From: David Powell, Princes Risborough Subject: Argosy Aerobatics
You don't hear from me for ages then, like buses, three tales come along at once!
From the last newsletter the link to the fantastic C-130 aerobatic display at Farnborough tickled the grey cells about some unrehearsed aerobatics involving an RAF Changi 215 Squadron Argosy in the Far East in 1963. It is described in detail in Roger Annett’s excellent Drop Zone Borneo, Life and Times of an RAF Co-Pilot Far East 1962-65. (Published by Pen & Sword Military, ISBN 978-1-84884-405-6).
This is an edited extract from Roger’s book (pages 52—55) which provides a vivid description of the event:
“It is 26th November. The task is a Medium Stressed Platform (MSP) dropping exercise up at Kuantan, an airfield in East Malaya. Roger is in his usual seat as co-pilot to Sqn Ldr J M (Boss) Leary (Roger’s Flight Commander), and the crew includes Master Engineer (Mister) Howarth.
Two daisy-chained MSPs loaded with a Landrover and Trailer almost fill completely the freight bay with just room for the rigging party’s eight soldiers and the loadmaster (then called Air Quarter Masters). They perch on canvas bucket seats along the side wall. On take-off, XP446 is close to max all-up weight.
The take-off run is normal but as the twin boom Argosy lifts off, there’s vibration through the control column. Roger records: “As we climb away the shaking gets worse. Could this be the elevator shearing? I’ve heard this is a possibility with the Argosy. In any event we’re all used to the natural flexing of the airframe in the very active tropical air over Singapore. XP446 continues its climb. The water methanol boost is turned off and flaps retracted. Under climbing power the course is set for the Kong Kong beacon just north of Changi.
Then without any warning, at about 1,800 feet, the controls start to shudder violently. The aircraft’s nose rears up alarmingly. The skipper reacts immediately – shoving the control column fully forward and furiously winding the elevator trimmers. Still the nose rises. This is getting serious.
Unknown to us the over-wing dingy hatches have been sucked away at the point of maximum lift on take-off. The dinghies have inflated and burst out of their stowage. One has wrapped itself around the tailplane.
The aircraft’s nose then drops sickeningly and the Argosy, all 97,000 lb. of it –soldiers, MSPs, aircrew and all – then performs an aerobatic manoeuver forbidden in this aircraft. It’s a ‘bunt’ – a negative-G outside loop. Meanwhile, outside, the dinghy is beating the ailerons to death. But all we know in the cockpit is that the elevators are out of commission and the aircraft is going exactly where it wants – porpoising across the sky, regardless of the Boss’s battle with the controls.
There’s worse to come. The port wing drops and the Argosy plunges into a left hand spiral dive. Descending near to vertical I stare petrified at the approaching rocks and seaweed straight down below in the blue waters of the South China Sea. I sit rigid in my seat waiting to meet my Maker. Time is frozen. Oblivion is imminent and there’s nothing I can do.
Meanwhile, the skipper calls for power off and Mister Howarth, imperturbable as ever, pulls the throttle back. Bathed in sweat, the Boss hauls back on the control column and somehow heaves the heavy aeroplane out of its screeching dive at 400 ft. Miraculously, it’s pointing straight back at the runway we had just left – but in the opposite direction and just about maintaining height.
In the earphones, the voice of the Boss: ‘Co-pilot, send a distress message on Changi local and ask for a downwind landing.’ ‘Roger, Skipper.’ I call Changi local ‘May-Day – May-Day – May–Day. This is four-four-six. Position two miles North East at four hundred feet. Request emergency landing on runway two zero. Over.’
There is not much we can do if they refuse. ‘Roger four-four-six. Beware two aircraft taking off.’
Almost instantly, two Royal Navy Buccaneers flash by taking extreme and urgent evasive action as the Argosy barrels down into their flight path.
Meanwhile, the skipper instructs the doubtless now terrified rigging party and loadmaster downstairs to prepare for a possibly heavy landing and calls the landing checks.
‘Undercarriage Down’ I press the button with trepidation. Three Red lights – three Greens!
‘Landing Flap, Co – but be ready to take them up again.’ He is concerned that the flaps might disturb the aircraft trim. They don’t and the runway threshold slips under our wheels. We bump down, but a downwind landing at full takeoff weight is not normal practice – and we are going very fast!
‘Props to fully fine’ and the disking propellers bite against the slipstream. Braking aggressively the Boss manages to pull up before the trenches at the far end of the runway, dug for maintenance work and not as speed traps for wayward Argosies.
We turn and backtrack along the runway.
Ashen-faced we climb down the ladders and join the shaken soldiers beside the aircraft to understand what happened. There is a burst 32 seat dinghy wrapped around the starboard elevator. The gas bottle has damaged a tail boom. The Argosy is festooned with nylon cord and the dinghy’s mooring lanyard stretched from hatch to tailplane.
Impassively, Mister Howarth reports that the brakes have over heated and the accelerometer is reading plus 5 and minus 6 G, well outside our limits and enough to worry a fighter pilot. The navigator throws up over the starboard undercarriage. I go off to the Officer’s Mess bar for something to settle the nerves. That afternoon, the skipper joins another crew for a trip to Kuantan. And the loadmaster requests, and gets, a transfer to passenger aircraft.’’
The above extract is without the author’s permission. So I am declaring it as a referenced extract used for research purposes, for anyone interested in Argosies, tactical air transport, RAF life in the 1960s, especially in Singapore and that challenging forgotten historical footnote, Confrontation with Indonesia. Furthermore, I am sure Roger won’t mind, especially if it leads to some more sales of his excellent book (available on Amazon!). And I’ll buy him a beer next time our paths cross. We were in the same squadron as Cranwell Flight Cadets, and also at Changi together.
Just to further whet your appetite, here is another snippet from Roger’s book. They are on the approach to Saigon, in a stream of transports, B-52s and swarms of choppers. At about 1,000 feet they watch in amazement as a C-124 flies across their nose at the same level dropping paratroops.
“Our skipper grabs the transmit button – ‘Mike Oscar Golf to Saigon control. This is a damn silly time and place to be doing para training. Over!’ Back comes a laconic Southern drawl. ‘That ain’t no training Oscar Golf.’
Best wishes, stay safe.
David Powell RAF Changi Bar Book Temple Hill 1964-67 F Team UKMAMS 1967-69 Gulf MAMF 1971
RCAF concludes Florida life raft incident investigation
The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) has released its findings on an incident that occurred in February that saw a life raft fall from a CH-146 Griffon through the roof of a house in Opa-Locka, Florida, US, stating that they could not determine why the object fell.
The helicopter, part of the 424 Transport and Rescue Squadron, was conducting a mission as part of Exercise Southern Breeze with a six-person crew when the life raft dropped 500 feet into a house below.
The crew had been performing pre-landing checks when it fell, and the flight instructor circled back round to mark the location of the raft, before landing at the nearby airport.
RCAF personnel then liaised with local police to retrieve the raft and help the occupants of the house. Luckily, the occupants sustained only minor injuries, although the house sustained damage to the bedroom and the roof.
AirMed & Rescue Magazine
From: Gordon Gray, Allestree, Derby Subject: RAF 100 - Celebrations
I was very fortunate, privileged in fact, to have been invited along with less than two hundred others to the celebrations at Buckingham Palace on 10 July; which happened to be my birthday.
Attendance at the Ceremony to Consecrate the new Queen’s Colour in Westminster Abbey, for obvious reasons was very limited. So the alternative to my request to do so came as a complete surprise; that was to view the Consecration Parade and Flypast from a privileged vantage point just outside the Palace gates then to attend the reception inside the Palace afterwards.
Considering the uncharacteristicly high temperatures leading up to the celebrations and the RAF Cosford trainees whom we were told had numerous faintings during their extensive rehersals, the events on the day went off without any visible hitch.
As a result of my initial application to attend, the invitation came because my father, who joined the Royal Naval Air Service in February 1918 from The Gordon Boys' Home in Woking entered the RAF when the Royal Flying Corps amalgamated with the RNAS on 1st April 1918. He was awarded his Pilots 'Wings' in January 1924, then initially flying DH9A's with 11(B) Squadron out of Bircham Newton. Between us we had over 70 years of continuous RAF service.
I guess there might be other's recollections of some sort leading up to 11 November this year.
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough Subject: Was This the Biggest of Them All?
In looking for the Gander photo (see last newsletter), I came across a set of photos from our days on Gulf MAMF taken at Sharjah in or around September 1971. The job had come in a few days earlier, namely could we move a piece of kit, a stone-crusher, needed urgently for resurfacing work at Masirah, some 500 miles away.
An initial inspection highlighted that it was a bit too high for a Belfast, but an oxyacetylene torch could cut off the top hopper with its supports and that soon solved the problem (a modification undertaken by the owners, I hasten to add, lest more recent readers start to think that Gulf MAMS would take unilateral action to make loads fit as a matter of course!).
Following its haircut, the resultant multi-wheeled ‘thing’ still weighed in at some 26 tonne or 52,000 lb. A quick calculation had showed that for the short hop to Masirah with a reduced fuel requirement, this was well within the payload of a Belfast. Next, an inspection of the Belfast rolling and stationary floor stress diagrams showed that the load should be within limits. Finally, a cutout paper silhouette moved over the diagram indicated that it should go in, just! And the task was accepted.
The day before the due date, the ‘thing’ arrived at Sharjah. The actual loading of what was, in effect, a massive multi-wheeled trailer, involved the station’s aircraft tug-master (and the best and bravest driver) pushing and two aircraft loading winches working in parallel with a geared-down pulley arrangement pulling. The Belfast arrived as scheduled and the loading commenced as illustrated in the photos.
Suffice to say the loading plan worked – just. At one stage the winch cables were beginning to sing and I had visions of having created the world’s biggest cheese slicer and a bisected Belfast. Needless to say I kept these thoughts to myself and continued to maintain the positive confident grin captured in the photo.
For the offload, we had ‘booked’ the Masirah MT driver pool’s ‘top-gun’ and their tug-master. We had also briefed the station and the aircraft captain to park the Belfast so as to leave the maximum amount of concrete between the ramp and the Indian Ocean. The offload process was simple, if with some element of risk, namely introduce the aircraft tug to the ‘thing’ and couple up. Undo the chains, and take it away with a very gentle acceleration down the ramp and onto terra firma to avoid a catastrophic jack knife on the way out before gently slowing down, preferably before reaching the Ocean. Job done and the team returned to Sharjah.
