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81st Entry Journal

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9 Jan 2021

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian

A Happy and Healtier New Year to us all!

I see Dick Bingham's message on Feedback and the marvellous commemorative cake! Looks good enough to eat!

It is nice to see thst Dick has taken advantage of the continuance of our Feedback. I can also offer an entry as a link to the result of 2 years research into Tolkien's service as a Signals Officer in East Yorkshire 1917/1918, duties that do not appear in any of the biographies. Even if Tolkien is of no interest, the description of the world's first Early Warning System and details of Zeppelin bombing raids on Hull and the Humber, may help some of our mates to pass the time while locked down/up and screwed up/down.

Click on: 'Tolkien and the Zeppelins' and then "Download"


22 Dec 2020

From Dick Bingham

Hello Brian

Greetings to all members.

Just coming up to the magical year, so why not a cake to go with it.

Still fit. been very busy this year, many jobs off the list, one off them to move piles of fire wood, allowing the son to convert a building into a workshop, this resulted with 10,000 odd logs under cover (Well I am trying to get 15 years ahead with fire wood); also felled 40 50 year old Ash stems, had help for this: lad with Tractor pulled them over while I did the chain saw work, he had 50% good bargain that. Then Trug orders came in: 50 since October.

Will be on our own over Christmas quite content with that this year.

Merry Christmas and a COVID-19 free year to everybody.


22 Nov 2020

From Mike Stanley


A sad day to see the last issue of First and Last posted on the Entry website but also a proud day. No other entry has produced a magazine and the 81st has also the best website of any entry; not that I’m biased in any way.

You can take full credit for both achievements; although the idea of a magazine might have been mine it was you who took over as editor when I flagged after only a few years in the post.

As for the continuation of the website: I hope it can be maintained financially for some considerable time (and I am ready willing and able to contribute). Although the IWM will have a hard copy of the articles of the journal, together with information on the composition of the entry: numbers, names, trades, and their postings etc, without an index it will be a struggle to unearth information a researcher might want. I believe there are programs available that can down load an entire website onto a storage device, allowing the website to be accessed off line? Of course any storage device will need a lot of storage to take all of the Entry website but it would be a very useful bit of kit, and a godsend to any researcher at the IWM; much easier to find relevant information through an off line website than hard copy. Anyway, I expect you and your son-in-law have more gen on all that stuff than me.

I'd just like to say thanks for all the work you have done for the 81st Entry over the many years, not just for being a splendid editor and webmaster but your administration of what was in effect, if not in title, the 81st Entry Association. All the whipping in and the arranging and the emails keeping us in touch and the attendance at so many funerals of those who have gone to their final posting. You’ve done us, and the Entry, a fine service. I know I'm not the only bloke who thinks so and I hope you have had many more saying it.

Wales is coming out of lockdown on Monday and England went into lockdown last Thursday. What ever happened to the United Kingdom? Anyway, I hope things are as well with you and yours as can be expected. Me and mine are OK, just getting cheesed off with the politicking and back biting by our leaders, but at least we are not Americans. Not so much God bless the USA but rather God help them!

14 Nov 2020

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian

That's an astonishing piece of work by Kevin Hutchison, particularly the stuff about Masirah. Altogether, his contribution to First and Last is outstanding. No doubt it will be available in the Library at IWM Duxford but it is worthy of inclusion in the RAF Museum as it is a mine of information about life as an armourer in the RAF. Kevin could publish it himself on Kindle. It is a fitting inclusion to our Journal's conclusion.

6 Nov 2020

From Tony Jackson,

Thanks for the interesting update on the Journal and also the final edition.

Many, many thanks to you for the brilliant work that you have done over the years with the Journal and also for the organisation of the numerous Reunions that were great to attend. My thanks also for the other founding members, Mike Stanley and Willie Keays. What an article he has written in the latest Journal. I’m sorry that I have not contributed anything but that’s me, I would rather read than write.!!

Due to the current situation and also our ages I don’t think that we will get together as an Entry but there will always be great memories of the past with me, I’ve had a great life. When you consider we were starting our lives as World War 2 kids and then served during the cold war, the past has been difficult too.

Anyhow we are where we are, so it’s just getting on with it. I’m ok ta. I wish you and your family well.

Take care and again many, many thanks ‘Group Captain’.

5 Nov 2020

From Kevin Hutchinson

Dear Brian,

I want to give you my thanks for the work you've done for the entry these last many years. It has been a tonic, I'm sure, for all of us, and it was inevitable that it would have to come to an end sometime. I've enjoyed reading the articles, and I've especially enjoyed the ones you wrote. You are a very good writer and you've had some amazing adventures: The one about the DC10 cargo door in America, and the one about "Major J" at Stornoway are going through my mind as I write this.

Incidentally, the event which resulted in you not being able to ride pillion in the Gnats at Kemble possibly involved one of two ex-92 pilots I knew well: Armstrong was one and the other I've forgotten the name of for a moment but he was at the back end of a diamond nine in a loop, and went through the trees. I used to look after his Lotus Elan. However, I'm rambling; that's what the website does for me.

Thanks, Brian, You're an ace.

4 Nov 2020

From Ken Nicholas

Hello Brian,

As ever, a pleasure to read one of your missives - even if it brings news of a closure of sorts. My grateful thanks for the efforts you have put into producing the Journal - I had not idea you had been at it for so long. All the more worthy.

As for What Now? I would like it to keep going, if you or someone else are prepared to do so, until such time as the funding runs out. Then, those remaining would again consider the future of the website, together with the financial implications.

I like the idea of continuing with the Photo Galleries (I must have some stuff to help here).

Thank You Again,

4 Nov 2020

From Malcolm Mason

Good afternoon Brian,

Thank you for taking care of the 81st Entries contacts over many years. Without your dedication I’m certain many of our entry would not have known what or where their fellow Brats were and what they have been getting up to.

Take care and thanks again.

4 Nov 2020

From Dave Stokes

I want to thank Martin for his interesting sailing memories-most enjoyable. He may recall I was with him, Dave Elwell and two others on the weekend sail on Flypast of Cowley to Gozo. He may remember whilst loading provisions for the weekend he and I clashed resulting in him losing his spectacles into the Med.

Martin,I thoroughly enjoyed your article!

3 Nov 2020

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian

I hope you and yours are continuing to stay above water in every respect in the present crisis.

Given that we have funds to continue the Feedback page it would be nice if it could continue but I observe that prodding people to comment doesn't have much effect. It's a further burden on you. I am very grateful that you are prepared to continue to run the website.

2 Nov 2020

From John Lynch

Hello Brian,

It was sad but expected news of the last journal. However I am very much in favour of keeping the website going while you are willing and able to do so. It is comforting to know that there are still some of us left that shared the memory of those days at Halton.

Sorry I haven't been much of a contributor to the articles, but I enjoy browsing the website content from time to time for the reasons you state. This will be more appreciated as we lose our mobility and have the time to recall the past.

So please Brian do maintain the website for as long as you wish to and I for one will be ever grateful to you.

2 Nov 2020

From Jim Pinn

Dear Brian,

Just to say many thanks for all the work you do in keeping the 81st entry in touch. I feel that as we get older the past becomes more memorable, especially our ‘survival’ for three years at Halton. Many times when talking to others about my time teaching, nothing the pupils did could faze me, I’d seen it all before when you live with 1500 other ‘Brats’.

So best of luck in these odd times and thanks again.

2 nov 2020

From Liz Williams (on behalf of Ken)

Good morning Brian,

Just to let you know that Ken and I are removing to a Care Home on Saturday. Ken’s memory no longer allows him to function fully. It is a truly awful and cruel illness.

I am sure you will be glad to know that he has appreciated your meetings and communications over the years. Long may your ‘Journal’ go on!

Kindest regards,

1 Nov

From Mike Johnson

Hi Brian

I would like to express my thanks for all you have done for us, the 81st Entry, and hope sincerely that you will continue to keep the website going as long as possible; after all it is our one point of contact with each other.

Stay safe in the forthcoming lockdown, (and wash your hands !)

Kind regards,

3 Sep 2020

From Frank Chammings


I stand corrected, I was told when I joined 88 Sqdn, RAF Wildenrath that the B(I)8 Canberras were used on the Berlin Air Corridor. As groundcrew we were not au fait with all the aircraft missions so this was another rumour.

I have discovered from a well known forum that mainly Pembrokes were used. See, Chipmunks were based at Gatow and flew the route in the early days.



1 Sept 2020

From Paul Nagle

A quick comment if I may: I think that Frank C's impression that Canberra B(I)8s flew into Berlin down the designated corridors is mistaken as combat aircraft were strictly forbidden to do so. I logged 3 years on them in Germany in the early 60s and had lots of contact with our sister squadron at Wildenrath often detaching with them on a 50/50 basis from anywhere between France for a couple of weeks and Malaysia for a few months. There was never even any talk of flying into Berlin! Besides being able to operate in an interdictor rôle with a 4x20mm cannon ventral gunpack and 1000 lb dumb bombs, the B(I)8 was primarily intended to carry a big bang bomb for LABS delivery. As such it was definitely out of the question for it to cross the ADIZ on anything other than seriously unfriendly business, which neither side was particularly keen on.

On one occasion years later having taken in an innocuous Basset from Northolt, I was sitting in West Berlin with one of my wife's close friends when a jet fighter swept over fast at about 1500 ft agl - "It's so comforting to know that the Americans are looking after our safety", she remarked; I didn't tell her the USAF did not operate the MIG-21.

However, there are a couple of crewroom tales of unintentional penetration of Russian controlled airspace. One involved a pair of Bundeswehr F-86 Sabres who found themselves closer to Berlin than anywhere friendly. Being quicker to continue than do a 180 and head 270˚, they did so and managed to land at, maybe, Tegel. They were eventually dismantled and airfreighted back to West Germany as little more than cabin hand baggage. Another was a USAF RF-84F which blundered into, I believe, Czchoslovakia; he headed off westerly low at high speed if not quicker - with his cameras all running. I can't confirm either incident but someone will know!

Hope you and yours all keep well and safe from this accursed virus.

All best wishes, Paul Nagle (nav inst)

10 Jun 2020

From Robert Longhurst

Dear Brian

Sad news about Ron Furner; I do remember that they were living in France.

Jane and I are both well and, because we have a big garden and the weather has been so good, we have not yet reached the jig saw stage. You will remember that we set off for Singapore in early March; well we got there just as borders were closing and had to abandon most of a 6 week trip in Australia and Malaysia. “Trailfinders” got us home at moderate cost and we have recovered all of our expenses - AMAZING!

Singapore was great; we had a super week there. We had lunch at Changi sailing club where I was a member in the early 1960s; we met Mr Lim who now manages their restaurant but looked after my boat back then. We both love Singapore.

I have been given a taxying trip in the Lancaster “Just Jane” to take place sometime; I saw her fly into Changi when she was acquired from the French Maritime service; she was painted white then.

So Brian you can put us down as doing OK in these very strange times.

Best wishes

Robert and Jane

15 May 2020

From Ken Francis


I look in the bathroom mirror in the morning and see a very grey looking face looking back at me! No, I am not ill, just forgot for a moment that, for the first time in my life, I am growing a beard. Actually it seems more like white than grey and who knows if I grow to like it, I might keep it after lockdown – wife permitting of course!

There is not much effort in growing a beard, so, in addition I’m trying to keep fit with lots of bending, stretching, sitting down and standing up, walking (within confines of house and garden), sit ups, push ups, and resistance band work – that’s enough, just writing it down is exhausting me. Actually, I do some of these disciplines with my wife, Tricia, who also does other yoga and dance based exercises.

Because my weekly golf session has ceased I have set up a driving net in the garden. It works very well most of the time, although I once drove completely under the ball and managed to loop it over the net and into the next garden, but it is generally keeping my ball striking fairly honest.

What else am I doing? Oh yes, making a model ship – a three masted sailing barque. Just as is the beard this is a first for me as I have never attempted anything like this before. The idea of putting together a sailing ship’s rigging appeals to me, so here goes.

Spring cleaning is another good exercise. Tricia and I had previously agreed that this would be the year we would have a deep clean and general sort out in the house as we’ve been here for 50 years! . Lockdown has given us plenty of time to do just that! We started with the summerhouse, & have now finished the ground floor, so just first floor and attic to go. Oh, almost forgot garage and shed.

Other less strenuous things which keep us busy are reading, watching television, DVD’s & video tapes (yes, we still have the equipment for video & audio tapes – even a record player).

We are shielding, so not going beyond the house and garden at the moment. We’ve had lots of advice from our daughter and son-in-law who are both consultant physicians at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham working with Covid-19.

Modern technology is certainly helping us get through the crisis as it allows us to keep in touch with our children and grandchildren and Tricia’s sister in Canada via FaceTime. We are also on the phone frequently with family in Portsmouth, including Tricia’s 96 year old mother.

Being registered as vulnerable enables us to have priority access to online shopping from Sainsbury’s which is great. We also have the support of two of our younger family neighbours who have helped with prescriptions etc. Our local borough council has a team of volunteers, one of whom phones us on a weekly basis. At the start we were concerned as we have no family members living locally but as you can see we are well supported.

On a lighter note, as an ultimate back up for food we have gudgeon in our garden pond. As a boy I used to catch gudgeon in the River Adur in Sussex. Small as they are they were gutted, cleaned and roasted on a stick over an open fire there and then on the river bank – delicious!

Finally, Tricia and I would like to send our regards and best wishes to all my 81st Entry colleagues and their families with the hope that we all come through this very worrying time safely.

Keep safe and well.

8 Apr 2020

Hi Brian,

While still hunkered down in the house with only the odd walk to maintain some sanity and also to remember that there still is a world out there, I have been taking stock of opportunities that might still exist for socialising. Every social gathering, and every "keep busy" activity has been shut down for Jean and me due to this ugly Corona virus, and now the final reunion at Halton has been cancelled. However, I have not heard that our 81st entry reunion in Cirencester has been cancelled to this date, so have decided that I WILL attend. Would you kindly add my name to the list, and I will look at booking a night at the accommodations? I expect to attend on my own. If plans work out I will be getting a ride with Al Humphrey; he lives in Southend –On –Sea, and I will be staying with relatives in Billericay, which is pretty well on the way to the M25.

Fingers crossed that flight restrictions will have been lifted by then and that the whole thing has not been cancelled. Regarding Covid-19: BC is at the stage where the curve is starting to flatten out, so things are hopeful for improvement. Poor old Blighty looks quite desperate at the moment, so obviously things are extremely tentative. Let’s hope times improve!

I read the news on the passing of John Hathaway; I didn't know him well, but still have a vivid memory of him; while I was doing a pre flight on a T4 Shackleton at Kinloss in 1964 - or even 1963 - there was a shout of 'Hey Snowie', and there in the entry door stood John Hathaway, taking conversion training on the "Shack". We chatted for a moment, and that was the last time I met him. I also met Roy Waters while he went through his training at Kinloss.

My regards to you and Beth, stay safe.

Ed & Jean Wagstaff

7 Apr 2020

Hello Brian, Thank you very much for your latest.

Strange times indeed.

I have to agree with your decision to shut down the Journal, and send it off to the IWM, and let's hope that they make some use of it.

I don't know if it's any use to you, or them, but a couple of years ago I put together an account of memories from my visits to military establishments. I did this for the information of (mainly) my brother's children and grandchildren, showing what their uncle got up to. Some of the articles did make their way into the Journal, but only a few.

I will endeavour to send it to you on two files, Word and Excel, but they might be too large for the system to handle. If it doesn't reach you, and you are interested, I'll try to get it to you by other means. Let me know.

Thank you for all you've done for the entry. It is very much appreciated.

Best wishes to you and yours.

Kevin Hutchinson

6 Apr 2020

Hello again From Norfolk.

Regarding our history and the IWM at Duxford: I can provide a little bit of personal information.

I was the crew chief of Victor XH648 which we delivered to Duxford in June 1996. No. 57 squadron was then getting rid of the MK 1 tankers in favour of the MK2 and we were flying them off to all sorts of places for all sorts of different reasons; my aircraft was chosen to go to Duxford an was flown there by the then Station Commander Gp Capt Parry Evans.

I spent about three days at Duxford making the aeroplane safe and removing various items; during this time a man showed more than a passing interest in what we were removing to take back to Marham and eventually he identified himself as the pilot/owner of a Varsity resident at Duxford, and still Flying

. One lunch break he took us to a pub in Duxford village and revealed that some of the navigation and radio systems were the same in both aircraft; that night returning to Marham we forgot to lock the room allotted to us for storing the bits removed.

I've since discovered that this man was called Don Selway, a well known Beverley Capt.

Needless to say the removed items were returned to Marham; perhaps the Serial Nos were not checked! Soon afterwards the RAF made me redundant.

My story from the IWM Duxford.

Many Regards in these troubled times.

Andy Pascoe

6 Apr 2020

Hello Brian

We are living in interesting times and no mistake. I was quite happy living in uninteresting times as that suited my personality better, but here were are and must make the best of it.

Happily my wife is no more vulnerable than me so we don't have to keep our distance. How we would accomplish that beats me and I marvel you manage so well. There were too many people walking around the local open spaces when we first ventured out, which meant having to hurl ourselves into the bushes or the road to avoid contact, so now we just totter around the block for our daily outing. No dog since the beginning of the year when our 13 years old rescue dog finally went to the great kennel in the sky. It was sad at the time but she had been poorly for months and finally the vet thought it best she was put of her misery, and ours.

I'm awaiting a food delivery from ASDA this afternoon. I put the order in on March 30 but April 6th was the first available slot for delivery. I hope I don’t have to wait as long the next time I order but have a sneaking suspicion I well might. Fortunately our eldest granddaughter brings us provisions when we really need them, but she has enough to do working in the NHS without also having to be a delivery driver and we try to keep our requests to the minimum.

Good news that the Journal will be archived at the IWM, tempered with the end of its production in November. That being said you've done marvels keeping it going for so long, but even the most garrulous of us run out of stories, or the memory of them, and without articles it would have withered. Better the Journal to go out in a blaze of glory, and hopefully articles from those who have not yet contributed, the final edition might galvanise them into putting pen to paper. Unfortunately I am written out and have nothing more to contribute.

I fervently hope we will have our reunion in September but would not be surprised if it doesn’t happen. It is going to take some considerable time before the virus is eradicated and/or a vaccine produced and until one or both occur I imagine there will be restrictions placed on gatherings. Whatever, I hope to be on parade when and wherever the 81st Entry holds its reunion.

Thanks for the email, and for keeping us in touch over the many years.

All the best to you and yours.

Mike Stanley

5 Apr 2020

From Dave Hughes

"Womens' Institute advice on self-isolation". Mobberly WI have issued the following guidance for isolation:

"Right ladies, Judith Bickerstaffe has kindly emailed the crochet patterns for the face masks and matching underwear sets. Anyone who runs out of wool should message Delia who will leave fresh supplies in a vacuum sealed sandwich bag on your doorstep. She will knock the theme tune to Miami Vice on your door so you know it's her, you'll have to take pot luck on colours, but I do know there is a particularly lovely shade of burnt copper.

Mavis has drawn up a rota for the Haz Mat suit and WW2 Gas Mask, it is one size fits all so please don't specify size requirements.

If any of our less able members need provisions such as bread, milk, wine, Gin or pickled walnuts please contact Cynthia, who will pop to the shops for you providing her moped isn't being used by her grandson for pizza deliveries.

Laura will go ahead with her useful and inspirational talk on Christmas and other gifts made from j-cloths via Skype. Currently we will have to abandon our collection of soft toys made from used hosiery, particularly after that unfortunate incident when Derek Malmsbury was found doing unspeakable things to the elephant made by his wife, Nora. I'm sure we all support Nora at this upsetting time. Apparently they WERE Derek's fishnets, which is why he was confused and why he wanted them back. Still that should never be done to a child's soft toy.

Connie is finishing off the template for making an emergency face mask and draft excluder from a spare bra. I know some members have raised concern that as Connie is a 46GG she has more material to work with than most, but she assures me her template will be scalable from 32 A upwards.

Audrey wants to apologize for the mix-up with the medication run, but please be rest assured Joan suffered no side effects from taking Marjorie Butterworth's husband Viagra and haliborange. And likewise Marjorie's husband seems to have responded really well to the HRT. Marjorie says they even agreed on the pattern for their new curtains.

Sad news because of the Government announcement, the trip to Leeds and 'Miss Fifi's Private Dungeon and Macrame club' has been postponed and at this moment we don't have a rescheduled date.

Great news: we have already started collecting prizes for the summer fayre raffle. It looks like the star prize this year may well be a pack of 9 Andrex Quilted Aloe Vera toilet rolls. Shortly followed by a complete set of knitted Nolan Sisters toilet roll covers. Mavis says any resemblance between Colleen and Anne Widdecombe is purely coincidental. Right Ladies I must dash, I hear Springitts has just had a fresh delivery of tinned prunes."

4 Apr 2020

Hi Brian

And if you decide to forward this, Hi Guys.

Brian - firstly, thank you for your enlightening, even heart-warming summary of how life is for the pair of you. Thinking that we of the 81st must mostly be between 80 and 82, with perhaps one or two outside that general band, I would imagine we all are in the same boat as you. There might be one or two for whom illness has passed them by but the age perspective would also have kicked in, meaning that each one of us is vulnerable in one way or another. Might there be one or two living in the back-of-beyond who are less so? I somehow doubt it. This bug seems all inclusive.

As you know Brian, I am an aviation enthusiast, have been since before we met (ie, for me a start during the latter stages of WW2), so activity in that sense is now virtually null and void. Were it not for the enthusiast sites which allow me to monitor my computer screen most of the day, I would most probably be lost. Yet it is quite interesting to watch what is currently happening around the world. Freight companies have suddenly come into their own and, cottoning-on very quickly, pax airlines are using numerous pax aircraft to supplement freighters. Sight of Flight Global, for example, would indicate to you the development of seat "pouches" (forget what they are actually called), these being used above the seats and underneath to allow smaller packages to be carried safely. I would expect to see many other smaller airliners being used for these purposes in the coming days.

My other "hobby" is choral/church choir music - again this has been the case since before we met up in 1955 and has continued to the present day - well, to Sunday 15th March that is. That day I sang for the last time in the sense that things rapidly developed, even for churches. Having said that, I'm sure all the singers amongst us will know of the efforts of Gareth Malone, he of The Military Wives Choir fame, who now has an internet choir up and running. Taking a leaf from him, the choir leader with whom my wife Heather sings is also using a similar set-up to ensure the Banbury Milltown singers continue their efforts (a community choir rather than the choral choirs I sing with).

We sat down the afternoon of March 15th, both knowing that we needed to look quite closely at our respective futures. I perhaps should explain that Heather's involvement with cancer, this dating back to late 2006, with major surgery in 2007, followed by a repeat of that major surgery early in 2019, means she is very vulnerable to "bugs", any bugs. This is because of the nature of her particular, quite rare, cancer. As another communication this morning advises, Heather is considered to be very high risk, both by NHS and HMG. There are certain "benefits" to this though we try not to take advantage believing we all need to share whatever might be available to us. We both qualify for age vulnerability, of course, but even though we are reasonably well and (did?) enjoy quite an active life, we knew that this might be something different and that we would have to take appropriate steps. So that afternoon we decided to self-isolate, completely.

Since then, Heather has not moved out of the surrounds of our house and garden. Fortunately, although we "front" onto a quite busy "B"-road, with path, we have a reasonably sized rear garden in which to enjoy warm sunshine when it happens, ie, we don't really need to move outside our own rear garden area. Similarly, to offer her the full support I always have, I too have followed the same isolating guidelines. I make one exception which is that as we organize a supermarket delivered shop for a friend along the road who has Parkinsons, when we do so I deliver his shopping to him, avoiding any contact with others, naturally. Similarly, I ensure he remains tucked away inside his house when I deliver, placing his shopping inside his front porch for him to collect later. So, no contact whatsoever. You may think this daft but I do all this wearing gloves, washing thoroughly on my return.

I know Heather is quite concerned about this bug - I think she feels that were she to succumb... well I don't need to say it do I? So there is considerable use of disinfectant on many surfaces, this on a daily basis. This is our choice - it doesn't necessarily mean we are making ourselves less vulnerable but, like many instances in life, it is something we do to make ourselves happier, to make ourselves feel more comfortable.

Shopping has so far been reasonable - having said that we rely totally on a delivery service from one supermarket or another. This has not proven to be easy particularly where we might be including shopping for our friend - quantities allowed remain the same, for example, quantities do not increase even though we are shopping for two households. For the moment then we plod on - what else do we do.

We are The 81st! We do not panic, we take things in our stride and deal with them as we always have.

With good wishes to each and every one of you, your wives/partners, your families.

Take care

Dave and Heather Hughes

3 Apr 2020

Strange times we're living in! Never had such clean hands and certainly never felt so vulnerable. Because Beth has to take an immuno-suppressant drug she is extremely vulnerable to the dratted Covid-19 and therefore is "gated". We try to keep the statutory two metres apart - not easy in a small house with a narrow, albeit long, kitchen. Not easy either to placate a four year old Labrador now restricted to just being part of my one and only daily walk; luckily we have ample garden space for her to wander around in whilst Beth keeps a wary eye on her as she potters around keeping her immaculate gardens up to scratch - how she manages as she is unable to walk properly I just don't know..That's our state of affairs out here on the edge of the Cotswolds, I'm sure every one of you would have a similar tale to tell - maybe you'd like to let me know how things are going and possibly allow me to add something to the website Feedback page - a way of keeping in touch if you feel like using it.

Talking about the website: Willie Keays has recently been in contact with the Imperial War Museum - for his own purpose - and has mentioned to them the existence of the Entry website and my wish - I hope yours too - that the Journal be archived somewhere. I had precious little interest when I contacted the RAF Museum at Hendon - more interested in 'hardware' I imagine - some time ago but the IWM is interested and I am now in contact with their ' Head of Library and Research Room Services'; they are very keen to record individual experiences during the Cold War, something most of us were part of! Obviously to archive the Journal it needs to be complete and so, between them and myself, we have decided that I will terminate the Journal - not n ecessarily the website - this coming November and send it to them 'in toto' as a pdf. This does, of course, mean that should anyone have something in mind he's always wanted to send to me for the Journal, but has never got round to doing so, now is the time to get the keyboard humming. Indexing the Journal has been looked at by both Mike Stanley and myself, and we have agreed on its difficulty, too many subjects and places etc.; so what I will do is to index it by Name and associated Service Number - last serving rank too, should anyone like to add it - if so, let me know what to record. Our future generations should then be able to access information about our experiences through the IWM - I think that what I send will certainly be printed off and at least one copy of it archived. If anyone would like a copy of the file - all sixty-five issues and approximately four hundred articles - again, please let me know. The last issue of the Journal - those of you who read it will have noted - only contained two articles so, with input likely to remain sporadic, if even that, ending it this year is a prudent move - I do hope you agree.

Finally, for those hoping to make the reunion in September, I remain optimistic and am prepared to sit things out for a while to see how things go; it may well be that the RAU will cancel my booking anyway - I await their letting me know sometime soon. I have paid a £200 deposit, a refund of which would not be a problem should they make that decision, likewise should I call it all off; something I will only do if our numbers fall to below thirty - currently there are thirty-five of us. Let's hope we do get the chance to have this one last chance to get together.

Hoping that you and yours are well and that you continue that way.


12 May 2019

From Mike (Ginge) Thompson

Hello Brian,

Just a quick note for Feedback.

Concur with Willie and his comments on Vulcan 607. Couldn't put it down when I read it a couple of years ago. Brilliant.

7 Apr 2019

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian,

I've just read Vulcan 607, written by Rowland White, that details, and I mean details, Operation Black Buck and the preparations for it.

For those not involved in the V-Force, Vulcans and Victor Tankers, it is an eye-opener. Talk about earning flying pay! A great read.

(John Hathaway, the only 81st Entry member involved in Operation Black Buck, recorded his personal memories of it, as an AEO on one of the Vulcan crews, in Journal 35 Article 4, and in Journal 37 Article 3. Brian.)

23 Feb 2019

From Paul Nagle

Hello Brian,

I read the most recent Journal with great interest and not a little amusement.

I hope that the attached photos (jpg) transmit well. Both were scanned from colour +ves and will be a bit grainy:

One is for you. I took the BEA Tristar obviously at Farnborough - our own rather smaller aeroplane is somewhere in the background with the Arrows Gnats. It is safe to say that this Tristar landed with the same SOB ( SOB, used by some, is an acronym for "Souls On Board" and not the loathsome American expression "Son Of A Bitch". More frequently used in aviation, and always in my experience, is POB for "Persons On Board". Brian.) as on take-off!

The second is for Ken Nicholas who should recognise it as a 3(F) Sqn B(I)8 passing Crete eastbound. I am not sure of the exact date but probably '63 or '64. I am also not sure whether I took it or whether Martin Fortune did - I now tend to think the credit goes to Martin.

In my time there were a number of ex-brats on both the engineering and flying sides. One was Jack Long, pilot - we kept steady contact until sadly he died a couple of years ago - who was a former Cranwell Radio Apprentice. Another was navigator Norman Roberson, an Instr Nav bod from, I believe, the 84th. Both were good news.

Well, that is my tuppence worth!

Greetings to All

2 Feb 2019

From Ken Nicholas


I usually read through the Journal, much as a duty as anything else. I admire the tales related there and wonder if I ever got involved is such stuff. No doubt I did, but my memory has declined so much of late that it is all lost!

This time, I am glad that I carried out my task. Your tales of "civvy" flying were outstanding - especially the childbirth trip!

I regret that you will not get much from me by way of stories. What I have just finished, for other purposes, is a complete record of my time in the RAF/Civil Service. I have attached a copy that you might find of interest.

Well done and Thank you,

Education: Newmarket Grammar Secondary School 1949 - 1955
RAF Halton - Sep 55 to Mar 59 - Aircraft Apprentice (A/A then Cpl A/A)
RAF Abingdon - Apr 59 to Jan 62 - Airframe Fitter (Cpl/Cpl Tech)
RAF South Cerney - Jan 62 to Apr 62 - Officers Training Unit (Sgt)
RAF Hullavington - May 62 to Feb 63 - No2 Air Navigation School
RAF Stradishall - Feb 63 to Jun 63 - No1 Air Navigation School
RAF Lindholme - Jul 63 to Aug 63 - Bombing Command Bombing School
RAF Bassingbourn - Aug 63 to Dec 63 - 231 OCU Canberra
RAF Akrotiri - Jan 64 to Dec 64 - 249 Sqn Canberra
RAF Akrotiri - Jan 65 to Dec 66 - 6 Sqn Canberra (Flt Sgt)
RAF Henlow - Feb 67 to May 67 - Officers Training Unit
RAF Geilenkirchen - Jul 67 to Jan 68 - 3 Sqn Canberra GD/Navigator (Fg Off)
RAF Laarbruch - Jan 68 to Jul 70 - 3 Sqn Canberra
RRE Pershore - Aug 70 to Jan 74 - RRFU R & D GD/Navigator (Flt Lt)
RAF Finningley - Jan 74 to Mar 74 - Navigation Refresher Course
RAF Scampton - May 74 to Jul 74 - Vulcan OCU
RAF Waddington - Jul 74 to Aug 76 - 44 Sqn Vulcan Navigator
RAF Brampton - Apr 83 to May 83 - 6 FTS Navigation Refresher Course
RAF Wyton - Jun 83 to Jun 83 - 231 OCU
RAE Bedford - Jul 83 to Nov 90 - RRS/ARS R & D Flt (Sqn Ldr wef Jan 89)
RAF Brampton - Nov 90 to Jul 92 - JARIC OC Ops 3A (Op Granby)
OWOB London - Aug 92 to Sep 95 - DI(IM)TM2 RO2 (Temp RO1 - Jun 95)
RAF Wyton - Sep 95 to Dec 95 - 248 UK Imagery Analyst Course
RAF Brampton - Dec 95 to Aug 04 - JARIC Imagery Analyst (RO2/HIO)
Retired - 16 Aug 2004

1 Feb 2019

From Sach Goodwin

Hi Brian.

Wishing you and yours a happy new year.

I found the attached photo on the RAF Germany Facebook page. It shows the RAF Laarbruch pipe band in 1965 and the drum major is our own Jack Squires. The owner of the photo, Walter Grieve, has given me permission to use it on our web site.

31 Dec 2018.

Happy new year to you and your family and all other members of the 81st.

Barry Close

31 Dec 2018

Hello Brian, hello Beth,

This is just a late one to wish you both a Very Merry Christmas and a Successful and, above all, a healthy New Year.

And that applies to whole Gang wherever they are now in the big wide world: Keep fit and lay off those NAAFI Nelsons!

Very Best Wishes,

Paul Nagle

25 Dec 2018

From Brian


23 Dec 2018

Merry Christmas to all the members.

From Frank Chammings

8 Sep 2018

Hello Brian,

I was a member of the 82nd Entry and was at Waddington when PA474 was brought there for a restoration and modification program. They assembled quite a team of us - all trades - and we were coordinated by a soon-to-retire A/F Flight Sergeant by the name of Ken Terry.


Cyril (Snowy) Crow.

(It's always a pleasure receiving a message from a member of another Entry so I immediately answered Cyril's to let him know I would like a copy. His - equally immediate - answer is below. Brian.)

Hello again Brian,

Please find attached the photo of PA474 - I hope it is not too large. Have a close look at it to see if there is anyone you recognise. I am 4th from the left in the standing row. I knew Dick Richardson at Wildenrath and we met up again at Waddington but I am sure he is not in this photo. The dapper chap in civvies is Ken Terry who was charged with progressing the refurbishment of the Lanc. He was a war-time gunner on Lancs and after hostilities he transferred to the airframe trade. This photo was taken just before his retirement.

My home-town friend Ron Cox, who was an armourer in the 81st, was also at Wilders and Waddington at the same time but he died back in '71.

Doug - Keith - Pirie was a great pal of mine at Halton and although very athletic he was very supportive of a running plodder like me and we would go running around Wendover after work and also spent many hours 'genning' in his room, sometimes with an illicit nip or two! I lost track of him after graduation but heard some gossip from time to time about his fortunes as an officer and of his emigration to Canada. Later I contacted him through the 82nd blog and we exchanged letters and cards and histories and it was then that I found out that he had changed his name to Cardriver and he said that he would find time to explain that but he never did. He sent me a copy of his manuscript TIMBERDOWN which has many wonderful photos of him in BC with warm comments by Michael Palin and Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

I suppose I shouldn't confess this, but what the hell, it was a long time ago. He and I, as our Entry parting stunt, in the dead of night, placed a home-made bomb made of an extinguisher and seven pounds of weed-killer and sugar explosive, with a five minute fuse, on the 'Prairie'. This gave us ample time to get back to our barrack block, where we waited . . . and waited. Just when I thought the fuse had failed and we ought to retrieve the incriminating object, the sky lit-up followed by an enormous bang. The following morning the SIB were in and suspected it was the work of the IRA. The bell-cap of the fire extinguisher, we heard later, was found near the WRAFs' quarters.

I was very sad to learn of his death, and I suppose it is trite to say so, but I think the world has lost a great, if little known character.



(Until receipt of Cyril's email I had no idea that Ron Cox - armourer - had passed away as long ago as 1971; for our first term - and a bit - he was in Block 3 Room 1 along with Dave Beston, Dick Bingham, Andy Anderson, John Catley and Nip Armiger. Brian.)

9 Sep 2018

(Here's a little more about Ron Cox that Cyril has emailed me. Brian)

I was in 1 sqn 1 wing; Ron was in 2 wing. I have to confess that I put my old apprentice life behind me after I left the RAF but, later, thoughts stirred and I started trawling for 82nd entry RAF Halton and there it was, an association dedicated to Brats and further trawling - with time on my hands - I found your reference to PA474 and, what's more, good old Dick Richardson. I well remember his beloved Vincent Shadow.

Now Ron, he spent some time after Wildenrath at RAF Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire after which he was posted to Waddington where we were reunited with Dick. Ron bought himself a motorcycle 'scrambler' and spent some weekends at meets. We also played golf at the courses around Lincoln. He, being older than me by about 2 years, finished his time before me but with some mutual friends in Ramsgate, our home town, we spent some convivial weekends touring the local hostelries.

Well, I'll finish up here and if I have further recollections I will be in touch.

6 Sep 2018

From Frank Chammings


I thought that I would change the Feedback page by pointing out that 63 years ago the original 81st members took the Queen's shilling. Did anyone keep theirs?



6 Sep 2018

Back in Jul Sach Goodwin sent me this email:-

Hi Brian,

I was sorting through some old photos when I came across a letter (attached) from the late Keith Cardriver Aka Doug Pirie. You might want to put on the website.



I found it impossible to upload the letter - two jpegs scanned by Sach - no idea why that was but, eventually, I gave up trying and asked him to send me the original. So here's that letter - from Doug to Sach (another Brian, I should add - dated Dec 4 1999. You may have difficulty reading it, if you do I would suggest 'zooming in' to something like 200% - it works for me anyway.

You may like to look back to Journal No. 27, Article No. 1, in which Herb Hutchinson wrote "DOUG PIRIE An Obituary".



31 Aug 2018

From Kevin Hutchinson

Hello Brian,

I was sad to read that Graham Kennell has passed away. I don't know about his being double-jointed but he was certainly a talented artist. There was a rumour that quite early on in his service he was approaching an open double door in a corridor when the door swung shut. He put out his hand to stop it, but in doing so the impact broke a glass pane and the broken edges caused significant damage to the tendons in his wrist. I stress that I can't confirm this.

His elder brother, I believe, was disarming a Javelin ejection seat drogue gun outside No. 402 Hangar at Sylt, round about 1960, when it fired. Apparently the bolt went up through his left biceps and the recoil caused some wounding to his right thigh.

I didn't know this elder brother, but Graham was a very nice bloke.

Many thanks for your good work.

19 Aug 2018

From John Mackenzie

Dear Brian,

Graham was in the same room as myself in 3 Wing before the "Move" (Block 3 Room 3) he was I believe from Clacton, his brother Keith was in the 77th and was in Tengah with me 64/67.Graham's nickname was ""Rubber bones". His demonstrations of his flexible ability kept the billet amused!!

19 Aug 2018

From Ed Wagstaff responding to my info that Graham Kennel had passed away.

Thanks for the update Brian; I am sorry to hear of the passing of this entry member; I can add some info for Graham Kennel. He was known as "rubber bones" at Halton. He was an armourer, and he and I were both posted to Wattisham after pas-out. After only a few weeks at Wattisham, during a move from one barrack block to another to allow for painting, he was carrying his belongings to the new block when the person ahead of him, not aware that Graham was behind, kicked the door shut behind him and Graham's hands went through the glass door, cutting tendons and causing other damage. After surgeries and convalescing the RAF decided that he was no longer fit for active service and he was invalided out and offered a course in drafting (I think). So much for his three years training for a promising career! Several years later I was to meet his older brother in Winnipeg, also an ex armourer, ex 76th, selling life insurance (did we ever pick the right trade?). Graham and his family also emigrated to Winnipeg, and eventually both families moved to Vancouver Island, where brother Keith finally retired after a very successful career selling insurance; and Graham worked for the coastguard, carrying out inspections of the lighting equipment in lighthouses. We met on very few occasions, and heard through his brother that Graham's health had declined over the years, resulting in a lack of mobility. We lost touch after Keith retired.

I hope this brings you up to date with your research.

10 Aug 2018.

From Alan England.

Hi Brian,

Having read in Journal 56 articles by Barry Close and Mike Stanley they bring back memories although mine of Halton are not happy ones, but life goes on and we become more reflective of life.

Knowing it is a hard job you do and people like you need support I may be able to assist if you want an article about my joining up?

5 Aug 2018.

From Martin McArthur.

Hello Brian,

I especially enjoyed the article by David Cross in the latest Journal as it aroused many memories of my 2 years there. So much so that I spent the last few days putting pen to paper. I will send the 5000 words to you as soon as I can figure it out. I know I have sent things to you in the past but I am afraid old age is catching up and I occasionally forget how to do things.

2 Aug 2018.

From Mike Stanley.

Hello Brian,

Another excellent edition of The Journal, with a fine account of Eric's funeral.

I see that both Barry Close and John Parker (both Instrument fingers) had 'issues' with 'bullying', like having to clean kit and rooms of senior entry. I assume this was when we were in 3 Wing? I recall our room, or it might have been the entire block, being marched down to the 74th Entry accommodation and made to do their room jobs: centre deck, ablutions deck, stand-ups etc. The reason given was that the 74th were too busy genning up for their finals to do the menial tasks, so I suppose it was an official thing. Other than that I don't recall any incidents of 'bullying'. In my billet in 2 Wing, after the dispersion of entries, there might have been a 'bull boy' or two for the senior men but I wasn't one of them. Fact is I cant recall any one of the 75th or 76th in the room when I first was posted to 2 Wing.

I hope to get another boring article, relating to my boring time at St Athan, to you before too long.

11 May 2018

From Willie Keays

(Reading in the latest Jornal that Kingy Guy had passed away Willie wanted to share this little anecdote with us all - even though Kingy has 'miraculously' risen from the dead it's well worth placing here in Feedback anyway. Brian.)

In my last year in 1(A) Wing I had been moved to what I remember as Block 13, next to Henderson Square. I was in Room 4, the middle floor room further from the square - my old grey cells may not truly remember the room details but never let the truth get in the way of a good story - and Kingy was in the same room. When he was Duty Trumpeter, at about 06.29, he would stagger out of bed, grab his trumpet and quietly steal across the landing and into Room 3. There he would gently raise the end window, point the trumpet and blow a hearty Reveille, then rapidly head back to Room 4. I'm sure the sleeping denizens of Room 3 were as amused as we were!

Now that Kingy has risen from the dead I will leave it up to you as to whether this appears in Feedback.

13 Apr 2018

Hi Brian,

Aud and I attended Ed's funeral on Tuesday; Ken Williams, Phil Jarman and another armourer who I didn't know, were also in attendance He had a good send off, a fair crowd and a lovely eulogy by one of his daughters, who sadly thought Ed was a Boy Entrant. I soon corrected her of course.

Ed and I have quite a history; same class at school, same soccer team, took A/A entrance exam side bye side, ended up in the 81st. He was a real character and will be missed.

Kind Regards,

Don Higgins

12 Apr 2018

Hi Brian,

The funeral went off well although there was a delay to starting as the previous one was running late. I met David Cross and a Cosford BE in the waiting room and were then joined by Phil Jarman. The service was very well done including Tributes from wife Sandra (read by the Minister) and daughter Dawn.

