RAAF Receives 10th and Final C-27J Spartan Transport Aircraft
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has received its 10th and final Leonardo C-27J Spartan twin-turboprop, tactical transport aircraft.

Minister for Defence Marise Payne and Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne announced on 18 April that the final C-27J had been “welcomed into service” in a ceremony held at RAAF Base Richmond, adding that the move marks the upgrade completion of the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) fleet of air-mobility platforms.  “The Spartan provides flexibility to Defence operations, allowing us to land at airfields that are smaller or unsuitable for our much larger transport aircraft like the C-130J Hercules and C-17A Globemaster,” said Payne.

In service with the RAAF’s No 35 Squadron, the C-27Js are intended to provide a battlefield airlift capability for the ADF as well as to supplement the existing Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of helicopters in the airlift role.  Initial operating capability for the platform was announced in late 2016, with final operating capability scheduled to be declared in late 2019.  Payne also announced that the C-27Js, which are currently operated from RAAF Base Richmond, are set to relocate to RAAF Base Amberley in early 2019.  “The relocation to Amberley will allow No 35 Squadron to work from facilities purpose-built for the Spartan, and to be more responsive when deploying across Australia and into the Asia Pacific,” said Payne.

In November 2017 the Australian Department of Defence (DoD) announced that it had awarded an AUD200 million (USD155.5 million) contract to Northrop Grumman that covers through-life support (TLS) services for the RAAF’s C-27J fleet.

Jane's 360
A RAAF C-27J Spartan lands on the grass airstrip at RAAF Base Richmond at the completion of a mission demonstration during a ceremony to announce completed delivery of No. 35 Squadron's fleet of ten C-27J Spartans. Announced as Air Force's new battlefield airlifter in May 2012, the first aircraft arrived in Australia in June 2015, with the tenth aircraft arriving in early April 2018.

Royal Australian Air Force
Members of No. 2 Commando Regiment watch a RAAF C-27J Spartan taxi on a grass airstrip at RAAF Base Richmond, during a ceremony to announce completed delivery of the fleet of ten Spartans. In Defence service, the Spartan will provide a flexible and versatile airlifter into frontline airfields that are unsuitable for larger transport aircraft.

Royal Australian Air Force
A marshaller guides a RAAF C-27J Spartan into parking position on a grass airstrip at RAAF Base Richmond. The Spartan fleet will relocate to purpose-built faciilities at RAAF Base Amberley by early 2019.

Royal Australian Air Force
Air Force personnel, Family members of No. 35 Squadron, and industry guests watch as a C-27J Spartan parks at a ceremony to announce the completed delivery of the Spartan fleet. In the past 12 months, the Spartans have supported elections in Papua New Guinea, as well as participated in exercises in New Zealand, Guam, and New Caledonia.

Royal Australian Air Force
Deputy Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Gavin Turnbull, addresses the crowd at RAAF Base Richmond during a ceremony to announce completed delivery of the Spartan fleet. In Air Force service, the Spartan will provide a wider range of options for how the Australian Army (and other Government agencies) can be supported in austere environments.

Royal Australian Air Force
A static display of C-27J Spartans during a ceremony to announce the completed delivery of the Spartan fleet. The aircraft can be configured for a variety of missions including airdrop, aeromedical evacuation, and carrying vehicles and personnel to austere airfields.

Royal Australian Air Force
The Air Ministry supplied my one-way airline ticket for a flight to Australia. It was bought from BOAC who had a tie-up arrangement with Qantas who had no handling facilities along the route until we reached Perth. Though drinks were served on the flight, all meals were served on the ground. BOAC had 'Speedbird' houses at each refuelling stop where one could have a wash and brush up, followed by a slap-up meal washed down with free beer. There was none of the inevitable hassle that one experiences at today's international airports. Today, flights give top speed but don't give pleasure. In days long gone by there was no queuing and no security problems -  hence flying was so much more enjoyable.

RAF charge sheets were listed on Form 252, so it was easy to remember that number was also the price of BOAC's one-way ticket. Compare the value of £252 in 1956 with today's prices - it is calculated at a staggering £5978. If the math is wrong - blame the Internet.
From: Sam Mold, Brighton & Hove
Subject: Times gone by

Hi Tony,

Last month's newspapers published an account of an Australian Qantas 'Dreamliner' (Boeing 787) flying non-stop from Oz to UK (Perth to London) in 17 hours. Wow! Of course, I could not let that go by without comparing this to my own 1956 four-day scheduled flight to Sydney, courtesy of a Qantas Airlines L-1049 Super Constellation. The image on the following page  shows a similar flight route to the one I took in 1956. The two main differences were at the start and end of the journey. The first stop on this long flight to Oz was at Rome (not Tripoli), and the other deviation was after an overnight stay in Singapore, we landed in Indonesia (Jarkata) before continuing to Perth where the Oz Immigration Office was situated and my passport was stamped to confirm my arrival. Some 15 months later I flew out of RAAF Edinburgh Field (near Adelaide) to return home on an original RAF Comet C2. As the RAAF base did not have an Ozzie  Immigration Office, means my passport confirms I have never left Australia. Can I now claim citizenship?
Turning back to my 1956 posting to Australia, it was the first time I had to apply for a passport, and since then, I have obtained five more.

Originally, it was arranged that the flight to Oz was to be by a civilian chartered York a/c that would have flown out via refuelling stops at military air bases along the route. Provided such bases were used, RAF and charted flights could fly all the way to Iwakuni in Japan (thence to Korea by Sunderland flying boats operating out of RAF Seletar in Singapore) - all without the need for a passport.

In 1956, a posting came through to join an RAF Air Task Group (ATG) that had been formed at RAF Weston Zoyland (in Somerset) to support the atomic bomb trials to be held at Maralinga in the South Australian desert.

The designated name for these tests was Operation 'Buffalo'.

Civilian York aircraft were chartered to transport the ATG personnel to Australia, but when a 'Scottish Airlines' York crashed on take-off from RAF Luqa in Malta, they were all grounded until the cause of the crash could be established. That's when panic set in.

Met officers had already planned the time when it would be safe to conduct these atomic tests to ensure that any nuclear fall out would not occur over populated areas such as Alice Springs, Perth and Adelaide, so it was essential to stick to the plans already prepared.
Talk about government top priorities. No obstructions were allowed to hinder the government's desire to become a member of the Nuclear Club alongside the USA and the Soviet Union  One morning the Task Group were lined up to list their personnel details to add to passport photos once taken. A motorcycle dispatch rider rushed them to London, and I still find it hard to believe that we all possessed a passport later that day. That's what 'pulling all the stops out' means. With no military air transport or charter flights available, the Air Ministry had no alternative than to quickly arrange for ATG personnel to be flown out by civilian airlines. The first ATG batch flew the westwards route to Australia with Pan American Airlines flying Boeing Stratocruisers. I was with the second batch taking the eastern Empire route aboard a Qantas L-1049 Super Constellation that landed me in Sydney on 9th May 1956. Transferring to a Trans Australian Airlines Vickers Viscount flying to Adelaide, I reached my destination.

My apologies for the ramblings of a cantankerous old codger that started out as a 'then' and 'now' comparison of flights, but along the line I got carried away - so please make allowances for my addled brain. The moral to this comment is: never reach your 88th year, for Mother Nature has a massive armoury containing every ailment known to mankind, and she doesn't discriminate when it comes to doling them out. However, one good thing in her favour; she normally lets you enjoy wild oats before making serious health attacks. At least, after a debauched lifestyle, I'm still sticking by my mantra: I will survive!

And Tony, the road to survival is what your OBA members wish you to travel down so that you can keep up the grand work you do on behalf of your members. I'm sure every one of us truly appreciates the efforts you put into keeping colleagues in touch, along with the news and information you publish in your very successful newsletter.

Long may your endeavours continue.

With my very best wishes, ex-AMDU/MAMS member,


From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury
Subject: Checking up

Alex Masson

We have not seen anything from Alex for a year now, so fearing the worst I phoned his number this afternoon.  His wife answered and when she shouted for him to come to the phone I was greatly relieved.

We had a conversation for quite a few minutes and he told me that last May he had suffered a stroke and amongst other problems caused by it that he was unable to use his keyboard. He is on medication of course and hopes to get back to something normal soon.

He does enjoy reading the monthly Briefs that you send out and looks forward to contacting you in the future; perhaps you could e-mail him some time?

Cheers for now


From: Tony Gale, Gatineau, QC
To Alex Masson
Subject: I just heard...

Hi Alex,

I just received an e-mail from John Holloway who told me that he had spoken to you and that you are on sick parade.  I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from you in a while, but since the mail-merge e-mails that I had been sending to you were not being returned as undeliverable, I thought that perhaps you were just slowing down a wee bit.

I understand that it’s a long and frustrating path to recovery that you’re on and my thoughts are with you on that score dear friend.

I have a question – and perhaps Legs can answer yes or no, but would you have any objections to my publishing John’s e-mail which will possibly result in you receiving get-well-soon messages?  I know when I had been in hospital in the past and I received messages of encouragement from quite a few people, it cheered me up no end!

With very warm wishes to you,


From: Heather Masson, Chelmsford, Essex
Subject: Re: I just heard...

Hi Tony,

Legs is typing this on Alex's behalf!

Thank you for your very welcome letter of understanding.   Following my stroke I went downhill over Christmas and as a result I had total body pain and had to call the doctor out.  He immediately put me in touch with a specialist and it was discovered that I had Pollymyalgia and as a result the Consultant put me on Steroids; which worked.  Whilst having the blood tests they discovered that I had excessive Calcium and Para Protein in my blood.  The Pollymyalgia is now under control thank goodness.  Of course this sent alarm bells ringing because the Calcium could be an indicator of Cancer somewhere in the body.   Then followed of course, further tests to be done.  I had the Bone Marrow Biopsy and a CT Scan which has now shown that the BM is Okay! but the CT showed a nodule behind the Thyroid. 

Yes, it has been worrying times but I've had one good bit of news last week and that is that The Bone Marrow Biopsy has come back clear! I am now waiting for an appointment with an Endocrinologist for him to investigate the Thyroid.   One of my friends in the medical profession has assured me that it need not necessarily be something to worry about.  It could be dealt with by Radio Therapy or surgery, we shall have to wait and see. I will update you at a later date.

I am more than happy for you to disclose to others of my health etc.

Kind regards,

Legs and Alex

[If you want to send an e-mail to Alex to wish him a speedy recovery, just left-click on the flags next to Heather's name above, or right-click to copy the e-mail address to your clipboard.]
From: Arthur Taylor, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs 
Subject: A Suitcase Full of Memories

Hello  Tony,

Reading David Taylor's excepts from "A Suitcase Full of Dreams"  triggered my thoughts about a real suitcase I have which is full of memories. In fact, I still have and use the overnight case I had when I was an AQM in the 50s and 60s. Nowadays, with me being 87, it spends time with me in the hospital, and all the nurses want it (I am talking about the suitcase ha-ha!). I look back and  just reminiscence of the long and varied career I had in the RAF.

A couple of months ago one of my nieces, the daughter of my twin brother, had one of her daughters getting married and she wanted photos of her granddad during his service career. My brother and I joined the RAF together in 1948, but only once served together in 1952-3 at RAF Kasfareet in Egypt. He only did 5 years and wished he had been like me and made it a career.  However, I have a host of photos from us as children and in the RAF, and these were wanted as part of a collection for a board at the reception. God, how many memories they brought back!
A trio of photos here:

Yours truly with HRH Princess Anne on a visit to RAF Stafford. 

When Roy and I joined the RAF in '48. I am on the right and being the eldest I got the overcoat; those were the post-war years, but still again many happy memories.

With Mum in 1943 when she was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1943.  The medal is housed on a wall in the Cheshire Regimental Museum at Chester Castle. They were doing a wall there about "British Women Workers at War". I had the medal framed along with both the citation and the invitation letter to go to Buckingham Palace for the presentation by King George VI. My elder sister went there with Mum. Just another part of the suitcase mate!

Take care and regards to all,

On 14 June 1968, a royal review was conducted at RAF Abingdon by Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, to mark the 50th anniversary of the RAF.  The above artwork by Norman Hoad depicts a small section of the review with every operational aircraft type of RAF Air Support Command being represented.

From centre top, travelling anti-clockwise, the aircraft types are: Armstrong Whitworth Argosy, Bristol Britannia, DeHavilland Comet, Blackburn Beverley, Lockheed C-130 Hercules, Vickers VC-10, Short Belfast and Hawker Siddley Andover.
10 Years, and I don’t regret one day of it
The trials and tribulations of the late WO Dave Eggleton
To be quite honest it was slightly more than one day that I never had cause to regret; in truth, it was possibly nearer to a whole week.  I was posted in October 1966 to RAF Abingdon (or more accurately a particularly small hut located in a deprived area of the airfield). 

The building had originally been the home of the “balloon outfit” whose job it was to release highly coloured helium inflated plastic objects into the atmosphere at the outbreak of war, explaining the origins of the familiar expression “the balloon’s gone up.” This curious and somewhat unconventional tactic was designed to convey to a torrential enemy an impression of total indifference. We were, it seems, supposed to appear to be unconcerned by the threat of aggression that we were in fact celebrating the chance for action and dealing our foes a well-deserved thrashing. 

This psychological wartime gambit was soon taken over by a certain tabloid newspaper, renowned for its hypergolic rhetoric, and whose name was chosen to coincide with the centre of our solar system.  In due course, the balloon unit was closed down, although a body of informed opinion reasons that it might have been better for mankind to have closed the paper down.  The one advantage of all of this was that a building (albeit a small one) became available for the newly-formed UKMAMS.

The officer commanding UKMAMS at the time was Squadron Leader Jacobs. I was granted the expedience of an arrival interview, coffee and a biscuit, mainly because virtually the whole squadron was away on the Zambian Oil Lift, and the “boss” seemed understandably desperate for someone to talk to. 

Being on UKMAMS I was luckily entitled to a few items of extra clothing.  These consisted of two sets of overalls, three extra shirts and a suitcase.  The overalls were, at first, an excellent fit.  This was to cause some concern as I was consequently required to report to the Medical Centre suspected of a latent and hitherto undiscovered deformity.  Before the appointment, on the advice of an old hand, I washed the overalls.  With magnificent predictability they shrunk to a size that made them useless for their intended purpose – totally unwearable.  This seemed to satisfy the medics that all was well with my morphology and I received a clean bill of health.

Naturally, in order to avoid travelling naked (frowned upon by the military in the sixties); I was forced to scrounge items of flying clothing.  These included the original chamois leather flying gloves which were much-loved by the aircrew as a status symbol and equally coveted by ground crew for more practical reasons (especially by those wishing to clean their windows whilst keeping their hands warm).

Once attired with enough clothing to cover most of my bare skin, I was sent on my first task.  Working with Argosy aircraft, we were employed ferrying the Territorial Army to Norway and back.  The Territorials were only allowed out to play provided that we promised to have them back home in time to start their proper jobs on Monday mornings.
The Argosy aircraft were based at RAF Benson just seven miles away; a journey that I was to become well acquainted with. It was at RAF Benson that I was made aware that the courage of our soldiers had limits as yet mercifully undiscovered by our enemies.  During the loading of a Landrover to the back of an Argosy, the driver (of the vehicle that is), froze whilst halfway up what must have appeared to be a prohibitively steep ramp. With a breath-taking disregard for the safety of my only pair of scrounged trousers, I stepped into the breach.  With myself as driver and the driver as a near comatose passenger, we managed to load the vehicle. Visibly relaxing, the driver was so impressed with my performance, that he proposed marriage twice before being heavily sedated for the flight (as was customary in those days).

In April 1967 I was asked to take part in the movement of the first Bloodhounds to Royal Air Force Germany (RAFG).  Being fairly new, I felt that I wasn’t in a very strong position to question the policy that appeared to require the seemingly unnecessary and extravagant use of aircraft to transport olfactory precocious dogs to the Continent.  Career-minded, and wishing to make a good impression, I invested in a 25 kilogram sack of Winalot dog food, believing this to be the key to a good turnaround. Later, faced with the latest addition to our air defences which took the form of a rather nasty looking missile system, I was forced to concede that canine biscuit meal would probably be unlikely to influence the task to any great extent.  The outload task lasted two weeks of continual around the clock operations.

