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Yes, it's official! There was no dissention and we do not appear to be in default of any exclusive name or copyright, so 'The Wheel' it is! The following letters were received in support:-
Monty, Would you congratulate Dave on his first issue. It came through loud and clear and is more relevant to us than the Haltononian. If we all supplied details of one or two incidents at Halton, we could really help Dave. Not much to ask if it helps us all keep in touch. Bryan Beames 66th

Yes! Articles are wanted or else 'The Wheel' will die - Editor
Many thanks for sending me the first issue of your very interesting newsletter. I wish you success with the venture and look forward to further issues in due course.

Bill Kelley, Haltonian Editor

Congratulations on Issue 1.
Enjoyable reading!!

Mac McGown 58/59th

Please keep up the good work.
Ian Stephenson 41st

Received Issue 1 of 'The Wheel' today and was most impressed. Congratulations to you and the rest of the crew.
Norman Bolland 45th

Thanks for 'The Wheel' It's wheely good! Ed Austin 80th
I really like the newsletter both in name and content.

Gordon Francis 77th

Thank you everyone. It is good to have positive feedback!
David Sykes, 68th, Editor

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Reunion 2005 Jingle

The following is meant to be memorised and mentally sung until you have booked your accommodation for the Reunion. It was inspired by an old Halton ditty, normally sung whilst marching, at times of euphoria, such as the end of exams or during Pass Out high jinks.

Roll-tiddly-hoh! Book up
Then check with Gus,
Never let inaction
Make you miss the bus.

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2005 Reunion

We Need Action Now!!
This event has been organised by Graham Smart 80th (Aka Gus) who has worked very hard to organise an attractive programme for us. We now need your help to make this a memorable reunion and so we need as many members (and partners) as possible to make this a success, and in order to secure accommodation and to give Gus an idea of numbers attending, we need your help NOW!!
A group of hotels/motels are listed below and who Gus has negotiated with to meet our needs, and we request that you contact the establishment of your choice and book for any, or all, of the dates shown, according to which days you wish to partake of the programme. Please state that you are a member of the NZRAFAAA attending the reunion. (This is very important at 'The Criterion' where a block reservation has been made.) Once you have done this, would you kindly complete the form and send it off to Gus, by the 7th April 2004 (Next month!!).

So, at this stage, we would like to know where you are booked into, or if you are staying in private, or other, accommodation. We would also like to know if you would like to attend the official dinner and require you to indicate if you are planning to be there. We would also like to know whether you were in the 80th Entry and wish to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the formation of that Entry. A proposed programme of events is outlined on page 5 and we will require details of your event choices, in the September Issue, when we will again ask you to complete a form, so that Gus can then make the necessary arrangements.

Gus is urging that you book your accommodation immediately, to ensure that you will attend the Reunion. Remember that by the next Airshow, (this Easter) the Airshow Buffs will have been 'triggered' into reserving their accommodation for the 2005 Blenheim Airshow, which means 'no show' for anyone who has not already booked accommodation for our Reunion, so please jump to it! Gus does not want to be directly involved in the booking process and we ask you not to trouble him unless it is absolutely unavoidable. He does need your statistics, however, to confirm your attendance and to complete his plans, so the expeditious despatch of the forms to him will be appreciated!

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Letters to the Editor

The following is a letter from Ian Stephenson 41st
I cannot commit myself to Easter 2005 as I am an Anglican Minister and sometimes get called upon.
Thanks, Ian, but we will be pleased to see you if you are able to come. I never cease to be amazed at the wide range of careers ex-Brats have pursued after their service life. DS Ed.

Thought you might be interested in a few of the' big wheel' ex-Brats whose obits I've seen in the UK newspapers this year.
Norman Bolland 45th
Thanks for the obits, Norman. Will use them in later editions. DS Ed.

The following letters were received from the UK after 'The Wheel' had been mentioned in 'The Haltonian'.
I have been trying to track down George Gardiner, ex-86th. I spotted him in the group photo of the Taupo Reunion, which appeared in the Summer Edition of 'The Haltonian'. The story reported a pretty good party!
Brian Sidebotham 86th
I sent George's email address to Brian. Contact has been made. DS Ed.

I was trained as a rigger at Halton with Chris Norman. I will be on holiday in NZ in February and wondered if you could help me to contact Chris so that I can say hello!
Mike Mason 98th

Unfortunately, Chris is listed on our 'unknown address' list and his email seems to receive but does not transmit. Would like to hear from you, Chris, if you have the time. DS Ed.