The family were very grateful that four of the 81st were able to attend and at the Ramblewood hotel they made a point of talking to all four of us and were interested in how we joined the RAF and what we did after passing out.

The fourth app was Don Higgins whom I didn't recognise to start; but he was bearded!

I have a copy of the order of service which I can send on if you wish. I planned to add it to this e-mail but having scanned it my computer was blocked by an update which still isn't playing ball.

Best wishes,

Ken Williams

12 Apr 2018

Good morning Brian,

Just to let you know that the following 81st members attended Eddie Kelly's funeral in Peterborough on Tuesday 10th, followed by a gathering for light lunch and chat over many things of interest to us all; it was a very good 'send-off' for 'Ned', the family were very pleased to see four ex 81st colleagues taking the time to represent our entry and give support to them:-

Phil Jarman, Don Higgins, Ken Williams, myself and wife Kay.

Kind regards,

David Cross

11 Apr 2018

Good evening,

Ned's last parade went well with good attendance.

Met up with Ken Williams & Don Higgins, both apparently well.

Carol (charming lady) was only too happy to help and wishes to be remembered to you. (Carol is the lady I mentioned in my email; she kindly let me know of Ned's passing. Brian.


Phil Jarman

8 Apr 2018

From Dave Hughes


Continuing the transport theme per the 81st Entry Feedback pages, you might wish to include the attached. On the other hand, you might not!!

Hi all

As an 81st Entry "Brat", I cannot claim to ever have had my own transport in those halcyon training days. When I travelled home on leave from Halton, I either did so by bus and train via Aylesbury, Oxford and Worcester, or by apprentice-chartered coach to Birmingham, or even by train via Baker Street, Paddington and Worcester. And if staying "locally" with 83rd/84th entry friends at their homes in London, train and tube sufficed.

So the need to possess my own form of transport didn't grab me. That is, until I got to Cottesmore in 1958, that rather out-of-the-way place in Rutland. Sorry, where? I cannot remember ever hearing of such a place/county before. Now there were trains from Oakham, through Melton Mowbray to Leicester, with connections there to Brum and the bus home. But those links were extremely infrequent and not exactly timed such that going home at the weekend was an exciting option. Getting back on the Sunday evening proved just about impossible; more than once I ended up sleeping on Leicester's very grubby station, arriving late back at Cottesmore on a Monday morning paper train or similar, thankfully never actually extending my jankers career. Something had to be done.

There was a well-known motorcyle shop in Droitwich, near where I lived; can't remember its name now but at the time, all we local lads knew of it and it seemed the logical place to go. Wasn't long before I was the proud owner of Francis Barnett 250cc XNP833 in Dover White and Arden Green - and no, that's not me on it, that's my darling wife Heather in April 1964; some of you might remember her from recent reunions. I suppose I acquired it in around 1959, can't be sure of the exact date and I don't think I have a record anymore.

At first it didn't have a fairing, which was probably a good thing for in those first few weeks, I learned how easy it was to fall off, or be pushed off by large Alsatians, especially those not trained in the Highway Code. I learned how to ride down ditches alongside country lanes rather than down the lane itself as slowly I began to master throttle, clutch and brake control, possibly in that order but usually in any order that seemed to fit whatever mess I'd got myself into. I didn't immediately do so, wondering what my ex 81st colleagues at Cottesmore might make of my little(ish) machine alongside their Norton dominator's and the like, however, eventually, I decided I could manage the long ride back to base on it.

On clear days that was fine. On wet days, even though I dressed appropriately (?), I quickly learned that some sort of fairing might assist. At first though, I tried one of those spinning discs that seemed to be the rage at the time, this attaching to the front of my helmet. Do you remember those? More than once the side-wind effect almost took my head off. Ah yes, the need for a fairing! That same shop in Droitwich soon came up with one, of course, but to be honest, it never really fitted. Well, yes, I was a rigger after all and I was able to bolt it on, attach support rods to handle bars, etc. But once in place, I found that dimensionally, the headlamp ring was too small for the fairing and it took a lot of persuading and much fibre-glass and resin before I could even use it without the headlamp falling off. Little things sent to try? Quite large actually, but same result!

I loved that bike; it served me well despite more than one breakdown in Leicester on the way home. On one occasion, picking it up on my return on the Sunday at a very helpful filling station, it seemed to no longer be u/s despite no one having touched it in the interim. Mmmm! It occasionally seized, possibly because I rode it too hard, on one occasion effectively teaching me to "ice skate" alongside it down the road while I hung onto the handlebars. In Leicester too, it had this strange habit of going through red traffic lights (which of course was nowt to do with me and my colour blindness!).

XNP833 continued to serve me well, even after being parked-up for 2 1/2 years while I was in Malta, also continuing to do so in 1963 from my new attic flat home in Leamington Spa while allowing regular journeys to and from Gaydon. In that year, my new wife and I even holidayed on it on the Isle of Wight, travelling there and back complete with a very large suitcase on the rear extendable frame. Later though we bought an immaculate Morris 1000 from Sgt Joe Riley, one of my mentors in the mod-bay at Gaydon, and so, for my wife at least, the Frannie-B began to take a back seat. I hung onto it when we eventually moved to Marham but in late 1967, on posting to Changi, I sold/gave (?) it to my brother-in-law for his continued use. I think he ultimately scrapped it, though who knows, it could still be out there?

The Morris 1000 was similarly registered XXM83. Now that was a car.

My good wishes to all.

27 Mar 2018

From Dave Blake

(Dave is very much a recent addition to my contact list of 81st Entry members; he emailed me in Dec last year to say that he had just discovered our website and asked to be put on the contact list - you're very welcome Dave. Rather than type out this message that I received from him this a.m. I have scanned it - likewise the photo he sent with it - and include both here. There are almost certainly other 81st members on it so if you recognise yourself, or someone else (not including 'Bomber' Walden-Hughes as I recognise him well myself, as does Dave), please let me know. For instance is it the late Jim Strachan standing far right on the back row - it sure looks a bit like him? Brian.)

9 Feb 2018

From John Parker

(I had a phone call from John last evening which nudged me into remembering that he had sent me this motor car related story back in Nov last year - sorry John, but here it is. I did copy the image of John in the Morgan and not long after receiving the story took the copy to Malvern when I went there with a group from our local U3A to visit the Morgan Car Company Factory (and museum); a really worthwhile visit that I thoroughly recommend to any car enthusiast. Brian.)

Dear Brian

Going through the old shoe box, came across the attached. My very first car and the story is:-

The first proper requested posting in 1959 was to Singapore for four years (usually three, but requested extension). Changi to start with then Seletar. Early in 1960 was seconded to Kuala Lumpur Air Base for several weeks and met a very sad SAC who had been suddenly posted back to the UK; this after spending the previous months completely renovating a Morgan Plus4 sports car. I bought it from him for £100 (a lot of money then!). Three problems:

1. I had never driven a car before.

2. I did not own a driving licence and

3. I had to get the car back to Singapore.

The first problem was solved by the kind SAC who taught me the rudiments on the airstrip, which was mercifully closed on Sundays and the second, well there was the chance that I would not get stopped (Singapore was still a colony). In those days the 250 mile journey was a winding, hilly and not very wide road, which almost got me back non-stop until, just before the Merdeka Bridge the engine died on me. Found a place to stop undid the brass bonnet knobs and peered into the engine. Fiddled around without success until a kind Chinese driver stopped to help. He took one look in the engine, stuck back the battery lead that had become unstuck and sent me on my way. Remember I had only just graduated as a JT in INSTRUMENTS AND ELECTRICAL. I did obtain a license and drove for about a year, until coming off second best with a Changi bus at Bidok Corner. A write off, tragically, seeing what these magnificent beasts cost now, especially a 1954 Morgan Plus4. Hey Ho!

Regards John

(Over the years editing this website I've tried to get you all to respond to such interest items as cars/bikes owned, aircraft worked on, pets . . . whatever; you name it and I've tried it! Not a lot of response to any one theme in particular, and nothing to some, but what did come in was most welcome and recorded here in Feedback. Ed Duke has been writing up a lot about his time on Victor tankers - see all his articles in recent Journals - and during a phone call he made to me from Spain a week or so ago he said he'd send in some stuff about his 'biking' days; he did just that and here is what he sent me; many, many, thanks Ed. Brian.)

29 Jan 2018

From Ed Duke

Hi Brian

Life and the motorcycle. A subject never far away when A/As gather or pick up a pen. So here are mine in the format you suggested some many moons ago.

No. 1: A 350cc rigid frame Panther I bought in Leighton Buzzard from a big dealer - I think they were called Kings - on my 17th Birthday. Riding it home to Buckingham, and in the middle of nowhere, I got into the wrong gear and sheared the crank pin. In my defence this was the first time I had ridden a motorcycle - I had read a lot of books about it though. I sadly pushed it to an isolated cottage where I asked the lady who answered the door if I could leave it there. She said it was no problem and asked if she could get her husband to look at it. I said I would be delighted and we exchanged addresses. After a couple of weeks my Dad drove me to reunite me with a bike I hardly recognised; this God-sent Samaritan of a man had torn Kings apart for selling a hapless youth a bike with a shot big end and a string of other dangerous faults. He had threatened to send all the defective parts to the Motorcycle Press - etc. etc. - so they gave him all the parts he demanded and, in turn, my Dad - another Samaritan - paid him £5 which was all the gentleman would take for his rebuilding work. Bike 1 lesson 1 was "Motorcyclists are good people so try to be good as well".

No. 2: A 350cc swinging-arm Panther bought from a dealer in Aylesbury,trading-in the No1 Panther. Next afternoon I set off for Newquay, in Cornwall, riding all through the night and the bike never missed a beat. This bike did me proud service until I 'blocked and sheeted it up' when I left Halton for a two and a half year posting to 2 TAF; it was waiting for me when I returned in 1961 but, armed by then with a wife, a better bike was needed quickly. We were staying with my parents in Buckingham and I was stationed at RAF Watton, in Norfolk, commuting to see long suffering Ursula as often as possible. So what to get as a suitable follow on was a hard choice.

No. 3: A Norton Dominator, again bought in Aylesbury, and a great bike that never let me down during the many weeks of commuting until we bought a caravan and settled down on a site close to Watton. We enjoyed pottering around Norfolk, and became quite fond of it, until pregnant Ursula`s expansion meant I was having to sit on the tank and having to avoid bumps and potholes at all costs; so a reluctant trade in was therefore made . . .

No. 4: A Bond minicar - not a real motor bike but I did not have a car driving licence and it seemed the best solution at the time. This much scoffed at "Plastic Pig" had a heart of gold, well it had a 197cc Villiers two-stroke engine. Some of my Bond events are related in Journal No. 48 Article No4. After about three years and many thousands of miles the Bond could no longer be made roadworthy and so it was replaced by . . .

No. 5: A Panther double-adult-combo that I collected from Camden - not "Pride and Clarks" but the other one whose name eludes me. This really was Panther`s death throes and its final production as far as I can establish. It turned out to be a bad idea all round; Ursula really was not happy, "A white knuckle ride every time!" was the way she described it. The solution came with the passing of my Granddad who left all his Grandchildren a little something in his will which, in my case, was converted into a car and so ended my biking days - that was until a Comet engineer on 51 Sqn at Wyton had a bike he no longer needed and I could not resist the idea of two wheels.

No. 6: A KH Ariel. What can I say about it? Vertical twin 500cc, quite old with a quirky sprung knuckle rear suspension, but otherwise a really delightful bike; Aagain this bike features in the Journal - "TALES OF THE VICTOR TANKER FLEET" - as I did nearly all my considerable commuting during the eight month long ASC course on it. Alas I only have one Photo of the Ariel but it is one I treasure.

No. 7: A BMW 800cc Boxer. I am unsure of the exact model details as I have mentally erased this bike from my memory; let me explain. Many years had passed since the Ariel, I had left the RAF and had worked for a company in Sittingbourne, firstly as a technical author and then, ten years later, as Works Manager. A company car and all the usual perks allowed me to justify a return to two wheels; and what a stunning bike it was, comfortable, quiet, great screen, lots of power . . . etc. I could not fault it and jumped onto it at every opportunity. I must have owned it for many months, if not a year, before I made a journey of any distance; I chose to make a trip to RAF Marham on a really hot summer's day. After a couple of hours of hard riding I stopped to cool down and to take a breather; when I went to start off again I could not get into first gear. I tried every thing I could think of but to no avail, it was as if first gear no longer existed. At long last common sense prevailed and, after a few attempts in second gear, I pulled away. I was hot, sweaty and in a thoroughly ill temper when I got home; I felt just like Basil Fawlty wanting to give the bike a "Damn good thrashing". The next day I got it out of the garage and, lo and behold, it was back to normal as if nothing had happened. Talking to the nearest BMW bike dealer revealed I had a touch of "Turkish Gearbox Syndrome" - many years before BMW had given a gearbox contract to a Turkish company and there had been some early problems. All dud boxes had been recalled but it was, by then, so long ago they could not do anything to help except to carry out a costly overhaul at my expense. I suddenly went right off the BMW and did a straight swap with a man who had a Suzuki and only did short trips.

No 7: A Suzuki ZX800. A straight swap for the BMW; it really was superb and kitted out for serious touring. I kept it for six years and parted with it reluctantly when arthritic hips made it impossible to ride it for more than a few miles. This state was reached after a phase of maxing out on painkillers which resulted in really bad stomach ulcers and my doctor informing me that someone up there was telling me to act my age! In those six great years my sister had been living in southern Spain, near Malaga, but had later on moved to Brittany so there was always another trip in the offing. The ZX really was, to me, just like a much later version of the Vincent I had only been able to dream about in my youth; it had V-twin cylinders, was water cooled, shaft driven and quite stunningly reliable. It never once broke down, failed to start or in any way caused any sort of concern. With a good screen, panniers, tank-bag and a good cruise control system Kent to Madrid in 16 hours was a stroll in the park. I will stop soon for fear of boring you.

My Son Anthony was, at this time, about sixteen and he did a trip to Malaga with me; Kent to Plymouth, ferry to Santander, to the magical Oasis of Aranjuez, famed for the haunting Guitar Concerto by Rodrigo, for a large meal and instant sleep. Next day a roasting Spanish mid-summer oven-like blast through the Pan Handle where we stopped every hour and poured 2 litre bottles of chilled water over our heads. Then it was on to my sister's home, Competa in the Mountains above Malaga.

Enough! Enough! Just a few photos; Note how Anthony went into horizontal mode in ten seconds after the bike stopped.

9 Nov 2017

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian,

I have read Ed Duke's article with great interest and not a little astonishment. What crimes could a Crew Chief commit that resulted in an one-sided interview with the Station Commander and a £200 fine? Who was this guy? Gp Capt Bligh? Did the Eng Offs not have the courage to hear charges against Crew Chiefs themselves? How about the S.Eng O? Hiding somewhere, waiting for his OBE? We never had that on the Kipper Fleet where Crew Chiefs were an invaluable much appreciated part of The Team. Bloody ridculous!

That was an all-encompassing article you posted about youth in the RAF in the 50s. Excellent stuff. This especially took my notice:

Boy entrants who satisfy the requirements may become apprentices and remuster for more advanced training.

I was that soldier!

4 Nov 2017

From John Parker (aka 'Zom' and/or 'John For The Holidays')

John emailed me this message and scanned-photo after reading mine about the sad passing of John Melville.

Dear Brian,

Picture is from the 1957 Halton Amdram production of 'Badgers Green' a play about the annual inter-village cricket (needle) match. The two Johns, Ginge Melville as the Major and yours truly as the Vicar are shown in the centre sharing a bat handle. Cannot remember the others, but, anyway, do not fancy yours!!!


9 Aug 2017

From Sheila Hibbens

Dear Brian,

Although last Thursday, the day of Tony's funeral, was personally difficult and emotional, it was also comforting in a sense.

The service was conducted by our god-daughter Kate, who is a Baptist Minister. We managed to include many references to events and people who had played a part in Tony's life. The whole service went well, just as we had hoped it would. Afterwards we were able to greet, and chat with, those who had come to give support and to say a farewell.

I spotted the "ex-Brats", of course, by their smartness and bearing. Some had travelled a long way to attend, which was truly appreciated by our family. So a further "thankyou" to Peter Perry, Dick Richardson, Dave Stokes, Phil Jarman and Ken Williams. I was not able to chat with them for very long on the day.

Also, Errol Johnson was very thoughtful and sent us prints of photos taken in the early days at Halton. The grandsons were amazed to see how young and trim Grandad had been once upon a time!

Thanks again to you for keeping up the good work.


Sheila and family.

30 Jun 2017

From Ed Wagstaff (Canada)


I have been reading the correspondance concerning the 81st entry website, and I am all for retaining it - this medium has been my link to the the RAF and old friends for many years, and especially my link to the "old country". I salute you for your continued efforts to maintain our website over many years, and for all the effort you have put in to instill in all of us the spirit of Halton. Although something of a "late bloomer" myself, and having a comparatively short RAF career, I realise that our three years at Halton taught us much more than trade training!

As for my personal monetary contribution toward the website - this may prove a little difficult, but I will help in any way I can - I have no hesitation in stating that as far as birth dates go, our own Albert England is the youngest member of our entry, since he was still only 15 years old on enlistment.

29 Jun 2017

From Tony Williams


I can only concur with all the previous comments on your dedication and am willing to contribute to the cost of the entry website.

Looking forward to seeing you in September.

27 Jun 2017

From Errol Johnson


Sorry for the tardy response but I've been in Spain visiting my son and I didn't take my Tablet with me and was out of touch.

Like most of us, I would wish yout to continue your Stirling work on the entry journal. I hadn't realised that you were funding it yourself thereby paying for our privilege in reading it. I would be only too happy to contribute financially in the future either by lump sum or by regular payments just let me know.

I'm not a supporter of the Facebook system as it seems intrusive somehow. As for those who don't want to contribute financially then that's OK, but it seems mean to bar them from reading it.

Thanks for your significant past efforts and please keep up the good work.

27 Jun 2017

From Mike Robins


Thank you for your latest email to me, unfortunately my old format computer does not recognise your Feedback link, sorry. However I have enjoyed reading the 81st Entry Journal with all it's facets, time permitting. I must compliment you for all the time and hard work you have managed to put in on our behalf over the years. For me to make any feedback constructive or otherwise comments can not be helpful to you, therefore I am inclined to say to you carry on regardless, subject to you being able to do so. I know it is a cop out but an answer is better than nothing.

26 Jun 2017

From John Taylor


Just got back from a weekend away and saw your email and then read the latest replies etc. to the present situation regarding the web site.

I think everyone agrees that the web site should continue but no one is sure what will happen when we all get posted upstairs.

I have had a quick look into putting our data onto Wikipedia but after first perusal I am not sure they would let us donate our data to the site. I will look into it a bit further but do not hold out too much hope.

I think this is going to be a major discussion point in September and I am sure donations will ensure that the site continues without the need for you to continue putting your hand in your pocket.

Like everyone else I am very grateful for your contribution in keeping the site going and the organising of past reunions. I just wish I had been aware of this earlier when many more of our colleagues were alive and kicking.

Keep well.

26 Jun 2017

From Norman Armiger


Sorry about my very tardy response to your recent email, but I've only just returned from a stay with my younger son and - to be honest - I'm not very good at checking my emails at the best of times. Having read through the feedback responses it is clear there is overwhelming support and appreciation for all the effort you put into maintaining the spirit and fabric of the entry, to say nothing of your acting as an efficient and caring 'social secretary'; indeed, without you there would be nobody to hold the entry together. That said, it is all too easy to admire and appreciate what other people do; it is quite another matter to get involved oneself and in that respect I'm sorry to say I rather fall into the latter catgory. I would however be very sorry if it all came to an end - particularly as the RAF Halton element seems now to have an uncertain future. I agree with much that was said in the various responses, although I too dislike the dreaded 'Facebook' approach, However, I'm more than happy to contribute to the website costs involved and - it being an imperfect world - I for one don't care if people continue to take advantage of your efforts without helping financially. As for the means of payment, as some members have pointed out it is a simple matter to make online payments - perhaps a 'one-off' payment into a 81st Entry fund; a suitablel donation from each of us could cover the attendant costs for years and would be well worth the investment. None of this is of much practical use, but I sincerely hope you feel there is suffiicient support among the entry members to convince you to battle on for a while longer yet. And remember, those members who took the trouble to contribute to the Feedback response won't be the only ones who appreciate what a sterling job you do, and I believe that by the same token it doesn't mean that those who didn't respond don't care.

26 Jun 2017

From Curly Knowlton

Many thanks for the memo. Sorry I did not reply but have been on my travels again to Iceland this time without my caravan. I would very much like to help to keep the website going and also think a sub would be a good idea. Are you still accepting items for any more editions?

26 Jun 2017

From Herb Hutchinson

I tried to reply via the Home Page without success. Sorry for this late response. We were visiting the family in Ottawa.

Your efforts on the 81st Entry Web-site are much appreciated. We should keep it going and I'd be happy to contribute for its continuation.

26 Jun 2017

From Mike Johnson


I have finally got round to reading all the responses on Feedback; my apologies for not replying earlier.

Most of my feelings have already appeared in those replies, which seems to show how 'together' we still are.

As for solutions, I am not in favour of social media, but would be more than happy to contribute to the upkeep of the website & Journal in their present form.

Some of the replies were from old friends, and some from names that I don't even recognise; so I am looking forward to meeting everybody in Birmingham.

I will bring my name tag!

25 Jun 2017

From John Hathaway


I am enjoying a very short visit home and have seen the urgency in your letter. Over the years you have given outstanding service to the Entry cause which would be sadly missed, I would like you to continue your outstanding efforts as long as you can. There is no one better than you, please continue.

I am in the middle of family Wedding Arrangements so can't spend a lot of time on this. Your efforts are always outstanding and much appreciated.

No BRIAN then no more 81st Association. You have been great, please continue.

25 Jun 2017

From Martin McArthur


I am getting slow in taking up my pen (well, keyboard nowadays) but I felt I must add to the feedback you have been receiving. I would really miss the Journal and would willingly contribute any funds requested and could also let you have more articles, might be some more sailing or something else.

Hope to see you in September and hear what is decided.

25 Jun 2017

From John Mackenzie


I am quite guilty in not contributing any articles to our excellent website and I suppose looking back over my 40 years service I do have a few tales to relate and I promise to rectify that. Most of my contact has been by telephone with you and it was great to "Chew the fat"! The website has been a great contact point for us all I would like to see it continue for 2 years providing there is enough input. I will contribute to the upkeep as long as we have your "Firm hand and strong shoulder" to keep it going, despite the attendant frustration regarding input, then review the situation.

24 Jun 2017

From Ned Kelly


Ref. to your recent info on website. I am willing to go along with any suggestion that are made. You are doing a magnificent job and I do hope YOU are able to carry on. As stated I am willing to help and go along with the majority decision.

24 Jun 2017

From Russ Russell


I have just returned home after a few days at RAF Fairford - apologies for not having replied sooner.

I agree with you all that for all your hard work over the years to come to a grinding halt would indeed be a travesty. I really have no positive suggestion apart from perhaps offering to join in a whip round if that were to be a common consensus but that would still leave you with the hard graft.

24 Jun 2017

From Tom Cowan


Please accept my apologies, I did or thought I had replied to your first email (11/6/17). When I didn't appear on the feedback list, I checked and nothing was in my sent folder, so it must be floating in space somewhere. My thoughts on the matter are, I don't want to see the website close. I will gladly help financially. I don't think non paying people should be barred from accessing the site. I put my hand up as one of us who reads the Journals but haven't contributed. I just never seem to get round to it. The world is full of good intentions, so lets see what happens.

24 Jun 2017

From Alan England


Sorry that you are getting little support to keep the Journal going. Maybe if you could aim for two editions or even one per year?

24 Jun 2017

From John Melville


So sorry not to have responded sooner.

I think that you know how much we all appreciate everything that you have done on our behalf.

I'm ashamed to say that It did not occur to me that you have been financing the web site yourself for all of these years. If you are prepared to continue with, what you describe as, your "hobby" I am more than happy to give financial support.

The web site should stay open at least until the end of 2020 - when we will all have passed our 81st year.

If the costs to achieve this are able to be paid in advance; then perhaps we can arrange to collect a portion from all those willing to contribute and at least secure that situation.

Payment by cheque or bank transfer.

I don't think that none contributors should be excluded from access.

The September 'gathering' would seem ideal for further thoughts/discussion.

In the mean time, if I can be of any assistance, please let me know.

Sincere thanks for all of your efforts.

24 Jun 2017

From Arthur Hague


Long time no contact. past history should tell you that I need several kicks up the rear to move me to do anything nowerdays.

Well done for all your sterling work in the past. It would appear that your work has been appreciated by all.

I agree with all the suggestions to keep the web site running apart from the "facebook" one. Help in financing the project is no problem, whatever you decide is fine be me, Far be it for me to deny you your hobbie, I hope that your next contact will be good news, till then take care.

24 Jun 2017

From Ken Nicholas


How disappointing it can be to have such a poor response to such things. However, that is typical of life in general!

The only reason I am writing this is that I had not realised the cost involved in you running the website. Please be aware that I am willing to make a contribution to defray your expenses. I am sure others would join me to make the thing cost-free to you?<

23 Jun 2017

From Eric Stone


Thank you for your email. I have read all the Feedback page and we would, of course, join in with contributing to the upkeep of the website if that's all that is needed to keep it open. I shall edit the 'parrot' story and send it to you. There's not much in there about the RAF but hopefully, it would earn a titter!

23 Jun 2017

From Mike Quick


Although I have not contributed to the Journal (yet) I think it would be a great pity to let it go.

I can appreciate that it can be frustrating for you (and Stan) to have to keep finding new and interesting contributions, but rest assured it is read and and valued. It's a good feeling to still 'belong' to the 81st!

Can I suggest the site is kept alive and up dated as and when you have enough material . . .

I have been a non contributor and may well remedy that in the future. Brian, I know that the money is not the issue, nevertheless I would willingly pay for the next year and longer as necessary, although I have no doubt funds would come in.

With regard to sending funds, bank transfer (or cheque if you don't want to give out bank details) Just let me know.

Having just spoken to Mike he points out we can discuss this in Birmingham. . . .

23 Jun 2017

From Dave Hughes


Sincere apologies for not responding earlier but having noted a trend, I was of the view that as mine echoes pretty well everyone else's, there wasn't much to add. I think a while back I gave a potted history of my life within the RAF following Halton and my later career as a civilian and to be honest, again like most, I now struggle to remember odds and ends which might be of interest, a thought seemingly shared. But to lose the website, even parts of it, would be sad and so again, like many who have responded, I would certainly be willing to put hand in pocket. Heaven knows, I might even find a lost wallet there though more likely it would be another moth. I'm not one of the best with computers, though lately I sing very well or so I am told. In that vein, though many of us have told our Halton/post-Halton stories, might there be room to tell a little of our very varied lies now? Just a thought!

My continuing support for all you have achieved with the website as a whole. I look forward to hearing that we move forward on this and, as I fast approach my 78th in early July, I will certainly try to come up with something by way of contribution to the continuing 81st Entry story.

23 Jun 2017

From John Lynch


I have just returned from Ireland after a three week holiday and amongst the backlog of e-mails is your sad news of the entry website closure. I can understand your frustration with the lack of response to your appeals for articles and I have to admit that my contribution has been minimal in that regard. As I explained before, my enthusiasm was dampened by the lack of contact with close colleagues of our time at Halton. However that is not to say that I didn't enjoy our entry reunions that you arranged over the years, or the the Halton gatherings, with the exception of the last one which I had to abort on the way due to a recent pacemaker implant.

So Brian I can only say that your deserve every credit for your time and efforts over the many years to keep us old colleagues in touch. I would be very disappointed to lose total contact with you and in that regard I would be grateful to hear of any news from you. You are also very welcome to call on us in sunny Weston-super-Mare should you be down this way.

23 Jun 2017

From Dave Hughes


Sincere apologies for not responding earlier but, having noted a trend, I was of the view that as mine echoes pretty well everyone else's, there wasn't much to add. I think a while back I gave a potted history of my life within the RAF following Halton and my later career as a civilian and to be honest, again like most, I now struggle to remember odds and ends which might be of interest, a thought seemingly shared. But to lose the website, even parts of it, would be sad and so again, like many who have responded, I would certainly be willing to put hand in pocket. Heaven knows, I might even find a lost wallet there though more likely it would be another moth. I'm not one of the best with computers, though lately I sing very well or so I am told. In that vein, though many of us have told our Halton/post-Halton stories, might there be room to tell a little of our very varied lies now? Just a thought!

My continuing support for all you have achieved with the website as a whole. I look forward to hearing that we move forward on this and, as I fast approach my 78th in early July, I will certainly try to come up with something by way of contribution to the continuing 81st Entry story.

23 Jun 2017

From John Lynch


I have just returned from Ireland after a three week holiday and amongst the backlog of e-mails is your sad news of the entry website closure. I can understand your frustration with the lack of response to your appeals for articles and I have to admit that my contribution has been minimal in that regard. As I explained before, my enthusiasm was dampened by the lack of contact with close colleagues of our time at Halton. However that is not to say that I didn't enjoy our entry reunions that you arranged over the years, or the the Halton gatherings, with the exception of the last one which I had to abort on the way due to a recent pacemaker implant.

So Brian I can only say that your deserve every credit for your time and efforts over the many years to keep us old colleagues in touch. I would be very disappointed to lose total contact with you and in that regard I would be grateful to hear of any news from you. You are also very welcome to call on us in sunny Weston-super-Mare should you be down this way.

16 Jun 2017

From Dick Bingham


I think we all appreciate your work on the web site over all those years, and I ask you to continue your efforts at least to the Reunion.

I have had an email from Fe Smith, I knew Brian well, at Wittering, she mention two children one of each, but not where they are, Aylesbury was their home town in the UK.

16 Jun 2017

From John Taylor


I have just read your latest addition to the feedback page with all the comments etc.

Reading them I feel there is a general feeling that the web page should stay. Maybe it will stay and get only the occasional feedback remarks and sometimes a page or two from someone giving their life experiences that we might find interesting.

I realise this again puts the onus on you to keep it going.

With regards to finance of the site I am sure several of us would willingly commit to a yearly cheque to keep the site going.

At the reunion in September there might be time to get commitments to finance and also to twist peoples arms to get a commitment to produce some archive material.

Whilst I myself have only done a couple of articles I felt that I had not done anything in my life to be of interest to the rest of the Entry but there again I could be wrong and maybe I should try to find some part of my life that was worthy of putting down on paper.

Anyway I hope you do manage to keep it going and maybe in September we can sort out a strategy for the future of our web page.

15 Jun 2017

From Mike Stanley


Judging by the feedback - not as much as I would expect given the contents of the e-mail you had sent out - keeping the website going is prime, even if the Journal goes by lack of articles, although I'm sure the usual suspects will send in stuff for a time.

As for payment of the website. I wonder if 1&1 have some scheme where a prepayment of £x will keep the website up for n years? This would allow those of the entry who have expressed a wish to contribute to put their money where their mouths are - me included!<.p>

John Taylor's suggestion regarding Wikipedia is an interesting idea, which might be discussed with him and anyone else who knows anything about how Wikipedia functions (which lets me out). Probably Wikipedia would a require a donation, and once again those of us willing to contribute to the website might be willing to help out.

14 Jun 2017

From Andrew Watson


I have been checking my emails and have looked into the feedback section of the journal. It was with a touch of sadness that I read of the probable final edition. You have done sterling work in maintaining the journal and organising the reunions for which I thank you.

I have never contributed, but have regularly dipped into the journal and enjoyed browsing its content. It would be good if the site could be maintained but I realise that the years are catching up on us all and that all good things must come to an end. Please keep me in the loop regarding the journal's future.

Once again thank you for your efforts over the years.

14 Jun 2017

From Frank Chammings


I'm sorry not to have replied before, as usually happens I put your e-mail in the 81st folder and promptly forgot about it, it happens far too often nowadays.

I would like to see the website continuing and you shouldn't have to maintain the site on your own. I am quite willing to send you a cheque for five pounds every year and I would hope that there should be another nineteen members willing to support you.

On a second note, this is for Feedback.

Did anyone else notice the letter in Private Eye written by Willie? It was about a pedantic note and as usual in these matters, Willie said he would get out more but there was a snowdrift blocking his driveway!

I have asked Willie if it has melted and I am awaiting a reply.

13 Jun 2017

From Ken Williams


Firstly, I was sorry to see that the Journal was likely to come to an end and I must agree with all the messages put on Feedback. Also I had no idea that you were funding the Journal out of your own pocket and I don't see why you should. There has to be a way that we can help with the funding. The website and the Journal are the main things that have kept the entry together and that was all down to your efforts.

Getting money to you is no problem. Electronic transfer via the computer is one way and I would be happy to help but I don't think we should ban anyone who doesn't agree.

I have an idea for an entry in the Journal about why I ended up in a Guardroom cell twice!

13 Jun 2017

From Roy Hindley


I will be happy to 'chip in' to help with costs. I try to think of something to write for the Journal but after reading others I seem to have had a boring life, sorry.

12 Jun 2017

From Dave Beston


Apologies and hope that you can bear with me, I am out of the UK at the moment but can assure you of financial support if that is what you need (among all the other things). You have done such a good job over the years and like all of the other 81st Entry would be very sad to see it close.

12 Jun 2017

From Alan England


On your magazine problem, I thought six month or maybe annual would be solution?

12 Jun 2017

From Tony Jackson


Just read the feedback in the Journal after I sent you my recent email. Trying to get the hang of my new windows 10 laptop. Looks like the party may not be quite finished.

With regards to its contents I am more than happy to offer any financial assistance you may need in maitaining the site. Please not facebook. Like you I have no time for it.

Look forward to what may develop.

12 Jun 2017

From Peter Perry


I agree that the web site should be kept in being if at all possible, even if there are no more contributions. I would be very happy to make a contribution towards the running costs.

11 Jun 2017

From Jim Pinn


Thank you for all your hard work making the 81st news, it is very appreciated.

I went to see Eric last week and he appears much the same as when we met at Muddiford. Avril has just had her hip done and is well on the way to recovery.

11 Jun 2017

From Ken Francis


I am a little slow in replying to your current emails I know, but, better late than never!

I must admit that prior to these emails it came across to me as a 'fait accompli' that the end of the 81st website was nigh. I did have visions (delusions perhaps) of writing a couple more 'postings' for the journal. Maybe I will resurrect them now, that is if it carries on.

If it suits, I will gladly send you a good old fashioned cheque through the post, or a financial contribution by any other means you wish.

I also echo strongly the sentiments of the others and agree that you have certainty been doing a really great job for us all in keeping the journal alive. Some hobby!!

Tricia & I look forward to seeing you and the others in Birmingham in September, perhaps then we will be able to have further discussions regarding the journal.

11 Jun 2017

From Bill Swann (80th)


As I am sure you will remember I have sent in a couple of snippets in the past for inclusion in the Feedback section of the 81st Journal. However, being a member of the 80th persuasion I have no right to interfere with, or comment on the future of, your excellent publication and I certainly don't want to stick my oar in where it is not wanted. Suffice it to say that over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it and always looked forward to the next edition. I can fully understand your frustration with the lack of input from others. I compiled my ex-company's quarterly magazine for five years and it was like getting blood out of the proverbial stone, and that from people that I could confront and clip round the ear for encouragement! I am sure you will also remember that your very own Ed Duke and I (we ex-Marham Crew Chiefs call him Ted just to be awkward you understand) have been the best of friends for the past 49 years. Ted phoned me up a couple of days ago and we discussed the Journals forthcoming demise without coming to any ideas on how to save it. Reading the messages on Feedback you are obviously held in high regard by your contemporaries and have done a marvellous job over the years in producing what is without doubt the best Halton Entry web site. Whichever way it goes I wish you all the best for the future. Bill Swan, Ex 80th Entry, 1 Wing, 2 Squadron.

11 Jun 2017

From Willie Keays


Thank you for that link.

I can promise you £96 for one year at current rates. If another ten did the same the site might continue until you were in your late 80s.

I can provide some more articles but maybe I've overstayed my presence on the site.

What do you think?

11 Jun 2017

From Bill Thomas


As I am not attending the September Reunion, I will go along with the meeting's decision. Personally I think it will be a pity if after all these years together we lose contact now, when we're all getting to the that time of life when travel on unfamiliar roads becomes too much.

A website feedback page is a convenient way of keeping track of our members, even those who don't write any stories of our RAF experiences after leaving Halton are still interested in keeping track of our colleagues!

My fast car driving is now satisfied by racing old cars online. I have been a member of a number of leagues and I find the various forums a way of keeping in touch with drivers who I've not raced against for a few years.

11 Jun 2017

From David Cross


Many thanks, received.

If I am able to assist in any way please ask, not sure how!

Off on hols 4.30am Monday for a few weeks.

11 Jun 2017

From Brian

Since the email I sent out last Thursday, 8 Jun, regarding the imminent closure of this website because of the lack of material being sent to me for inclusion in the Journal, I have received several responses - all of which appear below. What doesn't appear is a long and very welcome tele/comm with Ed Duke out in Spain expressing his fervent hope that the website will continue well into the future.

A big 'thank you' to each of them for responding so quickly; rather than answering the questions asked in these messages individually I would like to do so here so that everyone looking at this Feedback page can be part of the 'discussion'.

1. The website could remain accessible on-line with, or without, any further Journal input and could continue to do do so until I become unable to either finance it or because I 'keel over'! As the latter, I may add, is not imminent then neither is the former!

2. The financing of the website: It actually costs me £7.99 a month (round figure £96.00 per annum) which 'ain't going to break the bank!', but it would be bloody churlish of me to stand back and refuse to accept any offer of help; however the foreseeable problems in accepting this help could be:

 (i) Who would want to help?

 (ii) How much should each of them send me?

 (iii) How would cash be sent to me, and (of course)?

 (iv) Would it mean that anyone not paying should be barred from viewing the contents of the site?

3. John Taylor goes a bit further in suggesting that we have some sort of Forum on the website - this was tried earlier but it can be a bit of a 'can of worms' and, anyway, would be difficult to set up. He also suggests that, if the website is 'taken down', that we could form some sort of group on Facebook (UGH!!) - I don't use it and I won't use it, call it Ludditeism (if there is such a word) but the publicity surrounding the use of social media has frightened me off! Of course that doesn't mean everyone agrees with me and it may well appeal - so it would be over to you John if that is how we end up.

4. John adds a further suggestion that - and I think he means the whole of the website - the archives could be uploaded into Wikepedia; not really a likely consideration as I am in the process of combining all the editions of the Journal into one large file that will eventually be sent to the RAF Museum at Hendon with another copy for the RAFHAA Museum - presently at Halton, but who knows where it may end up - and a copy that will remain in my own archives and be available should anyone want to access it. I might add here that the RAFHAA museum has already approached me recently asking for any Entry photographs that I may have; it would appear that the 81st is one of the few entries for which they have none - as Malcolm (Mac) Mason has been quick to inform me since his recent visit to Halton and the museum - but I am leaving the decision as to what I should send them until after our reunion in Birmingham this September.

To end up, please be under no illusion that I would be anything other than extremely delighted to be able to continue maintaining this website and our Journal; together they are - what amounts to - my hobby and to lose it would leave me bereft of the enjoyment I get from it.

Think over what I've written, and the contents of the messages below, and drop me an email to let me know what views you have, if any, about the continuation of this our somewhat unique - and much more interesting when in comparison with those of other entries - 81st Entry website. Thank you in anticipation.

10 Jun 2017

Adrian Gates

Further to our recent phone call I read your latest e mail where you said the web site is very likely to come to an end and at the end of the third para you said "UNLESS". During our phone call you seemed adamant of its demise so I did not try to influence you.

Now there appears to be a remote possibility of the web continuing, I as others - lamentably small in number I admit - would definitely pen a few more articles and offer substantive financial support.

I imagine there would be support from those attending the reunion now they are fully aware of you views and I hope you can see your way to continuing the web at least until the reunion when the views of the 'captive audience' can be ascertained. Maybe to lessen the work load a six monthly issue should be made and maybe one less article each edition.

Please consider my comments and maybe publish it in feedback to see if it genders any enthusiasm.

I am off tomorrow for nearly 3 weeks as I mentioned but I will have my I phone with me so I can follow any further correspondence on the subject.

9 Jun 2017

From Ken Nicholas

You must realise how indebted we all are to you for the sterling work you have done with the website over all the years - silence does not mean a lack of appreciation!

I have done my best to contribute, and have tried to cobble together some more, but to no avail.

I might have received mixed messages. I thought that you were definitely going to pack up. Lacking someone to hand over to (which appeared to be the case) the Journal would then end.

Your words now seem to indicate that given support, you would carry on. Make no mistake, you have that from me. However, I regret that does not mean that I can take on any active role in production of the Journal. Best I can promise is that I will continue efforts to rack my brains for further appropriate copy (it will not be about the outcome of the election!).

Please carry on.

9 Jun 2017

From Willie Keays

I hear the pain in your email.

It seems lack of input has brought us to this pass. I suppose the regulars could produce some more but for how long?

The other angle is money. Assuming your were content to continue as Webmaster how much would it take to maintain the site just as it stands?

8 Jun 2017

From Avril Stone (for Eric)

I know Eric would want me to say that he would be very sorry if the 81st Entry Journal was lost forever. He may not be able to contribute to another one but I could forward you the story of the wedding that nearly wasn't due to an African Grey called Cedric!

8 Jun 2017

From Mike Stanley

Your e mail is straight from the heart, let us hope it stirs a few more hearts. I got the impression from what you wrote that should you receive enough articles you will continue with the journal? . . . It is always the same people who reply but who knows this time the silent majority may be shamed into an article. Should there be more - or even one - Journal/s I have attached a short account, which is more or less true. If it doesn't get published never mind, it is not winning but taking part that counts!

8 Jun 2017

From John Taylor

With regards to the web site: I like many of us are sad about the imminent closure, but does it have to close? Whilst it may close in its present format could it somehow be left as it is but make some arrangements with the feedback page so that members can add their own comments as and when they like? A bit like the set up that your son in law first laid out many moons ago but did not take off.

Another alternative could be the use of Facebook. Many organisations use it and whilst I myself am a Facebook member I do not use it all that much. I use it to keep up to date with what my friends and family are doing. I have used it in the past to contact Bomber and wish him Happy Birthday etc.

