought we would soon be on our way home to the UK.
Time passed and we were by now into July.
On my return to Christmas Island all this equipment was then sent via the Hastings back to Woomera Base in Australia.
One of the 24 Squadron Hastings that was used to take the equipment down to Woomera. That's me in the door of the aircraft with my hands resting on the top of the doorframe.
Then one fateful day the whole camp was called to a parade; the first we’d ever had on Christmas Island. We were formed up in our units alongside the Army and the Navy and were addressed by the Camp Commander who was an RAF Group Captain. His words were something like this, “Well chaps you all know that the three bomb tests were successful and that you’ve all done a magnificent job. The British Government is well pleased with what you’ve done, in fact so pleased that they have decided to extend the testing for a further series and you will all be staying for another two years …”
That was about as far as he got. The whole parade erupted in protest! Some of the Army lads surged forwards and the Group Captain made a hasty withdrawal. Because the scene was becoming very ugly the Group Captain made a strategic withdrawal and he was apparently flown off the island immediately in one of the Canberra aircraft to Hickam AFB in Hawaii.
Next, a few tents were set on fire. Then the NAAFI was stormed and the beer store was looted and many of the Army lads went out on the beach and got totally drunk. The Senior NCOs who tried to intervene were brushed aside. Bear in mind there were more than 2,000 of us in this camp. The RAF Service Policemen, of which there were about dozen in total strength, were told not to interfere and to take off their white hats. There followed a period of confusion with no-one knowing exactly what to do!
Nothing happened for a couple of days, everything was held in limbo. Not many people went to work, most of the Army lads certainly didn’t. Then we heard from our colleagues in communications that signals to and from London were fast and furious. Of course our operators could read these messages long before they reached the senior officers and they kept us appraised.
On about the third day there was another parade called, but this time it was more of a “Gather round chaps” and we all stood around in groups while the second in command (2 i/c), now as acting commanding officer, addressed us. I cannot recall his exact words but he began with something like “Well chaps, you seem to have got it wrong, when we said the tests were going on we didn’t mean that you would all be staying for them …”
That’s about as far as he got before a very well educated voice rang out clearly from the ranks, “We know exactly what was said and what’s more we know what was meant. You had hoped to keep us here and conduct the tests on the cheap!”
In fairness the 2 i/c raised his hands in agreement and said, “Well the situation now is that you will all be replaced; so can we all get back to work now?”
Again the voice boomed from the ranks, “No! We’re not waiting two years to be replaced. When will we be replaced?”
The 2 i/c shrugged and said “I don’t know!”
The voice from the ranks said, “We will give you three weeks, that should be enough time for you to get us all replaced - we’ve seen all the signals from London!”
The 2 i/c then intimated that this timescale could possibly be achieved in most cases if we all went back to work.
And so it was that within a week or so charter planes started to arrive with our replacements. We were now into August When a replacement arrived the existing soldier/airman would be on the next plane home. My job, along with the others in the Air Movements Section, was arranging for the transportation of the returning personnel
Eventually when most, if not all, personnel had been replaced, I and my colleagues from our section booked ourselves onto a Qantas charter plane and left Christmas Island for good on Tuesday 10th September 1957.
The words which I have attributed to the senior officers and the man from the ranks are as close as I can remember. If they were not the exact words this was the gist of what was said.
You will find no record of this as a mutiny - certainly no action was taken against anyone whatsoever. The whole affair was played down and hushed up as the signals from London showed. The authorities were most anxious that this matter should not reach the ears of the press.
But if that wasn’t mutiny - what is? This is why you will find that there are two distinct groups who served on Christmas Island. Those who served 1956 to August 1957 - and those who served from August 1957 onwards. I suppose they could be referred to as AM and PM, anti-mutiny and post-mutiny.
During the first tranche, when the three initial bombs were exploded over Malden Island, there was little or no contamination from radioactive material. Thereafter, possibly because of this, bombs were exploded over the south eastern corner of Christmas Island and these were the ones which were witnessed by our servicemen. According to reports by those who were there after me, at least one bomb was exploded much lower than was intended and this explosion sucked up seawater which fell over the island like rain. This most certainly could have been contaminated with radioactivity but I was not there so know nothing about that.
After the last load went back we had a massive party on Malden; all the Army lads, me and the other RAF chap who was acting as Air traffic controller at Malden, and the Atomic Energy boffins who had been supervising the whole show and who were constantly checking for radiation - there was none.
