Our next Biennial Reunion, due to be held in Christchurch from 20th to 22nd March 2009, is approaching at a rapid rate of knots and the next thing you know it will be time to go! The event organiser is Derrick Hubbard 46th who says that, although it may seem to be early days at the moment, he would really appreciate it if those that do wish to attend would complete the slip on page 6 and send it to him without delay. Derrick goes on to say that he had a flurry of interest just after the September Issue was sent out but not much has happened since then. He reported that he has received 14 names for dinner and the coach trip so far and makes the point that he needs a minimum of 30 names for the coach in order for it to become a confirmed charter. This would ease pick-up and departure times and would keep the cost down and so we all urge you to make the effort and register your interest as soon as you can. If you have never attended one of our Reunions and you are fit enough to do so, we recommend you give it a try.
Our Secretary, Ed Austin 80th, sends the following message: "We seem to have struck the right formulae for our Reunions. Napier was definitely one of our most memorable events. If you haven't joined us before and maybe, like me, you are not a Reunion person; I can assure you that we and our partners enjoy meeting as friends and colleagues and sharing memories and yarns from our common backgrounds and experiences. We would dearly love you to join us in Christchurch."
David Sykes 68th - Editor
Back to Top
Halton Triennial Reunion
Monty Firmin 80th recently attended the 2007 Reunion at Halton. He reports as follows:
Jill and I visited our son and family living in Copenhagen, Denmark. We tied it in with the Halton Triennial Reunion, flying over to Gatwick for the Reunion and returning afterwards to Copenhagen.
On the Friday evening, 80th Entry Brats and partners met at an Aylesbury hotel for drinks and dinner. Instant recognition after 49 years for some, a little prompting needed for others.
On Saturday morning we drove in convoy down familiar back lanes to Halton. At Airfields we congregated in No 1 Hangar under our entry number. Further new faces appeared; in all some 30 of us from the 80th Entry. The RAeS Rotary Wing 100th Anniversary static display, together with a model aircraft flying display, kept us entertained. Our very own Brian North 80th had his home built single seat on the flight line. The pipes and drums of the Golden Oldies just keep getting better; playing for us in the morning.
After lunch, in No 3 Hangar, some of us shuffled up to Schools and the Museum for more nostalgia before the majority fell in at Airfields and 'marched' through Halton Village to St George's Church. The 'standing room only' service was very moving. The singing, the sermon, the whole service, including the dedication of entry windows, was so emotional. We then paraded by entries in front of Old Workshops.
We gave as good as we got from the regular Drill Sergeants as they bawled us out. We moved off across Main Point, up the hill past the guardroom and on to Henderson / Groves Square. Smartening up as we wheeled 6 abreast onto the square to pass the Reviewing Officer (The Station Commander) I would swear we were suddenly all in step. The only imperfection noticed was the occasional quip from the ranks to the Reviewing Officer as we passed, which was not left unanswered by him.
The lone piper's lament, followed by the swell of music from the Golden Oldies and the Military Band, completed a very emotional day.
Monty Firmin 80th
Back to Top
Bomber command Memorial
A petition to erect a National Memorial in London to the 55,000, or more, young men who gave their lives during the bombing campaign 1939-45 has been proposed. The proposer feels that Bomber Command deserves the same honour as those commemorated by the magnificent Battle of Britain Memorial. You can be a signatory via the following website: www.petitions.pm.gov.uk/Bomberb
Back to Top
Letters to the Editor
I recently asked Darkie Dunn, who was at Ohakea in 1955, if he remembered the visit by the Valiants and whether he had any photos. He replied:
I remember the Valiants well as they did a low pass over the billets at Ohakea. Don't recall having any pics of them though but do have some in the archives of the US stuff, with one which had a B17 in it. All these aircraft were on the tarmac in front of 42 Sqdn and stretched all the way to 75/14 Sqdn. Good days, eh!
Darkie Dunn ex-RNZAF(74952)
I went to the Isle of Man in May/June for the Centenary TT with my eldest son and trickled back via Macau, Kuala Lumpur and Kuching. Macau was a hoot. We arrived on a stormy wet evening and blundered around looking for accommodation. Next morning found us parked in the middle of a red light area. (I had noticed that the girls were friendly!)
No major cycle expeditions due to a prostate re-bore and a prolonged bout of bronchitis/asthma, which has mystified me and the experts, as I've never been prone to that condition. However, things are slowly improving and the end is not nigh, yet!