Another thought, could all the archives etc. be loaded onto Wikipedia for all and sundry to read?

If any off this is taken on board and requires funding I would be willing to contribute.

8 Jun 2017

From Kevin Hutchinson

Thanks for letting me know the latest news.

I've been racking my brain to compose more articles, but so far without success. I'm sure others have been, too. From my point of view I'd have to go further than RAF experience. How about something about my Vincent? I've had it since 1963, bought it from Roy Hindley. Dick Richardson might also derive some interest as he is also a Vin man. I'll have a go.

In the mean time, can I contribute fund-wise to help keep the website going for a while? I'll be very happy to help in any way I can.

Also, you are due my gratitude for keeping the show on the road for so long. We have heard from so many on the outside what great qualities it has. "Thank you" seems to be so inadequate.

8 Jun 2017

From Malcolm Johnson

I know that it is like knocking your head against a brick wall.

My eldest son was brain damaged with one of the childhood injections and my wife was in Nocton hall hospital for 13 months and lost a kidney, so I was a carer for much of my service.

Nothing to report except long hours.

It's up to you about the journal.

8 Jun 2017

From David Cross

As my initial contact with the 81st website was only a matter of some eighteen months or so ago, perhaps I am the last ex 81st brat to do so. I have thoroughly enjoyed viewing the whole content several times as this does revive memories of a previous life! As my service ceased in 1969 (ref my info on feedback of Oct 2015), I believe that most of you will have continued your service for many years on, and so are able to recall stories for the website, I apologies that I have been unable to provide recollections/stories as such.

I wish to sincerely thank our webmaster Brian for his effective management & contribution in maintaining our entry's website. Thanks importantly to the many members who have provided really interesting articles and stories, which have all been of great interest to read. The site is an excellent history and record of member's recollections and activity from September 1955. It will of course be very sad if the site closes, I respectfully request that if at all practical the site is able to continue somehow; perhaps someone will be able to provide a solution!

I am looking forward to attending our September event in Birmingham, though I am sure I will not recognise anyone, perhaps a few name tags would help!

8 Jun 2017

From Ian Cairns

I am sorry that the website is coming to an end. Also soy that I never managed to send anything, despite promises.

I am aware of the troubles of finding things to fill a page as I am struggling to run Doncaster RAFA website.

2 May 2017

From Wilie Keays

Brian, thanks very much for your outstanding stewardship of the Journal. Many will lament its passing.

2 May 2017

From Peter Perry

Thank you Brian and for all you hard work over many years in producing the newsletter. Also apologies for being one of the zeros.

2 May 2017

From Alan England

Sorry to hear the bad news about the Journal

If any help I can rustle up two more potential articles as follows:

1. Me setting up a desert survival school at RAF Sharjah in 1967.

2. Me volunteering for the full week long survival and interrogation course at RAF Mountbatten in 1970.

2 May 2017

From Ed Duke

I am really sad to see that you may stop the Journal. Given your thoughts on the matter I can indeed see where you are coming from and understand that if the entry survivors will not supply you with a stream of apposite fodder there can be no Journal; once it is gone it will be too late to realize how stunningly good it has been to date and what a superb job you have made of both the website and, in particular, the Journal. I have lost track of the number of non 81st ex apprentices I have met who wish they had something of the same ilk for their own entry. We all have tales to tell and it is sad to think that if we do not share them they will be lost for ever. I have seen in the past your calls for more support and thought things had improved. It is very much last ditch stuff, but could I suggest you fire this email to the 81st 'faithful', with my added plea for people to give you the support you need and deserve, and lay it on the line yet again. "Support me or lose me." Some times the kick-up-the-backside needs to go up to the third lace hole before the message gets home.

8 Mar 2017

From Ned Kelly

Hello Brian and all other Entry lads.

Just a line to let you know I'm still about and often looking at our brilliant website.

Had a few setbacks over the last months health wise, but I guess all the lads have as well.

I live at Greetham, Rutland, next to RAF Cottesmore, alas now an Army barrack; the same with RAF North Luffenham. How things have changed. Rutland itself also; the Rutland Water reservoir is the big attraction and tourism is the main theme.

Very soon will be 78yrs - as will the rest of the Entry - hoping to get to 81yrs.

Best Wishes to ALL

2 Feb 2017.

From Mike Stanley.

When I contacted the RAF Museum in February 2009 Journal No. 18 had just been published. I never expected it to reach 50 issues as I was scratching around for 'copy' even then. Brian has achieved wonders over time in persuading the Entry to send in stuff, and then as webmaster get it displayed on line. The latest Journal, the Golden Edition, is well up to the standard of preceding issues, with a good mix of stories and articles from across the Entry.

Willie Keays's article brought back a memory. I think it was the 'Daily Mirror' that produced a photograph of a bewigged breeched 'Flunky' on its front page. Whether it was one of the hapless 'volunteers' at the ball held in Halton House or journalistic fabrication, it gave rise to National Servicemen at Halton being referred to as 'Flunkies' for a short time, until the more common, and pejorative, 'Bog man' returned as the apprentices' label of choice for conscripts.

On a slightly different note though:

To keep what grey matter I have functioning as well as it can be expected to do, trapped as it is in the skull of an idiot, I have been taking some on-line history courses, run by 'FutureLearn'.

One such course is 'From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War'. The course starts on the 27th of March and, should anyone be interested in joining me on the it, here is the link to sign up..

Click on: 'FutureLearn'

Oh, did I mention all FutureLearn courses are free, gratis and for nothing?

24 Dec 2016.

From Ken Williams.

Hello Brian,

Just a quick note to thank you for the info reference Dave Sidgewick's funeral arrangements. I went as planned but due to the number of people attending l with about 30 others had to stand outside, the church being full up. We were able to hear and take part in the service as loud speakers had been set up.

Thanks for all your efforts in keeping the entry together for all this time.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and a healthy an happy New Year.

22 Dec 2016.

From Phil Jarman.

Good evening Brian,

Just to let you know it was an excellent turnout for David's last parade, standing room only in the church. Surely a sign of a man highly regarded locally by civilians, serving and retired service personnel alike.

Best wishes for the season.

8 Dec 2016.

From Martin Harvey (82nd).

Dear Brian,

Kathleen May and her family were very grateful for the two ex 81st chaps who turned up for Ernies funeral and for the phone calls and messages which she received.

It's really great when support is shown n such a way.

Will speak later if possible please.

27 Nov 2016

From Mike Johnson

Just to let you know that things went well on Friday when Mary and I, along with Arthur Hague, attended the funeral of 'Ernie' May at Pontefract Crematorium.

It was a cold & sunny day and the service was attended by about 70 mourners, where we learned that John Hugh Charles May was born in April 1939 at Tichborne in Hampshire where his father worked on the Tichborne Estate (see link) and that he was passionate about tractors. His remains will be taken back to Tichborne for a final tractor ride on his cousin's farm before his final posting.

We were made very welcome by an amazed Kathleen and family when I explained who we were, and that we all joined RAF Halton on the same day, and trained together as engine fitters.

We were invited back to Selby Bowling Club for the usual refreshments, only to come face to face with Martin Harvey wearing a Halton tie! He didn't at first remember that we have met quite a few times during my work with Bristow's and at various Halton reunions, and we didn't realise that he had been Ernie's best man when he married Kate at Cottesmore in 1967.

We spent a happy hour or two comparing notes, and It transpired that he had been in Seletar at 390 MU in 1962 when I was working across the airfield on 209 sqdn. small world isn't it.

The family would like to know why he was known as 'Ernie' but nobody has the answer, so I suppose that will die with him.

Donations in memory of 'Ernie' are to be shared between PSP Association and Parkinson's UK.

From Ken Nicholas

Hello Brian,

I have just got round to reading your "Repatriations" story in Edn 49 of the Journal.

I recently visited 306BG Museum at what used to be RAE Bedford (See the website). There, Ralph Franklin, the curator and sole creator of the museum gives a guided tour which includes numerous personal tales about many of the exhibits. After our visit, I emailed Ralph to suggest that he really must create some form of permanent record based on his tales, otherwise he might soon die and all that knowledge would go with him (He had been a member of our Officers Mess and I knew him well!).

Similarly, I realise that with all the Halton entry archives there must be a mass of stuff. But some stand out and should really be collated and preserved somewhere. I doubt that anyone else has written a personal account of this historical event.

Thank you very much.

I have copied the story and, with your permission, will pass it to some of my friends who, I am sure, will enjoy reading it.

5 Nov 2016

From Willie Keays

Hi Brian

Thanks for the extraordinary story about Rudolf Hess's last flight.

I remember when about to depart Washington Dulles on a freebee VC-10 flight back from the Shenandoah Trek, 1985, the team were not able to board because a 'cadaver' from Belize occupied the available baggage space. That sort of thing must have happended often. What the eye doesn't see......,

15 Dec 2016.

From Frank Chammimgs,

Wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

10 Nov 2016.

From Mike Stanley.

Whats in a name?

When reading Brian's excellent account of the Triennial at RAF Halton I was struck by the number of 'Mikes' on parade with the 81st Entry . . . five out of a total of seventeen.

According to my mother I was named after Prince Michael of Rumania, who arrived with his father, King Carol, on a state visit to the UK a week before my birth in November 1938.

Most of our Entry have birth dates within two years of each other, and I wonder if any of my fellow Mikes have a similar Royal distinction? Or maybe our shared name is merely affirmation of the well-known saying ... as common as Mike.

5 Nov 2016.

From Willie Keays.

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the extraordinary story about Rudolf Hess's last flight.

I remember when about to depart Washington Dulles on a freebee VC-10 flight back from the Shenandoah Trek, 1985, the team were not able to board because a 'cadaver' from Belize occupied the available baggage space. That sort of thing must have happended often. What the eye doesn't see.......



1 Nov 2016.

From Brian Spurway.

RAFHAA Triennial 2016.

As seems to have been the case for every RAFHAA Triennial reunion that I can recall over the last thirty-five (or so) years, the weather Gods shone on us once again - as can be seen by Mike Quick's attire in some of the following photos; he assured me on the day that "Only real men can get away with wearing pink!", followed up with "You'll easily find me in the crowd!" You were right about that Mike.

I had a few people contact me before the event apologising for last minute decisions not to attend but there were still seventeen of us there on the day along with six very welcome wives; the sole 81st Entry member of the Golden Oldies was also 'On Parade'.

It was a great pleasure to meet up once again with: Geoff Tomsett, Nip Armiger, Mike Robins, Mike Quick, Mike Stanley, John and Eileen Catley, Ken and Tricia Francis, Doug and Jean Renton-Cooper, John and Jean Mackenzie, Robert and Jane Longhurst, Bill Morley, Mike and Mary Johnson, Errol Johnson, Bruce Robinson, Mike Cooper and Bob Galbraith.

Gathering after lunch for the 'March Past'.

"Eyes Left" - well for some of us that is!

Tricia Francis, the Longhursts and the Mackenzies touring the (old) workshops.

Still touring.

Their eyes aren't what they used to be Jane.

Two Johnsons listening to their 'brief'.

"What Mike, you don't watch 'Strictly'?

The 81st Entry's only member of the 'Golden Oldies'.

14 Aug 16.

From Alan England.

Reading Ed Wagstaff's article'Welcome to Canada' reminded me of this joke which may interest your avid readers.

Two Irishmen flew to Canada on a hunting trip. They chartered a small plane to take them into the Rockies for a week hunting moose.

They managed to bag six moose and as they were loading the plane to return, the pilot said the plane could take only four.

The two lads objected strongly, "Last year we shot six, the pilot let us take them all and he had the same plane as yours."

Reluctantly, the pilot gave in and all six were loaded and the plane took off. However, while attempting to cross some mountains, even on full power, the little plane couldn't handle the load and it went down.

Somehow, surrounded by the moose bodies, only Paddy and Mick survived the crash. After climbing out of the wreckage Paddy asked Mick, "Any idea where we are?" Mick replied, "I think we're pretty close to where we crashed last year."

6 Aug 16.

From Alan England.

Hi Brian,

I was going to make a entry via 'Feedback' regarding your trip on 'Coral Queen' in 1960, but couldn't get around the system so will go direct.

When I was stationed in Singapore at 390 MU, RAF Seletar, in 1962 we used to store a number of aircraft in the hanger including a DC3/Dakota and wonder if this was 'Coral Queen'; one day she went up for a test flight and landed with the elevators minus most of the fabric covering?

If desperate for articles I may be do one relating to my detachment to Labuan in 1963.

Thank you Alan. We had three Dakotas Mk4s on 1325 Flight, KJ 945 ('Island Romance'), KN 434 ('Polynesian Princess') and KN 598 ('Coral Queen'). The Flight disbanded in May 1960 and all three aircraft flew to Seletar and were offered up for sale - 945 went to Borneo Airways, Malayan Airways, then to Khmer Airlines; she was destroyed by rocket fire at Pnomh Penh in 1975; 434 went to Philippine Airlines and flew into Mt Boca with the loss of all lives in 1963; 598 also went to Philippine Airways and was last seen derelict at Zamboanga in 1981. The one you remember could have been any one of the three. Brian.

31 May 16

From Ed Duke

Hi Brian

I do apologize. I am alive and well, or what passes as well, once I had got over the shock of discovering that I am now nearer 80 than 70. I try not to waste time worrying about the inevitable, and to keep things in perspective; think back to my 50th Birthday when my delightful Aunty Babs put her arms around me, looked me in the eye and, in a serious voice, told me she had some bad news for me. Fearing the worse I held my breath and she continued in her serious voice "You are now 50 and robbed, from here on in, of any chance of dying tragically young." and then burst out laughing.

On this cheerful note I will move to a current feel good story:

Today's post delivered to me a cheque for £210 from HM Revenue & Customs; that already sounds fairly improbable, but is true. I met up some time ago with a canny Scottish rigger I met on my first posting to RAF Jever in 2TAF; our paths crossed many times over the years. He asked me what I knew about Marriage Allowance, "Sweet Fanny Adams" said I.

As you may well be aware Brian a system now allows you to have part of your partner's tax free allowance transferred to you. The amount will decrease the amount of tax you pay by £210 a Year, and be back dated by 12 months; hence the cheque I have received. Google HMG Marriage Allowance and all will be revealed. I applied on line and it was simple.

There are fiscal limits; you must have an income of less than about £43000 and your partner an income below £11000. I am sure a lot of retired members will fall into this bracket and perhaps a mention in your next missive would help bring a lot more of our band to claim what is rightfully theirs! It seems some 4,000,000 are entitled to claim but only a fraction has done so.

Seeking further atonement for my poor manners I am attaching what I name in my photo collection as 'Halton Relics'. I was tasked with shifting a large selection of second hand books to our local charity chop. Assorted bags, boxes, and the like were tried and rejected as being too cumbersome and suitcases were all in Spain . . . etc etc. Then a flash of inspiration, my old RAF kit bag!! I dived into the garage where years ago I had tucked my neatly folded kit bag into the rafters; excellent solution!

When I emptied and cleaned it out it I found a mini kit bag, and a housewife. The housewife is the original issue and the mini kit bag was issued as a supplement for a trip to Changi from Lyneham on 4/11/1967 - information gleaned from the still readable Transport Command label - a trip where I met up with Bob Longhurst living in a block on camp and working on, I think, 48 Sqn Hastings.

Bob, one of your faithful correspondents, and I shared a fraught time as day pupils in a boarding school - as he detailed in his latest Journal article - and we escaped together to go to Halton. I wonder if the block I visited him in was the one with the murals.

Fired up by the relics unearthed for the book disposal I quickly found a selection of brushes still bearing the stamped service number put there by a kind instructor in 1955. It would be interesting to see what others have to say about their 'Halton relics'. My test-piece was used for years to block my garage door open at Wyton, perhaps it is still there.

24 Apr 16

From Al Mudge 86th

Hello Brian,

From time to time I've emailed you re. tracing the elusive armourer Al Gray of the 81st Entry. No luck there I'm afraid so thought I'd attach a couple of photos taken between 1967/69 while we were at Leuchars, both gainfully employed in the Station Armoury.

Al and I were good mates, both keen photographers, both enjoying a few pints of Heavy, travelling all over Scotland on his 650 cc. Norton, the sidecar loaded with cameras, rations etc. He left the RAF following his initial 12 years, still in the rank of Cpl and got a job at the Royal Naval Armament Depot Faslane employed on Polaris. The only letter I received from him was 20 years ago on my return from Germany, but he'd left out any contact address/phone number. He did indicate that he was close to retiring and was at that time with the RNAD in Portsmouth.

He indicated that he'd be retiring to the "Kingdom" which was something of a clue; Leuchars is in Fife and correctly "The Kingdom of Fife". I'm going to have one last shot by contacting BT through the internet and to try and secure a phone number, unless he's ex-directory of course.

You can certainly correct me if I'm wrong, but I got the impression that he passed out top of the 81st armourers and was also in the top ten of the entry overall, possibly passing out as a substantive Cpl. For whatever reason, he had no interest in further promotion and was very good at winding up the old and bold SNCOs in the Armoury with his dry, but clever wit.

In 1969 I was posted on my first (tour? Brian) to Gutersloh; before I went I knew that he intended to remain in Scotland as a civilian and had already approached the RNAD for potential employment, which was obviously successful, still remaining an armourer, but I would think more on the mechanics of weapons rather than the bit that went bang.

Ill keep you posted if anything new turns up.

(I don't remember how long ago it is that Al Mudge last contacted me trying to trace Al Gray - I do know that I received no response to Feedback at the time; maybe someone out there will have come across Al Gray and have some idea as to where he ended up. Al Gray did very well at Halton but didn't quite make any of the three 'impressions' mentioned in this email. Brian.)

9 Feb 16.

From Mike Thompson.

Hello Brian,

A quick reply to Kevin's Feedback:

Hello Kevin,

You mentioned Leconfield in your article in Journal 46. I had been posted from MSG (to El Adem actually) and so did not know 92 had been moved.

Good to see Brian is still getting articles to keep the Journal going.

7 Feb 16.

From Kevin Hutchinson.

Hello Brian,

I'm wondering which of my articles Mike Thompson is referring to; it doesn't seem to be the one about Mehrabad. He's right of course, 92 first got its blue paint and the aerobatics team the title of The Blue Diamonds while at Middleton St George. But it wasn't for long; we moved to Leconfield on 22nd May 1961. The notice that we were to visit the middle-east, including Iran, came in about July or August.

One memory of our move from Middleton to Leconfield: One of our Hunters flew down with its undercarriage ground lock safety pins in, as, had the pilot selected undercarriage up he wouldn't have got it down again. I'm not sure that he had the canopy fitted, either. Still, it wasn't far, and we left the hangar empty.

5 Feb 16.

From Mike (Ginge) Thompson.

I just want to ask Kevin. I'm sure 92 Sqn were at Middleton St George when they got their blue livery and became the Blue Diamonds, not at Leconfield as you mention in your article???

2 Feb 16.

From Kevin Hutchinson

Hello Brian,

In my last message I left the option open that the Grand Slam at Hemswell might have made its way to Scampton - it's just down the road. If the Scampton one was live it would be no surprise to me. In my time I've come across many live stores that folks had believed were inert. One of them was a 60lb HE 3 inch rocket warhead which had markings indicating it was live. The guys thought that because it was used exclusively for displaying on open days, then it was realistic to show the 'live' markings. I thought it strange that it still had a live thermal initiator fitted, beneath which the fuze was also still fitted...

I have to say that the potential damage that the Scampton bomb was said to be capable of seems to be quite extraordinary. That is what one might expect from a tactical nuke. That part of the tale indicates to me that there's some leg pulling going on, which to some degree spoiled the story.

31 Jan 16.

From Kevin Hutchinson.

Hello Brian,

I'm getting questions from all directions! When I was on BD I used to read avidly the contents of a filing system which was known as AMIs (Air Ministry Instructions). Like our own website, it was a fantastic history of bygone days, but this one dealt exclusively with bomb disposal activities. I've not found anyone who knows the whereabouts of a set today.

There was a series of letters concerning a Grand Slam which had been found - yes - FOUND at Hemswell (I've long forgotten when these letters were written, but almost certainly before the middle fifties). It started by someone asking whether the bomb was live, and how to verify its state. It was eventually agreed that a four and three-quarter inch hole should be put through the case using a Pass Trepanner, a device made for this sort of job, and the contents established. Ultimately, the guy who looked as though he was going to have to do the job asked what sort of safety distance would be needed? Don't laugh, but there was no further correspondence on that subject in the file!

Incidentally, between 1968 and 1969 I had a Grand Slam on my inventory at Lindholme, home of the Strike Command Bombing School. That one did have a trepanned hole in it. I have long wondered what happened to it. Does anyone know?

(Thanks Kevin, but what about this one below - surely it can't be true, or can it? Brian.)

26 Jan 16.

From Willie Keays.

One for our Armourers - is it Fact or is it Fiction?

(A day or two ago Willie sent me this bit that he had received from his son's father-in-law; a wee bit concerned about whom to attribute it to he did a bit more 'surfing' and found exactly the same write up on The Australian Armourers' website - so what follows can be attributed to that site. Brian.)

Apparently when Lincolnshire County Council were widening the road past RAF Scampton's main gate in about 1958, the 'gate guards' there had to be moved to make way for the new carriageway. Scampton was the WWII home of 617 Sqn, and said "gate guards" were a Lancaster...and a Grand Slam (10 Ton) bomb.

When they went to lift the Grand Slam, thought for years to just be an empty casing, with an RAF 8 Ton Coles Crane, it wouldn't budge. "Oh, it must be filled with concrete" they said. Then somebody had a horrible thought .... No!..... Couldn't be? ... Not after all these years out here open to the public to climb over and be photographed sitting astride! .... Could it? .... Then everyone raced off to get the Station ARMO. He carefully scraped off many layers of paint and gingerly unscrewed the base plate.

Yes, you guessed it, live 1944 explosive filling! The beast was very gently lifted onto an RAF 'Queen Mary' low loader, using a much larger civvy crane (I often wonder what, if anything, they told the crane driver), then driven slowly under massive police escort to the coastal experimental range at Shoeburyness. There it was rigged for demolition, and when it 'high ordered', it proved in no uncertain terms to anyone within a ten mile radius that the filling was still very much alive!

Exhaustive investigations then took place, but nobody could find the long-gone 1944, 1945 or 1946 records which might have shown how a live 22,000 lb bomb became a gate guard for nearly the next decade and a half. Some safety distance calculations were done, however, about the effect of a Grand Slam detonating at ground level in the open. Apart from the entire RAF Station, most of the northern part of the City of Lincoln, including Lincoln Cathedral, which dates back to 1250, would have been flattened.

31 Dec 15.

From Mike Thompson.


Just a quick line or two to say a huge thank you for all the work and time you dedicate to keeping us all informed about things 81st. Do keep up the good work as your efforts are really appreciated by many of us though we may not tell you often enough.

29 Dec 15.

(Recently I received an email from a gentleman called Ross, no surname or any other details included, who wanted to be put in touch with one of our 81st Entry members; this I was able to do after which I received another email from him containing these very welcome comments. Brian:)

What a fantastic website you run with masses of interesting stories and photos; I spent a couple of hours reading through the complete content of the website, some fantastic reminiscences all laid out in a clear and easy to use site.

28 Dec 15.

From Ed Duke.

Hi Brian.

Thanks, as ever for the latest additions to the Web Site, your sterling, hard work is really apreciated by us all.
The dual relay valve saga caught my eye and I think I can add one more line:
"By this action he is able to strain upon a Bowden Cable,
which in turn, to fit the scheme, will act upon the floating beam."
Perhaps this will jar the next line in someones memory.
At RAF Watton, which was my posting on return from RAF Jever in 1961, I remember in ASF a huddle of aged NCOs (in their 40s?) struggling with one of these valves from a 151 Sqn Lincoln and quoting lines from this 'gem' in ever louder voices.

31 Dec 15.

Kay & Dave Cross wish all 81st members a great, happy & healthy 2016.

31 Dec 15.

From Dave Cross.

Surprising what you find whilst looking through photos from way back, that you do not remember having or keeping!

October 1957 when 'Sputnik' was launched, we held a room competition relating to this event. Photo is of Block 16 room 1 in 1 wing, with me in the middle, I do not remember names!

So question is, does anyone recognise themselves in the photo??

(Dave also sent an image of himself taken at Halton, he reckons it was about 1956, which I will add to Gallery 1. Brian.)

23 Dec 15.

From Ed Wagstaff.



Brian & Beth Spurway..

22 Dec 15.

From John Makenzie.

I've always looked forward to Christmas when we enjoy the company of the children, grandchildren and our friends. It is also a time when I think of the separation we experienced over that time during our married life, RAF Tengah 1964, RAF Masirah 1970 and RAF Stanley 1982.

The great British public did us proud in 1982 and our tents were festooned with cards and gifts, much appreciated. There was also Custom confiscation gifts (remember those? Usually spirits and tobacco) I saw a bottle of Scotch being traded for two packets of cashew nuts.The troops had a Christmas tree competition the winner was made out of rubber hair and looked more like a demented Octopus.

Masirah was the place though and prior to Christmas Day we saved up fresh fruit (very scarce), sweets and any other items plus fresh water from our distillation plant then took these goodies to the Wali camp children, these people had nothing and at the time lived under a despotic ruler. It was both heart warming and heart breaking to see their delight at these simple gifts and our thoughts always turned to our families.

Some of my pals who shared these times with me are now gone but I will never forget their comradeship and laughter that helped make those times easier. Happy Days.

With seasons greetings to you all and see you at the next reunion.

With all good wishes,

John and Jean MacKenzie.

21 Dec 15.

From Frank Chammings.

Wishing all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and many more of them.

Best Regards,


15 Dec 15.

From Dave Stokes.


Thank you for uploading the 45th Journal, enjoyable as ever, I especially enjoyed Robert Longhurst's article on Syria; what incredible contrasts to today. Don't know what you think but I feel our generation have lived through better times.

4 Nov 15.

From Willie Keays.

Hi Brian.

I really enjoyed Barry Closes's recounting of his first posting. I felt very envious as Ballykelly was my first choice as we approached graduation; my home was not far away. It wasn't just that that put it at the top of the list but we had heard that Shackletons flew all over the world and I wanted to be part of that. However my first posting was to RAF Nicosia, 2nd Line to 70 Sqn's Hastings.

I'm also envious of his experiences with Shacks in Africa. Maybe I pcked the wrong trade, Engines, to start with. I did get on Shackletons in 1969 when I was posted to Kinloss as an A Tech. There were Shack MR3 Phase 3s there at the time, 4 turning & 2 burning, but were soon replaced by Nimrod MR1s.

I can parallel Barry's experiences with "Cold & Wet" gear. You can imagine how we felt working and shivering in the wind-blown snow-bound wastes of Kinloss in worn-out "hand me downs" when we saw shiny-arsed stores-wallahs riding round in heated Land Rovers wearing new parkas, sea-boots, sea-boot stockings and nifty hats with ear flaps.

That Fg Off Engineer Officer deserved "tarring and feathering", or maybe being thrown to the lions he had skived off to see. In my experience the best Engineer Officers I came across were ex-Brats, but I'm predjudiced.

Thanks Barry. Great stuff!

Willie Wonker

4 Nov 15.

From Ned Kelly:

Hello Brian and All the Entry. In a few weeks I have a heavy operation. When they put me under sedation I am going to try to recall our Halton days. It should help me through this tough time. I will try hard to forget my "JANKER" time.

9 Oct 15.

(Out of the 'blue' this very welcome first contact - the website does work! Brian.>

From David Cross.

Having very recently visited the National Arboretum for the first time, and being unaware of the actual scale of the 'remembrance site', was greatly impressed with its layout and presentation, together with the tremendous number of organisations represented. I was not expecting to see a remembrance garden representing Royal Air Force Apprentices and most certainly experienced an emotional feeling, lump-in-throat and pride in having been a 'Halton Brat', viewing such an unexpected yet very pleasing memorial to apprentices. From this visit it was then the first time that I visited the 81st Entry website, thanks to my wife locating it, I had not considered that there would be such a website, not having kept-up with RAF Service matters and activity, so sorry for taking until now to view the site and communicate with you.

So, my service number being 681151, Armament, though this trade had such a variety and scope it was quite something really.

It is yes, such a long time since September 55, those three years and subsequent service, stay very clear in the memory. I unfortunately had to be with the 82nd for a further term, passing out in December 58, having then enjoyed service until into 69.

From Halton my first posting was to RAF Wyton (Hunts) working with 58 Canberra squadron & 543 Valiant squadron (Photo Recc). In 61 posted to Aden to 37 Shackleton squadron. Aden was actually enjoyable as 37 was a great squadron and travel was all over the place. In 63 posted to RAF Oakington (flying training!!). During this time I was pleased to be one of the many who participated on Churchill's Funeral Parade, (apart from the army square bashing in London in preparation for the event)! I can picture this clearly and was proud and honoured to have participated on this sombre Remembrance Day.

Following Oakington, I was posted to Seletar Singapore, to No 65 Bloodhound squadron, this was a great posting. I am sure that all or most who served in Singapore enjoyed the region enormously. I returned to the UK to RAF Wyton once again with 543 Squadron now having Victors and still photo reconnaissance. I certainly did consider and queried 'signing-on' but was given a choice and had to decide to choose an alternate 'career/trade', or leave the service. I was not attracted to the idea of changing to another branch, considering my age then of twenty nine years, having received the apprentice training and gained a great deal of service experience/knowledge, this seemed quite inexplicable to be informed, "thanks for your efforts but you will either have to choose to change or end your service".

So unfortunately/fortunately, my Royal Air Force career came to a conclusion.

14 Aug 15.

From Martin McArthur.


After reading in your email regarding the difficulty faced by Al Lowther's son in sorting out his affairs I thought my experience might be of interest in the Journal Feedback section.

At my daughter's insistence, after threatening to kill me if I were to die before my wife (her mother), I set about identifying the things that would have to be done in the event of my death before my wife.

You will be very surprised at the number of people that need to be informed, never mind those you would like to be informed. There are banks, insurance companies, pension providers, clubs, social services, associations, bus passes, loyalty cards, friends, etc. Some of these will want original death certificates, others will accept copies.

To start I wrote a letter advising her to contact our solicitor (he holds our wills) suggesting that advice and (possibly) assistance, could be obtained free (the solicitor will charge) from service charities such as SSAFA or the RAFBF. Then I went on to cover 'Sources of finance' ie banks, building societies, pensions, etc. followed by a broad summary of the current financial situation.

To support the letter I prepared a spreadsheet detailing names and addresses of organisations, phone numbers, web sites and my reference numbers.

As early preparation I made sure that all standing orders / direct debits that would need to continue were paid from my wife's account and those that would no longer be necessary (sailing club subs, RAFHAA annual sub, car insurance, etc) were paid from mine so would die with me.

Anyone wanting a hand setting this up can contact me. I would send a sanitized copy of my letter and spread sheet if it can be of help.

3 Aug 15.

From Jim Strachan.

Hello Brian,

I enjoyed reading the latest articles in the 81st Journal. Another interesting article by yourself from your time as a flight engineer. Nowadays only two pilots fly the aircraft and they will not be likely to have much aircraft engineering experience, so would they, in a similar situation, accept the word of the loaders or would the aircraft systems sense the warning light and prevent the take- off procedure proceeding until the fault was fixed?

Adrian Gates asks about the agricultural implement he saw in a museum. It is indeed a potato digger. The blade at the rear passes under the potatoes in the drill and the spinning forks scatter the potatoes and earth across the ground ready to be gathered into baskets by the 'tattie pickers' as they were called. As a schoolboy my October holiday was spent gathering potatoes. I never saw a horse drawn digger as by my time the implements had been modified so they could be drawn by a tractor. On some diggers an arm carried a type of screen which prevented the potatoes being scattered too much by the rotating forks. These diggers were followed by 'elevator diggers' which picked up the drill and shook the earth off by passing the drill contents over a conveyor made from steel rods. The potatoes were dropped in a neat row and were much easier to gather.

3 Aug 15.

From Kevin Hutchinson.

Hello Brian,

Yes, the implement in Adrian's article is a device pulled by a horse (or tractor in later years) and used to scatter potatoes out of the furrow onto the field. They can then be picked up by hand and placed in a worker's apron. Then when the apron is loaded, the spuds are transferred into a cart which accompanies the workers.

In the North East of England the implement was known as "a tätie spinner". ( The Umlaut 'a' as received from Kevin. Brian.)

26 Jun 15.

From Kevin Hutchinson.

Hello Brian,

John Taylor is but a young lad. I was born on 1st February 1938, for what that's worth.

18 Jun 15.

From John Taylor.


We have had the question on who was the youngest of our Entry, now how about "Who was the oldest?". The reason I ask this is that I think I might be near the top of the pile.

My birthday was the 7th of April 1938 so by the time the 5th of September came up I was nearly 17 ½ years old. I have a feeling that Ken Nicholas was somewhere near the top as I seem to remember both of us getting a pay rise because of our age whilst most of the other lads stayed on their 17/6d per week.

(Sometime ago Willie Keays asked me my thoughts on who might be the first of us from the Entry to reach the magic age of 81 (maybe he was asking the same qustion as John is now, but in a different way) - obviously I had no idea except to say with absolute certainty that he will be the oldest amongst us on that day! I think what John is asking is "Who was the oldest among those of us who joined up on 5 Sep 1955?" Any claims to that 'distinction', or any thoughts as to who it might have been? Brian.)

18 May 15.

From Jim Strachan.

Hello Brian,

Enjoyed reading the latest articles. Unbelievably exciting, going out for the evening with a pistol tucked under your armpit!! I was especially interested in the re-enacting of the forced march in Spain. That would make a super article (hint). I am a friend of the Black Watch museum in Perth and we have regular talks on military history, although I don't attend them all. Currently there is a series of talks about The Duke of Wellington and the last talk mentioned the Peninsular war. The next talk will be about the battle of Waterloo which should be interesting. I have been to the site of the battle and climbed the Lion mound. Pleased to hear that you have articles for the next Journal.

14 May 15.

From Willie Keays.

Hi Brian,

Here's something for Feedback, maybe.

Lofty Russell's recollections of those EOKA days in Journal 43 covered many things that as oily engine fitters we were not aware. However his remarks about Brownings give the lie to my memory of practice shoots on the 25 yard range that I reminisced on in Journal 42. As he did not see a Browning 9 mm until he met some airey-fairies from the FAA, I can't have fired a Browning at Nicosia. It must have been a Smith and Wesson 38. Maybe it was in Seletar in 1966 that I fired a Browning. Memories fail. Have you noticed?

Anyway I could have had a Browning when I arrived in Cyprus. At a farewell do in Belfast in 1958 with two of my childhood chums who had joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary, they took me aside and offered to give me a Browning they had seized in a IRA arms raid. (!!!!!) I politely turned down the offer. When our DC-4, that Lofty mentions, arrived at Nicosia the Station Security Officer came on board and after a security brief asked if we had any weapons to declare. In my best Belfast accent I said that I had a shillelagh . He gave me a smile and a pat on the head. 'Very funny, Paddy!' But I did have a really serious shillelagh! Not one of the tourist tat you see on sale in Dublin but a good stout bit of blackthorn that may have cracked a few heads in the past. My sister has it now.

13 May 15.

From Mike Stanley.

Hello Brian,

Good to see you are still managing to produce a journal with interesting articles, and that you have enough material for the next one.

As I was watching the VE Day celebrations I recalled where I was on the day . . . . travelling back from South Wales to London. I shall incorporate my memory into an 'Our War' article as you mention. Hopefully the 'Our War' thread should bring out more of our reluctant/reticent authors . . . . some of the feedback articles relating to war time memories are from blokes who had not so far put pen to paper.

27 Mar 15.

Frank Chammings contacted me recently with this email message he had received from Barry Close (Inst.). This is the first I've heard of Barry, one I never managed to contact back in the '80s; I have contacted him myself and he is now on my emailing list, a very welcome addition. Brian.

I was looking at a web site for the 81st entry at Locking and found a link to the 81st Halton site, I hadn't been there for quite a while so decided to have a look, I was reading some articles about who was the youngest and also about some who got accelerated promotion and it reminded me of a story that I think should be told about one ex 81st member who achieved something quite remarkable. First though about the underage apprentices, there were at least three of us in the Nav Inst group, my birthday is the 30th March and I am sure there were some younger than me just in my group, I know now looking back that I was too young.

One of the Inst chaps was called Baker, I can not remember his first name and anyway we all called him 'Doughy' - naturally. He was from Ipswich. 'Doughy' was very talented with his hands, during our workshop phase he had a test piece in the display cabinet, a perfect one inch cube, anyway, he was remustered at end of the first year as an AC2. He was posted to Melksham on an Instrument Mechanics course. I followed in his footsteps a year later and on my first night I went to the Naafi to sample the beer - despite being only 17 - and there was 'Doughy' Baker, with Corporal stripes. He told me that he passed his mechanics course with such high marks that they put him straight on to a fitters course, the mechanics course was 3 months and the fitters course 6 months, he was then posted on Javelins and got his tapes a couple of months later, so there he was a Corporal a full year before the 81st passed out. If you are in contact with any of the Instrument boys they might be interested, there cannot be many others who can claim that.



19 Feb 15.

From Sach Goodwin.

Hi Brian,

I'm afraid I can't help Dave Hughes with his poem about putting strain upon a Bowden cable but I do recall 4 black-boards attached to the wall of the basic shop in bay 10. These 4 boards told the story in words and drawings on the re-shaping and heat treatment of a cold chisel.

Board 1: A chisel U/S repairable true so Bill at his forge reshapes it as new.

Board 2: He heats up the end to a bright red glow, then quenching the tip he hardens it so.

Board 3. Tempering follows this hardening dip so quickly Bill cleans the scale off the tip.

Board 4: Watching the colours first yellow then brown, he quenches right out when purple runs down.

17 Feb 15.

From Dave Hughes.

Hi Brian,

From another ex-Brat friend comes the request for a poem we once learned in A/F Workshops. I remember the following bit (or something similar) but are you or any of our A/F colleagues able to complete it? I no longer have my workshop folders.

"When e'er the pilot wants to brake
A pull on lever he must make
And by this action he is able
To strain upon the Bowden cable.
etc.. . ."

Any help appreciated even though that help is required by another entry.

8 Feb 2015.

From Frank Chammings.

Okehampton, where I was born and grew up had a quiet war but was not entirely divorced from it. One bomb fell on the town it hit the market place, now a supermarket car park. We had a Polish Navy camp where the Rugby Club is now. One of the sailors became my brother-in-law, he was in a minesweeper off the Isle of Wight on D-Day. My Dad was in the Royal Artillery and for a time was stationed in Yeovil where we had some relations, Mum took me and my younger brother to stay there for a while. One day I was in the Fish and Chip shop getting a bag of chips (3d) when my Mum came in and took me home. On the way I saw some aeroplanes, greenish in colour with lots of Perspex around the nose, they were not very high, probably Dorniers or Junkers. Later that night they came back and we were woken up with loud bangs, my brother and I were under the bed, Mum and Dad were sitting on the other bed, the house was shaking with ceiling plaster and paint falling all around. We found out the next day that the house next but one had a direct hit and was demolished. The amazing thing was that when I checked the history of Yeovil the bombing raid was in 1942, I was three years old. On my fifth birthday in April 1944 I went with my friend Jill down the road. Jill lived in our front room with her brother and Mum. They were evacuated from Plymouth and as Mum had a spare room they lived there and shared the kitchen etc. Anyway, around the corner of the road, there were several Americans with half a dozen tanks, I now know they were getting ready for D-Day, they had been hidden in the woods for days, near some ammunition dumps. Signs of the dumps can still been seen, also when the tanks were moving around I saw one tank's tracks damaging the kerbstones, one of which is still there. I can remember asking "Have you got any gum chum?". When we had some chalk we used to draw Hitler with his moustache and hair over his forehead on the pavement and jump up and down on the drawing.

5 Feb 2015.

From John Lynch.

Hi Brian,

Reading through the latest journal I was interested to see Adrian Gates's article about Malta. Like him I did a tour there in 1969, (Jan 69/Mar 72), though I had no contact with him back then. I was a Ch Tech in GEF. My 3 year tour was extended by a few months due to the withdrawal caused by Mintoff's demand for more money. He got his way in the end, paid for by NATO I understand to keep us there for another 7 years. Thankfully, I didn't have to return and put it all back together again, as I was tourex. The withdrawal was also a welcome bonus for me, as my car was shipped back to UK with all the others, saving me the expense of doing so privately.

Like Adrian, I went back to Malta with my wife for a holiday in 1987 after I left the RAF. The locally employed civilians and RAF Malta personnel that worked in GEF welcomed us back like long lost family and treated us to a surprise reunion, including wives, at a hotel in Qawra. They are such good natured people with a genuine respect and hospitality towards the British. At the time I was tempted to buy a small property in the middle of the island (Lija) going for £7000. We declined, as our travel plans back then didn't include regular trips to Malta. I wonder how much it would be worth now?! Having kept contact with some of those Maltese friends at Christmas-time over the years, we returned for another holiday in 2007. Now that we are finished with our adventure travels we have been going there every year since and usually call to see the few friends that are still alive there. More recently it's twice a year in March/April and November to break up the winters here. Usually we stay at hotels in the Sliema district, which is where we lived in a hiring during the tour at Luqa.

Adrian's mention of Alan England living there on his yacht brought to mind that we must have passed it numerous times over the years, as we walked the marinas at Taxbiex, Msida and the Grand Harbour. Malta has seen much developement over the years, especially since it joined the EU, when it has been receiving funding to develop the promenades and tourist attractions. They adopted the Euro about 5 years ago at much the same time that they gave the bus contract to Arriva. Initially they operated dual fares for locals and visitors. More recently, they had to fall in line with EU rules and not discriminate against other EU citizens. Hence the cheap fares such as the weekly ticket anywhere on the island for €6.50. Arriva dropped the contract as there is no profit, only losses at those fares. Valetta is currently undergoing some big restoration work at the entrance and city walls, in preparation for it's nomination as the UN City of Culture in 2017. We intend continuing our holidays there as long as we are mobile.

If you could let me know Alan's whereabouts in Malta Brian, we may call on him in April. As well as Halton, we may have sailing interests in common, as our eldest daughter and her husband are currently sailing the Pacific after retiring from busy careers in London.

5 Feb 2015.

From Willie Keays.