From: Keith Parker, Melksham
Sent: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 5:07 AM
Subject: Mystery Photo 070111
Just looking through my e-mails after holidays catching up etc. Thought you might be interested in this little story
I Should have responded to this photo last month, very remiss of me I know, what a shock I got when staring at me was the face of my oldest and dearest friend Mike Stevenson.
Mike (or Steve as we all called him) was in my class at Highbury Avenue Junior School in Salisbury. We later went on to St Thomas Sec Mod together after which I went into the "mob" and Steve went to serve his apprenticeship at Porton Down in engineering. I next met him in AATDU at Old Sarum and from there he transferred into the same unit at Abingdon when they moved.
Mike/Steve is fine and still at JATE or whatever they call it these days and he sends best wishes to all Movers far and wide.
May be we could enrol him as an Honorary member, what say you?
Cheers and thanks again for the OBA
An invitation was sent out to him Keith, but as of date no application has been received.
He subsequently moved to Brize with JATE and has been there ever since. Your picture reminded me we hadn't spoken for ages, (Isn t that what the OBA is all about), and so I got on the blowerand we had a good old natter.
From: Rob Davies, Woodchurch
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2011 5:22 AM
Subject: Another Toy
My N2S-5, Navy Stearman, full C of A at last.
Picture taken last Saturday. Lets hope I don’t have to jump out of this one!!.
Tony: Good to see you climbed back on the horse Rob…
Rob: Flew home from Duxford, in my Robin, on the evening of the accident.
Tony: I trust that you'd changed your underwear by then?
Rob: Got home, changed my underwear, poured all the French wine down the sink!
From: Chris Clarke, Burlington, ON
Sent: Friday, July 22, 2011 10:17 AM
Subject: UKMAMS Colours
Seeing Squadron standards being marched onto a Herc as the fleet departed to BZN made me remember how UKMAMS was discriminated against when it came to a Squadron Colour.
I believe it was Bob Dixon who got our crest dedicated at St Clement Danes but we were never granted the honour of having Colours.
Does anybody know why this happened? It’s a bit crazy when the only Movements unit in the RAF recognized as a ’squadron’ with Colours is 4624 Sqn RAuxAF.
Tell me again why UKMAMS was scrapped and replaced with 1AMW? Movers getting too uppity were they?
Swift to Move
From: Bob Dixon, Dauntsey
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 7:46 AM
Subject: RE: Oranges and Lemons
Article as promised about the dedication of the Sqn Badge in St Clement Danes.
I cannot find a decent photo of the Sqn Badge in Welsh slate or in position in the Church - although I know I have one of the 2 badges together somewhere. Perhaps you could invite readers to send a photo if they have one or go to the Church on our behalf and take some photos?
Challenges met! Squadron Badge into St Clement Danes
The installation of squadron badges into the RAF Church of St Clement Danes was a feature of its regeneration and rebuilding after the Second World War when the Church famous for the ceremony of “oranges and lemons” was given to the RAF in a ruinous, heavily bombed state.
The rebuilding was beautifully done and the RAF has a lovely church in the centre of London that has seen many services and events over the years.
The reason I wanted to have our plaque in the floor of the Church was because it was full of RAF Flying Squadrons badges, plus some RAF Regiment Squadrons relegated to the outer aisles and the more senior organisations’ badges in strategic places. The plaques are made of Welsh slate and we had ours carved ready for the occasion.
Which led to challenge number 1 .... No way was our UKMAMS Badge going to lie in the outer aisles of the Church and so I challenged Flt Lt Jimmy Stewart who was MOpsO at the time, to ensure that the “God botherers” allocated us the right location where we could easily be found and seen. Now Jimmy had friends all the way to the top of the RAF chaplaincy hierarchy and he returned from a London trip with a smile and assurance that “You won’t be disappointed boss!”
How right he was - he had secured us a slot at the Western end of the Church near the main entrance, close to Coastal Command’s Badge and under the spotlight in that area. It was an amazing site and just what we hoped that we had deserved.
I should perhaps mention here that my purpose in installing our Badge in the RAF Church was
part of a very long term plan to raise the profile of the Squadron shortly after the Falklands War.
