The Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft has delivered vehicles and equipment to the French military. Piloted by Flight Lieutenant Mark Shepherd, the 99 Squadron C-17 heavy-lift aircraft collected 30 tonnes of equipment and supplies, including a tipper truck, digger and specialist bulldozer from Évreux-Fauville Air Base, in western Paris, France. The equipment was then delivered to Pointe-à-Pitre on the French Island of Guadeloupe. The vehicles will be taken to the island of St Martin, in the Caribbean Sea, which sustained severe damage in Hurricane Irma.
Évreux-Fauville Air Base commander Colonel David Desjardins said, "Cooperation between the French Air Force and the Royal Air Force has been in place for a long time. Today we are working together to send engineers and equipment to support both the clean-up operation and the population affected by Hurricane Irma."
Shepherd said, "The level of cooperation between us and the French on this task has been excellent and this has been reflected in how smoothly the transport of this urgently required equipment has been achieved."
From: Mark Attrill, 10116 Tallinn Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #083117
Thanks for the latest edition of the OBA Newsletter. The last few editions have really struck a chord with me and underlined their value in keeping in touch with colleagues from the past. I did not know, for example, that my old friend and colleague, Jerry Allen and I shared some common interests and activities. Like Jerry, I have dabbled in Airshow Management from time to time and I am a keen photographer. I worked as a Media Relations team leader at RIAT for 10 years and more recently as Deputy Public Affairs Officer on the Sola Air Show at Stavanger in Norway. As the only foreigner on the Airshow Organising Committee, I was rewarded with a flight on the very same Consolidated Catalina that features in Jerry's photo from the last newsletter, at the end of the first day of the show.
The weather during most of the trip was appalling but I did not really mind; as a keen aviation historian as well, it helped me to appreciate what it would have been like for the crews of RAF Coastal Command operating out over the North Sea and Atlantic during the dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic. It was a great experience - my late father was particularly envious since the Catalina was one of his all-time favourites too.
A note from another friend and colleague, Ian Envis, in an earlier summer newsletter, which I can now link with the most recent extensive coverage on Operation Ablaut in 1974, also struck a chord and provided an early indication of my future occupation.
That July I was a young teenage 'scaley brat' living the high life in Dhekelia Garrison when the Greek and Turkish Cypriots decided to settle old scores. My first 'task' was to help the recently arrived Gurkha Infantry Battalion dig trenches at the entrance to the Officers Married Patch at Blenheim Village within the Garrison and about 50m from our house. One of the major access routes between Larnaca and Famagusta ran along the bottom of the site and even though it was within the Sovereign Base Area and there was effectively a war going on between the aforementioned entities, it had yet to be decided whether to close off the area. Once that had been done, there was a 'call to arms' announced on BFBS for volunteers to help process and move the thousands of British nationals that were now arriving in Dhekelia's own 'Happy Valley' (not to be confused with the other one in Episkopi). I ended up moving baggage between Happy Valley and the airstrip at Kingsfield for three straight days but it was all great fun and I well remember the C-130s leaving with 'standing room' only (and not even that) for the short trip to Akrotiri.
Incidentally, I also recall the 'incident' (related in the newsletter) with the lads turning up in the BFBS Studios. Dad was a duty radio engineer with BFBS in those days and as an ex-RAF SNCO sympathised with their plight and I suspect, helped to facilitate their appearance in the studio! - small world indeed. In between 'shifts' at Kingsfield and Happy Valley, I spent most of the day/night down at the beach. We were busy 'entertaining' 18 'refugees' in our three-bedroom quarter and it was all getting a bit crowded at home. Mum took it all in her stride; she had been there before, looking after a similar number in our quarter in Benghazi seven years earlier when Gaddafi was just getting started with his own shenanigans in Libya.
Keep up the good work - I'm looking forward to the call for stories related to Hong Kong - I have a few to tell from my time there (on UK MAMS in 1983/84 and then again as 2 i/c of the Joint Service Movements Centre between 1988-91).
All the Best
From: Andrew Tiny, Kent Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #083117
Awesome, what a fantastic edition about Akrotiri, thanks! Dad's not been well and apologises for no input Tony
Can you please pass on my personal regards to all of MAMS - you played a big part in my life!
Andrew (on behalf of my Dad, Eric Batty)
RCAF Evacuates Northern Manitoba Communities
Two CC-130H Hercules aircraft from 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron based at 17 Wing Winnipeg assisted in the evacuation of people on August 31 from communities in northern Manitoba affected by forest fires as part of Operation LENTUS.
Each aircraft made multiple trips between Winnipeg and St. Theresa Point First Nation airport.
Canadian Armed Forces
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #083117
David Powell's input about the CSE party reminded me of Harry Secombe's visit to Aden in 1957 (he wasn't Sir Harry then). Dad was 'volunteered' as Conducting Officer to the party as (a) he was Welsh and (b) could sing well. He, Harry and Eric Sykes got on really well, as all three liked a drink or two - or three, and when a couple of the party went down with 'Gypo Tummy', Dad prescribed large quantities of beer to keep up the hydration in the Aden heat & humidity. It seemed to work - or maybe the sufferers just didn't care any more - but thereafter Dad was known to the whole crew as 'Doctor Allsops'.
Harry and some of the rest of the crew visited our house overlooking Crater (before we got the Khormaksar MQ) for 'morning coffee'. While I remember serving coffee for the first hour or so, but I also remember Harry, in his best Goon Show / 'Neddy Segoon' voice say "OK Taffy, now where's the old brandy and Allsops then?" I was then thirteen years old, and a great Goon Show fan on the BBC Overseas Service, so it was a memorable morning, and I attach an original autograph and drawing done by Harry for me that morning, together with a photo of him about to board a Pembroke for a flight up-country to Dallah to entertain the troops in the front line.
I was later to meet Harry and his CSE crew again at Leong Nok Tha (Crown Force) in NE Thailand in 1967 when I was on FEAF MAMS, but that's another story (though being on the bottom of the Beverly crew ladder when Anita Harris, then very much the dolly bird singer, disembarked wearing the first really mini mini-skirt I had ever seen was a truly memorable experience!).
Rgds and keep up the great work.
From: Graham Lockwood, Leyland, Lancs Subject: Contacting old friends etc.
It's great to see a few familiar names cropping up from time to time. A couple of years ago I hooked up with an OBA member who I had not seen since the seventies and now we chat on the phone every couple of weeks!
Those were really good stories about Aden this time. I was prompted by a comment from Phil Smith to watch the link about Mad Mitch and it was fascinating stuff. The fruits of our colonial adventures are still displayed in Yemen and the Middle East in general at the moment. In 1967/68 I was in Muharraq and I hadn't a clue about the "big picture" (I was only there for the travel and sport!).
From: David Taylor Subject: TCMSF
I'm not ex MAMS, but as a one time member of Transport Command Mobile Servicing Flight (1960-64) we often worked together on various Ops around the world.
Someone just emailed me a copy of your newsletter, which I found interesting, some lovely photos, and I got to wondering if any of your members have photos of the loading and unloading of Britannias they could e-mail me for my memories file.
From: John Guy, Northampton Subject: Memories of Akrotiri
Congratulations on producing an absolutely marvellous newsletter covering life at Akrotiri. Probably the best ever! Well, you might expect me to say that as it brought back so many memories. I did 2 tours at Akrotiri one as a Supplier the other as a Mover.
Dec 1963 - Dec 1966, I was the SNCO i/c a furnishing project. I had 4-6 locals, a 3-tonner and 250 new married quarters to furnish, including a new Officers &and Sgts messes, plus a number of new barrack blocks. A bit ironic actually as I couldn’t muster enough points to get on the married quarters list myself resulting my living in Limassol with my wife and son.