On this task we worked with both the Argosy and Beverley aircraft.  Although their days with the RAF at this stage were numbered, we found them to be most delightful aircraft to work with.

Following this outstanding chapter in my personal history, I was transferred to Echo Team.  The team leader was Flying Officer John Furney who was of the unswervable opinion that Echo Team was indeed the greatest asset that the RAF had ever known. Unfortunately, official and public opinion didn’t fully concur his so modestly held sentiments, and so that the record might be put straight we adopted a policy of blind obedience and mindless optimism.

It wasn’t long before Echo team were tasked abroad, and with our characteristic sense of self-denial (often favoured by elite units); Echo team went uncomplainingly on task to the Paris Air Show in early June 1967.  The task involved the recovery of the UK exhibits, many of which were there as a part of a sales drive.  One of these was the Concorde display that was later to go on a world promotional tour complete with UKMAMS own Flying Officer Glen Morton.  How Glen managed to get elected as the UKMAMS representative is still the subject of bitter speculation.  It became a common suspicion that he used some rather ungentlemanly tactics when it was discovered that he had lied about his height to the selection committee during the interview.  The world tour was supported by a VC10 and a Belfast hailing from RAF Fairford, and Glen’s job was to ensure that the various bits and pieces needed to sell Concorde’s were not damaged or forgotten on the way round.

Echo team’s absence from the UK during the Paris Air Show recovery was unlikely to go unnoticed.  Being at such a high-profile event, the representatives of many nations would have spotted, photographed and reported back to their various governments that Echo team were not at home. 
The protagonists in the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict were quick to realize that any British interventionist intent toward their “bijou conflict” would be severely hampered by Echo team’s unavailability for tasking.  Following what was described to the press as a friendly and constructive meeting, the two sides agreed to wage war on each other.  Advance intelligence following a high-level leak in the MoD had publicized that Echo team would be away in Paris for only six days.  The conflict was conducted accordingly and by the time Echo team was home and prepared for war it was all over.

In late 1967 the Ministry of Defence decided that training should form part of the Mover’s curriculum.  This policy was welcomed by UKMAMS as was Warrant Officer Jack Gibson who was posted in as the Squadron training officer.  Training was definitely in the ascendency as new and complex pieces of equipment were becoming available to UKMAMS as exemplified by the arrival of the Condec transfer loader.  The transfer loaders were bought from the USA by the MoD soon after they failed their acceptance checks with the “Fred Carno School of air movements on a tight budget”.  The vehicles are accepted into service by the Air Transport Development Unit (ATDU) who were later to become renamed to their present title of Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE) mainly because it sounded a lot better phonetically [It is now called Joint Air Delivery Test and Evaluation Unit- JADTAU]. 

The Condec is essentially a motorized, adjustable height platform with a rolling surface.  This enables up to three air cargo pallets to be driven directly to the receiving aircraft and subsequently pushed straight inside.  Flight Lieutenant Ron Yaxley was the main culprit responsible for conducting the trials, ably assisted by Corporal Pete Price who was soon after posted to UKMAMS so that he too would not be denied the joy of working with the wretched vehicle (this policy is reputed to be responsible for the introduction of the well-known phrase, “Corporal punishment” into common usage).  Despite being air-portable, the Condec was delivered from America to the UK by ship into Liverpool Docks.  From there they were road moved to Abingdon on low loaders supplied by Pickfords (A company who were later to achieve notoriety ruining furniture during domestic removals).

The Condec was destined to become to Air Movements what the Biro had become to literature.  Now movements teams wherever they might be were able to prepare an aircraft load in advance and then transfer it directly to an aircraft on its arrival.  Previously the movers would have had to wait the arrival of the aircraft and then build the load directly on it.  Almost immediately the capabilities of the transport fleet were multiplied many fold.  Ironically this overnight evolution became the downfall of the aircrew’s overnight stops as the rapid turnarounds allowed many more tasks to be completed in one day as opposed to the previous two. Gone forever were the days that the crews could complete five hours flying and disappear to the local hotel content in the knowledge that the load wouldn’t be finished for a further five hours making the return flight the same day impossible.  Aircrews were devastated by (and never got over) this sudden loss of opportunity for duty free living and disgustingly large allowances, and were deliberately forced into breaking and declaring unserviceable their aircraft in the more desirable locations around the world.

In response to this unforeseen and inexplicable reduction of aircraft serviceability, the RAF procurement executive introduced the transport fleet to the C130 Hercules.  It was love at first sight.  The Hercules was an extremely capable and robust aircraft and was ideally suited to its intended purpose.  It therefore came as a surprise to the cynics in the forces when the MoD ordered it into service. 
To compensate for its lack of unsuitability, and reassure the same cynics that all was well, the MoD had the entire fleet fitted with an ill-fitting wooden floor.  This modification had the desired effect – the floor points were now inaccessible, turnarounds were lengthened and delays were inevitable.  Obviously a great source of comfort to the aircrew, the delays meant that once again they could languish in the most lavish of hotels around the world on the thinnest of pretexts while the movers struggled with the bastardized airframes.  It therefore came as a severe body blow to the crews and a shock to the general public when common sense once again prevailed in the corridors of power and the wooden floors were abandoned.

By now I had gained considerable experience in Air Movements and the postings personnel were obviously anxious to capitalize on it.  In a brilliant display of lateral thinking I was posted to Bahrain in 1969 as SNCO i/c Port Movements, Jufair.  This was a cruel blow however as Jufair is a seaport, not an airport.  Here the aircraft all turned out to be boats and I was separated from UKMAMS.

My exile was mercifully short lived and in early 1970 I was returned to UKMAMS.  To compensate me for time spent in the uncomfortable heat of Bahrain, shortly after my return I was sent out to the jungles of Malaya.  I was there to take part in Exercise Bersatu Padu, but before being allowed to get stuck in I was obliged to take part in a jungle survival course.  Only then would I be deemed fit to go forward to the exercise airhead. My boss at the time was Flt Lt Murphy, and being an ex-Ghurkha officer he was in his element.

Regrettably my issued jungle equipment was not quite at home in what should have been its element.  With a speed which would have made the suppliers proud, the soles of my boots became divorced from the uppers with no chance of reconciliation. The exercise however was quite an experience for more than just my bare feet and was made all the more memorable on my birthday when the RAF Changi staff to my surprise produced a cake complete with candles.  Following a course of treatment for gastroenteritis and third degree burns I was soon well enough to travel again and returned to Abingdon.

A few days later my team were re-deployed to Turkey where we were to recover a helicopter exercise to the UK.  One memorable chalk included loading of two Wessex helicopters into the back of a Belfast.  The Turks had thoughtfully removed every scrap of vegetation from the camp area, exposing the topsoil to the torrential rain that was to last the entire recovery.  The mud was a minimum of nine inches deep across the entire working area, although in a concession to our comfort the Turkish authorities ensured it was only seven inches deep in the tent.  Loading the helicopters took eight hours in the most appalling conditions.  No one was overly depressed to get back home, although there was one unexpected bonus; the mud bath had done wonders for our skin!

During my absence the squadron had been endeavouring to get a scaling for flying suits as they would be both ideal for the quite considerable amount of flying that we were doing and would also serve as a very acceptable set of overalls for the equally considerable amount of work that we did.  Staff officers involved in the procurement of such items agreed that the current overalls (old duffle coats held in the middle with string and waterproofed with empty fertilizer bags tied round the shoulders and ankles) were not creating quite the impression of military personnel of a world power should.  They agonized over this grave problem for which a solution had already been presented to them. 
Unburdened by common sense or logical thought processes the Procurement Executive had conjured up a stunning little number that looked suspiciously like the old overalls.  This time however there had been modifications to the garment.  The tailors hadn’t been idle and the “all new” MAMS suit was given its debut.  Resplendent with more pockets that the average man has objects to put in them, it also sported enough zips to render it a lightning hazard.

The demise of this new suit came at the open air modelling trials which were scheduled by chance at the same time as a rather severe thunder storm.  The first model was engaged in the middle of his second twirl when, to the applause and obvious enjoyment of the assembled staff officers, he was struck by lightning.  This alone would not have been sufficient reason to convince the staff that the new suit had any real drawbacks.  Its real undoing came from the fact that it had been constructed of the same material invented by scientists back in the 50’s as a possible weapon of destabilisation against the governments of certain belligerent African republics. 

True to its intended purpose, the material was proving very definitely destabilising to the very unfortunate volunteers displaying the garment.  Within minutes the whole cast were emitting strangulated gasps from apoplectic faces and writing on the floor clutching at seriously constricted private parts.  The air staff thought the whole thing a complete success but did concede that possibility of extended turn arounds would be required for aircraft being loaded or unloaded during wet weather.  Although the financiers and air staff didn’t know it yet, and it was to be a while before we got them, momentum was gathering for a UKMAMS scaling for flying suits.

A further sign that we were gradually being recognised for the importance of our role came with the authorisation for MAMS to have hot meals in flight.  This had previously been the exclusive domain of the aircraft operating crew and was as controversial to them as the suggestion that one day women would be trained to do their job.  The rationale behind this decision to feed the movers was based on the fact that on arrival at a foreign airfield the aircrew would often be off of the aircraft and having dinner in their hotel before the aircraft engines were cold.  The MAMS teams however often had long hours of aircraft loading to be completed before seeking similar refreshment.  Over a period of time it was noted that the aircrew were getting exceptionally fat while the movers were by contrast getting painfully thin.  There then came a real risk that the former inadvertently sitting on or leaning against the latter, and inflicting terrible injuries.  The consequences of such a disablement were too great for the air staff to ignore, and another bastion of aircrew dominion was laid to waste.

The recognition that we were flying as much as, and in some cases more than, the aircrew, prompted the order that we should be similarly trained in survival drills.  With Flying Officer Glen Morton I was despatched to the sea survival course at RAF Mountbatten.  The syllabus of this course revolved almost entirely around being dropped into the sea, being handed a dinghy and finally being winched up into a helicopter.  If you survived you had indeed achieved the object of the exercise and were considered trained.

In August 1971 the outgoing OC, Sqn Ldr Slade, handed over command (and a not inconsiderable amount of money) to the incoming OC, Sqn Ldr Morgan.  It should be noted that Sqn Ldr Slade had in fact been in charge of UKMAMS during the first Apollo moon landing, and for the introduction of decimal money to Great Britain.  There is unfortunately absolutely no evidence that he or anyone else on UKMAMS had anything to do with either event.
In January 1972, the Maltese president, a Mr Dom Mintoff, came to the conclusion that the British presence on his island was not altogether a sound idea.  Being a man of exceptionally rude habit and dry sense of humour, he made it plain in a most undiplomatic fashion that we ought to leave.  UKMAMS (no strangers to being thrown out of places) were tasked to oblige this very odd and understandably foreign sentiment.  Four officers and 26 men were deployed to the island to begin the evacuation.  In a rare departure from the women and children first policy so characteristic of our culture, the British families were left to fend for themselves whilst he first military units were evacuated.  In the space of a few weeks the entire Nimrod and Canberra force were airlifted to Sigonella and Akrotiri (Cyprus) respectively.  The civilians were packing and preparing to leave when, on the last morning, with the Royal Marines defending the perimeter of the airhead, “Dom” as he now became to be known, relented and reinstated the tenancy agreement.  It is widely thought by the people involved that it was the sudden realisation that he would lose the NAAFI from the island that finally decided the president that life without the British would be simply unbearable.  This of course is in apparent contradiction of our own suspicion that the NAAFI itself is unbearable.

From Malta it was just a short hop to another outpost of the Empire known as British Honduras, or more diplomatically termed Belize.  This time my team were sent there to set up an airhead for the reception of the Grenadier Guards. The guards were deployed to counter a threat from an unsavoury bunch of Guatemalans who persisted in their claim to Belize as their own.  It was widely thought at the time that they would soon take it upon themselves to invade Belize, thus concluding an argument that had been going on for some considerable time. 

The British use of the guards proved to be a militarily inspired move.  When faced with such an overwhelming smell of Brasso and boot polish the Guatemalans found themselves with little defence and very soon capitulated their ideals.  Later they contented themselves with muted mutterings of discontent and saved face by hurling rude gestures complete with lavatorial noises across the border.

True to type the Guards decided that he best place to live was on the jungle floor in a tent, and bedded down quite happily whilst the Guatemalans slunk off.  Not feeling same desire as the Army to sleep in small canvas constructions, my team accommodated themselves in a local hotel which was probably only marginally more comfortable than the tents.  Descending the stairs of this somewhat basic establishment I happened to step on the proprietor’s Dachshund who understandably slept there in preference to the many rooms available to it.  The dog obviously had communist tendencies and Guatemalan sympathies which emerged when I fell over it during its daily beauty sleep.  Sensing what it took to be an imperial capitalist presence on his now distorted rear leg it promptly turned and sank its teeth into my hitherto undistorted one.  Fearing rabies from such an uncouth beast I was taken to the British Military Hospital.  Here they diagnosed me as an asthmatic with rabid tendencies and administered what proved to be a most unpleasant vaccination.  I was not however to be the only casualty on our team.  Our boss, a Flt Lt Paddy Gallagher, was also stricken when a piece of par-boiled Dachshund that had mysteriously turned up in the salad, got inextricably lodged in his appendix.  He too was rushed to the hospital where his severe stomach pains led him to be diagnosed as an asthmatic by a doctor who took his appendix out just to be on the safe side.  I have subsequently learned that British military medicine is as paranoid about asthma as junior school teachers are about head lice. We of course recovered to UK without Paddy, who, despite the best efforts of the Army medics recovered sufficiently to travel later club class on a civilian aircraft.  How could the Guatemalans take such punishment?
On return to UK I was sent on exercise with the Americans where I had my first experience of working on the Galaxy C5 aircraft.  This was a most impressive piece of kit with more space inside than the average British aircraft hangar!  On relating this fact to our base I was gratified to learn that the RAF would be buying this aircraft just as soon as it became obsolete.  We of course are still waiting.

In November 1972 I was redeployed to Tengah, Singapore, where we recovered the resident British force of Whirlwind helicopters to UK.  With me was the boss, Flying Officer Glen Morton, Sgt John Bell (whose great-great grandfather was someone big in telephones), Cpl Hughie Curran (who enjoyed something similar in Glaswegian telephone boxes), J/T Ted Moore and SAC Jimmy Barr.  We recovered to the UK in time for the Squadron Christmas party and a broad spectrum antibiotic from the RAF Abingdon doctors who were disappointed to discover that none of us has asthma.

In 1973 many flying stations became established for Mobility Supply Flights.  World problems had convinced the British Government that we needed a force that could be projected around the world, and in a relatively expeditious manner.  The Arab-Israeli six-day war had been a salutary lesson on the use of a pre-emptive strike, and the consequences of being caught at a previously targeted airfield.   Many of our squadrons were given a deployment option which would be co-ordinated by the mobility sections.  The purpose of these organisations was to prepare the flying squadrons at their units for deployment as required by the unit defence policy.  Like all good ideas, these flights started appearing around the RAF like acne on a schoolboy. In no time at all the measure of a stations’ success was whether or not it could boast a mobility flight., and in the words of the Chief of the Air Staff in his briefing to parliament, “If you ‘aint got no mobility you is nowhere man,” or words to that effect.

Mobility Flights are staffed by Movers with the corrupting influence of suppliers thrown in.  The Movers would prepare the squadron for move in transport aircraft, whilst the suppliers would maintain deployment pack-ups of aircraft spares and essentials which would travel with them.  In the spirit of competition that characterises the average mover’s psychology, deployments became a battle of wits between two equally trained and determined forces, UKMAMS against MSF. 

Most squadrons thrive on a mountain of items and chemicals that are not welcome on transport aircraft.  Packing these items to make them safe is a time consuming and frustrating business for a mobility section… unless you can hide them amongst the less contentious freight.  The MAMS teams however are honour bound to ensure that such transgressions do not occur.

And so deployments often started with a desperate game of hide and seek.  The transport aircraft coming to take the squadron would be working to a schedule that would be tied in with diplomatic and air traffic control clearances.  The game therefore would get all the more frantic as the deadlines set by the flying programme approached. Occasionally the station movers played a blinder and realising that we were on a quick turnaround prepared absolutely nothing, delayed the aircraft, ruined the schedule and won the game.