Later, much much later, with the end of the RAF Belfasts approaching, I contacted 53 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton to find out how our load stood in the history of Belfast achievements? It was the heaviest ever trailer or non-powered vehicle ever carried in a Belfast. And, for all I know, may still be the record for such a load in a European manufactured aircraft.
Stay safe, best wishes
David Powell F Team UK MAMS 1967-69 Gulf MAMF 1971
From: Clive Hall, Swindon, Wilts Subject: Memories of Oz
I was a mere sprog of 18 months as a Blanket Stacker in the RAF when I volunteered for overseas and was rewarded with a tour at Edinburgh Field - this was two weeks before the World Cup Final in '66!
Never having flown in a large aircraft before, I was off to LHR to meet a British Eagle charter and 48 hours flogging to upsidedown land via a night stop in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, about halfway between Ceylon and Australia. Landed in Adelaide on the coldest night that they had for over 25 years, and me with thin bits and bobs on. No problem - just get on with it and attempt to decipher the Strine slang.
Work was in an air-conditioned office/store (just one fan for everyone in summer in over 100 degrees - shame!). Didn't take me too long to acclimatise and Tom Burrows helped me through it all with football, scouting and brass band! It turned out that I was related to Tom's wife Valerie!
The travel was great covering trips far and wide to the major cities and also on a Dove aircraft via Maralinga to Woomera; thankfully I suffered no after-effects - yet? I met a Sheilagh there and was wed in the Barossa Valley where workmates got a wee bit plastered on the free vino from the local winery. She and I went off in my trusted green Moggy Minor for some days and eventually took the train to Alice Springs and area - why not take advantage of the time said I! We used the RAAF DC3 to go to Broken Hill for the annual pissup and football match - others would say that a very large dog-like person accosted me?
When I was on MAMS a few years later, it gave me a chance to go back to Oz and Edinburgh Field where the Numero Uno of RAAF Movements, who I knew from Singapore, diverted an Albert to pick me up and dump me back at Richmond in time to be greeted by the rest of the team and present them with a cool beer or two. They were glad of that as there was a brewery strike on near to the motel.
MAMS organised taxis to go over the state border. We found a bar but a deadly hush greeted us as we "Bloody Poms" arrived. After gallons of the brown stuff we were all bosom buddies!
Another trip sent me with Dinger Bell (the little one) and one FS Ken Browne (?) to Sydney, staying in King's Cross, only to be waylaid by a young lady offering to be our friend for the evening. Following a good steak sarnie she was gone, but so was Dinger! The following morning we knocked on his door and he had "overslept" - the VC10 captain was not amused, but the offer of a case of beer in Hawaii calmed him down.
I've been back to Oz many times since leaving the RAF, but still reminisce over the good times I had. I tell anyone who is thinking of travel to try downunder and see the easy way of life where they drive on the correct side of the road, speak the Queen's English and have a thirst like no others!
From: David Taylor, York Subject: Memories of Australia
One of these days you are going to feature somewhere I haven't been, or at least didn't travel to with Transport Command Mobile Servicing Flight. It did take me a while to get to the Antipodes, but once I did they seemed to feature fairly regularly. The last was an exercise to RAAF Pearce, located just north of Perth, Australia, with the Royal Ulster Rifles - Exercise New Pastures, just prior to demob in 1964. But better was when I was to be found on the VIP trail once again. A World Tour, Chief of Air Staff Designate along for the ride. Or maybe I’ve got that the wrong way round?
This saw us heading for Thule once more, over the North Pole to Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage, Alaska. From here it was Hickam AFB, Honolulu; RAF Christmas Island, then across the Date Line to RNZAF Ohakea, New Zealand. Next stops were in Australia: RAAF Fairbain, Canberra; RAAF Edinburgh Field, outside Adelaide; then Darwin, en route to Singapore, where our passenger was apparently required to attend a conference or some such. From Singapore it was back to Australia: Darwin, RAAF Richmond then Sydney. Back across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand for a week at the RNZAF base Whenuapai, Auckland, then on to Wellington. Following this came Canberra again, where, shunning RAAF Fairbain (it was a VIP flight, after all!), a week at the rather plush Rex Hotel became one continuous party - and what a party!
This was long before the Aussies liberalized their drinking laws. The days of the notorious “six o’clock swill”, after which hour most Australian cities exuded the kind of gaiety one would hardly expect; more akin to that of a Welsh temperance society on the Sabbath. This was to confer upon us a distinct advantage. Being resident, we were able to circumvent this archaic state of affairs by the simple expedient of propping open the hotel’s cocktail bar. Which, naturally, we did. The barman at the Rex, an amiable, Australian-Scot, seemed happy to have us, plus the large circle of Australian friends we suddenly accrued. Another thing in our favour was the fact that whereas pubs were men-only institutions, in hotel bars, women were made welcome also - especially by the likes of us.
What a week that turned out to be. So good, the recollections are only fleeting. A bunch of Aussies invited us to a party, then issued a challenge to drink Crew Chief, Ron King, under the table. Oh no! Ron was about six feet tall, and big with it. And boy, could he throw it back.
I recall the last of the Aussies handing Ron the front door key before sloping off to bed, asking him to please lock up as we left.
Then there was an aircrew versus ground-crew tenpin bowling challenge; for a cask of beer, what else? Honours to the ground-crew this time. Difficult for it to be otherwise, most of the aircrew appeared to be pretty well legless even before the contest began. Can’t imagine how that came about!
During all this the Chief of Air Staff designate and his party were away doing whatever it was the CAS does. Probably similar to what we were doing, truth be told. But we did get to see a lot of the Capital city.
After a couple more stops in Australia - RAAF Richmond, and Darwin - it was back to Lyneham via the usual Singapore / Middle East route, after almost a month away. Tough, but someone had to do it!
From: Howard Firth, Cranwell Village, Lincs Subject: Memories of Australia
It is the summer of 1966 and England have just won the World Cup. I am an SAC Supplier General working in SCAF at RAF Colerne, my first posting after passing out from Admin Apprentice training at RAF Hereford. My job is running the Routine Demands Desk serving Section/ Reference Numbers 1-32.
Most of my work colleagues are being posted to Aden or the Gulf so when F/Sgt SCAF calls me in I know that I am a) due a dressing down, or b) due a posting. “Right, Firth you are posted to Maralinga”. Is that in the Gulf Flight Sergeant? “No, it’s in Australia” and with that I was off preparing for my first overseas tour, not having a clue where I was going.
So, it was, that I found myself at Heathrow waiting to board a British Eagle Airways Britannia, along with SAC Adrian Darter (301st AA), SAC Jimmy Gardiner (51st BE) and Cpl Dave Thompson. First stop was Bahrain and the intense heat when the a/c doors were opened, even though it was midnight! From here we flew to Columbo and then onto Singapore. During this leg we had an engine fire which required an engine change, so a 3 day stop over. Very exciting for us young chaps.
From here we flew eastwards to Darwin for a night stop. The final leg took us south to Maralinga which lies 500 miles north of Adelaide on the Nullabor Plain. We were all expecting to be doing basic Supply but when we arrived we were told we had been seconded to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) Team from Aldermaston.
Maralinga was the site of Britain’s nuclear testing during the 1950’s and before the land could be returned to the Aboriginals it had to be clear of all types of radiation. Some good stuff on You Tube about this. Our small team was part of "Operation Brumbie" and were put to work setting up mobile decontamination sites. The British Army teams of RE’s and RAPC were clearing the soil surface and we had to ensure that after the work was completed they were not contaminated. We each had our Land Rover and the tasking covered a huge area, reached mostly on unmapped desert roads. Occasionally the task was so far away from Maralinga that we had to camp out overnight.
We were employed on ground clearance duties ourselves. Using L/Rs with no doors and fitted with Geiger counters in the cab we were allocated areas of land that we drove up and down on in a search pattern. When the counters ticked over we stopped, got out and dug around until we found the contamination, placed it in an empty jam tin which we then stored it in the back until we finished the days’ work before placing it in a lead lined container. The contaminated earth we carried, wearing only shorts and bondu boots, was in fact Plutonium! (I have since been known to glow in the dark!)
It was a very interesting tour and had totally nothing to do with Supply. After 9 months the task was complete and whilst we awaited the official clearance from the Australian Government we were told to go on leave. I chose Sydney and took the train from Adelaide which was a massive journey, taking 2 days.
After 4 weeks I received details for the flight home and a posting to 16MU Stafford. Fortunately I was only there for 3 months before being selected for Air Movements training at RAF Abingdon.
The picture shows a very shy Adrian Darter, Jimmy Gardiner and myself relaxing on our favourite mode of transport.
Video - Plutonium at Maralinga Written and Narrated by Alan Parkinson, 2016
From: Graham Leman, Poole, Dorset Subject: Memories of Australia
When I was working with the SBS I was involved in a Force Projection Exercise to Townsville. The act of getting an SF sabre squadron to the East coast of Aus, the other side of the world (having been called out), with everything they needed to undertake their UK CT role took months of planning, vast amounts of tax payers money and the total reliance of the RAF air transport fleet. Planning was done, C130's air to air tanked only taking 3 days to get to Aus, exercise staff/umpires pre-positioned by civ air including a lucky 3 man MAMS Team, it was a massive moving jigsaw. However like all good plans they often fail first contact. Our first contact failure was the fact that someone forgot to tell 216 Sqn they were also part of the force projection plans.
With everything waiting in Aus for the arrival of the Sabre Sqn, clocks ticking etc., we get a call saying the Tristar was U/S in Bahrain with an engine change and it would be 4 days before their new ETA in Aus. Well you can imagine how that news was welcomed by senior SBS commanders, in fact I was summonsed for a proper dressing down by the SBS CO, as I was the SF Mover, "You're RAF, so you sort this pile of **** out!"
The exercise was in tatters and planning was underway to try and reorganise things like parachute drops and host nation support. I rang the MAMS team and gave them the good news, no work for them for at least 4 days, which was greeted with utter disappointment... not! "Cheers Scouse, excellent news, catch up with you for a beer no doubt over the coming days." At least someone was happy the exercise had been torn to shreds by 216.
