From: Andrew Tiny, Kent Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #022318
Just had a read through February's issue, fantastic read, although I'm only a son of a Mover, it brings back so many memories of a lifestyle some people could only dream about.
From my point of view I miss it so much and have never really adjusted to civvi life. I'd just like to thank all MAMS personnel I've met through Dad's service life for making my life so much different and exciting.
Andrew (Son of W/O ERIC BATTY retired)
From: Kenneth J. Usher, Edmonton, AB Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #022318
An awesome edition, as they all are! The Atlas looks like quite an aircraft!
Great memories of Bardufoss. I was there with Wayne Harker in '72. It was my first deployment as a Private with a MAMS Team from Edmonton. I saw the underside of thousands of vehicles during that run. Best time was with the UKMAMS, and learning some of the foolish games played while swilling beers! I still have a scar on my forehead. One of the patches I still have is the C47 patch for the role the dispatchers played in Operation Market Garden.. I also have a an orange florescent sticker from H-MAMS and I can't recall what RAF Base they were from but I think it was Brize.
Tony, keep up the great work!
From: David Taylor, York Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #022318
From: Vern 'Mike' Lefebvre, Burton, NB Subject: Re: UKMAMS OBA OBB #022318
The experience described by Wayne Harker was also one of my fond memories - watching Americans offloading without the use of ground loading ramps.
My favorite trip was in '68 I think, but I have been to Bardufoss many times. I remember the search for a German helmet without a hole and discarded many before being successful. We went and amused ourselves while off-shift in the German WWII bunkers overlooking the Airport. We sat at the anti-aircraft guns like kids with a new toy. We found a culvert one day and crawled into it to find a ladder going down in the rock, we went down to a submarine door kind of, we opened it and we were in an illuminated tunnel that we followed for a while before emerging into a hangar. All three of us with cameras around our necks. Murray Jacklin was our clerk at the time if I recall.
We went for a bus tour and saw the fish ladders, locals in their traditional dress complete with sleds and reindeers. We drove through snow tunnels.
I finaly flew into Bardufoss during daylight hours on my seventh visit and realized the perils it involves!
I have been to Andoya, Bodo, Sola and Stavanger all in support of CF 5 flights from Canada. All good memories.
Thank you for the good memories you allow us to resurface.
Vern 'Mike' Lefebvre
RAF Brize Norton Twins with German Air Force Base
RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire has officially been twinned with Wunstorf Air Force Base near Hannover in Germany. Both bases operate the Airbus A400M ATLAS and the partnership is designed to give opportunities for increased collaboration in defence and mutual operation of the aircraft
No. LXX Squadron RAF was stood up in 2014 as the first front-line flying squadron for the A400M.
RAF Brize Norton's Station Commander Group Captain Tim Jones accompanied members of the Squadron to Wunstorf Airforce Base to officially twin the two stations.
Forces Radio BFBS
Wing Commander Ed Horne, Officer Commanding No. LXX Squadron told Forces Radio BFBS, “This is an opportunity for both organisations to work much more closely together specifically on A400M Atlas in the first instance. However, there are many similarities between Wunstorf and RAF Brize Norton in terms of air mobility, air transport and parachuting, and we believe that we have a lot to learn from each other.”
From: Arthur Taylor, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs Subject: Twinning of RAF Brize Norton and GAF Wunstorf
Surfing the Web, I see that Brize Norton has twinned with GAF Wunstorf., both operating the A400M - what happy memories that article brought back for me!
Re the last newsletter and the article "Submarines in the Middle of Norway" by Tony Last. A similar thing happened to me in Norway, where you would expect better. Flying from Trondheim to Kristiansund (KSU in airline parlance), a route I often flew, I was surprised to be directed to a Boeing 737 instead of the usual Fokker F27, so I asked the girl at the gate - who was busy talking to her mate instead of checking boarding passes as she collected them. She glanced at my pass, cleary marked KSU, took it, and directed me to the 737. Still unsure, I deliberately asked the stewardess when boarding if this was the flight to Kristiansund. She said yes, and showed me to my seat. Shortly after take-off came an announcement for a Mr Taylor to make himself known to the crew. Turned out I was en route to Kristiansand (KSN), via Bergen. The crew refused to admit to their error, blaming me, but they did hold the Kristiansund flight from Bergen for ten minutes, to await our arrival, which was as good an admission as you could get!
The main gate at RAF Wunstorf
In 1955/6/7 whilst I was an AQM with 30 Sqdn RAF Dishforth operating Valetta sircraft, we had a weekly schedule to RAF Wunstorf via RAF Lyneham, night stopping at Cliffe Pypard, the following morning collecting the Aeromedical team then off to RAF Wunstorf, nightstop. Inbound, we staged RAF Wildenrath then onto RAF Lyneham and return to RAF Dishforth.
Years later in 1977, when on Air Movements, I was posted to RAF Gutersloh, firstly in Pax, then into Load Control. In 1978/9, together with a Cpl Ian Liddle.
We were detached to GAF Wunstorf on continuity posts in Load Control whilst runway and pavement repairs were carried out at Gutersloh. We were accommodated together with the Detachmen Commander, Flt Lt Nicol (later to become OC UKMAMS), WO Catering Roy Moxom and a Cpl Policeman in Army Married quarters in the town of Nienburg, commuting daily to Wunstorf, quite a journey. Did get snowed in a couple of times, the Politzi closed all the roads.
Weekly shifts came up from RAF Gutersloh and we were accommodated in barrack blocks at GAF Wunstorf. Catering was in a combined mess, which used to be the Sgts Mess when it used to be RAF Wunstorf. Officers and SNCOS had a separate dining rooms. My wife Kath was one of the waitresses, and Ian Liddle's wife Carol ran the NAAFI shop facilities in the Air Terminal.
One of my tasks was arranging accommodation for the resident Hercules crew, and I had quite a rapport with the local hotels in the nearby town of Neustadt, occasionally though, I had to use the Intercontinental Hotel in Hannover which the crews loved.
I did the German Contacter Course at Rheindalen, but upon arrival at Wunstorf, the Germans I had contact with all wanted to improve their English, so most of our conversations were in English.
Fortunately, when we recovered to RAF Gutersloh we were accommodated in a brand new Air Terminal, no more going onto the roof to seal the leaks after the rains, and to top it all, the SAMO extended my tour by 6 months.
From: Russ Carter, North Lanark Subject: In search of...
I was at Myke Woods' funeral on Monday along with another 4 ex-Movers who were on Myke's operators course, No 49, which ran from 5th January to 16th March 1984. It was decided that we would like to try and get the course back together again after 34 years. We know that several of our number have since passed, Myke, Clyde Skilling and Jason Holmes.
We are trying to track down several others whom we seem to have lost all contact with and was wondering if any of the below named have ever been members of the OBA and if there were any contact details or forwarding addresses held for the lads?
Bob Seabridge Tony Hooper Tim Maidens Keith Niblett Steve Ramsbotham Ian Dickinson Dave Spencer
Any assistance you could provide would be very much appreciated.
[Unfortunately, none of the above are in the OBA database - but I'm sure that readers will know of some of them - click on the flags next to Russ' name to send an e-mail - or right click on the flags to copy his e-mail address.]
C-130J: One Aircraft, Many Missions
There is no aircraft in aviation history — either developed or under development — that can match the flexibility, versatility and relevance of the C-130J Super Hercules. In continuous production longer than any other military aircraft, the C-130 has earned a reputation as a workhorse ready for any mission, anywhere, anytime.
LockheedMartinVideo - originally released in 2016
Blue Angels Getting C-130J from Royal Air Force
Eight months after the most deadly crash for the USMC in nearly a decade and half, the Navy and Marine Corps' fleet of KC-130T tanker-transport aircraft remain grounded. As a result the Blue Angels have been without their beloved 'Fat Albert' airlift support plane, leaving a gaping hole in the team's on-demand logistical needs and a favorite part of their air show act. Now it seems the Pentagon has sourced a replacement—from the Royal Air Force.