During this eventful year we got a new team leader; an upright young man called Pilot Officer Tim Leaning, who, despite being inexperienced, had an inclination to movements and in no time at all had got him straight and settled in. 
In May I was promoted to Warrant Officer.  Sadly there were no established posts for WO’s on mobile duties and I was put into the squadron training empire.  My new boss was Flt Lt Norrie Radcliffe who was the training officer. Norrie realised that UKMAMS needed slightly more up-market premises as it had developed out of all recognition since the early days.  There was a more ideal location on the station, a fine set of buildings, but with the drawback that they already contained sitting tenants in the name of the RAF Movements School.  Envious eyes turned in their direction.  One night, under the guidance of the boss, the influence of alcohol and with the help from my training corporal, Colin Eyre, we were able to mount a raid on the Movements School who were housed in the old Air Terminal building.  It was a dark night and the element of surprise was a success and our new squadron HQ was set up in a swift and expeditious manner, in much grander surroundings. Apart from the odd pocket of resistance, our new home was perfect.  There were however clouds on the horizon and we suspected our days at RAF Abingdon were numbered.

JATE and the Parachute Training School soon departed for RAF Brize Norton to join the deposed RAF Movements School.  RAF Abingdon was rapidly becoming a ghost town and we waited for the axe to fall.  The call to move came in September - we were to move to RAF Lyneham with effect from the first of February the following year, 1974. We were also to be amalgamated with the Lyneham Air Movements Squadron.  This came as a rather nasty shock.  Not only would we lose our much-cherished independence, but the Lyneham movers were widely regarded as an uncouth bunch of hard drinking individuals who had a reputation for socially unacceptable behaviour, especially where young virgins were concerned. This amalgamation meant that our Squadron Leader could no longer be the boss as we would now have a Wing Commander to head the new organisation (although we wouldn’t have Wing status).
Dave Eggleton
1933 - 2015
Christmas 1973 was a particularly poignant affair as we were all unsure of the future and fate of what had become a particularly close family.  Moreover the move would leave behind many of our colleagues and friends who were on their last tour and would not be coming with us.  We also had to bid farewell to the boss, Squadron Leader Bryan Morgan and his wife Anita.  He had worked particularly hard for UKMAMS and was largely responsible for maintaining the esprit de corps that we valued so highly.

And so a chapter closed in the history of UKMAMS.  Looking back I found the friends I made and the experience I gained stayed with me to the end of my RAF service.  So much had been achieved.  I still remember all those who took part in those early years and will forever hold a debt of gratitude to them for their help and comradeship. 

Since the move to RAF Lyneham UKMAMS has been involved in many more events; a great deal more.  I remember with pride the dedication of the Squadron badge on March 10th 1985 at St Clement Danes.  It was a moving occasion and I am proud to have served on the squadron and lived by the motto "Swift to Move".
From: Charles Gibson, Monifieth, Angus
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Memories of RAF Abingdon: Oh happy days!  I did an exchange with a chap who was desperate to move to Lyneham. I was put on to UKMAMS and there I met up with Johnnie Cooper (ex Boy Entrant from my Entry, the 43rd) and another ex Boy Entrant, Bob Turner, 37th Entry I think.

We did the autum exercise in Germany;  Fg Off. Charlie Clark was our team leader. OC UKMAMS, Sqn Ldr Jacobs decided that we should go on the range and fire our weapons as a team and the team leader Charlie Clark shot a sheep!

As we refused to name the person who shot the sheep, the Sqdn Ldr fined us junior ranks £10 each, Sgts and Flt Sgts £20 and Charlie Clark £40.

Happy days!

Chas, 43rd
From: Chas Clark, Sprucedale, ON
Subject: RAF Abingdon

Hi Tony,

I had just finished my Air Movements training and was posted onto UKMAMS. The future was bright, I had some money in my pocket and bought my first car, a Ford Popular. It had a bench seat in the back which was great for getting to know the girls and it had, heaven help us, pneumatic windscreen wipers which slowed down in the rain. It was old but I loved it.

Story One: The MAMS building was on the other side of the runway and on one occasion I was heading back to the mess in the car and had to pass SHQ on the way. Just then there was a hell of a bang and I looked in the rear view mirror and the complete exhaust system had fallen off and lay in the middle of the road! I thought it politic not to leave it there, stopped the car and ran back up to collect it. Just then, the massive wooden doors of SHQ opened and Gp Capt Norman Hoad (who went onto greater things) stepped out with the SWO. I had the presence of mind to come to a screeching halt and give a quick salute and as the Station Commander was returning it, I bent down to pick up the exhaust pipe. It was red hot and I burnt my hands quite badly. Needless to say, several expletives later with my hands clasped under my arms and dancing a jig, I noticed the SWO and the Gp Capt were holding each other as they collapsed with laughter. Normality soon resumed and the SWO tucked his stick under his arm and marched off with the Gp Capt for a barrack inspection. Needless to say, the story was around the station in a flash and cost me several beers.

Story Two: My team, the "Busy B's", were tasked by Jock Mackay to go over to the JATE hangar and help them with a trial with portable fuel bladders which would be used in the field for refuelling helicopters. Off to RAF Benson and loaded up 3 full fuel bladders onto an Argosy and stayed on board as we flew back into Abingdon and parked in front of JATE. We lowered the tail ramp and fitted the 2 small ramps and then waited for the JATE experts to come on board. There was much humming and hawing between the JATE personnel as to the best way to get the bladders off. The favourite method was to attach the towing harness to the bladders and then to a landrover and back them off. My Flt Sgt, Trev Tipton, then took a hand and suggested that as we had miles of apron behind the aircraft, the simplest thing was to roll them to the top of the tail ramp and let gravity take it's course to get them down the small ramps onto the concrete. You would not believe the inertia that 5000 gallons of fuel in a rubber bladder has. It went like a racehorse across the aircraft pan with one of the JATE team sprinting after it complete with a metal chock from the roller conveyor which he threw under it. This dramatically slowed the bladder down but it still continued to roll with now a large spray of fuel coming out of it like a Catherine Wheel! We beat a hasty retreat back to the MAMS crewroom leaving JATE to explain to an irate Stn Cdr and the crew of three fire engines trying to contain and clear up 5000 gallons of fuel!

Story Three: My last story is brief but it involves my having to go into Sqn Ldr Bill Jacobs' office immediately on my return from positioning some Canberras from Germany to Rimini for a NATO exercise and having to tell him that I had lost an airman there. Bill just looked at me then slowly lowered his head to the table and started to gently bang his forehead several times before yelling, "Get out!" Jock Mackay, behind me, was shaking with laughter as I was marched out. I did quite a lot of Station Orderly Officers after that and  young Ian, when he returned a fortnight later, also suffered at the hands of the SWO for  quite a while. It took a couple of bottles of whisky and cartons of cigarettes before Jock would task our team for another overseas trip.


From: Clive Hall, Swindon, Wilts 
Subject: Abingdon

It was the very early 70's and Abingdon was preparing for yet another royal visit - kerbstones painted black/white, grass painted green.  It all looked nice until... loading a low chassis refuelling truck into I think was the Belfast or Albert mock-up and a nozzle beneath said vehicle caught on the sill of the ramp and about 5,000 litres of Avtur spilt everywhere!  The roads were sticky and the newly painted kerbstones had no paint remaining.  The SWO was literally jumping up and down (toys out of the cot) and the station master nearly had heart attack! 

As always, MAMS training asked us all to kindly sweep the Avtur away (into the drains which polluted the water table) and repaint said kerbs and grass!  It was a laugh a minute there with Pete Worthington, Terry Titterington and company.

Oh happy days!

Clive Hall
From: Ian Place, Meanwood, West Yorks
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Tony, I have many fond memories of Abingdon. The only one I can back up with two photos is my wedding day, 27th April 1974. The first one is my wife April, myself and Ian Berry. The other is of Dave Cromb at the reception.

I believe it was at the Red Lion Pub where we spent our first night together, then we went back to work. No expenses spared in those days. Ian Berry said, and I quote, "I give them a couple of months, that's all." Well, nearly 48 years and we are still together!

Ian Place
From: John Guy, Northampton
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Hi Tony,

My first ever  visit to RAF Abingdon (now Dalton Barracks) was in August 1968 to become a student on 101 Advanced Movements Course, a mix of SNCO’s & Officers. This was eventually followed in July 1969 by a 13-month unaccompanied posting to Gulf MAMS RAF Muharraq. How on earth a first tour Mover landed such a posting is beyond me, but what better way to spend an unaccompanied tour!  Prior to tour-ex I volunteered for Instructional duties at The RAF Movements School, RAF Abingdon.

August 1970, now armed with a blue arrivals chit I entered the RAFMS building to be confronted by two personnel both draped in brown smocks. One was clearly showing the rank of Flt Lt (Clive Upton) whom I saluted, the other was showing very feint traces of Cpl rank.  Since he was the nearest to me, I asked to be directed to the OC’s office. Much to my surprise the Sqn Ldr refused to have anything to do with me, but then started to ask leading questions anyway Sergeant, are you of substansive rank?

Yes Sir.  Well this I could do with, my other Sergeants are of acting rank. What is your active movements experience? Thirteen months Sir. Do you think that is sufficient to become a member of my Instructing Staff? Because I think not! I agree Sir, but perhaps the fact that in 1957 - 1959 whilst on posting at RAF Hereford I was employed as a Supply Instructor turning out Storeman Non Tech, Storeman Tech, & Clerk Equipment Accounts on a regular basis. All National Service Entrants, Sir. At this he was clearly taken by surprise, but I was advised to "Hang around to see what happens” On leaving the OC’s office I was politely confronted by the “Cpl” who politely stated that he was also a FLT Lt! (could this have been Tony Fairbairn?). Oh dear, do I really want to stay after this experience?

I returned to SHQ to explain what had happened  only to be told “Well hang around” then, but pop in now & again to see if we have any news for you.

Meanwhile in the interim I moved with my wife & son into a 1930’s married quarter which had previously had an outside toilet. It seems that someone wanted me!
I vaguely remember whilst “ hanging around”, meeting an aircraft as a favour to the Movers on an early Friday summer's evening. Entirely on my own, I met the 3 passengers, questioned them re-Customs, & sent them on their way. I then phoned Customs at Lyneham to confirm that this had happened. Apparently this was standard procedure to avoid a Customs Officer travelling to Abingdon. Finally I locked up & took the keys to the Guardroom.

With my posting confirmed I took over the Hangar from the late Terry Titterington, & found myself preparing the necessary requirements for aircraft loading exercises. In November 1970 I vaguely remember attending a Projectionist Course at RAF Stanmore, followed by  an Instructors Trade Technique Course in December 1970 at RAF Upwood. This course came as a complete shock as I had previously been on one at RAF Spitalgate in February 1957. On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised to find that chalk & talk had been replaced by overhead projectors.

I returned from Upwood on the Friday evening to find a package awaiting me at home. This package contained a Course programme, & information concerning my first subject (The Air Force Board  etc.) I was to teach on Monday morning. The course would have been between August 1970 & November 1973 the course number possible 114/115 Senior Air movements Course I am not in possession of any course photographs & the UKMAMS course photographs start at 117, too late for me.

During this time arrangements were being made for the School to move to RAF Brize Norton, but prior to this I well remember taking a Course to Brize to instruct on the subject of how to assemble and dismantle The Britannia Freight Lift Platform before returning on the bus to Abingdon.

Well that relates to my time at RAF Abingdon during which I moved with the School to RAF Brize Norton, but before closure isn’t it ironic that my first task with Gulf MAMS was to take a BFLP to RAF Majunga in a Britannia a/c to off load, assemble, dismantle the u/s BFLP, & load it before returning  to Muharraq!

Now 85 years old I apologise if some of the info does not relate as my memory (of anything) is not what it was.

Best regards to all Movers & their Families,  John Guy
From: Neil Middleton,  Ipswich, Suffolk 
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Hi Tony,

I was at RAF Abingdon on Air Movements course No. 28 in the November/December time of 1966. Our course didn’t get the overnight stay in Germany flying in the Beverley, but we had 2 hours circuit and bumps in an Andover which was great!

The bit that stands out for me though were the barrack blocks with their coal fire heating with one bag of coal per room per week.

Anyway, this particular night we could not get the fire going and one of the lads in our room was a bit of an artist and had the job of painting an "Andy Capp" on the gents toilet door and "Flo" on the ladies toilet door in the NAAFI. He had access to paint and thinners that were kept in the Beverley Mock up in the hangar. So he and I went to the hangar, got a NAAFI cup full of thinners and went back to the room.

From what I remember when we got back there were 4 or 5 lads lying on their beds. Well I opened the fire door took hold of the cup of thinners and threw it on the coals. Well, next thing I saw was a big ball of flame and smoke come out of the fire go up past my face up to the roof, spread out and gradually disappear.

Recovering from the shock, I turned away from the fire and asked if anyone had seen that, there was no one left in the room, they had all done a runner! To be honest I don’t blame them, but I thought my career in the RAF had just finished.

By the way the fire still didn’t light, but it was decided that we would not use any more thinners.  Apart from that a great bunch of people on the course and I had a great time at Abingdon.


The course was well balanced between the brainy and brawny bits, the assembly of the BFLP and Trianco transfer loader were vital skills that I never had to put into operation. They were fun as our afternoon tea break was taken at the Sally Ann from where we could laugh at the Pongos playing on the Knacker Cracker [Paratrooper training towers]. Away from training, the 101 Club and the Thursday night musical piss up provided rest for the over used right hand, local totty was plentiful and supplemented by home grown WRAF ladies. The WW2 H block barracks, heated by coke stoves were not totally ideal for entertaining guests, but somehow some people manage.

My next visit to Abingdon was for training on the brand spanky new Condec, the future was here, and I was a born again SAC mover with the world at my feet, if only we could be a separate trade?

With the trade finally established, I at last started to think seriously about career prospects and applied for UKMAMS at Abingdon. The high priest of postings offered NEAF MAMS at Akrotiri as a consolation prize. By the time I eventually got onto Golf team, UKMAMS was now at Lyneham, so my ambition of a full posting was crushed.

Abingdon not only turned my career out of the doldrums, I married an Abingdon girl, amazingly we are still together 50 years on. Memories of a golden time and place that was pivotal to my life, such a shame the Brown Jobs now have this and Lyneham. C'est la vie !
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm ACT 
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon
A contentious title perhaps, as some might see RAF Lyneham, the home of the ‘Shiny Fleet’ as the home of RAF movements, or even that Johnny-Come-Lately after the USAF were finished with it, Brize Norton, but I contend that Abingdon not only had the Air Movements Training School for many years (1963 - 1972), but also the Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE) from 1968 to 1975. The Station was certainly my spiritual home as an Air Movements Officer, as I both started and finished my time as a RAF MOVO there.  I could fill a book with memories of Abingdon, mostly happy but with a few sad overtones, so here goes.

I first arrived at Abingdon on 4th January 1965, fresh from my Equipment Officers’ Course at Upwood and no longer an Acting Pilot Officer.  Supernumerary at Air Movements, waiting for my Senior Movements Course which didn’t start until about six weeks later.  Despite being only a lowly Plt Off, I was welcomed and put under the wing of the Flight Sergeant in charge of Load Control.  To my shame I cannot at this stage remember his name, but I do recall that he was a great mentor to somebody brand new in the movements game.

The first few weeks were a blur as I was introduced to our resident Beverleys (later the love of my life for three years in the Far East) and visiting Hastings.  I had my first Beverley ride just a week after arriving, and it was certainly a ‘baptism of fire’.  The following is an extract from a series of articles that have been printed in the Beverley Association magazine, ‘Mag Drop’ and elsewhere over the years:


Significantly, my first ever Beverley flight, on 9 Jan 65, ended abruptly with an engine fire!  I was by then a Pilot Officer, supernumerary with the Abingdon Air Movements Section awaiting my formal Air Movements Course.  The Section was providing movements support for a Tactical Landing demo for some visiting foreign Brass, and, though not yet AMS-qualified, I went along for the ride as unskilled labour.  The idea was that we would do a steep tactical approach, land on the grass next to our visitors then … max reverse pitch and brakes … doors open … ramps down … two Ferret armoured cars offloaded … ramps up … doors closed … short field take-off; all in two minutes.  Not a bad trick when you remember that the ramps, each weighing over 100 lb, had to be lowered on the cable, man-handled out into position, then the operation reversed before the doors could be closed for take-off.