Anyway, a day or two goes by and an RAF PJI mate of mine, who was en-route by civ air had arrived in town; it was his first trip to Aus. As we were the only two RAF guys with the SBS, I suggested to him to come and have a beer in this great Aus bar tonight. Called the "End of the World", it had a great atmosphere full of mad Aussies taking the mick out of Pommies, lot's of singing, dancing on the tables was encouraged, so was writing on the walls and ceilings. We enter the bar which was in full swing. His eyes light up and he says to me, "What a place this is, it's amazing, look at those mad Aussies going ballistic on top of the tables, dancing and singing at the top of their voices to a record being played", pointing at the nearest table.
I burst out laughing and shouted in his ear above the din, "Mate, they're not Aussies, that's the MAMS Team!" The look on his face was a picture. He would often recall that story with great fondness. Happy days!
From: John Holloway, Shrewsbury Subject: Memories of Australia
Australia - The Story of a £10 Tourist 1964-1967 (Around the World in 808 Days)
Some time in the winter of 63/64 Holloway and a couple of his mates were on a Saturday night out in Bridgnorth in a pub called the Bandon Arms, or as the locals knew it, "The Abandon Arms". We noticed a poster behind the bar about Australia and one of us, I don’t know who, said, 'that’s a good idea, lets go there!'
So, on Monday morning I phoned the Aussi High Commision in London and eventually we toddled down there for an interview. By the middle of '64 we’d had our medicals and were ready to go. We told them that we didn’t want to fly and it was the end of August before we heard any more when they asked us if we could go next week! Of course that was impossible and we told them that we needed at least a one month notice and it was around the end of September we were told we’d got a berth on the scheduled voyage on the P & O liner, Orcades, on the 26th October.
By now one of our number had fallen in love with a local girl and backed out. On the 26th October 1964, Derek Pryce and myself boarded the liner at Tilbury and set sail down the Bay of Biscay and thru The Straits of Gibraltar. The first evening we went to our allotted table for dinner where we met Pat and Helen, who were to be our dining companions for the voyage.
The voyage was thru' the Med and first port of call was Port Said. On arrival, we went ashore and hired a garry and the driver took us on a tour of the city. This was in the early hours of the morning and he took us to their war museum where there was a show of arms and photos of the ‘atrocities’ carried out 10 years previous in the Suez confrontation. Our guide had a grotty blood-stained bandage around his leg covering a ‘wound’ done alledgely those 10 years ago and demanded the usual baksheesh; ha ha! Going thru the Suez we had to pull into the side to let the S.S.Oriana pass going the other way. We passed Kasfareet (there was nothing to eat etc; old Canal Zone song).
Sailing thru the Suez Canal, entertainment was laid on by the Gully-Gully men who were magicians. They departed the ship at the end of the canal and so we sailed on down the Red Sea to the next port of call, Aden, my most favorite place in the world. On arrival we were met on the quay by Derek’s brother, Pete, and a mate. He was a fitter on 43 Sqn Hunters stationed at Khormaksar. We did a bit of a walkabout around Steamer Point. I wanted a pair of binoculars so we went to see if Ghaleb's shop was still in No 1 Street and there it was. Ghaleb used to come up to HQ when I was there selling all the necessities like toothpaste, soap etc., at much cheaper prices than the NAAFI, so he did a roaring trade. Later on that evening we invited Pete and his mate back to the Orcades for a look around, but somehow we got separated from them and the ship left for the next port, Colombo, in the early hours of the morning.
November 7th, we are now heading for Ceylon. We've settled down quite comfortably. We got to know quite a few fellow passengers. Each day at meal times we shared a table with the Chief Radio Officer, two young females, Helen and Pat and an Aussi named Bruce (why are all Aussi men called Bruce?). It’s a five day voyage to Colombo and we entered the harbour at 6am on the 11th.
We went ashore quite early having received warnings not to buy items with sterling and to use only the local currency officially changed on board ship. Anything brought back over the value of the monies changed will be confiscated. Colombo was hot, dirty and smelly (just like Aden). We took the usual trips thru' the bazarrs where the vendor were selling all kinds of semi-precious stones; opals etcetera. Had a walk around the city where we had a business mans lunch in a grotty café. It was the hottest curry I’ve ever eaten and I must have drunk a gallon of water to cool down afterwards. We saw the famed Kandy dancers and the afternoon was spent at the Mt. Lavinia Hotel where we had a meal and a few beers and then made our way back to the ship.
The next port of call was to be Freemantle. The weather on this part of the voyage was pretty poor and it was November 18th when we docked. We had to go into Perth by train and we were quite impressed with the city. The only drawback was flies in your eyes, mouth and everywhere else. It was something we were going to have to get used to wherever we were in Aussi. On arrival in Freemantle there was mail waiting for us and Derek had one from his brother, Pete. He told us that they made their way ashore and on landing were detained as illegally entering Aden because they had no papers on them and they had spent the night in the cells of the local nick - ho ho! I always remind Pete of this whenever I see him and he can see the funny side of it; now I ask you illegal entry into that dump?
Adelaide was our next port where we arrived on the 20th November and it was cold and raining. A train was laid on to to take us from the port and it was like something out of a Hollywood western movie with wooden seats and an open "balcony" at each end of the carriage. The houses along the route into the city were wooden with painted corrugated tin rooves. I said to Price’y let's turn the ship around and go back home. Adelaide itself was a disappointment with the main part just square blocks of buildings criss-crossed with roads. It was all very uninspiring and of course with it being cold and wet it didn’t help.
Back on board that evening and our next port of call was Melbourne. I saw nothing of it; I had stayed on board with a stinking cold. The winds were so strong that as the ship tried to dock it was blown off course heading straight for the pier, not even the tugs could hold it back and we could see dozens of people running for their lives. Anyhow, the ship's engines went into full reverse and it was able to negotiate into the side of the pier with no problems.
We arrived at Sydney 7.30am on 25th November. We sailed under the bridge to Piedmont Dock. When we disembarked we stood beside the ship and wondered “where the hell do we go now?”. Not to worry some members of the Commonwealth Society had got on board at Melbourne to welcome us and they had arranged accommodation for us and told us that if we had any difficulty finding a job they would help us.
After saying our cheerios to Pat and Helen and making arrangements to see them later, we arranged a taxi to take us to some lodgings ornaised by the people from the Commonwealth Society. We were to stay with an elderly couple in Belfield, a quite pleasant suburb of Sydney. Their children had grown up and gone their own ways so they had a couple of spare rooms.
Now we had to start looking for work and arranged various interviews over the next few days. We explored the city centre most of the following days, bought an old banger and did a bit of touring. Went up to the Blue Mountains, the ridge that the early settlers had to scale to get inland, as were the railway construction crews who had to build a zig-zag track to get over the top.
Helen came with us on some of our trips. We had seen Pat off to Canberra where she was to work in The British High Commision. Helen had got a temporary job in a restaurant asshe was a qualified chef, whilst she had a few weeks in Sydney before going on to New Zealand.
At the beginning of December I got a job with an engineering company that imported and manufactured earth moving and mining equipment, called British Standard Machinery, which was under the umbrella of the Clyde Engineering Group at that time the largest engineering group in Australia. I was to stay with them for the whole of my time in Australia. My job was on the sales and service and I was to come into contact with people all over NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Mt. Isa Mines in Queensland was our biggest customer.
Xmas day soon arrivedm and we spent the morning on Bondi Beach. Dinner was a couple of hamburgers and a coke. In the afternoon we set off in the car and headed for Canberra, Cooma and The Snowy Mountains. On Boxing day we joined a two-day car convoy exploring the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric scheme where a guide took us down tunnels in the mountains, some big enough for a double decker to drive down, to the generator rooms directly beneath the lakes from where the water was directed. They wined and dined us at the various camp sites and in the evenings we spent our time in Cooma; it was all very interesting.
After the sweltering summer heat of Bondi Beach two days previously, we were now up in the Snowies, by Mt. Kosiosko, chucking snowballs at each other; what a contrast!
So December 28th we had to make our way back to Sydney and we drove cross-country to the coast and up thru' Port Kembla and Woolongong. The journey must have been about 1,000 miles altogether. Next day it was back to work until another break, New Year. Pat came down from Canberra and on December 31st Pat, Helen, Pryce’y and myself saw in the new year in that notorious area, King's Cross.
Back to work on the 4th January to start the routine of work, eat, sleep and drink. The company was located in Gardner's Road quite near to the airport. I quickly settled down into a routine and it was quite busy. Most of the people I worked with were Aussies and all very helpful. The factory was quite old, not the modern unit in a new country that I was expecting.
On the factory floor they had 45 gallon drums made into braziers for when it was cold. I was introduced to one of the machinists who came from Shrewsbury; he’d done his apprenticeship in the same factory that I started with when I came out of the RAF. He’d been in Aussie for 14 years and I’m afraid he was not very happy with his lot, but his children had been born there and there was no way they would want to go to the "Old Dark".
Most of the weekends in the early months were spent exploring Sydney and the surrounding area. Why people raved about Bondi Beach I'll never know as there are far nicer beaches both north and south of the city. We saw Helen off for New Zealand on January 18th for the next part of her adventure. I used to get letters from her over the next few years, she eventually got married to a Kiwi and as far as I know she’s still there.
Looking thru' my diary for January, I found it amazing how the weather varied, considering it was the middle of summer. Some days it was blistering hot while others were raining and cold. I noted one day we had hail stones the size of golf balls hammer down on us; that first month was pretty grim.
I was now getting into the routine of things, the people I worked with were nearly all Aussies but poor old Pryce’y was in electronics and the people he worked with were all Pommies and every day it seemed first thing at work all they seemed to do was whinge about most things and it started to get him down.
Most weekend were spent on the coast, Manley and Coogee Bay were my favorites. Some weekends we went to Warwick Park for the motor racing. At one international meeting we saw Jim Clarke just pip Graham Hill to the finish.
In May the works at Gardner's Road closed and we moved lock, stock and barrel to Granville near Parramatta. I moved digs to a flat in Croydon because it was nearer and because Pryce’s job was at Bondi he moved on. By the end of that first year he’d had enough and returned to the UK.
In the meantime, I’d joined the Granville RSL and the Parramatta Business Mens Club as the social life in the Sydney suburbs revolved around social clubs and as I now had quite a few Aussie mates I was quite happy.
At the new factory at Granville a whole range of different products were made, the main one being GM diesel electric locomotives and in the board room was a large framed photograph of one of the locos in Pakistan NW Railways just like the one (maybe the same one) that had hauled the train I was on ten years previously from Karachi to Lahore. We also made Galion Graders which were sold all over Australia as were the Eimco earthmoving and mining dozers and diggers. All the foregoing were powered by either Cummins or GM diesels imported into the country; Cummins from the UK and GM’s from the USA. Also Allen trenchers from UK and Davies trenchers from Cleveland Ohio. All-in-all there was quite a range of equipment and I was on sales and service of Eimco equipment.