The federal government's contracting site FBO.gov posted a single-source contract announcement on March 23rd, 2018 for an urgent replacement transport aircraft for the Navy's Flight Demonstration Team. The aircraft being procured from the UK MOD has the requisite amount of life and technical capability to support the Blue Angels mission. Procurement of a comparable replacement C-130J from any source other than the UK MOD would create an unacceptable increase in program cost and delay in fielding this critical capability.
The move is an interesting one on multiple levels. First off, NAVAIR decided it could not spare a single aircraft from its own KC-130J inventory, of which it has roughly 53 in service, nor could the USAF spare a C-130 airframe apparently either. On the other hand, apparently the Royal Air Force has C-130Js to spare, which stands in stark contrast to what was widely viewed as an airlift deficit over the last decade and a half, although clearly the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan helped with this issue considerably.
The RAF intends to operate their 14 C-130J-30 airframes that feature stretched fuselages through 2035, but their short-fuselage C-130J models, known as C-130J C5s, have been placed in storage.
The acquisition of this aircraft will change Fat Albert's routine dramatically. The possible transition to the J model has long been talked about, especially after the team used up its last JATO bottles which offered a spectacular opening to Fat Albert's act. The C-130J would allow a near similar departure without the use of strap-on pyrotechnics and would also provide more dramatic maneuvers throughout Fat Albert's routine.
The Blue Angels will likely be thrilled with this upgrade, and the fact that the aircraft will come from RAF stocks will make it all that much more interesting of a performer on the air show circuit.
From: Fred Hebb, Gold River, NS Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
My memories of boot camp takes me back to 1961, Course No. 6113. I actually had it pretty easy during my ten week stay in RCAF Station "St. John's, Quebec". Yes, when I was sent there my travel documents did not say St. Jean!
We travelled there by train to Montreal then transferred to St. Jean where a bus picked us up at the RR station. And so it began.
The first person I met on the train ended up being a Mover, a fellow by the the name of Jack Gentles. When I was at recruiting in Halifax I wrote some tests and they asked me what I would like to do in the RCAF, I didn't really know so I told him I liked to travel and have a good time. Little did I know until I retired he had written it on my application form.
Basic training wasn't that hard as I already knew how to shine shoes, press clothes, clean washrooms and make a bed. Having been a sea cadet previously, I knew how to march but foot drill was a little different as I had learned the way the Navy drill. I will never forget FS Jones standing up on the little stage screaming out orders as we all did the best we knew. Then there were those pesky Discips who wandered around trying to straighten us out to suit their needs. One of those Discips I remember was Cpl. Court who seemed to take a dislike for me and at every opportunity seemed to have time to let me know.
Some of us were lucky on 6113 as we got selected to be on the Honour Guard for President John F. Kennedy's only official visit to Canada on 16 May 1961. Fifteen of us were relieved of all basic training and concentrated on preparing for our trip to Ottawa. No more daily room inspections, no gas chamber drills, no running around the woods playing war games, just drill; lots of rifle drill with Lee Enfield .303s with fixed bayonets. I rather enjoyed that.
After returning back from Ottawa to Basic training they really didn't know what to do with us but eventually decided to let us graduate with 6113. That was great. When I was told I was going to be a Trans Tech if liked, my response was, "What is that trade, a truck driver?" The Cpl told me me no but he would show me some pictures to give me an idea what it was.
Apparently there had been no Trans Techs recruited in a number of years and I was the first one. He showed me four pictures in a ViewMaster, remember those? One picture was a guy checking in passengers, another was a guy serving coffee on what I think was a North Star aircraft, and two more of guys loading C119s up north. He then added, "There you know as much about the trade as I do, but I do know they travel a lot and have a good time."
I thought funny, that's what I told the guy in Halifax that's what I liked to do and I responded, "I'll take it!"
Nearing the end of the course we were gathered in a large room, maybe the theatre, not sure but this was when we found out where we were being stationed. I waited patiently for my named to be called, finally, after 104 were called I heard my name, 1 AMU RCAF Station Namao, any questions? I shot my hand up and I asked "Where is RCAF Stn. Namao?" The big ex-Royal Marine Cpl. Barton responded "7 miles from Jasper Ave., out 97th Street, Edmonton, Alberta. You will love it." He was right, I really liked it out there after a long trip by train. It ended up there were quite a few Movers from my basic training who remustered after they got to their bases, Jack Gentles, Pete Murphy, Bob Blake and Del Coutreau; I'm sure I must have missed some.
So, Basic wasn't so hard after all and the trade they selected for me was bang on!
From: David Stevens, Bangor Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
RAF Jurby, Isle of Man - jokingly referred to by the trainee cadets as "The Camp on Blood Island".
This was October 1961. I was living with my parents at RAF Waddington. I had to take a train from Lincoln to Liverpool, then to Douglas by boat, bus from Douglas to Ramsey and then finally arrived at Jurby.
Many will remember the Nissan huts with their (poisonous fumes) coke stoves positioned centrally in each hut. Jurby was an Officer Cadet Training Unit (OCTU). With a degree, diploma or other such professional qualification you were automatically a student officer. I was signed on as Officer Cadet. OK, we all wore a SD hat with the white band but the Student Officers had the full crown whilst us Officer Cadets wore the metal airmen’s badge.
On arrival I recall the first document that they thrust in front of us was one of alligence to the crown etc., etc. Jurby turned out to be a damp and thoroughly miserable experience. When the directing staff at Flt Lt level were not teaching service writing skills then some hairy old Warrant Officer was yelling drill orders at us on a soaking wet drill square.
Probably the one thing that sticks in my mind was the pleasure I got with spit and polish on my boot caps; mine were quite something! The other thing I remember well is being told off by some grossly overweight Flt Lt for being too competitive on the football pitch. Well, that didn't work because fiercely competitive "I" remained but I did learn to retune as and when necessary. I seem to remember that it was the Mayor of Douglas who was the passing out parade officer.
It was without doubt the MOST uninteresting 3 months of my short life, I was19 at the time and I went from there to Kirton-in-Lindsey for my Supply training.
RAF Recruit Training 1962 - 1965
From: Fred Martin, Godalming, Surrey Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
I joined on 6th March 1961 and went to RAF Bridgnorth for the "square bashing". The first few days were fairly pleasant as we were kitted out, had lectures and generally got used to the place. Five days later, this was about to change big style!
On the Saturday morning hundreds of us were paraded, split into flights and introduced to the new Drill Instructors for our flight; Cpls Duff and Nimmock, who had the reputation of being the toughest of the lot (and that was the opinion, not of recruits, but of other DI's I spoke to later).
Our recruit training was unrelenting, the screamng and shouting our flight was subjected t, was far in excess of any we witnessed by any other training flights at the camp. However we just accepted that's how it was, and not one recruit applied to buy himself out (it cost £20 in those days).
We easily won the station drill cup for our intake,and the whole flight took our esteemed Cpl's out for a meal in a local pub the night before our passing out parade. It was the only time the DI's showed any sense of friendliness or even humanity towards us. I remember Nimmock saying to a group of us, "You might think this has been tough, but there will come a time in your service career when you wish you were back here."
My immediate thought was, "You must be joking mate!" Just a few months later when I was crawling around in the bellyhold of a Britannia at Khormaksar with the outside temperature at 130ºF, his words rang true!
We all have memories of favourite utterances by our DI's. Mine is this: We were lined up and ordered "From the right number!" Recruit one "ONE" recruit two "TWO" recruit three SILENCE. After three attempts at this, Nimmock marched up to the silent recruit who happened to be a big lad called Whittle, looked at him and said reasonably calmly, "Whittle, why aren't you calling out your number?"
Whittle replied, " I haven't been given one yet Corporal."