Nov 1973 - Jan 1975 I was back at Akrotiri as a Mover, posted to NEAF MAMS. With the onset of the withdrawal of personnel, Eric Batty & I took our teams by road to Kingsfield, a 10 minute flight from Akrotiri. We were there for the duration. During this time our married quarters were packed with evacuees.
Someone in your article made reference to the withdrawal of Turkish citizens in which I had a small part to play. This might come as a surprise to some as initially RAF Episkopi played host to these individuals.
Over a period of 2 weeks I motored to Episkopi in the very early hours where I would find my way to a tennis court where the evacuees were being made ready for departure on civilian flights out of Akrotiri. This procedure went very well considering, to the best of my knowledge that none of the Episkopi personnel were Movers. My part was simply to maintain a liaison between Episkopi & the Movers at Akrotiri.
Jan 1975, All good things eventually come to an end with both teams of NEAF MAMS posted to RAF Lyneham.
From: Dave Green, Brampton, Cambs Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #083117
Thanks again for a great read. My time with UKMAMS was limited to a two month holding post in 1980 on base understudying Flt Lt Frank Andrews (the only chap I know to have owned a Ford Capri with a 1.3 ltr engine!) and assisting a half MAMS team pick up a Nimrod Sqn from Puerto Rico whilst I was the Movs Officer in Belize in 1983.
In line with most Officers on the Movements Course at the time, I spent an interesting week in Cyprus in late 1980 (155 OMC) doing an APC exchange (Lightnings for Phantoms). I learned lots from this exercise and from the excellent and very patient SNCO instructors, FS Derek Cole and Sgt John Boyd. As a young 19 year old, the guidance of such experienced guys made all the difference and John Boyd covered for a stupid trim mistake I made that could have ended my Movs career right then and there.
Whilst the detachment was extremely busy there is always time for a little play and we spent a pleasant afternoon on the beach watching the muscle bound members of the course water skiing. Paul Mansfield and Jerry Allen provided the muscle. Paul professed to be an excellent water skier and Jerry decided he would sit in the ski boat to make a photographic record of the event with his brand new Canon SLR camera.
As an expert skier, Paul started off sat on the jetty and not in the water as most would. When the driver was ready, Paul signalled for him to ‘hit it’. Unfortunately the ski rope was caught around the jetty and as the driver hit the throttle hard, the boat leapt forward a few feet then one of Newton’s Laws kicked in and the screaming engine dug the back of the boat deep into the water.
Unfortunately Jerry’s brand new camera was on the floor of the boat! Suffice to say after an interesting and protracted insurance claim, Jerry and I played football with the camera back at RAF Wattisham a few months later much to the merriment of all present.
The week was also marked by two major incidents, firstly, a Canadair CL44 freighter that was due to land at Larnaca diverted into Akrotiri for a wheels-up landing. All went well and the pilot spent a fortune in the bar that evening thanking all present. The second did not end so well; at the end of the detachment we loaded and then boarded our Herc for the trip home, only to be held for about two hours as a Canberra lost an engine on take-off and crashed yards from the CL44 at the side of the runway. Unfortunately the crew didn’t make it out.
I note from Jerry’s missive last month that he doesn’t have many pictures of himself working so I have attached a selection for your enjoyment.
"Jerry the Muscle" Paphos 1980
Jerry Allen and Simon Baxter English Bay, Ascension '82
Jerry in Mov Ops, Ascension Island Operation Corporate 1982
Rear: Jerry Allen, Dave Green, Steve Hudson, Paul Mansfield, Richard Partridge, Carol Pierce
Front: John Boyd, Dick Castle, Gordon Spiers, Derek Cole
155 Officer's Movements Course
RAF Hurricane Relief for the Caribbean
From: Ian Berry, West Swindon, Wilts Subject: Recollections of Akrotiri
During my second tour in Cyprus (RAF Nicosia & RAF Akrotiri), I completed the first half in the Air Booking Centre and the second half on the Air Movements Squadron as SNCO i/c Cargo and Traffic. These are normally two separate posts, but during my stint the actual SNCO i/c Traffic was Henry Downes who was banned from employment on the pans on medical grounds. He displayed this problem to me personally some time earlier when I had just returned from the UK on a C130 and was talking to him through the para door when he suddenly vanished from sight; he was having an epileptic fit!
During my tour at Akrotiri there was always a Sgt Canadian Mover on a six-month tour with the UN Detachment at Nicosia. He would come down to Akrotiri twice a week to handle the RCAF C130 which would arrive via Lahr in Germany. To support the overnight turnround we would supply some labour and ACHE. In addition to this the Canadians had their own 6,000lb forklift (painted white) which was used to prepare their loads. When not in use the Canadians gave us permission to use it ourselves.
It was the buildup to Christmas in December 1979, the Canadian Mover had just offloaded a triple pallet full of Douglas fir trees for use in the messes as Christmas Trees. The articulated truck carrying the pallets had already departed for Nicosia when the RCAF Mover arrived back from SBA Customs cursing somewhat. I asked what was wrong and he said the Customs guy had insisted the trees had to be either destroyed or flown back out of Cyprus tomorrow as they were illegal!
The next day the triple pallet full of fir trees duly arrived back at Akrotiri and was promptly backloaded on the C130. The only guy smiling was the Customs man. However, once the aircraft had departed I asked the Canadian how the troops at Nicosia took the fact they couldn't have their own Canadian trees? He said, "I wouldn't know, I cut these down in the Troodos Forest on the way back down here!" Canadians 1 Customs 0!
Richard (Taff) Allen's story about being a trainee operator at Akrotiri on the build up to Christmas the same year also rang a bell. He said they were invited to the squadron party, but unbeknown to him they nearly weren't! I had organised the party and for something different I thought I would provide the guests with German wine instead of the local stuff.
In early December the last APC (Armament Practice Camp) detachment were being recovered to their home base and as it happened to be 19 Squadron they were on their way back to Wildenrath. I had already made contact with Sgt Derek Coles of Wildenrath Movements about the wine and a deal was struck!
On one of the C130s recovering to Germany I filled the ramp with demijohns of Kokinelli, Sherry and heap of citrus fruits. In return would arrive many cases of Hock, Liebfraumilch and Niersteiner. When the wine arrived in Cyprus, Taff Allen's Operator course were tasked with offloading the aircraft. Being ultra keen students, they noticed the wine was not manifested and their instructor, Sgt "Goody two Shoes" Dave Howley promptly marched up to Customs to tell them so!
By the time I got to the aircraft the damage had been done and Customs were demanding I pay "Duty" on the wine. I argued the point and asked them to explain how you need to pay duty when the items had come from NAAFI Duty free stocks on one base to another Duty Free base? Whilst there was still some confusion over this posed question I had the wine "squirreled away". In due course it was consumed on the Saturday night, no thanks to 28B Mov Ops course!!
Cheers for now,
Ian p.s. Just before I retired from the RAF Taff was my shift Coordinator at RAF Lyneham.
From: Chris Austin, Hinckley, Leics Subject: JHSU 35th Anniversary
Bit late, but I thought I would pass on a few photos from the Joint Helicopter Support Unit (JHSU) 35th Anniversary at RAF Benson in July. It was a great weekend and well attended by both Pongos and Crabs.