A letter containing photos of artwork was sent to me by Des Davies 41st. Des presented pictures of NZ airmen to the Airforce Museum at Wigram and these are currently on display. The pictures are of Sir Keith Park standing by his Mosquito in Malta and a picture of Bob Spurdle in his Spitfire. (click here for a view of the display at Wigram.) Des has also painted a picture of a RNZAF 40 Squadron Hercules depicted flying during the First
Gulf War. He presented this picture to 40 Squadron. Des said he started painting whilst at Halton and earned sixpence for pencil portraits for the Brats with girlfriends. Each fee equated to beans on toast, tea and a rock cake. Good on you Des and thanks for sharing this with us. DS Ed.

The following prayer was given to me by Eric Broughton 68th when I was last in UK. Eric is the Secretary of the Peterborough Branch.

The Aircraft Apprentice Prayer

Teach us, Good Lord, to be thankful
For all the good times we had,
The skills we have learned,
The friendships we have enjoyed.
May all who have served the apprenticeship Of the 'Wheel'
Be Mindful of the needs of one another,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

A package was received from Mark Bishop, the autistic son of Stephen Bishop 83rd Entry.
Mark first began to talk when he was 12 and progressed over 17 years until a real interest in communicating emerged, and his contact with us is as part of his ongoing development. Mark has extended his talents to become a pilot and a concert pianist and he writes with beautiful calligraphy. He gained the 'AOPA Student Pilot of the Year' Award in 1994 and achieved piano grades of 1-8 in 21/2 years. He is self-taught and has built up a concert repertoire, has perfect pitch and coordination and plays extremely difficult pieces from memory.
Mark has a deep concern for the environment and is promoting several worthy causes. Among these is the full recognition and celebration of Sir Frank Whittle's invention of the jet engine and the replacement of a stolen Polish War Memorial, which will be replaced with a full-sized Mk-V Spitfire replica. If you would like to give a donation (however small) to either of these appeals, or if you would like copies of details sent, or more information on Mark and autism, then please contact the Editor.

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Web Feat

We now have our own website, thanks to Bill Howell 68th arranging same and being urged on by Monty Firmin 80th.
The address is:- www.nzrafaaa.co.nz
It consists of this issue and issue 1 of 'The Wheel' but is open to further development and contributions from members.

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Halton E Sites

Halton Aircraft Apprentices Assoc. www.members.aol.com/haltonapps/halton
The Association offices at Halton Airfield are manned on Tuesday and Thursday mornings only. The email address is:- rafhaaa@aol.com

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A Stupid Stunt

We were undergoing 'Airfield Practice,' gaining experience by working on 'real aircraft' and were completing a range of tasks without the close supervision normally experienced at Halton. We sometimes became bored with these simplistic jobs and so engaged in various pranks to add excitement to the day. As we all trouped out for our Naafi break, the only noise coming from inside the hangar was from a Type L Air Compressor and it sounded as though it was really struggling. Being inquisitive, I wandered over to find a couple of Brats had inserted a bolt into the end of the supply line and had secured it firmly with a jubilee clip. The relief valve was normally set at 200 lbf/sq.in but these blokes had wound it right up until the poor compressor was at it's last gasp, with the belt slipping as much as driving. The guy at the air tank end then opened the air supply valve and the supply hose became rigid, just as the bloke holding the end unscrewed the hose-clip holding the bolt. There was an almighty bang, followed by tremendous hissing as the air rushed out. The bolt shot out at incredible speed, left bolt-shaped holes as it passed through the fuselage of a nearby Mosquito and put a sizeable dent in the hangar door. From inside the fuselage came the sound of frantic activity and, in a flurry of arms and legs, an ashen-faced Pakistani Apprentice jettisoned out of a hatch. He had been adjusting control cables and the bolt had put a new parting in his hair. As he yelled and gesticulated, I learned quite a few expletives in Pakistani!!
I don't recall anyone being held accountable but, in hindsight, what a stupid thing to do! The compressor might have blown up or, if the bolt had travelled lower, those guys could have faced a manslaughter charge. It doesn't bear thinking about!
Bryan Beames 66th