Nimmock appeared to be very angry and yelled, "Whittle, go to the station gardening store, draw out a spade, dig an 'ole and bury yourself!" Whittle was last seen marching off and I can't remember if we ever saw him again.
Our intake passed out on 12th May 1961. Commencing the following day and with the fresh intake, Cpl Nimmock was subject to RAF disciplinary action for ill treating recruits and was found guilty by Court Martial. He was reduced to the ranks and received a custodial sentence. Details of this can be found here: Sam Nimmock Court Martial.
Thanks Tony, as ever, keep up your good work in everything you do in running this site!
All the best
From: Vern ‘Mike’ Lefebvre, Burton, NB Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
St Jean, Quebec, 1965 - I have suffered harassment for 27 years of service for spending my basic there. First at school of English for 5 months or so while I could have gone directly to Basic course. We spent half hours on the parade square (I had 3 hours drill period while with the Cadets for two summer camps before joining the regular force).
We were allowed our own club where we went for a 10¢ beer. Drinking age was 21 in Quebec but I was only 17! We lined up for pay parade for less than $50. We also lined up for needle parade out of a gun... yes, an air gun! Once I was in Borden, Ontario, on my Trans Tech course, we spent useless hours on typewriters trying to pass the examination; I was unable to type. Used rope to tie down load on simulation C119 floor (at this time this aircraft was retired).
A posting to 2 AMU Trenton was the best thing that ever happened in my life. MAMS did not exist back then, but in a few years there were 3 teams and we were everywhere in the world, from Biafra via a long overnight in Recife Brazíl for 18 days, Norway, Germany, and Thule Greenland for about six Easters in a row on Operation BoxTop - Alert’s resupply.
Great memories and great camaraderie!
Vern 'Mike' Lefebvre
From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury Subject: Subject Square Bashing
September 1954 - after having had a medical etc., a letter arrived telling me to report to the RAF recruiting office here in Shrewsbury to pick up my travel docs and catch the train to Cardington. I made my way across the road to the railway station and up on the platform found John Garland, an old school pal, waiting for the train to go on the same adventure as me.
We eventually arrived at Cardington along with a lot of other lads where we were kitted out with our uniforms etc. We were eventually put on a train to RAF Bridgnorth where on arrival we were all bundled into trucks by balling D.I.s and taken to our home for the next eight weeks. After about two weeks we had all settled into the daily routine of drill, weapons training, PT, and instructional classes.
Two incidents I remember well, both on the parade ground. The first was coming to attention when we were made to put our ceramic mugs between our feet so that when called to attention we had to raise our leg high enough to clear the mug, the main result being a parade ground littered with smashed mugs!
The second one was when we were marching in what I think is called line abreast; three straight lines which we perfected so well that the Flt Sgt who was instructing us was so pleased he called the Sqdn Commander to come and witness us doing it. Of course we made a complete mess of it much to the F/Sgt's anger. Anyway, he got his own back later when marching us to the airmans' mess; when we arrived he shouted, "About turn!" and marched us away. He did this a number of times until he must have got fed up. We were getting very angry with lots of muttering in the ranks.
As Shrewsbury was only twenty miles away, John and I would sneak out of camp on a Sunday to go home for the day on what was known as the 'Fishermans Bus' dropping blokes off at various places eventually arriving in Shrewsbury. We would usually take a couple of lads with us; Tommy Feeley, who I had palled up with, usually came with me.
After about six weeks we were informed of our posting and I, along with six others were told Middle East Air Force (MEAF) and we went on embarkation leave immediately, so that meant missing the passing out parade. On the day though, John's dad and I made our way to Bridgnorth to see it. I think I would have liked to be with the lads, they looked great!
Years later, a few weeks after I was demobbed, there was a knock at the door and on opening it there was Tommy, resplendent in his uniform and now an instructor at Bridgnorth. That night I took him back to camp on the back of my motorbike. On arrival we entered his billet and one of the sprogs shouted, "NCO PRESENT!" and they all jumped to attention.
September - Novemeber 1954 - "B" Squadron, 18 Flight, Billet 118. Rear row: John Garland 2nd from left, John Holloway 2nd from right, Middle row: Tom Feeley far right. The two good looking chaps at the right are Tommy Feeley and myself; we met again at the first NSRAF parade at RAF Cosford in 2004 and have kept in touch since then. Sadly John Garland went to his final posting last year.
Happy Days - John
From: Alexander Angus, Leeds Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
50th Entry Boy Entrants, RAF Hereford (Credenhill) September 1963 - April 1965. I presume many of my memories of Credenhill will be familiar to our editor and quite a few others. Along with 50+ new boys, we were billitted in old wooden Nissen huts (172 to175) with the ablution block behind them. More antiquated than quaint, especially in the cold and rain. Our heating scource being coke burning stoves that we got glowing red hot at lights out. Entryism was rife (bullying by another name), but part of our education, some of the D.I.s did little to discourage it.
The outward bound sort of exercises we enjoyed, to a degree. On one occasion we became fog bound, and with no way to spot any landmarks, we did the only sensible thing, and made our way into Crickhowell, and the Black Swan (aka the Mucky Duck), then made contact with base to tell them where we were. 'Twasn't the only time that particular establishment figured in our escapades!
Although the old wooden huts were less than plush, they had the advantage of being close to the old mess, and not too far from the old NAAFI, (which is where many of us were when we heard the news of J.F.K.s assassination). Things altered when we moved to the newly built Cruikshank Block, the mess moved to the School of Catering, we were suddenly as far from the mess as could be. Fine if it wasn't persisting it down.
A few of us carried out a night raid on a local orchard one time, thanks to the plywood bottom of our issue holdalls no shotgun pellets did any harm as we scarpered. Something at the back of my mind, tells me that some of us moved the Gate Guard Spitfire onto the parade square, kind of a fuzzy memory, so, if it rings a bell with any fellow miscreants out there, let me know, via Tony if needs be.
Later in the course, we had a flight in a Comet 4 from Lyneham up to Turnhouse, Edinburgh, just enough time to deplane, stretch our legs and get back on. As we accelerated down the runway there was a sudden bang, and we aborted takeoff, taxied back to the apron, disembarked again, got sent to lunch, then returned as the remnants of a seagull were being cleared from one of the engines.
From: Budgie Baigent, Takaka, Tasman Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
Boot camp RNZAF - 50 years ago last month! Who would have thought - 16 years old & trained to kill!
• Weapons in a rack at the end of the dorm • Learning for the first time what a palliase was • Bedpacks and Brasso every morning • PT in baggy starched PT shorts to the knee and canvas 'Bata bullets' runners • Compulsory scrubbing by broom in the cold shower for those who avoided ablutions • Stoking the coal boilers with aerosol cans and lying in bed waiting for explosions and fire trucks • Travelling to trade training course by steam train and ferry • Bone crushing adventures in the back of RL Bedford trucks • First familiaristion flight in a Devon • Finding places to drink your precious flagons of contraband where DNCO's & O/O's might not have considered before - the back of the drying room worked for a while but the crowded air vents did little to prevent the profuse sweating! • Having your parents visit you on leave because you are 'confined to camp ' (something to do with alcohol) • The dance of the flaming a-hole • The understanding by the few 'good guys' amongst the Service Instructors who had seen it all before!
It was pretty tough by today's standards but loved every minute of it. Common sense and camaraderie prevailed and formed inseparable bonds that still thrive today.
You do an amazing job running this website Tony, many thanks for keeping us all together in brotherhood.
Cheers for now,
From: Gerry Pengelly, St Neots, Cambs Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
Having joined the RAF on a Short Service Commission engagement in 1954, I was required to undergo recruit training like all new entrants before moving on to a specialist course followed by OCTU.
I did my eight weeks at RAF Hednesford, a large Station in the Midlands with over 1,000 airmen in various stages of training. On arrival, I quickly got an inkling of what to expect when I was sent for two haircuts in three days. The camp barber’s shop was more like a factory assembly line.