I had a number of trips over to Canberra where I stayed with Pat, she was quite well up on the admin side of things at the High Commision and entertaining socials was the in thing and I got to know quite a few of her friends. The drive over to Canberra was about 4 hours and on the way I went past Lake George which was covered with pelicans and black swans. The next time I went that way however, the lake had completely disappeared!
Of course, whilst in Canberra, I had to visit the war museum which housed quite a fantastic collection of fighting hardware from all three services; the Aussies are immensely proud of the history. One of the cabinets contained the battle flags and gun barrel covers from the cruiser HMAS Shropshire. This was a replacement given to the Aussies for HMAS Canberra that had been sunk off the Solomon Isles. They even had the gun barrel caps that had the Shrewsbury coat of arms (The Loggerheads) on them.
That first year went pretty quickly, work was quite busy and it was amazing how the weather varied in Sydney. I’ve have one note from July 12th where I had to wipe ice off of the windscreen before I drove to work and a few days later it was hot sunshine.
Being a member of the Parramatta Business mans Club we used to have a ‘bucks night’ (men only, except for the stripper), with entertainment laid on and the tables full of baskets and plates of sea food. Next day I used to swear I’d never eat another prawn for the rest of my life but of course it was the Tooths’s and Toohey’s that were the cause of my bad head. The club lounge at the Granville RSL was full of one-armed bandits and I nearly became addicted to them. Some nights would be quite a good win on them, but most nights I lost it all. The Aussies were gambling mad and about half a dozen of us would put say $10 a week in the kitty for a month or so and then go and blow the lot.
In January '66 I drove down the coast to Melbourne. I had fully intended to take the car on the ferry to Tasmania, but it was fully booked so I flew over on a TAA DC4. I left the car under a tree in the shade at the airport (mistake). I hired a car over there and had about a week touring. It's a beautiful island, flat on the one side and on the other a vast range of mountains, some of which at that time had not been properly surveyed as no heights were shown on the map. Lots of English named towns, Launceston (where I based myself), Devonport, Sheffield and a host of others, even a Bridgnorth but spelt incorrectly with an ‘e’ in it, funny how most people get it wrong, and how about Moriarty for a name,no sign of Sherlock though.
I returned to the mainland and on arriving back at my car to see it had changed colour, it was white when I left it but now it was various shades of brown and black. That tree must have been the home of all Melbourne’s pigeons! I drove up to Sydney thru' Albury and Wagga back of The Snowy Mountains.
January 14th saw Pat off at the airport to New Zealand; she had gained promotion and was posted to the High Commission in Wellington so that meant no more trips to Canberra; however I was to see her in Wellington later.
February 14th, 1966, Dollar Day - the change of currency from pounds to dollars - the day when everybody got ripped off. Everything rounded up, ie; matches 6 boxes for 1/- only 5 for the equivilent of 10 cents, the 9d bus fare went up to 10c (1/-) and a host of other things were all rounded up. The only thing that didn’t go up were our salaries. The new $ notes were pretty grim in design The £1 and £5 notes looked like real money not the monopoly money they printed with the $ sign on. I’ve still got a dollar note from my first pay packet, the reason I kept it as it has a print from the next note on it - the ink must have still been wet when it was issued - it’s probably a collector's item now and worth millions (I live in hope).
In the middle of '66 it was make my mind up time as to whether I was going to stay in Aussie or return to the UK, so I tried for a job in Tasmania with The Savage River Mining Co., but with no success. Had I been successful I would have stayed and who knows what might have followed. However, the temptation of a voyage across the Pacific via N.Z., Tonga, Tahiti, Acapulco and thru' the Panama was in my mind, so first I tried to get on The P & O Liner Chusan which also took in Vancouver and San Francisco but that was already fully booked so I opted for the Shaw Saville liner Northern Star due to sail on the 2nd December.
Of all the places I visited in Aussie, Sydney was the best, the harbour especially, which to me was even better than San Francisco (where I was to be a few years later). Some weekends I would go down to the harbour and watch visiting liners and warships in from a host of different countries, I suppose I had got into a bit of a rut now and was wishing December 2nd would hurry up so that I could get on that Pacific voyage.
Wednesday the 2nd November diary entry: Weather lousy, cold and raining, however went into Sydney to get my ticket for the SS Northern Star, $375.00!
December 1st we took my baggage down to the ship and then we did my last tour of the area, went up to Palm Beach and spent the evening in Sydney Sailing Club and said my last cheerios to my friends. Over the last few months they had tried to talk me out of leaving, especially at work. I had a letter from them some months later after arriving back in the UK telling me sales had plummeted since my departure, I must have been good...
December 2nd boarded the Northern Star. I was to share a cabin with a couple of other lads and believe it or not one of them had been in the RAF and stationed at Khormaksar the same time as me. And so the voyage home started. I made friends with a lot of people, a couple of females about my age, one in particular going home after a couple of years in Perth, also a couple of Barbadians who had been looking at jobs in Queensland; they were both sugar plantation managers and as things were going wrong for them in Bardados they wanted to get away from the place.
We arrived at Wellington N.Z.on December 5th,I met Pat at her office and later met some of her friends from work and had dinner out that evening with them. I stayed with Pat, she had taken a couple of days off work to show me around Windy Wellington where there was always a fear that if the wind dropped and it all went still then an earth tremour could be on the way.
Back on the ship December 7th for Aukland and it was quite a nice city that we could explore for the day.
Quite a few Cook Islanders boarded ship for the trip home to Raratonga (Cook Islands) and what a send off they got, really terrific with their relatives seeing them depart singing the Maouri song “Haere Ra” the English title “Now Is The Hour” and hundreds of streamers between the ship and the dock gradually breaking away as the ship slipped away from the dockside, a traditional departure, it was quite moving.
December 12th we arrived at Raratonga but had to anchor off-shore as the sea was so rough and we couldn’t dock so all the passengers disembarking had to go ashore by launch. There were a lot of sick people on board as the ship rocked and rolled. So it was up anchor after a few hours and set sell for the next port of call, Tahiti, where we arrived at daybreak on the 14th. We followed the SS Mariposa into harbour. The Mariposa was an American cruise liner with more crew on board than passengers a millionaire's cruise. There was a terrific welcome for us on the dockside a Tahitian band and dancing hula-hula girls with garlands for us as we stepped ashore. We had all day and night to discover Tahiti, we must have walked miles. The gift shops in Pappete had a very amusing item on sale, a Tahitian warrior most about 3 ft high armed and wearing a grass skirt, one of the girls happened to part the skirt and behold everything was there! So, we then had great fun walking around the shops for a while looking for the most endowed warrior.
Christmas day on ship was quite marvelous, they wined, dined and entertained us all day, absolutely not good for weight watchers. The weather was quite warm now and we danced the evening away. We are now nearing the Panama Canal.
December 28th and we had arrived at the entrance of the Panama Canal in the early hours in the dark and had to wait for daylight before we were allowed up thru' the locks because the Northern Star was maximum weight and length etc., and had to be maneuvered in the daylight. It was quite an experience passing thru the three locks to reach the canal. Sailing thru the canal close to land it was as if we were going thru the jungle, the banks were so close. We passed a N.Z. liner in one of the lakes going in the opposite direction and I’m sure the two ships leaned over as the passengers on both ships moved to the sides to shout greetings to each other. We arrived at Cristobal in the afternoon and did some sight seeing; the city has quite a large no go area fenced off where the U.S.military has a large base guarding the canal, called an international frontier by them. On down the canal to the Caribean, more locks to go down and only two of them this time, the Pacific must be lower than the Atlantic?
December 30th we arrived at Curacao. The ship was docked at a re-fuelling harbour so we had a long bus ride into the town. Again lots of sight seeing. When we got back to the ship it was heeling over at quite an alarming rate. It had been re-fuelled incorrectly and it took five hours to balance it before we could leave port so we were quite late leaving.
Quite late the next evening we arrived at Port of Spain, Trinidad. For some reason we could not go ashore, maybe it was because of the late departure from Curacao, so we had to make up time. Anyhow, the disembarking passengers departed and New Year was celebrated on board ship. On the chimes of New Year there must have been hundreds of wine and beer glasses thrown into the harbour. I don’t know if that’s traditional but it happened on the Northern Star.
Sunday 1st January 1967 we arrived at Barbados, here our two Barbadian friends disembarked and one of them gave us a tour of the island, took us to his sugar plantation and invited us back to his home to meet his family and wine and dine us. We could hardly understand what they said half the time, their dialect was weird. In the evening he took us to his club (whites only), and here again could hardly understand the local lingo. He drove us back to the ship at about 4am. He left the car with the engine running, headlights on and all the doors open. He went back ashore where a black police officer was waiting and the last we saw of him he’d got the copper by the scruff of the neck up against the side of the ship. I don’t know what happened to him after that but I did get a letter from him some months later, he wanted to come to the UK to look for work but I answered telling him to stay in the sunshine. I slept most of the next day, we had now got a seven-day voyage to Lisbon, so for those days it was just lazing around in the day and various entertainments in the evening, fancy dress nights, cocktails with the captain etc. The weather was getting quite bad now, rough seas and quite cold and we eventually arrived at Lisbon. We had the usual sight seeing tour of the city, the main part being full of parks and statues and on the harbour is quite an impressive statue depicting explorers of the past. The suspension bridge over the harbour disappeared into the low cloud hanging over the port.
So we left Lisbon, sailed up thru The Bay of Biscay, we seemed to be in convoy with cargo ships and tankers all around us. We were making better speed so we gradually pulled away from them. We arrived in Southampton January 12th, said goodbyes to everyone, although I was to see one of my school teacher friends later, her parents lived in Rugby but she went back to Aussi after only a few months in the cold and wet Pommie Land. After clearing customs etc., I found Pryce’y waiting for me. He drove me up to London and on the way had to stop for a decent pint, a pork pie and pickled egg, what luxury! I hired a car in Kingston and made my way up to Shrewsbury. Got to find a job now!