Hi Brian,

Many thanks to yourself, Dave Hughes, Adrian 'Super-Rachet' Gates, Andy Pascoe (my favourite Cornishman) and Ken Nicolas. I feel your pain at the lack of response from our other 81st Cold War comrades. My Wells of Recollection are nearly dry but I can probably dream up amusing comments on one more Halton Apprentice theme. I had hoped that tales of my manifold cock-ups would have triggered some responses; I still don't know how the f*** I reached the rank of Squadron Bleeder! The Devil must have been looking after his own.

5 Feb 2015.

From John Catley.

Hello Brian,

Been giving some thought to your latest journal and I am not sure whether or not this subject has been done before. We are all of an age that, although very young, we must have had experiences during the 1939-1945 war that stick in our minds whether pleasant or otherwise. I will give you an example of events that I remember quite vividly.

I was brought up in Hastings and we were subject to enemy aerial activities. At the back of my street there were large fields that had been given over to allotments. In the centre of these there was stationed an armoured car, presumably in case of parachutists. Us youngsters were always fascinated by this object and one day someone suggested that we creep up on this military object. I recall there were about 5 of us crawling on our stomachs to see how close we could get before being spotted. Our efforts got us to about 20 yards when the guys inside suddenly rotated the turret in our direction. 5 terrified bodies suddenly leapt up and disappeared in 5 different directions, and it took the rest of the day before we were re-united. A day or so later I was playing outside my house when 5 soldiers and a Lance Corporal marched past. These were the crew of the armoured car on shift change. As they past me one of the soldiers handed me what turned out to be a bar of chocolate. I didn't know what it was at first as I had never seen one before. I rushed indoors to tell my mum and she dashed outside to thank the soldiers but they had gone.

(Thank you very much John; there's a subject I'm sure many could write about - 'Personal experiences during the Second World War', at home, at school or wherever. Give it a go, I'd love to hear from you. Brian.)

28 Jan 15.


I am an ex 93rd Radio Apprentice from Locking, and came across your site whilst trying to find reference to a mess boycott at Locking circa 1960/61.

As described in one of your articles, the food in the apprentice mess below the parade square was appalling and getting worse by the day.

Some one (remains nameless) decided that a boycott would produce results.

A similar scenario followed: The upper mess was checked for people not entitled to be there,and the NAAFI was closed. We were marched to the mess and made to collect our meal, it was messed around with, pushed around the plate and then deposited in the unwanted bin, which soon overflowed.

A rumour circulated (probably fact) that a telephone call was received at the station from a red top paper enquiring if the event had taken place. This was denied but penalties were placed on all for some weeks - no passes and no days out allowed. The food improved from that day and the permanent staff NCOs from the mess were not seen again!

I was also a team member of the Hockey and swimming teams and can remember the meetings between our 2 stations and others. I particularly remember playing an inter apprentice/boy entrant hockey competition final on the lawn of the officers mess.

Best regards

Tony Hooper

22 Nov 14.

From Mike Stanley.

Here are a couple of replies to questions posted on feedback:-

In answer to Frank's (Chammings) query regarding those sticky labels.

I believe it was Brian (Spanner) Spencer who thought up the idea. Whether it was him who came up with the wording 'The 81st Entry stuck this here', or if it was him who organised the printing of the stickers I don't know. He was a bit of a live wire so it could have well been him....I wonder where Spanner is now?

As for Jim Pinn's recollection of the Continuity Drill:-

As far as I recollect the famous, and frightening, FS Lenz was the man who 'volunteered' members of the 81st to be in his Continuity Drill Team. It was for a Battle of Britain Day extravaganza on the airfield (1956?), where we preformed our hard learned evolutions, which included such arcane movements as fixing bayonets on the march. I believe Chiefy Lenz invented that drill movement. The finale was the two halves of the team marching towards each other while fixing bayonets, the rifle being thrown forward in a 'High Guard' type position when the bayonet was fixed. Fortunately the bayonets in use were those 6 inch pig sticker types, the only use for which was making holes in tins of condensed milk for a brew-up in a bucket. Had it been the MK 9, blade type, someone could have had their eye out!

Chiefy Lenz also taught the continuity drill team funeral drill....marching with arms reversed, and resting on arms reversed, are a dim remembrance of things past. I don't recall doing the drill for real but I know we carried out a few Guard of Honours.

I remember one time, must have been winter or autumn as we were in greatcoat order, and someone important was visiting. It might have been one of the Beamish brothers, possibly Air Mshl Sir George Beamish. Whoever, it was a great bear of a man who came down the ranks giving us the once over....he was as big as one of the famous Pontypool front row - no, he was as big as the entire Ponty front row, although George played at No 8. A young officer, 2 i/c of the guard, had difficulty replacing his sword in the seems the blade has to be slid through a slit in the greatcoat, and the poor bloke kept missing the hole. Someone, and I swear it wasn't me, was heard to say "Put some hair round it!" Which nearly had the lot of us falling about.

FS Lenz was the SNCO for No.1 Squadron in 2 Wing and I believe the drill team was drawn exclusively from the members of the Entry in that Wing, but I am ready to be corrected; what I can say is that FS Lenz was a superb instructor. I don't recall him ever using profanity, although he probably had good reason to before we got into the swing of things and began to actually enjoy the drill!. Even so he certainly had a way with words, especially when pointing out the errors of one's way. A "Well done" from him was as treasured as a gold medal....they dont make men like him any more.

22 Nob 14.

From Willie Keays.

For what it's worth - when I arrived at Halton, probably on 7th September, having spent 92 days as a B/E, I was 15 years 180 days old and not very wise.

(If my maths stands up to it I reckon that makes Willie some 45 days younger than Sach - anyone beat that? Brian.)

20 Nov.

From Sach Goodwin.

I'll start the ball rolling. I was born 25 April 1940, so I guess I must have been one of the youngsters. Having said that, Fritz Faulkner was slightly younger than myself.

20 Nov 14.

Over the last month or so I've received the following three messages basically asking the same question; I put them here on the Feedback page to sound out those of the Entry who do look at this site (regularly or just occasionally). The big pity is that there's a substantial number out there who no longer answer my emails, inevitably leaving me to believe they've lost all interest - however there remains a core of you who will hopefully pick up on this message. Let's have some thoughts on the subject and maybe even the name of a volunteer prepared to fix something up for next year. Cheers Brian.

From Frank Chammings (6 Oct).

Contemplating the date yesterday I realised that next year 2015 is 60 years since we went to Halton. The best reunions I recall were at Cirencester, and I am asking if you would reconsider arranging another reunion there next year in September?

From John Mackenzie (4 Nov).

Hi Brian, Many thanks for the latest journal, always good stuff. Disappointing about lack of interest for our 60th, maybe someone needs to poke the Hornet's nest (Very rough translation of 100 Squadron's motto!). Best wishes to you and yours.

From John Taylor (20 Nov).

Brian - Whilst I am not suggesting that you do any of the organising, apart from putting it on the feedback page, is it possible that a 60th anniversary could be organised for next September?

If it is put forward on the feedback page we could agree to meet at a central point without the need to book in anywhere, or if members want stay somewhere they can book it themselves.

I know it could be complicated without someone taking a lead role but some of our members might be able to come up with some ideas. It was just a thought and the 60th is a bit of a milestone.

All the best to you and yours.

19 Nov 14.

From Frank Chammings.


Looking at the history pages, I thank you for presumably typing them, my thoughts went to our last days at Halton. We had a committee, who was on it? Who thought of and produced the sticky labels which I saw on a train at Exeter which had come from Plymouth? Who organised the party and Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine and who organised the guests, the nurses who graced our table. I actually saw the one I teamed up with the next night in Aylesbury when I went to the cinema with my younger brother but I didn't make contact as the opportunity didn't arise. In any event I thank them.

(Please let me know if you can answer any of Frank's questions. Brian.)

11 Nov 14.

From Jim Pinn.

Dear Brian, thanks for all your work for the Entry's website. Question: I remember the Entry doing a continuity drill practice in the old skating rink in the woods by Halton house. I think it was for the A.O.Cs inspection. Do you know if this was a first for the Entry, a first for any entry, or even the first ever???!!!!!

(Ring any bells anyone? Brian.)

10 Nov 14.

From Jim Strachan.

Thank you for forwarding the latest journal of the 81st Entry. The articles are really great. I started to read them late one recent evening and read the lot. They really brightened my day. Great to read of how many of our Entry had interesting and successful careers either in the RAF or when they left the Service.

3 Nov 14.

From Dick Bingham.

A bit more history - a small group of us were flown up to Cranwell, by Anson from the airfield, for selection, Nipper and I think Grimwood ended up as aircrew from this trip, we also went to Hornchurch for other tests; this happened when the rest of the Entry were doing their test jobs, it helped us as we had all the space and instruments when we did our test jobs on arrival back at Halton. I'm very hazy as to who went, (Nipper might remember) only we fitted inside an Anson, cannot even remember which came first Cranwell or Hornchurch.

(Anyone else remember this trip to Cranwell? Brian.)

3 Nov 14.

From Willie Keays.

Thanks Brian, what a fantastic job once more, and the History must have taken you ages. There's nothing else on the web about an entry at Halton to equal it.

The articles by the other contributors especially yourself and Dave Hughes show just what a well-travelled bunch we turned out to be. Sometime to pass the time I'll have to count how many different countries are mentioned. 25+?

Isn't Dave Hughes one of my B/E co-enlisters from Cosford? He doesn't actually mention those lowly beginnings. Dave Hunt was also a B/E. I think they were 4 or 5 of us, final service numbers of us would go up to my own 681459 ( ex-1931101), say from 681453 to 681459 so your listing makes it easy to figure out who they were.

One name missing from the rolls is 'Mac' Macdonald, large Yorkshireman, demon chess-player. He was relegated to the 82nd, or 83rd, because of illness. Maybe he's one of the numbers but no names.

Doug R-C speculates on who were the youngest joining the 81st. Are DOBs given in your data?

Use as much of these meanderings as you wish if you think any of it is worthy of being included in Feedback.

(If you were 15 years old in 1955 then maybe you're younger than Doug and possibly the youngest in the Entry. If you have any recollection of the McDonald Willie mentions or any thing else you think I can add to the History page please let me know. Brian.)

10 Sep 14.

From Ned Kelly.




4 Aug 14.

From Willie Keays.

I was intrigued by Alan Lowther's 'Retrospective Promotion'. My first reaction was WTF is Retrospective Promotion? Then, having thought about it for a bit I came to the conclusion that I would have made a super Gp Capt. Is it too late to apply?

20 May 14.

From Dick Bingham.

Hi Brian,

Delivered your hug as requested. (Thanks Dick!)

Weather was not on our side, everyone had a good chat and saw things that were different, so the day was good.

Finished clearing up today, all told a one off event for me, pleased to have held the Ball around 300 hundred people came, even in that weather and no complaints, everybody made the best of it, lots of shavings left on the ground so plenty of work carried out.

Two You tube sites please put these on the 81st Feedback then all can see what went on

Click on: 'Bodgers' Ball 1.'

Click on: 'Bodgers' Ball 2.'

18 May 14.

From John Catley.


Don't know if anyone has been in touch regarding our meeting at Dick Bingham's, but I thought I'd drop a line to let you know that we had an enjoyable time despite the howling gale that threatened to blow the marquee away. Eileen was fascinated watching a lady making string with the stems of stinging nettles, it was amazing how strong it became.

For myself it was emotional to see Dick and Norman Armiger again after 50 odd years, we all started in the same room together with Alex, it takes us back to the days when they were trying to knock us into shape.

Later Eileen and I met up with Norman and Geoff Tomsett at the Horseshoe Inn. Geoff was in good form retelling some of his stories.

Eileen was also very grateful to John MacKenzie for bringing her a DVD of Newbiggin in Northhumberland where they both have family ties and fond memories.

I would be interested in other opinions if anyone has been in touch.

12 May 14.

Thankfully as well as sad occasions we have others, much more pleasant, like the visit to Dick Bingham's farm on Saturday 10 May.

From Mike Robins.


Just to let you know that all went well at the weekend at Dick Bingham's Farm, pity you could not be there. Despite the attrocious weather conditions (strong wind and rain) a good time was enjoyed by us all. Dick had set aside a place in the large tent for us all to gather to eat and chat. Several of our wives accompanied us and we were able to view the various artifacts on show with demonstrations, including birds of prey. We were glad that we took our wellies and mugs as advised by Dick. He certainly did us proud putting on a fantastic buffet and food selection par elegance. Contributions were made by all. It took a lot of effort by his family considering that he had to prepare the site etc. I think we totalled about 12 in number including several wives/partners coming from all over as well as Ireland and Holland. A very pleasant and edifying day all round.

I trust that you and Beth are both keeping well.

Take care and all the best for now.

10 May 14.

As everyone will have seen from the latest Journal Alex Chamber's funeral took place yesterday, Friday 9 May. Three of our members, Ed Duke, Dave Sidgwick, his wife Diana, and Ken Williams attended the service to pass on their last respects and to represent the 81st Entry; I'm sure everyone will join me in thanking them for doing so.

As Ed says, in his message below, Alex's wife Valerie was very pleased to see them there; I have found this same appreciation from wives and families at other 81st funerals that I have attended - it does mean so much to them that friends from such a long time ago are present, 'friends' even though they may not necessarily remember the departed from Halton or indeed had never met since. Long may this spirit of friendship continue, and others like Ed, Dave and Ken be prepared to make their presence felt in the future when, inevitably, other friends from the Entry will sadly pass away. Brian.

From Ed Duke.

Hi Brian.
I am pleased to be able to report that Alex is now running around Heaven with his final "Blue chit" having had a fine send off from the stunning Stow Minster which was packed with Family and Friends. I met up with the other 81st duo in the pub and in due course relayed your sympathy and apologies to Valerie. She was so pleased to have us there.

Rusty wheels slowly turned and a light in the dusty depths of my brain clicked; Taff Williams, as we called him in those days, started on the same Victor Crew Chief course as me in 1969 only to be forced to abandon it as he was found to be colour blind! So we had a lot to chat about.

I really am so pleased to have been a part of such a memorable day.

From Dave Sidgwick.

Just in from Alex's funeral and I have to say that he had a splendid send off. Well over 100 there. This was the church he and Valerie attended and Alex was on the church council. Met with Ken and Ed, he had had his name writ large on a label with 81st Entry on it. Did not go to the interment as parking not easy and Alex had a large family contingent there. The order of service was a work of art. I will arrest one of my grand kids to work out some method of getting the last page, at least, to you.

Funny how his life ran pretty similar to my own: ATC, BRAT, then Church council and Parish Council.

He had been ill since new year and finally succumbed to pneumonia. All three 81ers and Diana had a long chat with Valerie and passed on your condolences, she asked us to remember her to you. Diana has given her our contact numbers and offered an open invitation to come to see us.

Funny, as soon as I saw Ed I knew him.

8 May 14.

From Kevin (Hutch) Hutchinson.

Hello Brian,

Have just seen Journal 39. That's great of you, thanks.

Mike Stanley asks a few questions:

What a memory Mike Stanley has; I thought I knew my way around, but he had me dredging my brain on several points. I can tell him that Fred Street (of sacred memory) is still the main drag in Westerland. Its proper name is Friedrichstrasse. I vaguely remember going to the Copper Kettle, but I certainly wouldn't have gone there twice. And I cannot remember its German name. I certainly have many good memories of The Broken Bottle, which was a favourite bar of mine. Its proper name was Bratwurstglockl, and it was (is?) situated in Fred Street, almost opposite the Pigalle, of which there were strong rumours of goings-on in the upstairs rooms. Of course I cannot confirm these rumours but if it was true it would show the owner in a very interesting light. The owner was a Mr Kriete, who also owned the radio shop in the town. When I bought a radio from him, he asked me what block and room I lived in. The following day, on return from work, I found that he had delivered the radio to my room, had fitted it with a DIN socket to connect to my tape recorder, had cleated a co-ax cable to the wall, through the window-frame to a dipole aerial he had mounted on the soffit. All at no extra cost. He appeared to be a very gullible trader as he quite happily sold stuff. to airmen on detachment for a small deposit and a promise to pay the rest "later". Perhaps what he lost in one enterprise he recovered in the other.
All the best from Kevin H (227)

30 Apr 14.

From Willie Keays.

Journal 39! WOW! Clearly a labour of love!
Thanks very much for the excellent write-up you gave my latest effort. No libel writs...yet!
I really enjoyed Tony Harvey's story about adventures in Aden. That's the stuff to give the troops! "Last Days of The Raj stuff". First class.

22 Apr 14.

From Mike Thompson.

Quick note for Feedback:
Great to see another swathe of pics in the two galleries. It's great that you take the trouble to keep us all informed and jolting our memories. Do keep up the good work and hope you are getting the necessary support to keep our Journal alive.
Best regards

(Thanks Mike. It's a pleasure for me to be able to keep the Journal and the website alive and kicking; that pleasure is much heightened when I receive such feedback. Brian.)

21 Mar 14.

From Mike Thompson.

Thanks for that info Frank, I will wear a black armband for a week in respect to Hayley, and open another bottle of red wine!!!!!

20 Mar 14.

From Frank Chammings.

Re. Mike Thompson, does he know that Hayley has died?

(I have to admit that when I received this from Frank I had no idea what he was on about so I sent it on to Mike thinking it was some sort of message relating to a mutual acquaintance - I hope there are others out there who, like me, don't watch soaps; well maybe years ago I 'flicked' onto the occasional East Enders but soon moved on to something else. Brian.)

18 Mar 14.

From Mike (Ginge) Thompson 208.

Hello Brian and all 81st Entry website devotees.
Just wanted to post an item on Feedback:

We have a bit of a problem here on the Costa del Sol, some bugger has switched off our UK TV channels and the satellite is now only transmitting Sky junk!! However, it has created the opportunity to catch up with some reading, testing of various Red Wines and of course "going on the web".

So come on guys, give Brian some support for all the effort he puts in to the 81st website, send in some communications as you will now, also, be supporting a TV-less 'Grumblie' who's suffering withdrawal symptoms having not seen Corrie for six weeks!!!!!

22 Feb 14.

From Malcolm (Mac) Mason.

Dear Brian,

Thanks for keeping the web site going. I enjoy reading about things I have long forgotten and the photos too. Perhaps you would like to publish the piece below in one of the future Journals. (Rather than putting Malcolm's message up as a Journal article I've put it here in Feedback. Brian.)

John Catley isn't the only armourer who has been in and out of prison. One of my tasks as Vice-Consul (or glorified office boy), was to visit British citizens in custody in Dutch Prisons. Some of the places I visited were amazing and the facilities were unbelievable. I visited one man who was being detained at the Queen's pleasure and spoke with him in his cell, in which he had two computers, a stereo installation, a TV, a refrigerator and several bird cages containing exotic birds. That man will never be released. The wing he was detained in had an inner garden with a vegetable plot, chicken and other small animals. In the corner of the garden was a long wooden barrack block which housed hobby rooms. One of the rooms contained a huge miniature railway with all sorts of rolling stock, it must have costs a small fortune to put together.

In the Netherlands a life sentence means exactly that, you're in for life. One such life prisoner was a young man, let's call him Barry, from Hong Kong (HK was at the time a British Dependent Territory for which we were responsible). The first time I visited Barry at the location where he was serving his sentence, was in a prison which dated from the late 19th Century. Barry had a trustee's job in the prison kitchen. On arrival after passing through the security checks I was allowed to speak to Barry in an separate room. Before we got into a conversation he asked me what I would like to eat, his suggestion was Bacon and Eggs, but I declined his kind offer. Over the years I built up a good relationship with him.

The prison underwent a huge modernisation which, in my opinion, did nothing to improve the conditions. However, what I did notice was that the new part of the prison had not only a very modern gym, but also open air swimming pool. When I asked Barry whether he went for swim, he answered "Not likely!". I asked the reason why not and he told me that those prisoners who couldn't swim, would urinate in the pool to put the swimmers off using it.

Another thing I found rather surprising was a condom vending machine in the corridor to the interview rooms. I asked one of the guards if the prison authorities were encouraging homosexuality among the prisoners. He told me that the condoms were for conjugal visits by wives of the prisoners and showed me the room where such visits took place. It was almost as good as a hotel suite, with a large bed, a pile of towels and a shower room.

I visited some 30 different prisons during my time in office and not all were like those that I have described above.

20 Feb 14.

From John Taylor.


Just reading the latest news on the feedback page and whilst I did not know Terry Fleet I would wish to add my sympathy to those already added.

A couple of other items caught my eye, the first one being about RAF Germany. I served at Laarbruch from 61 to 64. Just recently we were clearing out some of the Mum in Law's cupboards and came across an old Christmas card that had been sent from Laarbruch. It had the camp crest on the front with a piece of RAF coloured ribbon and a photo of a Javelin and two Canberras inside. Perhaps Mick Robins, Dave Gregory and Jim Pinn who all served there at about the same time may also have sent one home to their loved ones. Jim was on 16 Squadron with the Canberras but like me Mick and Dave were on 420 MU.

The other item concerned the trashing of Ned Kelly's bunk. Unless it was another Ned Kelly from say the 74th, Ned must have done well to get two stripes in his first 4 months in the RAF.

5 Feb 14

Bruce Robinson isn't online but he does send me odd snippets from time to time and this is one that may interest anyone who served in Germany - taken from the RAF News. Brian.

30 Jan 14.

From Frank Chammings.

I would like to add my name to the sympathy for Terry Fleet, we were in the same room in our first term, a nicer bloke you couldn't meet.

29 Jan 14.

From Willie Hamill Keays.

It was with some shock and great sadness that I have to tell my 81st comrades of the outcome of the search pursued by David Leech-Hines, like me an ex-Boy Entrant, for news of Terry Fleet, 81st Engines, a search that took him some years. David, who now lives in Australia eventually discovered that Terry had emigrated with his family on the completion of his RAF service to Australia also. He came to an untimely end in 1976 at Kununarra in Western Australia, he would have been about 37. We don't yet know what exactly happened but hope to establish the facts shortly.

Being Engines I knew Terry quite well. He was a likeable easy-going mate who never seemed to let anything upset him. Roy Hindley and I got to know him even better through the Triumph Owners' Motor-cycle Club of which Terry, with a T21 (350cc), was a stalwart. He was one of the best-liked blokes I ever met. David also knew him in Cyprus; Terry was godfather to his first born. Terry was posted to ASF RAF Henlow that was the 2nd Line for University Air Squadrons where I met him a couple of times. Then, like too many of the 81st, he dropped out of sight.

23 Jan 14.

From Sach Goodwin.

Just been scanning the last few photos in gallery 1. Image 123 shows Graham Coxon and Keith Head holding a banner. How come I don't remember that?

I do however remember the night before we knocked off for Xmas leave 1955 when Keith Head and John Humphries wrecked Cpl AA Ned Kelly's bunk. Couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

14 Jan 14.

From Ned Kelly.

(I have put this here exactly as received from Ned rather than retyping it all in lower case; its charcater would have been lost anyway had I done so! Brian.)











11 Jan 14.

From Rhonde Rouleau.

Hello Brian,

I am the widow of 81st Entry ex-brat Chris Penney. I recently discovered a photo I'd not seen before on any 81st website - a loose formation of brats (perhaps all practicing for Shackleton Crew slots?). I have been unable to make any significant improvement to the photo but am sending it to you anyway. I am 95% sure that Chris/Kris is second from left. If you know otherwise, please let me know. If I find any other pics I will send them along.

Keep up the good work.

(Someone out there may recall this photo being taken - looks like pre-summer camp to me as everyone appears to be in best blue, rifles and webbing. Please let me know if you recognise yourself or anyone else in the photo. Brian.)

4 Jan 14.

From Tony Williams.

Hi Brian,
A happy & healthy 2014 to all your readers.

I also was in Block 3 room 6 (Gallery 1, Image 13) and remember Tekker (not Ticker) O'Connor. He was at school with my sister and his proper name was Terence.

Martin McArthur is absolutely right in getting things written down before the memory goes. Sadly mine has gone already and I can't remember the 4th member of our entry who spent 9 months on a 230 Squadron detachment to the British Cameroons in 1960/61. Perhaps someone can jog my memory from the photos attached.

1 Jan 14.

From John Mackenzie.

Best wishes to you, yours and the 81st entry for 2014 from a very sunny and warm California!!

John & Jean MacKenzie,

Christmas Day 2013.

From Ed and Jean Wagstaff in Canada.

20 Dec 13.

From Brian.

Beth and I are very grateful to those of the Entry who have sent us greetings cards and we apologise for having to make do, in return, with just this message on the website - I am still in contact with over 100 members of the 81st, several of them far away overseas and, as I'm sure you will all understand, sending a card to everyone at the current postage rate would be somewhat excessive. Thank you all for your support over the past year.


20 Dec 13.

From Frank Chammings.


I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of the best entry.



10 Dec 13.

From John Taylor.

While we are on the subject of mess boycotts I seem to remember having a bit of one whilst in No 2 Wing at Halton. I think we were in our final year and whilst I do not think it was a mass boycott it was sufficient for No 1 Squadron Commander to get all the 'troops' together in the No 1 Squadron mess for a 'Talking to!'

It went something on the lines that if we wanted better food we had to pull our fingers out and stop the boycott. If we did not then we did not deserve better food.

A short time later we got a new Flight Sergeant cook, a female, and the food did get better.

10 Dec 13.

From Martin McArthur.

Thoughts of Remembrance.

I get this idea every year around about the time of the Remembrance Ceremony at the Cenotaph and must write it down before the dementia makes me forget all together.

I actually went to the Cenotaph for the Remembrance ceremony on one occasion when I was still an AA. I was recovering from my motorcycle accident and on leave from RAF Collaton Cross, the rehabilitation centre outside Plymouth, and was making my way home to Edinburgh. Must have been the end of 1956. It just happened that I was in London and had time to go to the ceremony. It was a bright, cold, but dry Sunday morning and I was very pleased that I did attend, the atmosphere was unforgettable.

I even got close enough to see the Apprentice trumpeters, commanded by WO 'Freddy' Bailey, as they played the Last Post. Now, when did that stop? They used to play every year, I am sure of that. Trouble was we went abroad and missed watching the Remembrance parade and when we got back to the UK there they were - gone! On one occasion a trumpeter was 'caught short' and told Freddy that he needed to go to the loo. Freddy told him to fall out and march smartly off, which he did, only to be followed for most of the way (from a distance) by a TV camera!

Another memory troubles me at this time. The first room I was in, in 3 wing was block 3, room 3 (I think?) in the next bed to me was 'Ticker' O'Connor. In the same room was 'Arfur' Reed and Robin Mcleod (his last 3 was 269, mine is 268). Don't remember any others. Not long after that we were split up and I went to 2 wing.

Ticker came from nearby (possibly Tring) and on the first half term he went home on leave. He never came back. Apparently he was given a car by his parents, to mark his success in becoming an Apprentice, and as an inexperienced driver he managed to roll the car and died in the accident.

Does anyone else remember him?

10 Dec 13.

(I received this email from Ed Wagstaff on 21 Dec after I emailed him about the suggested get-together at Dick Bingham's farm in May 14. Brian.)

Hello from Canada.

I might be in England during the time of the Bodgers' ball, but if so will be playing at the Windsor horse show with my pipe band. It will be the band's 100th anniversary in 2014, and we face the possibilty of either/or/both attending the windsor horse show in May, then changing the guard plus a retreat beating ceremony in June. This could mean two trips to blighty in two months.

I will keep you and henceforth the entry apprised of events, in case anyone would be interested in watching a 'Long in the Tooth' 81st Entry member, long ago banished to the colonies, playing at Buck house!

(That message from Ed was followed by this email today, 10 Dec 13. Brian.)

The video on the 'Link' below was put together in a few hours by one of our pipers and a couple of his friends in the media industry. It was decided that a small tribute to Nelson Mandela would be fitting by playing a slow air and a popular jig called "Nelson Mandela's Welcome to Glasgow". The setting is the stage of the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver. I got a phone call saying that our lead drummer could not make it and so I jumped in and after a couple of runs through we posted this on youtube.


Click on: 'See Ed Wagstaff and drum.'

3 Dec 13.

From Phil Jarman.

(Following on the theme of motorbikes, first, last, or whatever, here's a welcome message from Phil. Brian).

First Bike to Current Bike with all those in between.

1951 Matchless 500. (Photo 1).

1954 BSA A10 Golden Flash.

1959 Triumph Trophy. 650 TR6.

1960 BSA Gold Star 500 DBD 34.

1956 Royal Enfield Trials Bullet 350.

--?-- Greeves Trials 200.

--?-- Greeves Scrambler 250.

1954 LE Velocette (Failed project).

--?-- Honda C70.

--?-- Honda C90.

--?-- Suzuki Super Six 250.

1980 BMW R65 (Still owned).

2004 Honda Pan European. 1100 (Written Off).

2006 Honda Pan European.1100.(Best bike ever).

2008 BMW GS 650 Single (Worst bike ever).

2009 BMW GS. (Current). (Photo 2).

Note! First bike, the 1951 Matchless, bought whilst at Halton for £45, current bike's annual service approx £200!!!!

2 Dec 13

From Frank Chammings.

Re the mess boycott at Sylt, we had a similar boycott at Wildenrath, in either 1962/3, we boycotted the airmens' and corporals' messes because of the amount of 'C' rations being given to us. We waited until payday came up and all went to the Naafi at lunchtime. Henceforth, the mess used up all the 'C' rations on each payday.

1 Dec 13.

You may recall that Bill Swan of the the 80th posted a message on this Feedback page on 16 Jan 13, he has now returned with this welcome addition - it is always very gratifying to receive feedback about this website and the articles etc. therein, but when its source is from another Entry it is especially rewarding. Brian.

Brian, having already trespassed on your Entry web site with an offering to 'Feedback' some months ago, I hesitate to do so again. However, I have just read Mike Stanley's article in the latest Journal (No. 37) about his detachment to Sylt and thought I might be able to add something of interest. Sylt was my first posting after leaving Halton in April 1958 (ex-80th you may remember) so I was there when Mike 'enjoyed' his winter holiday in January/February 59, tour ex as I was in October 1960. He mentions an incident in the airmens' Mess on an AOC's inspection and wonders if it may have been a Service myth and maybe just one of those stories that did the rounds. I can assure Mike it is true. The following is my recollection of a boycott of the airmens' Mess on AOC's day in, I think, 1959, which I suppose could be described as a 'mini mutiny', if indeed there is such a thing.

As Mike said, the food at Sylt was not good, and I mean not good, and there had been a lot of complaints, not only by individuals to the various Orderly Officers who regularly visited the Mess in those days but officially such as at messing committee meetings, but nothing improved. It was approaching the annual AOC's inspection and a rumour started going around that there was going to be a boycott of the Mess at lunch time on the big day. The evening before AOC's most of us were in our billets bulling our rooms and uniforms for the coming inspection and parade when a chap from another section came into our room urging us not to go to the Mess at lunch time on the morrow. He continued down the hut going into all the rooms with the same message. This caused quite a stir because it was, at least for me, the first concrete evidence that something was really being organized. Lunch time on AOC's day and now came the crunch. I decided that I was not going to let the side down and went back to the billet and lay on my bed. Before long, every one else in my room was doing the same. It would appear that this scenario was being enacted all over the camp, with others deciding to go to the NAAFI instead; the boycott from the Mess was all but 100% solid. The AOC and his entourage, who were waiting in the Mess to do the usual, had by now twigged that something was wrong. Next thing was that our Flight Commander came into the room trying to persuade us to go to the Mess and have lunch. I remember a couple of us muttering something about not being hungry and off he went into all the other rooms in the billet repeating the message which was falling on deaf ears. Then the shouting began; "Every body outside on parade at the double". We formed up outside and I could see this happening at other billets and also the NAAFI. We were then marched down to the Mess where a very angry red-faced AOC was waiting for us. I can remember thinking how surreal it all was with the cooks standing behind the servery in their gleaming white aprons and hats still waiting to serve somebody, anybody. When the whole camp was assembled the AOC pitched into us something rotten. I cannot remember his exact words but I remember him calling us cowards, acting like sheep, an insult to him personally and also to Her Majesty, and a disgrace to our uniform. He then stormed out. The upshot of all this was a big enquiry with the SIB etc. trying to find out what had happened. But it got to the root cause of our discontent which was that there was a big fiddle going on at the highest level amongst the Catering staff with stuff going out the back door for money. As Mike said 'heads rolled' and I believe several Courts Martial ensued.We had new people posted in and things changed dramatically for the better.

Another of Mike's queries was whether, in the winter, the shallow water between Sylt and the mainland froze enabling vehicles to drive across the ice. The sea did freeze in winter but I never heard of any vehicles driving on it. I also doubt if this would have been feasible (unless someone knows different) because it used to freeze with fairly large peaks and troughs so unless a tracked vehicle was used it would have been impossible. However, it was possible on occasion to get to the mainland on foot; Denmark being a favourite destination. Sometimes it was so cold it even froze on the North Sea side of the Island, albeit just a few feet out from the shore. But the summers, ah the summers! Now that's another story.

I look forward to Mike's 'Adventures in Westerland Part 2', hopefully in the next journal. Best regards, Bill Swan.

21 Nov 13.

I've been off-line for a few days; last weekend was taken up with a F/E Association AGM and dinner and then I've been laid up with a heavy cold since I got back home. You will all know from the email I sent out that I had contacted Brian Smith out in the Phillipines and that he had replied to tell us that all is OK with him and his family following the devastating Tornado that had struck those islands. Here for you all to read is his reply. Brian.

Hi Brian, Thank you all for your concern, luckily altho' it was pretty scary we managed to miss the worst as we are north on the main island of Luzon. We did get several trees down, wind was over 100mph in gusts, luckily at that time in the night we never had any rain which would've made it far worse, never ever experienced that before, and were in fear of roof coming off at one stage when it was at its peak in middle of night; to make it worse was the fact that we had no power so it was very dark, could see absolutely nothing which was frightening, but as I told my maids, who were scared stiff, "Us Brits didn't get where we are today by letting a typhoon get us down." At that time I never expected it to be that bad??? Anyway we are all ok and once again thanks for your concern.

Sorry I didn't reply to last email regarding Journal but I've had a few health problems and what with doctors appointments and hospital specialist appointments I forgot. I've had problems with bad circulation in legs and it also took a long time for my leg to heal after the op. when I broke my achilles tendon due to my diabeties. Then this typhoon came along and generally things were not at their best. The sun is shining now so hope for a better day.

I'll call it a day now don't want to bore you any longer. Regards to all my mates hope to see some of you at next Triennial.

8 Nov 13.

From Brian.

Some months back, in fact it was almost exactly a year ago, I asked for photos of anyone's first motorbikes but only got a few responses. Whilst unlikely to have been his first machines Alan Lowther has just sent me these three shots; I'm not much of a bike man myself but I can still appreciate good looks. Thanks Alan.

4 Nov 13.

From Sach Goodwin.

Having read Dick's follow up article on the Javelin, I had a rummage through my old photos and found the attached. It amply demonstrates his description of the thick acrid smoke on start up. I was never a Jav. man myself but I remember stories of the starters in the earlier marks having a penchant for disintegrating (blowing up) and pieces of hot metal finding their way out through the navigator's seat pan. The Javs in the photo belonged to 87 Sqn, my Sqn 213 was next door to them. The photo was taken at Bruggen Sep/Oct 1960 during some NATO demonstration.

(Because it was a long distance shot I've had to crop Sach's original photo quite bit to get the Javelin to stand out; any further cropping would have made its image too 'fuzzy'. Brian.)

2 Nov 13.

(No sooner did I get Dick's message uploaded onto this page yesterday than this morning I received this follow-up to it. Thanks Dick. Brian.)

Before I ramble on about Coltishall, I should mention one memorable thing about the Javelin was the starting procedure and the poor soul who stood out front armed with his beret and GS screwdriver. The aeroplane used big heavy starter cartridges which we called bombs and these fired up emitting an enormous cloud of black acrid smoke as they did their job spinning up the engines. On the odd occasion a small fire would start up in the hydraulic bay under the belly of the aircraft and the man out front after start up had to plunge into this black cloud largely holding his breath whilst fastening the belly panel. Before fitting it, he had to stick his head up into the aperture to ensure no flames were present and if ok, fasten up the panel, rush out front and give the pilot the thumbs up and off he went. The beret was what you used to beat out the flames if there were any! Honest! What a carry on!

The other thing I remember was the checking of the engine driven hydraulic pump magnetic plugs. These were on the front end of the engine if I remember and before removing the plugs the plan was to release all accumulator hydraulic pressure in the system. Even having done that, there was always a spurt and trickle of OM15 when the plugs were removed and to keep the area clean, we used to take a dustbin lid into the bay to hold under the plug. The dustbin lid was wider than the access aperture so it was removed after by tilting it. However, if you hadn't released all the hydraulic pressure, on removal of the plug a jet of OM15 shot out across the bay and sometimes over you and filled the dustbin lid. This is when you really needed a friend! Someone to bring a drip tray or similar to catch the excess OM15 as you tilted the dustbin lid to get it out of the bay. Happy Days....

After arriving at Coltishall to continue the Trials, we found ourselves accommodated in the hangar on the eastern end of the line adjacent to 74 Sqn's hangar. I wasn't there very long before I was posted to Wildenrath and in any case I had no idea what was going on! I was just a rigger doing what he was told. The aircraft only ever flew for an hour or so and we generally spent this time playing cards in the red and white hexagonal Line hut. We used to dig up potatoes from the adjacent field and cook them on top of our valour stove. On one occasion, a person unamed (not me) topped up the paraffin tank while the stove was still alight. The whole thing burst into flames and we all rushed out to watch it burn down to the ground. Isn't it marvellous how the human brain only remembers the good times!!

In November 1960, I was posted to Wildenrath and we were flown there from Manston in a Silver City Handley Page Hermes....more of this later....

1 Nov 13.

From Dick Richardson.

When I left Halton I was posted to CFE West Raynham. I'd just about completed the blue arrival chit which had to be signed by all and sundry if you recall, when I was told welcome to West Raynham and our squadron is to be detached to Odiham! Just like that! The only memory of my brief visit to Raynham was getting a bollocking from the SWO for not calling him Sir!

Along with Alan Brownbill and Eddie Edwards we assembled at Odiham along with a about 20 other tradesmen from far and wide to form AWDS All Weather Development Squadron later changed to AFDS Air Fighting Development Squadron. I was told that we were to be involved in Lightning Instrument Trials which of course meant nothing to me! We were equipped with four vintage Javelins and in our adjacent hangars were housed 54 and 46 Squadrons, 54 with Hunters and 46 with Javelins if my memory is right. However, our aircraft only flew when weather conditions were right and so we'd spend most of our time playing crib or darts in the crew room. I remember out-pipe smoking Flight Sergeant Hill who beat most of us at darts! I remember very little about the Javelin except we had reason to occasionally get up onto the tailplane for some reason and one of our riggers used to run the length of the fuselage and straight up the fin and onto the tailplane! Obviously an idiot but we marvelled at him. I once came out of the crewroom to see one of the lads using a bottle jack to change a wheel and what he hadn't noticed was that his aircraft on its way up had pushed up the huge pitot mast of the adjacent aircraft by about a foot. I tapped him on the shoulder and pointed out the situation and there was a sudden hiss as the bottle jack was lowered in double quick time and the pitot head appeared to go back to its usual shape. I have no idea if he owned up!

Another event which has stayed with me is when somebody tied all the dustbins to the back of the NAAFI wagon and the noise on depature was something else! All good fun for us youngsters. After about 12 months our detachment was moved on to Coltishall to continue the Trials and we were introduced to the Lightning but that's another story....

(Looking forward to that story Dick. Brian.)

21 Oct 13.

From Tod Slaughter in answer to Mike Thompson's query below.

Would you guess it Mike, but for the life of me I can't remember if we removed the ventral tanks prior to an engine change on our Javelins or not! The one we have at Duxford is done up like a stick of rock as it was used on the development of Concorde.

We made approaches to the museum to return it to "war paint" but too many external modifications have been done on it.

18 Oct 13.

From John Taylor.

Brian. Just been looking at your pics taken when you went to the RAFAA Triennial. The one taken of the wooden huts at the back of the school took me back. I remember being in that last classroom alongside yourself and being taught Mechanics by a big rough looking Flt/Lt I seem to think he was a quite handy rugby player and never took any stick from any of us. I cannot think of his name but he was not one to mess with. He used to sit on a chair behind the bench with just his head and shoulders looking over at us all.

18 Oct 13.

From Mike Thompson.

It's amazing how memories are jogged by items appearing in our Journal.

Having read John Catley's item and his mention of Hughie Green flying to Berlin certainly brought back some memories for me.

I worked at Rogers Aviation (Cranfield) in the late 60s early 70s as an Airframe/Engine fitter and then as an Inspector and, for our sins, we had a contract to look after Hughie Green's yellow Cessna 336 (you remember the twin boom push-me-pull-you twin engined fixed U/C) aircraft. Let me tell you he was a difficult person (and that's being very polite!!!) to deal with when there were no TV cameras about and we had a number of acrimonious fall outs with him.

Later, he had access to a BN Islander and we remember well the day he arrived to go somewhere in the Islander but was delayed a few minutes by the late arrival of the bowser and he started to berate (in very flowery language) the bowser crew for their tardiness. However, as if a switch had been flicked, he suddenly returned to his smarmy, butter wouldnt melt, TV personality as from behind the bowser Eamon Andrews, diguised in white overalls, appeared carrying his "This Is Your Life" red book!!

Douglas Bader was another celebrity I came across who had attitude toward ground crew. Nevertheless, the vast majority of well-known folk we dealt with were really nice and friendly people.

And then Tod's item on Javelin engine changes also rattled my grey matter and I wondered if had he ever done an engine removal with the ventral tanks still fitted??? (See Journal No. 24 Article 6 "Back Then!!")

16 Oct 13.

From Tod Slaughter.

As the featured A/C after the Hunter is the Javelin I thought that I would add a little more to my article in Journal One.

The job that sticks in my mind is performing an engine change. Nothing so sophisticated as lifting the engine clear like a Meteor or Canberra or splitting the fuselage and wheeling the engine backwards onto a trolley like the Hunter.