I've been building a hand-cart cum bike-cart, that's made out of old bikes, for a guy who distributes them in Namibia. The trick is to make a kit-set that doesn't require welding, machining or any elaborate parts or materials. I'll take it to the School Gala to see if the kids can break it.
Ed Austin 80th
A photo of Ed's cart can be seen here D.S Editor.
Ed's letter was copied to Bill Howell, who replied as follows:
Sorry about the re-bore and the bronchitis/asthma, which means both ends affected. The machinery appeared to be one of those magical machines by Emmett initially and then I reckoned that you had made a trailer to cart your belongings along to the next Reunion. Seeing that it is in Christchurch, I wondered if you planned crossing Cook Straight by kayak? Glad you had a good trip back to I O M.
Bill Howell 68th
The following letter was sent by Keith Smith via Ed Austin. Keith was listed in our membership list as residing in the UK, address unknown. It would appear Keith has been found!!
I have the nzrafaaa website bookmarked and regularly visit to keep up to date. I have just revisited the site and re-read the March 05 edition - I noted the article written by David Sykes regarding the visit to NZ in Sept 55 of a Valiant and a memory cell was triggered into life! I was in Darwin at the time the Valiant and supporting aircraft staged through and remember meeting up with Phil Croft (fellow 68th Air Radio) who was part of the support crew. I was in Darwin on a salvage operation - the RNZAF lost Hastings NZ5804 there. (It got airborne but with 4 props gradually cranking themselves into course-pitch. It failed to sustain flight and fell ungracefully back to earth. All the fuel tanks ruptured but the resulting mess did not ignite; instead the red earth at the end of the runway combined with the Avgas and was churned into a sea of red mud.
Keith Smith 68th (L)
I am attaching edited paragraphs from the 76th Entry website which shows that Graduation Battles obviously didn't stop with 68 graduating. There are also details confirming Monty's comments in the last issue.
Bill Howell 68th
The website paras are as follows:
76th Entry started life in No 2 Wing (Groves Barracks) with Engines trade in 1 Sqdn, Airframe and Armourers in No 2 and Electrical and Instruments in 3 Sqdn. The 76th arrived in Jan 1954 and already resident in the Wing were No's 70 and 73rd Entries.
After 70th passed out (Dec '54) entries were re-located in 2 Wing as follows:
73rd to 1 Sqdn, 76th to No 2, 79th to 3 Sqdn. This arrangement brought into focus the rivalry between entries. In 2 Wing, rivalry between 73rd and 76th came to a head with a major battle on the eve of the 73rd Pass Out. Most enjoyable, but very costly in terms of damage to property! This sort of action was mirrored in Nos 1 and 3 Wings and so at the start of 1956 all entries were split up and evenly distributed among the 9 squadrons, making up the three Wings, in an attempt to eliminate conflict (hooliganism/entry spirit).
The following para appeared under the title 'Happenings at Halton, 1954-56'
1st January 1956.
The allocation of each Entry to a Squadron in a particular Wing, introduced in Jan 1955, was abandoned and Entries were evenly distributed throughout all Wings, Squadrons and Flights for the following, amongst other, reasons:
1) Loyalty to the Entry appeared to be greater than loyalty to the Flight, Squadron, Wing, Station or Service.
2) Mass bullying on an Entry basis i.e. organised in gangs by the worst element in the Senior Entries was prevalent and growing.
3) Segregation of Entries prevented Apprentices from getting progressive experience in responsibility for juniors.
Your comments regarding the above will be most welcome. How would you have solved the problem of restoring order and good discipline yet maintaining Entry pride and spirit?
Back to Top
It is with sadness that we record the death of the following member. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to family and friends.
Lawrence Farnley 9th Entry
Back to Top
Obituaries and Comments
Lawrence (Les) Farnley was our most senior member, being from the 9th Entry, Halton. Les was active as a guide at the RNZAF Museum until quite recently and was an old friend of my parents. He died aged 99.
Peter Thorpe 89th
Back to TopThe Smiles Say It All - They Flew the Vulcan
L to R. Pilot Dave Thomas, AEO Barry Masefield, Al McDicken - Marshalls Test Pilot
Both Dave & Barry are ex-Squadron Leaders from the former Vulcan Display Flight.
The two fast taxi runs were both satisfactory with the brake parachute being successfully streamed during the afternoon run. We were then told that the inaugural flight was GO for the next day and that we should report for duty no later than 7.30am.
