Wow! Tempus Fugit!
Well, it's unbelievable! It is just a year since we held our Biennial Reunion at Blenheim and it seems just like yesterday! The years certainly seem to go faster as you get older and the rapid passing of time may well be accentuated by the hi-tech, high speed world we live in and so it is timely for me to remind you that we need to start thinking about our next reunion, which is to be held in Napier and which will be on us before you know it! The dates to plan for are arrival on Friday 23rd March 2007 and finish on Sunday morning 25th March. Wives and partners are also invited to attend and an attractive programme will be arranged; details of which will be published in our next issue, together with details of accommodation available. We would like to have a good number attending and we would like to invite those who have not yet attended and who are capable of making the trip to Napier, to join us at the next reunion. The reunions are very relaxed; there is no rank consciousness or 'pecking-order' practised in our gatherings and there are no formal speeches. We just enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship of individuals who all started their working life as Apprentices at one of the Air Force Schools and who share similar memories from those formative years. We would love to see you there, so, come on, save up your spare change and join us at the reunion. Napier is a great venue for a get together. Hope to see you there!
David Sykes 68th Editor
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Letters to the Editor
Following reactions to his 'disinterested ex-brats' letter Peter (Cas) Brooks (UK) 77th writes:
I did not realise I would generate so much feedback! Much appreciated, as I do not get it back home. Enjoying life here, especially the cricket. We might even beat the Aussies and regain the Ashes. I am sure you would appreciate that!
I have belatedly read that you have contact information regarding Cyril (Birdy) Laidlaw 74th. We were in the same room together in 1 Wing, Halton, before we got moved over to 3 Wing. It would be good to talk to him, especially as he has been unwell it seems. Hoping you can help.
Paul Lampard (UK) 74th (invalided out in 1958).
I gave Paul address details, however a little bird tells me that Cyril was a little bit alarmed by all the attention but accepted it OK in the end.
Note you have upgraded us to a Jag - very nice, but we prefer our nippy Honda Integra.
Derrick Hubbard 46th.
Whoops! I knew I should have refused that last drink!
Many thanks for latest issue of The Wheel. I have not yet got around to reading it all, but it certainly looks like a fine effort and no doubt I'll be able to extract something for our next issue so that the HAAA know that you are all alive and well out there. One thing that will be in for certain and that is my acknowledgement of my error with the number plate!!! I am at present having a few jars in celebration of the cricket result!!! All partisanship aside, it has been an excellent series with lots of thrills and spills, quite unlike the gentlemanly game I knew in my youth!!!
Bill Kelley (UK) 55th Haltonian Editor.
It's great how snippets of information come out in the newsletters. I didn't know until I read Jim Butler's piece that Jim & I had different fortnightly pay rates. At Halton we had a flat rate of six shillings per fortnight; always seemed to be new two shilling pieces. (I used to wonder if Halton had its own MINT) I think it was late 1943 when we had a rise & used to get ten shillings a fortnight.
Bill Cowham 44th.
Bill also wrote:
I wondered if the enclosed magazine about the Pither aircraft replica & engine would be suitable for inclusion in a future issue of The Wheel? I wouldn't think there is any copyright involved; anyway, it would be publicity for the Croydon Heritage Trust. I haven't visited the place. One of our members of the Palmerston North branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society recently visited the museum and came back with a load of their magazines. The branch has also made a donation to the Trust.
Thanks Bill. Will do my best to include a future article which will feature the build and flight of the replica Pither aircraft and engine, dating from 1907-1910, by the Croydon Aircraft Company. Amazing what the people around Gore get up to when they kick off their gumboots!
Anyone interested in joining the Trust can write to:
Croydon Aviation Heritage Trust
Old Mandeville Airfield
No 6 RD
Membership gives free entry to the museum, concessions for joy rides and a newsletter. Subscription $50pa.
Bill Howell sent the following from the Internet PPrune Rumour Network which has been partly reproduced below:
MOD in UK introduce Pay As You Dine (PAYD). Just returned from Halton where the Sergeants Mess resembles a 'Happy Eater' complete with tills. As a 'Phase 3' Trainee I was entitled to the core menu FOC, however, by the time the 'food police' had served me, it was hardly worth the wait! The PAYD, as it is now, is not what people wanted. They wanted money back for not eating and no one sat the whingers down and pointed out that the reason they were fed so well (With RAF caterers in charge) was that, when they were absent, the chefs were able to use their 2.50 pounds per day to give an excellent service for the money. If you want to see the proof, go to Brize Norton's Airmen's Mess and see the superb service and excellent food the service caterers give.
Bill Howell commented on this:
I was at Halton recently for a reunion. We were treated to a snack in what we knew as No.2 Wing Apprentices Mess and was amazed to find it looked and smelled as it did all those years ago. (At a recent lunch meeting with Monty, Ed Austin and myself, Bill declared that there was even the butter stain on the wall that was there when he was a Brat. He said one of the diners threw a whole block of butter at the wall. Presumably he didn't like the food! DS Ed.) The Officers Mess, on the other hand, has deteriorated considerably. It's just a crumbling old ruin today. The once beautiful and atmospheric dining room is a shambles and the bar simply isn't fit to drink in. A 'Happy Eater' would, perhaps, be something of an improvement.