There was a long line of chairs and you were first attended to by a so-called barber with clippers who removed most of the hair from the neck and the side of the head. He then moved on and a second Sweeny Todd look-a-like attacked the top of the head with scissors that could easily have been mistaken for a pair of garden shears.
Twenty two of us were housed in an old wooden hut, the floor of which sloped away at one end due to subsidence. Hednesford was built over the workings of a disused coal mine, and as a result the station parade ground was an uphill march.
The hut also had a small room occupied by our drill instructor, Corporal Tyrrell. The best way to describe him is to say that his parents were definitely not married.
It was wintertime and the only heating in the hut was a small pot-bellied stove. The allocation of coke was hopelessly inadequate, and so we had to make regular after-dark raids on the camp coal compound to acquire additional supplies to keep it going. Fortunately we were never caught. I also recall that I used to get up at 0500 each day to wash and shave and then return to bed until reveille; to leave it any later meant there was no hot water.
The twenty two in the hut were a mixed bunch. The nineteen year old in the next bed to me had never cleaned a pair of shoes in his life and had no idea how to. He used to pay others to bull his boots and blanco his webbing while he sat on his bed and entertained us by playing the mouth organ which he had been taught by Larry Adler. There was also a Scotsman, built like Ben Nevis, who played football for Glasgow Rangers as an old fashioned stopper centre half. We never saw much of him as he was regularly away playing for some RAF representative side or other. Lucky chap! I recall there was also someone in the corner bed who could have snored for England. Every morning the other twenty one of us used to collect our mess tins from around his bed having hurled them at him during the night.
Despite Corporal Tyrrell and all the other trials and tribulations we had to endure we were generally a cheerful bunch who developed a good team spirit. Towards the end of the course we won the Squadron Drill Competition, and Corporal Tyrrell was so pleased to get one over on his fellow DI's that he mellowed for a whole day.
It is now 64 years since I was at Hednesford and time has dimmed my recollections. However, I still have one abiding memory, and that is of the passionate desire I developed while I was there which was to come across Corporal Tyrrell again after I had been commissioned. Regrettably, that never happened!
From: Don Lloyd, Calgary, AB Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
My basic training course was in St. Jean, Quebec. I was on course # 6125 which started on the 18th of June 1961 and ran approx. 12 weeks from then. The good things about boot camp I remember were being picked to supervise at the roller skating rink, and getting the next morning off. The snack bar was a good place to hang out. Being able to sleep-in most week-ends.
Having been in Air Cadets for several years prior to joining up, I found it a lot easier to get my kit up to snuff and shoes polished. And the final great thing was grad day when we marched past our sister course at their training area, giving them a “perfect” eyes left., they ran over to the face by the road and cheered and applauded us. And let’s not forget our first week-end pass!
The only bad things I remember were marching around the “double four” drill hangar until everyone got it perfect. And of course “Fire Picket”, where you got to roam around the barracks inside, each hour, from about 9pm until 6am. Getting the day off.
Oh, I will never forget my third day there. We will say it was a Wednesday. On the Tuesday we had learned about vehicle stickers top centre of car windshields and told that if it was red you salute the car as it passes. Also being told that on Thursday we would learn all about flags. So, as we are walking along on Wednesday and this car approaches, we stare at the top centre of the windshield and are relieved that no red sticker is there, so no salute.
It had just passed when we are screamed at, "HALT!" A staff member wants to know why we didn’t salute the vehicle as it passed. We explained it had no red sticker, to which he replied (YELLED) “Didn’t you see the flag on the fender? Oops! We explained that the flag lesson was tomorrow. He would check that out, and we heard nothing more of it.
The remainder of basic was great, I had no problems at all.
From: Chris Kirby, 73700 Bourg St Maurice Subject: Memories of Bootcamp/RAF Swinderby
A few random flashes of memory from 1977:
Being persuaded by The Sarge at Bradford careers info office to be a Mover, rather than my original choice of trade (next to no info about Movs in the recruitment literature in those days, & I didn't appreciate what the job was & how good it was going to turn out to be). Now, The Sarge may just have been needing to fill a quota for Movers that month. But even if so, I have a lot to thank him for !
Listening to Black Betty by Ram Jam, with some other recruits, on the train to Newark to start basic training at Swinderby (what a weirdly random recollection to stick in my mind!).
Being chuffed to discover that the dorms/corridors in my barrack block, being pretty new, were carpeted (no buffing floors with a 'bumper'). However, that carpet was like military grade velcro - took a lot of hoovering.
First RAF pint in the Newcomers - NAAFI - Club. First pint of many, of course, and it all went downhill from there. I'm sure I've got a photo of that occasion, but have not been able to unearth it yet (told you my memory is pretty random these days).
Getting used to the very odd terminology & phrases. Eg. during PT in the gym: 'with a jump ... feet together .... place !'. A typically military way of calling you to attention from the 'stand at ease' position.
In order to preserve my painstakingly constructed bed pack, sleeping on floor next to my bed the night before a block inspection. Which, no doubt, brings back memories for generations of recruits.
When ironing my Number 1 uniform trousers before the pass out parade, leaving the iron on the crease along the calf a smidgin too long & causing a small triangular scorch mark. And, remarkably, not getting picked up on it.
Being wowed by the breathtakingly awesome flypast of powerful Chipmunk prop trainers over the pass out parade.
Heading for Brize Norton to start my Movs trade training. After which, my life was never quite the same again. But that's a whole other story.
From: David Taylor, York Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
Here is an excerpt from my autobio Tony, "A Suitcase Full of Dreams" the very beginings of my joining up.
I awoke to the clamour of movement, people standing, preparing to disembark. We had arrived. Wolverhampton. Almost the end of the beginning of my new life, to paraphrase Winston Churchill. Just the branch line to negotiate now. Albrighton, Shifnal, Cosford Halt, and that would be it.
As I wasn’t in farming, or any other “reserved occupation”, nor poised to enter university (what, me, a lad from the sticks, in 1952?), Her Majesty would shortly have made demands upon my person. This would have been in letter form. But, rather than an invite to a Royal Garden Party, it would have requested my presence for two years in the service of my country. National Service, it was called. Nor would there have been any chance of escape on medical grounds, for I had already been passed A1: fit to serve.
So here was I, not yet of an age at which I could hold a driving licence, unable to vote for my Parliamentary representation, yet about to join the fighting forces. I had decided not to let conscription claim me for the Army, so to pre-empt the call-up I had volunteered instead to serve twelve years in the Air Force - on completion of Boy Entrant training.
OK, twelve years as opposed to two. Surely a much better option than the lottery of serving those two years in some branch of the Army? Had to be, didn’t it? After all, I’d be around my beloved aircraft, and I would have a trade at my fingertips. And, should I be successful in my eighteen months training, there was another advantage to be gained: I would pass out as a senior aircraftsman, effectively bypassing the first three rungs of the promotional ladder. That was the way my thinking went, though my arrival at RAF Cosford left me to conclude that perhaps I had slightly misjudged the situation.
Upon reporting in I had requested the use of a toilet, somehow became detached from the rest of my group. On enquiry I’d been told to remove myself to some other location, an Induction Centre, or some such. ‘You’ll find it over there,’ said a bored looking airman, waving a hand vaguely in the general direction of the rest of the world.
OK. Nothing for it but to show some initiative. I headed off towards the area indicated, in a general sort of way. Well, let’s face it, it had been a general sort of indication.
I set off along what I hoped was the right road; no doubt would have been had I chosen to travel in the opposite direction. A couple more roads - backtracking as it were - brought me to an open area. Which is when I saw them, away in the distance, a group of civilians. Could only be the rest of my intake, I decided, setting off in their direction like a bowling ball towards the pins. Which was about the time I discovered that open area to be “the hated parade ground” - that large expanse of tarmac which forms the central point of almost all military establishments, especially training camps - and to be regarded as sacred. To walk across the hallowed surface, using it as a shortcut, is a definite no-no.