Showcase of Unit Activities
The 'Handbrake' (Annette) and me on a Brief Chinook Flight
Group Shot of Past and Present Unit Members
Cargo Section Christmas party 1972 in Karuzo Bar Limassol. John Hathrill, Harry Borne, Derek Coles, n/k
Britannia Bar, November 74 John Rowe, Dave Richardson, n/k, Phil Thompson, Norman Stamper, Steve Lindsey, Martyn Skelton, Ian Hunter (DAMO), Taff Ashdown, Ray Berry, Alec Ross
Shift farewell do in in Platres, January 1975 Taff Phillips Norman Stamper, Stu Whitton, Phil Thompson, John Rowe, John Cocaine, Dave Richardson, Taff Ashdown, Ian Hunter
From: Norman Stamper, 03184 Torrevieja Subject: Memories of RAF Akrotiri
Sorry to be late for the Akrotiri slot. Gill and I have been back home in the UK visiting family during August then spending a week travelling back to Spain via the West coast of France for the last week, it's all go being a pensioner!
Had look through the photo's of our time in Akrotiri from early 72 to March 75 and came up with the following:
From: David Forsyth, 85370 Le Langon Subject: Second Learning Exercise
Economic with the Truth
By 1971, the Shackleton detachment at Majunga Airport in Madagascar, consisted basically of two Shack crews and associated ground-crew on eight week detachments from Ballykelly. In addition, there was a Wing Commander OC Detachment who did a 12 month stint, accompanied, together with the Permanent Staff (“Permies”) of four officers and about 30 SNCOs and Airmen from Admin, Supply, Movements, Catering, Medical, Comms and non-aircraft technical trades who did 6 months’ unaccompanied stints. The total of SNCOs and Airmen (you will see this becomes important) was about 80.
Also to set the scene, it is relevant that the RAF was in Madagascar “despite” the French, whose former colony this was, though it had swapped hands a few times in the 19th Century between both countries. France was always suspicious that Britain had designs on the country - it was less than 30 years since British and Allied Forces had captured the island from Vichy forces before handing back control to General de Gaulle by 1945. So France applied “pressure” on the recently independent Madagascar.
One implication of this sensitivity was that anything imported from the UK into Madagascar had to be defined as aircraft spares - despite the fact that of course all sorts of things were carried in and sometimes out, ranging from MT spares to soft furnishings, catering and medical supplies to uniforms and office supplies - in short everything required by a 120 or so strong detachment living in and operating from this temporary base thousands of miles from the UK. This meant that relationships with the Malagasy Customs Officer, who inspected every incoming flight, had to be especially nurtured. In particular, the team in the Supply Squadron at St Mawgan who “parented" the detachment knew that all manifests had to be written as "Shackleton spares" - regardless of the true contents of the cartons - which had to be sealed so as not to arouse suspicion.
Got all that?
One day I received a “Signal” (remember those?) from Lyneham stating that on the next C130 flight would be a consignment of 50,000 cigarettes seized from returning squaddies by my Malagasy Customs man’s professional brothers in arms at Lyneham. These were issued to us under the strict constraints that they were for SNCOs and airmen only, were to be issued free of charge and were not to be re-sold.
In came the Herc. I escorted the Customs man as we clambered over miscellaneous bona fide Shackleton bits and cartons, some of which were a bit less bona fide. Eventually we got to the ramp where, lashed down next to the Elsan, was a consignment labeled as “Valuable and Attractive”. Yes, those bloody cigarettes which, originating at Lyneham, had escaped the St Mawgan “cover-up” and stood out like the proverbial whatsits on a navvy’s whippet.
“C’est quoi ça?” from the Customs man.
“Ce sont des pièces de rechange pour Shackleton” I answered, with crossed-fingers, remembering the sage advice from my predecessor, Tom Mitcham, to call everything Shackleton bits. He smiled and moved on. I presented him later, discreetly, with a carton of 200 “Shackleton spares”, and all was well.
These fags, sitting in the Airmen’s Club, turned out to be even less popular than the daily anti-malarial pills sitting alongside them on the bar. They were all obscure brands of, I am told, poor quality tobacco and they were being consumed very slowly by the 80 SNCOs and Airmen.
A month later, I received another signal alerting us they had loaded another consignment of 50,000 fags on the Herc, too late for us to protest. Why were they so keen? Were we the only ones sucker enough to accept these cancer sticks?
In came the Herc. For some reason, I was extra busy and the Wing Commander boss said “I’ll show the Customs Man over the aircraft”.
Conscious of the fags, I tried to insist that I could do it but he insisted he should do it and his insistence outranked mine. Off they went.
Half an hour later, I saw the Boss. “How did it go?”
“Ah, the Customs Man asked what was in the carton on the ramp labeled “Valuable and Attractive”. I said they were cigarettes and tried to explain the rules and conditions, but he was having none of it”
So they stayed on the aircraft and returned to Lyneham.
Strangely, once word got round, not a soul complained about losing out on more free cigarettes. Using a good Scottish word, I think they were ‘scunnered’ by the first batch. And maybe the Boss was wilier than I had given him credit for?
Even if all of the 80 personnel had been smokers, which of course they were not, I leave you to do the calculation on daily smoke rate to get through this lot.
From: Thomas Iredale, 69120 Heidelberg Subject: Cat Drop
I came across this “Cat Drop” story, which is not my original authorship, but cobbled together from various sources on the Internet.
Once upon a time in Borneo, everybody was dying of malaria, so they sprayed a lot of the insecticide DDT which killed the mosquitoes that transmitted the disease. The cases of malaria dropped, but inexplicably, the roofs of the peoples’ huts started caving in. The DDT had also killed wasps that kept the caterpillar population in check, so the caterpillars ate the thatch, from which each roof was made. Then geckos ate the wasps, and cats ate the geckos. Cats started dropping dead, and the rat population flourished, which lead to an outbreak of the plague. So, to solve the problem, health officials parachuted cats into Borneo.
Or, at least that’s how the story goes.
I first heard of this ecological fable - nicknamed “Operation Cat Drop” - from a friend who liked to tell it in the pub. Frankly, it sounded a bit ridiculous. So, ridiculous in fact, that somebody could very well have made it up, and some have argued that the tale is just that: fiction. The cat story started appearing in print in the 1960s, with articles in The New York Times, Time and Natural History Magazine.
In the late 1960s and early 70s, bio-magnification and the ecological impacts on avian species were the main points of focus in the public debate over the safety of DDT. But, I’ve always wondered whether there was any truth to the cat story, which was even quoted in Congressional hearings on the use of DDT. As it happens, there’s more than you’d think. Patrick O’Shaughnessy, an environmental engineer at the University of Iowa, did some research and found elements of truth from which the cat drop myth probably grew. His work was published in the American Journal of Public Health. Here’s what we know…
In the 1950s, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a global effort to eradicate malaria, following successful campaigns in the United States, Europe, and Venezuela. Resistance to the insecticide had popped up in some mosquitoes, but they were very optimistic. Perhaps they were a little too optimistic. From 1952-55, in the Sarawak region of Borneo, malaria control teams sprayed DDT, benzene hexachloride, and briefly dieldrin twice a year inside local long houses with thatched roofs. At first, the programme enjoyed some success. From 1953 to 1955, the fraction of local mosquitoes carrying the disease fell from 35.6% to 1.6%.
Caving Roofs and Dead Cats
In 1963, people in Sarawak and Sabah (Northern Borneo) complained their roofs were starting to break up. The WHO investigators found that moth larvae could tell the difference between thatch covered in DDT and normal thatch, while parasitic wasps couldn’t. So, the wasp population declined, and the caterpillars survived - and even increased by 50%.
A 1959 report from Sabah warned that rat populations were increasing, due to the fact that insecticide spraying had resulted in some household cat deaths. In Bolivia, researchers linked an outbreak of haemorrhagic fever to rat home invasions, caused by feline deaths. The CDC autopsied one cat and found lethal doses of DDT, likely from rubbing against a building wall and licking its fur (not from eating DDT laced lizards). O’Shaughnessy notes similar anecdotes from Thailand, Mexico, and the Pacific. By 1972, a WHO representative acknowledged that DDT had played a role in an unknown number of cat deaths in Sabah and Bolivia.