In the following years a number of operations and missions all highlighted the important
contribution being made by the UKMAMS and we worked towards our ambition of being
presented with a Squadron Standard from HM the Queen. This is not the time to argue the
likelihood of that occurring as there were, and are, major challenges to be overcome to include
UKMAMS in the eligible list of Squadrons.
That said, the increasingly high reputation earned as a result of the Squadron’s performance in
operations and conflicts since its official formation in 1966 and strong support from a very
influential member of the Lords were encouraging our hopes for a successful outcome.
Nevertheless, when the Squadron was disbanded following 40 years of continuous service
(easily surpassing the minimum requirement of 25 years service) in favour of the current Wing
organisation of No1 AMW, hopes were severely hit. Sadly, only Squadrons, not Wings, qualify
for a Standard!
Last but not least, I would like us to recognise that the case was being helped by the great
movements work done on call-out by our reservist Movements Squadron, 4624 Squadron (which
has itself recently completed 25 years service)
Back to the plot.... We decided that not every Squadron member would be enthused by a church service in London and so we offered it as a day out with a boat trip (with food and drinks) down the Thames after the Service. Dependants were also welcomed and 2 coach loads set off in November 1984 for the capital.
We waved off the royals, hared across the pan into the VIP Lounge and, over a quick Benson & Hedges, changed into smart civis and boarded the helicopter.
The final low-level dash down the Thames was exciting and, after a running onload, the car roared around London to the Church.
We entered the West entrance just as the procession was due to turn down the main aisle.
We nipped in front of them and took our places. It was a fortuitous piece of timing as we were each due to read the lessons and there was a somewhat anxious MopsO wondering if he would have to do the business for us!
A very pleasant Service ensued and our badge was duly dedicated and installed into the floor by the Chaplain. We left the church to take the side route directly down to the Thames to embark for drinks and nosh .... surely nothing could go wrong after all the earlier challenges?
Final challenge No 3 .... Because the boat operator had taken our exhortations to fully stock the ship so that we would not run out of rations most seriously, the ship’s displacement was such that it could not make the last 100 meters to our mooring point and it had to hold off for nearly half an hour whilst the tide rose sufficiently to let us board. We were ready for the refreshments and as the ship chugged up towards the Thames Barrier and back, we all imbibed suitable liquids and, on disembarkation, eventually set off back to Lyneham by coach.
As a postscript I should record that 10 years later, to the day, I did it all again with 4624 (County of Oxford) Movements Squadron, RAuxAF: Church service, dedication and installation of Badge, boat trip and refreshments. Great!
.... and that is how 2 beautifully carved pieces of Welsh slate with the mottos “Swift to Move” and “Ready to Move” came to lie side by side in a prime position of the RAF Church of St Clement Danes ......
What a a rip-roaring tale Bob, full of international intrigue and adventure, which included a King, Prince and Princess, a Lord and a future Knight of the Realm; not to mention the late great Jimmy Stewart... and to top it all off lots of imbibing!
Here's some history of the church: The first church on the site was reputedly founded by Danes living nearby in the 9th century. The location, on the river between the City of London and the future site of Westminster, was home to many Danes at a time when half of England was Danish; being a seafaring race, the Danes named the church they built after St Clement, patron saint of mariners. King Harold I "Harefoot" was buried here in March 1040 after his body was disinterred by his briefly usurped brother Hartha-Canute, and thrown into the marshes bordering the Thames.
The church was first rebuilt by William the Conqueror, and then again in the Middle Ages. It was in such a bad state by the end of the 17th century that it was demolished and again rebuilt from 1680–1682, this time by Christopher Wren. The steeple was added to the 115 foot tower from 1719-1720 by James Gibbs.
William Webb Ellis, often credited with the invention of Rugby football in 1823 was once rector of the church, and is commemorated by a memorial tablet.
The church was almost destroyed by German bombs during the London Blitz of 10 May 1941. The outer walls, the tower and Gibbs's steeple, survived the bombing, but the interior was gutted by fire.
Following an appeal for funds by the Royal Air Force, the church was completely restored and was re-consecrated on 19 October 1958 to become the Central Church of the Royal Air Force.