My (informal) log book  shows that we got airborne at 0930 in XB269, with Major Van-Haven, a USAF Exchange pilot, as Captain.  We landed 10 minutes later to practise our demo.  Whether the Major was a bit heavy-handed with the reverse pitch, or it was just the old Centaurus play-up that I was to come to know and love, I do not know.  What I do know is that as soon as we were on the deck and the Skipper hit reverse, there was a very loud bang and a bloody great cloud of smoke from, I think, No 4.  As planned for the demo, we ran off the aircraft …. but instead of deploying the ramps and the two Ferrets, we just kept running, closely followed by the Air Quartermaster and then the rest of the crew!

As the smoke cleared, we realised that there wasn’t a major fire, just a blown cylinder – or two.  The RAF Fire Crew treated the engine to a dose of foam then we got back aboard and off-loaded the Ferrets in slow time.  We completed the TL Demo later that morning in 150 without further incident.  Welcome to the wonderful world of the Beverley, Len!
After that rather interesting introduction, the rest of the next six months passed quite quickly.  As I say, I could fill a book, but here are just a few highlights.

•  There was a mad wee Welsh HM Customs officer who frequently met the aircraft returning from overseas.  The first thing you did when you knew he was on shift was to find out how Cardiff City Football Club had gone over the weekend.  If City had won, the customs clearance was a breeze, but if City had lost – watch out all inbound passengers! Early one Sunday morning after Cardiff City had gone down in a resounding defeat the afternoon before, I saw him make a young squaddie off an overnight Bev flight from Germany drink at least half a large bottle of warm gin before he would let the young lad through.  His bloody-minded reasoning?  The bottle capacity exceed the ‘duty free’ entitlement, but the alcohol could not be disposed of on British soil by pouring half down the (English) toilet as it had not cleared customs; neither could the bottle just be surrendered as he (‘Taffy the Customs’) did not have a Bond Store in which to securely hold said alcohol. As I recall he quoted any number of other HM Customs rules and regs while the young bloke gamely slugged more and more of the warm gin “No, Boyohh, that’s not nearly down enough to meet your entitlement”. When the kid was about to throw up all over the PAX Terminal floor Taffy relented, and under the watchful eye of an RSM meeting flight, the lad was helped off to one of the waiting Army trucks.  The RSM sensibly seated him by the tailgate, and I often wonder if (a) he made it out of the Abingdon Main gate before he spewed? and (b) if he ever touched gin again in his life?
•  I attach a couple of photos of the Abingdon ‘pan’ awash with Hastings.

April 1965 saw ‘Exercise FAST MOVE’, a practice reinforcement of Northern Ireland – shades of things to come. Abingdon AMS ran 24 hour shifts for five days straight – my first but by no means my last exposure to the realities of real air movements work. This period also marked my introduction to the sheer luxury of a hot chip butty dripping in butter and gravy at 03:00, eighteen hours into a 24-hour shift - no OH&S or ‘safe duty periods’ back then.

The exercise also taught me the importance of ‘DUFF / NO DUFF’ on exercise signals, as we received a message stating that the next Hastings inbound from Aldergrove had a Cat 1 spinal injury MEDEVAC on board.  No indication that this was not a genuine casualty, so when the aircraft arrived at two in the morning we had an RAF ambulance, the Station Senior Medical Officer and his team and a spinal unit from Oxford’s Radcliffe Hospital waiting on the pan.  When the ‘EXERCISE DUFF’ casualty walked off the aircraft on his own, he – and later the Exercise Control staff – were not greeted with the enthusiasm that they though that they deserved! Nor was the RAF particularly popular with the Radcliffe Hospital spinal team who had been roused from their beds in the wee small hours to handle what they expected to be a critical case.  I was too junior to ever hear what the aftermath was but I would suggest that in Australian parlance, it took more than ‘a couple of cartons of cans’ to placate the civvy docs and nurses.
•   Unfortunately I was on duty at AMS Abingdon when Hastings TG577 crashed at Little Baldon just south of Abingdon on 6th July 1965 with the loss of all 41 aboard.  I was directly involved in the aftermath of the crash on the Standing Committee of Adjustment, which meant much much more hands-on practical work than I would have cared for at the time.  I won’t go into details even now, but suffice it to say that it ensured that I could handle anything – anything – that was thrown at me in my next three years in the Far East at Labuan Air Movements Section, up country during ‘Confrontation’, and later on FEAF MAMS.  No such thing as PTSD or counselling back then, just several very stiff Scotches in the bar each evening, and not being able to face any cooked meat put in front of me at meal times for about a fortnight. Someday I will tell how some years later I extracted a Mover’s revenge on the senior officer who threw me into the deep end of the clean-up and clear-up of the crash, simply because he, having been given the job, couldn’t handle the sight of blood and gore “Look Len, you’re just a new young (Pilot) Office.  You don’t want to be involved in the detailed paper-work do you? How about you just deal with the practical side, OK?”  “Yes, Sir”. Took me seven years to even the score, but that is most certainly another story for another time.

•   To end the tales of my first sojourn at Abingdon at a lighter and happier note, however, I will recount the story of the RAF Abingdon Officers’ Mess ‘Top Gear’  stable. Remember that this was still 1965, and we weren’t paid a great deal, however that didn’t stop we young and single officers having ‘interesting’ cars.  The living-in members’ car park at the back of the Mess included, amongst other gems, a Mk V Jaguar (mine, cost me fifty quid) a Mk VI Bentley (cost him sixty), an Alvis Speed 20, a Sunbeam Talbot III saloon, a Triumph TR2, an MG TD and – belonging to a plutocratic Bev Sqn pilot just back from a tour in Aden – an Austin Healey 3000.  You see, back then nobody wanted ‘old’ cars.  Everyone wanted the modern GT Cortinas, Mini Coopers and the like.  Result was that you could pick up the older classics for a song - and we did.  Most summer Sundays we’d form a convoy – with girlfriends if we were lucky; I never was, but more of that later – off the Station and along the Oxford By-Pass to the ‘Trout Inn’ at Godstow. 

Anyone familiar with the ‘Inspector Morse’ TV series will recognise the ‘Trout’. Rushing river over the weir, peacocks in the garden and a beautiful old ‘snug’ if it rained . If you could find – and afford – the line-up of cars from the Abingdon Officers’ Mess now you could mount a sale at Christies all on your own, but back then it was just fun to drive out to a classic English pub in a classic car (though we didn’t know they were classics then) with the sunroof open or the top down, and the wind and sun in the hair.  Happy carefree – and relatively inexpensive – days!

17th July 1965 saw me leaving Abingdon for a brief period of embarkation leave, en-route to Labuan in North Borneo/Sabah for a year as one of the two DAMOs there.  Ironically my embarkation leave coincided with my father’s dis-embarkation leave after a year as an Air Traffic Controller at Kuching in Sarawak.  Well done the MoD(AIR) posters – though I’m not sure that the Royal Air Force, President Surkano and his ‘Confrontation’ or anything else could have coped with two Bowens in Borneo at the same time!

January 1973 had me back at Abingdon as a Project Officer with the Joint Air Transport Establishment (JATE).  Arriving at our Married Quarter on Willow Tree Close with a new Fiat 124 Spec T car and an even newer wife.  Married on 2nd September 1972, Penny and I were expecting a nice long Mediterranean holiday with my posting as Passenger Officer at AMS RAF Luqa, when we – and many like us – were summarily disestablished and short-toured when Luqa went from 24/7 operations to a five day week / normal working hours. 

Notwithstanding the trauma – and the financial implications (the new Fiat lasted just six months to satisfy in-bound customs requirements) – of an abruptly-curtailed overseas tour, I was glad to be posted back at Abingdon into a job I wanted and had requested.
JATE by then was a substantial establishment with a One-Star rotational Commandant (of whom more later) and several separate trials and projects Wings – Rotary, Air Drop and Air Land being just three.  I was posted to the Air Land Wing where our responsibility was the design and development of loading and lashing schemes for all new vehicles and equipment entering British military service.  Usually one or more experienced Air Movements Officers and SNCOs worked out the schemes, then our ‘Mk 1 Eyeball’ ideas were checked by either an RAF or a civilian Engineering Officer who was expert in stress factors and chain angles and strengths.  Ninety nine times out of one hundred we all agreed on the scheme, and the necessary loading and lashing diagrams were produced and promulgated.

From time to time we also worked on the dangerous air cargo aspect of the movements game, including advice and assistance with the follow-up on accident and incident investigation. This gave rise to an interesting encounter some years later when I was doing my RAAF Movements Course at the Air Transport and Development Unit (AMTDU) at RAAF Richmond in 1979. One of our AMTDU Warrant Officer Air Loadmaster (ALM) instructors glossed over the dangers of transporting mercury in incorrect packaging in what I considered a really cavalier manner.

While obviously not challenging him in front of the class, I later took him aside and showed him a copy of a JATE Report – I knew such reports were shared with all our Commonwealth Air Force equivalent organisations - on an incident at RAF Lyneham when a Britannia was effectively Cat 5’d when an incorrectly labeled and loaded met barometer spilt several pounds of mercury onto the floor of the freight bay, which then reacted with the airframe aluminum and ate away a very large portion of the aircraft structure.  One of the signators to the final report was one ‘Flight Lieutenant J.L. Bowen, Task Officer JEPS Air Land Wing’. WOFF ‘Shorty’ Heffernan wouldn’t speak to me for several years afterwards, even when I became Senior Movements Officer at RAAF Base Richmond in mid-1981 and he was back on one of the Richmond-based Herc squadrons! Nobody, especially a very senior WOFF ALM, likes to be proved wrong, even in private!

“Meanwhile, back at the ranch”. Our Air Land Wing hangar was at the far end of the station, just behind the Belfast servicing hangar, and while just a short walk from my MQ, it was a fair hike across to the NAAFI, the post office and so on.  We usually used an old ex-loading tests & trials Ferret armoured car as an unofficial ‘staff car’ round the place to save walking, and once you got used to the odd gears and the laid-back steering wheel, it was the quickest and easiest way round the place especially in wet weather.  From time to time we had more interesting vehicles in for loading trials, and I recall doing a ‘NAAFI Run’ one day in a brand new Fox armoured car complete with 30 mm RARDEN cannon.  No trouble parking, or being questioned by the RAF Police for travel authorisation.

Talking of travel, by early 1974 soon-to-be our first son, Callum, was starting to make his appearance felt, and Penny was regularly travelling to the RAF Hospital at Wroughton for pre-natal checks and tests.  By then for very pressing financial reasons (“Curse you MoD(AIR) for your ‘short tour’ decisions!”) our nice new Maltese-bought Fiat had had to be replaced with a rather tired Mk1 Cortina, and as Penny’s pregnancy progressed, she was less and less happy to drive to Wroughton herself. As a result in February ‘74 I was driving her to the hospital for a routine check-up, when we were stopped on the M4 for, of all things, a traffic survey.  All the westbound vehicles were being slowed down and funneled into one lane by the police, where several university students from Bristol and Oxford were wielding clip-boards.  We pulled up at a young pimply lad.  “Good morning sir. May I ask where you are headed and the reason for your journey?” “Yes, we are heading for the RAF hospital at Wroughton” and, pointing across to a rather bulging Penny, rather un-necessarily added “My wife is having a baby …….”   I had intended to continue “….in three months” but got no further. 
The student dropped his clipboard, grabbed the nearest cop and yelled something in his ear.  Next thing I knew there was a shiny new Ford Three Litre Capri police highway pursuit car in front of me with all lights flashing and a young Constable shouting in my ear to “Follow that car, sir, he’ll see you right!”  Well, I did manage to “… follow that car…” all the way to the Wroughton main gate, but keeping up with a 3 litre Capri in an elderly Mk 1 Cortina took all of my driving skill learnt in motor sport competitions in Singapore and Malta - and also resulted in the urgent need for an engine replacement for the Cortina very shortly afterwards.  Surprisingly, my Hanna Mikkanen (look him up, son) impression didn’t bring on any complications with Penny and the first new Bowen, Callum Lennox, arrived in a normal way at Wroughton later that year on 24th May.

Most of the loading trials at JATE were pretty routine, but every now and again something unusual came up.  In late August 1974 we were tasked to trial a special container which would be used to carry a solid fuel Stonechat rocket motor to Woomera in Australia by RAF Hercules for a launch trial. The container was 36 ft long, about 8 ft square and was bolted firmly onto the Herc roller conveyer system. After some adjustments all round, the loading trial was a success and 24th September 1974 saw me flying from Tengah to Darwin as Project Officer for the task en-route to deliver the beast to Woomera,.  The load was so big that once aboard it was impossible to reach the rear of the aircraft from the front past the container, so my JATE team and I had pre-positioned at Singapore by VC10 on the 18th, but the Herc needed an engine change on arrival at Tengah, and it was not until the 24th that we got away heading for ‘The Land Down Under’.  The stay at Tengah had caused some problems, as did I mention that Stonechat had an NEQ of 9,250 lb of solid rocket fuel? No? Well it had, and this caused some considerable consternation with the Republic of Singapore Air Force as to where to safely park the Herc while the engine change was effected.  The huge NEQ also caused similar consternation at Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, because when we landed there supposedly only to over-night before continuing on to Woomera, the spinner on No 2 engine detached from the aircraft.  It had been improperly refitted at Tengah, and came loose in flight somewhere over the Timor Sea.  The skipper, Flt Lt Roger Payne, who was actually an Australian serving with the RAF, shut down the engine and we landed at Darwin with a declared emergency.  When the spinner finally fell off on landing it nearly decapitated the Aussie Air Force fireman standing up behind the foam gun on the fire tender chasing us down the runway.  After some kerfuffle we got the bird parked way way way off at the far end of the Darwin Base, where it stayed until we could ‘borrow’ a new spinner from the RAAF at Richmond.  I think that they were only too keen to lend us the part to see the back of us and our 9,000+ lb NEQ load.   There were several other ‘fun’ issues with this JATE Task, but for now “What happens down route stays down route”.

Meanwhile back at Abingdon Penny was having to cope on her own with a new baby – and having all the floors of the MQ ripped up for the installation of central heating, and holes drilled in the walls for the insertion of cavity insulation. Always happens when the husband is down route, but fortunately Penny had (and still has) a close cousin who has a large house near Woodstock, so she could finally seek sanctuary with Janet until I finally got home on October 1st, sun-burnt and laden with ‘duty free’ and a toy koala named Roger, after the Herc skipper, for Callum. Small compensation for the trauma that Penny had had to handle largely on her own, but she did so like a true Service wife, and we are still together 46 years after the event.

About mid-tour there must have been something in the air at Abingdon that made odd things happen.  First (though I may have got my chronology wrong), we had the MQ Peeping Tom, then the heavy breather on the station phone system and then we had the Parachute School course that didn’t happen.
Now if in the unlikely situation you were a peeping tom going round the married patch looking in through the curtains in the hope of seeing a young wife or daughter, would you pick a night the station was on full BIKINI RED?  Thought not, but he did.  I really can’t remember the date, but I believe that Abingdon was the first mainland RAF station to go onto a full BIKINI RED ALERT status.  Mid-morning the station hierarchy received confirmed and authenticated advice that the IRA were really going to pay us a call.  This was after Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland and the Para Regiment were not in the Irish Top Ten at the time. Word was out that Paddy wanted to hit the Paras, but Aldershot was too hard a target so they were after the Parachute School at Abingdon.  We all got the message about lunch time, and the RAF Regiment QRA mob flew in from Catterick mid afternoon in three Hercs   In the meantime everybody was on full alert and my station rifle team learnt that being part of the team wasn’t just so that you got ten days a year away at Bisley, but again, another story. 