Enter, the RAF
The cat drop element of the story traces back to Tom Harrison, a British eccentric and the curator of a museum in Sarawak. In 1965 he published an account of his involvement in it. In Harrison’s version, the WHO collected cats from Borneo’s coastal towns, stuck them in containers, and dropped them by parachute into the highlands, with a little help from the British Royal Air Force (RAF). Harrison was known to exaggerate here and there, and claimed the drop was his idea. Nevertheless, others back him up.
O’Shaughnessy dug up an RAF flight log from March 13, 1960; a transport aircraft from Singapore carried 7000 pounds of stores to the Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak.
Among the stores: “Over 20 cats to wage war on rats which were threatening crops.”
Dropping animals in crates from aircraft was not totally unheard of back then. (In 1954, the RAF parachuted cats into the Malayan jungle to fight mice, and California beavers may have been transplanted from overpopulated areas via airdrop around 1950.)
Every version of the cat story sounds a little different: cockroaches instead of caterpillars; typhus instead of a plague; sometimes the cats were driven, not dropped; and sometimes rats destroyed crops, instead of spreading diseases. One version puts the total number of cats at 14,000. It’s also possible that the more toxic insecticide dieldrin killed the cats. Several anecdotes of the unintended consequences of DDT probably blended together as the story developed. “It is perhaps time to retire the ‘cat story’ given its many variants and obvious bias against spraying DDT to control malaria,” O’Shaughnessy writes. It’s also unclear how much of an impact the cat story even had on the move to ban DDT in 1973.
Ecology versus Public Health.
The tale highlights an innate tension between the wonders DDT did for public health and the damage it did to ecosystems. It’s a debate that continues today. In 2000, the WHO listed DDT among 11 other insecticides approved for indoor spraying, and in 2006, they even recommended it for malaria control. But in 2009, the organization committed to a plan to eliminate DDT use globally by 2020. Mosquito-borne diseases aren’t going anywhere, and with climate change, some areas could actually see increases in their prevalence. On the other hand, history has shown us again and again that overusing insecticides has dire ecological side effects. O’Shaughnessy and Harrison both mention the same saying of the Orang Ulu people of Sarawak: “Do good carefully.” It’s something that perhaps both public health officials and environmentalists could take to heart.
The Blackburn Beverley, similar to the one which dropped the cats. No 48 Squadron had been operating a four aircraft Beverley flight from RAF Changi in Singapore.
The pilot of the ‘Cat aircraft' was Flying Officer Nimmo and the operations record was written by Flying Officer Humphrey
From: Arthur Taylor, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs Subject: This Small World
Am thinking this should be shared with you to show just how small this world is.
At 4am on Sunday 17th Sept, I was taken to A&E University Hospital Royal Stoke, severe pain, admitted to 4 bed ward, 3 of which were already occupied, I got the 4th. Being in so much pain, I didn't take any notice of the other occupants.
Monday morning, confined to bed, nothing by mouth, but then had the chance to look at my surroundings and the other patients. We were in different situations, so not much was said.
Tuesday morning, feeling a lot better, the pain had gone, so I was allowed up. Needed a shower, asked the other occupants if they needed the loo before I used the wet room shower. One of the lads said "No" in a broad west country accent, he was from Somerset, so I mentioned my colleagues in Weston Super Mare and the RAFA club there.
The occupant of another bed in the ward asked if I had been in the RAF. This chap just happened to be Jim Durkin [OBA member]. I hadn't recognised him, but my god, did enjoy the reminiscences, much to the amazement of our other ward mates. Jim was surrounded by tubes etc., not visible when I first went into ward, but we made up for it. This morning he was out of bed and sat in a chair.
How small is this big wide world. Jim will be fine, and I am back home. The bloody kidney stone which is unoperable had moved and caused a blockage. However, it's something I have live with now, at the tender age of 86 next birthday!
Rgds to all, keep up the good work.
From: Mike Stepney, Stewarton, Ayrshire Subject: Memories of Aden
Five months after joining the RAF, on the 1st December 1965, and still at the tender age of 18, I stepped off of a Britannia at RAF Khormaksar. After a rapid briefing in the arrivals area on the current security climate - state of emergency etc., I was singled out by an NCO who advised me not to make myself comfortable, as I was not staying at Khormaksar. I was being sent to Muharraq the next day, so would be staying in the transit block that night. Thus, my initial stay at Khormaksar was somewhat shorter than the 2 years that appeared on my posting notice. My euphoria of getting out of the Aden tour was short lived, as almost three months to the day after my initial arrival I once again found myself entering the Movements arrivals area at Khormaksar, having just disembarked, this time from an Argosy, and the heat and smell that I had briefly encountered three months previously, had not improved one bit!
My first full-time job at Khormaksar was pretty good. I was the only serviceman working (in an air-conditioned workshop), with a group of civilians operating within a sub unit of 131MU - namely the AIS/ECL. (Note: Smarty points to anyone who can decipher AIS/ECL.)
My task was to review confidential signals that would arrive at the section from a number of Gulf units during the week, predominately those operating Hunters - 208 Sqn and 1417 Flt detachments. I would identify the requirements and then arrange for the ECL element to have the necessary items readied for transit. These items were classified equipment and therefore, had to be escorted. Each Friday/Saturday I would deliver the containers to the lock-up at Air Movements having raised the necessary airwaybills and signalled each unit as to what was arriving and when. Each Monday morning, I would board the relevant aircraft, usually an Argosy, then fly up the Gulf with the first stop at Riyan - a 20-minute turnaround, usually with one engine running, undertaking a one-for-one direct exchange of the equipment on the aircraft ramp, then depart to the next stop, usually Salalah.
After a similar short stop, we would head up to Masirah and occasionally include Sharjah if necessary - the number of stops scheduled would determine if/where we night stopped. This aircraft also carried mail and other freight for these units. Returning to Khormaksar, I would book in the u/s electronic equipment then start the prep for the next weeks' load. Very agreeable employment for a 3-month period but it was never going to last. A manning review disestablished my post in June 66, however, I managed to get myself a reasonably good job keeping my head down and remaining at 131MU for the remainder of my tour. So apart from 24 hour guarding duties, 12 hour guarding duties, armed vehicle escort duties, Search Compound duties, and if I was really unlucky, manning the Aden Airways sentry post, which was right in the middle of the airfield, the tour was hunky dory!
I did manage to get around Aden quite a bit as I acquired a motorbike in '66, but restriction on travel was such that it was only safe to move in daylight and on the main roads. The bike was unceremoniously dumped in mid '67 when I got caught up in a local ‘disturbance’ in Ma’ala, and was rescued by a passing Argyle & Sutherland’s army patrol on the Ma’ala Straight, they had been mixing it with some locals in Tawahi and were heading to Ex-Group for an ammunition resupply. Luck or good timing for me? Not sure, though I never did see the bike again!