But then we were faced by challenge No 2..... At very short notice a secret message arrived to
tell the Station Commander, Group Captain John Cheshire (later Air Chief Marshal Sir John)
that the King of Jordan was positioning his aircraft at Lyneham that Sunday morning to take
Prince Charles and Lady Diana to Jordan for a ‘hush hush’ break. Both the Station
Commander and I had to be present but the CO arranged for a helicopter to pick us up after
the Royal departure to fly us to Chelsea barracks where his pre-positioned staff car would
whisk us off to the Church ... hopefully on time.
From: Michael Oxenham, Amberley, QLD
Sent: Sunday, August 07, 2011 11:29 PM
Subject: RE: The Next Newsletter
Attached is the Air Movements Coin that was designed for the recent Movements Reunion. Cost of the coin is $15 AUS. Also a Beer Mat that was designed by our Staff has been attached for $35 AUS.
Would be appreciated if photos could be posted on the next newsletter. Items can be purchased through Air Movements Amberley Social Club. Any enquiries can contact me on mobile 0410 985 342.
Cheers and Beers Mick
A new member joining us recently is:
Nicholas Price, Cheltenham, UK
"Never worked so hard in all my life - 12 hour shifts at Brize cargo shed!"
Welcome to the OBA!
From: David Packman
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 10:04 AM
Subject: Help For The Tactical Supply Wing
Good Day Tony,
To the best of my recollection our paths did not cross in the RAF but I am contacting you at the suggestion of Tim Newstead who thinks that you might be willing to help.
We both wonder if you would be willing to publish the self explanatory attachment in your coming Old Bods Newsletter. The reason for the request is that, certainly in my time as OC TSW, quite a few Wing personnel were ‘Movers’.
Not all of them are members of the RAF Servicing Commando and Tactical Supply Wing Association and we are keen to get in touch with as many people as possible to let them know what is afoot.
I do hope you will feel able to help. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to let me know.
With every good wish,
TISWAS - FORTY YEARS ON
The RAF Tactical Supply Wing was declared operational in 1971. Since then, it has been actively involved in refuelling not only RAF helicopters but also those from the Army and Royal Navy as well as from many other countries. Much of this work has been undertaken at or close to the front line of operations including: Northern Ireland, Belize, the Falklands, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan to name but a few.
The RAF Servicing Commando and Tactical Supply Wing Association has decided to mark TSW’s fortieth anniversary by having a plaque depicting the Wing’s badge installed in the floor of the Central Church of the Royal Air Force, St Clement Danes, in London. The project has the full support of Air Vice Marshal Graham Howard, ACDS Log Ops, Head of the RAF Logistics Branch and a former officer commanding TSW as well as that of Wing Commander ‘Polly’ Perkins the current officer commanding.
The engraving of the plaque will take a few months and it should be installed and dedicated at a service in St Clement Danes in Spring 2012. The occasion should provide an opportunity for past and present members of the Wing to attend and to swap reminiscences.
Past members of the Wing who are interested in the project and in possibly contributing towards the cost of engraving and installation are asked to contact David Packman on 01432-851724 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
More information is also available on the RAF SC and TSW Assn website: www.tswscdoassn.co.uk
From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2011 5:44 PM
Subject: NSRAFA Cosford Branch
Today was our Cosford get together and as usual a good turnout.
Our speaker on this occasion was Alan Hartley and his subject was Airborne Operations from an Erks point of view. He completed his basic training in 1943 at RAF Padgate and his first post was to an airfield where the first batch of RAF B17 Fortresses had been stored. He tells us that it was thought they didn't meet the requirements to be used as a bomber and his first job with a load of other sprogs was to paint them white for use with Costal Command. He was then posted to RAF Locking to train as an engine mechanic on Typhoons which had the Super Sabre engines fitted but after a few months he was posted to Doncaster where he was told he would be working on Dakotas. He was then posted to Netheravon in Wiltshire and became a flight engineer.
Netheravon then was one of five bases where paratroopers were training for the forthcoming D-Day invasion and he described some of the tragic accidents that happened to these young chaps; like on one occasion where one of them had his parachute caught up on the tail wheel of the kite and no matter how hard the pilot tried to manouver to shake him off failed and so had to land and consequently the young paratrooper perished. He also became involved with the Glider Squadrons with Horsa gliders being prepared for towing behind the Daks.
On invasion day the first three gliders were towed behind Halifax Bombers and their task was to take the two bridges which we know were the Pegasus Bridges. The Horsas were released and the Halifaxes went on to attack their targets whilst the glider silently swooped in and the paras took both bridges with little opposition.