As a result when all the station personnel finally stood down and left it to the professionals, most of us were still ‘tooled up’.  About eight that evening there was a knock on our back door (no phones in the MQs in those days – at least not at Abingdon) and the teenage daughter from three doors down said that she thought that there was somebody in their back garden.  A couple of walkie-talkie calls up and down the line of MQs, and all doors opened, lights on and three of us outside ‘loaded for bear’, as the Yanks say. I was carrying my own personal 9mm Browning; four doors down my mate had a double barreled 12 Bore and across the back was a Flt Lt Para School Instructor (PJI – remember that acronym) who worked with unusual people who wore sandy coloured berets, and who came home at weekends with a small black case marked ‘H&K’, had out the contents by the way of an MP5.  Sure enough there in the garden lights was a young bloke on his knees with his fly open and in ‘a compromising position’ looking through a ground floor window in the young neighbour’s MQ.  Seeing the three of us all out in the lights he took off like a gazelle over the low fences between the back MQ gardens.  As clearly he wasn’t a one-man Provo hit squad we all let him go without a shot fired, and all would have been well if round the corner at the end of Willow Tree Close had not come an RAF Regiment Land Rover, top down and set up for full counter-terrorist ops with every one of the Rock Apes armed to the teeth. All they saw was three blokes in uniform pointing an assortment of weapons at a running fugitive.  Fortunately for said fugitive at that moment, probably startled by the Land Rover’s lights he caught his foot on the last low fence and went a-over-t right in front of the Regiment boys. Now don’t let them tell you that the human body cannot soil itself while running and jumping a fence.  When last seen by us the miscreant was zip-tied and sitting on the tail gate of the Land Rover while all five of the Regiment blokes were in or standing on the front seats.

After he was taken back to the Guard Room and hosed down, it transpired that he was a young Corporal from the station Orderly Room who had a lot of trouble meeting and connecting with girls, and in his job he knew which MQ was occupied by either young wives with husbands away on detachment or by families with teen-age daughters.  I believe that he was given a psychiatric discharge, and the potential for ‘The Gun Fight at Willow Tree Close’ never came up.

The next incident was even more stupid.  Back then the station still had a manual telephone exchange manned by young WRAF airwomen.  Shortly after the peeping tom incident (will they never learn?) there was a ‘heavy breather’ who used to phone up the station PBX in the wee small hours, and when the girl alone in the exchange answered, when into his heavy breathing and panting routine – though never a word was spoken. Needless to say this was really frightening the young girls, but their NCO, a more worldly-wise Corporal, took it in hand so to speak.  She rostered herself on for the late shift and sure enough, the heavy breather came on line shortly after midnight a couple of days later. Instead of hanging up the Cpl responded “Ooh you do sound nice and exciting.  Are you up for a good time?” She led him on a bit more as the breathing got heavier and heavier.  “Look, I get off shift at 02:00.  Can you meet me at the phone box outside the NAAFI?”  More gasps and a grunt which might have been a “yes”. 
The ‘gentleman’ concerned did indeed turn up at the NAAFI at 02:00, but was met not by the WRAF Corporal, but by her boyfriend, a Sergeant PJI and two of his mates.  Apparently the heavy breather – yet again a bloke from the Station HQ – was very clumsy as he fell over and hit his face several times on the curb between the phone box and the Guard Room.

The third and final ‘incident’ could have been funny if it had not had such serious repercussions.  There was an informal mixed function in the Officers’ Mess on a Saturday night, and Penny and I were attending.  About ten o’clock in the evening the Station Duty Officer, a young UK MAMS bloke, came across to us.  He knew I was ex-FEAF MAMS, and up to helping him out in a bit of agro:  “Len. I think we’ve got a problem.  There are three chaps here in rather disheveled clothing, two with bleeding knuckles and insisting that they are officers and want to have a drink”. He and I went across to the trio who were leaning against the bar, obviously having had a few drinks earlier in the night and rather the worse for wear.  When again asked for identity they rather loudly insisted that they were Army Captains posted in to join the next Parachute School course starting the following Monday, and having just been commissioned from the ranks, had no Military Identity cards showing their new status.  OK, we are in the Mess and there are ladies present, so the SDO and I quietly suggested that we go across the road to the RAF Guard Room (those of you familiar with Abingdon will remember that at the Main Gate the Officer’s Mess was immediately to the left and the Guard Room to the right).  At this point the slightly more sober of the trio (and without bloody knuckles) grabbed his mates and, apologising for the “misunderstanding which would be sorted out in the morning” got his two chums out of the Mess.

Now you would think that that would have been the end of it.  Oh no!  About half an hour later the Abingdon Police were on the phone to the Guard Room, relayed to the SDO, asking if we’d seen three Army ORs who had been in an altercation in a pub in Abingdon town centre and were last seen climbing into a taxi and asking to be taken to “that Air Force place”.  The SDO advised the Abingdon Police that the three were most probably back on the station but it was a little late to find them tonight and that the matter would indeed “be sorted out in the morning”.

Well, that was just the start of it.  As luck (?) would have it I was SDO the following day (Sunday) and took over from a relieved young MAMS Flying Officer who was probably looking forward to something nice and simple - like a MAMS deployment to a major relief operation for a natural disaster overseas to get a bit of peace and quiet.  I had barely got myself sorted out in the SDO’s Room in the Mess when the phone rang. “This is the (Yorkshire) West Riding Constabulary.  Were you expecting Privates (X) and (Y) to arrive at your station this afternoon for a parachute course”? “Well I don’t know, but I’ll check and get back to you. Why?” “Well they are both in custody up here for indecent assault on a mentally disabled minor on a train south of York”.  Sigh!  “OK give me their names and I’ll inform the Para School”. 

I contacted the Duty SNCO at the Para School and duly got a list of names of the intake that was supposed to be arriving over the weekend to start the course on the Monday.  As the day progressed I received more and more phone calls from more and more civilian and military police forces round the country, advising that “Private (A)” or “Lance Corporal (B)” would not be arriving at Abingdon as he/they were in custody for various offences or misdemeanors including, in one case, crashing a car when ‘drunk and incapable’.  By midnight when I finally got to bed in the SDO’s room I had crossed off almost half the names on the Para School’s roster of would-be Red Berets.

The following morning I handed over the whole mess to the Parachute School Adj with a verbal and written brief, went home for a bath and a change of uniform and headed back to the JATE hangar for just another day upside down under some new vehicle or other looking for somewhere to hang tie-down chains.
Just before lunch I got a call from my boss to tell me that our Brigadier had in turn received a call that the CO of the Parachute School wanted to see me in his office. Quick change out of my grotty old climb-under-vehicles flying suit, grab the Ferret ‘staff car’ and down to the Para School HQ.  Quick word with the Adj and a raised questioning eye-brow about our de-brief earlier that morning.  “The Colonel wants to see you personally” Oh Sierra Hotel India Tango what did I get wrong?  Enter Colonel’s office, smart salute and remain at attention, waiting for the storm.  “Ah Flight Lieutenant Bowen, I gather you had an interesting day yesterday.” “Yes Sir; it had its moments”.  “Look Flight Lieutenant, on behalf of the Parachute Regiment I most sincerely apologise for the trouble you and the Station have been put to. I and my Regiment are ashamed of the whole incident, and I can advise you informally that Number (X) of 197(Y) Parachute Course has been cancelled because there are now insufficient numbers to run the course”. Wow! “Oh and I will be talking to you Commandant about how well you handled the whole thing.  Now please sit down and have a cup of coffee” Wow Squared!

Actually our Brigadier never formally mentioned the matter, but the next time he saw me in the Mess he just quietly said “Well done Len. Nicely handled”. 

At this point I should introduce ‘The Brig’.  He was a top bloke.  Seldom saw him down on the hangar floor, but when you did he was always interested in the task on hand, and not averse to climbing under the latest ‘customer’ to see how the job was going.  He had a beautiful old black Labrador which followed him everywhere, and stayed in the Mess with him.  He – the Brig – was married, but lived in the Mess during the week.  Every evening at about 10 o’clock he would come into the Mess bar with his dog (OK, I know that the Mess Rules were ‘No Dogs in Public Rooms’ but are you going to tell a One Star with three rows of gongs that his lab couldn’t come into the bar – especially as most of us were dog lovers anyway?) and ordered “A double Scotch for myself and a packet of plain crisps for the dog”. Every second day “…oh and a bottle to go, please.”  That was a full bottle of Scotch.  Never ever saw the Brig even remotely worse for wear, even at major Mess functions, so assumed that the bottle(s) at Mess prices went home at weekends?

JATE – at least the Air Landing Wing – was at that time full of characters.  We had a USAF Exchange Officer, Major George Bussing.  George was from an ‘Old Money’ Boston family, and out-Brit’ed the Brits. He drove an R Type Bentley and with our immediate boss Squadron Leader Bill, loved country point-to-point races. Bill was an ace on the gee-gees. Not the big race days like Ascot or Epsom, but the little county and country race meets. A canny Scot, he knew many of the runners round the country, their form and where they were stabled, and he would say “Aye weeell if So-and-So thinks it’s worth bringing Such-and-Such all the way from Norfolk to Oxfordshire for a point-to-point he/she might be worth a pound or two”, and he was seldom wrong.  Unfortunately back in those days still recovering financially from the Malta short tour it was not often that I could afford to follow his tips.

If I’ve given the impression that Major George was an Ivy League poser with his Bentley and his Harris Tweed jackets; wrong. George was a highly decorated USAF officer with two tours in Vietnam.  When in uniform around Abingdon he only had four medal ribbons up, but once every three months when he had to go across to Upper Heyford to report to his nearest senior USAF officer, and incidentally stock up on PX goodies, he had four rows of decorations on his uniform.  One night in the Mess when we got to know George and his lovely wife better, we asked him about the ribbons.  “Well”, he said “Round you Brits who only ever wear gallantry medals or serious in-country time ribbons, I only wear the four I really think I earned at the sharp end.  The rest are time-served colour”.  That sort of man you respect.

In between all this we actually got some joint air transport development work done – that was when we were not playing James Bond. Like when John (surname redacted but he was also a brilliant nature photographer) one of our civilian engineers and I went to the Paris Air Show to try to get some gen on the Russian transport aircraft of the day.
We had almost a week living on our allowances in a delightful small hotel, eating fine French food, and wasting our time at all the public days of the Salon international de l'aéronautique et de l'espace de Paris-Le Bourget, Salon du Bourget – well you did ask.  Not one of the Russian transport aircraft was anywhere near the public enclosures, so we had little hope of getting a good look at one.  Imagine, then, our surprise when we arrived the day after the Public Days – to find an An 22 COCK being loaded right in front of us and no barriers in place.  John and I were dressed in scruff order, and amazingly enough got right up to the aircraft and started to help the Russian crew get their gear aboard. We’d been at it for about an hour, with John getting good photos of their tie-down gear and the overhead gantry (f*c* off Boris, the Beverley had this first!) when I cocked up. The Russian loading team (RUSKI MAMSKI?) were happy with all the help from the unskilled ‘French’ labour that they could get, but unfortunately, as we were moving one of their small aerobatic aircraft up the ramp it started to slip back and, without thinking I instinctively slammed a near-by chock behind the wheel, chucked a chain round the bottom of the landing gear and locked it off to the floor like I’d seen the Russian boys do.  I got a raised eyebrow from a bloke I assumed was the RUSKI MAMSKI Team Leader, like “OK, mate, takes one to know one. We now know that you know that we know that you know what you are doing in the movements business, but we still need all the help we can get to get this big bugger loaded and off chocks on time”…however just then a Commissar in a smart clean uniform with a bloody big flat cap saw the exchange, and John and I were kicked off the aircraft in very short order. Got a shrug from the MAMSKI boss, like “Oh well Comrade, we’ll just get on with it without any outside professional help” and off we went back to the hotel and a glass or three of vin ordinaire … and some beaut photos of all their loading and lashing gear!

My last few months at Abingdon were tinged with sadness, not just because we were leaving a station where we were supremely happy, with a new son, and with the Black Horse pub just round the back of the airfield (another story for another time), but because my last task at Air Land Wing was to help calculate what British military equipment would no longer be air-portable by RAF-Air when the Belfast fleet was sold off. The answer was, of course, most if not all of the Royal Engineers plant, most of the AFVs and armour and a lot more besides. Inevitably within a few months HeavyLift UK had bought up the Belslows and for many years until the arrival of the C17 and the A400, it was costing MoD big big money for them or the Yank C5s or even later the Russian Antanovs, to move what we had previously been able to move ‘in house’.
We left Abingdon in August 1975 for Headquarters Support Command Andover. Another MQ, with a railway at the bottom of the garden, lovely fruit trees - and a different sort of ‘movements’, with my new job as MOV(MT) 1B, the Tasking Officer for the three RAF specialist Road Transport Squadrons. Penny and I had loved our time at Abingdon – in my case back at Abingdon - the REAL home of RAF Air Movements, but it was time to move on.  And how! 

In our case two and a half years later to move on to Australia, the RAAF, and another thirty three years in and out of the movements game, one way or another. But that REALLY is another story for another time.

Len Bowen
23 Apr 2018.
From: Peter Orton, Camberley, Surrey
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Hi Tony,

Abingdon - probably the best RAF station in the UK. In those golden times of Bevs, Hastings, Argosies and Andovers, which were scattered around four or five stations in the south of England.  Brits and Comets turned Lyneham into a services LHR, Belslows and VC10s roosted at an ex USAF base at Carterton somewhere in remote Oxfordshire, but the shiny 10s had to night stop Lyneham to get loaded.  This was the background to hundreds of blanket stackers being annotated QEQAM after 8 weeks in paradise, walking distance from Abingdon on Thames, or the Black Horse or Bystander, and a short bus ride or 45 minute walk to Oxford. What is not to love?

Late 1966, the year we won some soccer trophy or other, this young, unhappy, square peg in round hole, blanket-stacking LAC arrived for 28 JAMC and became reborn. Movements was a job that engaged mind, soul and body, with the variety of Cargo, Traffic, Load Control and Passenger handling. The added bonus was these were easily transferable skills to civil aviation. If only it could be a trade in it's own right?
From: Allan Walker, Burnley, Lancashire 
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

RAF Abingdon was one of the best tours for me. I started off in 1969 as SAMO then transferred to UKMAMS in 1970. I led  a team for a year then went on to be Training Officer for a further year before finishing my tour as Ops Officer.

In 1969, as SAMO, I met King Olaf of Norway who visited the Unit to present a Squadron Standard to 46 Squadron who at that time were equipped with the Andover aircraft.  That same year I also met Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars and Team Lotus.
In April 1971 UKMAMS celebrated its 5th Anniversary with an Open Day [http://ukmamsoba.org/obb070111.html]  and a full range of activities for all members and their families. One memorable occasion was seeing  Flt Lt Alan Johnstone’s team erect a 12 x 12 tent inside-out during a race to see which team could erect their tent fastest.

In 1971 RAF Abingdon hosted pilots and officials of the London to Victoria (British Columbia) Air Race where I met a number of the competitors.

In 1972 the Unit saw the departure of an SAS Bomb Disposal Team who parachuted into the Atlantic to counter the threat of a bomb on the liner QE2. This eventaully turned out to be a hoax, but because of the dangerous nature of the operation the team were awarded the Queen's Commendation for Bravery.

July 1972 saw eight UKMAMS teams deployed to Gutesloh and Wildenrath on Operation Glasscutter which moved 2 Battalions of the British Army from Germany into Northern Ireland in support of Operation Motorman during the IRA troubles. The only person left behind was SAC Barnard  Richardson (Barney), our Clerk Sec Admin Assistant.

As Ops Officer one of my duites was to send out a “chitty” to wives if a team was delayed on task for any length of time. Having run out of these, I asked Barney to replace them.  I signed these off without properly checking.  I was telephoned by an irate wife wanting to know why I had sent her a  “chitty”.  I explained that it was to tell her of the delay of her husband. She then asked if I had read it.  On reading it I could understand her angst.  It read as follows: “I am pleased to advise you that your husband has been delayed...” instead of, “I regret  to inform you etc”. To this day I am not sure whether this was a genuine mistake by Barney or he was winding me up.


All the best to Movers Past and Present

Allan Walker
King Olaf of Norway presents 46 Squadron with their colours.
Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woE3PuRWbO8
SAS members dropped near QE2 following bomb threat.
Video at: https://youtu.be/D6qngIuZjx4
From: Ian Berry, West Swindon
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

My first visit to RAF Abingdon was, like most, to attend a Junior Air Movements Course, No 37 to be precise in Aug-Sep 1967. My good friend and later best man, Bob Tring was there on the course ahead of me, along with Keith Simmonds. They were both at Thorney Island at the time I believe, I had travelled from the other end of the country, 6 FTS RAF Acklington in Northumberland.

From day one I was so keen to be on the course and the topics concerning all matters “Movements” kept my attention. The opportunity to be near and even have “hands on” experience of live aircraft was also a bonus. Our accommodation though to say the least was not the best! The Airmen’s Mess also seemed proficient at converting edible ingredients into a barely edible dish! To cap it the entire NAAFI was full of Testosterone charged baby paras!!