There were some other notable diversions for me from guard duties; working for two weeks assisting racking body bags (full) in the Ma’ala Morgue/cold storage depot comes to mind (late Feb '67) also, a two-week stint baking bread in the Ma’ala town bakery during the general strike (Jun '67) also brings back memories. With the temp around 40ºC outside, the bakery with rotating platforms to bake the bread using semi-open ovens was considerably hotter. We had to drink gallons of water on each shift, and sweat poured from us continuously (I never ate bread for the remainder of my tour after that stint!). I also watched from the side lines with some amusement the riot (of sorts) on camp, after the water had been turned off to the barrack blocks. Water was rationed and available only at certain times - a couple of hours morning and evening, and word had circulated that the officer’s mess was re-filling their swimming pool! That was an interesting few hours, where the RAF Regiment Fire Service appeared to hold back from extinguishing a fire of barrack furniture in a sort of silent protest. The furniture had been thrown from a three-story barrack block. Appears the Fire Service had little or no water pressure in the system with which to fight the fire, so they said! Clearly, details of that incident were not widely circulated.
Before I joined the RAF, I had played in a group (Rock & Blues) in Stirling/Perthshire area, and took the opportunity to join a group in Khormaksar who were looking for a guitarist/singer. That opened up another way to pass the time, and we had many bookings during 66/67 entertaining at various messes and clubs. We had regular gigs at the Camel Club Khormaksar, and we played a number of Steamer Point functions; Tarshyne Officers' Mess, the Fire Service club and the RAF Hospital on Barrack Hill. We also played at a New Year's party (66/67) entertaining 42 Commando RM in Little Aden, which required us to get approval from the Station Commander Khormaksar to be off-base overnight! We left that with the CO of 42 Cdo to organise. Armed escort was provided to and from Little Aden. We were fortunate that there was a PSI mini-bus that we could hire to get us around.
Although I experienced a varied tour (there were some good and some bad times), I was glad to see the back of Khormaksar. I eventually departed on the 19th November 1967 on what I think was the last BOAC VC10 to leave Aden, returning to the UK via Nairobi and Rome.
For those ex-Khormaksar movers, and there must be many, go to Google Earth and have a look at the base 50 years on. Very little has changed, unlike all the other Gulf units that we manned at that time which are now mostly modern civilian airports.
From: Ian Berry, West Swindon Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
I managed two trips to Hong Kong, the first being a detachment and the second a swan song. At the beginning of February, 1973, Echo Team - Flt Lt Gus Hatter, FSgt Ken Browne, Sgt Ross McKerron , JT Gordon Gourdie (one of the last TG18 JTs), SAC Bob Tring and myself (then a Cpl) deployed to RAF Kai Tak as "Movements Reforce" for the Brigloc. This was the rotation of Gurkhas and their families from Hong Kong back to Nepal for block leave.
After our first night in Hong Kong the “Top Two" Gus & Ken, deserted us for their onward positioning in Kathmandu for the duration of the detachment. We were then at the mercy of the SAMO, Sqn Ldr Denis Wright, a man I personally took a dislike to as he made it plain that he did not like UKMAMS and we had to comply with his dictates. This included the four of us being split between the three shifts, a contradiction of our agreed employment.
Hard to believe that at this time there were so many Movers in Hong Kong, as well as three shifts in operation. My memory is fading with time but there were many I met here for the first time and then later on other tours. They included Frank Thorington and my good friend Keith Sharpe (sadly Keith passed away quite young on the operating table during routine stomach surgery). Chick Hatch, whose foot was in plaster but still managed to ride a bike, Henry Downes, Pete Clayton, Geoff Gilson and Tony Hancock, “Connelo” (Geordie Sanderson’s nickname for Owen Connell as all his letters were addressed this way). I’m sure others will come to mind as well as the local labourer, “Sailor”.
RAF Kai Tak - the Britannia detachment is in the foreground with the civil airport behind
Eventually our time came to rotate and we were being replaced by Kilo Team, the four remaining in Kai Tak being Ivan Gervais, Tommy Blues, Bob Thacker and Bob Ford (unbelievably, all four have now passed away). During the handover period, while in the Dragon Club, we were witness to Ivan, quite inebriated after several San Migs, performing the dance to the “Zulu Warrior” song, more amazing as to those not aware, Ivan was a six foot West Indian!
My reward came at the end of the detachment when Bob Tring and I flew home on a brand new British Airways B747 Jumbo jet. We were met and collected at Heathrow by an Abingdon MT Driver in the station Commander's car. This was the norm he said for “prestige” pick ups.
I returned to Hong Kong some 10 years later on my swan-song before joining the RAF Movements School (RAFMS). By now it was just an airport detachment as the RAF base at Kai Tak had been taken over by the Airport Authority and the remaining RAF personnel had moved inland to RAF Sek Kong. Sailor was still on strength and claimed he remembered me! It was a three man job to rotate a Scout helicopter from Hong Kong to Brunei and so I got two more nights in the Far East out of it. We’d also arranged to have a night out with the local Movers and were to meet in the “Waltzing Matilda”. Nobody turned up! It was only the next day we discovered there were TWO Waltzing Mats...
Our primary reason for being there was the roulement of the Gurkhas and two Britannias from Brize were detached to Kai Tak for the period. We did though get involved in the handling of all aircraft as well as duties within the Civil Airport.
What a fantastic place Hong Kong was and many things still come to mind at the mention of it. Temple Street Market where I bought a pair of Bondu (desert) boots, where the soles were made from old rubber tyres; mine had the word UNIROY across the bottom! For some reason I also remember the eggs in the Airmens Mess as they had all been injected with something to keep them fresh and it tasted vile.
Trips to Wanchai and remembering the dictate in SROs every week that the rooftops of Wanchai were “Out of Bounds”. Note the picture of me in Wanchai is not on the rooftops! We also shared rooms with the permanent staff and it was routine for the guys to be paid monthly and live it up for two weeks and the next fortnight they were stony broke until payday!
One weekend I volunteered to help my mate, Keith Sharpe, move hirings. His new flat was in an area called Lai Chi Kok. He had an 8th floor flat and whilst surveying the view I remarked that the Queen Elizabeth was offshore somewhere on it’s side after catching fire? He told me it was in the bay straight out the window but I couldn’t see it. Eventually what I thought was a small island was in fact the wreck of that beautiful ship.
From: Gus Turney, Chippenham, Wilts Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
Firstly, many thanks for producing the newsletter every month. It is much appreciated. I was fortunate enough to serve in Hong Kong from February 1995 to June 1997. Once I had adjusted to the change in lifestyle from the top secret transport base, near Witney, in sleepy Oxfordshire, to the 100 mph, non-stop metropolis of Hong Kong, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was part of the Joint Movements Unit, working at the old Kai Tak airport. My job on the team, was as a pax JNCO, responsible for greeting inbound pax from the British Airways charter, and checking in military passengers onto the return flight to Heathrow. Additionally, I would assist with transfer passengers, and monitor check-in for the Royal Brunei charter. We had to work in a suit and tie, and would work alongside the Chinese BA check in girls; a great bunch, and good fun. My highlights, in no particular order:
• Laughing hysterically at the Chinese "honey truck" driver getting covered in crap, after failing to connect the hose properly • Myself, almost getting ejected from the Rugby 7s for indecent exposure (not my fault, m'lud) and ending up on the front page of the local Chinese press (I am forever grateful to Tony Dunphy and Lee Doherty for their understanding and good humour!) • Dancing on the bar at Carnegie's, in Lockhart Rd, downtown Wanchai • Rubbing shoulders at Kai Tak with rugby legends like Mike Catt, David Campese, Waisale Serevi, Christian Cullen, Lomu, and others • Being taught how to swear in Cantonese by our labourers, "Sailor" and "Chu" • R and R breaks in Koh Samui, Bali, and New Zealand • Two weeks on exchange with the US Army in Hawaii • Sitting in the cockpit of a Cathay Pacific 747 for the spectacular approach and landing at Kai Tak (the co-pilot was ex 30 Sqn Flt Eng) • Seeing how many vodka jelly shots I could manage at Bahama Mama's • The clean, safe and efficient MTR subway • The long, drawn out and completely incomprehensible process of picking up freight from the Kai Tak Cargo Terminal • The madness of the driving in Kowloon...