He went on to tell us so much more but one account he told us which was really macabre. One of the Dakotass had twenty members of the 3rd Canadian Para regiment who were armed to the teeth and one of the weapons that they had in their belts was a meat cleaver which once they came into hand to hand combat with the enemy were used to great effect in deposing of the opposition.
His talk went on for over an hour and we were held I suppose in awe of his of his memories. For a chap now well into his eighties he didn't need a mike to let everybody in the room hear him so clearly and of course we gave him an outstanding applause.
He is a member of a few associations one of which is the Air Despatchers Association. Alex you might have come across him. One reunion he attended he was sat next to a chap who was not impressed with the speaker descibing the capture of the Pegasus Bridge and when Alan asked him why it turned out that he was a German and was actually the guard commander on the Pegasus Bridge who had allowed most of his troops to go off duty because they weren't expecting anything that night! At least he did survive.
As an aside one thing we were told was that we had assumed that RAF Cosford had been saved from closure and RAF Lyneham closed. Not on your life; the politicians and MoD have announced plans to move defence training for all three services at Cosford to RAF Lyneham, so Cosford is doomed with the loss of hundreds of jobs here in the Midlands!
Hope that the forgoing is of interest
From: Nicholas Price, Cheltenham
Sent: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 4:35 PM
Subject: OBA Membership Application Comments
I came out of the service in 1978 with the rank of Corporal. Never worked so hard in all my life, 12 hour shifts Brize cargo shed.
The day I at last transferred to the Passenger Movements Section (a holiday compared to cargo), I had to put a VIP General on an outbound flight. I asked an SAC who was working with me which aircraft it was and he pointed to the wrong aircraft. It was very lucky for me that the aircraft was full. So with much apologising I finally got him to the right flight. I was hoping that no one noticed, some hopes! The aircrews took a rise out of the Wing Commander OC Movements in the officer's mess later on, so I ended up on the carpet.
The funny thing was not a week before my boss in the cargo shed had recommended me for a commission. Looks like I was the right material!
From: David Howley, Melton Mowbray
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2011 10:52 AM
Subject: FlyPast Magazine
In light of Rob Davies' fortunate escape from “Big Beautiful Doll”, I thought it would be a good idea for the article that appeared in the Sept 2011 issue of FlyPast Magazine to have a “wider audience”.
As I do some work for Nigel, I approached him this morning and asked if he could release the article on Rob , for inclusion in the next newsletter. He agreed (without hesitation) and will be sending me the copy in Adobe format.
There are also advert pages for the North American and the UK versions of the magazine which Nigel has asked to be included as a quid pro quo for releasing the article - he said he had to have his “commercial hat on”.
I gave him the link to the website, so he can see what we are about.
Ken Ellis talks to well-known warbird pilot Rob Davies and discovers his passion for aircraft old and new
This spring Rob Davies took one last flight as the owner of well-known Mustang Big Beautiful Doll, ferrying it to its new home in Germany. For 14 years he has owned and flown the Australian built version, and in doing so became the UK’s highest houred P-51 pilot.
A staunch supporter of airshows and fly-ins, particularly those raising money for charity, Rob and the Doll have attended events all over the UK and the Continent. His lyrical display flying, often with fellow Mustang aficionado Maurice Hammond alongside, never ceased to draw warm appreciation from the audience.
With the departure of the P-51 to Germany, Rob’s airstrip in the Kent countryside is not empty. He has four other aircraft, including a North American T-6 Texan and a Yakovlev C-11 Moose.
What very few FlyPast readers will know - and this writer was in the same boat until invited to come and see - is that Rob is the Managing Director of a leading defence systems company. At its factory in Ashford, Kent, Meggitt Defence Systems (MDS) produces more aircraft per year than the rest of the UK aerospace sector put together.
These machines may be on the small side and pilot-less but they represent the pinnacle of technological achievement. For over three decades, drones designed by Robert W Davies MBE FRAES have been operated by over 40 air arms. Born in 1947, Rob was brought up on a hill farm: “a Scottish family in Wales, we were true pioneers!” He was absorbed by flying stories, including Sergeant Braddock - Pilot in The Rover comic. “Where we lived, aeroplanes were totally beyond your reach.” He more than made up for that deficiency!