Consequently the arrival of the NAAFI van at breaks was a godsend with fantastic crusty ham rolls... Also at this time the aircraft based and operated there were 46 Sqn Andover’s and 47 Sqn Beverley’s... As with most, our live practical phase involved taking over and loading a Beverley from the Air Movements Squadron and then flying with it to RAF Wildenrath. Quite an experience and another type in my log book!

Back from this and we took our finals, quite involved as there were trim exams, fault finding, theory etc... I did really well though and was surprised to receive a Certificate of Merit. My last day at Abingdon though was marred by my misdeeds when at the end of the farewell drinks downtown I collected a paraffin fuelled road lamp (these days they are battery operated and flash!) from some road works on the way back to camp. The next day the Barrack room was covered in soot!
Junior Air Movements Course No. 37, RAF Abingdon, August - September 1967
My return to Abingdon was in June 1972 after a frustrating wait at Lyneham for a vacancy on UKMAMS. There were only 12 Teams and so only 12 Corporal slots. There was in fact one more as I replaced Colin Eyres on Echo Team when he was transferred to the Training Team. I could not believe my luck on getting Echo Team. One of the two airmen was my best friend Bob Tring and my FSgt was Ken Browne with whom I served a tour in RAF El Adem with 1968-1970. The rest of the team consisted of Flt Lt Gus Hatter, Sgt Ross McKerron and JT Gordon Gourdie.

Before I could join the team though I had to complete my mandatory month’s training. This I completed alongside Bob Turner (we met in El Adem and then Nicosia when he was on NEAF MAMS). Ian (Dinger) Bell too. There was a young officer too but his name escapes me. On the Training Team apart from Colin Eyres were the Training Officer, Flt Lt Norrie Radcliffe and the Training WO, Roy Brocklebank (aka The Skull).

The whole month was fantastic for me and every day a new piece of equipment was taught or introduced and even things I thought I knew had a new slant or use. Norrie, being an ex-PTI was quite hard on us in the gym and the swimming pool. As now, the month also included learning to drive new vehicles as well as assembling and dismantling a Britannia Freight Lift Platform (BFLP). Kit issues including a visit to RAF Innsworth to get measured up for a set of Prestige KD, which included rank and shoulder badges in red cloth.

We were tested on all the equipment we possessed and had to prove we were able to operate it. Again, Norrie being Norrie included in part of the 25K Condec operating test that we had to raise the vehicle to its max height and gently inch towards the hangar door where he had taped a raw egg which we had to touch without breaking! The last week culminated in a field deployment to Bramshott Common where Bob Turner came into his own with his field skills and even showed the Directing Staff (DS) quite a few new tricks. I then joined my team but the skills I learnt there stayed with me for the rest of my career.  This time, still single, I was entitled to a bunk in the MAMS accommodation but I had to wait. Consequently I shared a four man room with Jim Marchant... there were only the two of us. I quickly found out why when his feet “stunk to heavens” and so it was an acquired taste! The atmosphere in the block though was fantastic and morale sky high. The food in the Airmen’s Mess though was to the same low standard as before. I seem to remember most of us had boxes of compo rations in our lockers for when hunger set in!
As all who served on UKMAMS at Abingdon will remember, we had to usually drive to Lyneham, Brize or Thorney Island to pick up a task unless driving all the way to the UK location with our own, personalised, Landover (85 AA 86 was ours, how sad is it remembering that?).

Another item of note was the fact ALL the landrovers seem to have the paint missing from one side of the front bumper. The reason for this was that it was usually the airman who was detailed to collect the vehicle from the Hangar and then do the driving.

The Hangar door had to be opened with a crank handle and was quite an energetic exercise. To close the door we would usually inch the vehicle to the side of the door and give it a gentle push with the bumper!
We shared half the Hangar with JATE and their side contained their Engineering Department. In the corner, just over the fence were their stores. More than once we scaled the fence and helped ourselves from the copius supply of rolls of nylon cord and black (bodge) tape.

Being a unique unit we had more than our share of visitors and were constantly putting on demonstrations. Abingdon also was one of the host stations for the Annual Battle of Britain Air Displays. I seem to recall that after the display finished on the Saturday, six mannequins all dressed in different Gucci gear were put back in the Hangar for safe keeping.  Monday morning saw them all stripped naked!
For me the whole setup of UKMAMS was fantastic and for a young single man flying all across the globe was an impossible dream. The professionalism was everywhere and each and every person was proud in what they were doing. If you were in the country on the Friday afternoon it was neigh on mandatory to attend the beer call in the crew room. One barrel usually funded by the Sqn and one by someone who was promoted, posted or whatever. After this a hard core would then carry on to the 101 Club (NAAFI) where Taff (Norman Vaughan) Thomas would play the piano for the rest of the evening.

The crew room was full of “steals” and trophies from all over the world. Most items had stories behind them and some had even caused political storms. At the recent 50th Anniversary of the squadron, our ex-Boss Bryan Morgan said he suspected that one incident curtailed his further promotion. I do remember that after F Troop had loaded the Tutankhamen exhibits back on board a Britannia freighter for transport back to Cairo that the now departed Sgt Dave Barton sidled up to the Boss who was watching the take off and said “Boss, you won’t believe what we’ve got for the crew room!” Bryan went pale...

Without a doubt Abingdon was the best UK posting I had whilst in the RAF. Such a “can do” squadron and the whole station were friendly towards us too. So many happy memories. Even today, apart from Gus who is in Australia the rest of my team keep in touch, unlike others, we are all still alive!  And... Some four years later I was at RAF Lyneham and in the next bunk in the Sgt's Mess was Bob Turner. He had been posted to RAF Sydenham in Northern Ireland and was packing. He shouted to me out of his open room door, “Have you ever worn that Prestige KD since it was issued at Innsworth?” “No”, I replied... “Well try it on” said he. I did and the chest was huge and the sleeves some 4 inches too long. Bob then appeared at the doorway with his Prestige Jacket unable to button up and the sleeves - too short, he produced a slip of paper out of the pocket with my name on. We had been carrying each other’s uniform around for four years without knowing!
UKMAMS Storeroom
UKMAMS Hangar Trailer Park
Abingdon, May 1973 - UKMAMS on parade for AOC's Annual Inspection
From: David Moss, Sorbie, Dumfries and Galloway
Subject: RAF Abingdon Memories

Hi Tony,

My first contact with RAF Abingdon was my Air Movements course over fifty years ago.  I wonder how many movers still serving did their training at Abingdon?

My next visit was on my birthday in 1972 and was my posting in date when I joined UKMAMS at its real home.  That was the start of the most interesting and at times alarming parts of my time in the RAF.  It had me traveling all over the world, staying in some fantastic hotels, meeting some really amazing people and sampling some great foods and drinks which at times could result in some nervous tummy for the next few days.
On that Movements course, as those of you who did your training there will recall, we used to use aircraft mock-ups and fuselages to practice loading and lashing, but we also got the use of the odd Beverley that became available from time to time.

Back in those days (time to pull up a sandbag chaps) the Parachute Training School was also at Abingdon in the next hangar to that used by MAMS and they used the same mock-ups as we did to practice their training exercises.  I will never forget the time we were having a break and a group of Army chaps were stood waiting for a Beverley to taxi round for them to board for their first jump from an aircraft.  The expressions on their faces was priceless when the aircraft stopped and then started to reverse towards them.  Obviously, they had never seen an aircraft do this before and were absolutely gobsmacked to see such a thing. Most of us managed to keep a reasonably straight face but there were a few that could not control their mirth.

Best regards,

ex-Lima & Quebec Teams
A Blackburn Beverley at Abingdon
From: Arthur Taylor, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffs
Subject: Memories of RAF Abingdon

Hi Tony,

My goodness, how those memories go back to 1954. No.55 AQM Course, followed by Air Despatcher's  Course (no, I did not do any parachuting).  However, that didn't last long as I was asked if I would prefer to be at RAF Dishforth which was nearer to Manchester where Kath and I were living at her Mother's house.  So, off I went to 30 Squadron with Valetta  aircraft on AQM duties, but staged RAF Abingdon on many occasions  with both the Valetta and Beverley aircraft  on Route Schedules, Specials and Air Despatch Tactical, with which we rotated with the other Beverley  Squadrons. I stayed at RAF Dishforth until 1960 when I left the RAF, but as you know, I rejoined 6 months later. Tried  to get back on AQM duties, had the medical etc., at RAF Biggin Hill, but they said I was hightone deaf, so unable  to go back as AQM (which by now was an Aircrew trade.), so back to being a Supplier.

Years later, 1970, again to RAF Abingdon on a Movements Course prior to a posting to HQBFG, HMS Jufair, Bahrain. I ended up at RAF  Muharraq in the Booking Centre; we all moved. Upon  return from Bahrain I was Posted to RAF Thorney Island on Movements. Then in 1971, back to RAF Abingdon on No.1 Advanced  Movements Controlller course and remustered to the trade of  Movements Controller. 1972, posted  to UKMAMS Bravo Team, RAF Abingdon and stayed there until 1974 when the Squadron moved to RAF Lyneham.

My memories of RAF Abingdon were great happy memories, there was a great spirit in the Squadron  which, I think, lost it's identity when we moved to Lyneham, but that is a personal opinion. As you know, I wasn't there very long as I went to be the RAF Rep in Bermuda. But now at last we have the Squadron back.

Returning to thoughts about RAF Abingdon and UKMAMS...  We had good Married Quarters and thinking we were going to be there for several years I wallpapered the lounge and kitchen. Oh boy!  What a surprise when I returned from task one Monday night and was told I had been allocated an MQ at RAF Lyneham at 1000 on Thursday.  What a rush to get the wallpaper off and repaint the lounge and kitchen! Memories, but we got a pat on the back for a smart MQ. Should think so, it was newly decorated. Happy memories. Kath had a job in the NAAFI  Shop  (i/c Fruit and Veg), we were just around the corner from  very good friends. The social life in No.1 Sgt's Mess was great. There were also the activities in the old No.2 Sgt's Mess, and of course the local hostelry, many a good night there. The "Meet the Boss" Friday afternoon in the NAAFI where we had the pianists Taff Thomas and Les Charlesworth on the piano,  oh boy!  The ear-bending I got when I eventually got home. I'll always remember on one occasion I had a bucket of water thrown at me. Dear Kath., we had many a laugh about it in later life.

Another memory  was of the Poodle Baz and Dot Shatford had. Baz used to say to it, "Come on, we'll go and see Arthur."  Off they would go and on the way the dog would pick up a stone and bring it to me, then I had to throw the stone and keep the dog occupied for a while. Then off we would go to the Sports Fields  just across the road from my MQ to watch the sports, mainly cricket. Sadly the dog went blind, but did manage for a few years, and now both Baz and Dot have passed like many others from that happy era of UKMAMS, RAF Abingdon.

The following have joined the OBA recently:

Geoffrey Bird, Lake Albert, NSW
Peter Bessant, Chorley, Lancs
Welcome to the OBA!
Those were the days my friend...
Part Six - RAF Changi, Singapore (b) - 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
Air Movements Section - By the time I got to Changi the Staging Post had been evolving for some time dealing with RAF Transport, for which it was a sort of hub, with routes to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Rangoon, Mandalay; in Malaya  Kuala Lumpur, in Sumatra Medan and Palembang, and in Java Surabaya, Semarang and Batavia (Jakarta).

They were not necessarily used on a daily or even a regular basis but provided links and supplies for troops, especially those involved with the Dutch and their attempts to deal with the insurrections in the Dutch East Indies during their withdrawal. Mail, Officials, troops on postings, goods, all were moved around by air as required.

For all this the major workhorse was the Douglas DC3, or Dakota, an aircraft without parallel, and that some are still flying is a testimony to its design. Changi, and the RAF generally seemed to have dozens of them. Seating was adequate but not luxurious, normally several strips of canvas seats hinged down each side of the plane; luggage was strapped down to the rear or occasionally in the centre. When the aircraft was needed for freight the seats were simply lifted up and pinned against the fuselage. All goods were supposed to be packed in boxes or containers that could be stacked and then roped and netted to hooks recessed in the floor. Of course other planes appeared from time to time, Catalinas, Beaufighters, Yorks, Liberators, even the odd Anson, and soon airliners. One casualty tucked into a corner off the airstrip was a Mosquito fighter which, perhaps awaiting repair, had been left too long and, being made of plywood, had been savaged by termites.
The Changi aircraft hangars and maintainance buildings were to the NW of the main runway beside the much wider though shorter cross strip runway, used for parking planes, whereas the wood framed Terminal Buildings, the Control Tower and all the Air Movements hutments were grouped in a sort of isolation on the opposite SE side of the main runway. They comprised two big freight buildings, and outside one of these stood a Japanese Kamakazi airplane, a small sort of piloted flying bomb.

Then there were two structures for passengers (incoming & outgoing), with toilet facilities, Customs and Immigration offices, and an administration hut for those on duty, with a room for the Officer i/c. Another small place housed the two or three duty drivers, whose Bedford lorries took passengers to, and from, the Air Booking Centre in the middle of Singapore, and also collected boxes of freight from military or civil depots. The lorries, or “gharries”, had bench seating down the middle and each side, but indulged in the luxury of proper stepladders to get people on and off.

Lastly, near the Control Tower, there was a wooden hut which was the preserve of the duty Wireless Operator who was vital to the whole operation. He was controlled by HQ in conjunction with the Control Tower, and kept in touch with all aircraft and airfields within range, and this went the 1700 miles to Colombo. Therefore we went to him for all information on times when our passenger and freight planes were due in.  I always thought he had a curiously detached and lonely job, a 6 or 8 hour shift receiving or sending brief messages through the ether, but all W/Operators were a little odd and they probably enjoyed the isolation.

The Station was commanded by a Group Captain Charles Riley, by most accounts a rather difficult man, and fortunately I only came across him twice, and never to speak to. He was short, dapper, and a pilot who doubtless held several decorations. As usual, he had a Spitfire for personal use (the Wing Commander had a tiny two or three-seater Auster ). But, following Douglass Bader, the aircraft had been stripped of its normal camouflage paint, the aluminium polished, and the large letters CR painted on the sides. A poor “erk”, or aircraftsman, had the daily duty of cleaning it, and I suppose it was flown about once in ten days to practice the art.

While most Station Commanders have a house adjacent to the Officers quarters Charles Riley chose a rather isolated pre-war bungalow that had survived near the end of the airstrip and beside a beach. It was an idyllic place in which to entertain the WAAF Admin. F/Lt who was known to often spend time there when off duty, but it had one particular drawback  As in Hong Kong, there were a number of islands off.   Singapore, though much smaller, and inhabited by fishermen and also lesser breeds without the law. To amuse themselves and enliven others, at intervals these would sail past “Groupie’s” bungalow at night, firing shots at it. This disrespect was, of course, unforgivable, and so he had a set of twin Browning .303 machine guns mounted on the seaward side of the bungalow to act as a deterrent, although they had little effect. Because of the distance, from our billets we could never identify any single shots, but about every five or six weeks one might wake up to the rattle of the Brownings and picture Riley in his pyjamas dishing out retribution. The next day word would go round, everyone amused at the incident, and no casualties were ever reported, though the perpetrators were hardly in a position to do so. Still, we often wondered how the F/Lt took it. I only met her once, a tall woman in her 30s, when she was meeting someone off a plane, and in spite of a salute the best she could do was bark instructions at me. She must have been aware that everyone knew of her private life.

A day after arrival we new members were gathered at a passenger hut for introductions to personnel and working methods. The proceedings were overseen by the Station Wing Commander who greeted me with “F/Sgt, get your hair cut, you look like a bloody girl!” It didn’t endear me to him at the time but later I found he was very approachable.
Passenger section shift, 1946, L to R: NVQ, Sgt Lawson,
"Ruby", F/O Elphick and F/Lt Lloyd, with three drivers
Anyway, there were about two dozen staff, ex-aircrew save for two or three clerical staff who dealt with tickets etc., and several drivers, though one of these was a former air-gunner.

Two Officers, a F/O Elphick and a F/Lt Lloyd took it in turn to be on duty on most of the day shifts. About twice a week another F/Lt, evidently senior to Lloyd and probably from the HQ building, would put in a brief appearance. Very much the ex-public school type, supercilious and somewhat sarcastic, we endeavoured to melt away and tend to other tasks.