It seemed I had barely set off when I was suddenly overcome by the feeling that there was somewhere else I would rather be. Anywhere but where I was, halfway to my destination, via the shortest route.
Too late. Didn’t require a master’s degree in sociology to spot that. My secondary education served well enough.
‘You, lad! Come here!’ About six thousand decibels!
That was something I did remember hearing about parade grounds, they were reputed to be places where loud voices shouted orders and hurled abuse about. No abuse as yet, but the voice - even if not six thousand, was definitely on up there at the top end of the decibel scale - was issuing an order. And although I knew the command to be directed at myself, I imagined at least fifty other lads within hearing range automatically looking round, wondering what in hell it was they’d done wrong this time.
Considering this could be the end of the world as I knew it, I thought I coped quite well. I ran smartly to where he stood, coming to attention before him. ‘Yes, sir?’ Oops! That was something else I remembered, albeit again far too late: never address a senior NCO as sir. That, to them, is as good as an insult. Seems they felt it degraded them, for many considered themselves to be better than officers, especially the drill instructors. This was one of the unwritten rules of service life, of which there appeared to be many. The written rules - in which few but the Service Police and lawyers seemed to have an interest - were contained in a rather unnerving tome known as Queen’s Regulations, abbreviated to QR’s. Which at present was of academic interest only. The sole exception to the rule I had just transgressed was the Warrant Officer, who was definitely a “sir.”
‘Not sir! Sergeant! You’ll address me as such. What am I?’
I could have told him. ‘A Sergeant, Sergeant.’ So am I, I felt like adding. Would have, had not the thought occurred that there are times when it pays to be frank and times when it doesn’t, even if I was a Sergeant in the ATC. In fact, just as well I hadn’t turned up in uniform, for, as a yet to be initiated civilian I was let off with a stern warning. Maybe the fact we were both named Taylor had a bearing, though I seriously doubted it. A tolerant and understanding admin sergeant, then? I doubted that, also
The drill instructors may have thought themselves better than officers, but they were nowhere near as intelligent, it seems. There are many stories going the rounds, but one of my favourites concerned the drill sergeant who was instructing a group of trainees on the parade ground at an Officer Training School. Most officer trainees would be in their late teens or early twenties, and would likely possess a university education. Despite this, they too faced the rigours of the parade ground, and the wrath of the drill NCOs, and they too were verbally abused, although they were usually addressed as Mr.
So, when one errant young man was prodded in the chest with the sergeant’s pace stick, and advisedly told, “There is a piece of sh.. on the end of this stick, Mr Peters. Do you understand?” The young man, very quick on the uptake, replied. “Yes, Sergeant. Which end, Sergeant?”
Remember it like yesterday. Brought up in an army town and with two years National Service still on the go, it was either Navy or Air Force for three years to avoid the two in khaki. Before I was 18, I was off to RAF Bridgnorth. As I had been an Air Force cadet up to the age of 16, I only had to complete 6 of the 8 weeks training.
Got off to a bad start, the army boots started to kill my feet, so I went into gym shoes for as long as I dared. Then I had carbon monoxide poisoning from the billet coke stoves. A week in sick quarters.
I had watched soldiers so often I already knew the rifle drill, so that was ok. As for fitness, I failed to climb all the way to the top of the gym rope, but the one mile in six minutes I just scraped home with six seconds to spare.
On the range I was a good shot (marksman), although I was near deaf for two days (no ear defenders back then). I messed up on a pre-drill test being too fast doing present arms and so the drill sergeant was told to lose me. I ended being a spare billet orderly, cleaning, polishing and stuff. The said NCO remarked I wouldn't become a pilot but I would make a lovely wife for someone one day!
I missed the passing-out parade and was on my way to RAF Hereford for trade training, being only thirty miles from where I lived.
Taff Price, F Team, Abingdon
p.s. One lad was totaly useless, but his father was a director of Weston's Biscuits and sent him a large tin every week, of course we looked after him very well!
From: Thomas Iredale, 69120 Heidelberg Subject: Memories of Bootcamp
Signed up Jan 1962 – Engagement: 9 + 3 • Received rail warrant to report to RAF Bridgnorth 15 Jan 1962 • Arrived, drew kit, sent civvies home • Received a number: 4269466 and a rank: AC plonk! • Allocated Hut 126 • Senior Man was an ex-Guards Geordie, named Bill • Appointed Deputy Senior Man; wear a white armband • Marching to Mess, clutching eating irons and mug • It was winter & cold all the time (repeat after each item) • All huddled round the coke stove, sing-songs, chat, jokes, laughter, bog rumours, help, advice, occasional fallings-out, no fights (that I recall) • Songs included: ♪ Foggy Dew; Leaving Khartoum; Green Grow the Rushes Ho♫ • No hot water or heating in ablutions (outside) – meant you were quick • Bed packs and kit inspections; bouncing a penny on the stretched blanket! • Our Corporal - Cpl Murgatroyd - was relatively “normal” – had room at end of hut. Went home at weekends; his fire had to be burning when he got back on Sunday night.
Bulling the floor, bulling boots, blancoing belts, polishing brass, ironing, writing letters, joy at receiving letters • Drill, drill and more drill • Slashing the peak of SD hats to look cool was the rage; I was too scared to do this • Collars and collar studs; woollen gloves; sexy shreddies and striped pyjamas • Being tall (and good-looking) detailed for Guard of Honour, more drill, more rifle drill; no idea now what the G o H was for! • Rifle range – firing the Lee Enfield .303 with my beret tucked into right shoulder to minimise recoil thud. Managed to hit target, but no marksman; would have been nice to have had that badge! • The five-mile run, all in step, smallest in the lead; prelude to the dreaded ten-mile run, same thing. All survived • On those days sick parade was at 05.00 hrs. • Hungry all the time; all NAAFI breaks welcome as well as fag breaks, Senior Service or Players. Looked down on Woodbine smokers! • First weekend leave; had to wear uniform to travel • Sorties into town, looking for a date… never had any luck • Pay parades, rich as kings – well, for a day or two, anyway! • Passing out parade in March 1962, last time I wore boots! • Bit of leave and then on to Kirton in Lindsey for Supp A training and the relaxed world of the real Air Force.
No regrets, but no repeat!
Tom - (see photos on following page)
The ubiquitous brass button stick
Recruit Bridgnorth '62
Guard of Honour - yours truly 2nd from right
Partial contents - Hut #126
From: Michael Craner, Yeovil, Somerset Subject: My introduction to the RAF
In 1950 I was happy driving a Muir Hill dumper at the Rover works at Solihull Birmingham. My world was due to change, I became 18, the King wrote to me asking if I would help with his Armed Forces and would I help for two years? I was asked to go to Worcester for a medical, and to decide which service I would like to help, I was informed that there was a place in the RAF and I would be informed when to attend.
In August 1950 the King wrote again asking me to travel to RAF Padgate, included in his letter was a railway warrant to Warrington via Crewe. So, off I went with my little case arriving at Warrington I joined a group of bewildered young men. We were accosted by some very rude NCOs who told us to move our arses and get aboard some waiting lorries.
Arriving at our new home we noticed some very smart armed guards on duty, we concluded that they must have been members of the RAF for a long time, little did we know that in six weeks time we would be guarding the camp and its valuable contents.
The notice was in an envelope similar to this one
We were issued with a mug and irons and taken to the mess for a bloody awful meal of fish and chips and lashings of bread, margarine and jam. After this repast we were taken to a wooden hut containing iron beds with three biscuit-thin blankets and a straw filled pillow, we were fortunate to have an elderly Flight Sergeant to look after us while we were kitted out.
We were told that we would receive some pay and received the sum of ten shillings, this vast sum was very quickly spent on brasso and boot polish. Next day to the barbers, and to be issued with uniforms, drawers cellular, boots, a complete set of webbing, mess tins, all the necessary kit to make the complete Airman, oh, I almost forgot the bayonet frog!