Owing to it's nose high attitude other problems arose. First the cowling at the rear had to be lifted clear (after remembering to disconnect the thermocouples!!). The jet pipes were next to be removed. A trestle was then placed under the shortened fuselage and an engine trolley connected to the exit point and the work of detaching the engine from the rest of the A/C could commence. Get into the starter bay through a panel to the rear of the nose wheel and disconnect the 'starter' pipes. Kneel on top of the starter cartridge bay panel and reach around the generators and undo their drive from the engine. Next go further back down the underside of the fuselage, remove the oil bay panel and disconnect every item there!

This it where it started to get tricky! A large metal pole was attached the rear of the engine and six men were rounded up to assist. The engine at this point was only held in position by a 'stop' on the lower rails. The idea was to pull the engine back over this stop and then (to stop gravity tacking over) gently allow it to run back onto the trolley. We never had any mishaps but it could be quite awkward!! Although it never happened to me I did hear of only two men trying it in slippery conditions and gravity won with the engine finishing up on the hanger floor!!

11 Oct 13.

From John Catley.

(This feedback from John reached me shortly after Mike's article appeared in the latest Journal. As I was expecting to be short of articles for the next edition I was going to hold it back to help make up numbers but as I now have sufficient articles I'm putting it here where it belongs. Brian.)

I read with interest Mike Stanley's account of his time at Geilenkirchen, and can assure him of the accuracy of his article (Journal 36 Article 6); I too found myself at 'Geilers' probably a year or 18 months after him.

Initially I was posted to 11 Sqn (Javelins) but after a year was transferred to the Central Armoury where, like Mike, I worked in the carrier bay. Later I was seconded to 3 Sqn (Canberra B(I)8s) as one of the bombing up crew. His description of the

bombing-up process brought me out in a sweat all over again; it seemed a ridiculous process, but what made it worse was being supervised by an American armed guard equipped with a schedule that had to be follow line by line. It wouldn't have been so bad if the Yank had been technically qualified, but his knowledge was limited to what was written and if we ever deviated all hell would break loose. I always felt he would love to pull that .45 and shoot one of us.

When dealing with nuclear weapons the Americans had this policy of 'NO LONE ZONE', in other words no one was allowed to be near a bomb by themselves. I recall the problem this created when we came to the last operation of loading the weapon. Two men would sit either side of the bomb bay removing the transit brackets; being British, and therefore competitive, this developed into a race where the first guy to finish would shout "Eureka!" and roll out from under the aircraft. The other would suddenly find himself on the wrong end of the guard's gun with the words "Get the hell outa there buddy". I have to confess to threatening to shove that gun !!!!etc.

As Mike recalls we would often get those 'Alerts' and we never knew if they were real or just for exercise, I remember the time when Hughie Green insisted on flying his private aircraft to Berlin and back; the Soviets were not happy and threatened to take him out. This put us on 'Alert' for several days stuck on the front line. As I recall it wasn't long after that he lost his TV slot.

There were also duties on QRA where a pair of Canberras were fully loaded and on standby 24/7. As I recall, one of the aircraft would be rotated periodically and we would be obliged to change the bomb load; we would therefore be stuck in the QRA compound for 12 hours, not being allowed out until we were relieved.

26 Sep 13.

From Brian.

The RAFHAA's 11th Triennial Reunion was held at Halton on Saturday 21 September; a detailed coverage of the day will, I'm sure, appear in the next edition of the Haltonian magazine that those of us who are members receive regularly. Seventeen of us from the 81st attended this Triennial but not being a regular attendee myself I don't know whether that was more or less than usual - compared to some entries it seemed a small number, but then there were others with fewer. The two photos below show some of our members outside Henderson (I(A) Wing) Mess preparing for the reunion finale, a march behind the 'Golden Oldies' pipes/drums, and the RAF Halton Military Band, back down the hill from Henderson to 'Schools' for 'dismissal' and either a short church service, or (as in my case) a rapid departure to beat the traffic!

Initially formed as the RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentice Association - some years later the 'A' for Aircraft was dropped (this didn't meet with total approval I might add!) - held its first reunion at Halton in 1983 and we held our own 81st Entry reunion to coincide with it; or did we? If we did then it would have been our third Entry reunion as I definitely recall arranging our first one held on the 81st day of 1981 at the UJ Club in London, and am also pretty certain we had a second one at the same venue the following year.

If we did have an 81st Entry reunion in 1983 along with the Association's first, then our fourth was held to coincide with the Association's Triennial in 1986; thereafter we continued in that vein until 2004 when a decision was made to break from being tied to Triennials. There were several reasons behind this decision: our numbers were increasing each time we met and accommodation for such numbers meant using larger, and much more expensive hotels; some of the Association members who attended the tiring (we were getting older!!) Triennials were finding it difficult to last the pace sufficiently in order to enjoy our own evening reunions; and lastly we were due to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our arrival at Halton a year later in 2005, and then three years after that, in 2008, the 50th anniversary of our departure but neither of these two years would include Triennials. So it was also decided that a move away from the Halton area to one nearer my home would make it much easier for me to find more suitable, and less expensive, accommodation for future reunions; and that we would start with one the following year (no pressure then!) . The result was that our 11th, 12th and 13th reunions, in 2005, 2008 and 2011, were held at the Royal Agricultural College- now University - in Cirencester. Although I've now given up arranging full scale Entry reunions I can look back with pleasure, and a degree of satisfaction, at having been able to arrange 13 successful events, especially so the last three. My hope is that, albeit on a much smaller scale, we can continue to meet up in smaller groups such as the visit we had to Duxford last year and the one to WSM this year; I did get some interesting 'vibes' on this subject whilst at the Triennial, when at least two amongst those present showed some enthusiasm about organising something in the future - most likely in the SE of the country. Any feedback on this will be most welcome.

Mike Stanley Mike Quick Doug Renton-Cooper Dave Sidgwick

Ken Francis Robert Longhurst Tod Slaughter Mike Robins John Parker John Gornall Doug Renton-Cooper Mike Quick John Catley Mike Stanley Dave Sidgwick

My camera seems to have 'thrown a wobbly' with its auto-focus when indoor shots were taken in the Drill Hall (a large-hangar like structure near the 2(A)Wing NAAFI that the Association uses for its Triennial gatherings) but some outdoor ones of buildings etc. that we will all remember came out OK and will be added to Gallery 2. Any other photos taken on the day will be accepted gratefully.

23 Sep 13.

From Brian.

A big thank you to Curly Knowlton for arranging our West of England visit to The Helicopter Museum at Weston Super Mare on Thursday 12 September. I'm pretty sure that, bar a couple among us, most went just for the get-together with little interest in helicopters; I'm equally sure that we were all duly surprised by the truly impressive collection of 'choppers' kept in great condition in the large display building - converted, No!, but impressed, very much so. Apart from the machinery we were treated to refreshments on arrival, refreshments again after having being escorted around the building in three groups each with its own guide - and all this for the princely sum of a fiver each.

As is always a shame when someone has gone to the trouble of arranging something like this there were a few who, having said they'd come, failed to turn up on the day; but seventeen of us made it and, as can be seen in the photos below, three ladies accompanied their husbands for the whole visit - thanks very much Eileen for taking the photo of us lads - whilst another two enjoyed a visit to the town and its seaside attractions (Jane Longhurst told me later in the pub that even the tide was in for them; something denied my family and me on numerous visits).

Missing from the photos are Willie Keays, Frank Chammings, and Bill Thomas, all three having sloped off before it was taken and the two ladies, Jane Longhurst and Jean Mackenzie, who had chosen not to view the 'choppers' with their husbands. After gathering ourselves together most of those of us left drove off to a pub in Locking village where, now with all five ladies present, we spent a few more hours together enjoying the company. Well done Curly, a truly great day out!

(These two photos are 'interactive' so, without clicking, just position the 'pointing finger' over a face and a name should appear. Brian.)

John Mackenzie Robert Longhurst Dave Sidgwick Mike Quick Mike Stanley Bill Morley Curly Knowlton John Lynch Tony Williams John Gornall Alex Chambers Tom Cowan Brian Spurway John Catley

Diana Sidgwick Valerie Chambers Eileen Catley

18 Sep 13.

From Willie Keays.

I envy those of the 81st who got to grips immediately with aircraft on their first posting. I was not so blessed.

I was welcomed, along with Roy Hindley and Tad Thomas, to Transport Aircraft Servicing Flight at RAF Nicosia, September 1958. Our Flight Commander was Flt Lt Greenhalgh and the man with the Tate & Lyle, or Galloping 'orses if you prefer, was WO Owen. As far as I can recall, and it was over 50 years ago, they were both ex-Brats. After the welcome I was introduced to my responsibilities: the Ground Equipment for the hangar, all that stuff painted a horrible blue colour.

Among the delights for my attentions was a huge vacuum cleaner, standing, it seemed to me, six feet tall. It had a 4-stroke petrol engine and was used to vacuum out the aircraft. WO Owen, in an attempt to raise my spirits told me that it had been invented for use during the Berlin Air Lift where some a/c had been lost because of exploding dust from coal and flour freight. There was also a hydraulic test rig. WO Owen, in a further attempt to sweeten the pill, told me that its engine, a Coventry Victor flat four OHV air-cooled horizontally-opposed, was the one from which the Formula 1 Coventry Climax engines in Cooper racing cars had been developed. Berlin Air Lift! F1 racing cars! Wow! Nothing beat the next thing I was introduced to: the hangar floor-sweeper, a sort of walk-behind lawn-mower-like machine with brushes instead of blades. Oh dear! Yes, you've guessed it; I was not only responsible for looking after this dirty noisy smelly machine; I was also its nominated driver.

Other items that were in my new domain were a/c jacks, lifting gear, servicing stands, and two- wheel chariot drums, often full of over 40 gallons of 100/130 AVGAS which we got out of the Hastings by dropping the jettison tubes. This stuff came in handy for washing our oily shorts and nifty little oily jackets, among other dangerous uses. H&S? Never!

Although I had no responsiblity for ensuring that the trolley-acs were charged I often had to take them across to the Ground 'lecky's Bay. Maybe this was the reason WO Owen, by this time probably feeling sorry for me, detailed me to take out a special trolley-ac to a Shell Aviation Dove that was pre-flighting on the pan.

He really impressed me this time: it was Gp Capt(Rtd) Douglas Bader's a/c. I was about to do something to an aeroplane at last! Feeling honoured I wheeled the trolley-ac to the aircraft, making sure the ground-flight switch was in ground. WO Owen had omitted to tell me that the reason it was special trolley-ac was another switch: the one that was marked 12V-24V. Yep! Plugged it in and then was assailed by a lot of verbal abuse through the pilot's DV window. 24V had been applied to Bader's 12V a/c. I hurriedly retreated into the hangar, started up the floor-sweeper and got on with something important. Someone who knew what he was about was getting on with resetting lots of circuit breakers. I knew my place!

28 Aug 13.

Sach Goodwin has sent me this photo as a follow up to his feedback message about working on Vampires at Cranwell in 1958.

RAF cold weather clothing Cranwell 1958. Yours truly wearing a grey canvas cap, a short brown canvas jacket and a pair of rubber anti kerosine boots. Sach

16 Aug 13.

A week or so ago Sach Goodwin emailed me with a question for John Catley regarding his time on Venoms: "John. I heard a tale many years ago of one of our plumbers who was down by the nose wheel of a Venom when someone let the breech blocks forward and banged off a few rounds. I seem to remember your name came up. If this was you, it would make a good story for the Feedack page. Regards, Sach."

I forwarded Sach's message to John and he came back with:"This story happened at Driffield a few weeks before my time and was still a hot talking point. The armament safety switch was located in the nose wheel bay and to operate it a guy had to lay down and reach into the bay and make the switches by pressing them with his knuckles. As you can imagine his head was very close to the gun ports. The story goes that the aircraft was ordered into the hangar before it had been completly disarmed; once inside it was realised that the breach blocks needed to be moved forward, but it was forgotten that one of the 20mm canons still had a Belt Feed Mechanism attached. The guy who operated the switches was not physically hurt but did have mental problems thereafter. The Cpl i/c the unloading was court marshalled but was absolved on the grounds that he should not have been ordered to move the aircraft into the hangar in the first place. This was how the story was related to me; I met up with that Cpl again at Wattisham and he had several other stories to tell. I hope this throws some light on the event. Regards John."

13 Aug 13.

Willie Keays has sent me a message that includes the URL to a website and some great photos of a Canberra PR9 that, after restoration at Kemble, flew for the first time in seven years on the Friday before this year's RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo); its two flights that day (one for each pilot chosen to fly the aircraft) were so snag free that it was able to get airborne a third time and fly to Fairford to take part in the static aircraft display that weekend. Click on:-

'Canberra PR9.'

Willie asks if anyone ever worked on this aircraft? What we can take as a certainty is that no one in the Entry did so as their first aircraft type as XH134 wasn't built when we left Halton, however there may well be those who worked on her later, and possibly her two 'mates' XH131 and XH135 as well - the three of them left No. 39 Sqn at Marham, the last three RAF Canberras in service, and flew into Kemble, and the care of the company I work for as a volunteer, on 31 Jul 2006; the dialogue with the photos tells more.

4 Aug 13.

From John Catley.

My first operational posting was to RAF Driffield and particularly to 219 Sqn equipped with De Havilland Venom NF2As. Not a bad aircraft to work on from an armourers point of view, quite similar to a Mosquito I would imagine; a lot of it seemed to be made of wood particularly the gun bay doors. I recall we did a great number of exercises in those days. Sometime the aircraft would be on standby at the end of the runway, manned by their crews. We would take those crews cups of tea now and again but one had to be on one's guard because if there was a scramble then the tea would come flying back at you. These Venoms were not equipped with ejection seats so we only had the guns to worry about. I managed to survive a Yorkshire winter on this squadron, but after about 18 months Driffield's two Venom squadrons, 219 and 33, were disbanded.

After a while the Fighter Weapons School moved into Driffield with their Hunters; what a joy to work on from an armourer's point of view and I feel sure other trades liked them as well. It was a fact that the aeroplane suffered engine surge when the guns were fired in its early days, but this problem was overcome with later marks. Driffied was destined to become a Thor Missile base and consequently we were all posted out. I eventually found myself at RAF Coltishall and had my first meeting with Javelins, 41 Sqn equipped with Javelin FAW4s and 5s; little did I know that I was to spend the next 6 years working on these monsters.

Later that same year the entire squadron was moved down to Wattisham. We lost a very popular American pilot within a week due to a low altitude stall and there were other fatalities during my time on 41 Sqn. I enjoyed my time on the squadron but never fell in love with the Javelin, even when we were re-equipped with the FAW8. We did however have some interesting moments there. King Hussein of Jordan would pay us a visit and keep his hand in flying our Javelin T3; he was, at that time, seeing a local young lady by the name of Toni Gardiner. Also on the squadron we had a member of the Thai royal family, Prince Varanand, a short man with a big heart; if he saw you in Ipswich he would drag you into the nearest pub and buy drinks for everyone. We understood he was requested to stay out of Thailand to prevent any political unrest, and was paid a lot of money to do so.

One of the other squadrons at Wattisham was the famous Treble One with their black Hunters; led by their CO Roger Topp they were a joy to watch doing their aerobatics with 22 aircraft.

After a short spell in the Central Armoury I was posted to RAF Geilenkirchen in Germany and found myself on 11Sqn, and yes you have guessed it, equipped with Javelins.

p>3 Aug 13.

From Mike Stanley.

The first aircraft I worked on was a Meteor NF11; I was detached from the Central Armoury at RAF Geilenkirchen, my first posting after Halton, to No 256 squadron when they went on air firing practise at RAF Sylt. The NF11 was armed with 4x 20mm Hispano cannons and extra armourers were needed when air firing as extensive usage meant that the guns required 2nd line serving during their time at Sylt. Besides which the attached armourers from the central armoury were available to assist in arming and rearming the aircraft. You may notice I have not mentioned ejection seats? This was because the NF11 didn't have any! In the event of the crew having to bail out the procedure was for the aircraft to invert; the cockpit cover, a girt heavy thing, would be unlocked and swing open, allowing the two crew men to fall from their seats after unfastening the seat harness.

It sounds positively Heath Robinson. Whether or not there were successful bail outs from NF11s I leave to your imagination.

31 Jul 13.

From John Taylor.

Like Frank , I and 20 or 30 brats from the 81st and 82nd all went to Cottesmore from Halton. Like Frank I also remember the small 3/32 allen keys when removing panels on the upper wing to get at the flap mechanism. They were a pain especially when the allen key hole had rounded edges and you had to drill the screw out and use the 'easiouts' ( if some of you remember them).

My last posting at Acklington was on Jet Provosts Mk3 and 4. One of the last jobs I did was on a bird strike on the leading edge of the wing. Having done quite a few whilst in Germany with 420 MU it was no big problem. Years later I visited Eden Camp in North Yorkshire which is a WW2 museum; it was formerly a POW camp and I believe quite near to where the late Terry Pallister lived. He did tell me that as a boy he had played in the huts which now formed the basis for most of the displays. I digress, but during the visit I noticed a port wing from a JP and there was a repair to the leading edge which I am almost certain was the one I had done those many years ago.

Like Mike has said keep up the good work.

30 Jul 13.

From Frank Chammings.

First live aircraft at RAF Cottesmore the Victor B1, I spent most of my time in the engine intakes disconnecting the air intake to engine panels with a very small allan key, I forget how many double threaded screws there were but there was a lot. After that one had to hope that someone hadn't taken away the step ladder.

Happy days!

30 Jul 13.

From Sach Goodwin.

I can't say I ever worked on Hunters although I did a seat independent on one at Muharraq; much later I taught the seat on the Buccaneer school at Lossie.

(Thanks to Al Lowther I have enough knowledge to include a chat about MB seats when showing visitors around our hangar at Kemble - a used Mk2H (fell in shallow water so undamaged) out of a Hunter F6 that crashed in Wales just a few years ago and a demo Mk4H from a Hunter T7. Brian.)

My first live jets were a mix of Vampire FB9 & T11s at Sleaford tech. Some while later a Meteor T7 & and F8 were borrowed from Manby to accommodate a rather tall cadet who later became Chief of the Air Staff and, after retirement, became Constable and Governor of Windsor Castle. Where did I go wrong?

29 Jul 13.

From Mike Thompson.

Having read Vulcan 607 any pictures of that aircraft I love (even though I was, and still am I guess a Javelin man), so the Masirah photos are really great. I did see the Hunters too!!! Also its a great idea showing a different aircraft to accompany each Journal as this may encourage stories from us to support your tremendous efforts to keep the Journal going. I have to admit I already have an item waiting in the wings (excuse the pun!!) to send you when you get round to headlining my favourite aircraft of all time!!!! Are you working alphabetically????

Keep up the splendid work Brian, I'm sure there are many of us who appreciate it.

(I will Mike; thank you very much for your welcome message. As Mike is the first to respond to my adding the silhouettes of aircraft types that were in service when we left Halton I am putting a Javelin in the latest edition. Brian.)

26 Jul 13.

From Brian.

On the Home page I've posted the silhouette of a Hunter F4 and in the next Journal (No. 36, Aug 2013) I will post one of another type with the suggestion that others from the 81st Entry contact me to let me know what was the first 'real-live' aeroplane they worked on after leaving Halton; I'm starting this off by telling of my first such experience.

Presumably on the same day that many reading this will also have arrived, full of trepidation, at their first station I did so at RAF Chivenor to join 234(R) Sqn (No. 1 Sqn as far as the aircraft engineering set up was concerned). 234(R) Sqn was one of two that made up 229 OCU, the other being 145(R) and both at that time were equipped with 'oldish' Hawker Hunter F4s and a few brand new Hunter T7s - other T7s were arriving at that time in 1958 on an almost daily basis.

Hunter T7 XL577 joined 234(R) Sqn in July of 1958, just a few weeks before I became 1 Sqn's brand new and totally inexperienced Cpl rigger, and it could well have been the first 'real-live' aeroplane that I ever worked on. This photo (taken by a George Raby and scanned from a book of RAF Chivenor photographs) shows XL577 as a brand new aeroplane on the 1 Sqn flight line.

A lifetime passed, much water flowed under the proverbial bridge, and then in 1995 I became involved with a local company that had been formed to restore ex RAF Hunters and fly them privately on the UK register; and there outside a hangar, looking very bedraggled, was a 37 year old XL577. Over a period of several years she was fully restored and some time after I had left the company (an incident whilst airborne in another T7 had made me reconsider my 60+ year old vulnerability) she flew again, not resplendent in her original silver and yellow colours (sadly) but in a very smart No. 92 Sqn 'Blue Diamonds' livery.

Some four years ago I was asked if I'd like to go back to the company, not to work on, or fly in, their aeroplanes but to become a sort of 'tour guide' showing visitors around their hangar full of interesting, and mainly historic aeroplanes; I accepted gladly and am still doing it although the company has changed, in both name and activities, a couple of times since. For at least the last couple of years XL577 has been grounded through no fault of her own (politics forbid me saying anything else) but, joy of joys, like the Phoenix, she has risen again and is now in the final phases of a major servicing that will see her, with new owners, airborne once again. I guess she and I have 'History'!

2 Jul 13.

Here's a photo that Tod Slaughter has recently sent me to put here in Feedback; he also included the first 'Link' below the photo which is well worth looking at.

These monsters visited the UK on occasions and in 1953 one (very contentiously) crashed at Lacock, a little Wiltshire village only a few miles from where I live; the second Link is a report of this occurrence.


Click on one of these links:

'B36 interactive photo.'

'B36 crash at lacock.'

26 May 13.

From John Mackenze.

We're back from California after visiting the family and completing a wallet emptying exercise. I have caught up with the latest newsletter and also the gen regarding the WSM visit. Many thanks. I enjoy the feedback pages and even if I haven't seen Sach Goodwin for some time it is great to see his inputs. Regarding the RNZAF apprentice (an SAA): I believe it was the graduating entry (76th) that got stuck in, there was a hell of a scrap and I believe a baseball bat was used. The assailants were court martialled and, after their sentences were completed, they were discharged.

The victims surname was Finn; he was later commissioned and became a navigator in the RNZAF. He was killed along with the rest of his crew flying in a Canberra of 75 Sqn RNZAF flying out of RAF Tengah and was buried in the Ulu Pandang cemetery in Singapore, then reinterred in the Kranji cemetery when the expansion of Singapore took place; a sad end. I saw his grave when we revisited Singapore in 2007. As an aside, I spotted his name carved in a beam in the Wellhead pub in Wendover which I believe is now a private house. Thanks to everyone for their inputs and your sterling endeavours.

21 May 13.

From Dick Bingham.

I do look quite regularly at the site, went to it to look up a face and the group images had gone AWOL.

Adrian called here last week with a car full of model aircraft so I am sure others would like to hear off modellers adventures.

(I took the 2011 reunion interactive group photo off the home page thinking it had been there too long but Dick has made me think again so, realising it's usefulness, have replaced it. Brian.)

17 May 13.

From Frank Chammings.

Sorry for late reply, I put it to one side to ponder over your request about the website.

The only thing I can think of is that a few other entry sites have a list of names which can be contacted through the webmaster, I have been able to keep in contact with a few from the other entries which I knew after Halton. Have you considered this?

(I have considered doing so but decided against it; guys from other entries have contacted me over the years and I've found that passing on their messages (if I have an address to do so) has worked out OK. Brian.)

< p>17 May 13.

From Brian Smith.

Hope to see you and I do appreciate the Journals you manage and produce and those who contribute, not good at that myself and haven't had much that's exciting to report. Will try and write something in near future, promise!!!!!!

15 May 13.

From Sach Goodwin.

I thought it looked like a Keil Kraft Slicker but a quick Google proved me wrong, the Slicker has two wheels. Pretty much the same design though.

15 May 13.

From Brian.

While chatting to Brian (Tank) Martin on email, and knowing he's a keen aero modeller, I asked if he thought there would be any interest in those with the same hobby getting in touch with each other - and perhaps providing a few photos that I could put up here on the website. Brian thought it a good idea so I've already emailed two others who I know are also keen modellers, Adrian Gates and Brian Campbell. Hopefully there will be others reading this who would be interested and maybe not just aero modellers, there's boats, cars and (as we know from Arthur Hague's articles) trains - could be all sorts of other hobbies too.

Brian kindly sent this photo of one of his models that won the 'Concours' prize at the Nationals.

13 May 13.

From Ken Williams.

I did receive the latest journal and have just finished reading it (slow reader or what). The careers of members of the 81st after leaving the RAF make very interesting and entertaining reading. I stayed in to the very end and my career in print would be very boring by comparison. I appreciate all the work you do to keep all of us in contact with one another and the feedback and the galleries certainly help with that.

10 May 13.

From James Strachan.

I read all the articles in the latest Journal and liked them very much. Once again there are accounts of life which you would never hear about normally. Mike Stanley's article is again very humorous. Great to be able to write like that. John Hathaway's article was very interesting and I look forward to the next one.

8 May 13.

From Peter Perry.

I have read it from cover to cover (top to bottom might be more appropriate) and I am very impressed that you manage to get such good content. I guess that John Hathaway's submission will be the most thrilling. I have read Vulcan 607 a couple of times but I did not realise that John was involved. I look forward to your next edition. I am still in thinking mode for my own submission.

7 May 13.

Jim Lee.

I think you are doing a good job. I read the journal with great interest, it is nice to get news from home out here in the colonies!!

7 May 13.

From John Taylor.

In reply to Sach's question about a FSAA being beaten up. I believe it was the FSAA of the 77th Entry who from what I had heard had been a bit of a swine even with his own entry. I believe he was from New Zealand and was beaten up after the passing out parade and the night before everyone went home on leave.

I am sure some of our guys from 3Wing might have more details.

7 May 13.

From Dave Stokes.

Thank you for your email and Journal 35. In answer to your request, I access the 81st Entry website on an irregular basis and spend maybe an hour per month reading the latest items. I do enjoy reading through earlier journals and find how many of us had so similar experiences. I've got to say that the presentation is superb-could not be better!

7 May 13.

From John Gornall.

Congratulations on another excellent Journal. The use of a photo is a novel idea and personalises the articles well. I must find an up to date one of self.

The layout was perfect for my article (and only one typo!!) I enjoyed reading it and I hope a few others got a chuckle from it. I haven't yet read all the articles but the one sent in by Mac looks interesting.

6 May 13.

From Willie Keays.

Really great collection of gems in the latest Journal. I like Mike's deadpan humour.

6 May 13.

From Geoff Tomsett.

Checked out all the latest news, very attractive picture of me and the football!!! Looking back it makes me wonder how I only knew a very small proportion of the guys in the Entry; if they did not play football or were in the same room or class, we did not meet at all. By my estimation maybe contact with a third of the Entry. The biggest imprint to me was the first room 2 in block 5, the likes of Jackson, Hills, Hutch, the Johnsons etc., arriving late and being a T in the H.J.K room; I still have to explain to this day. I digress, still some good items going through, keep up the good work. Hopefully will see you at the Triennial, I have nothing in September at this time. Thanks for the set piece for Tom and Geoff. a nice memory of them.

6 May 13.

From Herb Hutchinson.

I read the articles with great interest and look forward to reading the follow-up by John Hathaway. The website and contents are good. My only suggestion would be to include more news of members if you have them and memories of our time at Halton. What for example has happened to RAF Halton Camp?

6 May 13.

From John Taylor.

In reply to Sach' question about a FSAA being beaten up. I believe it was the FSAA of the 77th Entry who from what I had heard had been a bit of a swine even with his own entry. I believe he was from New Zealand and was beaten up after the passing out parade and the night before everyone went home on leave.

I am sure some of our guys from 3Wing might have more details.

3 May 13.

From Martin McArthur.

Was pleased to see your email when I wound up the laptop this morning and have just read the whole of Journal 35, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

3 May 13.

From Dave Sidgwick.

Thanks for the latest journal. I have not had the time to read every line yet, but I most certainly will. The journal is an excellent way of keeping up with 81st matters. You had already informed us of our two losses, like you I believe we all lose when when of "us" passes away. Nice to see pics of the lads also. I think the web page is great. I have another story rumbling away in the mind I must get it on paper.

2 May 13.

From Willie Keays.

I'm sure I'll get round to reading all of the articles but may, as a first response, comment on Mike's story of the facsimile aircraft particularly the Tornado, a plastic version no less. Back in the late 70s, as the gestation period of this Multi-Role-Combat-Aircraft, the MRCA, was drawn out even further by years and years by international disputes over who would build what, it was suggested by various wags that MRCA stood for Mother Riley's Cardboard Aircraft or Must Refurbish (the) Canberra Again. So, as Mike reveals we have the MRPA!

2 May 13.

From Alex Chambers.

As usual, very much of interest, especially the articles. The layout and content is quite professional in presentation. The editoral staff and contributers are to be congratulated.

2 May 13.

From Sach Goodwin.

I wonder if anyone can recollect the circumstances of a FSAA being badly beaten up in 3 Wing?

12 April 13.

From Geoff Tomsett.

If the lads (!!!) are interested. Picture of me in 'Le Tommy Souvenier' restaurant in Pozieres France (check it out on facebook) it's an amazing place with indoor and outdoor museum. The guy in the photo is a French friend of my son in law, the interest is the football, this is one of four bought in London sports store Gamages during WW1 by an officer with four battalions, he gave one each to his men to kick forward as they attacked the German front lines, with a prize for the first to get to their trench. We do not know if anyone claimed the prize but do know a high percentage never made it. The owner of Le Tommy dug up the football plus a pile of backpacks with the company name on whilst searching the local area. There is a long wall in the rear with a roll call of Aussies killed. The village was almost on the front line so relics are still being dug up.

11 Mar 13.

From James Strachan.

Thanks to Willie Keays for the clue about the crash in Turkey being a Tudor. I Googled and found the followng on the RAF Forum: 'April 23rd 1959 Avro Tudor crash in Turkey', click on 'Tudor crash 1.'

I also found on the RAF Forum: 'Chapter 5 The Turkish Air Crashes', click on 'Tudor crash 2.'

It's all there, the whole epic story! Hope you find it ok, I am not too good trying to transfer long web addresses.

(Thanks Jim; rather than copy out the URLs I've added links to the two articles you refer to. Brian.)

5 Feb 13.

From Willie Keays.

Thanks to James for the gen on visits to Colditz.

That crash he refers to: without going into the web, I recall it was an Avro Tudor. It crashed near Lake Van in eastern Turkey. I was in Cyprus at the time so it must have been between '58 and '61. There was speculation at the time that a)the Russians might get there first and b) the search teams might find Noah's Ark as Mt Ararat was not far away.

2 Mar 13.

From James Strachan.

Having just looked at the Feedback page I read some kind words about my articles. Willie Keays asked if I had been to the German cemetery at Langemarck. I have, and have also been to the cemetery at Vladslo, which is very similar. While there, gardeners from Germany were doing some maintenance. Also a German coach arrived and the travellers gathered around the sculptures 'The Grieving Parents' and sang quietly. It was quite a moving experience and unexpected.

Colditz castle is open to visitors and worth a visit. The displays are very interesting and show the ingenuity of the prisoners, for example, uniforms to be worn during an escape, a wooden sewing machine, tunnelling tools made from bits of pipe and a fascinating tool designed to measure some internal part of a lock so that a key could be made.

Should you go there can I suggest that you stay at the Hotel Pension Zur Alten Stadtmauer ( This is owned by Ralf Gorny who is a very interesting man. He has a big collection of books on the castle and invites you to take them to your room to read. He can also take you to Podelwitz Castle where there is a huge collection of stuff from the old East Germany and artefacts from Colditz reputedly retrieved from a skip. The day he took us he dressed up as an Russian soldier. On arriving, his friend pointed out that he had the wrong belt!! Motor cyclists can leave their bikes in a secure lockup. The website is worth a visit.

Anyone planning to go to the World War 1 Commemorations next year might be interested in a hotel just north of Ypres. ( where we have stayed several times. If anyone is interested I can fill in some details not perhaps covered on the website.

Finally, during the 1960s I remember reading somewhere about an aircraft carrying secret equipment to Woomera which crashed in the mountains of Turkey. RAF mountaineers/demolition experts went up to destroy the cargo. Does anyone know anything about this?

25 Mar 13.

From Willie Keays.

That's a great feed from John Taylor. I'm copying the link to all on my address book, not just to ex-81st or ex-RAF.; I suggest we all do the same.

< p>23 Feb 13.

From John Taylor.

Brian, as you and many others probably know the last flying Vulcan is based at your old base, RAF Finningly, now called Doncaster/Sheffield airport. There have been one or two hiccups over the last year or so and they are having problems finding finance to keep her flying. Being unable to give air displays means a loss of revenue and they are holding a raffle to try to raise finance to keep her flying.

Attached is a copy of the advert that appeared in the Yorkshire Post and I thought that as many of our members both flew and serviced Vulcans they might want to participate.

Anyway I will leave it up to you.

PS Many of our members would probably like the third prize and I bet it would bring back happy memories.

(Rather than include the advert John mentioned, as the text is a bit hard to decipher unless hugely magnified, I'm inserting the URL to click on for you to see details of the raffle and to see what that third prize is! Brian.)

'Spirit of Great Britain Raffle 2013.'

11 Feb 13.

Willie Keays, responding quickly to Mike Thompson's question about the falling out on parade of RCs and Jews, has contacted the station padre at RAF High Wycombe (nice to have contacts in 'high places' Willie) to ask about current practice within the Service; he has asked me to feed the correspondence into Feedback - it went like this:-

Willie: "Dear Padre, a question has arisen on our 81st Entry of Aircraft Apprentices, Halton, website as to whether the command 'Roman Catholics and Jews, Fall out!', or variations on it, are still heard on RAF parade grounds. It was a command we were very familar with in 1955-1958 during standard parades when it was issued (by the Parade Warrant Officer if my memory serves me correctly. Brian) just before the padre said prayers. As far as I can ascertain, the command never figured in AP818 RAF Manual of Drill and Ceremonial so maybe it was the Chaplains' Branch that was responsible for its intonement. I'm hoping you can shed some light on this."

Padre: "Dear William, alas not, 50 years on we are one happy band of pilgrims."

10 Feb 13.

From Mike Thompson.

Having thoroughly enjoyed reading Empire of the Clouds (Hamilton-Paterson), Vulcan 607 (White), The Quick and the Dead (Waterton) and Fall Out Roman Catholics and Jews (Haig-Thomas) I wondered if any of our Feedback readers know of other books of this ilk that would make similar nostalgic and enjoyable reading??

As a matter of interest, and not having been "On Parade" for many a year, can anyone tell me whether the tradition of Roman Catholics and Jews being asked to fall out still practised??

10 Feb 13.

From Willie Keays.

In 1989 I visited the British War Cemetery next to RAF Gatow. I was moved to tears by the rows and rows of bomber crews laid side by side, not many over the age of twenty-one. In a corner of the cemetery were many graves of Indian soldiers, probably POWs who died in Berlin far from home; poor devils.

James mentioned the Canadian Memorial near Langemarck but doesn't say if he also visited the nearby German Cemetery. What a difference! Where the CWGC's policy has been to make our cemeteries bright, flowery, open and airy places, Langemarck German Cemetery is overshadowed by huge lofty oak-trees making it a dark and sombre place, reputedly with its own micro-climate. Nevertheless it's worth a visit if during the coming commemorations of the Great War, you go to Ypres. See:

'Langemark German Cemetery.'

7 Feb 13.

From Sach Goodwin.

I have just finished reading James Strachan's article in the latest journal and wondered if he and others are aware of the War Graves Photographic project. These are a group of volunteers working in conjunction with the CWGC with the aim of photographing every war grave/memorials both WW1&2.. For those researching their lost relatives and getting too old to travel, you can acquire the following for a very reasonable £3.50 for an emailed hi-res image, or £6.50 for 7"x5" glossy print. I have used the Project whilst researching my wife's uncle and crew KIA over Hanover.

The Project can be found by clicking on: 'The War Graves Photographic Project',

16 Jan 13.

I have just received this message and am pleased to be able to share it with you all by putting it up on this page; my sincere thanks to Bill. Brian.

Brian, I have just spent several pleasant evenings reading the great stories in the Journal Archives on the 81st Entry web site. Whilst I don't qualify, being of the 80th Entry persuasion, I do have a couple of VERY GOOD friends who are ex-81st. Mick 'Kingy' Guy was a room mate of mine after the big change around (as was 'Spud' Murphy) and we have more or less kept in touch since; indeed, as he lives in the locale, he was able to come to my house for dinner not long ago and we were able to 'catch up' on events. My other great friend from your Entry is Ed (we call him Ted) Duke who was a Crew Chief with me on 57 Squadron at Marham on the Victor Mk1 tankers during the late 60s and early/mid 70s. My wife and I are in regular contact with Ted and his wife Ursula. Keep up the good work. Bill Swan.

15 Jan 13.

From Mike Thompson.

In an attempt to keep our Feedback alive here is a little item that may qualify for the "My Best Ride" category!!. I should hasten to add that this applies only to rides in or on things mechanical (if you know what I mean!!!).

Some years ago John Edgley designed a revolutionary fixed wing aircraft in an attempt to reduce the horrendous costs of using helicopters in various theatres of operation, such as police surveillance, inspection of power lines etc. We, at Cranfield, were lucky enough to be chosen by John to assemble (he had already manufactured a lot of the aircraft's structure in his own workshop), test fly and certify the Edgley Optica (which soon became fondly nicknamed the "Bug Eye").

As you can see from the photograph, visability from the cockpit was almost 360° and it could virtually turn on its wing tip and fly at walking pace making it a serious contender for helicopter work. All these attributes made it one of the "Best Rides" I've experienced during its certification and was a delight to fly.

The Optica, post Cranfield, had a rather sad and chequered career so never acquired the success it truly deserved. It did, however, have a moment of fame, when it starred in the post apocalypse sci-fi movie called "Slipstream" shuttling survivors around a doomed World but in which it was, through artistic license, promoted to a jet engined aircraft!!

Visit Wikipedia to read more about this aircraft. Brian.

13 Jan 13.

Here is one of seven photos of this 'machine' sent to me by Terry Pallister; he included this short message "Would the lads like one of these?" Thanks Terry. Brian.

5 Jan 13.

From Willie Keays.

I found James Strachan's records of visits to museums and other places of interest full of interest. I especially liked his visit to Colditz in Journal 31. I would like to use our Feedback page to add a story about my own visit to this notorious prison that I made in early 1990 just after the Berlin Wall came down.


The Polytechnic of Wales, anxious to establish exchange programmes with institutions in the former DDR, sent me and a colleague to explore the possibility of recruitment of English-speaking German students and of finding one-year Sandwich Degree industrial placements with German companies for our own students. We were assisted by a Doktor Professor from a West German uni, who I will call Wolfgang.

Wolfgang was almost exactly the same age as myself and in my earlier trips to West Germany often told me about life during what he called the 'Hitler Years'. It was not hard to detect a certain admiration for some of the events, achievements(?) of the 30s and 40s, also a certain bitterness against the RAF who burnt his home town to the ground in early 1945. Anyway he was kind enough to take my colleague and myself to the Technical University of Zwickau in the former DDR.

On the way back to West Germany I realised that we would pass quite close to Colditz. Somewhat reluctantly Wolfgang agreed to drive there expressing surprise that we wanted to visit an old Stalag but nevertheless being prepared to tolerate these tiresome Brits. We visited the town first and bought some really excellent Colditz beer. Then we walked up to the main door of the castle; it was all locked up; there was a major role change going on. Already a sign of the times was attached to the wall, sponsored by that terrible capitalist firm Smirnoff. It listed the escape attempts of the various nationalities. I can't remember the number of home runs but I was taken by the enormous number of British attempts that failed; I think it was over 300. I was chortled at this record pointing it out to Wolfgang.

'Gosh!' says I, 'I would have liked to have been in there trying to get out!' Wolfgang struck a pose; head up at an angle, arms folded, one leg advanced with the knee bent, eyes narrowed to slits. 'When I der Kommandant vas, you vood not escape!' he declared.

Was it the ghosts of Colditz I could hear laughing?

3 Jan 13.

From John Taylor.

I like Mike only had my Rocket for about three years as I then got posted to Germany. It was whilst over there that I got my first car. I had passed my bike licence whilst at Halton but I did not have a car licence.

My Rocket with my nephew climbing all over it.

My Hillman Minx bought whilst in Germany.

At Laarbruch the MT section had the authority to allow RAF personnel to take the German written test before taking you out to the nearby town for a driving test. I had got my new car about two weeks before and with the help of Fraser McLean, ex 80th, got in a bit of practice. I did happen to pass but the written test was made up of about 25 question of which I think you had to get at least 20 correct, any you got wrong was taken off your correct answers. Therefore 22 correct and 3 wrong meant you only scored 19.

One week after passing I had two weeks holiday in Blighty and had to drive to Ostend for the ferry. Brussels at dusk was a very daunting place.

It was during this holiday that I put in for an emergency car test in Rotherham. Even though the German licence allowed me to drive unaccompanied whilst on holiday it seemed to be that anyone who went home on holiday went in for an emergency car test so that when they returned back to England at the end of their tour they didn't have to organise a car test.

1 Jan 13.

From Frank Chammings.

My one and only motorbike was a 1938 250cc AJS bought for £7 from a friend, I don't remember what year it was but probably after Halton. The carb was held together by a bandage and it would only start with a push but it was ideal for learning on. The best ride I had was after pushing it down the road trying to start it I passed the local sawmills where several lads from the pub were just going to work, they practically pushed me faster than the bike would go. After settling down I thought I would visit my aunt about fifteen miles away along a winding local lane, at my first sharp corner I was in third gear instead of second and shot across the road into a ditch I could feel the strokes of the engine driving me straight, luckily little traffic in those days. After seeing my aunt I took another road home and ran out of petrol, I then realised I had no money on me. Two lessons there already, too high a gear for bends and never go anywhere without cash. As it happened, I was near another aunt and borrowed some money. I then tried to repair the carb but couldn't find a replacement and one day I came home on leave and found that my mum had sold it to a scrap dealer for one and sixpence (7.5p).

A Very Happy New Year to all. Brian

31 Dec 12.

From Mike Thompson.

Just a follow-up to the idea of First Bike items for Feedback. Please find herewith a little item for that:

We lived in Sittingbourne so when I bought my first motorbike my Mum had to travel up to Chatham on the train with me to sign as guarantor on the HP agreement. I bought a BSA B31, a 350 cc bike affectionately called the "Iron Horse".

The problem was my Dad was against me getting a motorbike so I had the problem of bringing it home and explaining myself. That journey from Greys in Chatham back to Sittingbourne was made with some apprehension tempered somewhat by being in the company of Dick Richardson who, riding his own bike, had accompanied me on this, my first, bike purchase.