Surprisingly there were no WAAFs on the Air Movements staff but, almost invariably, a woman from a sort of overseas branch of the WVS would be part of the Passenger Section, usually on a daily basis. Not only did she oversee the very limited refreshments available, more importantly, she dealt with any problems encountered by women, children, and the infirm.

There must have been at least three of them, who took turns on shifts, and they were really excellent, mucking in during any emergency, but of names I only remember Ruby because she so often shared the same shift. I’m sure they were billeted somewhere on the camp and not in town.
Shifts would be of 8 hours, or sometimes 6 hours in the evenings, and there would normally be two on duty in passenger and in freight sections. This allowed meals to be taken in turn when traffic was light, since one had to walk back to the relevant Mess.

A rota system was devised whereby initially a shift was shared between one old hand and one new, but soon many of the old ones were due for demobilisation and repatriated. By then we were ready for the unprecedented growth in air transport during 1946. What had been primarily the movement of Forces personnel and stores by the RAF blossomed into numerous up-start “air lines”, using Changi as a hub for the movement of goods and hundreds of civilians.

I greatly regret that I didn’t list these airlines and their routes, or photograph them. There must have been more than a dozen, with some going out of business within two or three months, but all started with somewhat clapped-out Dakotas, beautifully painted and with impressive logos, and crews who were mostly Australian, American, and British.

So far as photography was concerned I think that it was generally discouraged, for Changi was a military airfield, though I managed to do a fair amount in a surreptitious fashion.

Meanwhile our duties remained the same for all RAF flights. Where passengers were concerned when they arrived from the Air Booking Centre they were accompanied by a list with names, individual weights, that of luggage, and other details, as well as their tickets. Although it was possible to simply turn up at Changi it was at best discouraged and, because of the work involved, made really difficult. Knowing the weights of passengers, of luggage, and of fuel required for the particular journey, one of us would do the calculations for the loading and distribution of weight to balance the aircraft.
Passengers were brought in about 40 minutes before take-off, or 30 minutes if there were a lot of flights. They then went through Customs, staffed by a solitary and memorably delightful Chinese called Mr.Chan, who was unusually massive, tall and rotund. (he must have been elsewhere during the occupation). Apart from Cantonese and Mandarin, he spoke good English, and had a fine sense of humour, but completely resisted my attempts at coaxing stories from him. He occasionally confiscated contraband and drugs but always quietly and without disruption from the offender, probably because it was obvious a policeman was on call from the adjacent immigration section. It seemed that for the most part confiscation was not followed up by prosecution, for it was rarely the police were called in.

Immigration and Passport Control seemed to be run by Malays, pleasant enough but a bit remote, and mostly concerned with incomers, though military were ignored, as were Officials on special flights who never went near Customs or Immigration.
Having worked out the Weight and Balance chart, given a copy to Freight Section, and seen everyone through the formalities, I or a colleague would walk them out and get them settled in their seats with the help of the Air Steward. The luggage would have been stowed under the direction of the individual running Freight Section. The normal aircrew complement for a Dakota was pilot, occasionally a co-pilot, navigator, and steward. So far as I recall wireless operators only went on long trips, otherwise communication was managed by the pilot.

All labouring work, the loading of luggage and especially freight boxes which were often heavy, was done by Japanese POWs. I don’t know if they were used in the maintenance areas on the other side of the airfield, but we used a group of  8 or 10 each day with the Jap equivalent of an NCO or junior Officer in charge of the party. They were brought from the Gaol by an Army truck at half past eight and were collected again around four. Each had a water bottle and some sort of rice mush which they ate during a midday break. They were short, scruffy, pretty horrid, and sometimes would employ forms of  “dumb insolence” which, when out of the public gaze, earned the culprit a kick or a wallop. Freight Section employed them but for some reason they always arrived at Passenger Section where their prisoner i/c got them into two rows for inspection by whoever was on duty.

With few exceptions Japanese soldiers were small and absolutely scruffy, and no one had any English of course. On a line-up one morning a fellow in the back row was fooling around and I pointed him out to the person in charge, a Korean in white naval uniform. At the time I hadn’t realised the enmity that existed between the Koreans, who were relatively tall, and the Japanese and was somewhat startled when the Korean felled him with a massive punch to the head. Thereafter they all behaved themselves, I imagine, since they disappeared into the freight shed and the custody of others! I can only suppose that Koreans were separated from Japs in the prison camp. And, as much as we disliked them, they worked hard, were cheap labour, and soon mastered the art of getting cargo into the right position and lashing it, and out onto trolleys and stowing it in the shed.

There was another duty enforced upon some of POWs which went on quietly and well out of sight, beyond the high bank alongside the runway. Under military supervision, Japanese exhumed the Allied dead from the burial ground that had been created during the construction of the airstrip, and the bodies were reburied in the Singapore military cemetery. This may be at Kranji to the North of the Island near the Causeway leading to Malaya, but I have never seen it, though I once could have done so. In 1990, while in Singapore for a very few days, the only taxi driver I asked didn’t know it. (Incidentally, outside Europe it is not easy to find War Cemeteries. Thailand may be an exception because of the Kwai Bridge, but guide books for Singapore and Hong Kong prefer to ignore them, regardless of their superb upkeep, and the maps follow suit. It is almost as if they are ashamed of having them.)    
Only once did I unexpectedly have a short conversation with a POW. Sitting in the sun at the doorway of my little room I was approached by a man of about 25, dressed in neat khaki trousers and shirt, and who asked if I would like to buy any small wood carvings. Since he spoke nearly perfect English it was some seconds before I recognised him as Japanese, and I’d not come across one free ranging and on a sort of parole. Having refused the carvings he then asked if I had ever come across a particular English professor, whose name I’ve forgotten. It transpired that not only had this chap taken English as a degree subject but gone on to do English Literature under this professor at Tokyo University. Not wishing to prolong the talking I got rid of him without enquiring why he was out on his own but now think he may have been working as a translator and thereby given some degree of freedom, but it was an odd encounter.

During the first part of 1946 several high ranking Japanese military were being tried for War Crimes. The trials may have been at Changi Gaol, or at the Supreme Court in the Colonial centre of the city, yet one heard very little about them, though I guess there was some mention in the press. Nevertheless, there was at least one execution, of a General  (whose name and the date now escape me) not by hanging but by a firing squad, and this was carried out on a beach to the East of the airfield. It was only known because an (unwritten?) order was passed round by word of mouth telling people to keep away from the beach on that day. Did rank have a bearing on whether one was shot or hanged? And what happened to the lesser characters who had caused thousands of deaths to the local population?

At some time in the spring of 1946 someone, presumably in the War Office, decided that the number of higher ranking NCOs among ex-aircrew was far too great, so all Flight Sergeants would be downgraded to the rank of Sergeant though their pay would not be reduced. All we had to do was remove the crown element from above the triple stripes. I’m sure a restriction was also introduced for Officers whereby a Pilot Officer no longer became a Flying Officer after one year, and maybe some others had reduced rankings. It was a very odd situation, especially since the rank of Warrant Officer, that above Flt/Sgt was untouchable because it was a Crown Warrant. But, having complied with the order life went back to normal, save that there were dozens more Sergeants!

For some reason I had to do two or three days in April working at Kallang airfield, being driven in an RAF vehicle. I think it was to do with temporary diversions of planes and dealing with their weight and balance sheets, but it was short lived and unmemorable.

On the Changi airfield there were some flights which did not concern us and were dealt with by other RAF personnel on the maintenance side. For a short period there was a system of dropping rice to very isolated Malayan villages which were suffering from starvation and, I believe, there were some still small groups of Japanese who had not surrendered and could cut the jungle tracks to settlements. Sacks of rice were loaded into a Dakota which had its door removed, and then a couple of airmen pushed the sacks out near the settlement. There was also the matter of moving aircraft spares, which seemed to be outside our remit. I guess they did their own weight and balance checks but there was one notable occasion when we were tipped off to watch a particular take-off.

A Dakota had been loaded to its absolute weight capacity with one or probably two aero engines. I don’t remember where it was going, only that it was being piloted by an allegedly “mad Irishman”. We went towards the edge of the runway for a good view, and watched it start from the farthest end. By the time it had reached us at the halfway mark it had gained some speed and got its tailwheel up but was still simply trundling. Gradually speed increased but no sign of lifting off and everyone watched in horror. Less than 100 yards from the end of the runway, and when we were sure it would continue into the sea, it became airborne up to 25 feet, dipped to 15 feet over the sea and very, very slowly, gained height as it disappeared from view. I imagine questions were asked by the control tower and others, for nothing like it happened again.
Yet stupid actions still took place. When planes came in with problems or requiring servicing, attention was given followed by an air test when the pilot usually took with him the mechanics who had done the work. I don’t know if they were present on the day a particular four engined York transport was air tested. Everything was fine, but the pilot wished to prove an argued point that it was possible to loop the loop with the aircraft (once more he was said to be Irish.) It is most unlikely that it could be done, but it was said to have been attempted, and the plane survived, save that a main spar along one wing cracked, necessitating a major repair amounting to a replacement wing. So it isn’t a possible feat, but that was the story put out whenever one questioned why the York had been standing in isolation for months, away from the maintainance hangers. Not so sure about Irish pilots (how many did the RAF have?), whose antics seemed to be unfairly equated with those of the Poles.

Surprisingly, there were no accidents on the airfield. For a short while a campaign to eradicate mosquitoes by spraying lakes and ponds with DDT brought a twin engined Bristol Beaufighter to Changi. Specially equipped, and with a crew of two, it went about its duties over a few days until it may have gone far too low, since it crashed into a small lake with the loss of the crew. I gather that in 1947, after I left, DDT was shovelled from a Dakota onto the mangrove swamps East of the airfield.

Unfortunately there was the very occasional loss of an aircraft in transit, no more than one in every 5 or 6 months and mostly on the 1600 mile sea crossing from Colombo, often in monsoon conditions. Our nearby wireless operator always knew when an aircraft had left Colombo and at what time he last had contact. Rarely, if ever, was an SOS received, so it was a matter of hoping it was a fault in the apparatus, and that the plane would still appear, but always shipping and other aircraft were alerted to the possibilities of a ditching.

For three months traffic was pretty routine. On the 8 to 4 shift there would probably be four outgoing and a similar number of incoming passenger flights and a couple of purely freight ones to and from various destinations. There were daily ones to Java and Sumatra and to Kuala Lumpur or Penang., and about twice a week to and from Hong Kong, Bangkok and Rangoon. Normally it was a mixture of civilians on business and service personnel on postings - the cheerful ones about to be shipped home for demobilisation!

Once a month there might be a party of entertainers from the UK who, having trailed round camps in India, were now to range over SE Asia. I think they had pretty tough lives. At least twice a week there would be special inward or outward flights of high ranking people, sometimes in the day but often late at night. Somehow the shift patterns involved the same colleagues, so I was regularly on duty with ex-pilot Roly Lawson, or Sonny Tofts. The latter was an ex.flight engineer, an aircrew trade only associated with four engined aircraft such as Lancasters, where he controlled the throttles during take-off and landings, and monitored the engines during flight. Off duty we regularly went to town and to the beach together.

Special Flights -  Generally these were known at least a day in advance because preparations for arrival or send-off might have to be made. A Foreign Office Minister would expect a local high ranking Civil Servant to meet him, or one of Lord Mountbatten’s assistants. I don’t recall Lord Louis ever meeting anyone at the airfield.  There was no such thing as a private lounge so all introductions, welcoming etc. had to be done not far from the aircraft steps, with the appropriate vehicles parked nearby, but it was rare for more than three or four people to be present. Our (or my) job was to guide the car or cars to a suitable parking place. Then, once the aircraft had taxied closer than usual to our buildings, see that the steps were in place, and shepherd the party towards them. Depending upon the importance, or the known self-importance of the visitor, one of our Officers ( F/O Elphick or F/Lt Lloyd ) would arrange to be there also, to take over the saluting and formal nonsense. These occasions also required an unusual degree of smartness and wearing one’s cap! There was a protocol for high ranking military Officers.
There was one VIP who was marvellously unstuffy and disliked any fuss. Lord Brabazon of Tara had been appointed The Special Commissioner for South East Asia, and arrived in mid-February to take up his post. He was a balding, grey haired man, of medium height, with a large tummy underslung by his belt.  During the war he had headed a committee that considered the types of airliners Britain would need  to produce in peacetime, and had also been an Ambassador in Cairo. I think he, like Mountbatten, was based at the Government Buildings in town, but once a month or six weeks would have to visit some part of his SE Asian territory. Normally he would leave or arrive during the day in his Official chauffeured black Rolls Royce and with a couple of advisors or whatever in attendance, who went with him on a Dakota. All he wanted was a pair of us on duty to greet him and take his party to the aircraft, or to the car if they were incoming, and he was genial and chatty.

One day he was due out at the time Sonny Tofts and I were about to go off duty. He seemed to realise this and asked if we would care to be taken into Singapore in his car. The chance was too good to miss so, with one of us in the front with the Malay chauffeur we asked and got driven in the Rolls to the front of Raffles Hotel. There, only civilians and Officers were admitted, so, while bystanders expected someone of note, we alighted gracefully and went slumming.

I guess Brabazon worked hard at the political problems of the next years before returning to the UK, but I’ve always been glad he got a different sort of fame when the Bristol Brabazon airliner was named after him and made maiden flights, although the enormous plane never went into production.

We always knew in advance who would be using a special flight, from where and the estimated time of arrival, so all those affected were informed of the timing. Weather conditions might alter it, but generally we didn’t want a party waiting in the passenger reception room for very long, especially in the daytime when other passengers were coming in.  Late night arrivals or departures were easier but necessitated duty out of normal hours, and who stood in was sorted out among staff well beforehand.

Thus one of those I dealt with was Lt. General Sir Frederick Browning, best remembered as the husband of Daphne Du Maurier.  I think he may have come from the UK by several stages, since he landed unusually late at around 11pm. He got the usual smart salute and a “please follow me, sir” and I led him and his small retinue to those waiting by Staff cars, and then he was whisked into the night, so before midnight I was able to get back to bed. I guess he was to join the Supreme Commander’s staff at the Government Building but I never recognised him thereafter - a typical smart, dark moustached General.

I do not remember Group Captain Riley or any senior Officers being present on such occasions, and suppose running Changi was considered enough of a job (unless any Air Marshals ever appeared on manifests, but not in my time).

It may now seem strange that the airfield was accepted as a safe place, although infiltration was easy, and to my knowledge there were never any armed police hovering in the background when VIPs were present, with perhaps an exception recounted below.

The chaotic political and military situation in the former Dutch East Indies was beyond our comprehension, and simply accepted. There had been an Indonesian Nationalist party under a Dr Sukarno since 1927 and before 1941 he had been imprisoned by the Dutch. Liberated by the Japanese in 1942, as soon as they surrendered in 1945 Sukarno proclaimed Indonesia an independent republic, resulting in intermittent fighting against the Dutch, who endeavoured to maintain some authority (which lasted until about 1950).
There were still daily flights to some places, bringing back civilians, often Dutch, and detachments of British troops - goodness knows why they had been sent there when the area was in revolt. (By chance I ushered a dozen Royal Engineers through Customs etc. when they came in one day from Sumatra, and always remembered they had a Warrant Officer in charge. Some 7 years later the same man, Frank Colquhoun, was in charge of me in an OS Archaeological Branch Section.)

One day I was already helping a colleague with passengers from one aircraft when another RAF plane arrived from Batavia, spilling out a small horde of men in unfamiliar uniforms. We hadn’t been informed of this flight and only later was I told they were a delegation of unarmed Indonesian “rebels”, led by a General? or Dr?. Sukarno, eventually to be the first President, going to a conference in Singapore. They evidently knew just where they needed to go, and my vain attempt to shepherd them was rendered pointless once I saw a couple of Military Police who obviously had everything in hand. Still, I was a bit annoyed not to have been told about it.

Normal Service - Gradually, during the first months of 1946, the number of flights increased greatly, not so much by the RAF as by Commercial airlines, which saw the possibilities of profitable national and international routing, utilising the large numbers of ex-military aircraft coming on the market, especially Dakotas, and the availability of entrepreneurial pilots. Every week a new airline appeared covering parts of SE Asia, while European countries with “colonial” ties realised the necessity of establishing links before too much competition arose.