Smitten with Flying
A trip to Blackpool with his stepfather brought him to Squires Gate aerodrome for “a five bob flight” in a Dragon Rapide. The seeds were sown; he was “absolutely smitten” with flying.
His CSE examination grades were good enough to get him into the RAF and in 1962, aged 15½, Rob achieved his dream. As a Boy Entrant he quickly got to fly in DHC Chipmunks: “I was a little kid and I was strapping on a parachute - heaven!”
Rob surrounded himself with aviation in as many forms as possible. He became “addicted” to model flying, be it free flight or control line, and later radio-controlled. Then there was the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association and the ability to become a pilot. “I went gliding whenever I could - aero-tows in those days were 2/6d a go!” (That’s 12½p these days.)
Rob was destined for a varied RAF career. In 1966 he was in Aden working with Beverleys, with their Centaurus engines which: “ran on oil and were petrol cooled.” Rob later served with the UK Mobile Air Movements Squadron, working with the Lockheed Hercules fleet.
Marrying Micky in 1970, Rob decided to leave the RAF in 1972 and became an engineer with what was then Post Office Telecoms. After the challenges the RAF offered, Rob found the new post paid the bills but was very boring. His prowess with radio-controlled models blossomed, and he became aerobatic champion for the South East of England. A sideline designing and selling kits, parts and model engine components, became successful. Still hankering for full-scale flying, the sport of hang-gliding offered an affordable extension to his previous experience. Acquiring a Hiway Demon hang-glider, he eventually fitted this to a powered ‘trike’ and made the transition from hang-gliding to microlighting.
In 1977 Rob’s modelling prowess came to the attention of a company that specialised in target systems. Tempted by the offer to use his skills and experience, he took the plunge! His first project was the Snipe. The British Army was phasing out the classic Bofors anti-aircraft guns and going for the Short Blowpipe surface-to-air missile and needed to change its drones to provide realistic training. Snipe represented a larger,more capable and robust version of the radio-controlled designs Rob had been creating for years.
The Falklands conflict of 1982 changed many things in military planning and one of its spin-offs presented Rob with a challenge. Harrowing images of HMS Sheffield hit by sea-skimming Exocet missiles showed that navies quickly had to perfect close-in weapon systems (CIWS) to tackle such threats. In the pipeline were fast-reacting guns like Goalkeeper and Phallanx.
As with the evolution from Bofors to Blowpipe, the Royal Navy and others would need an ultralow flying drone to match these innovations. Rob’s employers did not want to go in this direction so, after much soul-searching with Micky, he took the decision to form his own company - Target Technology Ltd (TTL).
British success story
Walking around the present-day factory in Ashford, Kent, I was taken by Rob’s knowledge of each of his 98 staff. He introduced several as “lifers”, who had been working with him from the TTL days. Roger Broomfield and Chris Hilder were the first and second employees, and both are still with him. Chris noted that Rob said he would only need him for “about two weeks while things got established” - that was nearly three decades ago!
Rob’s response to CIWS and further advances in missiles and anti-missile systems was to design and build the delta-winged Banshee Aerial Target System. Now in its sixth generation and also available as a jet-powered version, over 40 countries have adopted it.
The latest aerial platform is Voodoo. Designed by Rob, he describes its format as: “an upside down Mustang”. Like its predecessors, Voodoo has become a great success, gaining orders from the MoD and for export. As well as target drones, the family has been extended to include Phantom and Spectre unmanned air vehicles for surveillance and electronic warfare.
In 1989 TTL was acquired by Bristol Aerojets, part of Meggitt plc, a worldwide defence and aerospace organisation. Describing what he does as: “not a job, it’s a way of life” it is not surprising that Rob did not retire; he still leads from the front as Managing Director of Meggitt Defence Systems. His contributions to the defence industry were acknowledged in 1997 with the award of an MBE.
First of the fleet
As TTL began to prosper and expand, Rob realised that his love of flying could also flourish. Line-of-sight control for drones was becoming a thing of the past. With a range of over 60 miles Banshee was operating in what the military calls BVR - beyond visual range. To keep tabs on these remotely piloted vehicles the company developed its own transponder and was the first with low-cost navigational radar. But all this needed testing and the best way to achieve this was with a people-carrying aircraft! Rob had heard about David Cook’s CFM Shadow three-axis microlight that was in production at Leiston in Suffolk. In 1987 he went to see the high-wing, two-seat pusher and: “bought one there and then”.