Update November 2001 to 2003 - The UK Daily mail on a Saturday has a corner of a page dedicated to people looking for long lost family and old friends. So, remembering that the papers in Sydney were the same titles ie., Daily Mirror, Daily Mail etc; I e-mailed the Mail asking if they had the same search and asked could they find two old mates that I worked with at British Standard, namely Mike Tindale and Pete Riley and hey presto! I had a reply from Mike within a fortnight, still living in Sydney and about a month later from Pete who now lives 1,000k away from Sydney way up in Queensland. I’ve kept in contact with them both ever since and on Monday the 21st July 2003 actually had an evening out in Wetherspoons, Aberystwyth where Mike and I wined and dined whilst jawing on old memories and our respective lives since November 1966, it was really great. He is on an organized tour of the UK and Southern Ireland for over two months staying mostly on university campus’s where they stay usually 3 days and nights when they explore the localities where they are staying. The wonders of Internet!
From: David Powell, Princes Risborough Subject: Memories of Australia Dear Tony
Although these experiences predate joining F Team at Abingdon, they are still pretty vivid (in one case bordering on a recurring nightmare) and they do involve a Britannia, and in the second case, being air movements qualified.
As the most easily expendable junior officer on the Supply Wing at RAF Changi in 1965-67, I did a goodly share of exercises, deployments, trips etc. One such was to accompany three Shackleton Mk 2s of 205 Squadron on a 6 week deployment to Australia in 1966 which would include taking part in the Fincastle Trophy. This was primarily an ASW exercise/competition involving RAF, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF crews. Look it up on Wikipedia – it’s still going on, albeit the format and content has changed.
Beginning in 1960, this annual competition was normally flown in home waters and the results sent in to be adjudicated in London. But in 1966, most of the RAF’s top maritime crews were deployed to the Far East on real operations! So, the RAF deployed its entry to compete with and join in with the RAAF by taking part in a major Naval exercise in the Coral Sea/Pacific, and hosted by the then RAAF maritime base at Townsville, Queensland.
The 205 Sqn detachment included myself as supplier, occasional mover and odd-job pair of hands as well as a fly-away pack of spares and support (some of which went DIY in the Shackleton bomb-bays) and the squadron’s storeman.
The spare aircrew and some of the detachment ground crew travelled in the Shackletons, the rest, including myself, flew out from RAF Changi by Britannia, with a night-stop at RAAF Darwin. Shall we just say that we were made very welcome and a very good night stop was had by all?
The following morning we took off for the flight to RAAF Townsville, with me not so much having a mega hangover but, more accurately, not having quite entered the hang-over phase. Anyway, we arrived at Townsville at our scheduled mid-day. I was awoken from my now semi-comatose state by the AQM with the memorable announcement (we were all in uniform): “You are the only detachment officer here and there appears to be a welcoming officer at the steps, you better get off first, sir!”
This is where the nightmare memory kicks in. I am in the doorway of a Brit. Actually ‘hanging on to the doorway’ might be more accurate.
Looking down I can see what appears to be an endless series of near vertical steps. By careful focusing, I make out a welcoming party far far away at the foot of the steps. There is gold braid glinting in the sun. Further squinting in the bright mid-day light reveals press phographers, a TV camera crew and a brass military band. Its presence is reinforced by headache augmenting martial music.
At this point in my relatively brief RAF career, this Pilot Officer had only one goal in life. If he is to make Flying Officer, he must arrive at the foot of the steps and perform a salute without creating a new element for Olympic gymnastics competitions or puking up and above the assembled gold braid and ensemble!
Mission completed and still vertical I get a “Welcome to Townsville” and a handshake from an Air Commodore in one hand and presented with an ice cold can of beer in the other!
The detachment settled down. The stores corporal had the flyaway pack totally under control and his customers happy, and I was open to new opportunities. We had made very good friends with the RAAF Townsville fixers and decision makers.
The resident P2V-7 Lockheed Neptune squadron discovered that I was movements qualified and they really needed to have a movements qualified officer for a few days detachment to Lae in Papua New Guinea in support of three of their aircraft. A quick word with our RAF detachment boss in the bar, and I duly unofficially seconded myself to the RAAF for a few days.
First I had a ‘check-ride’ with a deployment of RAAF C-130s supporting a rehearsal Neptune deployment for an overnight stop at RAAF Richmond. This was to confirm that I did know my way around the back of a C-130.
That trip was memorable in, having put to bed a row of three C-130s parked wing-tip to wing tip, when we went back in the morning they were now parked in line astern! During the night, a storm and a mega gust of wind had resulted in the 3 aircraft weather cocking, jumping their chocks and rearranging themselves nose to tail without a scratch on any of them!
Back to the New Guinea detachment. I deployed in a spectacular flight over the Coral Sea in the back of one of the Neptunes, during which we flew over a pair of migrating blue whales. Then, I happened to look down from my sun-bathing window down the back and spotted, some 5,000 feet below us, in a gap in the broken cloud, a cluster of decidedly war like vessels. I should add that our deployment was part of the Big Exercise. In transit we and our passive equipment were searching for emissions from the ‘enemy’ force while maintaining radar and radio silence. As it would appear so were they. I pinged the skipper on the intercom “Pommie B to Skip are we looking for those things below?” With the whole of the Coral Sea to play in, we had flown clean over the top of the silent enemy force heading at ninety degrees to our equally silent track.
Just to make sure of the actual location and course, the task force ships having now disappeared beneath the cloud, the skipper ordered a quick radar pulse. This was followed by the fleet below lighting up or switching on (or whatever you do to change from passive to active mode.)
This was followed by our radar plotter calling “They have lock-on, assume missiles launched!” The next thing was that we were in evasive mode which appeared to mean adopting a near vertical spin posture to sea level and a flat-out low level fishtail departure in the general direction of New Guinea.
The other vivid memory of this epic detachment is, in today’s climate ’totally inappropriate’ and any/all squeamish and politically correct readers should look away now! But it was 1966 and it did actually happen!
What was already turning out to be a very memorable trip was capped by the arrival in Papua New Guinea. At the civil airfield at Lae I was met by the RAAF liaison officer with a briefing on the locally employed humpers and dumpers who now surrounded me with grinning faces. I was not too sure if the grins were in welcome or anticipation? Let’s face it, I had already been told that some, many, all (?) of them had CVs with experience or recent family knowledge of cannibalism! Then, my management training: “OK Dave, any problems: get a lump of wood and hit ‘em on the head. Don’t hit ‘em in the gut! You’ll kill ‘em – they’re full of weevils!’
David Powell F Team UK MAMS 1967-69
PS While at we were down at Townsville, the wooden RAAF Officers Mess at Darwin burnt down. During our night stop on the way back to Changi – guess which RAF Pilot Officer it was suggested might have been responsible during a recent visit?
PPS The trusty old Mk 2 RAF Shackletons (the ones with tail wheels) won the Fincastle that year!
From: Tom Burrows, Sudbury, Suffolk Subject: Australia
I served at on the Australian Base Squadron at Edinburgh Field from 1967-69 supporting Woomera and Maralinga.
My claim to fame was that I inadvertently delayed the launch of a rocket at Woomera. Early every Monday a South Australian Airways Focker Friendship took passengers up to the Range at Woomera. On this morning I was the Cpl in charge and having booked the passengers in there were 2 no shows, I finished the paperwork and loaded the passengers and the doors closed and the engines were turning when our missing passengers turned up demanding that they should be allowed to board. As the aircraft was about to taxi and because of their manner and lack of apology for being late, I declined their request. They left threatening I would not hear the last of this. Later that day having told my boss, a RAAF Flt Lt, Bluey Hunt, an ex wartime fighter pilot what had happened. He fell about laughing and told me not to worry he would sort it, as it was their fault for being late. It was only later that I found out one of the rejected passengers was the chief scientist who had the last say on the rocket launch; it did not fly that day.
I also had an experience of Australian competitiveness when the RAF Support Group flew on a Dakota to Broken Hill to play a soccer match on Australia Day. We were met off the plane and taken straight to a BBQ with plenty of tiinies. I am not a drinker but most of our team got really stuck in enjoying the hospitality. The next day with plenty of sore heads in evidence we turned up for the match. being the only sober one from the day before I realised that none of our hosts from the previous day were on the pitch. Needless to say we were well beaten but at least our guys had had a great BBQ.
All the best,
From: Len Bowen, Chisholm, ACT Subject: Memories of Australia
Just so much, I had to work out what to leave in and what to leave out. End result, just two tales: one from my very early days on MATU ALT1 and one from close(ish) to the end of my time as the Movements & Transport Officer for the RAAF Protocol Branch. Sort of 'topping & tailing' my times on Movements with the RAAF.
BARADINE, NSW. “SORTED, BOSS”
Every MAMS or MATU Team needs an ace scrounger. The sort of bloke who would, in a British 1950s B Film, be able to take a pound of the Colonel’s butter ration and a gallon of petrol from his staff car and turn it into a full roast dinner in the field for all the Regiment, complete from soup to nuts and all alcoholic accompaniments.
In 1980, when I took over as Team leader at RAAF Base Richmond, we had Corporal Joe Jenner. Joe was notionally our trim clerk and documentation guru – and extremely good at it, he was too. He was also the very best scrounger I have ever encountered in my fifty years in Air Force uniform.
April 1980, Baradine, central NSW, Exercise PELICAN’S PROGRESS 80, the annual shake-down field exercise for all deployable Richmond-based units and formations. The Army were doing the rationing and cooking, and by Day Two of the exercise we realised that they had cocked up big time – we found out later that they had under-rationed by over fifty personnel. My MATU Team, together with the RAAF Airfield Fire Fighting boys, were located on the far side of Baradine airstrip, well away from the main camp but fortuitously close to the public entrance gate to the strip. We were, however, on the far end of the hot-box meal service delivery route. Things came to a head on the morning of Day Three, when ‘breakfast’ for our team of six and four ‘firies’ consisted of a (cold) hot-box containing five (5) boiled eggs and about a dozen pieces of soggy toast, without any butter, marg or jam. Even augmented from the spare compo rat packs we always carried, this was clearly just not satisfactory, but remonstrations with the main camp catering (sic) staff achieved nothing, and I don’t remember lunch ever arriving that day.
However, late that morning Joe asked if he could borrow the 4x4 Toyota for a quick trip into town. I raised an eyebrow, but Sergeant Lloyd Bradshaw, my Team SNCO, winked at me and nodded to Joe.