There followed weeks of marching everywhere, and polishing every thing that did not move, and saluting every thing that did, but we made it and finished up as the smartest group ever to March out of Padgate.
Finally we were called before an officer who would decide what trades we would have, I had a nice new driving licence so no problem I would be able to drive the C.O in his nice shiny Humber... not so, the officer asked if I new any thing about catering, I had been taught how to make bread by the baker in my village, so I told the officer yes, I can make bread. Error! I was a COOK.
I completed my National service as a cook at RAF Waterbeach. Left and rejoined and completed 22 years half as a Loadmaster on Hastings and Hercules.
Had a good time and met some great people, some now departed and some by phone and Email.
Operation Cold Harvest II - by SAC Phil Robins
At 1200 hrs on Friday May 22nd, 1981, when most of the occupants of RAF Lyneham were thinking of the slothful Bank Holiday weekend, D Shift of UKMAMS were already on their way in a convoy of four Land Rovers to Elstead Training Area, on the Surrey Commons where, for the juration of their stand down, they would be in combat against 1305 Squadron of the Chippenham Air Training Corps (ATC).
The weekend (organised by Sgt's Kevin Timms, Chris Cahill and Goswell) started badly for D Shift (code named Red Force) when halfway down the motorway one of their Rovers suffered a blowout entailing a minor diversion to RAF Odiham to renew the tyre. However, on their arrival at their base camp, the men were still in good spirits although the tracks at Elstead were muddy after the torrential rain the past few days.
Red Force quickly set up camp, consisting of three 12' x 12' tents and a very well-constructed mess tent. Under the capable hands of Flt.Sgt Bas Chappell the men ate tea and commenced their guarding. A few hours later, the 1304 ATC (Green Force - Chippenham SAS by repute) arrived at their base camp.
Sid Brocklehurst, Al McKenna, Ian Ralph, Paul Fussey, Boots Everatt, Stevie Hard and Duncan Andrews - D Shift UKMAMS Base
With their commander, Kevin Timms who had whipped them into disciplined group, they settled into the far less comfortable surroundings of individual ponchos with the permanent use of Hexamione blocks for cooking. The washing of their utensils was carried out with leaves and other less domestic materials. The camp was almost undetectable until one was nearly on top of it, but with the experience these lads had over Red Force this was to be expected (they exercise once every two months).
So, with the peaceful scene of both forces settling into their surroundings, the stage was set for the war to start at 0400 hrs the next morning.
The task of defending the bases was made even more difficult during the day by the umpires who constantly injected various problems for each force, not made any easier for the umpires because the hand radio sets refused to operate properly. So, the chief umpire (Rev. Paul Hill) had to spend most of the weekend preparing hand-written signals for the forces which the other umpires injected at the appropriate time so that each force simultaneously received similar signals.
We realised that this was not getting through to Red Force when we prepared an "air-drop" for them. The signal read that they should be at the drop zone at a certain time and that they should send up a flare to tell the circling "Hercules" that the air strip was secure and it was safe to drop.
The "Hercules" was a Land Rover with flashing lights with SAC's Mick Forington as "Pilot" and yours truly as the "Loadie" throwing out empty boxes to awaiting troops. The boxes were thrown to the wrong men as Red Force didn't turn up - inevitably Green Force ran away with the umpire's marks.
The trend of Red Force ignoring the signals continued throughout the day with other incidents including a crashed Land Rover with secret equipment vital to the enemy, the defence of an important bridge and another "crashed Land Rover" incident from which an injured VIP had to be recovered.
For me the high spot of the weekend was the night airdrop in which both sides attended and both acted very well. With the improved atmospherics of the night air we managed to make radio contact and with co-ordination with the Green Force operator, the drop was a complete success, with Red Force trying to get hold of the supplies.
Eventually the weekend came to an end on the Sunday lunchtime when Red Force had to return to the real world to start their shift the following day. However, the weekend did not end at that stage because the umpires and the ATC carried on fighting until the Monday lunchtime when tired, dirty and wet (it had rained all morning) we returned home to dry clothes and a warm, well-sprung bed.
On reflection the weekend was great fun and I think all who had attended had an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I would like to thank all the men on both forces for not causing too much hassle and not making our job any more difficult than it already was and all I can add is let's look forward to the next one!
From: Michael Craner, Yeovil, Somerset Subject: Loss of Hercules XV 194
I would like to relate my experiences with Flt Lt Ian Gibbs who was the Captain of XV194 which crashed on landing in Norway.
I flew with Ian on a number of occasions and could not complain as to his ability as a Captain and Leader.
Most notable was an exercise in November 1968 on Herc XV 213 Lyneham, Waddington, Macrihanish, Leaving Macrihanish in the dark, on lift off we had a large birdstrike, we lost both starboard engines, Ian called a Mayday and we were directed into Prestwick, a safe landing was made on the two port engines (later, at Macrihanish, more than 200 dead birds were found on the runway). We spent the night in the rather posh Marine Parade Hotel in Troon. We were eight in number, we sat in the bar and I asked the steward for eight pints of beer, he said “Sorry sir we don’t serve pints, will I bring sixteen halves?” It was a very good night!
In April 1969 I flew with Ian again on XV213 to Gibraltar and Lajes to pick up a u/s Phantom engine, There was a Safety certificate signed by a RR engineer that the engine was fit for air freight and that all liquids had been drained, on lift off a large quantity of Avtur was discharged from the engine, so again a Mayday call was made with a safe landing back at Lajes.
In my opinion the name “Crasher Gibbs “ is very unfair.
Pincher Martin I had heard about, but did not know him, but I know that any member with heart problems is grounded, I doubt if Pincher is still selling insurance, I have it on good authority that he has passed away.
Part Five - RAF Changi, Singapore - Jan 1946 - Apr 1947
MY TIME IN THE R.A.F., 1943-1947 An Air Mover's Story in Eight Parts Norman Victor Quinnell, 1925-2008
It was probably the 22nd of January that we arrived. Once on the quay we were all directed to a nearby information office which phoned the relevant Army or RAF station for transport. One of our group was going to the HQ Air Command Far East, the rest of us supposedly to Changi. Goodness knows where the army Sergeants were going. Our gharry arrived quickly but took us only a short distance, maybe 2 or 3 miles, to RAF Kallang, which had been Singapore’s pre-war civil airport and consequently of moderate size and hemmed in by housing to the North and the adjacent river and quays for fishing boats and small vessels to the South.. It was quite smart, with a modern (1930’s) control tower and terminal buildings, and a few hangars, but clearly couldn’t be enlarged. It now mostly dealt with the ubiquitous Dakotas, small aircraft, and perhaps the odd fighter plane.
RAF Kallang terminal building
At the HQ building we were given general information and instructions, allotted accommodation, and changed our rupees into Straits Settlements dollars and cents. Our billet was to the NW side of the airfield, and in a somewhat isolated bungalow. It consisted of a living room with a table and chairs, a bathroom with lavatory, two large bedrooms and a tiny one, probably a store place. By moving stuff around we were soon comfortably installed two to each bedroom which contained lockers, and blankets, sheets etc. for the beds that were equipped with mosquito nets. Meals necessitated a 300 yard walk to the Sergeants Mess, joining the permanent staff.
Although none of the staff had been in Singapore more than 5 months they could produce their impressions of life on the Island, and for all troops it was apparently pretty good, provided you did not “go above your station” with the British civilians. There were a small number of ex-pats trying to pick up the remnants of pre-war businesses and a lot of British civil service administrators, for Singapore was still part of the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements (of Malaya). In true Colonial fashion it was deemed an appalling intrusion to initiate any conversation with civilians, and beyond bounds to speak to a British woman, unless she was in the Forces. I’m sure there were rules that disallowed the wearing of civilian clothes, had we bought any, so, with others, we were kept in our proper box!