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The Mystified Manx Midget

In 1954, at the age of fifteen, I was determined to leave school and conquer the world. I'd been down a mine and visited a fishing boat, so I was ready. I'd read a book containing mysterious words like "empennage" and "undercarriage" and seen a DH Vampire close up with the engines running, so maybe aviation engineering was a natural extension to fixing my bike. The RAF was advertising for Apprentices and Boy Entrants in the UK comics at the time. As a keen reader of both the "Adventure" and "Hotspur" I was obviously being headhunted. With some encouragement from my Combined Cadet Force Senior Officer (alias my Maths teacher), I obtained the application forms and a syllabus for the various RAF trades. It was all over my head. There were more mysterious words like "hydraulics" and "pneumatics", so I thought being a Boy Entrant cook would suit me just fine. I could watch the aeroplanes land and prepare toast and tea for the pilots. "No way" said Mr Oates. "Apply for the Halton Entrance exam". I did and I passed. I was offered the 79th entry as an armourer. Real guns and bombs were not my thing, so in May 1955 I turned up at Halton to study Airframes with the 80th Entry (yay!!) and to discover the meaning of many more mysterious things, mainly related to Aylesbury girls and Brown Ale.
I should mention that what I lacked in mental ability was not entirely compensated for by my rather puny physique. Upon entering Halton, I was under 5 feet tall and weighed less than 8 stone. When we were sized off on parade, I just wandered off to the end. Being transferred from my home in a shady glen, in the Isle of Man, to a room-full of giant foreigners, each conversing in obscure dialects, was a bit of a shock, but not half the shock of an FFI inspection with a WAAF officer in attendance, or being advised by Drill Sergeant Paddy Orr that he "would open my brainbox and shit in it".
I was duly appointed the name Buster, or sometimes Titch. It was many years before Ed became standard. Between 1955 and 1958, Halton had apprentices from Rhodesia, New Zealand, Ceylon, Pakistan, Burma, and Venezuela. Like the expats, I couldn't go home at weekends, so many of them became my mates.I left Halton 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 10 stone. Three years of mess fatigues (All the food you could eat and, boy, could I eat!) paid off. I didn't win any prizes, but I finished about halfway down the passout list. In 2005, I'll have been working on and around aeroplanes for 50 years. We now have new mysteries like Full Authority Digital Electronic Control Systems and AIDS, whatever that is. I still enjoy fixing and riding my bike. Every journey has its mysteries and its new discoveries, so that will keep me going for a while.
Ed Austin 80th

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It is with sadness that we record the deaths of the following members. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to their family and friends
Robin Albert Crowe 83rd (L)

Association Contacts

Secretary Ed Austin
Ph. 09 266-8900
Email edaustin@xtra.co.nz

Editor David Sykes
Ph. 07 576-0970
Email damarsyk@xtra.co.nz

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83rd Entry - May 1956 Initial Training Flight (Block 6 - 3 Wing) RAF Halton
83rd Entry - May 1956 Initial Training Flight (Block 6 - 3 Wing) RAF Halton

Our Members:- Gary Cameron (Back Row 2nd from Left), Norman Armiger (Back Row 3rd from Left)
Don Grey (Front Row 7th from left)
This picture was kindly sent to us by Mark Bishop (UK). His father, Stephen Bishop, is positioned
in the Front Row 1st from Left.

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A view of the display in Wigram Museum containing artwork painted by Des Davies 41st.
The framed picture in the left hand cabinet is of Sir Keith Park in front of his Mosquito.

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Fri 25th/Sat 26th/Sun27th March 2005 - Travel Home on Mon 28th March

Accomodation:- The Criterion Hotel (Tel:- 0800 55 22 99) has been reserved for our use on the above dates but you will be required to make your individual booking direct with the Criterion to secure a room. (There are currently about 12 rooms left - so hurry if you want one!)

Cost per night:- Single $65.00; Twin/Double $80.00; Triple $95.00 and 1 Quad (Extends to 5) $30 per person.

Bings Motel (Tel:- 0800 666 999)

Cost per night:- 1 to 2 people $70.00, extra adult $15.00

Aston Court Motel (Tel:- 0800 163 164)

Cost per night:- 1 to 2 people $85.00, extra adult $15.00

Please book NOW, state that you are booking as a member of our association attending the reunion and fill in the form at the bottom of this page and send to Gus Smart without delay!
Gus advises that you reserve your means of travel and hire cars as early as possible and no later than 6 months before hand to avoid disappointment. Please fill in the form if you are in other accommodation or living locally and wish to meet up / attend the dinner so that Gus can have an accurate idea of numbers.

Proposed Programme:- This is a tentative programme and open to your suggestions. The final
and firm programme will be printed in the September issue and once more we will require your information, on a slip printed in that issue, to enable Gus to make the necessary arrangements.