I never took the bike to Halton; however I did ride it to my first posting at Middleton St George. Some three years later when I got married and got a posting to El Adem I sold it and have never owned a motorbike since. (But then I haven't won the lottery yet!!!)

31 Dec 12

From Brian.

I was never one for motorbikes, making do with pedal cycling as a member of the cycling club whilst at Halton, but once settled at Chivenor in the summer of 1958 and faced with the shortage of public transport late at night, I succumbed and picked up a 1946 BSA B33 (telescope front and rigid back end) for about £20 - certainly no more than that I seem to remember; we won't mention road tax, insurance or even driving licence, will we!! Not into cameras then either I don't have a pic of this, my first bike, but I do for my next two.

I was out at Changi by the following summer and, as many of you will have experienced, the need for personal transport didn't really exist there as the incredibly cheap bus and taxi services between camp and the city of Singapore were more than adequate; but when I got married and lived some distance from Changi (down on the East Coast road near Katong - again many will know where I mean) something was needed for the daily to and fro to work.

This little machine in the pic was what I settled for and, incredibly, that little 50 ccs 2-stroke (probably a copy of the Sachs engine) bike ran me to and fro, often two-up, for some eighteen months. It was a Miyata Miyapet which I bought brand new from a dealer in Singapore - hands up anyone who has even heard of one, let alone seen one!

I did take, and pass, my bike driving licence in Singapore though - and therein hangs a sad tale; when we came back to the UK I didn't realise that this Singapore licence would count and that (I was later told this, so assume it to be true) it could be replaced with a UK one. Nowadays I rue this omission as I find myself quite fancying getting up on a big shiny Harley Davidson tourer and trying the old 'Smokey and the Bandit' bit across the mid states of the USA!

Once back in the UK and needing something to daily get me from the centre of Bath (where we had a hiring) up to Colerne I bought this Vespa - don't be misled by the L-plates as they spent more time off than on as my (gradually getting larger) wife and I travelled many miles on it. Out of necessity though, when the baby arrived, I took and passed (many thanks to the Colerne MTO who had granted me a Station Driving Permit some months earlier) the car driving test and was therefore able to go four-wheeled.

27 Dec 12.

From Tod Slaughter.

I bought my first bike soon after my 18th birthday. It was an AJS 350 (WKO 895).

I didn't keep it near Halton as did some of the "rebels" but at home in Maidstone. Although I did ride it on our "famed" Brighton outing. It stood me in good stead when I was posted to Duxford, after Halton, on my weekend trips home and I fitted a "Droopy Snoot" front fairing to shield me from the winter weather.

Going home one Saturday morning in very patchy fog on a back road to get to the A10 I miss-judged the distance it was to a sharp right-hand corner and found myself doing a "wall of death" on a grass verge. Things were going well until the front wheel went down into a drainage ditch that had been dug across the verge and I went over the handle bars and through the fairing!! I slid along,face down, luckily, avoiding any solid objects! Muddied but unscathed I got up. Unfortunately the bike didn't fare so well as the forks had twisted sideways through ninety degrees which made it almost impossible to push let alone ride!

When I eventually got it repaired the front end never felt quite right so I traded it in for a Norton Dominator 99 Super Sport and the rest (as they say) is history!!


To show that I do get some feedback about this website here are a few anonymous extracts from messages I've received over the last few months. Don't be misled by the number of them as several may have come from the 'same pen'.

"Just to let you know that I enjoyed reading the latest articles on our webpage."

"The article 'Me and Magnus' was very interesting, giving the sort of insight that few will know about."

"Having read Tony's article my problems don't appear too bad after all."

"I hope some of the others write articles for the Journal, as you say there must be some interesting stuff out there."

"My sister sent me the link to this site. Wow, what a great place! I've had fun reading the feedback and looking thru the galleries."

"What can I say - guilty as charged. I have looked at the web site and it is very good but I cannot think of anything of interest to write. Keep up the good work."

"I do have an interest in the web site and would like it to continue. I have been thinking for some time now about making a contribution but wondered if my subject matter would be of interest to our members."

"I am not too interested in "get-togethers" these days but it is good to know how others are getting on so keep up the good work as long as you can and so wish to. I appreciate it very much."

"I read all issues of the journal with great interest and not a little envy as I think what a boring time I have had."

"I am still interested in the news and info regarding the 81st but as I am computer illiterate I have to rely on.....

"I am in receipt of your last email and sympathise with your problem."

"Keep up the good work.."

"I can promise you some small article for next issue but I'd rather have it held back and let others who have not yet contributed have their place in the sun."

"That's a great story that Tod is relating about the restoration of ML796. It shows how Grim Determination, Lady Luck and Incredible Enthusiasm can overcome every Buggeration Factor."

I hope that when you read this you also appreciate my 'problem' and see fit to let me know how you feel about this website. Brian

19 Dec 12.

From John Taylor.

Brian, we've had a couple of first cars, now how about our first bikes.

Mine was a 350cc Ariel which I managed to fall off on the way to Oulton Park. I never got park it up in Wendover with Gerry Ward. I did then get a BSA Super Rocket which I got after graduation and had it with me at Cottesmore.

Dreams of my past life.

Thanks John. Things have been very quiet out there and, no matter how hard I try, it seems lethargy has set in. I would dearly love to know how many bother to look at the website, and I'm sure the contributors would too - I'll put a few of the comments I get on this page later to prove there is life out there, not a lot, but it's there! So its a small bit of joy when such as yourself suggests something; I thought the car thing would catch on as we all had a first one at some time, now let's see if any of the known (whilst at Halton that is) owners of bikes can send something in. Brian

12 Nov 12,

From Sach Goodwin.

My first car was this 1959 Mk2 Lo-line Consul in Pompadour blue with black roof. An export model, it had blue leather upholstery, all bright metal was stainless, an oil bath air cleaner and oil bath oil filler.

Outside 13 Sqn block at Bruggen.

Outside armourers' block at Bruggen.

A couple of years later at Swanton Morley awaiting a bucket and sponge.

6 Nov 12.

Back in Journal No 9 Curly Knowlton wrote about a humanitarian trip to Agadir, Morocco, that he did with a Beverley back in February 1960; I get the Aeroplane magazine every month and in the latest issue there is a letter from Curly about the trip. Forgetting that he had already written his article for the Journal (well it was six years ago when Mike Stanley was editor) I asked him if he'd write an article for me to upload...the moral of this is that I should have remembered, no excuse. Anyway Curly has sent me these two photos that also appear with his letter in the Aeroplane. Thanks Curly.

2 Nov 12.

From Mike Thompson.

Unlike Tod, who had to sell his car when posted to El Adem, I got my A50 on return to the UK after El Adem (via Cyprus) and it served me very well indeed for some six years until the big ends decided to spread themselves across the M1 at Watford Gap!! Oh! the joys of motoring BACK THEN!!!!

1 Nov 12.

From Willie Keays.

That's a great story that Tod is relating about the restoration of ML796. It shows how Grim Determination, Lady Luck and Incredible Enthusiasm can overcome every Buggeration Factor. (That's enough of capitals).

That serrated tape Tod used sounds very much like the stuff the Painters & Dopers used to seal the dinghy hatches on our Hastings in Nicosia c.1958. I can go along with that Willie as I have sealed the odd Hastings dinghy panel that way - but the worst such job was doping tape over door hinges etc. when prepping for para drops. Anyone else remember doing that? Brian.

21 Oct 12.

From Tod Slaughter.

I imagine that everyone remembers their first car so it was with some surprise that whilst going through some very old photos that I came across one that I had completely forgotten about. After my stint in hospital as a result of an altercation with a car (Journal No. 18) I felt decidedly vulnerable on "the bike". The hunt for a car was on. Maybe I was feeling that I needed something substantial which caused me to purchase this ""tank"!

It is a Riley Pathfinder 2.4 litre! It became my pride and joy and took me on many a pleasant trip. I owned it for just over a year when I sadly had to sell it owing to my posting to El Adem and the cost of storage being prohibitive!

Do you remember your first car Maybe you too have a photo?

Thanks Tod, good idea so let's hope for a few replies to keep things 'ticking over'. I was a bit late getting my first 4-wheeler as I waited until we were back home from Changi in '62. I loved this little A35 with all its quirks (used more oil than petrol until I renewed the piston rings and big-ends; never felt the same without the smoke screen following me whenever I put my foot down) and limitations when fitting mum, baby and pram on board. Nevertheles it got us from North Luffenham to Bath on Boxing Day '62 faultlessly with continuous snow falling during the whole journey - those of us who were in this country will remember the weather that day and for the rest of that winter. I ran this A35 mercilessly until late '65, up and down Bannerdown Hill (Colerne-ites will know this feature of the countryside) daily in all weathers then, when I remustered, from Bath to St Athan and back weekly for six months followed by another six months doing the same to Newton - never a serious hiccup. At the end of '65 my father was posted to Tengah and left me his Peugeot 403 to use and look after during his absence so the A35 went, I know not where, but I missed her and the old heart still beats a bit faster whenever I see one to this day - probably couldn't afford to buy one though!! Brian

13 Oct 12.

Well now, it's been a long time since anyone sent me anything to put here in Feedback, so all the more welcome this nostalgic excerpt from the "Punch" dated 13 Mar 68; just change a few words, numbers etc. and we're back at Halton in Sep 55. My thanks to Herb (Hutch) Hutchinson over there in Canada for this and other memorabilia he recently sent to me. Brian

16 Jul 12.

Probably like many others of our generation, I was a US-sceptic, very sure that British industries, such as aviation and transport, were so much better than anyone elses - other than Juke Boxes what else of any quality did the Americans make? With horror, having missed a chance to convert onto the VC10, in 1967 I was posted from Hastings onto that piece of American junk the C-130 Hercules - boy did I ever change my mind! Should have taken more notice of history and, particularly, to tales like the two I've put here in Feedback. Both these articles have been forwarded to me; this first one, somewhat edited for punctuation and content, was sent by Willie Keays. More can be read about both stories on numerous easily located websites. Brian.

A Special B-17 & Her Crew In 1943.

A mid-air collision on 1 February 1943 between a B-17 and a German fighter over the Tunis dock area became the subject of one of the most famous photographs of World War II. An enemy fighter attacking a 97th Bomb Group formation went out of control, probably with a wounded pilot, then continued its crashing descent into the rear fuselage of a Fortress named 'All American', piloted by Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg of the 414th Bomb Squadron. When it struck, the fighter broke apart but left some pieces in the B-17. The bomber's left horizontal stabilizer and left elevator were completely torn away. The two right engines were out and one on the left had a serious oil pump leak. The vertical fin and the rudder had been damaged, the fuselage had been almost completely cut through connected only at two small parts of the frame, the radios, electrical and oxygen systems were also damaged. There was a hole in the top of the fuselage, over 16 feet long and, at its widest, 4 feet across, that went all the way to the top gunners turret. Although the tail actually bounced and swayed in the airstream and twisted when the plane turned, with all the control cables severed except for one single elevator cable which worked, miraculously the aircraft still flew! The tail gunner was trapped because there was no floor connecting the tail to the rest of the plane. The waist and tail gunners used parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses in an attempt to keep the tail from ripping off and the two sides of the fuselage from splitting apart. While the crew was trying to keep the bomber from coming apart, the pilot continued on his bomb run and released his bombs over the target.

When the bomb bay doors were opened, the airstream turbulence was so great that it blew one of the waist gunners into the broken tail section. It took several minutes and four crewmembers to pass him ropes from parachutes and haul him back into the forward part of the plane. When they tried to do the same for the tail gunner the tail began flapping so hard that it began to break off. The weight of the gunner was adding some stability to the tail section, so he went back to his position.

The turn back toward England had to be very slow, to keep the tail from twisting off, and covered almost 70 miles. The bomber was so badly damaged that it was losing both altitude and speed and so was soon alone in the sky. For a brief time, two more Me-109 German fighters attacked the 'All American'. Despite the extensive damage all of the machine gunners were able to respond to these attacks and soon drove the fighters off. The two waist gunners stood up with their heads sticking out through the hole in the top of the fuselage in order to aim and fire their machine guns. The tail gunner had to shoot in short bursts because the recoil was actually causing the plane to turn.

Allied P-51 fighters intercepted the 'All American' as it crossed over the Channel and one of the pilots took the above photo. One pilot also radioed to his base telling them that the bomber's empennage was waving like a fish-tail and, as the plane would not make it back, boats should be readied to rescue the crew when they bailed out. The fighters stayed with the bomber taking hand signals from Lt. Bragg and relaying them to their base. Lt. Bragg signaled that 5 parachutes, and the spare, had been "used" so five of the crew could not bail out. He made the decision that if they could not bail out safely then he would stay with the plane and land it.

Two and a half hours after being hit the aircraft made its final turn to line up with the runway while it was still over 40 miles away. It descended into an emergency landing and a normal roll-out on its landing gear.

When the ambulance pulled alongside it was waved off because not a single member of the crew had been injured. No one could believe that the aircraft could still fly in such a condition. The Fortress sat placidly until the crew all exited through the door in the fuselage, and the tail gunner had climbed down a ladder, at which time the entire rear section of the aircraft collapsed to the ground. The rugged old bird had done its job.

This one, sent to me by Frank Chammings, has also been a tad edited; as produced here it is a 'slight' (???) embellishment of the true story (presumably for the human effect) which can be found online and is well worth reading. Both stories say a lot for the trememdous ability of the B-17 to withstand attack.

Completed many years later the painting below was apparently based on both pilots' descriptions of the event.

Look closely at this USAAF B-17 and note how badly shot up it is - one engine dead, left horizontal stabilizer gone, fin and nose section badly damaged - it was ready to fall out of the sky; then realize that the German Me 109 alongside seems to be formating on it.

Charlie Brown was an American bomber pilot flying with the 379th bomber Group at Kilbolton, England, and his B-17 Flying Fortress was named "Ye Old Pub". The aircraft was in a terrible state having received damage from both Flak and fighters. The compass was damaged and they were flying deeper and deeper into enemy territory instead of flying home to Kilbolton.

When the B17 flew over an enemy airfield a German pilot called Franz Stigler was ordered to take off and shoot it down. When he got airborne and closed on the aircraft Franz couldn't believe his eyes; in his words he allegedly said "I had never seen a plane in such a bad state." The tail and rear section was severely damaged and the tail gunner wounded. The top gunner was dead with his remains spread all over the top of the fuselage. The nose of the plane was smashed and there were holes everywhere.

Despite having ammunition Franz flew to the side of the B17 and looked at the very scared Charlie Brown as he struggled to control his damaged and bloodstained plane.

Aware that Charlie had no idea where he was headed Franz waved at him indicating a 180-degree turn. Franz then escorted and guided the stricken B17 back to, and indeed slightly over, the North Sea towards England. He then saluted Charlie and turned away back to his base.

When Franz landed he told his CO that the B-17 had been shot down over the sea and he never told anyone the truth. Charlie, and the remains of his crew, on the other hand, told all at their de-briefing but they were ordered never to talk about it.

More than 40 years later Charlie Brown wanted to find the Luftwaffe pilot who had saved his crew and, after years of research, Franz was located. He had never talked about the incident, even at reunions.

The two pilots met in the USA at a 379th Bomber Group reunion - along with 25 other survivors from the Second World War - all because Franz hadn't fired his guns that day.

This welcome message arrived a short while back. I can't help him regarding Ron Morrison as he wasn't in the 81st but maybe someone remembers him, and maybe Ian as well. Let me know if so and I'll pass on any messages. Brian.

Thanks for a very interesting site. Enjoyed the visit.

Often wondered what happened to Mike Thompson, pleased to see he's still an active brat.

Looking for details of Ron Morrison (Airframe) who, I believe, was a member of your entry. Any News?

Best wishes, Ian French 72nd.

23 Jun 12.

I've just received this email that I would like to share with everyone. Brian.

Hello Brian,

Thank you for your condolences; they do mean so much. Kris thought often about the 81st and the many places he had "bumped into" fellow sufferers from Halton. From food strikes to punch-ups, Jankers to graduation, Kris could remember it all (well, nearly all). Who got pounded and why he didn't get top marks for a piece of work (he didn't burnish it) & why he wasn't in the graduation photo (he took Bones Kennell to sick bay when he tried to walk through a glass door). Kris truly enjoyed the reunion we attended and I enjoyed meeting the people he had spoken of so often. "APPRENTICE!".

Thank you,

Rhonde Rouleau (Penney).

20 Jun 12

From Willie Keays.

In the absence of anything for Feedback, how about this link to these previously unseen photos of subject disaster?

Click on: '75-years-since-the-hindenburg-disaster',

Thanks Willie; fantastic black and white photographs well worth viewing. Brian.

11 Jun 12.

From Brian.

This map shows the dispersal of our UK membership; I've simply divided the map into four quarters showing the number living in each and a major city/town within that area - Scotland hangs on in the far North as a separate entity. Each person within a certain Post Code has a red star; the idea is to carry on promoting the idea of localised area Get-togethers so having located your own position you can see others who have the same Post Code or who live in adjacent ones. All we need now is suggestions as to where people from various locations could meet, for a beer, a meal or a visit to somewhere interesting like we have just very successfully had at the IWM Duxford - for those living reasonably close to Cambridge and those who chose to travel some distance. I personally enjoyed myself immensely, and it was a pleasure to be able to pick John Gornall up along the way, but there and back on the day was something I won't be doing again, so come on someone from the SW 'ideas please'.

8 Jun 12

From Bob Longhurst.


On the 6th of June 2012 fifteen of the 81st's finest and eight of their ladies met at Duxford: they were Bob Longhurst & Jane, Tod Slaughter, Brian Spurway, Tom White & Barbara, Geoff Tomsett, Tom Cowan, Tony Hibbens & Sheila, Bruce Robinson, John MacKenzie & Jean, Alex Chambers & Valerie, Mike Robins & Pat, John Catley & Eileen, John Gornall, Dave Sidgwick & Diane and Bob Galbraith. It was great to see John Catley on his first reunion since leaving the Royal Air Force.

Tod having arranged a group entry price, we then started our tour of the Museum chatting over the huge history of aviation we shared between us. The hangars were full of anecdotes with a bit of friendly joshing. After a very slow start allowing all of us to tell a few tall stories we made it gently through this truly great collection stopping for lunch at 'Winco Joe's'. There were a number of personal reunions with specific aircraft that were very special. Despite building the Sunderland over many years Tod, would you believe, is no longer allowed on board and although Brian Spurway was Flight Engineer in the very Hastings on display he was not allowed on board either - Health and Safety spoils a lot of things. As we passed the Javelin and Hunter out came more stories. The Victor and the Vulcan provoked many reminiscences. It seems that everybody had worked, flown in or flown most of the aeroplanes on view, but I (Bob) never worked on anything but the Hastings. This photograph in front of the Spitfire shows fourteen of us (we had one late arrival). We managed to assemble just long enough for the picture; it's like herding cats trying to keep 'brats' together!

Whilst we lads did our thing Jane and six ladies (one preferred the aircraft) headed for Cambridge for a guided tour of this beautiful City interspersed with coffee and lunch and a lot of chattering of course. They visited colleges, libraries, pubs and judging by the beaming smiles on their faces when they returned they'd had a good time.

At the end of the day when most had to make for home a few of us more local folk headed for the John Barleycorn in the village for a little something. It all seemed to go very well and perhaps sets the scene for future events. This was an East Anglian affair and suited some people, but future events may be in other areas. Wherever the next event is, it would definitely benefit if something was also provided for the ladies. We felt the frequency should be no more than annual.

Tod Slaughter and I enjoyed setting it up and we thank Brian for his communication skills. Here's to the next time.

8 May 12.

From Mike Thompson.

Hey! Willie,

How does convention say it these days?? Oh, yes: "BEEN THERE DONE THAT!!!"

Those were the days, my friend, shame they came to an end!!!!

My best regards old Buddy, Mike

5 May 12.

From Willie Keays.

(Re. the latest Journal. Brian.)

Great stuff from Mike about Cranfield College of Applied Coercion where I had the pleasure of flying in specially-adapted Jetstream flying classroooms; an ideal way in which to study aircraft stability for an MSc. Mike and his men kept 'em flying despite the rough treatment handed out to them by the demonstration pilots, Short Period Pitching Oscillations, Phugoids, Spiral Instability, Pilot Induced Oscillations etc.

Jetstream G-AXUI with all its bits!!

G-AXUI Internal

18 Mar 12.

Another from Willie.

Bill Garett, the best engine instructor I ever met, and with whom I tortured u/t Flt Engs at St Athan, sent me this link to the most incredible video of Exercise Red Flag. Please put the link on Feedback. It'll make us all feel so 20th Century.

It's about 45 minutes long. If you've haven't got HDMI on your PC you may be able to link your PC to your HD TV. Well worth the trouble.

Click on this link to watch video. Brian.

Exercise Red Flag.

18 Mar 12.

From Willie Keays.

Yes, Green Goddess saved some a lot of money but standing by the 5th Amendment, I may be able to guess how a copious supply of the stuff might have been obtained back in 1961. A visiting a/c, typically an Anson, is refulled from Station Flt's own trailer bowser drawn by a Davy Brown tractor. Both these items were left-overs from the war, contemporaneous with the Stuka in the hangar. The fitter on the wing who's actually put 20 gallons in, asks his mate operating the pump "How many gallons?", "30." comes the reply. In the line hut, Chiefy asks the hose man "How many gallons?", "40." is the inflated reply. It's 50 that actually goes into the F700. What then? Well there's 30 gallons too much in the bowser but a solution sits in the hangar in the form of a Cat 5 Sycamore. This is wheeled out and refulled; looks perfectly natural. The helicopter is then put back in the hangar and becomes a convenient nifty private fuel tank for the workers. Not only did the Sycamore never fly, it didn't even have an engine! Yes, OM-15 was much in demand!

16 Mar 12.

From Willie Keays.

Thanks Mike and Frank. I should have guessed the Backslang you and Tad used was more difficult than Welsh! I don't recall an exchange of letters but I do remember talking to you when I was on my MSc course at Cranfield and you were Manager of the maintenance, modification and servicing show there. Didn't that include the FBW Jaguar and the FBW Harrier? I don't remember where Tad was posted to after Cyprus; Roy Hindley went to Leeming, Terry Fleet, who is also among the Missing, went to Henlow on 2nd Line for UAS Chipmunks, and I went to 4 S of TT St Athan on Station Flt. (We had 3 Chipmunks and 45 other a/c, all Cat 5, including a Stuka Ju-87, and a weekly ration of free Avgas).

(With a dash of OM15 for 'top-end' lubrication, or was it just to disguise the 'green'? De-inhibiting a replacement Hastings fuel tank meant 'galloons' of 'green' being dumped - allegedly anyway!! Then there was the engine oil, a bit thick when cold but it worked a treat when warmed up. Brian.)

8 Mar 12.

Hello - my name is Jane Hutchins, Doug Pirie's widow. I have been asked to write about his life, so if anybody has any tales that involve him I would love to get them. Please and thank you, Jane.

(If you would like to respond to this request from Jane please let me know and I'll put you in contact with her. Brian.)

6 Mar 12.

From Frank Chammings.


Looks like Willie left out ouyy!

(Over to you Willie.)

6 Mar 12.

From Mike Thompson.

Hey, Willie,

You and me both. I've tried a time or two to find Tad with no luck. He just seemed to disappear off the radar after Cyprus. I had one or two photos of you and Tad in Cyprus but have only been able to find this one. I seem to remember you and I exchanging letters some years ago and I was wondering if I had sent you any of the photos during that time??

Oh! the language we used was AGy. You put the letters AG in front of every sounding vowel and y in words.

Sago Wagillagie, lagets hagope wage cagan cagome agup wagith sagomethaging agon Tagad!!


5 Mar 12.

From Willie Keays.

Hi Brian,

I'm still loking for Tad Thomas. I note the Feedback from Mike Thompson and as he was Tad's best friend at RAF Nicosia, maybe he has some clues later than 1961. Here's a query for him. If you don't think it's suitable for Feedback, please forward it to Mike. Tad and he used to drive me crazy by always speaking in their version of Backslang.

Ikemy: Ody nowky herewy Adty entwy? :-D

1 Mar 12.

From Mike Thompson, 681208, Block 5 Room 5, 2 Sqdn 2 Wing Etc Etc!!(Replying to message from John Taylor on 27 Feb.)

Yes, John, I agree about missing the reunion. However, I live in Benalmadena, Spain, and family circumstances dictate that as Grandparents my wife and I have commitments (the usual stuff) that has made travelling a bit difficult for a while. I guess that's why I like to do bits for the Journal to try to keep in touch with our Entry and what went on Back Then!!

29 Feb 12.

From Malcolm (we all knew as Mac) Mason,

Brian, Thank you for continuing with the email contacts and for maintaining our site. Yes I do read it and I must say I am in awe of what some of the Entry have got up to during their lives, absolutely interesting.

(Mac lives in The Netherlands where he is both Chairman and Secretary of the Amsterdam branch of the RAFA. I'm always amazed at the many and varied paths trodden since we all met at Halton, in and out of the RAF and, of course much more pertinent nowadays, how we spend our retirement. Brian.)

27 Feb 12.

From John Taylor.

Thanks Mike I will try to get hold of the book you mentioned. Pity you and Dick did not get up to Cirencester for last reunion. It would have been nice to see old mates from Block 5.

26 Feb 12.

From Mike Thompson.

(Mike sent this in response to John's message recommending reading 'Vulcan 607'; I've also had another email from John who wonders if anyone else from the 81st was involved in Operation 'Black Buck'or any other aspect of the Falkland conflict. Brian.)

Hello, John, if you enjoyed reading Vulcan 607, if you haven't already, you must read Empire of the Clouds. It really brushes away a lot of memories cobwebs and of course leads you on to other books of a similar ilk that make quite compulsive reading.

23 Feb 12.

From Brian.

As you can see this Feedback message below didn't come to me by the usual email route; I withold the sender's name but there may well be a few of you out there who recognise Bruce R's preferred method of communication - bless 'im! Anyway it's nice to get something for this page from someone who still prefers a life without 'kompooters'.

22 Feb 12.

From John Taylor.

I've just finished reading the book about the Vulcan raid on the Falklands ('Vulcan 607'). Once I started reading I could not put it down especially as 'one of our own' was involved. A great read for anyone who has not read it.

(Who was the 81st Entry member mentioned in this interesting book? If you don't already know then you'll have to read it to find out. Brian.)

10 Feb 12.

From Tod Slaughter.

Thanks Willie, I'm glad that you liked episode one about the restoration of the IWM's Sunderland. I must admit to enjoying writing it. Strange that after looking at a few photographs all the memories came flooding back.

There must be quite a number of Sunderlands lurking beneath the waves. After the hostilities of WW2 when flying boat squadrons, throughout the world, were ordered home the aircraft that were u/s at the time were towed further off shore and scuttled.

Those working on ML796, all self confessed Sunderland 'anoraks', came to hear of many that have been discovered by local diving clubs during the years since the War. We were asked to identify what one was (by murky photos) that was discovered inverted in a Scottish loch. By the 'step' on the hull it was either a Mark 1 or 2 which was quite rare as all those displayed in Museums as far as I know are MR5s. To date none found underwater have been lifted from their watery grave. I imagine that it would be very costly and, as aircraft tend to break up on reaching the surface, not worth the effort!

10 Feb 12.

From John Gornall.

I appreciate the 'Heads Up' on the latest journal. I think it is great to read of the many and varied exploits of our 81st colleagues. Long may it continue.

One thing I had never got round to until today is to look at the Feedback page(s). What a pleasant surprise. I think you have done a magnificent job to include photos and videos with all the other interesting things. Needless to say it will take some time to catch up but I will contribute myself as appropriate.

What response has there been to Bob's proposal that we meet informally at Cambridge next June?

(Thank you for your kind comments John. As regards Robert Longhurst's Duxford visit proposal; I had several positive replies when I e-mailed it to everyone so it looks like it's 'On the cards'. More info later in the year when Robert sorts out the details. Brian.)

10 Feb 12.

(Another welcome feedback from Willie, this one about Mike's 'A Persian Interlude' in the latest Journal. Keep them coming Willie maybe it'll catch on! Brian.)

Great reminisences by Mike. He should send a copy to Mr Amadinajaket in Teheran, copies to the CIA and Mr Net-a-yahoo. Were the Turks who invited him to dance offering their Turkish Delights?

6 Feb 12.

From Willie Keays.

Tod's relating the IWM Sunderland saga (See Latest Journal article 6. ) reminds me of the visits I paid during Air Days in the early 50s to Sydenham Airfield, now Belfast City Airport, where there were many Sunderlands laid up awaiting disposal. Shorts built some there. Us kids could get into them and have a ball pretending we were sinking U-boats. According to Wiki these aircraft were taken out to sea and scuttled, so maybe there are still lying 'neath the waters of Belfast Lough.

A book that is connected to the Sunderland and its predecessor, the Empire flying-boat, is 'Corsairville; The Lost Domain of the Flying-boat', the story of a forced landing of a flying-boat in central Africa. It's a story of grim determination, eventually successful, when practical engineering skills brough the aircraft home; highly recommended. Available through Amazon for £0.01 (!)

Click on: 'Corsairville; The Lost Domain of the Flying-boat',

Looking forwards to Tod's Part 2.

1 Jan 12.



27 Dec 10.

From John Taylor.

As far as I can remember we had our medicals prior to actually 'joining up'.

For the first few days we all went to the barbers and got our 'kit' and also had a few lectures on what to expect. I seem to recollect that the officer giving one of the lectures told us we had to refer to the 'service' as the Royal Air Force and not the 'raff'.

We got our service numbers and had our 'swearing in' in 3 Wing NAAFI. Gerry Ward, Dave Wells and I all went together in a little anti room to swear our allegiance and our last three were 090, 089 & 088 respectively.

21 Dec 10.

From Sach.

I seem to recall that we had our medical during the Induction a few weeks before we joined. As for getting our jabs, we paraded in the Maitland gym in PT kit and were them marched to sick quarters. Moving down the line we were given a jab in each upper arm and one in each forearm, between the wrist and elbow. Bloody painful as I recall. I do remember quite a few of the chaps fainting.

On my initial medical, the doc asked where my vaccination mark was (that old halfpenny sized scar on the left upper arm). I replied that I didn't have one. He said you must have, as everyone had been vaccinated. I explained that I was born in Malta and that all the vaccine was lying on the bottom of the Mediterranean. He grudgingly accepted my story.

20 Dec 10.

From Frank Chammings.

I, like you Brian, regret not asking my parents so many things. However, I caught the train to Waterloo en-route to Halton on a Sunday. I recall this as I was offered a lift in a taxi up to the station, the station bus didn't run on a Sunday and it was awful climb up the hill as I'm sure you remember. (Frank means Okehampton station, a place he knows that I knew well, my having spent many a holiday there with relatives both before and after Halton. Brian.) I can also recall having the interviews a couple of weeks before but cannot remember where we spent the night(s).

20 Dec 10.

From Brian.

Firstly I send our Seasonal Greetings to you and yours.

I guess I have what I think is known as 'Selected Memory' in that I can recall much of my life vividly whilst at the same time having huge gaps that no matter how hard I try the old grey cells just refuse to cooperate....I'm sure there are many like me but there are also those, some of whom regularly add to this Feedback page, that seem to be able to recall our days at Halton almost as if it were yesterday.

Some years ago I became very keen on tracing my parents' families and had considerable success, mainly because of their rather unusual surnames, managing to construct a large Family Tree. In the process I realised that I should have asked more questions of my parents before losing them both whilst in my early twenties, let alone quizzing a couple of grandparents who had gone long before then....we, of course, or many of us, were still in the 'children should be seen and not heard' ages and were discouraged from prying into our elders' lives. I determined that my kids, and their kids, would know as much as I know (warts and all) and promised that I would write down as much as I could remember of my life in some sort of chronological fashion.

Having got through both family histories, childhood and school days I'm now about to record the Halton bit but am stumped at the very start. We, as the 81st Entry, signed on the 'dotted-line' on Monday 5th September 1955 (I think somewhere in 3(A) Wing) but how long had we already been there? If we had spent the previous weekend, or even longer, there, what did we do? All I seem to recall is somehow getting to Baker Street station and then being herded onto a train for Wendover; how did we then get to Halton? When were (or even if) our medical examinations carried out? Did we spend our first nights there in the same rooms we would occupy once 'signed-on'? Had we pre-selected our individual trades or was there some degree of 'pot-luck' involved? How long was it before we were 'kitted out'? The questions go on, but that's enough for now, so if anyone can help I look forward to hearing from you.

20 Dec 10.

From Sach.

Having studied Bob's cutting in zoom, I realized how the passage of time clouds the memory. I could have sworn it was in 1955, not 1957. As I recall, we entertained some local deprived children (probably from an orphanage) and I was latched on to by a young girl with pigtails. (Lucky you mate!) I can't remember who made the Sputnik but I do remember Santa alighting from it; Chunky Plumley I think.

Wishing all our readers the compliments of the season.

19 Dec 10.



(Of special interest to Armourers maybe, but very interesting pictures all the same. To see them copy this URL and paste it into your explorer: Brian.}




18 Dec 10.

From Frank Chammings.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our 81st colleagues.

Am I only one who can't remember that Christmas party as we must have all been involved? Who organised it and why the 81st as we were not the senior entry then ?

(You're not alone Frank, I have no recollection of it either. Brian.)

15 Dec 10.

From Bob Galbraith,

I came across this cutting in an old book it might bring back some memories.

(Sorry but you may need to zoom in a bit to read the clipping. Brian.)

11 Dec 10.

From Mike Stanley.

I recall being pounced on by Joe SWO when making my way down to workshops on my own. My 'crime' was not swinging my arms shoulder high, almost impossible as we were in in great coat order at the time.

After sending me doubling away to his office to clean my buttons, where a nice motherly lady dispensed Duraglit, button-stick and polishing-cloth, it was back to Joe, who sent me on my way with encouraging shouts of "Swing them arms shoulder high!"

So maybe it was Joe SWO who introduced it.

11 Dec 10

From Brian.

If you run Google Earth and fancy a bit of aircraft recognition try pasting these co-ordinates into its 'search' box:

30 21 12N 87 18 17W

10 Dec 10.

From Sach.

Re. your last and the reference to learning how to drill. When did the RAF start the awful habit of swinging arms shoulder high whilst marching? It looks dreadful. I seem to remember in our day it was waist belt high fore and aft.

(Totally agree with you Sach.....even just waist belt high must have been painful if marching behind our Russ. Brian.

8 Dec 10.

From Brian.

Take your mind back to our early days in 3(A) Wing and the hours we spent on the square trying to get arms, legs, feet and brains round the intricacies of rifle drill. Now spend a few minutes watching these Norwegian King's Guard soldiers (mostly national service Ed Wagstaff assures me in the e-mail he sent) showing us how it can be done. Copy and paste this URL into your browser, it's good viewing, especially the "propellor" bit

26 Nov 10.

From Sach.


As I recollect, drawers cellular (manufactured by HMP {Her Majesty's Prison}) would disintegrate after a few visits to the laundry. I had a pair that consisted of the elastic waistband with some long shreds hanging from it. The trouble with exchanging them was that you used your clothing allowance, which meant you had less money when you went on leave.

24 Nov 10.

From Frank Chammings.

Re shreddies: when doing an engineering audit of the Defence Flying Training School at RAF Shawbury I came across a reference to shreddies on the message board of the aircrew restaurant. I can't remember the details but it was obvious from the comments that most of the readers were in the dark.

24 Nov 10.

From Brian.

"Shreddies" defiitely was the word used in reference to the issued Drawers Cellular (although I'm sure we probably used the word equally for any alternative type of UPs..... were "Y" fronts invented then??) but I think another possible reason for using that description was because, when worn, the ruddy things quickly shredded between the legs caused by the continuous rubbing of the sand-paper like serge that working blue trousers were made of..... we did one hell of a lot of such shredding marching up and down from the Wings to workshops, schools and, even more so, to the airfield!

21 Nov 10

From Sach.

"Posbie". Was that not the shortened version of Post Office Savings Book? I seem to remember a "posbie" b*****d was someone who saved his shillings rather that spending them.

23 Nov 10.

From Mike Stanley.

Thinking about the slang/jargon we used whilst in the RAF (and I still do use some and I left in 1968!) I always thought that certain words were Halton Speak rather than RAF speak. Words I rarely heard being used out in the 'big' RAF, other than by an ex brats:

'Snag' (already mentioned by Brian).

'Tank' referring to the NAAFI canteen.

'Skate 'as in Skates Alley.

'Trog' as in Trog mac and thus a style of walking when wearing that garment.

'Reest' or 'reesty', as in 'reesting in your pit' (sometimes reist?).

'Shreddies', describing how sometimes Drawers Cellular would be returned from the Aylesbury Laundry.

However that last one seems to be a Northern term for underwear - could it have been a Northern born Apprentice who first used the term at Halton?

(Another one, like Mike, I never heard used after Halton was 'Posbie'; used in expressions like "He's a posbie b*****d!!!". Brian.)

21 Nov 10.

From Brian.

All those of our Entry who look at this website will remember an e-mail I sent out asking if anyone had the knowledge and the willingness to run it The result of that question was a resounding negative so I surmised that everyone (other than Willie Keays, who had designed and run our previous website but, understandably, had given it up to devote his on-line time to business concerns) was as ignorant of such technology as myself. I therefore asked my son in law to design a simple, easy to navigate website and teach me to a standard that would enable me to run it myself. John did both of those things and I am deeply grateful to him. This "new" basic website has now been up and running for a considerable period and I trust that it meets with your approval; the fact that articles for inclusion in the Journal keep coming in would suggest that it does. Anyway, to "cut to the chase" (another modern expression, rather like "24/7" and many others all equally annoying....or is that my misplaced intolerance?) an hour or so ago I was sitting downstairs bored to tears with Sunday afternoon "Telly" when my mind went to the website and how I could stir up some enthusiasm for the Feedback thanks to those of you that, every now and then, try the same ploy... what came into my mind was "slang" and how, just like the youth of today, we had our own Halton version and that it, like the "innits", the "likes" and the "am I bovvered?" of today must have been equally confusing to our parents and elders. Simple examples are words like "snag" (relating to rank not serviceability), "pit", "jankers" etc. etc. As you can see, not many came to mind, but my mind ain't nearly as good as once it was so I came up here to my study (box room really in our 1930s type 3-bed) switched on the kompooter (spelling not great either, but I love upsetting "Spellcheck", don't you?), pulled up good old Google and typed in "Brat speak". Amongst the websites that Google came up with was the 65th Entry's ( which I clicked on; it's huge, brimming with nostalgia, and I recommend it to you. When on that website's home-page click on "Brat videos" and work your way through the list that comes up; you'll need a load of time to view them all but if the few I've just had a look at are anything to go by then you won't be disappointed.

Best regards to all.

17 Nov 10.

From Willie.

Ref Adrian Gates 10 Nov 2010.

I hope you don't take it too unkindly but us Cyprus Triumph Owners Motor Cycle Club (CTOMCC) used to refer to your S R as 'Adrian's Super Rachet'!

10 Nov 10.

From Adrian Gates.

As usual I enjoyed the new journal entries especially the 2nd article about the return from Cyprus in 1961 by motor cycle of Willie and co. The reason I returned from Cyprus in 1963 via Greece and then over Italy was because of the lousy fuel on their route and even so as a precaution I fitted 8 to 1 pistons in place of the 9 to 1 as standard on the Super Rocket at that time. It is a pity 'Tad' seems to have disappeared as I spent several weeks 'glued' to his back wheel when I first got the S R in Cyprus when he was showing me the roads. I had more 'tank slappers' in that short time than in the rest of my 250,000 miles m/c, not really surprising on twisty poor roads, following a Norton ridden by a maniac, while I was on the recently purchased S R.

Returning to the theme of C of SO. Alas I can still remember my session on the punishment which extended into the week end. There was not time to go back to the block between the hourly laying out the kit on the guardroom steps so we just went round the corner and waited for the next session. My stint was extended for some trivial reason on 2 occasions and I became so fed up I refused to continue to 'play their games'. I denied I had ever been put on C of SO and vehemently stressed that I would never agree to such a punishment. Nothing happened and I believe that the 'regime' ended. I have often wondered if I was responsible for the ban of the C of SO.

30 Oct 10.

From Sach.

I still have the same four brushes as John and yourself; can't remember the other two though. The original brushes and towels as issued were the only bits of kit that lasted. The towels survived many years of use until they eventually disintegrated.

From left to right: polish putter-onner, clothes, polish-taker offer and blanco.

29 Oct 10.

From John Taylor.

Just cleaning my shoes the other day when I realised that I had had these brushes in my possession for over 55 years and still going strong. I believe we had six brushes in total but I don't seem to have the other two. Does anyone still have a full set or know what the other two were used for?.

(I've still got the same four as in John's photos, also still going strong and in use pretty much every day.....maybe there were only these four issued. Unless someone out there knows differently? Brian.)

26 Oct 10.

From. Brian.

All of us who are Association members will be aware that what was the RAFHAAA has had one of the As (the one standing for "Aircraft") removed from its acronym reflecting the fact that membership is open to all apprentices trained at Halton.Whether one is personally in favour of that (and I'm one who isn't) is now irrelevant as the change has occurred. Only members of the RAFHAA normally get to know about details like this, and many others that reflect on our lives past and present, because they receive occasional newsletters and two "Haltonian" magazines each year. There is, however, an online social networking site for the Association, as the message following this from John Taylor explains. Uunlike myself John regularly looks at this website and, quite rightly, over some months he has been pointing out to me some of the discussion subjects on it. How many of you are aware of this site (and look at it) I have no way of knowing but my thoughts are that most, like me, stay clear of such"chat" sites; certainly this was indicated by the lack of interest in the "Forum" that was set up when this site first started. I have approached John with the suggestion that, if willing, he acts as a sort of liaison between this networking site and ourselves by picking out subjects that may be of interest to us and then, through me, posting messages on this Feedback page to let us know what he's found. My thanks to him for agreeing to do just that.

26 Oct 10.

From. John Taylor.

As some of you might be aware the RAFHAA web page has a social networking site where members can contact friends from years past and get up to date information as regards the Association and what is happening at RAF Halton. To belong to the networking site does not involve any registration fee and you do not have to belong to the RAFHAA.