• The Saturday afternoons at Kings Park, watching the Tigers RFC, and then heading downtown for the night • The hangovers on Sunday morning • Being privileged, along with Jai Cookson, to represent the JMU as part of the Sek Kong closure ceremony. The Garrison sergeant major had his work cut out, but we came up with a first rate (for normal RAF bods) parade on the day • The incessant racket of pile-drivers, as the Hong Kong skyline grew forever upwards • Crossing the harbour at night on the Star Ferry • Sorting out a check-in problem for Ian Botham (he was on his way to Brunei, to give personal coaching to the Sultan's son) • Meeting the singer Paul Young in the gents at Delaney's Bar, Tsim Sha Tsui • Getting a tour of the visiting US Aircraft Carrier, USS Independence • Hiking up to the top of Lion Rock for some peace and quiet and to take in the amazing view • Making a parachute jump over Sek Kong in 1995, despite promising myself in 1994 never to do it again after making 7 jumps whilst at Brize • Meeting Terry Venables, Gazza, Shearer, Sheringham, Fowler, and others, just before they boarded the infamous Cathay 251 to London, during which some seatback TV screens were damaged •
Last, but not least, the sad but inevitable departure from the colony at 3 a.m. local time, July 1st, 1997. I looked back down the steps, and there were only 3 guys behind me. Cpl Al Williamson, W.O. Tony Dunphy, and Sqn Ldr Lee Doherty, who was the last British serviceman to board the BA 747 for the flight to London. The trip back was a comfy one, as the JMU staff were all booked on the upper deck. How on earth did that happen? There was some champagne after take off, a self service bar, and as many free snacks as we could handle. The Captain and crew even said that it was the best plane load of passengers they had ever had the pleasure of flying.
On reflection, the work was, at times, challenging, but rewarding. I was lucky to be part of a great team, working in one of the most sought-after postings. It just goes to show, that sometimes you do get what you ask for... eventually.
Regards to all,
From: David Stevens, Bangor Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
No posting sadly and I did not make it to HK when I was on UKMAMS.
1. I did make it HK once when I was Staff Officer (Movements) to The Inspectorate of Air Transport (SO(Mov) to IATS). The IATS team was based at HQ 38 Gp. in Upavon and was the RAF's air transport answer to civil aviation's IATA - International Air Transport Authority. I was protocol/escort officer to an all party Parliamentary Delegation to China in September 1972. I got off in Kai Tak and I did not get into China. I did manage to get to RAF Sek Kong where I jumped aboard an RAF Wessex helicopter and whizzed up and down the border with China. Naturally, I also boarded the Star Ferry and did some 'essential shopping' in Kowloon.
2. Then, when I was RAF GCCO (Gurkha Charter Coordinating Officer) from 1979 - 1982, based in Kathmandu, I went many times because Land Forces Hong Kong (LFHK) were my 'customers' in the form of the Brigade of Gurkhas. I was always on good terms with the Air Movers in Kai Tak. Although strangely enough our Gurkha trooping flights were handled, for the most part, by an agent, Far East Airways; a real two men and a boy (and a girl) outfit. The general manager was one John Murphy who was also a part time police inspector with the HK metropolitan police. I can tell you that I got to 'visit' parts of HK and Kowloon that I might otherwise never have seen.
Then there was the almost vertical mountain mono-rail ride, the Victoria Peak Tram; it was scary and spectacular. I often stayed at John's apartment but I also stayed many times in the RAF Officers' Mess in Kai Tak which was surely one of the most beautiful officers' mess's in the world. The extraordinary clatter of Mahjong being played all night long is one of my abiding memories of HK.
From: Ronald Meredith, Spalding, Lincs Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
Uncertain if the following may be relevant to the Movers, however, aside from the airfield and landing / take off's from Kai Tak, my clearest recollection of Hong Kong was a visit during the time of the Vietnam War.
The US armed forces used Hong Kong as an R & R centre and droves of them were there. However, they were forbidden to use the huge Chinese shop, supermarket size (name forgotten), but for civil kit, things like suitcases or other travel gear and household bits and bobs, absolutely fabulous. There were no US forces spending mega bucks, the facility and prices remained stable and I still have working kit and caboodle bought there at real "knock down " prices so many years ago.
From: Phil Smith, Exmouth, Devon Subject: Stinkies Market Hong Kong.
August 1974, walking through the famous 'Stinkies Market' in Hong Kong wearing what I thought was a hip and happening outfit of coloured singlet (vest) and blue jeans. A Chinese shop owner shouted at me "Johnny Shirt, Johnny you buy shirt". I declined his kind offer by a wave of my hand and few choice words. He then came up to me and pulled at my singlet (vest) and said "Johnny you NEED shirt, Johnny you buy shirt!".
Just at that particular time the group Abba had made it big with their first massive hit "Waterloo". Every shop in Stinkies had Waterloo blasting out from huge speakers. Having an 8-Track stereo unit in my car back in the UK I decided to buy a tape. Whacked the tape into the machine back in the UK to find there was only one song on it. Waterloo was followed by 45 minutes of silence! I told Norrie Radcliffe later about my misfortune and he said I was lucky as he had his wallet stolen on the Star Ferry. A thief had used a razor blade to cut a hole in his trousers under his wallet in his hip pocket and then pulled the wallet out gently. Norrie never felt a thing.
Stinkies was an amazing place as it was under the approach used by aircraft to land at Kai Tak airport. 747s had to fly in between high rise buildings, aim at a checker board located on the side of a mountain and just before the aircraft came very close to the board make a very sharp right turn to land on the runway that was actually out to sea in the harbour. I do recall coming into land at Kai Tak at night on a Hercules and seeing people watching their TVs in their flats which were ABOVE the Hercules. If you happened to be in Stinkies when a 747 was approaching the shadow cast was terrifying as it was so low. In fact you could observe the rivets on the fuselage. Needless to say the noise was deafening.
Never did a tour there and never really wanted to.
From: Mark Attrill, 10116 Tallinn Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
1983 - My first trip to Hong Kong was with UKMAMS leading a composite team - Most of my own team (India) were in San Francisco. I cannot remember who came with me apart from Nip Betts who, for some reason, became my shopping and drinking partner on the trip. Early on we decided to hit the China Fleet Club since we had been tipped off by a friendly Loadmaster that it was the best place to gauge prices for cameras, watches etc., before heading to Nathan Road. Having heard that English was not commonplace among the local taxi drivers, Nip and I rehearsed the Cantonese for 'China Fleet Club' several times before hailing a cab... we struggled for several minutes until the driver in almost perfect English said, "Oh, you mean the China Fleet Club." I also remember spending almost an hour in one establishment with Nip furiously haggling with the shopkeeper over the price of some of the then new Gameboy handheld computer games... it was only after we had come out that I managed to let him know he was haggling over a 5p price difference! After that, I insisted we go get a beer and ended up in an old UKMAMS watering Hole, Ned Kellys, listening to 'Charles Bronson' Gonzalez (those that went to Ned's in the 1980s will know who I mean) and the band giving it their all...
Five years later and my posting to Goose Bay was cancelled at short notice, only to be told I was now to proceed to Hong Kong as second in command of the Joint Army (Ooops... I meant Service) Movements Centre in Osborn Barracks, Kowloon Tong, where I took over from the esteemed Graham Howard. My right hand man was the inscrutable FS Keith Smith with Sgt Alec Simpson running the Air Cargo Section (having preceded me from the ACAC at HQ 1 Group, RAF Upavon). The SAMO at Kai Tak was, briefly, Steve Tomlinson before Mike Stepney (Senior) arrived, ably guided by the late, great Terry Roberts who had also looked after me when I was on UKMAMS back in 83-84. My baptism of fire started almost immediately, when a devastating earthquake hit Nepal in August 1988 - Fortunately, there was a joint exercise going on in Brunei at the time so we had a couple of C-130s at our disposal and a host of Gurkha volunteers who were obviously keen to return to their homeland and offer what assistance they could.