The Shadow carried the prototype transponder and proved the system for the drones. As well as acting as a test-bed, it was flown by several company employees for leisure: “We wore it out in the end!”
It was replaced in 1989 with former Italian Air Force Piper L-21B Super Cub G-BMAY. Rob retained this for his own use in October 1992 and still flies it. Also acquired in 1989 was the factory-fresh Robin DR.400/180 G-BRBM, which continues to earn its keep.
“The hobby became a business and through that, flying became a hobby again.” Rob had found the perfect base for his family and aircraft, an unkempt farm near Woodchurch, Kent. Typically, he threw himself into restoring the house and outbuildings, landscaping and laying down a grass airstrip. The 1,970ft runway was operational in 1987 and was extended in 1991. One of the outbuildings became the hangar but it also contains other machines dear to his heart. As a youngster on the Welsh hill farm, the family was one of the first in the areawith a diesel Field Marshall tractor. Rob has several historic examples to his name: “I just have to sit on one and I’m four again.”
Rob’s airstrip is less than a quarter of a mile away from the Woodchurch advanced landing ground. From July to October 1943 it was the home of the Mustang Is of 231 and 400 Squadrons.
Then the ALG was upgraded for the arrival in April 1944 of the USAAF’s 373rd FG, equipped with Republic P-47 Thunderbolts. The 373rd deployed to Normandy in late July and by 1945 it was as though there had never been an airfield there. During 1991 Rob acquired two very different aircraft, though both were to prove crucial to his growing ambition to own powerful warbirds.
First was factory-built Pitts S-2B G-SIIB which was flown until sold in 1996. The other touched down at Woodchurch in September 1993 - Canadian Car and Foundry-built T-6J Texan G-TVIJ which had served with the Luftwaffe from 1954, then the Portuguese and Mozambican air arms.
Now a very experienced pilot with a string of types in his logbook, Rob praised the S-2B: “Best grounding I had [for warbird flying] was the Pitts Special.” He added: “It sets you up as an instinctive stick and rudder pilot. Flying a Pitts well - good take-off and landing discipline - is the best of preparation.”
I asked if Rob would agree with the T-6’s reputation as ‘The Pilot Maker’ and he came straight back with: “No question about it, it is the ideal transition”.
Maurice Hammond was also an experienced T-6 pilot and Rob did the test flying on Maurice’s restored P-51 Janie and trained him in the art of formation display flying. The pair became firm friends and fellow Mustang owner-operators.
I need to skip around the chronology for a moment. In 2000 Rob flew former Egyptian Air Force Czechbuilt Yakovlev C-11 G-YCII into its new home. This is another type that Rob has a high regard for, describing it as “a warbird’s Pitts Special.” Commanding the Yak properly hones reactions and instils respect for an aircraft close to the performance levels of wartime fighters.
Woodchurch again reverberated to the sound of a Mustang, last heard in 1943, when G-HAEC, Big Beautiful Doll arrived from Duxford in March 1997. When Rob started his quest for a fighter, he had no specific type in mind: “It could just as easily have been a Spitfire.” He had been assessing a Spitfire, but the deal seemed destined not to crystallise. Instead Ray and Mark Hanna of the Old Flying Machine Company pointed Rob at the Doll.
Among those providing help about owning and flying a P-51 was Norway’s Anders Saether. As well as much sound advice, Anders presented Rob with a set of mole grips, in case the aluminium undercarriage select lever broke. The Doll did not have this feature as it had a newer steel version, but in honour of Anders the tool was always kept on board.
After 14 years of flying Big Beautiful Doll, Rob considered the time had come to let her go. Early this year Rob ferried the P-51 to Bremgarten in Germany where Meier Motors was preparing Doll for her new owner, the Air Fighter Academy. Having flown many Mustangs and with over 1,000 P-51 hours in his logbook, will Rob yearn for the Doll? “I shall miss the flying of it but I won’t miss the bureaucracy, the upkeep and the maintenance...” He noted that the Air Fighter Academy was very willing for him to pop over and ‘top up’ his memories of the thoroughbred. Also, Maurice has been very kind, allowing Rob to continue flying his P-51s. The space that the Doll occupied in the hangar at Woodchurch should not be empty for long. Rob is busy finalising the acquisition of a new type - stay tuned!
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That's it for this issue
Have great weekend!