Friday Evening (25th March):- Meet and Greet at the Criterion or Marlborough Club. Then followed by 80th Entry 50th Anniversary of Induction Celebration Dinner (approx. $30 details to be confirmed). Non-80th members dine at an alternative venue.
Saturday (26th March):- Full day at Omaka Classic Fighters Airshow. Entry Fee estimated to be about $20.00.
Sat. Night ( 26th March):- Reunion Dinner (All Entries) at 'The Marlborough Club' Max 100 people. Cost approx. $25.00 pp.
Sunday (27th March):- Wine Trail commencing at 11am. Cost per head $38 (max), excluding lunch at Montana Winery and based on a minimum number of 30 persons. Tour will include Montana Forest Estate, Cellier Le Brun and Ponder Estate and will conclude at 3.45 pm.(If anyone will be in a fit state to remember!)
Sunday Evening (27th March):- Free
Monday Morning (28th March):- Departure

Click here for a form you can print out and send to Gus Smart
NB. This will open in a new window, close it to return here.

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Finlay's Save

It was the first day of Uncle Phil's visit to our home in New Zealand. He had arrived from UK, at lunchtime, a day late and all our plans were awry. We seated him in a recliner chair out on the deck and put his favourite gin and tonic in his hand and prepared to leave for work, after our extended lunch break. He relaxed appreciatively and surveyed the magnificent scenery; on the one hand, the sea and distant shoreline with the sugarloaf shape of Paritutu Rock rising above and on the other hand, the beautiful, bush clad, Kaitaki Ranges, with the shimmering snow-clad peak of Mount Taranaki showing between the cleavage of two rounded hills. As we were about to leave, a thought struck me. "Do you realise", I said, "we have RAF Gaydon to thank for this?" (I met his niece, Margaret, while serving there and we had been happily married ever since.) Phil thoughtfully agreed that I was right. Well, I thought some more about life's chances and changes and decided I could not have met Margaret, had it not been for an earlier and more significant intervention, which had a direct bearing on my route from Halton to Gaydon as an Instrument Fitter (Navigation). I will explain---------

I was attending the selection process at Halton and it was my turn for interview. I was ushered into a waiting room where a number of other boys were nervously awaiting their turn. As I entered the room, a distinguished looking person, in an immaculate uniform, was sitting nonchalantly in an armchair. He greeted me cordially and invited me to sit down next to him. I could see that he would be regarded, by most, as a handsome man. He had well defined Nordic features, with blue eyes and fair hair, now greying at the temples and the blue colour of the uniform complemented his features. He could have been the perfect model for Charteris's 'The Saint'. After a few introductory pleasantries, he asked me about myself and what trade I was interested in. I told him that I wanted to be an Instrument Fitter and explained my reasons. He seemed genuinely interested and at no time did he talk down to me, but addressed me as an equal. I was then summoned for interview and he wished me luck.

I was seated in front of two Squadron Leaders. They were happy with my exam results and the interview proceeded well, but they seemed a bit unhappy with my electrical knowledge. I was currently competent with Mechanics, but my Tech College studies were only just beginning to deal with electrics and I was very unsure on that subject. "How would you modify a moving coil instrument to measure current?" asked the sterner of the two. I jabbered a few meaningless bits of electrical knowledge that surfaced in my mind, but Mr Stern persisted and phrased the question a different way. Still I was blank! They then resorted to hints and miming. "What a train does with wagons at the Goods Siding!" said Mr Stern. The smiling Sqdn. Ldr. at his side began to make train noises and mimed encouragement, but it was of no use, I could not answer. After a secretive discussion they gave their verdict. "We would like to offer you the trade of Airframe Fitter!" they said. Dazed, I nodded my consent and limply shook their outstretched hands.

That evening, a breathless Apprentice ran into our room. "Is there a boy called Sykes here?" he asked. He was relieved when I stepped forward. "Group Captain Finlay wants to see you straight away!" he said, and off we went. The runner left me outside the door of a room from out of which came the unmistakable sound of social activities. The Group Captain broke away from his circle and came to the door and greeted me. I recognised him as the person who spoke to me before the interview. "I understand you have qualified as an Airframe Fitter", he said, "but if you like, I can change it to Instrument Fitter!" Like many kids of that time, we were brought up to suppress our own wants and not to be any trouble to adults and so my first instinct was to decline, but then I thought, "Yes, I do want this!' and I accepted gratefully.

The answer the interviewers wanted was "Fit a SHUNT resistor " and I was duly taught this as part of the Instrumentation Course. I am very grateful to Group Captain Finlay for the opportunity he gave me and as I am now a Registered Electrical Engineer and have had a successful career in Instrumentation and Electrical Engineering, it can be seen that the Group Captain's intuition was accurate. David Sykes 68th

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