Joe was away for about an hour, and when he came back all he said was “Sorted Boss”….and sorted it was. By mid-afternoon the local CWA ladies – the Countrywomen’s Association, the female backbone of all Australian rural society – had arrived at the airstrip back fence where we were camped with trays of scones and homemade cakes, homemade jams and homemade pickles; “Hear you’re a bit short of tucker, boys. Hope this helps for now, and we’ll be back with more tomorrow”.
Next, as dusk fell and flying ceased, a group of the local farmers and shooters arrived with a small freshly-killed piglet, a leg of mutton, and a home-made barbecue on which to cook them.
After that we never bothered to even open the Army hot boxes when they (occasionally) arrived, and just grazed on the fresh food which arrived in abundance over the back fence. Even when a visit from the Richmond Base Commander and the Air Staff Officer from Operational Command resulted in a sudden improvement in both the quantity and quality of the camp food, we continued to ‘live off the land’ and the generosity of the local population. I was even take out ‘roo and pig shooting one night because Joe had told the locals that “…our new Pommie Boss is a bit of a shooter”. Fortunately I didn’t disgrace either the Team or myself with my first ever spotlighting expedition – but that’s another story.
After a few days, and shortly before we started the redeployment, I quietly asked Joe how and when we should settle up with the locals for all the excellent food we’d consumed. “Sorted Boss. Sorted” was Joe’s only response, so still being fairly new to the Team I shut up, stood back and waited.
The following day the first ‘empty’ Herc arrived from Richmond to commence the redeployment back loading. Empty, that was, except a full 463L pallet of cartons of Victoria Bitter (‘VB’) beer. Macca MacLarran, our ace forklift driver quickly fork-lifted the pallet to a point adjacent to the back fence and the civilian access road to the airstrip. A convoy of farm trucks, utes and other assorted vehicles then descended on the fence line, and within minutes the pallet was clear and the nets and straps neatly rolled. Not one net or strap was missing.
Nothing more was said and the redeployment continued, culminating in a mammoth ENDEX piss-up for all the Defence personnel and all the locals in the Baradine Returned Servicemen’s Club on the last night. Late in the evening I had had enough Dutch courage to ask Joe and Lloyd what had actually transpired. “Well, you see Boss, it’s like this. The locals are paying anything up to $1 a can in town for VB because of transport costs, but we can buy it in bulk for less than 50ȼ a can back at base through the Sergeants’ Mess. We fixed up with the Squadron loadies to get a pallet load of beer from the Mess down to Air Movements and onto the first redeployment bird. When all the sums have been worked out, the profit that the locals will make or the money they’ll save on the cheap VB completely off-sets the cost price of the booze and all the tucker we’ve had dropped off over the fence. Even covered the ammo for your spotlighting. Like I said; sorted, Boss, sorted!”
The TALU with me at the wheel on the EX PELICAN PROGRESS Public Open Day (What OH&S?).
FIFTEEN PIECES OF LUGGAGE
The Movements & Transport Officer job for the RAAF Protocol Branch that I covered from 2003 to 2013 could be very interesting. For ‘Airshows Down Under’ the Avalon Air Show every second year, I’d get a suite in the Travelodge at Tullamarine and the idea was I got my own bedroom but the lounge part of the suite became my ops room, crew rest room and everything else, because I had a Flight Lieutenant 2IC to help me air-side, and four or five RAAF airmen and a RAAF Movements Sergeant to run things land-side. Always very hard graft for the first weekend, with 20+ hours each day meeting and greeting the overseas VIPS invited to the Air Show by our Chief of Air Force. Fast-tracking them through arrivals, immigration, passport control, AQUIS (Australian Quarantine Inspection Service) baggage inspections and so on, but we did get to meet some really lovely people. In 2007 was the famous incident with the Saudi Princess with the 15 pieces of matching luggage.
We’d had the Saudi Chief of Air Force come through late on a Saturday afternoon. He seemed very tired, more tired than usual after just a twelve hour flight from the Middle East in First Class. We were waiting for the baggage to come off the conveyor and I knew from past experience with visitors from the Middle East that he wanted to get outside for a smoke while his ADC and my FLTLT Off-Sider was running around sorting passports and AQUIS clearances. I was talking to him while we waited and I said, “You’ll be very glad to get back down to the hotel, Sir. If I may say so, you’re looking a bit tired.” “Yes, well I rather", he said "On top of everything else, we’d just had a family wedding.” “Oh, that’s very nice, Sir.” seemed my best response. "Yes", he replied "It was, but there were 2,500 guests and it was indeed a bit tiring”.
Anyway, we got him and his young ADC out to the vehicles and gun-runners – sorry, British Aerospace - were hosting him (what a surprise!) so we didn’t have to provide RAAF limos for him. That, I thought was it, so I called my boss GPCAPT Graham Bond who was handling the Melbourne City end of the operation, to tell him that they were on their way from the airport, and I went back to the hotel, as the General was the last inward movement for that day.
I then got a phone call about seven o’clock in the evening from the British Aerospace head honcho. He said, “The General was very impressed. He thanks you and your team very much. He says it was a lovely way to arrive in Australia and be greeted and his arrival formalities handled in that manner”. I replied, “Thanks, but it’s my job really. Just tell my boss Group Captain Bond it all went very well.” He then said “Ah, but you see, the General’s son and new daughter-in-law are coming in tomorrow morning at five o’clock. Do you think you could do the same treatment on arrival?” I thought, Oh crap! We didn’t actually have an aircraft with ‘our’ VIPs aboard schedule until 08:00 so I’d stood my team down until half seven, as we usually did. Anyway, “Oh, what the hell, all right, I’ll go across there”. “Oh and don’t worry” he added “We’ve got Brit Aerospace limos there and everything else. All we’re asking you to do is just get them through arrivals like you did for the General.” Anyway, I agreed, went back across to the Terminal and saw the Duty Customs guy, because we worked with them to facilitate the VIP arrivals. I said, “Look, you’ve got my list for tomorrow. We weren’t due to start until 08:00, but could I add one Saudi prince and princess arriving on the Emerati first flight at 05:00?” “Okay, that’s fine, yeah, no worry.” (The Aussi Customs Service team was outstanding every time we worked with them).
Following morning I wandered across in uniform, walked up to the airhead, cleared customs, got the customs officer with me, and made our way to the arrival gate. And there was this lass in all the ‘Emirate Airways’ uniform, head scarf, the lot - with a Manchester accent that you could have cut with a knife. She said, “Hey, yuu’ve cume t’a see prince and princess have ya?” I said, “Yes.” “Aye, that would be right.” She added, “Yuu know she’s got 15 pieces of baggage, don’t ya?” I said, “Well, I didn’t know that until now actually but okay, that’s fair enough.” She says, “It’s a' reet, I’ve got a coupl'a people to give us a hand and I’ve told the Qantas Duty Manager, too.”
Anyway, of course they’re travelling First Class so they’re first off the aircraft. And the princess, she is drop-dead gorgeous. She is about five feet tall. and is wearing a lightweight gold lame tracksuit. The prince – the prince-ling - is however, I think, trying to be like his Dad but not quite making it. Scruffy beard, tatty old t-shirt, ratty pair of jeans; didn’t really look the regal part. Nice young fellow, though.
Anyway, the Customs Officer and I introduce ourselves, said “Oh behalf of my Chief of Air Force… welcome to Australia.” Fast track them through customs and immigration and down to the Baggage Hall, where sure enough, there’s 15 matching pieces of luggage, each about three feet square. Fortunately by this time we’ve got the Emirati passenger handling crew and we’ve also got the Qantas Duty Manger. She’s a big, hulking Aussie girl and we’re piling up all the suitcases onto trolleys and checking with quarantine and customs. At this point the Qantas lady looks down at this little Saudi princess and says, “You know, luv, we do have shops here in Australia.” No respect for persons! Well bless her heart, the little princess just looks back up at the QANTAS girl and says sweetly, “Yes, I know, and I’m going shopping tomorrow, too.” Collapse of stout party!
Air Vice Marshal Geoff Brown presenting Chief of Air Force Commendation to Squadron Leader John (Len) Bowen for his work as Movements & Transport Officer for the RAAF Protocol Branch.
From: Tony Gale, Gatineau, QC Subject: Memories of Australia
Around the World in 18 Days
March 16th, 1973, 0920Z.
It was raining when we departed from Brize Norton. On board the Short Belfast we had a very special cargo; a World War II Spitfire that we were to deliver to the Aeronautical Museum in Sydney, Australia. Our first stop was Akrotiri in Cyprus, where we landed at 1645Z.
March 17th. After having picked up a couple of obligatory demi-johns of Cyprus sherry (for medicinal purposes only), we departed Akrotiri at 0700Z, landing in Masirah, an island in the Arabian Sea off the south east coast of Oman, at 1435Z. The air base here was to serve a vital role in the Gulf War some 18 years later. March 18th. At 1100Z, we headed across the Arabian Sea, skirting the southern tip of India to arrive in Colombo, Ceylon (renamed Sri-Lanka) at 1730Z. After refuelling, we took off at 1830Z headed for the Island Nation of Singapore. There were a total of three RAF bases in Singapore at this time: Seletar (maintenance), Tengah (fighter) and Changi (transport). For those history buffs, Changi was quite infamous as a Prisoner of War camp during the days of the Japanese occupation in the Second World War. More recent times have seen it being used as the new international airport, having assumed that role from the ageing Paya Lebar. We landed in Tengah at 0100Z on March 19th.
A couple of days in Singapore is always a welcome break. This was the first stopover on this trip that would see us relaxing in an hotel instead of RAF transit accommodations. The Hotel Equatorial offered very comfortable beds, room service and a swimming pool. The dining facilities were superb but nothing could beat a late night saunter through the market places of Singapore where the real flavour of the Orient was all too abundant. The smells of different foods being cooked over sandalwood fires, the calls of the vendors selling everything from children's toys to silk blouses and gemstones and punters betting on anything and everything gave these places an atmosphere that not even dear old Walt Disney could reproduce (and he had tried!).
March 21st. We took off from a steamy Singapore at 0200Z, flying south east with Sumatra to our right and Borneo to our left. We then headed due east skirting north of the Sunda Islands before heading south over the Timor Sea into Darwin, the capital city of the Northern Territories of Australia.
Although we landed at 0925Z, it was some 25 minutes later that we were allowed to disembark. The Australians have the strictest Customs and Immigration department that I have ever encountered. It was always the same routine (I had visited Australia on numerous occasions) - we landed, taxied to the appointed parking spot, but kept all the doors closed. There then comes a "knock knock", the door is opened, a cheery chap in a Customs uniform wishes us a hearty "G'day Mates" and tosses a fumigation bomb into the aircraft, whereupon the door is promptly closed and we are left to suffer the indignities of being well and truly deloused!