RAF Kallang Sergeant's Mess on the left
Poverty afflicted a large proportion of the population, coupled with food shortages. All rice was reserved for them and was never part of our diet. Our bread came from a central army bakery, but the provenance of the flour was open to question. The loaves were sliced in the relevant Messes, but they always contained hordes of baked weevils. I suppose if they were sieved out more flour would be required, and it never improved, but having no taste for weevils I always picked them out with care to the amusement of others who simply ate them. During the whole time in Singapore there was only one temporary shortage, when Indian troops ran out of supplies, but otherwise meat (probably from Australia and New Zealand ), poultry and vegetables were in good supply. Fish must have been fairly plentiful, but I don’t remember it being served.
It was at the Mess we found that we’d be moved to Changi in a few days.
About 10 yards from our quarters was another single storey brick structure of two small rooms and an outhouse, occupied by a Chinese woman. She seemed older than us so was perhaps in her late twenties, and must have had some proper employment on the base to get the accommodation, although hers had no electricity. It may be she was in charge of some of the daily menials working on the camp, I’ve simply forgotten. One would get a nod and a slight smile but she had virtually no English, and it was a couple of days into our stay that word was received that, upon occasions, with the gift of two tins of cigarettes, she would bestow other favours. Apparently British cigarettes were almost unobtainable in the city and fetched high prices on a flourishing black market. To my knowledge the offer was never tested and after four days, on the 27th January the long journey was completed with an 8 mile ride to Changi, where my three companions went off to different duties.
There was no trouble adapting to the climate which seemed far more comfortable than that of India. During the day the temperature was a little under 30 degrees C, falling to 20 at night. Normally it rained only once a day, heavily for 20 minutes or so, even in the monsoon periods of December to March and June to September, when it was torrential instead of heavy, flooding the deep monsoon ditches beside the roads. Once over, blue sky returned. Being close to the equator night came immediately after 6pm and dawn at 6am.
Changi was a remarkable place, or area, in the extreme North East corner of the Island, where the name was applied to a village and its beach, to the notorious prison, and to the airfield.
The village, which was barely a half mile from the perimeter of the airfield, consisted of no more than twenty houses strung along a narrow but good tarmac road which, beyond the village turned abruptly to run between palm groves and a long sandy beach. The houses were single storied, mostly of three or four small rooms, quite often on stilts, and of plank construction with thatched roofs. The use of stilts may have been twofold; they created a barrier to unwanted creatures, especially snakes, and the space beneath the house could be used for storage, keeping a dog, or even chickens if suitably caged. There were no possibilities of flooding to necessitate stilts.
Each house was near the road but had its own plantation of coconut or banana trees and it was the ownership of these that had provided the primary income for most of the families, many of whom also cultivated a small plot of vegetables. Now some of the men had found work locally and one or two had ventured into running tiny shops, in one instance including the sale of ice cream, using a small generator since there was no mains electricity.
All the inhabitants were indigenous Malays (unlike the city, which seemed to be 75% Chinese, 10% Indian, and 15% Malays ). They were friendly and peaceful, “laid back” and unambitious - traits that had encouraged Chinese immigrants to take a near monopoly of businesses, from rickshaws and street vendors to legal firms and manufacturers. And, of course, the more doubtful and illegal activities.
The beach was over a mile long, but was no more than 30 yards to the waters edge, and waves usually 1ft high. The beach was backed in part by a stone wall, then a narrow coastal road, and behind that the palm plantations. Off the beach an anti shark net had been erected to enclose a swimming area, though I don’t recall anyone sighting a shark. The only well known problem concerned a type of crab with a short barbed tail. The creature habitually burrowed beneath the sand at the waters edge, with its tail raised against any aggressor. Treading upon one caused an unpleasant wound which needed sterilising at the sick bay, once you’d limped there! The beach was a marvellous place for relaxing; at one spot there was a crude wooden jetty, and some Officers had a handful of sailing dinghies anchored off shore. Oddly, it was not greatly used, except by a dozen of us, the occasional village child, and a lemonade seller. Of course, we mostly used it during afternoons when off shift duty and others were working normal hours. I never saw any WAAFs, but there were other beaches (and some mangrove swamps) much further round near the end of the runway and if those were used a lot by Officers they would flock there I suppose.
The air photos of 1946 show the village and coastal area under far more trees than appear in the photo of 1950 by which time there had been considerable development in the whole area. It seems almost incredible that today it is a sort of recreational theme park, with jetties for boats running day trips to Sumatra. (From the beach one could see the island of Pulau Ubin, less than a mile off in the Johore Strait, which we thought to be almost uninhabited but may now be part of the leisure complex.)
Changi Gaol was fairly close but well out of sight of all the Air Force buildings, and may have been screened by a band of scrubby jungle, of which there were still good sized patches on the island. By way of retribution, several hundred Japanese prisoners of war were now held there, but under Geneva Convention rules. A few of high rank were awaiting trial as war criminals, while many of low rank were marched out under guard each day as working parties on various tasks decided by the military. Naturally, they were not popular, especially with the Island’s Chinese population who had suffered greatly under the Japanese occupation, considering them as an extension of the war against China. The Malays had bent with the wind, but many Indians co-operated. They were well informed about the Indian National Army that had been created by Chandra Bose from his base in Burma, with the intention of freeing India from British rule, and fully supported it.
Changi Airfield occupied a large area with a NE/SW runway approximately a mile long, constructed for the Japanese by Allied prisoners, mostly British and Australian who were, apart from such very long working days as these, incarcerated in the Gaol. The runways had been cut by clearing bush, jungle and any mangrove swamp so that the Northeast end reached almost to the sea shore. The cleared stretch was around a mile long and quite wide, maybe 150 yards, and half way along, at a right angle was another strip of at least double the width and a half mile long, presumably intended as a cross runway and for dispersal, hangars etc. It had been a massive undertaking by pick and shovel, and the normal Japanese brutality had resulted in scores of British and Australian deaths, the bodies being buried in a rough cemetery on the southern side of the runway.
When hostilities ceased the airfield had not progressed beyond merely unsurfaced earth strips, unusable by aircraft. To remedy this thousands of tons of pierced steel plating was imported and laid as temporary surfacing. PSP, as it was known, consisted of sheets of steel, about 8ft long and 2ft wide with interlocking tags supplemented by rods so that it could be extended in any direction. Holes of 4in diameter punched through the sheet made it a little lighter and allowed drainage. Provided it was laid on a level surface it formed a really strong, if rather noisy runway. A Construction Squadron (Royal Engineers?) were allotted the task, and Japanese POW’s did the work, albeit without the fatalities, I suppose. In operation before I arrived, it was still in use when I left Changi, although by then a concrete replacement was being considered, and doubtless all the wooden buildings on the airfield would be rebuilt in concrete at the same time.
Upon arrival one had to present oneself at the HQ building and, as it were, sign on. There was the usual rigmarole of supplying identification, medication, pay details etc., and in return you were told about accommodation, how the station was run, transport, and the various facilities. There was a special order with which one was expected to comply. As an anti-malarial measure one had to take Mepacrin tablets daily, available in the Mess and easily swallowed. That dealt with, one gathered the kit up, found the station post office to collect the first mail since leaving the UK, then off to the Sergeants Mess for a midday meal and read the letters. That done it was only two or three hundred yards to seek our billets.
Towards the Northern angle where the runways crossed, four two storied barrack blocks were set in a sort of crescent, approached by a short concrete road and paths, with hedged grass plots at their fronts, which now faced the dispersal strip. At their backs there was a continuous concrete path which separated the main blocks from a series of single storied one or two room buildings with cooking and toilet facilities which had evidently been built for servants.