I reported to Bruntingthorpe for my usual voluntary ground-crew stint with the knowledge that this was the day that the first fast taxi runs of the restored Vulcan XH 558 were due to take place and there was a great feeling of excitement and expectation when I arrived. Providing the runs were successful, then the next step would be to see the Vulcan fly, which would be on the following day, weather and pre-flight tests permitting. The flight would be eagerly applauded as the culmination of several years of restoration work and frantic fundraising and we were all euphoric with the anticipation of the first flight.
XH558 had the distinction of being the first Vulcan B2 to be delivered to the RAF and the last on operational charge, completing the last flight when the Vulcan Display Flight(VDF) flew their very last display over Cranfield on 20th September 1992. It was then put out for tender and was bought by a Leicestershire businessman and was duly flown in to Bruntingthorpe by VDF aircrew in March 1993. At a later date the Vulcan to the Sky Trust(VTTS) was formed to facilitate the restoration and the considerable funding required. I was one of the band of volunteers who assisted in the restoration work alongside the professionals.
Our little crew were on the main runway at 7.15am with the sun coming up through the mist. One of our jobs was to move all the bollards, which defined the car test circuit, so that the Vulcan could move to the start-up pan and then to the runway. We were also the emergency response crew, the job being to race to the airfield emergency gates in the event of an incident. We would then escort the emergency services onto the airfield. The Vulcan was rolled out at 10.00am with all the visitors surrounding it plus the press and TV stations, who were broadcasting the event live. After a lot of photographic opportunities and interviews, the Vulcan was towed to the pan. In the meantime we were directing the visitors along the road to the viewing enclave. As the Vulcan arrived at the pan, we were sent up to the car parking area near to the temporary control tower to control the traffic and thought this would be an ideal spot to witness the takeoff, however, we had not reckoned with the Controller who then decided that all the emergency services on the airfield had to practice the emergency response procedure before the aircraft moved. So we found ourselves tearing away to the emergency gates, where, upon our arrival, the controller called on the radio to say everything had gone OK. By the time we drove back we found ourselves following the Vulcan taxiing to the runway. The controller told us to go to the viewing enclave and we were there in plenty of time to see the takeoff, which was just stupendous! The aircraft lifted off just where we were standing and the roar of the engine just about rattled your back teeth. There was a great cheer and clapping and as one newspaper put it "not a dry eye in the house". It then came round and flew down the runway at about 500 feet with everyone waving like mad. Later on I asked the AEO where they went and he said to RAF Cottesmore and back. On returning it made a perfect landing and did not even use the parachute, having plenty of runway to spare. This was the perfect end to that first flight on Thursday 18th October 2007, after all those years of hard work and fund-raising.
On board was Al McDicken (Marshall's test pilot) and pilot David Thomas, who flew XH558 to Bruntingthorpe in 1993 and AEO Barry Masefield. After the landing it taxied to a pan adjacent to the viewing point so that everyone could get up close, with the press and TV doing more filming and interviews. Everybody was on a high, with the aircraft being photographed from every possible angle. By 3.00pm it was decided that it was time for XH558 to be put back to bed in the hangar and so we found ourselves putting the bollards back to restore the test track. Our crew was then told we could go home if we wished as there were enough people to see her back into the hangar. And so ended a day which could not have been better considering the number of times the event was postponed and then to do it on such a glorious sunny day. We have all now got two weeks off before we go back to our normal Wednesday visit. It is unlikely there will be any display flights this year but understand there is likely to be one further test flight. However, we have plenty to do in sorting out the spares store. The next big task is raising the money to keep it flying. Attached are a couple of photos from the day.Ed's Bike Trundler
Trevor Danks UK
Back to Top
Back to Top
Ed sent a second photo of another Bike-Cart showing it being tested with the proverbial "ton of bricks" and says 'One organisation that has "thousands of scrap bicycle frames in 34 countries" has asked for the blueprints, so I'll send them the used envelope. I also run a retirement home for Raleigh 20's. If anyone has one lying idle in the back of the garage, that wants company and the occasional trip out, I'd like them to contact me'.