The Aspa City Motel was always a pleasant stay when in Darwin. The rooms were very simple but adequate and there was always the makings for tea and coffee right in the room (not so common in those days). Darwin had all the images of a true frontier town; what stood out in my mind were red dirt roads, tin roofs, barking dogs, flies and Aborigines. The town was practically wiped out on Christmas Day just two years later when Cyclone Tracy showed no mercy.
At 2305Z, we were off again, this time to the Australian Air Force base at Richmond, New South Wales.
March 22nd, 0610Z. We landed at Richmond where our precious cargo was offloaded in front of a very enthusiastic gathering. We ate in the Sergeants Mess, refuelled, and then headed outbound at 0830Z. We arrived at the Australian Air Force Base of Williamtown after a short hop of some 35 minutes and were driven to the Colonial Terrace Motel in Newcastle where we spent an interesting evening being entertained by some of the Air Movements staff from the base.
March 23rd. We had an early start this morning, loading the Sabre Jet Flight Simulator that was to be delivered to the Indonesian Air Force. At 0125Z, we took off heading north west towards Darwin where we landed at 0805Z. The Aspa City Motel was visited again and we took the time to go downtown and spend a memorable evening at a bar that was typical of Crocodile Dundee territory.
2220Z saw us taking off for Eastern Java, our destination was the Indonesian Air Force base at Iswahjudi, near Maduin. We arrived at 0320Z on March 24th to a very hot and steamy welcome. The offloading of the simulator was a relatively easy job with the assistance of a myriad of helping hands. We were not scheduled to depart for about four hours which gave us the opportunity to wander freely about the aircraft ramp, the only proviso being that no photographs could be taken.
What we found there was an amazing collection of Soviet aircraft. There were no less than 22 Tu-16 Badgers, 10 Il-28 Beagles, 35 MiG-21 Fishbeds, 40 or so MiG-17 Frescos and MiG-15UTI trainers plus a range of Soviet built troop transports. The sad part about it was that they were, in the main, all unserviceable, there being no spares contract in place with the USSR. We must have been the envy of Western aviation enthusiasts, having been given a free-hand to clamber about these aircraft, which sadly were starting to rot in the jungle heat and humidity.
March 24th. At 0730Z we departed, heading for Darwin. Arriving at 1225Z, we were again subjected to the knock-knock, G'day Mate, fumigation-in-your-face hospitality of the Australian Customs Service. Something that was not mentioned before about the arrival procedures is that all of the food in the galley is normally confiscated and incinerated. What an irony this was since a few hours earlier, we had restocked the galley with Australian foodstuffs in Darwin, including canned Australian fruit etc., and here it was being taken away to be burned!
We found out that the Aspa City Motel, which was our usual place of abode in Darwin, was booked up solid, and so we had to make alternate arrangements to stay in the Koala Motel. It was very pleasant but somehow lacked the ambience of the Aspa City. What was different is that this particular motel had a bar that would normally be reserved for Aborigines only. We pleaded ignorance and, at the invitation of a very enterprising fellow, enjoyed an evening of tales of the outback.
March 26th. We had a special cargo to be loaded in Darwin before we left. A Sea Walrus fuselage that had been sitting in the desert since the end of Word War II was to be returned to the RAF Museum at Hendon. Once it had been put on board and safely secured, we left on the first leg of our return flight at 2235Z. Our route took us over the Gulf of Carpenteria and then across Cape York Peninsula and over the Coral Sea to Nandi in the Fijian Islands.
We were in for a bit of a disappointment as the refuelling services in Fiji had suddenly decided to go on strike. We had to divert into Noumea, New Caledonia. We arrived at 0810Z, it was quite dark, and so the preconceived National Geographic images of South Seas girls wearing nothing but a grass skirt and a grin could not be seen. Our accommodations were quite modest in the Hotel Noumea, nothing at all as I imagined this corner of paradise would look like. Early the following morning, we departed the hotel headed for the airport. So much for that!
March 28. We took off at 0030Z en route for our next refuelling stop at Pago Pago in the Samoa Islands. We crossed over Fiji and then the International Date Line. There was no ceremony to mark the occasion, quite an anticlimax really. At 0655Z, we touched down at Pago Pago, time enough for a drink of orange juice in the thatch-roofed- palm-trees- all-around-terminal-bar before heading north to Hawaii.
A couple of hours into the flight, there was a strange looking spider seen to be crawling up the tail fin of the old Sea Walrus. Someone suggested that was a "Black Widow" spider and was also of the "jumping" variety. Well, that was enough for me, I wasn't about to go near it. We proceeded to empty a spray can of DDT insecticide in the general direction of the spider, but it kept climbing! Just then, the Flight Engineer came back to see what all the excitement was about. He took one look at the spider, took off his shoe and *Splat* the spider was no more.
When we arrived in Honolulu at 1645Z, the aircraft was taxied to an isolated area and U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspectors boarded. It would appear that the spider had many relatives hidden in the fuselage and that they were of a type that would not be welcomed. The aircraft was impounded for fumigation and we were to be stuck in Hawaii for three days.
There seemed to be a lot of commotion at the airport. There was a military band, what appeared to be a Guard of Honour, lots of people crowding around and a horde of top brass.
The object of their attention was a C141 that had just landed and was making its way towards the gathering. The aircraft parked and the red carpet was literally rolled up to the steps.
The band started playing, probably something by DeSousa, and everyone was cheering as the occupants departed the aircraft one by one.
It turned out that the VIP's were Prisoners of War that had just been released from the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. I don't recall how many there were, since we were all caught up in the moment, but in retrospect I would guess at about 30. The looks on their faces when they were greeted by their respective families is something I will never forget, and I feel both honoured and humbled to have seen a bit of history in the making.
(August 29th 2018 - As an aside... I didn’t realise it until I saw a resurfaced newspaper article the other day about John McCain and his release from being a POW in Hanoi. I had taken a few slides with my trusty Kodak Instamatic 110 camera. Unbeknownst to me, one of them was a picture of John McCain who, when he reached the end of the red carpet, turned around and saluted the American flag. It only took me 45 years to come to that conclusion!)
The Ambassador Hotel on Waikiki Beach was our home for the next few days. Being British servicemen, we were not at all flush in the money department, so we had to find ways to entertain ourselves in this paradise that didn't involve putting our hands in our pockets. To our delight, we did find many events that we could enjoy that cost nothing at all. We were able to get a "Rent a Wreck" car for just $6 a day which was a real bonus as it meant that we didn't have to rely on public transport. We went over to Pearl Harbour where the U.S. Navy has complimentary tours of the harbour which included a visit to the U.S.S. Arizona. Some 1,500 men perished aboard that vessel when the Japanese attacked in December of 1941.
We drove around the Island and saw, amongst other things, the Giant Pineapple that adorns the roof of one of the pineapple processing factories. Some would say that the pineapple is the one thing that made Hawaii what it is today. We also saw Diamond Head, but I honestly could not see what all the fuss was about. The afternoon and evening was spent lounging about on Waikiki Beach. We managed to crash a beach party that night which turned out to be a really wonderful time for us.
The following morning, bright and early, we made our way out to the "Kodak Shell" This outdoor (free) theatre had been running several times a week for the past 35 years. We were seated around what appeared to be a circus ring, perhaps 500 seats in all. Then the drums started beating and the girls, dressed in traditional grass skirts, danced their way into our hearts. The clapping was so loud we could not hear the drums anymore - but no one was clapping? Every one in the audience had a camera pressed to their face and what we thought was clapping was actually the sound of 500 or so camera shutters - that was quite amazing. Sales of Kodak film were very brisk!
March 30th., 1925Z. We left Hawaii enroute to Sacramento, California, taking with us many happy memories. On board were the personal effects and car of a U.S. Army Colonel who was being repatriated to the mainland (are we running a taxi service here or what?). When we landed at 0330Z, we offloaded the car and other items belonging to the Colonel and were then taken to the Caravan Inn which was relatively close to McClellan AFB. I recall, after dinner, just relaxing in front of the television in my room. It never ceased to amaze me that there were this many channels available, and instead of the national anthem being played at 11pm and everything going all fuzzy on the screen, these channels were on 24 hours a day!
March 31st., 1815Z. We headed east across the Southern United States, our destination being Charleston in South Carolina. We were over Panama City, Florida, when we were required to go into a holding pattern. There was a very bad thunderstorm system in our way that was best just to be avoided. Looking out of the Belfast window, I could see not only the storm but at least 30 other aircraft performing an aerial ballet, avoiding both the storm and each other. This particular manoeuvre delayed our arrival for two hours, not that we were in a hurry to go anywhere at this stage!
At 0230Z, we touched down in Charleston and were introduced to the driver that was to take us to our hotel - the Holiday Inn. Apparently, there are two Holiday Inns in the vicinity of the airport, Airport West and Airport East. Now our driver, talking with that southern drawl that gives the impression that nothing would ever get him upset, took us to the wrong hotel. That was ok, everyone makes mistakes - but this chap tried to take his bus under an awning in front of the hotel that was not designed to accommodate buses. We were well and truly stuck quite snugly under the awning. Someone suggested letting the air out of the tyres so that the bus could be driven out. The driver let all of the air out of the tyres, so that the bus was no longer stuck, but could not be driven on the wheel rims. It was about an hour later when a replacement bus arrived to take us to the correct hotel.
April 1st., 1730Z. We headed north up the U.S. Eastern Seaboard towards our penultimate destination: Gander, Newfoundland. Arriving at 2255Z, we found ourselves in the welcoming embrace of the Albatross Motel - if ever a place could be called a home-away-from-home, then the Albatross was it! When the front desk staff greet you by your first name, you realise you are a regular!
April 2nd., 1400Z. Our final leg across the Atlantic was a good time for reflection about the last few weeks. I am just guessing here, but I suppose we might have travelled about 35,000 miles in the last 18 days with an actual flying time of 100 hours. How many games of scrabble were played in the back of the Belfast, and who was the ultimate champion of champions?
At 2110Z, we arrived back where we had started from, Brize Norton in Southern England. Nothing had changed - it was still raining...
The "Around the World" MAMS Team - Bryan Morgan (OC UKMAMS) Roger (Ground Eng), Chris Twyman, George Lynes, Tony Gale, Tony Moore and John Evans.