One of the projects being carried out by the Association at the moment is to provide encrypted 'Pavers' for Entries and individuals at the National Arboretum. Steps have been taken to provide a paver for the 81st entry with the motto as per the Entry badge and the years spent at Halton.

Another talking point at the start of October was the fact that the sole survivor of the 1st entry would be 104 years old on the 15th October this year. A discussion took part on what title the said individual should be called. It was decided that the title should be 'King Brat' and members were asked to send as many greeting cards for his birthday. A card from the 81st Entry was dispatched.

On the 16th of November there is to be a Remembrance Day parade at RAF Halton along with the dedication of the stained glass window for the New Zealand apprentices. The New Zealand High commissioner would appear to be attending. A finger buffet lunch at Halton House will be provided with costs varying. Ex Brat Numbers appear to be rather slim and members are being urged to attend.

23 Sep 10.

From Sach.

Good to see my old mate Bert has been in touch.

I have vague recollections that whilst we were at Cranwell he was detached to Uxbridge for a period to do the "Ceremonial bit" (before the Rockapes took over) under the tutelage of Arthur Lenz. It would be interesting to hear his story of that time.

I wonder if you would contact him to see how his memory is and please give him my good wishes.

(I'll make sure Bert reads this Sach. Brian).

23 Sep 10.

From Mike Stanley.

What a pleasant surprise to see Bert's email on the feedback page. His mention of visiting his parents' farm brought back some memories (caponising chickens being one of them!).

One day I will write the unexpurgated story of how Bert, Eric S, Ray B and myself spent 2 weeks of our post pass out leave, starting in Uggsborough, Devon, and finishing at Hall Farm.

(Looking forward to that Mike!! Brian).

22 Sep 10

It's been many a year since I had contact with Bert Hall so it was a really welcome surprise to receive this email message from him yesterday; I emailed him back to ask if I could put his message on the Feedback page and in true Bert fashion his answer was "Go, for it babe. Pass it on!!".

Hi Brian.

Had a thought the other day. Get in touch with all them idiots that visited the farm all those years ago. Remember them.?? Doug Pirie ( became a borne again christian last I heard) Stan, Mike Henry, Stoney and all the others who fell in love with my 'hot sister'?

I'm not good at keeping in touch with the past - too many memories and I'm not into nostalgia.

I've had a reasonably eventful life I suppose mostly revolving around wine women and song, children, and grandchildren and not much in a useful sense. As an example my latest thing is to produce a Sussex salami. Not the most interesting of occupations but, along with the hams, coppa, chorizo, sausages and such, all produced in the garden shed, I suppose it's a bit unusual, actually the salamis etc. are pretty bloody good.

On a bit of a down note I had a minor heart attack a few months ago. It went unattended for eight months and I was treated for bloody 'heartburn and reflux' until I invoked my insurance and got an angiogram. It showed a blocked right artery and I've now had every test under the sun. My cardio thinks that any surgical intervention is more risky than leaving well alone and relying on drugs and exercise. To think that in June '09 I could do 100 press-ups and 200 sit ups, an hour on the bike at high pulse - probably the fittest septagenerian I know and turn into a battered bloody wreck in a year is a bit sobering. Add to that a rotator cuff and arthroscopic abrasion to the right shoulder and it's been a pretty anno horribilis for yours truly. Still; the offspring are AOK. Eldest grandson plays in the National ATC band and went ot the Queens Birthday Party and hs sister looks like following his footsteps. Another grandson is a national level swimmer, cello player of note for his age and a black belt Karate - at ten!!. No 1 son was a Flt Lt for seven years as well so it's not been all bad.

Anyway me old lover must away and do the heart thing. Be in touch.

Bert Hall.

17 Sep 10.

From Sach.

"Flog It".

I made a note to watch the program then forgot about it. I caught upwith it later on iplayer.

Who would have have thought an old spear and a piece of Zebra skin would be so valuable. Good on you Nick; I celebrated your success with a couple of drams.

16 Sep 10.

Tod Slaughter has asked me to post this message here.

The Triennial Reunion at Halton is on Saturday 25th of September 2010.

Dave Sidgwick and I plan to attend. I hope to see some of you there.

15 Sep 10

Although this message from Ken Williams doesn't answer the question I posed about the dress for CoSO it does add to the "discussion" and (hopefully) may generate more responses.

Brian ref your question about the dress for jankers:

I only did 14 days in total including 7 in the first term, but remember most of the difficulties of being on jankers AND the problems of getting off without getting a few more days.

The dress code was basically:

06.45: Best blue and full webbing.

During lunch break (I don't remember the specific time): Working blue.

18.00: Working blue carrying denims (you guessed it) for fatigues, which usually meant working in the tin room.

21.00: Best blue with webbing again.

The parade was inspected every time and some duty officers really laid it on. Nick Carter loved to watch people darning their socks while sitting on the guardroom steps and, of course, you always had to drink the water.

If you were on over the weekend there were more parades and more fatigues.

(Apart from the cook-house fatigues, when on Jankers, it seems that CoSO was a somewhat worse punishment....or is that totally incorrect? Brian.)

14 Sep 10.

From Brian

Tony Birchenough is currently staying with his sister in Chippenham (just down the road) so as to be able to have a family get together for his 72nd this Thursday. Tony and I made contact a few years ago when my wife, who was a CS employed by the MOD in Bristol, learnt that a colleague there had a brother-in-law who had been an A/A at Halton in the 50s. "Oh, my hubbie was one of those!" and it soon transpired that we were both of the 81st. A short while after that Tony visited his sister and he and I met up for a bevy or two in a local hostelry. Since then more than his fair share of water has passed under Tony's bridge as you may well have read in a recent edition to this page. Anyway with him in the area again Tony and I met in another local boozer yesterday lunchtime and had a long, and very interesting, chat over yet more bevies. He may have had his voice-box taken out but believe me he can still run a marathon in the talking stakes and, apart from having to continually press on the external valve device he has in his throat in order to be able to talk, he still sounds like the same old Tony. Even more respect now mate.

Part of our conversation was about the very successful 81st Entry Sweat-shirts/Polo-shirts that Tony had made for a number of us before our last reunion; if the orders are there he says he may well be able to do the same again ready for next year. The ones I bought are now well worn and could do with replacement so I can only hope that there is a response to this, either after this is read, or after I mention it in a future email.

13 Sep 10.

From Brian.

Tod's memory of Change of Station Order has kindled one of my own (and from so long ago that takes some doing, believe me!) and that is that not every appearance at the Henderson Guardroom was in Best Blue but that it alternated between that and working dress. I'm probably, even more than likely, to be way off beam here but I'm sure someone knows whether I'm right or wrong....maybe even someone who hasn't contributed to this page yet!!

13 Sep 10.

From Sach.

It's good to see that these memories are generating some responses and the boys are putting pen to paper, or should I say fingers to keyboards.

I was on the phone to an old mate on the south coast (Ernie King, 82nd Engines, who was in 1 Wing) and asked him what he remembered about CoSO and who instigated it. He couldn't answer the latter but did remember being lumbered with the dreaded punishment.

He was already on seven days jankers for being absent from his room job (in his words, "I was on the bog at the time!") when he was awarded CoSO for being late for mess-serving. The punishment was awarded by Plt Off Maloney who, by all accounts, was a right prat and disliked by all.

The procedure for CoSO has already been recounted by Tod, so I won't repeat it. Ernie asked to see the Flt Sgt Plod and told him he was already on jankers. Much to his surprise, the Flt Sgt said, "If you mention this to anyone and it comes out, I will deny it, but you can forget about doing the rest of your CoSO". What a kind man.

11 Sep 10.

CHANGE OF STATION ORDER (as I remember it).

From Tod Slaughter.

It was dreamed up by WO Rich of 1Wing.

He would award the apprentice 3, 5 or 7 days depending on the severity of their "crime" (haircut,shave etc. etc.).

He was judge, jury (and executioner) and there was no "Right of Appeal".

The punishment consisted of the miscreant reporting to the guardroom at hourly intervals during the evening (after schools or workshops) in full Change of Station Order, which consisted of wearing Best Blue with full webbing plus kitbag perched on top of the backpack; all kit, with the exception of bedding, which belonged to station stores, had to be packed away in these containers.

The "snoops" at the guardroom played along with this and would be liable to make the victims unload all their kit onto the steps of the guardroom and "carefully" check that everything was present and correct. This included an inspection of the instep of the footwear to make sure that it was polished and the reverse of the cap badge for the same reason! Usually on the last day the unwary were made to drink the contents of their waterbottle which after seven days could be a fairly unpleasant experience!!

Was it illegal? Of course it was! Why did nobody complain? If you stick your head over the parapet you are liable to get it "chopped off". didn't go on your record!!

Ahh, happy days!?@!?

(Thanks Tod. Brian.)

11 Sep 10.

From Mike Stanley.

Maybe W/O Rich was the inventor but certainly W/O Carter of No. 2 Wing was an ardent disciple of Change of Station Order (see 'Mr Carter' article in Journal #10) Was it only Warrants who could dispense this sort of 'justice' or did it extend further down the pecking order?

I remember it was 'sold' to us as something to our benefit (!!) as the punishment wouldn't appear on our records, whereas the fact that one had been a defaulter stayed on for a number of years.

I read /heard /dreamt that the practise wasn't in accordance with QR's and ACI's and was later abandoned, anyone know anything about that?

Maybe those who were accorded the privilege of Change of Station Order instead of doing Janks could now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights and sue the Air Ministry (or its successor the MoD) for damages, as their human rights were abused and their civil liberties disregarded.

I'm sure that well known firm of solicitors, Soo, Grabbe and Leggate would, for an up front fee, fight the case.

(Thanks Mike but would that be on a "No Win no Pay" basis? [Maybe one for Robert L of the 81st to answer]. Brian.)

11 Sep 10.

Here's one from Nick Copley that's a bit different.

Just thought I would let you know that I should be appearing on the BBC 'Flog It' programme, scheduled to be broadcast on the 15th September on BBC2 at 1545 hrs. So tune in if you want a laugh - the date also coincides with our 48th Wedding Anniversary.

I do not have many contacts with 81st Entry members but if you wish to inform them - jolly good.

Regards to all.

(I rarely miss "Flog It" myself as it comes on the kitchen box just as I sit down for an afternoon cuppa....wonder how many others find it interesting? Congrats to Nick and Eve on their 48th, I guess there's many of us with such (+ or - a few years) anniversaries occurring nowadays. Brian.)

PS. I phoned Nick later to ensure that what I uploaded was OK with him: he emailed me back to say it is OK and that for anyone watching the programme he'll be the ugly one (his words) with a beard chatting to Charlie Ross.

8 Sep 10.

One from me for a change. Brian.

In order to be awarded "Jankers" (or a worse punishment) one had to be subject to a F252 and paraded in front of his Flt Cdr (or higher rank if deemed necessary) with evidence given. In No1(A) Wing, however, we had a gruelling punishment that could be awarded without the formalities of an official charge, it was known as "Change of Station Order". I remember doing a week of this punishment but can't remember who gave it to me or even too much about what it entailed; does anyone remember more about it and was the rumour that it was designed by W/O Rich (our Wing W/O) true? Did the other Wings have the same system?

8 Sep 10.

Sach has come up with a couple more of his Halton memories; does anyone else remember the incidents, maybe someone reading this even took part in one (or both)?

Were any members of the 81st Entry involved in the inter-wing ballistic missile episode or the Halton Cresta run? The sledges for the Cresta run were made by unbolting the curved tops of bed ends and jamming them between the slats of duck-boards from the showers. The latter all came to an end after someone cracked his skull on a tree and ended up in PMH.

31 Aug 10.

From Frank Chammings.

I remember the speech but I thought it was in our first year, I was completely bewildered as I didn't realise there was anything untoward, I mean bull boys were the norm; I did one night for someone in the 74th when we were in 3 Wing then, when we reached being senior entry, the junior entry in our room volunteered to do our bull. I am eternally grateful as Wally Butters and I could shoot off on his motorbike kept at a pub at Great Missendon. We used to drink beer shandies at the pub and walk back though the fields, often through fields with cattle which used to chase us if we alarmed them. We used tracksuits to escape the camp over the hills behind 3 Wing. The authorities probably had our interests in mind but to get 18 years old not to drink alcohol was probably a step too far.

30 Aug 10.

From Jim Lee.

Further to the feedback re the "Rotten Apples"; that afternoon I was hitch hiking to London just the other side of Tring, when a Morris minor pulled up beside me, and who should the driver be but the group captain i/c workshops, I can't remember his name, but needless to say I did not get to London that weekend and I spent the next 7 days reporting to the guardroom at all sorts of odd hours.

30 Aug 10.

From Mike Stanley.

Ref. Sach's question:

As far as I can recall it was Air Cmdr Mac K Nelson who gave the "rotten apples" speech; it must have been in our second year (?). He had taken over from 'Tin Can Wal ' in 1956 and Air Cmdr Coslett arrived in April of 1958.

There must have been a change of plan concerning those working their tickets and/or generally not being up to the high standards of RAF Halton (!) because not long after the speech there was an exodus from the ranks of A/A's. At least three from my room in 2 Wing went in swift order, either out of the RAF completely or like the bloke from the 79th in the next bed space to mine who re-mustered as a Rockape!! Mind you he was a plumber and so already half way there!

(Thanks Mike, respect!. I have difficulty remembering what I had for breakfast this morning let alone what happenened 54 years ago. Any other recollections of that "memorable" event or, indeed, others from those far off days will be gratefully added to this Feedback page....names do not have to be mentioned if so required. Brian.)

29 Aug 10.

This query has come to me from Sach; I don't even recall the event but maybe someone reading this will. If you do remember it please let me know. Brian.

Who was the Air Commodore that gave the infamous "rotten apples" speech at the sports arena after a Station parade? E.D Mac K Nelson or Coslett?

8 Aug 10

From Frank Chammings.

Re Willie's tremendous achievement.

Well done Willie, it doesn't seem like 5 minutes that you started the Masters must be record time, thanks for the info, like the tie.

Best Wishes,


Back on 1 Jul I received an email from Tony Birchenough that he has just given me the go-ahead to put here in the Feedback page. As you all may know Tony had to have very intrusive surgery, what's known as a laryngectomy, some months ago; his recovery and his maintained cheerfulness are a lesson to us all. Good on you mate!

Tony writes:

Hiya All,

Just to show that getting old and infirm doesn't have to be boring, proving once again the old adage "It's not what you know, but who you know".

Needless to say I'll keep trying to disprove that. I know it won't be easy, but somebody's gotta do it and I figure I ain't got much to lose.


3 Aug 10.

This must be another first for the 81st Entry, unless you know otherwise, that is.

Willie (Seamus) Hamill-Keays has recently been awarded a Masters Degree (with distinction) in Celtic Studies from Lampeter College, University of Wales, and is now contemplating taking another next year in Rangers Studies.

Congratulations Seamus, your brain-cells must be well and truly stimulated, a lesson (no pun intended) to us all.

20 Jul 10

From Mike Stanley

My step-father, who was himself a pilot (RAF and then Fleet Air Arm), would often quote the "old and bold" aphorism . He also had another:

"Only fools and birds fly, and birds don't fly at night."

It was probably remembering that saying which kept my feet firmly on the deck!

(Owls being an exception of course Mike, and they're allegedly "the wise old birds"! Brian.)

20 Jul 10

Hi Brian.

A couple more from the archives. The occasion was the 50th anniversary of 210 Sqn at Ballykelly.

Photo 1: Flypast on three. Photo 2: All four turning.


15 Jul 10

Following this year's Flying Legends Air Show at Duxford Tod has sent me this photo and with it the old adage that it evokes: " There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no old bold pilots!"

(Another good one Tod, thanks for sending it in. Brian.)

"On the shoulders of these, our intelligent young aircrew, rests the safety of the Nation!!!!", or a quote, very similar to it, made sometime by someone.

4 Jul 10

From Tod Slaughter

Hi Brian,

Feedback seems to have gone a bit quiet. Maybe we need something to smile about. How about this taken on exercise in Scotland!:


(Good one Tod, thanks for sending it. Brian.)

31 May 10

Another email has just come in, this one from Kris Penney. It's a personal letter to me but I'm sure Kris will not object to my putting his first paragraph "On Record" by including it here on the Feedback page. As all are aware Kris is financing this Website up until our next reunion in September 2011 which makes his comments about the Journal even more succinct than the pleas put out by Mike Stanley and myself.

Dear Brian,

Many thanx for your last e-mail re the possible final throes of The Journal. I am a little late in replying due to further trips to the hospital, but I am nevertheless sad to read the bad news. A lot of effort had gone into getting The Journal set up, with time that had been given and spent quite willingly by a few stalwart members. I feel sure that should the Journal have to bite the dust a lot of us will be extremely disappointed and lots of letters will be forthcoming. Whatever happens Brian there is no blame on any shoulders of the editorial staff, you fought a good fight and lack of interest or concern on the part of the Entry members has put you all in a position that cannot be maintained or tolerated.

(My sincere thanks to Kris. A recent phone call to Mike seems to indicate that there may be reason for optimism as at least one person has responded positively by sending in four articles. Here's hoping more will make the effort. Brian.)

31 May 10

I've just had an email from Frank Chammings with a Netsite address that brings up a very interesting 8.5 minute B & W documentary coverage of the Japanese surrender on 2 Sep 45; it's well worth looking at.

If interested just "Copy and Paste" the following address into your internet browser:


15 May 10

A few days ago Dave Hughes emailed me regarding two articles in Feedback. He wanted to know more details about the Mig15 in Tod's article of 19 Apr as he may well have been onboard the Shackleton MR2 in the photograph's background; he was also very interested in knowing more about the Lockheed Lodestar in Sach's article of 28 Sep last year. I put Dave on to both Tod and Sach and after some emailing to and fro between them I received a cc of one Dave sent to Sach with a comprehensive history of that Lodestar; Dave gave me the go-ahead to put some, or all, of his email on Feedback so what follows is all of it, and most comprehensive it is too. Brian


Firstly, may I thank you for your speedy reply. Though what follows generally answers my immediate query, I would still like to develop my interest in this aircraft further given your permission. In doing so, full credit will be given to you as owner of the photograph. Please confirm that it is OK for me to continue.

The clues to the identity of your aircraft came in the photo of the aircraft in the museum in Montevideo. Reference to Peter J Marson's book "The Lockheed Twins" tells me that this aircraft, registered N69415 in the photo, is a Lodestar 18-56 with manufacturer's serial number 18-2349. On the fin can be seen the number 26 and when I look at the information available on N69415, it tells me that when employed by "Fairchild Aerial Survey Corp", it was allocated the additional number FN26, which I take to be Fleet Number 26. It is interesting that the leading edge of N69415 is painted in the same manner as that in your photo with the latter having that faded number 34. I am not experienced in aerial survey work but I assume the aerial in your photo and the two on the Montevideo aircraft relate to this type of operation.

Further investigation in Peter J Marson's book gives the following for Fairchild Aerial Survey Corp:

"Also known as Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc, the company carried out worldwide aerial photographic mapping, magnetometer, magnetic gradiometer and radiation survey service for many years with Lockheed 14 and 18 aircraft. The company became a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp in 1961; other subsidiary companies included the Fairchild Engineering Co and the Fairchild Photometer Co." Fairchild would appear to have operated five Lockheed aircraft: Lodestars 18-2349 (as above) and 18-2363 (N2722A - FN34), Hudson 414-7494 (NR50651 - crashed 29/10/52), and Lockheed 12A/s 1221 (YV-P-AED - operated by Fairchild in Peru while on the Venezuelan register!!) and 1223 (NC18126 - a/c owned 50/50 with Shell and used in Ecuador).

For interest, the Hudson Model 414 was a development of the Lockheed Model 14 Super Electra, the Model 414 being the version designed in 1939 for the RAF (1738 delivered of various marks) though later versions of the same aircraft were also supplied to the RCAF and RNZAF.

So Sach, the aircraft in your photo is Lockheed Lodestar Model 18-56, manufacturers serial number 18-2363, registered at the time as N2722A and with Fleet Number 34, though the registration is not discernible in the photo and the fleet number faded (had someone tried to erase this?). Power plants would appear to have been two 1200hp Wright Cyclone GR-1820's. Its full history was:

"(Model) 18-56-23/C-60A-5-LO (serial number) 42-55926 (to) USAAF (delivered or fly-away factory date) 15Feb43. To Long Beach, United Nations for RCAF. To Canada 22Feb43, (serial) RCAF 555, (taken on charge) TOC 24Feb43 (struck off charge) SOC 12Dec46. Reg'd CF-FKW (to) World Wide Aviation, ferried Canada-Iceland-Prestwick-Paris 6Jun47. To Fairchild Aerial Surveys Inc, reg'd N2722A, FN34 (Apr 54). Used by Fairchild Engineering Co/Fairchild Photometer Co (Apr 55). (Cancelled from US register) Cx 11Jun62. To Societe Anonyme Carta, reg'd F-BKBY 15Jun62. (Damaged beyond repair) DBR when aircraft hit trees flying low at Compeigne, France 22Jun62, causing the port engine to fail. Emergency landing made at Creil. Stored unrepaired there until scrapped 1969.

NB: Except for the two date (Apr54) and (Apr55), the bits in brackets are to assist just in case you are not familiar with the abbreviations used. My apologies if you already understand.

My thoughts: I think that when you photo'd the a/c, it was probably between owners, there being no apparent trace of a US or other registration. Even in those far off days there were often extended periods when an aircraft may have languished unattended. In that sense, do you have any thoughts on how long it sat in the hangar before it presumably departed to France? Societe Anonyme Carta was also an aerial survey company which "operated one L-18 in the 1960s (but not for long apparently).

One final question. Sach - You date the photo as 1961 but have you any thoughts on how long the aircraft had been in the hangar and how long it remained afterwards? Any further info would help.

Finally, may I thank you for your help in pointing me in the correct direction and may I then say to you and to Brian - if you wish to include any of the above in "Feedback", please do so. I suppose I should then ask that if any others in the Entry have old photos (pre 1970's) they would love to identify, I would be only too willing to help!

Cheers and thanks!


12 May 10.

From Frank Chammings.


The Javelin crash reminded me of a Javelin crash at Wildenrath c 1962. It was a Friday and a few of us were going to spend the weekend skiing at Winterburg, Don Higgins, Alan Waghorn and myself included. All the alarms went off about lunchtime, a Javelin had crashed on the threshold of the runway not too far from our hangar of 88 Sqdn. We all rushed over to find the aircraft on its back with the navigator still inside. The pilot had ejected but at a low level and was taken away still in his seat if I remember correctly. The nav had tried to eject but the seat had not gone away and had fallen forward so he was trapped inside the cockpit upside down. We started to dig the sandy soil from underneath the cockpit, the nav's arm was between the seat and the fuselage, when we had dug enough out a medic pumped some morphine into it. We soon realised that we were not going to rescue the nav from underneath. He asked for more morphine but the medic said no, he wasn't sure if the morphine was getting though as the nav's arm appeared to be squashed against the seat. They had to get a crane there to lift the aircraft but to do that a firm road was required as the ground was swampy (Wildenrath means wild swamp, so I understand) so a lot of timber was laid down to allow a crane to get close enough to the aircraft to lift it up. The armourers realised that the seat was not safe as it was, so when the aircraft was lifted a bit a Sgt armourer (I forget his name) used our tunnel and made the seat safe and was later commended for his actions. We then realised that we were in danger all the time we were digging the tunnel as there was always the danger that if the seat had fired, the Javelin could have lifted up and fallen down on us.

As it was we went off to Winterburg and had a terrific Saturday getting soaking wet when crashing into each other on our skis. I think that Alan broke one of his skis which was not appreciated when we returned them. We had such a good evening around the bars that it was impossible to do any skiing on the Sunday and we ended up having a good lunch at a restaurant on one of the mountains before we went back to camp.

11 May 10.

From Sach Goodwin.

A close shave, a case of familiarity breeding contempt, or was it just how to get blown up twice in one day.

1964 and I'm a corporal on 6219 Flt of 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn at RAF Swanton Morley. We were clearing the recently closed RAF Barnham, a former explosives M.U. At Barnham were some large pits where we had disposed of, by burning, some unmentionables from the site behind three barbed wire fences and watchtowers. (Google RAF Barnham for info on the site).

RAF stations in the area would send their time-ex 'bits and bobs' to us for disposal, also oddments that were washed up on the beaches. On this particular day, we had a heap of 108/109 electric detonators (Canberra canopy & hatch dets), the 11 lb cordite fillings from a number of 3 inch rocket motors, a couple of igniters-incendiary (4 lb hexagonal incendiary bombs) and some life-ex rockets-buoyant-line-carrying (ex Coastguard) for disposal.

'Twas a bright sunny day at Barnhan and nearby some officer cadets from RAF Feltwell, under the command of a Sqn Ldr 'rock-ape' and his staff, were setting out their tented camp. Tents were set out in line using long strings and measuring tapes to set the distance between each tent. They even had a marquee mess tent set up with all the silver and napkin rings in little pigeonholes!

In one of the burning pits we placed two empty 1,000 lb TI (target indicator) cases, with some 3 inch rocket motor fillings at the bottom of each and then piled the 108/109 dets on top. The idea being that the burning rocket motor cordite would then cause the dets to pop. Our illustrious Sergeant (famed for using 6 inches of safety fuse and the fastest hundred yards in the world) had forgotten to bring the initiators, so his preferred method of ignition was to cover the cordite with a sandbag, drown it with petrol from the Land Rover and throw in a flaming rag. Whilst this was going on my mate, who was to be my best man, took the Land Rover and a couple of chaps up the hill to the campsite to warn them that there would be some smoke and flame but there was nothing to worry about. Whilst he was giving the warning, the fire had been lit. The rest of us were standing round the edge of the pit (bloody idiots) watching the conflagration. As we were a law unto ourselves we were all wearing trog boots, hairy trousers and nothing on top; as I mentioned earlier, 'twas a sunny day. The fire got a bit hot and as I turned to walk away there was an almighty bang. To this day I don't know whether I fell down or was blown down. I looked up and the sky was full of lumps of flaming material. We picked ourselves up, rather shakily, and realised that there were many fires burning in the long tinder-dry grass and Thetford Chase was not too far away. Whilst we were stamping out the fires the officer cadets came charging down the hill, (Sqn Ldr leading), carrying fire extinguishers and extinguished the rest. The Sqn Ldr had to poke his nose in and came across for a chat; he looked at me, his face went white and he asked if I was OK. On looking down at my bared chest I saw that it was covered in blood. These minor injuries turned out to be scratches sustained when I hit the deck and bounced on the chalk and PSP surrounding the pit.

We retired for a brew and our packed lunches and then went out again to get rid of the remaining 'bits and bobs'. This time we used a smaller pit further down the slope and put in the remaining dets, the rockets-buoyant-line-carrying and the igniters-incendiary. The pit was covered with a metal door and weighed down with lumps of concrete. Ignition was obtained by connecting one end of a long bit of cable to the incendiaries and by touching the other end to the Land Rover battery. Once again, plenty of smoke and another almighty bang. The metal door was split in two and blown high into the air along with more lumps of flaming material and, once again, more fires started. These were quickly extinguished and we went back to base at Swanton, a quieter, more reflective bunch of guys than had set out that morning in high spirits. Back at base I passed the flight sergeant's open office door and a voice boomed out, "Sach, in the office and shut the door behind you." (This man had been my boss at Bruggen and we were old mates). The nosey Sqn Ldr at Barnham had obviously been on the phone because his first question was, "No buggering about, what happened?" Having told the truth and being thanked, the sergeant was called in and I suppose he had his fortune read. It obviously didn't do any good, as events later in the year at Kuantan were to prove.

Once again it goes to show that APs and the rules and regulations are there to be followed.

(Sach apologised to me for the length of this "There but for the Grace of God ......" story. Many thanks Sach and certainly no need to apologise, I just wish there were more stories like yours coming in. Brian.)

3 May 10

From Tod Slaughter.


After the surprise of finding photos of the Migs at El Adem on the web I found one of a Javelin which I never knew existed.

It brought back memories of the accident that it was involved in back in the late July of 1959. I was a J/T engine fitter on 64 Sqd'n at Duxford helping to get their Javelins airborne. At the time we were on detachment to Nicosia, Cyprus.

"Golf" took off on an early morning sortie and when at 35,000ft things went wrong. They lost nos. 1 and 2 hydraulic pumps which left them without pressure to the undercarriage, flaps, airbrakes and half power to the flying controls! Rather than eject the crew decided to risk a landing. Nicosia was out of the question as there was no room for an overshoot at either end of the runway so they elected to land at Akrotiri. They used the emergency air to blow the wheels down and headed south. After a high speed touch-down they left the runway still motoring along at around 90 knots before taking to the "bondoo"! Towards the end of their ride a five foot bank wiped off the undercarriage and they slid to a halt some 600 yards on the overshoot! Both pilot and navigator emerged unhurt but the Jav. was Cat.5.

I was the fitter detailed with the other trades to render it safe so we travelled by Land Rover to where she lay. Upon arrival I had to dig a trench just aft of the nose wheel to be able to remove the starter bay panel and unload the cartridges. Then I removed the side panel just forward of the intake to drain the Avpin which accounts for the panel missing on the photo (The starter system used both cartridge and Avpin which caused the starter motor to disintegrate much too often for my liking!!).

The picture shows at least one "snoop" guarding it sometime after the rest of us had gone.

27 Apr 10

From Ken Williams

Tod's shot of the Mig 15 brought back memories of my holiday at El Adem. The Migs were Egyptian and were on their way to the Algerian Independence Day celebrations. The a/c were impounded and the crews whisked away to Transit. I believe their release was sanctioned by No 10. I've got a picture of the line of parked aircraft somewhere.

The odd thing was that I was there at the same time as Tod, working on the same section (TASF) yet neither of us remember meeting. Also there at the same time, Curly Knowlton, Ginge Thompson and Ernie May.

(No one has come up with identifying the Mig's markings so I had a look in Wikepedia and it turns out be the Algerian Air Force not Egyptian: maybe it was the other way round and they were returning to Algeria from Egypt. Brian.)

A few for starters.

Well I fancy the ant wearing the lipstick!

I've heard of painting the grass green but not watching it dry as well!

I feel so randy that if that worm winks at me again I'll ask her out!

I hope the CO is looking coz this must be easier than buying ourselves out!

23 Apr 10.

Now here's a photo just begging for comments! Why not have a go?


19 Apr10

From. Tod Slaughter.

Back in Journal No 2 I recounted an Incident that happened whilst I was at El Adem, Libya, in 1962, when to our amazement out of a clear blue sky seven Mig 15s circled overhead and landed. One, I was led to believe, had a fuel flow problem so they all "lobbed in!". I know that photos had been taken at the time but they were all confiscated and as far as I was concerned there was no pictorial evidence of the occurrence. That is until now as, from the "El Adem" web site (, I've received this photo which must have "slipped the net". It shows one of the Migs parked on the pan with a Shackleton taxiing in the background. I'm not very good at a/c marking but I thought the Migs were Egyptian, however I could have been wrong. I wonder what our surprise visitors thought of the "modern" RAF when that Shackleton rumbled past!!

(Anyone recognise these markings on the Mig? Brian.)

7 Apr 10 (the day we in the West went fully digital).

From Mike Stanley.

One of those "Grace of God" moments.

This was after I had left HM Royal Airworks where, banged up in a station armoury for most of my service life, I had few opportunities to chance my arm. Working for GPO Telecommunications gave me ample opportunity!

I worked repairing faulty underground telephone lines; when a telephone line was reported faulty it was s.o.p to work on the the line from it's termination in the local telephone exchange. Measurements could be taken to localise the fault and an oscillator signal put on the line to track it through cables and joints; up to 100 telephone lines could pass through an underground cable/joint.

I'd been back and forth to the exchange several times; problems with the oscillator (and with my measuring!). Time was running out; we had target times and questions to answer if not met.

The exchange was located by a busy main road; I parked the van, a Bedford 15cwt, in a quiet street across from the exchange and then hoped the pedestrian crossing lights would be in my favour to get across to the exchange in short order. I managed it, just, by running across as the lights were changing. Into the exchange, tested the line, OK, hooray! Signed off the fault and was passed another one, in a different exchange area. Goes back to my van, couldn't see it as I crossed the main road, one of the boys, playing silly b*ggers, must have moved it (happened quite often, one ignition key fits all!). Turned the corner into the street where I had parked and saw, with horror, my van on the opposite side of the road, hard up against a garden wall!

I had visions of seeing a pair of feet sticking out from under, or worse still a crumpled pram but no, by the Grace of God the van, which had rolled down the slight incline backwards, had somehow managed to miss a car parked behind it, cross the road, mount the foot-way and bash into a brick wall without damaging person or property (except the van itself, which had a twisted chassis).

In my haste to get across the road and into the exchange I hadn't fully applied the handbrake.

Lost my safe driving award for that year, it could have been so much worse.

3 Apr 10

Would anyone nowadays believe how "cavalier" we once used to be with our tools (work on aircraft for the use of, that is!)? I remained a "rigger" from pass-out until 1965 and during that time served at Chivenor, Changi and Colerne on both First and Second Line Servicing; at each of those stations I was issued with a personal tool-kit, either in a large box, sometimes modified with castors, or (at Colerne anyway) a strong canvas bag. If I was ever in need of a specialist tool not included in the personal kit then it meant booking it out from the tool-store, signing for it, and returning it when used. But what about the personal tools? In my case it was always just down to the individual to check his own kit after use; what a stupid system and thank Goodness for the simplicity of later day "shadow-boards"....I wonder who instigated that system in the mob? Maybe your experience was different and you worked under safer conditions. Anyway, one day at Colerne, a very simple snag on a Hastings brought this problem home to me with a vengeance:-

The crew were ready to fly off (to Norway I seem to recall) but the co-pilot's windscreen wiper wasn't working whilst the pilot's was OK. The spindle for the wiper passed from inside to out through a simple tunnel, no bearings just a sliding fit. A few minutes with a "rat's tail" and a bit of lube fixed it. The aircraft departed and I went back to the SNCOs' crew room for a cuppa and a game of "Hunt the Lady": ah, sweet memories! Then came the thought..."Did I put the file back in my tool-bag?". I knew the answer before I looked and was already beginning to panic when the check confirmed it...the bl**dy thing was still on the aircraft, and up-front just to make things worse. If you've ever been in that position then you know the thoughts that run through your mind. I did the right thing and went straight to my boss who, of course, didn't expect such stupidity from one of his Sgts but quickly got the message to Operations who, in turn, sent a signal off to the aircraft's destination whilst I sweated it out for a few hours, not pleasant. Still fresh in my memory was an incident during my time at Chivenor when a "sumpie" had left a tool somewhere in a Hunter's innards and that had been a fatal mistake.

Once on the ground, and in receipt of the signal, the flight engineer searched the flight deck and eventually found the offending file, broken in half, under the co-pilots leather seat-squab. The crew could have been vindictive and let me suffer until they got back but they didn't and I was well and truly "let off the hook". So, "There but for the grace of........!" go I once again.


3 Apr 10

I recently received an email from Terry Pallister with a Link leading to a quite amazing bit of video footage. If you're interested in model aircraft this is "a must".

Copy and Paste this it into your browser for about seven minutes of entertainment:


3 Apr 10

Another email I had a couple of weeks ago was from John Taylor. He forwarded an email he had received (sort of "Chain Mail") with an interesting article about a ground accident to an Airbus A340-600 at Toulouse. The article needed some editing before becoming something I could repeat here so, leaving all Politics and Nationalism out of it, here is the gist of what occurred (it was a couple of years ago).

A brand spanking new Airbus 340-600 sits just outside its hangar at Toulouse without a single hour of airtime. Enter a non-company flight crew to conduct pre-delivery ground tests, such as engine run-ups, prior to delivery of the aircraft to a Middle East airline. The crew taxies the aircraft to the run-up area, sets the brakes and takes all four engines, on this virtually empty aircraft, up to take-off power. A warning horn is blaring away on the flight deck because the aircraft computers think they are trying to take off without being configured properly (flaps/slats, etc.) so one of the crew decides to pull the circuit breaker on the Ground Proximity Sensor to silence it; this fools the aircraft into thinking it is in the air. The computers now automatically release the brakes allowing the aircraft to rocket forward; the crew having no idea that this release of the brakes is a safety feature to prevent the aircraft landing with its brakes on. Not one member of the seven-man crew is smart enough to throttle back the engines from their max power setting so the brand-new $200.000.000 aircraft eventually crashes into a blast barrier and is destroyed.

Having absorbed that and having come to the conclusion that it could have happened that way, here is the official (and presumably true) story

Just before 16:00 (on the day in question) the power of the Rolls-Royce Trent 500 engines was increased to an engine pressure ratio of 1.25 - with the thrust levers corresponding to a position between maximum continuous thrust and maximum take-off thrust. All four engines were operating. While the parking brake was on, registering 2,600psi, the inquiry says the applied thrust was around the limit of the parking-brake capacity.

At the time of the accident an Airbus employee was occupying the right-hand seat of the jet while an Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies technician was in the left-hand seat. Flight-recorder data shows that, shortly after 16:02, the person in the left-hand seat warned that the aircraft was moving. The ground speed began gradually increasing to 4kt over the next few seconds and, after a second call that the aircraft was moving, the recorder registered pedal-braking and the deactivation of the parking brake.

Brakes on the A340-600 are linked to two hydraulic circuits: the 'green' normal circuit and the 'blue' alternate. The parking brake is on the blue circuit and only applies to the left- and right-hand main undercarriage bogies, not the centre bogie. If the parking brake is released and the brake pedals applied, the 'green' circuit comes into play. The pedals act on all three main bogies.

Recorder data shows that 'green' circuit brake pressure on the A340 rapidly rose to 2,500psi while the 'blue' circuit pressure dropped.

About seven seconds after the first movement warning the nose-wheel was turned sharply right. Activating the nose-wheel steering inhibits braking on the central bogie, becoming completely ineffective past 20 degrees of steering. The aircraft swung 37 degrees to the right but continued to accelerate, its speed increasing from 4kt to 31kt in seven seconds, before the aircraft struck the test-pen wall, demolishing its forward fuselage. The jet was written off.

In its report into the accident, the BEA says the aircraft and its braking system functioned correctly, but states that the nose-wheel steering "limited the effectiveness" of the brakes. "Surprise led the ground-test technician to focus on the braking system, so he did not think about reducing the engines' thrust," it adds. Only after the collision with the wall were the throttle levers retarded to the idle position.

9 Mar 10

Having asked the question, I felt I should put pen to paper. Not too sure if it's a Grace of God story, but I had a hand in it.

Picture the scene: Saturday morning on 213 Squadron at Bruggen (those with long memories will remember that we worked Saturday mornings). The Sgt rigger (a portly gent whose name I won't mention) told me to take a Canberra towing arm out to an A/C on the line. In those days the towing arm was a rather heavy affair constructed from angle iron. I pushed this thing a great distance to the aircraft and, as it was a two man job to connect it to the A/C and no one was available to help me, I pushed it up to the nosewheels and left it.

Andy Watson was refuelling an adjacent A/C so I climbed up to help him. Some while later the Sgt rigger drove up in his Hanomag tractor with the greenhouse cab and hooked the towing arm to the tractor's front pintle. He removed the A/C chocks, leant inside the door to release the A/C brakes (no one on the brakes & I had forgotten that the towing arm was not attached), climbed back into his tractor and started pushing the A/C back. As the ground sloped towards the hangar, the aircraft ran away from him. He jumped from the tractor, ran after the A/C and managed to apply the brakes. He then found that his tractor and towing arm was bearing down on the A/C (he hadn't applied the tractor brakes). By the time he managed to get back into the runaway tractor the towing arm had run off course and had run alongside the nosewheel, bending the arm. Probably didn't do the nosewheel assembly much good either. The tractor had also swiped the A/C with resultant damage to the A/C.

Much covering up, perjury, and unlikely stories followed and he somehow got away with it. Had I not pushed the arm up to the nosewheels and had I not forgotten that it wasn't connected, I wouldn't be recounting this sorry tale.


8 Mar 10

A C-130 was lumbering along when a cocky jet-jockey in a F16 flashed past and started to show off. "Watch this" he radioed to the C130 pilot and then promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb; he then finished off with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier. The jet-jockey then asked the C-130 pilot what he thought of his show?

The C-130 pilot replied,"That was very impressive but just watch this!!" The C-130 droned along for about five minutes and then the pilot came back on and said,"What do you think of that then?"

Somewhat puzzled the F-16 pilot asked, "What did you do?"

The C-130 pilot chuckled and replied, "I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, took a leak, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll!"

The moral of this story is..... When you are young and foolish speed and flair may seem such a good thing!! When you are older and smarter, comfort and dull is not such a bad thing!!

I can relate to that!!

(Does anyone else have some jokes or "words of wisdom" they wish to share with us?)


24 Feb 10

I hesitate to write this for obvious reasons, but it's my Grace of God confession.

1970, Far East (see Journal No 6), at the end of the contract the helicopter had a serious fuel leak from the forward tank, the top cork gasket and the rubber of the tank had been cut by my engineer over-torquing the bolts. Whilst awaiting a replacement tank I was asked by the Oil Company if we could fly one more trip to the rig and back, a round trip of 7 hours. I said OK and fashioned a gasket out a Japanese car inner tube. To my relief the helo returned on time; as soon as I could I opened up the tank aperture and found to my horror that the inner tube had disintegrated into strips and a whole bunch were around the intake to the forward fuel pump leaving just enough room to let some fuel through.

When I retired 28 years later I was told that a letter of commendation had been written by the Oil Company to the Engineering Director praising me for getting the job done. Little did they know.


16 Feb 10

That question from Sach reminds me of one of my lucky escapes.

Chivenor, not long out of Halton and in the cockpit carrying out the statutory number of hydraulic actuations required after refitting a Hunter tailend. My mate outside as a safety man and a Sgt electrician somewhere out there changing a nav light bulb on the port wing. My safety man indicates to me that the NAAFI's up and says he's off to the crewroom to buy us wads and a cuppa each. What the Hell, there's no one around, even the leckie has gone for a break so why not another u/c cycle or two before going for the break? Hit the button to lower the u/c and there's a mighty bang as the port wing lifts up into the air, reactive selection of "up" and all goes quiet other then the noise of the hydraulic rig and my thumping heart. I was down the ladder like a flash to find everything OK except for a severely smashed leckie's tool-box directly under the port u/c leg....yes he'd moved the box for some obscure reason during those few moments between my mate leaving the scene and me making the stupid decision to break the rules. Why didn't the a/c jack puncture the wing, it certainly would have done if the jacking pad hadn't stuck to the wing and my guardian angel hadn't allowed the ball-end of the jack to slot back into that pad as precisely as it did when the wing slammed back down again? It's quite likely that no one other than the three of us ever got to know about it and the lesson was learnt, or was it?