As always, Movers came and went with Keith being replaced with another steady hand at the tiller, Ian Williams with Chas Cormack and Pete Polidano joining the Airport Unit. As you can imagine we had some great times - I was single at the time so spent quite a bit of time travelling, managing duty trips to Brunei, Japan, Nepal, Malaysia, New Zealand and South Korea and also returning to see old friends in Singapore and Australia.
One of the highlights of the year in Hong Kong was the Rugby 7's tournament. In the middle year, I took my turn as the Duty Officer, so everyone else in the Unit could go to the matches.
Late on the Sunday evening, I received a call from the RMP's to say that a FS Ian Williams had been locked up in the local nick in Kowloon for 'fighting on the MTR (Tube)'. Now those of you who know Ian will understand that he was the unlikeliest of Movers to be involved in a fight so I had to find out more - turns out he had gone to the aid of a Western lady who was being fondled by a local (a regular occurrence on the MTR when it was crowded) and had then got involved in a verbal altercation with a couple of other individuals. When the train stopped at the next station, to be met by the Transport Police, Ian was accused of starting the fight and marched away. Shortly after I arrived at the station, an off-duty RHKP Inspector who had been on the train and witnessed everything, verified Ian's story and we were allowed to leave.
Gold smuggling to Nepal was a perennial problem during my tour with the Gurkha soldiers regularly running the gauntlet with the movements organization, both in the JSMC and out at the Airport Unit and the JHQ telescope was firmly fixed on the Movements Organisation to do all it could to eradicate the problem. One late afternoon, I got a call from Pete Polidano who was concerned about a suspiciously marked tri-wall MFO box that was due to leave the following day on the regular Air Hong Kong freighter for Kathmandu. He asked if I would be in attendance, with the RAF Police, whilst he opened the box to inspect the contents - What had aroused his suspicion was the fact that the box had been labeled for the 'Brigade of Gurkhas Sailing Club - Pokhara' - the problem, of course, is that Nepal is a land-locked country and we were not aware of a sailing club. Fearing the worst, given the inevitable paperwork trail, we opened the box (which, we discovered, had a false lid) only to find it full of kitchenware and bedlinen - It transpired that the RAF Sek Kong Sailing Club treasurer (a Gurkha SNCO) had exceeded his unaccompanied baggage allowance and another club member, the RAF SNCO i/c R&D had taken pity on him and decided to fix it - Needless to say, the hapless Supplier who was Tourex and also due to fly out that very same evening was apprehended and spent a couple of extra days in Hong Kong.
On another occasion, we caught a couple of lads trying to flush Gold Ingots down the aircraft toilets when they realized that Nepalese Customs had been tipped off and a reception party was waiting for them at the bottom of the aircraft steps! My three year tour was one of the highlights of my early career and much of this was down to the very professional and sociable bunch of RAF movers at both the JSMC and the Airport Unit, together with our respective Locally Employed Civilians who were loyal, hard working and completely mad! One or two of the RCT lads were OK too.
Mark Attrill (2ic JSMC - Aug 88 - Aug 91)
Scary Student Landing at Kai Tak (Best viewed in Full Screen)
(This is actually a simulator, not a real aircraft landing - but both the instructor and student made far too many mistakes - scary!)
From: Derek Barron, Calne, Wilts Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
Although I passed through Hong Kong many times, I was never stationed there. When I worked as MAMS Ops SNCO with the legendary Jim Stewart, he decided that our combined “talents” would be required on a Gurkha Rotation. On t/o from Kai Tak we had a lightning strike on the VC10 and had to return to Kai Tak overweight, resulting in several punctures on landing (and nearly got our feet wet). We were stuck there for four days during which time Jim Stewart proceeded to show me parts of Hong Kong I had never seen!
Later I passed through when Alec and Chris Simpson were stationed there, they were kind enough to show me round the Territory.
I also remember after returning from a Fiji run being forced into a bar called the Kangaroo Bar and met four other UKMAMS teams who had been deployed in our absence, now that was a good night. I remember visiting towel and shirt factories I remember some of the other guys telling me about a bar called "Led Lips", (I don't remember ever being there personally).
It must have been a great posting. Memories of Hong Kong would not be complete without remembering the legend that was Flt/Lt Jim Stewart, a great boss and a great travelling companion.
Regards Derek B
From: Mike Stepney, Stewarton, Ayrshire Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
APU Kai Tak - The Gurkha Charter
RAF Airport Unit Kai Tak was without doubt a dream posting, and although located within Kowloon, one of the densest populated regions of this planet, it offered a tremendous varied social and shopping experience. Along with a great social lifestyle, the APU offered many ‘varied and interesting’ tasks in the day to day operations, requiring us not only to handle the everyday APU work, but also to act as a ‘local’ mobile movements unit covering tasks from Thailand to South Korea and Japan to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. There was also considerable satisfaction in handling thousands of mainly military/UK based civilians and Gurkha passengers in to and out of Hong Kong and without doubt, the Gurkha monthly charter schedule was the one to operate/monitor for entertainment value. A close second was the twice weekly BA 747 part charter with its regular group of 14+ air stewardess’s which kept the single guys on their toes, and the (one day late) UK newspapers left behind by the pax, quickly collected by the Kai Tak cleaning staff, ironed flat and sold in Kowloon/Hong Kong Island within a couple of hours of landing. Unfortunately, anyone expecting to complete the crosswords or other puzzles contained in the newspapers were out of luck; what else does a passenger do on a 15 hour journey from UK?
I mentioned the Gurkha charter above, as this regular airlift kept us focused for many reasons. Nepal was (and still is) not what you would describe as a rich country. With little or no natural resources there were limited government funds with which to purchase modern aircraft for the Nepalese National fleet, and at this time and the regular Gurkha charter from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu to Kai Tak and return was served by Boeing 727-100’s. These aircraft had been in service with Nepal Airlines since 1972 - almost 20 years old, and it showed! Nepal Airlines were at this time expanding their fleet with Boeing 757’s but not on the Gurkha charter from Kai Tak - (don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia). Because of their age and condition, the Nepal Airlines 727’s were closely monitored by the civilian aviation authority at Kai Tak, given that the airport authority had awarded them the dubious distinction of leaving more contamination (hydraulic oil, engine oil, Avtur, tyre rubber etc. ) on the parking slot than any other carrier.
It should be noted that every Gurkha charter 727 left Kai Tak at MTOW. There was so much baggage, that the main holds would always bulk out, with the remaining baggage carried on the main deck immediately in front of the first row of seats and behind the flight deck! This was lashed to the floor with anything that came to hand. Remember this is a passenger aircraft with cabin crew who were responsible for the safe loading/operation of the flight. The aircraft had carpets (of sorts)), and a front toilet (of sorts), but carried no strops/chains/nets or anything whatsoever that could be used to secure the main floor baggage, and any restraining kit we put on board would disappear at Kathmandu! I was always hoping that the Movements School would head our way on one of their students ‘down route’ final exams, and give them this charter to operate! Now you might begin to understand the entertainment factor of these charters!