More than 1,000 photos and 25 videos were entered in the 2018 Royal Air Force photographic competition. The best nine images are open to a public vote to choose the winner of the peoples’ choice category. Visit the RAF’s website to cast your vote
This Way Up - Photographic section portfolio, first prize. A Chinook CH-47 weapon systems operator prepares his aircraft during a training exercise in June 2018. Photograph: SAC Ed Wright/RAF
Parallels - Image of the Year, first prize: The Red Arrows arrive over Doha, Qatar, as part of their Eastern Hawk tour. Photograph: SAC Hannah Smoker/RAF
Avro Legacy - RAF100, second prize: The RAF100 parade and flypast took place over London on 10 July 2018. The evening before an Avro Lancaster bomber flew a practice flight over Lincolnshire. Photograph: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF/RAF
Selfie - Image of the year, second prize: Taken while flying in a Hawk T2 as part of a routine training sortie over the coast of Anglesey, Wales. Photograph: Cpl Tim Laurence RAF
Tunnel Vision - Technical and engineering, third prize: Sgt Danny Wass of IX Squadron, 903 Expeditionary Air Wing inspects an engine bay of a Tornado GR4 aircraft. Photograph: SAC Phil Dye/RAF
Magnificent Tonka - Amateur photographer, second prize: Taken on the Mach Loop from Cad West, a Tornado GR4 manoeuvres through the valleys. Photograph: Stacy Woolhouse/RAF
Smoke in the Sun - Amateur photographer, first prize: Taken at Weston air day, Weston-Super-Mare, seven of the nine Red Arrows Hawk T1 aircraft come over the top of a loop in formation. Photograph: Mark Thompson/RAF
Where to start - Tech and engineering , first prize: The empty engine bay of a Royal Air Force A400M Atlas aircraft. The Atlas underwent an engine change at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus while hopping between the UK and the Middle East. Photograph: SAC Phil Dye/RAF
Almost touching - Equipment, second prize: In September 2017 Typhoons from 6 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth deployed to Thumrait Air Base in Oman as part of Exercise Magic Carpet. Photograph: SAC Laura Bullas/RAF
Biting Point - Technical and engineering, fourth prize: Two small cogs of a hydraulic pump biting together to create traction that moves the pump. Photograph: SAC Simon Armstrong/RAF
Lynx sunset - Photographer of the year, first prize: 657 Sqn Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters land in the sunset at RAF Odiham. Photograph: Cpl Rob Travis/RAF
Perfection - Image of the year, third prize: A pair of Typhoon FGR4 aircraft perform a dynamic crossover on their arrival at the RAF Cosford air show. Photograph: Sgt Paul Oldfield/RAF
From: Bob Dixon, Royal Wootton Bassett, Wilts Subject: Dixon in uniform 2018
As it was RAF 100 celebrations this year I was challenged to see if I could get back in uniform -
56 years since joining
50 years since my first Air Movements post in Singapore
35 years since taking over at UK MAMS.
Can't decide whether the slight musty smell was the uniform or me!
Time to put it all back into the cupboard...
From: Frank Holmes, Stratford-upon-Avon Subject: John Dunstall (RAF)
Just to let you know that Joan Dunstall has just called me to tell me that John passed away today, August 30th, after a short illness, he was 88.
He was my Flt Sgt on UKMAMS when I arrived at Abingdon in Oct 1969-71 and later with me at HQSTC in 1983-4 as a WO.
As you’ll appreciate there are no funeral arrangements yet but Joan has promised to keep me info’d and I’ll let you know ASAP. John lived in the Bournemouth area so I imagine it’ll be around there.
From: Thomas Iredale, 69120 Heidelberg Subject: Death of Wg Cdr Allan G Knox RAF (Ret'd)
Sad to have to inform you, but by accident, I found out that Allan died on 10 January 2018. I do not know of any further details. I sent an email to his address on 13 July and two days later got a reply from his widow, informing me of the occurrence.
Wing Commander Allan Gordon Knox MSc, BA RAF (Retd). Born on 3 September 1945 and died on 10 January 2018. Commissioned on 23 March 1966 and retired from the RAF in 1994, after serving 28 years. Allan attended No 275 Course at the Equipment Officers Training School in RAF Upwood in 1966. For the Course 50th Anniversary memorial booklet, Tom Iredale conducted an interview with him about his career. Here is a brief account of what Allan said about his 28 years of service with the RAF:
Would you please list your postings after you left Upwood?
Brize Norton (DAMO – Plt Off) – coinciding with the initial introduction of Belfasts and VC10s.
Muharraq (Passenger Officer – Plt Off) – included the Aden closure when we frequently had upwards of 30 aircraft on QTR and had to park the Beverleys, Argosies and Pembrokes on the sand as there was no room on the pans.
Lyneham (OIC Strategic Role Equipment Flight, within Engineering Wing – Fg Off) – including the closure of the flight on transfer to Brize Norton.
Linton-on-Ouse (OC SCAF – Flt Lt) – secondary duty Security Officer on the introduction of Bikini Alert States.
Kai Tak (2IC Joint Service Movements Centre/OIC Passenger Section – Flt Lt). MoD Harrogate (Supply Management (SM51) – Flt Lt) – secondary duty RAFALO.
MoD Northumberland House (Supply Systems (D of SS) – Acting Sqn Ldr). Hendon – Senior Programmer responsible for Provisioning System – Sqn Ldr – secondary duties OIC Motorcycling and – best job ever – OIC Sergeants’ Mess.
Odiham OC S&M Sqn – Sqn Ldr – with the easiest takeover ever when I was handed an open F34 which effectively said that anything missing on the handover stock take was on the Atlantic Conveyor [the vessel was sunk in the Falklands war].
Secondary duty PMC, and on one epic period being an Aircraft Commander on RAF TriStars being operated by BA crews while RAF Crews were being trained (civilians are not allowed to command military personnel in operational circumstances, apparently, and the main job was to lend rank to the aircraft captain, and assume full command on the ground in the event of a diversion to a non-RAF airfield.)
Stanbridge – Supply Research Wing (SRW) initially as Sqn Ldr Aero Engine research.
Stanbridge – OC SRW on promotion to Acting Wg Cdr NAMMA Munich (Head of Logistics) – seconded out of RAF as NATO Civil Servant (= Principal grade).
Which specialist courses did you do?
Fire (Secondary duty)
Security (Secondary duty)
MSc in Management Sciences at UMIST (Manchester) for the SRW posting
German colloquial course, prior to NAMMA posting
If you had to outline one particular event in your RAF career, what would it be?
Being sent with another Wg Cdr to travel round the operational zones during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait at the 30-day point, to assess the situation on reserves and logistical support given that the war policy assumed that no major conflict (assumed against the Soviet Union) would last longer than that period. In the event, when we saw what the US had stockpiled and moving to the front, we changed the research to recommendations for recovery. At one point, we had a Scud missile land a quarter of a mile away, and at another we were 50 miles from the Republican Guard (King Khaled Military City). It was interesting.
We generally had an interesting social life on station; what was the best party/function/ball that sticks in your mind?
At RAF Hendon, we had an “upside-down dinner” when everything happens in reverse – starting with the after-dinner drinks, then going in for the speeches and the port and cheese, then the pudding – and so on, right back to the drinks before (which did not, of course, stop because there was no meal to go into). The BBC were present, filming the whole thing. We behaved disgracefully, as far as I can recall.
What did you do after you left the Service?
Started a computing consultancy (Cowal Computing Consultancy) which gradually narrowed down to software development with 2 major utility suites –one for Forecourt Sites from large convenience stores up to supermarket sites and one related to medical dispensary control.
As a “secondary duty” I was an active SSAFA Member in the Argyll and Bute Branch. I started off as a Divisional Secretary (Cowal Division), then had an extended period as Branch Chairman before having to stand down after just over 12 years. (There is a 10 year limit.) There then followed a shorter period of 3 years or so as Branch Training Organizer and IT Co-ordinator.
This picture of Allan was taken during the No. 275 Course of the Equipment Officers' Training School 50th Anniversary Reunion which was held at RAF Brize Norton June 28th and 29th, 2016.
More Relevant Stuff
From: James Aitken, Sunshine Coast, QLD Subject: Milestone reached!
Attached is a photo of Pat and I on our wedding day on June 21st 1958.
We chose "midsummer day" or the summer solstice in England, as it fell on a Saturday and I was already on embarkation leave for Singapore and time was of the essence.
We did get ribbed a bit about the fact that it was the "longest day" but the "shortest night" for the start of the honeymoon!
Not many marriages last for 60 years, so we have been very fortunate to reach this diamond milestone.
The photo is not that great... cameras were in their infancy back then.
From: David Jarvis, Lunenburg, NS Subject: Veterans' Day Out
Local veterans getting together earlier this month in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My wife Karen is on the left and in the middle are Larry and Shirley Bergeron. Larry was the instructor on my baking course and was a TV chef and personal chef to the Queen Mother when she visited Canada. He introduced me to the vets group here.
Davey and Eve Jones (RAF) of Wellington, New Zealand, celebrated their 39th anniversary on August 4th.
Emlyn and Laura Shepherd (RAF) of Stafford, UK, have just celebrated their two-year anniversary. They have 3 daughters with another on the way in November. The girls, from left to right are, Maisie, Isla-Jayne and Marlie. The new addition will be called Philippa, or Pippa to her family.
Jean and John Bell (RAF) sailing on a loch in Scotland earlier this month. John is wearing his "Nessie Detection Antennae"
Who Remembers These?
From: Syd Avery, 03140 Guardamar del Segura Subject: XM496
Probably loads of the "guys of a certain era" are aware of this site, http://www.xm496.com. Some may also have joined the group, The Bristol Britannia XM496 Preservation Society. A tenner a year, not a lot on its' own, but if quite a few people join, the tenners mount up. The aeroplane is at (ex) Kemble, well within the Lyneham/Brize catchment area. (Bit too far from Guardamar del Segura!).
I'm sure there are many guys around who have flown on Regulus during their tenure on UKMAMS and stories to tell which the group would be delighted to hear. Even tales and anecdotes on others in the Britannia fleet. Anyway, do 'ave a butchers, and see what you think. The tenner is worth it just to see the arrival at Kemble!
Best regards to all.
This Newsletter is Dedicated to the Memories of: Allan Knox (RAF) John Dunstall (RAF) Karel Ringma (RCAF) Dean Andrew Zimmer (RAF)