Would anyone else like to share anything they have ever done that led to them saying, like me,- "There but for the grace of......etc"?


A shot just to show that the old "wrist-breaker" we knew and "loved" still exists and is still just as hard to start!

16 Feb 10

Having read the reason behind the 747 debacle, I wonder how many of us can look back over the years and say - "There but for the grace of God."?

Attached is a photo of a handsome young plumber with a teeny-weeny bomb.


(Can't believe you were ever that young mate! Brian)

<12 Feb 10

Here's what caused the 747 to dip its nose into a monsoon-drain; a salutory, and expensive, lesson for the guys concerned

The Boeing 747 was being taxied on Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) airport from a hangar toward a departure gate to board 319 passengers for Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), when the crew lost directional control of the aircraft and it entered a monsoon drainage ditch, resulting in serious damage to the forward airframe/nose section. None of the six crewmembers aboard were seriously injured.

The aircraft was being moved by a maintenance crew, who taxied using only the no.1 and no.4 engines, apparently not realizing that the aircraft's braking system is powered by hydraulic pumps powered by engines no.2 and no.3.

(A bl**dy good job it didn't get to the departure gate then!!!)

10 Feb 10

Like all the blokes I was sad to hear of the death of Johnny Dankworth. I remember when he played at our gradualtion asking for his autograph for the girl I was with. I went up on the stage and he sent me away saying "Not now man I'm counting". Just goes to show what I knew. He signed later though so I was a hero. I hope the girl - wherever she is - has still got it.

All the Best

Dave Sidgwick

8 Feb 10








8 Feb 10

This message has just come in from John Taylor (Airframes).

Just heard the news regarding the death of Johnny Dankworth. I just wonder How many memories of the graduation bash that brings up ?

I am sure we can all bring back memories from that night.


5 Feb 10

Suggestions for the unhappy Saudi 747's monsoon-drain arrival.

From Mike Stanley comes:-

Perm any one from these three:-

Co-pilot to his Captain - "But I thought it was a mirage!"

"Another victim for Beecher's Brook."

"You can lead an aircraft to water but you can't make it drink."

From Frank Chammings:-

"Captain to Co-pilot - what happened to the bridge?"

From Sach Goodwin comes what is possibly nearest to the truth:-

"Oh s**t!"

From Tod Slaughter:-

"I know that your friend Abdul said his "Jumbo" can jump ditches but are you sure he wasn't talking about his pet elephant!!?"

4 Feb 10

It's been quiet for a while so here's another thought provoker.

"An additional perk for first-class passengers and an elevating one for the rest!"

21 Jan 10

Re the tail rotor caption - "Instructor to Student - if you keep wearing a big watch you are going to fail this course!"


18 Jan 10

Customs Officer to young helicopter pilot:- "Now what's this little packet stuffed in 'ere then?"


18 Jan 10

Two caption suggestions for Frank's inclusion on 14 Jan:-

From Tod Slaughter:- "If the battery is flat can you bump-start it by turning this little propeller at the back?"

From Mike Stanley:- "If you look closely you can just see that big blonde in flat 14!"

14 Jan 10

Another one from Frank Chammings:

Passing the time whilst snowbound, another caption photo, taken from a magazine hence the line in the middle.

Frank's own offering - "Is that a nest in there?"

His caption for the Huey on its side - "Oops!"

13 Jan 10

Frank Chammings has sent me this photo for caption suggestions; it shows the subject of his first accident investigation, taken in the Borneo jungle back in 1981. The photo also appears in an article by him in our Journal No 8.

Frank also sent this caption for my photo of the somewhat carved up private twin: "VH-KBZ - Not the best thing since sliced bread." (Very poetic Frank!)

12 Dec 10

From Sach Goodwin: "Now, how will I fix this; cross stitch or buttonhole stitch?"

From Mike Stanley: "That's the last time I'll let my missus fly me home from the pub!"

11 Jan 10

We have a few current/lapsed PPLs amongst our members so let's see if this one can dredge up some additional captions; my own is: "But Captain, sir, you can't possibly blame the marshaller for that."


11 Jan 10

My in-box overfloweth this morning with three captions to go with Tod's latest photo, my thanks for having a go:-

From Frank Chammings comes: "Anyone any good at jigsaws?"- in Japanese, as I suspect it's a Mitsubishi Zero.

From Sach Goodwin: "The B/F will be taking a little longer than usual Chief", or "I'm a rigger, not a xxxxxx miracle worker!".

And from Mike Stanley: "Damn it! Now where did I put that tube of Bostick?"

My own is "Velly solly sir ailoplane bloke!".

Speaking as someone who strapped himself to three RR RB211s for a few years my caption to the loose cowling pic. is: "Well what do you expect from an airline that chooses not to use RR engines?". (Hoping nobody recognises the plumbing as being from that illustrious company.)


10 Jan 10

Another interesting photo from Tod Slaughter looking for a suitable caption with his own, for a starter, being:- "The pilot needs to be informed that this afternoon's take-off may have to be delayed!!"

(What language would I be speaking in?)

4 Jan 10

I'm sure Alan will excuse me for including his 29 Dec suggestion to my "Wolf in sheep's clothing" question even though the second message that follows it acknowledges his answer to be somewhat "Off beam".

Re the 'black beast' in your last feedback:- It can't be the P1083 as that was cancelled in 1953 when only 80% complete, in favour of the Supermarine Type 545 (also cancelled two years later). The P1083 led to the Hunter F6 and I think the one shown is the F6 (XG131) which was displayed on static at Farnborough in 1956 complete with tip tanks and underwing bomb hardpoints. Or it is a replica thereof. The tip tanks were eventually ditched from the F6 as being of no advantage. XG131 was eventually returned to service with 14 Sqdn after its experimental work.

May I take this opportunity to wish our members a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

Alan Lowther

Got it wrong again! Should have read latest Feedback before I replied.

Alan Lowther

1 Jan 10

Re the engine cowling, I offer the following:- Looks like the Flight Engineer is keeping an eye on the engine, using binoculars from the cockpit.

Frank Chammings.

31 Dec 09

I reckon that you are right Brian. There is the little devil hanging under the port stub wing of this vicious brute proving the old saying: "Helicopters only fly coz they're so ugly the ground repels them !!"


30 Dec 09

"It's all part of the In-flight Entertainment Madam - the Captain is showing you what the engine looks like under the bonnet!"


30 Dec 09

Frank has had a lot to do with helicopters, mainly civil I know, but could his photo be of a UB 32 Rocket Launcher (it has 32 holes in it)? If so it could have been on a Mil 24 attack helicopter from anyone of a number of countries but I'll go for what was the Soviet Air Force itself.


30 Dec 09

With regard to captions ; What I would say to the nervous passenger sitting next to me after viewing the engine?:- Ah yes , the engine air-cooling system seems to have been engaged successfully.

Mike Stanley

29 Dec 09

A candidate for our mystery items; it might be guessed what it is, but to what country's aircraft is it likely to be fitted?

Frank Chammings

29 Dec 09

I still like Tod's idea of running "Captions" for unusual pictures so, as I have a fair collection of such things (being an aviation "Geek"), I'm starting with this one in the hope that a few more people will have a go.

What would you, as someone with an aeronautical background (i.e. you were at Halton), say to the nervous passenger sitting next to you after he/she draws your attention to this? Email answers to me through the Info link (if your system allows you to. If it doesn't then maybe you need to enable Java script) or to my email address.


29 Dec 09

Over the holiday I received three suggestions as to the identity of my "Wolf in sheep's clothing".

Frank Chammings wrote:- Brian, would the wolf be a napalm carrier?

(Frank, you may say that, but I couldn't possibly comment! (as one ex-Lib. leader is famed for saying.)

Tod Slaughter followed with:- "I think that the aircraft in your puzzle picture is a BAC 167 Strikemaster ??"

Then John Taylor:- With regards to the last photo on the feedback page. Could it be a later version of the Jet Provost that has been upgraded to a more offensive role for some middle eastern state? I know later versions were modified for such a role. They only had MK 3's and 4's at Acklington when I left the service back in '68. Perhaps Gerry Ward could give a more accurate guess as I believe he was a rep out there.

Yes, it is a BAC 167, Strikemaster Mk80, that was deivered (new) to Saudi Arabia (RSAF) in 1969. Upgraded there to a Mk80A it was used in the training role for some 28 years. It is now privately owned, registered as G-FLYY and based in Northern Ireland. It comes to us at Deltajets periodically for its scheduled servicing.


23 Dec 09

I too would like to add my greetings to all our readers; may you all have a great Christmas followed by a happy and prosperous New Year.

This shot lost a bit in reduction of size but can anyone recognise the "Wolf in sheep's clothing"? The black bit in the foreground, of course, not the "Meatbox" fin in the backgrond (more of which later) or the pretend "Yellow Jack".


23 Dec 09

Frank Chammings has asked me, on his behalf, to wish all the Entry a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


19 Dec 09


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone,

Tod Slaughter

19 Dec 09

Re Alan's guess at a B(I)8, I was on 88/14 Sqdns at Wildenrath for my tour in RAFG and I don't think it is a B(I)8, the Interdictor gunpack was at the front of the bomb-bay, the photo is missing some detail in that area, but I would guess that it is a B(I)6 in the early days of the Interdictor role. The memory is a bit hazy so I stand to be corrected.

Frank Chammings

18 Dec 09

Good try Al but it's a B(I)6 from 213 Sqn at Bruggen. B(I)8s were painted black underneath. Taken 1961/2 at Akrotiri.

Wishing all our readers a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.


17 Dec 09

Brian, re your photo of 8th Oct - Right is John Gornall, Centre - Chris(?) Moore and the guy on the left I recognise but can't put a name to.

Sach's photo of 30 Oct. Is it a B(I)8 in (from) Germany and maybe somewhere warm and sunny judging by the guy in shorts at the front of the bomb-bay? I only came across them at Wildenwrath.

Sach's mail of 23 Nov. As you faced the blocks from the square they were numbered 1,3,5,7 on the left and 2,4,6,8 on the right. Armourers were in Block 3, I was in room 3. Don't know about the E & I guys. Room 3 snag was 'Baz' Bailey (78th) and Block SAA was SAA Whitehead (74th). I used to 'bull' for SAA McMahon (74th) in Block 2 and got well paid for it!

Alan Lowther

(I've copied this message from Alan as wrote but have to disagree with his 3(A)Wing Block numbering as Block 7 was definitely nearest [of our three Blocks numbers 3, 5 & 7] to the square. Brian.)

16 Dec 09

The fuel tank is one of two which we will be fitting to this baby and the ventral tank too once we have cleaned it up and given it a re-spray.


8 Dec 09

My guess at Tod's latest offering is either a drop tank or a fire bomb tank of US origin. Apart from the sticky out rod at the rear (which allows it to swing clear on release), it looks rather like the US fire bomb tanks that we modified into baggage pods for the Jaguar.


4 Dec 09

Here is another question for our A/C spotters. When in one piece where does this belong?


4 Dec 09

This photo was sent in to me recently by Frank Chammings for inclusion in Feedback. He wrote: Found this pamphlet at an antiques fair yesterday, it looks like the one I must have received before going to Halton, the reference at the back ends in 55 so it may be the year it was produced.

I wonder if anyone else remembers getting one?


23 Nov 09

If the barrack blocks numbered 1-8 from the square, I was in block 5. If they numbered 8-1 from the square, I was in block 3. (This part of Sach's message to me is about which Blk in 3(A)Wing was occupied by Armourers, and therefore which was occupied by Engines. Another question from those days is where did the two smaller {in number, that is} trades, Instruments and Electrics doss down?).

As to the latest photo on feedback, looks like the business end of a BL755 cluster bomb.


(Give the man a coconut! Thank Sach, it's another item apart from the aircraft, alongside the Adens, gunpack etc., that we have on show for our visitors at Deltajets.)

23 Nov 09

Your "submarine" prop is probably the first stage compressor rotor disc from a Allison 250-C20 engine from a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter on a model.

Frank/p> (Not quite Frank, much more "destructive" than that. Thanks for having a go though. Regards, Brian.)

22 Nov 09

Could this just be the RN's answer to submarine prop. cavitation? Or what?/


30 Oct 09

One more from the archive for the armourers.


30 Oct 09

I think this must have been taken at Woodvale. I acquired it at the reunion in the old 2 Wing Sgts mess many years ago. One of my pass-out parade photos went missing and I ended up with this one. If anyone claims ownership, let me know and I'll put it in the post. I have a hankering it might belong to Dave Beston.

Back row: 3rd/4th from left - Dave Beston?, 5th from left - Lofty Russell? Jim Henry? In front of Jim - Ken Hutchinson? Frank Jones ex80th.


More than likely that's what they were about to do but who were they?? Who gave me the photo?? And when??

Anyway I think the Nav had dropped his chinagraph pencil!!


Would the three chaps standing outside block 15 be preparing themselves for the trek up to Woodvale?


"Are my slipper tanks still attached?" (A reference to 87 Sqn Mk 1's who used to lose theirs quite frequently.)


"Come on Leader, it's not a Spit you're flying you do have a "Bang-seat"!"


20 Oct 09

I see that you haven't had much luck identifying the guys on your photo. I'm sorry but I can't help either but then I'm hopeless at remembering people!

I met a old acquaintance at Duxford last Sunday who knew me from my 64 Sqd'n days. He even had photos of me sunning myself on Famagusta beach in 1960!!! I couldn't remember him at all!!

Getting any response from our members is a bit like pulling teeth isn't it? Perhaps we should try a caption competition!!

For the attached photo: "Smithy always said that they handled better flying in this position"!!



8 Oct 09

Another photo from my 81st Entry collection for which I have no names. Can anyone recognise themselves or any of the three upstanding fellows? They are standing outside Block 15, so maybe all three were in 3Sqn, 1(A)Wing



6 Oct 09

Hi Brian.

How about a set of ground locks and associated bits? Definitely not for a Lodestar though! Many thanks for identifying my lurking aeroplane.

As for my earlier photo of the bent Vampire, I was going to mention it in my piece on Sleaford Tech but somehow it was overlooked: June 1959 and an instructor gave his student a simulated attack on some trees and got too low. I remember a fair sized log jammed in one of the leading edges, but I can't see it in the picture. Even the pitot head, which was situated towards the top of the fin, was bent upwards.


(Good one Sach, U/C ground locks plus a few other bits. But what are the other bits and what aircraft are they all for? Brian.)

4 Oct 09

Attempting two things at the same time; firstly practising the art of html coding and uploading images to the website and secondly trying to generate some interest in the Feedback page, here's another little teaser. Can anyone come up with the answer to what this collection of aviation bits is? Riggers more likely than others.



3 Oct 09

Both Tod and I recognise your Idris photo as a Lockheed L18 Lodestar, a late 1930s transport aircraft developed from the ill-fated L14. Several airlines operated the Lodestar but, apparently, only two countries militarily, the USA in both Navy and Army Airforce and New Zealand with the RNZAF. As with the DC3 many were picked up later in life and used for everything from private luxury travel to hauling freight and folk around the oil fields of North Africa; guess that's what yours was a'doing.

Tod passes on this web address which carries a very interesting eight minute video of a F22 Raptor doing things that should be impossible.


28 Sep 09

One more from the archives.

Found lurking in a hangar in Idris June 1961. From memory, it belonged to an oil company. I figure it's a Lockheed something or other.



27 Sep 09

This charming photo of a little girl turned up years ago amongst some photos I was given, probably at a reunion, by one of our guys for inclusion in my fairly large collection of 81st Entry memorabilia. If anyone recognises her and would like the photo returned please contact me.



22 Sep 09

The following email message has just reached me (forwarded by Seamus Hamill-Keays) at "Info" for inclusion in Feedback. It's from a gentleman called Tony. I have his email address so if anyone knows what he's on about and can help please let me know and I'll do the rest. He must be referring to the mention of Seletar by one of us somewhere either in the Journal or Feedback.


Message from "Faplock" dated 21 Sep 09:

Hi, I'm trying to trace my late father's service with the RAF and found this article "" mentioned 390 MU RAF Seletar (in 1962). My father was with 390 MU in 1945 and I'm wondering if it was at Seletar then. I'm also trying to find such things as 5338 MSU, 55 RU, 2 PDC, ACSEA, 135 R & SU, 126 R&SU. It would help if I knew what the abbreviations stood for. He was a Corporal driver and although willing to talk of things that happened to him in this country during the war, he absolutely refused to talk of anything once he arrived in India/Malaya/Burma.I hope you can help


You're pretty close Tod, not an Iluyshin but an Antonov, the AN-124 Condor. A monster of an aeroplane that was on the deck at Gander one day (amongst many I had there) when I staged through Newfoundland. It was the subject of a Ch5 programme, "Big, Bigger, Biggest" a couple of weeks ago.


Sorry to say that all modern jets look much the same to me!

Just stumbled upon The Old Haltonian Social Networking site: "" if you're interested.


You don't ask easy ones do you!!?

Right Brian that's an Aeroflot flag on the tail so it's probably an Ilyushin ?!?! Maybe someone can add to that!

Now Sach, I think it's agreed that it is a Vampire T11 (but that wasn't the question) When.....probably the mid nineteen fifties. What caused the damage? Well I've seen hailstone damage on a Canberra and it looked as if someone had attacked it with a ballpeined hammer. The Vampire looks as if they had used a sledge hammer.

So my guesses are:

A bird strike (something big like seagulls) So "where" is somewhere on the coast.

It flew through a tree!

Attacked by a groundcrew member with a grudge!!

OK, so I'm completely wrong.

Tod Slaughter

Ace on the Seaford Sach, can only think that early Vamp T-bird hit a bit more than a shower of rain. I certainly remember very similar damage to one of our (24 Sqn) Hastings after it flew through a more than just severe hail storm. For something more up to date what about this one?

One more for the anoraks.

Where, when and circumstances please? (I know the answer).



How about a Short S.45 Seaford?


Re-Sach's letters to "feedback": The photo of a V1 with a cockpit is a very rare bird. During it's initial development they had some sort of stability problem so to cure it they fitted the cockpit and a woman pilot in the Luftwaffe called Hanna Reich flew it and survived the experience as well as curing the problem!! At one time it was thought it could be a useful suicide bomb but they didn't have enough volunteers although I suspect the Japanese would have taken up the idea!! Yes, Sach right you're about the bombs. We are in the process of refurbishing a WW2 American bomb trolley which when finished, it and the bombs which we painted up earlier, are to be situated in the American Hanger under the B17. I thought that I would try another recognition test only this time an aircraft. This one is easier(or is it!) Make and mark please! Like you Sach I can't figure out how to attach a photo on the forum page.



I found the attached in my archive and thought it might be a follow-on to Tod's V-1 forum postings. As I can't figure out how to attach a photo, perhaps it might go on Feedback. It photo was taken in 1963 at the Joint Services Bomb Disposal School at Broadbridge Heath near Horsham. The more observant will notice that the device in the foreground has a cockpit. I don't have any recollections of these beasts in action as I was in Malta at the time - just conventional bombs!



Haven't a clue what the black thingies are but the bombs in the background are American. Typical American tail units and two point suspension. Ours were single point.


I'll take a wild guess on Tod's black objects, they are sirens from Stukas.


During my thirty years working as a volunteer at the IWM, Duxford I've worked on a few strange projects. I wonder if any one can recognise the two objects painted black? Or is it too easy for our wiz-kids!!


14 May 2009

Now that Ned,s butt problem has been solved, do we all want a reunion next year? So far I have only seen 2 others in favour, if we want one we have to let our voices be heard or nothing will happen. I am willing to come over from Canada to see you lot again, so how about it, put your two cents worth in and let the potential organizers know. Time is passing and it will increasingly difficult for some of us to attend as we all get older.


Jim Lee (Engines)


15 May 2009




14 May 2009


So how did you do it?



13 May 2009



13 May 2009


Have you tried asking the manufacturer of the butt how they fit their taps?



27 April 2009




From Mike Stanley 27th April 2009

I wonder if Ned Kelly has found any leprechauns in Oakham?; not an area associated with the little people.

I'm surprised that Ned,being one of the plumbing trade,cannot reach the bottom of the barrel,as it is well known that armourers drag their knuckles along the ground when walking, you would think his arms long enough to reach


From Willie Keays 26th April 2009

Great idea Frank! You won't need the string; all you need is the leprechaun!

From Frank Chammings 26th April 2009


It's going to take two to fix the tap, lay the butt on its side and find someone slim enough to crawl inside to attach the nut and tighten it. Ned would need to hold the tap on the outside.



From Willie Keays 25th April 2009

Hi Ned

Sorry to hear about your trouble with your large butt. Can't you find a leprechaun and lower him inside on a piece of string?

From Ned Kelley 25th April 2009






From Tony Birchenough 8th April 2009

Now I'm up and about again I thought I'd let you all know that the leisure wear and mugs are still available as previously, with a slight price increase for the polo shirt. Sorry about that, but it's beyond my control.

See you all at the next reunion. My address is:

A E Birchenough, 32 Slade Gardens, Erith, Kent, DA8 2HT. 01332 336943 email: tisaeb (at sign)

From Tony Birchenough 31st January 2009

Hi All,

I agree with Jim Lee, Sept 2010 would be most appropriate, especially at the RAC, where we been so well treated for the last 2 get-togethers.

As long as I'm still ticking over you can count me as a definite.

At the last reunion, as you will have heard, I was suffering a hoarse voice. Soon after this I suffered severe shortage of breath, which came on very suddenly. It was only then that I started to worry. After a biopsy and a tracheoscapy at Lewisham Hospital I was transferred to Guys, where the diagnosis was cancer on my larynx. I then underwent a larygectomy, which means that I lost my vocal chords, along with myn lymph glands. Recovery from this operation in October was not too bad, but the ensuing radiotherapy treatment at St Thomas' is proving more of a problem. The treatment itself was easy enough, but the after effects are proving difficult. For a few weeks eating was a major problem as my taste buds were making everything taste awful (worse than Halton or El Adem). Things have now improved and my taste is getting back to normal.

Speech is a problem, but not impossible. with a stoma in my throat I can make myself understood. Phones though are virtually impossible. Looking forward, I should at some time in the next few months be able to be kitted out with a prosthetis which will improve things no end. You can judge for yourselves in Sept 2010.

Tony Birchenough

From Jim Lee 14th January 2009

I agree with Frank, 55 years from sign up would be a good time for the next get together and the RAC is an excellent venue. I missed the last one due to health problems (all better now) but I am over 70 now so I don't want to leave it too long!!! Lets hear what you guys think.

From Frank Chammings 10th January 2009

Re John's thoughts on the next reunion how about 55 years from joining up? This would occur in September 2010, that is next year, is this too soon? I think not; if we are not to have an annual reunion, we ought to make the dates meaningful. I know that it may clash with the Halton triennial but I still prefer the RAC.

From John Taylor 9th January 2009

To Frank Chammings,

My faith is restored, a delayed message!

I thought it strange you had not sent any messages. My lack of trust??

John Taylor

From WK. 8th January 2009

The hold up or something John refers to below was Christmas holidays. I try not to take my desk-top with me everywhere even if it means hold-ups or something.

From John Taylor 31st December 2008

Haven't noticed any messages over the last few weeks, has no one sent any or is there some hold up or something.

May I wish all the seasons greetings to one and all and all the very best for the new year.

As to the reunion, as a 'newcomer' to these events may I express my warm thanks to all involved in the organisation of the event especially Brian. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and seeing old friends.

Regarding the possibility of future events, I believe leaving it to three years would be too long and every year would be too much. Maybe other 81st brats will write in to send their views. I would hate to think that I only ever managed to attend one reunion before I passed on to the big reunion in the sky.

From Frank Chammings 23rd December 2008

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

From Ned Kelly 6th November 2008 with my apologies for a late entry





From Mike Stanley 28th August 2008

From Mike Stanley 28th August 2008

Letter received dated 21 August 2008

Dear Mr Stanley

The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund

On behalf of the RAF Family may I thank you for your generous donation of £35 sent to us by The 81st Entry, Royal Air Force Halton Aircraft Apprentices.

The work of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund is as relevant today as it was during and at the end of World War 2. The survivors of that war and their partners are just one of the groups that the RAF Benevolent Fund is able to support. The Fund also provides help to those still serving. For example, the Fund was able to help a serving airman buy mobility aids for one of his children. These have really improved the quality of the child's life and were beyond the family's budget. Your donation means we can continue to provide this vital support.

If you would like any further information about the RAF Benevolent Fund and its work, please do visit our website at, or give us a call on the number above.

Thank you once again for your kind donation.

Yours sincerely

Vlcky Goodban

From Mike Stanley 17th August 2008

I received £70 in donations/contributions , which was distributed as below:

£15 to Macmillan Nurses

£10 to Devon Air Ambulance

£10 to BLESMA

£35 to RAF Benevelont Fund

I put in a slip with each Gift Aid declaration saying that it was from The 81st Entry of RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentices . Time will tell if we get a thank you from any of the recipients; I expect it will depend on how much is donated by members of the Entry (assuming mention is made of the 81st Entry when donations are/were sent

From Brian Spurway 15th August 2008

After all the smoke had died down, I sorted things out and found a financial surplus of £70. A quick message to Mike S and we decided to donate it all to the Cotswold Air Ambulance and he would sort out other donations made during the reunion.

From Frank Chammings in reply to Mark Hastilow 4th August 2008


A friend of mine was the Chief Engineer of the Oman Police Airwing, Roger Leale haven't seen him since that time.

From Ned Kelly 4th August 2008

Just like to thank all the Entry who I met at te 50th reunion. They made me most welcome.

Special thanks to Don Higgins and his good lady.

Also Tony Birchenough was great company.

Also I must apologise to one of our Entry when I went off with his trolley case at the Porter's Lodge on the day of departure. They all look the same to me. Happily he quickly rectified the error.

Thank you Brian. It made my night.

from Mark Hastilow 2nd August 2008, re Frank Chamming's article.


This is interesting. My father worked for the Royal Oman Police Airwing at Seeb airport 1985-1995.

'The reason for the Royal Flight was that a Bell 214ST was flown on to the royal yacht, every weekend (Thursday and Fridays in the Middle East) they took Royals to hospitals in the case of medical emergency. According to the pilots, the yachts sailed out beyond territorial waters and allegedly anything went with "persons" from all over being shipped in for entertainment . . .

The Bell 214STs in the hangar had gold plated fittings and some very nice seats, in fact they were very similarly equipped to the Super Pumas of the Oman Royal Flight which I had inspected a few years previously.

From Tony Birchenough 18th July 2008

81st Entry mugs

Hi guys,

As members of the 81st who bought sportswear (I think) you may be interested in the mugs I'm having made. If you are attending the reunion I can bring them with me. Cost is 4.00 each and you can specify the inscription with or without name(s). I will need to know your names as all I've got is your email ID. They will be available mail order (UK only) but at this stage we don't know the postage rates (I only got the 1st example this morning).

From Chris Briston 21st May 2008


I was surfing the Internet a couple of days ago and came across your RAF Coningsby Part II (May 1959 to July 1960) Continuing Adventures of . . . wonderful reading.

My great interest in life is the history of motorcycle road racing and AMC racing motorcycles in particular. I met Peter Evans at Cadwell Park in 1961 when he was riding a 1961 G50 and a 7R. He was then stationed in Norfolk, probably at West Raynham. He said that he was previously at RAF Coningsby. In 1959 he raced a Tiger Norton which I assumed was a Triumph engined Norton. In 1960, he bought a used 1959 G50 from Peter Chatterton who lived in Lincolnshire at Sibsey. Peter Chatterton bought the bike new in early 1959 and won the "slow" 500 cc race on it at the "Silverstone Saturday" meeting. In 1961 Peter had a new G50 and a 7R which he was riding when I met him. He also mentioned that he was given permission to run his bikes on the base. Did you ever hear from him after Coningsby? The reason that I ask is that I am writing a book on G50 racing motorcycles and I would like to talk to him further about his racing. You mentioned that he lived near Silverstone, but I thought that his home town was Cheltenham. I have a couple of photos of him if you would like me to attach in a later email. Was your local friendly bike man, Austin Munks from Leverton? I am also a car guy and I wonder who has the J2 MG now.

Regarding Halton Apprentices; I was taught Engineering Science by David Goman at Wymondham College in Norfolk during the fifties, He was at Halton just before, or during WW II. Also, I worked in the Engineering Dept at Vauxhall Motors with David Dellar during the sixties who was at Halton sometime after WW II.


From Tony Birchenough 10th March 2008

Hi Mike,

There should be no problem provided that the Society know in advance if we wish to access the aircraft. Unfortunately, with XM496 now being located on the "live" side of the airfield, access will only be possible with a Society official with the necessary clearance, which I don't have. Canvass our members and if there is enough interest contact me, or ask them to contact me, and I'll set the wheels in motion. Our Society are only too pleased to cater for anybody who takes an interest in our Bird. My request has been pencilled in by them, so a knowledgable member, or members, can be on hand to answer any questions. I personally hope that this is of interest.

From Tony Birchenough 10th March 2008

Hi Mike,

It occurs to me that RAF Britannia XM496, now once again resplendent in her original Transport Command colours, is currently located at Kemble, a few miles south of the RAC. This being the sole remaining example of our 23 aircraft and also the only Britannia anywhere with real Proteus engines that some of our members may be nterested in taking a look. As a member of the XM496 Preservation Society it just might be possible for arrangements to be made to open the aircaft up. Please post this to our feedback page and if response is favourable I'll see what I can do.

From Frank Chammings 7/2/08

Seeing today the sad anniversary of the Munich disaster, at Halton I recall going to Luton on an organised trip to see a football match, I think that we saw Man U play Luton, but I'm not too sure. Does anyone have a better recall as I'm pretty sure the match was before the disaster. I only went as I thought I ought to see a Division One match as coming from the sticks in deepest Devon we only had Exeter and Plymouth and even they were miles away; and our school only played rugby, our football games had to be played after school. That reminds me, only our girls played tennis at school, we had to play with them after school, strange times.

I remember seeing the newspapers in the mess at breakfast when we found out what had happened in Munich. Such isolation; I'm a news junkie now, internet, TV and Radio Five at different times of the day just to keep up.

From Satch Goodwin 4/2/08

Thought the troops might like to see what the fashion conscious armourer was wearing "up the jungle", RAF Kuantan 1964. Dave Hunt and big Ginger Russell should have happy memories of the time.

From John Taylor 28/12/07

I am considering having a round of golf prior to the Reunion bash next July. If anyone would like to join me drop me an email and I will endeavour to get it organised at South Cerney, quite near to the RAC; we should be able to get 18 holes in before the "Do".

From Mike Stanley 24/11/07

I notice that no one has gone onto the feedback page since my entry regarding my top 10, or rather no one has made any entries. Bob Galbraith must have looked at the page as he has been in touch by email and answered my question as to the name of that tune; it's "The Road to Gairloch"


From Sach Goodwin 5/9/07 Anniversary Greetings!

A bit late in the day but just time to wish all the boys a happy anniversary.

1950s Desert Island Discs: Editor's Choice from Mike Stanley

The song that always carries me straight back in time to September 1955; No 3 Wing (cant remember the block/room I think it was Blk 3/Rm 3) is "Hey there! You with the Stars in your Eyes"

We laughed at the haircut of the Sgt who was in charge of us before attestation (Sgt Beany?), after we signed the dotted line it was our turn for Sweeny. ("Hey there! you with the short back and sides")

I remember certain other songs/ tunes from my time at Halton, not in any chronological order, and many not number 1s or even in the top 10.

"Diana",opening line as I recall was "I'm so young and you're so old". not the best of chat up lines I would have thought] which was the theme tune of a mate of mine in the 82nd who professed to have the love of an older woman named Diana, just as in the words of the song.

"Flying Home", I think by The Gerry Mulligan Quartet. (I could well be wrong but Im sure some one will put me right) Slim Turner usually played this on the nights before we went on leave. Slim also introduced me to my next remembered song, "Fast Freight" by the Kingston Trio, which included the rather racy lyrics, for the time and place, "Well I wouldnt give a nickel for the bum I used to be", (the bum in question being an American hobo not a British posterior) but it is a cracking song in its own right.

"Maybe Baby" by Buddy Holly. I remember this one as we had a bloke in our billet in 2 Wing named Maybe (not sure if it was spelt the same but it was certainly pronounced the same0. It drove him wild when we all sang along with the record.

The theme /dance scene tune from the film "Picnic", which I saw in a picture house in Aylesbury (was it the Odeon?) and promptly fell in love with Kim Novak.

The theme tune played over the opening credits of "The Man with the Golden Arm" (Main Title?) where I continued with my love affair with Kim Novak.

"Doing my Time". The lyrics of this song ("doing my time, with an aching heart and a worried mind") echoed the low feelings we sometimes encountered during "2nd Year Blues" Im not sure which category it falls into. Was it skiffle, protest, or work/prison song, and who sang it?

The pipe tunes that we heard hundreds of times during our stay at Halton are burned into my memory banks as firmly as that of my service number or the colour of the annulus of the various types of 0.303 ammo. However, with the exception of "The Bear", I don't know their titles. One jaunty tune, impossible not to be whistled as one strides along, had some rather bawdy words sung by us apprentices. The first line of which goes "Theres a girl in One Wing tank".

I would be grateful if some one could "Name That Tune!"

Finally "Colonel Bogey" as arranged for the film "The Bridge on the River Kwai", the Entry's signature tune bestowed on us by Slim Turner. (Try whistling it as you go past the guardroom on the next Triennial, if you have the puff!)

Thats my 10 (you only get 8 with Kirsty Young!)

From Sach Goodwin 9/8/07. Name of cafe

If my grey matter serves me well, there were two cafes on the way to Wendover. The first, a few hundred yards on the right, was the Willow Cafe, commonly referred to as the Club-de-Willow. The second, on the corner on the outskirts of Wendover, was the White House.

Thanks Sach. Your grey matter does you credit.It was the Willow Cafe that had 'Fever' on the juke box. Willie.

From Frank Chammings 5/8/07 Entry split-up: See Journal 12 article.

Back on-line after moving house, I have to wait another week to get broadband though.

I am sure that the Entries were split up the day after returning from our first Christmas Leave, Jan 1956, possibly a Thursday.

From Mike Stanley 2/8/07

Looking at the hair cuts of the hockey team in Journal 12 Sweeny must have been on a sabbatical judging by the abundance of flowing locks. Just goes to show that even at Halton we kept our hair longer than the normal military style in the 1950/60s. I would have thought we would have sported a more short back and sides type; compare that to what the average squaddie looks like these days hairwise.

From Mike Stanley 19/7/07On a pre -AOC Inspection parade at RAF St Athan the inspecting officer stopped in front of me and asked if I had had my uniform tailored. I replied truthfully that I hadn't (it being my T63 as issued at Halton some 5 years previous).

"Well it fits you very well" he said , "you must be deformed!"

Talk about a back handed compliment!

From Jim Lee 13/7/07

I have just read "The Wear We Wore?" in news letter No. 11 and it reminded me of when I was at Wildenrath in Germany. My T63 uniform was getting a bit old and shabby so I was forced into buying new one, the worst part was that my working blue was going the same way. Any way some of the guys on the camp were wearing nice smooth battledresses. It turned out that the camp tailor had a good thing going remaking the T63s into battledress at a much cheaper cost than a new battledress, so I had mine converted. That was fine until I returned to the UK and one day in the queue in the mess (about 2 from the front!) the mess sergeant came and called me into his office and wanted to know where I got the uniform from, I explained and he said OK, go and get you dinner, but I had to go to the back of the line which had grown some in the meantime.Apart from that no problems.

From Willie Keays

Hi Mike - ADA?

Ada is a computer programming language designed specifically for military real-time applications. It is supposed to provide very high reliability in mission-critical applications, such as avionics software. Ada was named after Ada Lovelace, who is often credited with being the first computer programmer.

The maiden flight loss of Ariane 5 Flight 501, a European Space Agency Ariane 5 launcher, was due to an error in a program written in Ada leading to main processor shut down and loss of guidance. Ada suffers from being designed by a committee. Maybe the same committee that, in trying to design the horse, came up with the camel.

As far as I am aware, Ada Lovelace is not related to Linda.

From Mike Stanley re Journal 11 3rd May 2007

Hi Willie

Couple of points from your article:

I don't believe there are 2 photo's of me available, the first one bust the camera.

My first working greatcoat at Halton had Royal Ceylon Air Force shoulder flashes and buttons (the buttons almost smooth with wear and the colour of the coat a rather fetching field gray) I remember cutting the flashes off but not having to sew on RAF buttons so maybe I handed it to the tailor for that?/

I have still got a trog mac, not Halton vintage I'm sorry to say but issued when I joined the GPO; I did have matching oilskin kecks and a Sou'wester to complete the ensemble.

I seem to recall that the T63 issued to me had a cloth belt as per hairy blue;buckle and buttons agonised.

What is an Ada course? Is it like an ASDA course (I failed that when going in for shelf filler)?

From Mike Stanley 3rd April 2007

The next issue of First & Last, Journal 11, should be up on this web page at the beginning of May . . . assuming that more articles are forthcoming before then.

Your Entry Journal Needs You!

From Willie Keays 21st February 2007

Thanks to Frank Chammings for his feedback on toolboxes. Engine toolboxes were definitely red. In mine I had a file roll with a triangular file, a second cut HSE file, a bastard, a round file and maybe some other files. Pride of place was taken by a 16oz ball-pein hammer. I also had a hide-face. There was a fitter's square, a steel rule, spring dividers and a scriber. A GS and a rachet screwdriver were also included together with a hand-brace and a cuddly toy.

Have I missed anything?

From Ian Dakers 14th February 2007

The RED ARROWS aerobatic squadron of the Royal Air Force brings huge pride and international prestige to the UK, but the Treasury bean-counters in our beloved Government want to axe the Reds to save a couple of shillings. The personnel, pilots and aircraft of the squadron are all capable of deployment elsewhere in the RAF, so the money really saved would be peanuts.

Cynics might observe that the move is a covert campaign to expunge from the public mind a potent and highly visible symbol of the very best of the Royal Air Force as an independent Air Arm of a United Kingdom giving up its identity to Europe.

10 Downing St website has an online petition.
. Please sign it, don't let them get away with it.

From Brian Spurway 6th February 2007

If you have had a gander at our Entry web page you will have seen the group photo we had taken at the 50th . . . our best attendance to date with 72 turning up for what was a great evening and, for some, an equally great accompanied weekend break in the Cotswolds.

The Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester did us proud and is once again the choice for our next reunion....the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Halton.

Soon after that last reunion I placed a booking with the RAC for the evening of 30 Jul 08 which will be exactly 50 years from our graduation; a recent check with the management assured me that the booking still holds and that all they require of me, some twelve months before (i.e. this summer), is a good approximation of the number we expect to attend. Although there's stacks of time I would really appreciate an early reply to this message letting me know if you plan to attend on 30 Jul 08 or, hopefully not, that you have no intention of joining us.

Of course I fully appreciate that at our age plans don't always reach fruition but I remain "basically optimistically reasonably confident" that we will be able, yet again, to increase the number attending. Once I have finalised arrangements with the RAC I will send out all the necessary details. Looking forward to hearing from you.

From Frank Chammings 5th February 2007

Re Journal 10

I thought that my toolbox in basic was brown, probably faulty memory again. I have still got some ex-RAF tools, I was given the task of sorting out our tools on 22 Sqn to build a portable toolstore with a tag system and had to write off (most) of the unusables. My GS screwdriver has served me well over the years in civvy street, we never had a problem with lost tools, as we had to pay for them.

I forgot to add my telephone number to the request for the triennial, it is 01837 52095 can you add it at this late stage.

From Mike Stanley: 4th February 2007: Re Journal 10

I did have it in the back of my mind that hard copy of the Journal should be offered to an appropriate museum; As you say in the future researchers ,or even Joe Public, will be interested how it was for the "ordinary" serviceman. Rif raf history, as Asa Briggs described it, has more resonance now days and possibly in the future, than the history we were taught at school; kings and dates and treaties etc. (who can forget The Diet of Worms,whenever it was?(

I suppose the obvious place would be Halton, although the RAF museum at Cosford would also be a likely archive. It is something that the entry should think on.

As for the colours on the pie chart; the program I used [ part of Works suite 2000] decided which colours to produce. I suppose I could have changed them but I considered red appropriate for plumbers (danger! plumber at work); blue for riggers for their language used when cleaning out the elsan; yellow for engines as that was the colour on the tips of propellers, used to stop the black from falling off; green for electricians, as they really wished to be plumbers (envy) and light blue for instruments as they were too well brought up to swear like the rest of us.

I don't remember having a tool box at Halton. As I recall all our tools used in Workshops were on shadow boards. But why would a plumber want a tool box for his 2lb lump hammer?

20th November 2006

Hi Sach

This was indeed a Beaufighter. It was mentioned in Journal 5. As far as having 4-bladed props the simple answer, for non-engine fitters, was to transmit the increased power of larger donks but exactly what the mark of Hercules fitted to the Beaufighter were, I don't know. The Hastings, with Hercules 216 or 230 had 4-bladed props so we can assume that the Beaufighter cockpit classroom was either a late mark Beaufighter, or a lash-up with engines from some other aircraft.

20th November 2006

Question to the engine fitters from Brian Goodwin

Have just stumbled across a photo of the front end of an aeroplane attached to a shed (classroom) at airfields. Am I right in thinking it was a Beaufighter? If so, how come it has four bladed props? All the photos I've seen of Beaus have three blades. Answers on a postcard to (Replace # with the 'at' sign to avoid spam generation)

Thanks Willie, a good practical solution with the only downfall probably being the amount of work you have to keep up with.ell done.



Hi Ned

Our new feedback page is slower than the previous set-up but it's spam-free and very much cheaper than buying-in secure feedback software and the necessary change of ISP and host.


Good to know you are working on the "spammers";Is there any more info on the Entry badge re-production?

Ned Kelly

Did anyone go to the 50th anniversary of The Freedom of Aylesbury Parade? Does anyone remember being on the original parade? If yes/yes then how about an article for the Journal on Then and Now.

Mike the Ed