No two Nepal Airlines charter aircraft turn rounds were the same; something different would always rear its head before departure. There had been a number of attempts to smuggle contraband on the charter aircraft over the years and we had been pretty successful in reducing this to a minimum by judiciously checking both hold and hand baggage of the pax to screen out any point where contraband could be introduced. I must point out that only a very small minority of Gurkha’s were involved in this activity as in general, I have always found the Gurkha fraternity most trustworthy and honest. As a matter of routine, a focused and quite evident monitoring of passengers by Movements and RAF Provost and Security Detachment (P&SS) staff was undertaken from the point of arrival at Kai Tak airport to boarding the aircraft, through document scrutiny, baggage weigh-in, including the hand baggage, x-ray of hand bags and pax, we had (we thought) all eventualities covered, although, keeping an eye on the pax within an international airport and generally keeping a flow into a reserved holding area prior to boarding was at times akin to herding cats!
Early in 1990 we were advised that a consignment of gold had been discovered in Kathmandu hidden behind a panel in the aircraft toilet on one of our charters. This led us to add further checks, and notwithstanding the aircraft departure time, I introduced random spot checks of hand baggage at the foot of the boarding steps.
Shortly after we had increased security I was conducting a spot check and we were about to start loading when I noticed a young Gurkha private almost fall over as he stepped off the bus that ferried the pax to the aircraft! Now, Gurkha’s are renowned for their fitness, and the hand baggage weights were strictly adhered to (hand baggage was weighed at the terminal after the security check), so I felt something was amiss.
The Gurkha in my sights looked rather suspicious, so I called him out of the line and asked what he had in his bag; “Medication”, was the response. Not wishing to embarrass the young lad in front of 90+ passengers lining up to board (I had no idea what his medication was for), I pointed to my Landrover and instructed him to bring the bag and place it on the tail-gate. Instructed to unpack his bag, he did as requested, and there was nothing unusual that I could see. I then checked the bag myself and could hardly lift it! A quick inspection revealed that said Gurkha was carrying a number of gold bars hidden under some cloth. Challenged, he denied all knowledge of the contraband, and did not appear too flustered at getting caught.
I removed him from the flight and attempted to initiate a 100% check of all the hand baggage as where there was one ‘Mule’ there would probably be more, but unfortunately a number of pax had already boarded and the aircraft captain was adamant that he was leaving on schedule, even if we could not complete the checks. We found the soldier's hold baggage which was removed but could not complete the full hand baggage check before the Captain pulled the plug on us - the aircraft left on time. Kathmandu were informed of the incident and undertook a full inspection of the aircraft on arrival; they discovered further gold behind a panel at the rear of the aircraft in the passenger compartment.
The amount of gold that we found weighed in at 22kgs - in 1990 gold was £200 per ounce, so that equated to £154,880 - almost £331,000 at today’s exchange rates. A similar amount was located at Kathmandu.
How could this happen with all the checks? We surmised after much discussion that our passengers were going through the correct processes but between the security check and gathering at the holding lounge, the ‘Mules’ were being intercepted and changing hand baggage with other couriers - we could not monitor every single passenger in an international airport as they used the duty free shops/toilets/cafes etc. In the main, gold couriers were legally entitled to export (by hand) gold bullion through Kai Tak airport and thus able to pass the gold onto the Gurkhas. It appears that ground handling staff at Kathmandu were retrieving the gold where it would find its way through various workshops and exported onward to India as jewellery, earning considerable revenue for Nepal.
As a footnote to this incident, the confiscated gold was passed to RAF HQP&SS, who in turn had to hand it to Gurkha HQ as evidence in their investigation. After numerous reports were filed everything went very quiet for a few months. Being closely involved, I was interested in the final outcome of the case, the details of which were hard to come by; the Gurkha’s HQ refused to discuss the incident direct with the APU. Only by petitioning Commander RAF Hong Kong (CRAFHKG), did I find out that the gold had eventually been sold on the open market in Hong Kong and the proceeds absorbed into the Gurkha Benevolent Fund! Having played a part in the seizure, I pressed the point with CRAFHKG that some of the proceeds should find their way to the RAF Benevolent Fund and whilst he was enthusiastic with the idea, it was clear from Gurkha HQ that this idea would not fly!
They say a varied life makes for an interesting existence and certainly 3 years as SAMO Kai Tak was an interesting tour, which, among many deployed tasks around the Far East, included an incident in Japan (Okinawa) with a head to head with a Captain of a Heavy Lift Belfast, where he unilaterally decided to depart 2 hours ahead of the Transop schedule, and leave 2 APU staff stranded. Hey ho, another incident for another time perhaps!
From: Tony Mullen, Toowoomba, QLD Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
I was never stationed at Kai Tak but have visited it many times over the years. The base is now the Cruise Terminal!
I first visited Honkers in 1963 on a Bristol Freighter of 41 Sqn RNZAF from Changi. I still remember the flight vividly; 12 hrs flying time each way with a refuelling stop at Saigon. This had to be the noisiest and slowest aircraft I have ever flown in! The approach to Kai Tak over the high rise flats was an unforgettable experience.
Then in 1965, HMS Triumph, the Far East Fleet repair ship (a converted aircraft carrier), was sailing on it's annual voyage to HK from Singapore and the Captain sent an invitation to RAF Seletar for two officers to join them for the cruise. There was surplus cabin space available and it was good inter service PR. Mike Tourle (a mover on a punishment tour at 389 MU) and I jumped at the chance and we had a wonderful two weeks or so including three days docked at the Navy Base on Hong Kong Island.
Great memories of the night life of Kowloon! I will spare you the lurid details! It's still one of my favourite holiday destinations.
From: Peter Herring , Gosport, Hants Subject: Memories of Hong Kong
NEAF MAMS in Hong Kong!
July 1973 saw three members of NEAF MAMS venture further east in support of a job in Fiji; Roger Wharton, Keith Parker and myself were tasked. I recall flying out via Gan with a night stop in Singapore then to spend a short stopover in Hong Kong en-route to Nadi. Well yes NEAF MAMS did occasionally stack up with the dirty jobs!
When in Hong Kong we were billeted in a reasonable hotel in Kowloon and in the evenings repaired to the Ocean Terminal where the food was excellent, for the price. There was a stage show (not that kind) with live music and it was all very enjoyable.
The time in Fiji was as anticipated with the task not being too difficult. We staged back via Anderson Field on Guam, then again through Kai Tak, onward to Gan and home to Akrotiri. It was one of those most enjoyable trips that were shared around if and when available.
Ken Davie (RAF) with Lilias & Alix at a recent family get together in Dundee Scotland
Len Bowen (RAF & RAAF) and Penny celebrated their 45th on September 2nd
Annette and Danny Bacon (RCAF)
John (82), eldest brother of Rob Davies (RAF), together in Wales for a family wedding
Kilo Team on route back from the Paris Air Show; Bob Thacker, Ivan Gervais, Brian Shorter, Rocky Hudson and James Gallagher (1970-ish)
Aircraft size comparision chart - true to scale
Early 1970's - Secret airfield (I have no idea where it was taken!) Tim Newstead, Gerry Fraser (MAMS Eng), D K Henderson, Ben Johnson, Not Known, Bobby Atcheson and yours truly, Tony Gale
March 19, 1960 Eric & Shirley Batty (RAF)
Celebrating his 83rd - Eric and son Andrew
More Relevant Stuff
From: David Stevens, Bangor Subject: MAMS History
Here's a real piece of MAMS history that I just came across. I was staying with my brother in Berlin when I received this letter informing me of my posting to Abingdon.
This newsletter is dedicated to the memories of Barry Wheeler (RAAF) Roy "Lurch" Armstrong (RAF) Linda Pay, wife of Colin Pay (RAF) Eva Gerigk, reunited with Mike Gerigk (RCAF)