The RAF had instituted a weekly service, later increased somewhat, from the UK to Singapore using fairly well fitted out four-engined York transports. They had a galley and an air steward apart from the two pilots, navigator, possibly an engineer, and wireless operator. There were a few that were merely freight, but the regulars carried about twenty passengers and only a small amount of freight. Some may have originated from Lyneham, but all those I dealt with were based at Waterbeach, Cambs. The journey took about four or five days, via, Malta, Haifa, Karachi, Colombo and Singapore, which was the most difficult leg. I believe on some flights Malta was omitted in favour of Cyprus. With only one crew there had to be night stopovers, and return journeys followed the same route after a rest period of two days at Changi.

I had last seen Maurice Smith at the Pembrey holding unit in September the previous year, and from letters knew he wished to continue flying. As an ex-bombaimer there was no chance, so he became an Air Steward on Transport Command, a rather subsidiary post within the crew but not without considerable responsibility. To my and his delight he managed to get onto the UK to Changi run and came approximately every three weeks, and during the two day rest period we’d have time together on the beach or in town. It was not long before the crews found they could make money by taking certain goods back to the UK. Hotels would pay high prices for pineapples and other exotic fruit; watches attracted the attention of Customs after a while, but thereafter for months the focus transferred to an enormous demand for watch straps, especially the chromium plated expanding type. I bought them by the box, the crew paid me, and off they went.

Changi’s  position in regard to other parts of Asia meant that it became a centre for smuggling. For some passengers it was a living, and the Chinese thrived on it; for some crew members it was an occasional pastime. Perhaps it was far too soon but there seemed to be no trading in drugs; it was mainly gold, diamonds, and currencies. Mr Chan in Customs might look into luggage for guns or illegal items, but seemed to have no mechanism for body searches. And crews never went near Customs.

We indulged in some quite legitimate trading via crew members, especially with an eye towards collecting stuff to take home in due course. Apart from hoarding some silk cloth, I had two pairs of shoes made in Bangkok and also purchased a “niello ware” silver cigarette case. For shoes one drew an outline of your feet on a piece of paper which the crew member would give to the shoemaker. They would be ready, almost while he waited it seemed, and you got them on the next flight down. Everything was of good quality and ridiculously cheap.
Late one afternoon a member of a crew of a Dakota in from Hong Kong asked me if I would go with him into Singapore that evening. He had to meet someone and didn’t know the city at all well. Apart from the address he seemed to have little information to give me, and wasn’t much given to conversation. I suggested we had a quick meal in the Mess and took the next gharry into town. Having done that there was little difficulty in tracing the whereabouts of the small café for his appointment. It had a half dozen tables for snacks, so we sat at one, ordered tea, and noted the only other person, a solitary Chinese gentleman at a far table. Up to now I had been given no inkling as to what this meeting was about or with whom and was a little startled when the Chinese got up and came over to us with an inconsequential sentence or two about the traffic or weather. My accompanying Sergeant muttered a reply and introduced me as “a friend”, whereupon the Chinese sat down and I became a bit worried as to what I’d got myself into. We three and the proprietor were the only ones in the café.
From his jacket pocket the Sgt. pulls out a tied up handkerchief which contained a small cotton bag. This held 40 to 50 diamonds, all cut, and of various sizes This was smuggling on a grand scale. Where did they originate? Were they stolen? Our Chinese rolled them into several heaps with his fingers, counted them, and poured them into a felt purse. Following a few words of thanks he got up and walked out into the night. The whole thing had taken less than ten minutes and so far as I could see no money had changed hands. We left shortly afterwards, but I felt very uneasy, as if we were being watched, so my concern was to leave the area as soon as possible and get to the Air Booking Centre where I left my uncommunicative smuggler to await the next transport to Changi while I went to the Union Jack Club for a couple of beers and some thinking.

Was the Sgt. navigator really unfamiliar with Singapore? Had I been asked to go along as an unsuspecting “guard”? How often and by how many was the café used? Although at the time I certainly knew his first name, I don’t know when he returned to Hong Kong but I   never saw him again, and made sure it there were no similar involvements.
The local newspaper noted civilian cases dealt with by the courts but smuggling offences perpetrated by members of the Forces seemed to come under military jurisdiction and the results circulated as gossip. Among these there was an Army private who came over the Causeway from Johore and was found to be concealing some gold in his truck. He was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment and sent home to serve it.

A widespread activity was organised theft, which applied to all military premises. At Changi, and not far from the women’s blocks, there was an area of tarmac which, at times, was used to park Bedford lorries, large and small. Also there, for some strange reason it was the site of a mobile Army Printing Press, a vast cabin mounted on a six wheeled trailer which in turn was raised on big jacks. It had been in place for months when someone noticed that the six large wheels could easily be removed and one night they disappeared having been put into a stolen Bedford, no easy task considering their weight.  Unless there was some collusion it was curious that such thefts, even in the middle of the night, did not wake someone or alert a guard. Once tucked away in a remote part of the Island there would be no hope of recovery; re-painted and falsely documented they could soon be in Malaya in a matter of hours.
Since the Changi village road passed through the western extremity of the camp there was no way it could be completely sealed off and the perimeter fencing that existed merely controlled access to a degree.

There were a few armed guards at night, but the perimeter was so long and enclosed such a variety of terrain, from airstrip to barracks and jungle, that in spite of patrolling determined people could penetrate.

The RAF Police had an office near the Station HQ, but guard duties may have been undertaken by the RAF Regiment or simply given to young aircraftsmen as an occasional addition to their normal duties. The normal weapon issued was the Sten gun, notoriously dangerous if treated casually, and it produced one tragic accident. In a patch of forest near the airfield a young man was found dead from a bullet wound in the head, and close to him a python with a crushed skull. It was surmised that in the dark he suddenly saw the python, panicked and, holding the barrel, thumped the butt of the gun on its head. This violent movement would have allowed the mechanism to recoil and fire a single round.

The python was not uncommon, I think, but kept to woodland, and I don’t remember any mention of cobras. There were a number of others of which a black snake, less than 3ft long, could frequent the bushy ground around the billets, and also climb into trees from which it would leap for some distance. It was venomous, and I believe we called it a krate - perhaps not its correct name, but I always kept a good lookout for one, to tell others of its whereabouts. They liked the sun and disappeared well before nightfall. Any of the “boys” also alerted us if one was seen, and since shrub trimming and grass cutting was among their jobs they were often the first to see them.

To return to the emerging airlines of 1946. I wish I had kept a written record of them, and a photographic one. Fairly soon I had saved enough to purchase a 1930’s Voigtlander folding camera from a shop in town. It used 120 roll films, but a special attraction was a selection of shutter speeds up to 1/500th. But at the time ephemeral airlines did not seem to warrant consideration.

Cathay Pacific’s seven Dakotas, based in Hong Kong, started with routes in Asia, and initiated a Hong Kong - Bangkok - Singapore service a couple of times a week. For a while there was a China Airline, a Philippines one, and some Australians started a Darwin - Singapore venture, maybe via Borneo or Java. A host of these “two men and a dog “ enterprises appeared, carrying freight as well as passenger traffic, but most faded quickly and were never properly recorded. We had no control or input - how they were loaded was their responsibility, and we limited our actions to the movement of people through Customs etc. and these dispersed pretty quickly for by now there were usually taxis or a minibus waiting to go into town.

Towards the Southern end of the airfield there must have been an aircraft fuel store though it was seldom that bowsers came round to refuel aircraft on the parking lots near the reception facilities, since some planes might have to stay overnight, but such things were outside my interest.

While the RAF continued with its York services to and from the UK, national airlines proclaimed their interests and competitive positions. The Government owned British Overseas Airways Corporation inaugurated or re-started a flying boat service from Poole to Sydney in May 1946 which went via Singapore but their base was at the N.E. of the Island in the Johore Straits, so we never saw them, but their journeys must have taken ages, albeit in some comfort. BOAC needed a London to Sydney service, and while there were American Skymasters etc., that could do the job, given time, BOAC wanted it to be a very fast regular service. It may have been a rushed decision, but the Lancastrian was chosen. It was basically a Lancaster bomber, stripped down and fitted  with passenger seats, similar to that which, over a few years, had been in limited use by BOAC and the RAF for ferrying personnel.
The resulting modifications included long range fuel tanks in the former bomb bays, a tiny galley, and moderately luxurious seating, convertible to bunks. The crew consisted of pilot and co-pilot, navigator, wireless operator and a steward and all had, I believe, to be changed at the few refuelling stops. They were just outnumbered by the six passengers who were seated and bunked along one side of the plane.

Although utterly uneconomic it became famous, with 72 hours London to Sydney, as the fastest route in the world.  Originally they started from Hurn, Southampton, I believe, and Singapore was not a stop, but the loss of one aircraft on the long and remote last leg to Australia resulted in a re-routing. The first of these flights left London Airport (later Heathrow) on the 28th May and was at Changi early on the 30th.
BOAC Lancastrian UK-Australia service 1946
All the passengers were bound for Australia so, as at every stop, what they most needed was to stretch their legs. It was a very successful route, and I think, was increased to more than one a week. For passengers it must have been terribly claustrophobic and tiring until more suitable aircraft were introduced, over a year later, but the speed of the journey was only matched in recent years. I haven’t checked on the stops, which would correspond with the crew changes, but think it may have been UK, Lydda, Karachi, after which Colombo, Singapore, Darwin, and Sydney were the normal ones.

I believe that Qantas supplied crews for the Karachi to Sydney parts (see Charles Woodley’s “BOAC - An Illustrated History” Tempus 2003). I took several photos of these Lancastrians, but not of the first one, G-AGLS.

Before mid-1946 Skymasters of the Netherlands Government Air Transport were coming in regularly from Amsterdam and going to the Dutch East Indies, and Darwin, I think. These American built airliners took much longer than the BOAC Lancastrians but carried a far greater number of passengers at probably considerably lower fares. NGAT were soon replaced by KLM, flying a similar route. Both may have included Athens, or even Cyprus, because there were often Greek men or families being carried to Australia, and on one occasion it was a plane load of Greek seamen.

I have four photos of a Skymaster KLM plane, “The Flying Dutchman”, near passenger section, and disgorging what I suppose to be a ceremonial Saint Nicholas accompanied by a person in a black mask, hat, and 15th/16thC attire, who holds  the Bishop’s crook. Once they are on the ground a great floral or leafy tribute, wrapped in a banner with “200” on it, is brought down the aircraft steps. Nothing was written on the prints until recently, when it was assumed to have been on December 5th 1946, St. Nicholas’s Day. ( If so, what does the 200 signify?)

From the Australian end Quantas Empire Airways had a service from Sydney to the UK by the autumn of 1946 using an airliner version of the Liberator bomber. Inter-continental traffic had started to flourish but, at Changi, there was never any American airline. By Christmas 1947, months after I had gone, Constellation airliners replaced the Lancastrians for passengers on the UK to Australia route, though Lancastrians were still used for mail.

During 1946 and early 1947 there were two or three times when adventurous individuals emigrating to Australia bought their own aircraft as a quick way to get there.
Always they were ex-RAF bombers, Lincoln, Halifax, or Lancaster, each flown by an ex-RAF bomber pilot and  probably a similar navigator. The planes were named, and I photographed two, “Excalibur”, a Lincoln, which was a short lived variation of the Lancaster, and “Waltzing Matilda”, a Halifax. One of the crew of Excalibur had a wife and child with him so there must have been a minor degree of fitting-out. Since thousands of planes were awaiting demolition the initial cost would have been low, though getting it to conform to a Civil Airworthiness Certificate might have cost more, but the whole enterprise would not be beyond the means of many a demobilised Officer.

For a while I did not understand why the livery of these particular aircraft was so different. Waltzing Matilda had a Civil Aircraft Registration - G-AGXA, while Excalibur carried the RAF roundel and lettering. A note on the back of the Halifax says it was on an “Exhibition  Flight” by a Captain Wickens. If, on his way to Australia, he had displayed the plane in any non-British Commonwealth countries it would have to be registered as a civil aircraft  and not a military one, but certainly it was not “exhibited” at Changi. The Lincoln, which still had its tail guns, had presumably utilised the normal military route, and in Australia would be sold to a special display centre or museum.

Looking back on the 15 or 16 months I was at Changi, and considering the new systems and infrastructure employed, it is surprising how few aircraft were lost. An RAF York disappeared over the Indian Ocean, and a Dakota over Malaya, two out of hundreds of journeys, sometimes in very bad weather conditions and restrictions, eg. Hong Kong was not equipped for night landings or take-offs.
Ex-RAF Lincoln bomber 'Excalibur' (name painted on nose) at Changi en route to Australia for exhibition purposes, Oct 1946.  Pilot was (according to memory) a civilian and his wife evidently intending to stay in Australia.
To be continued...
Remembering Those Who Gave Their All
The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing is a war memorial in Ypres, Belgium, dedicated to the British and Commonwealth soldiers who were killed in the Ypres Salient of World War I and whose graves are unknown. The memorial is located at the eastern exit of the town and marks the starting point for one of the main roads out of the town that led Allied soldiers to the front line. The names of 54,000 missing are on it's walls.

The Last Post Association
The Haka at Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium, following the ANZAC Day evening ceremony on 25th April.
21 March 2018, Government House in Victoria, BC, Canada.  Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette Governor General of Canada presented the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers to Bernie Lafrance (RCAF).

Photo credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2018
Bernie's in the Limelight again!
Bernie Lafrance (RCAF) tied the knot recently with his sweetheart, Aase Gerken Jensen.  I wonder if we'll hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the near future?  Word of advice:  Get a dog; they're cheaper to feed and they have twice as many feet!  Congratulations!
Available from Abe Books - click on image for details
John Richardson


I was stationed in Belgium in the middle to late 50s and did a spell with the Royal Signals at their signal centre situated on the docks at Antwerp.

There was an RAF Movements section there and we shared accommodation and messing.

I am trying to find out more about that movements section and whether or not it was part of a larger unit in the UK or at RAF Germany (2TAF)

Be obliged if anyone out there can help.


Swinderby Passing Out 26th July 1978 - No 25 Squadron, 14, 15 and 16 Flights
From: Dougie Russell, Carlisle, Cumbria
Subject:  Brize Norton Get-Together for Bootcamp Buddies


In July of this year it will be the 40th anniversary of a certain bunch passing out of Swinderby and heading to Brize Norton for No 22 Movements Operator course. I am trying to arrange a gathering at Brize Norton on Friday 27th July.  If anyone is interested please contact me.

Kirsty Ascroft joined the Royal Air Force in 2009 and is currently serving as a member of the 32 (The Royal) Squadron VIP cabin crew at RAF Northolt. Kirsty’s prospects are soaring!  Before joining the Royal Air Force she was senior cabin crew for Euromanx, AerArann and Flybe Airlines working on four different aircraft types.
“After the recession in 2008 (which saw VIP travel decline) I went to a career convention where I got chatting to a Royal Air Force representative; I was completely sold on the idea of flying with senior military officers, Government ministers and the Royal household and this became my sole focus. I was also attracted to the job security the military has to offer, along with the educational opportunities. I was aware that the career change would be a huge leap of faith but I was ready for the challenge and yearned to feel a sense of achievement.

“My first tour of duty was at Royal Air Force Coningsby in Lincolnshire where my role involved stewarding duties within the Officers’ Mess. I also completed my Intermediate Hospitality apprenticeship which I was able to undertake and fit around my working day.  “I have been lucky enough to experience many opportunities in the Royal Air Force. These range from sporting tournaments (equestrian and netball) to serving members of the Royal family on board our BAe146 aircraft. My job has taken me all over the world to some remarkable places, including India for six weeks, Sicily for four months and various other countries with our VIP passengers. I have been involved in numerous charity events and was even a flag bearer for the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham’s opening ceremony. 

“We are encouraged to improve ourselves academically, with a generous education package, such as the Intermediate Hospitality apprenticeship. I have also become more confident after enrolling on free courses in public speaking and team leadership.  “I have already achieved many great things in my career but the story doesn’t end here. Promotion opportunities are plentiful and my end goal is to qualify as a flying instructor.”

More Relevant Stuff
This Newsletter is Dedicated
to the Memories of:
Peter Holland (RAF)
Neale Harrison (RAF)
Larry Lashkevich (RCAF)
Tony Gale

If you wish to send a donation to the OBA
drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you can do it.