Each had a short covered area to give a dry walkway to each of the three back entrances to the block. Before the war they had been the barracks of an Army base. The Sergeants Mess was very close. HQ buildings were barely a quarter mile away, and further, towards the beach road, were a half dozen large accommodation blocks and then the former married quarters, now occupied by WAAFs. All must have been used by the Japanese, but not despoiled before the surrender, and freshly painted, the blocks represented the finest accommodation I had encountered. Directed to an almost empty block, we settled in with a handful of Air Movements staff already in residence.
Block with badminton net at end
Servants quarters with awnings connecting to our block
Just inside each back entrance, which had stairs to the first floor, there was one large room containing washbasins and toilets. And beside the entrance, facing the back pathway and the “servants” lodgings, another little room of uncertain purpose but possibly for washing up. It was simply equipped with a tap and sink, and since it also had a bed it was this I appropriated as my personal single room accommodation. On the floor above me were two four bedded rooms with concrete floors and a group of showers. These bedrooms had at least one wall socket for appliances. Windows did not have glazing but louvred shutters, a single or double pairs according to room size.
All beds were the standard locally made charpoy (“charp”), a frame and four legs made from 3 or 4 inch squared teak pinned together with teak dowels. Onto the frame a net of coarse rope was bound to make a base for the mattress squares and bedding, which, with a mosquito net, were brought to us by young Malays from the stores. The mosquito net was suspended from posts at the foot and head of the bed. Mosquitoes were as big a nuisance as in India but here each room had at least one gecko who, with suction pad feet, roamed the walls and ceilings searching for mosquitoes.
Bed space with mosquito net above head board, Mar '47
A gecko would remain absolutely still for ages, then dart with great speed. Occasionally it would lose its grip on the ceiling and fall to the floor with a bang, but always on its feet, and then it could disturb sleep. Otherwise it was almost a personal pet.
As a matter of course each person had a large locker with shelves and hanging space, and chairs of fold-up wood slats type were obtainable from stores. Somewhere, maybe for the WAAF’s or Officer’s quarters, there were more comfortable conventional chairs, and within a short while a few appeared in our premises, though I didn’t get one. Naturally, how they got there no one knew. My room had no wall socket, but was otherwise fine; I thought a table would make it more luxurious, but such things were not on issue. Ingenuity was called for. I had spied several teak planks abandoned in some bushes. These could form a top if I could find a frame. At night I brought a bed from an uninhabited block, stripped off its rope base, and with tools borrowed from a Chinese odd job man living in nearby servants quarters, sawed the bed frame in half. The two parts of the frame were turned downwards to become the legs, and the shorter former pairs of bed legs were now pointed towards each other as a base to which the boards were nailed. It resulted in a good strong table, and with a blanket as a cloth its origins were completely concealed. My off duty leisure time was simple and segregated.
Throughout all our buildings no doors were lockable, so personal valuables needed to be kept in the lockers. I do not recall any deliberate pilfering by the numerous Chinese and some Indians who wandered around performing casual tasks for relatively little money, and even a chai wallah. A middle aged Indian called Elmer Khan came round daily to do shoe cleaning. A Chinese woman with an 8 or 9 year old daughter turned up every other day offering sewing and mending. Both squatted on the concrete path, the girl being given what I assumed to be the easier tasks, such as sewing on buttons. Another character collected rubbish in a small wheeled container, and he may have been paid to do so. None of them seemed to have an official pass but there must have been some agreement with the authorities.
The only item of value that I lost came about through my own stupidity. A silver wrist watch, given to me as a 10th birthday present, had always been in use until I bought a larger cheap one from a Singapore stall. For some reason the silver watch was wrapped and put into a lidded cigarette tin which, with a number of others, got spirited away in my absence during the process of rubbish collection.
Shoe-polisher Elmer Khan
To be continued...
Goodness knows where these people lived; perhaps in some of the small “servants quarters” nearby. I think that the two or three young Chinese who lived opposite my room worked in the kitchens at the Sergeants Mess, and the smallest boy, who looked about seven but was probably twelve, naturally went by the name of “Chota”, (little). He would happily bring me a mug of tea from his room in the evening, if asked. A request avoided if the obsessional mahjong was in process! As played at Changi mahjong was also a serious betting game among the Chinese, and their shouts plus the banging of the tiles made it a very noisy pastime.
While most bulk supplies of food for the Forces were imported from the UK and Australia there were locals who provided smaller items and non-essentials, and for whom there appeared to be open access. Traders perceived the various Messes to be possible sales outlets and in some instances they were correct. The WAAFs must have had their own places since we never saw any WAAF Sergeant in our Mess.
Only once did I have a long conversation with one of the traders, when I assisted a woman carrying a lot of boxes to our Mess, and these, it transpired, contained freshly made potato crisps. She was about 18 to 20 and named Boey Loke Kwan. Calling her Miss Kwan, I was reproved in fairly good English and informed that it should be Miss Boey, since the family name came first for the Chinese. That noted, I found out that she had initiated the home production of crisps and after some experimentation had marketable ones which she sold on a number of military establishments.
Her family assisted in peeling, cutting and cooking the potatoes and it was all done at home, probably in one of the poorer back streets. Using some form of public transport which would accept her boxes, she did the deliveries because she was the only one who spoke some English. She went on at length explaining her ambition to go to England and be educated at a university, and thought I might know who she could contact to further her hopes, a matter of which I professed utter ignorance. I very much doubt if it ever happened but she might well have deserved it.
There were numerous traders and other employees one never saw who came in on a daily basis. One lot who were constantly visible were the very wizened, and presumably elderly women who weeded the sandy earth beside the runway. Around a dozen were at this continuous task, each armed with a hoe, but they were true coolies. All were dressed in black “pyjama suits”, with wide straw hats that almost concealed their faces; most had sandals but a few were barefoot and clearly impoverished. They must have been brought in from the city each day, and I now wonder who organised and paid these pitifully poor groups of labour. Probably Chinese sub-contractors. One saw them and thought nothing more about it.
There were sports facilities for those interested, primarily football and cricket, and I suppose tennis and other games were organised for the WAAFs. But the occupants of our billets appeared to be contented with playing rounders on the grass back “gardens”.
Katie and Al Hart MBE at Buckingham Palace on presentation day
From: Jarvo Jarvis, Palmoli, Abruzzo Subject: Swift Tattoo
Here's my latest acquisition - I'm now the proud owner of a Swift!
Thanks for your help.
Ben Johnson with Wg Cdr John "JD" Lambert
From: Kevin Stanger, Calgary, AB Subject: RAF 100 CENTENNIAL YYC
Neil Jones, Maidenhead, Berks
Standing in the centre section of XV196;
Now a static walk-through in the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.
"I’ve clocked a few hours asleep in her in the air... "
From: Steve Jolley, Wakefield Subject: Chance Meeting
I was attending a Health and Safety Course at Wakefield Skills Centre and before the class started I was sat in the break area having a swift coffee with mates when I spotted Steve Cross chatting to one of my colleagues! Obviously, we had a bit of a chat. It turns out that he is the Training Centre Manager and has been there for about 8 months!
Last time I saw Steve we were both working for a transport company in Thorne, near Doncaster, back in 1998. So, 20 years have gone by in a flash, but it's good to know that you can just pick up where you left off, as if it was only yesterday.
All the best
Steve Cross and Steve "Spider" Jolley - it's been 20 years!
Allan Walker, living up to his family name... A day walk at the end of a Duke of Edinburgh's Award course where he was a part of the staff.
The lucky lady in the picture is the CO of 1969 Squadron Air Training Corps.
Doris and Derek Barron Celebrate their 35th Anniversary!
35 years ago - John Cockayne was the best man
2007 in Cyprus where, in between kebabs and mezzis, we renewed our wedding vows
More Relevant Stuff
This issue is Dedicated to the Memories of: Donald Fell (RAF) Doug Boyd (RCAF) Terry O'Neil (RAAF) John "Cookie" Cooke (RAAF) Hazell, daughter of Derek Barron (RAF) Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire (RAF)