We were all adolescent teenagers and suffered the usual acne and other adolescent ailments. I didn't get spots; just a huge carbuncle right in the middle of my forehead. The M.O. examined my beret and threw it back at me in disgust and announced a week of antibiotics with 'excused wearing head-dress' and wrote me a note. Wow! I thought, this is going to be fun; however he did stick a huge dressing on my head which should have given the game away anyway. Marching to Tech without a hat appealed at first to me and all my class mates but, when I confidently tried it out, straight away came the call" Halt that flight!"
This was repeated time and time again and each time out came the chit. By the end of day one we were all very weary of it and Bob Flegg, our class leader, tried hiding me in the middle of the flight, out of sight, but it still didn't work. After some thought I took to balancing my beret precariously on the top of my head and when hidden in the middle of the flight it seemed to do the trick!
Unfortunately Queens Birthday occurred in the middle of all this. A quick parade; hat's off; three cheers; hats back on and then march past; to be followed by a day off. Wonderful! Dave Homewood, was our Corporal Apprentice (68th) at the time of the parade. "Pointless you going out there, Ted" he explained, "So you stay behind and clean up after everyone's gone!" I was doing just that when who should burst in but 'Shonk', our big-nosed Flight Sergeant. "What do you think you're doing, lad?" He could see I was busy. "Excused head-dress, Flight Sergeant!" I replied respectfully. "That's no excuse, lad! It's the Queen's Birthday Parade and you don't need a hat for that! Get outside now!" There was no arguing with Shonk; so out I went and explained it to Dave. He said "You had better fit in then!" and with a bit of shuffling (They had already sized off) I fitted in, minus my hat. "For Inspection --- Open order---- March!" came the command. Along comes Sqdn Ldr Bladon, closely followed by Shonk, closely followed by Dave. Shock! Horror! when the Squadron Leader gets to me! Temporarily speechless, he's about to say something when Shonk realises that if I was asked what I was doing on parade, then I would reply and implicate him. Quickly, he steps in before a word can be uttered by anyone and bellows "What do you think you are doing, Apprentice? You're on parade without a hat!!" Now it must be plain to everyone spotting this huge dressing that something is amiss. Before I can reply he further bellows "Get of this parade and I will see you afterwards!" I slunk off, very red faced and embarrassed, back to the hut.
Afterwards, Dave said "Have you been to see Shonk?" "No!" I replied, "He said he would see me!"
I knew Shonk would never come; I was getting used to his games! I guess I thought his dealings with others were funny but I didn't like it when he did it to me. I never ever did forget or forgive him for that embarrassing scenario.
Ted Cox 69th (C) UK
Back to Top
Christchurch 2009 Reunion
Rooms have been reserved at The Garden Hotel/Motel/Restaurant at 110, Marshlands Road in Christchurch for the weekend of 20/22 March 2009.
Room rates; Motel standard $85 - nineteen rooms available
Hotel standard $95 - nine available
Hotel 2 bedroom $125 - six available
One of each type of rooms have been viewed and all are spacious and well appointed with adequate facilities. All with toasters and tea making for those who prefer to make their own breakfast. Bring your togs - there is a swimming pool.
The Restaurant will put on a full buffet breakfast for 10 or more people or provide a packaged Continental breakfast to be taken in your room.
Approx Max cost: Buffet $15 Continental $10.
A new Bar/Lounge is under construction at present and will be completed by the time we want to use it for our "Meet and Greet" followed by a casual meal in the restaurant.
The Restaurant is a Buffet type with a good reputation and our Reunion dinner will be held there in our own area. Cost of meals - approx $25 pp (Discount for Seniors)
A scenic Coach trip to Akaroa has been pencilled in for Saturday 21st which will take you through the Plains and High country, Lakes and Bays of Banks Peninsula then into interesting Akaroa with the options of discovering the town and practicing your French or harbour cruising/swimming with the dolphins etc. (2-hour trips $52pp)
Lots of places for snack lunches or trying the renowned fish & chips
Approx cost of coach trip $35pp
Please make your own reservations for accommodation to Helen Parris at 0800 0098 98 quoting "Aircraft Apprentices Association Reunion 2009"
An early indication of interest in the Scenic Trip would also be appreciated.
For those not wishing to take the trip, public transport outside the hotel will take you into the City, Cathedral Square, Art Gallery, Museum and Art Centre and Hagley Park.
There are a few "approximates" above. Because of the time involved it has been difficult to project pricing accurately so there is a good chance that, in fact, prices may be fractionally lower. If you wish to attend, please fill out and return this slip to me.
Derrick Hubbard 46th
Back to Top