Bill Howell 68th.
Monty replied and referred to our lunch discussion held last July:
I remember No2 Wing Mess well. What a coincidence, at lunch we were talking about the butter stain on the wall and the redecorated Officers Mess. It was a good get together over lunch, thanks!
Monty Firmin 80th.
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Vulcan To The Sky Project (VTTS)
While attending an international air show at RAF Cottesmore in July 2000, I came across two things which really attracted my attention. One was an original Frog plastic kit of a Valiant V-bomber, WZ365, for which I had been searching for some time because I had been a member of the ground crew of Valiant WZ 365 at RAF Gaydon for part of my National Service. The other attraction was a stall with various small pewter models of a Valiant. While purchasing one of these, I was asked if I would like to join a group called the XH558 Club. Following a chat with one of the group on the stall, I was duly recruited to the club, which had been formed to fund raise for the restoration of Vulcan B2 XH558 to flying capability.
XH558 was the last Vulcan on operational charge and was flown from 1986 until 1992 with the Vulcan Display Team (VDT) and was flown and displayed exclusively at airshows and other public events. The MOD decided that the Vulcan would no longer be flown after the end of 1992 and that the aircraft should be sold off by tender and despite huge public outcry and petitions to parliament, XH558 was sold off. It was purchased by C. Walton Ltd and the last flight was when it was flown to Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire in March 1993 where it is presently located for restoration.
The aircraft has a proud record in that it was flying with the RAF for 33 years spending most of the time at RAF Waddington but also with spells at Scampton, Finningley and, at the end of squadron service, was flown to Marham for disposal. Fortunately, it was 'rescued' by being selected as the replacement aircraft for the VDT and returned to RAF Waddington where the VDT had their home base. XH558 made a final appearance at Cranfield in September 1992 where it looked magnificent making a last flight surrounded by the Red Arrows Team flying in 9 Hawker Harts.
Having found a home at Bruntingthorpe it was feared that XH558 might have to be sold off, as the amount of money required for restoration was considerable, however the Vulcan to the Sky (VTTS) Trust, formed to facilitate the restoration, had their application to the Heritage Lottery Fund approved and were advised that £2.74M was being made available to the project. This was on the basis that the VTTS Trust would continue raising funds in addition to those already raised and would set up educational programmes for school visits and would facilitate viewing and give presentations to visitors on a regular basis and hold open days. A film of the restoration work is being made by the History Channel of Satellite TV and will be shown periodically.
Having joined the XH558 Club back in 2000, I felt that I was in no position to help with fund raising events at weekends as I was already committed to fund raising for the RNLI Lifeboats, however earlier in 2005 a circular was put out by the Vulcan Operating Company (VOC) for volunteers to help get the hangar shipshape for acceptance by the CAA so that Marshall Aerospace could begin work later in the year and I replied that I could give my services for one day each week. They then appealed for someone who could do a drawing of the hangar. This was where I felt I could really contribute, having spent the previous 40 years helping to design and build automated warehouses. I have AutoCAD on my computer and so I offered my services as my contribution to the project and visited Bruntingthorpe for the first time last April. On entering the hangar I was pleased to see that the Vulcan, although stripped down to the bare bones, was sitting very proudly on the jacks. My first job was to measure up the hangar and produce a drawing showing the Vulcan and the various engineering sections within the hangar. Since then I have been visiting once a week to work with other volunteers with the many tasks still outstanding.
It is 'all systems go' now that the VOC engineering teams are in place; many being ex RAF or Navy and with many of the ex RAF guys having been involved with Vulcans for some years. Marshals Aerospace are due on site in a few days time and all the other original equipment suppliers are ready to support the work to be done, but there is still one very important requirement and that is the continuation of raising further funds to complete the project and to keep XH 558 flying after that and so support from any quarter is urgently required. Perhaps some of the ex-Apprentices who read The Wheel may have worked on Vulcans or even have been involved with XH 558 at Waddington? Whatever your interest, whether from an intimate relationship with the Vulcan bomber or just a wish to see a piece of historical engineering preserved for posterity, your support would be welcomed. There are a number of ways of giving support, namely, by becoming a member of the VTTS Club or by donation from individuals or companies or by purchasing a piece of the Vulcan equipment.
A membership form and all details of membership fees are to be found at:
The VTTS Club membership secretary is:
79, Attfield Drive
Leicester LE8 6ND
Trevor Danks (UK).
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Eric (Blondie) Broughton 68th
It is with sadness that I must report that Eric is seriously ill and is not expected to recover. Eric was trained as an armourer and is a friend of several of our members, including myself. He is domiciled in the UK and is the editor of the Peterborough Branch newsletter. If anyone wishes to have more details or would like to contact Eric, I will be pleased to assist.
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Australian Branch HAAA
I am in touch with a member of the Australian Branch HAAA and I have been given a list of Australian members, which adds up to a fair tally. If anyone wishes to trace a lost mate, who they consider may be on the list, give me a call. I also have the address of the Secretary and Newsletter Editor.
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Don Gray 83rd
Don is ex-RNZAF.
Stuart Seggie 129th
Stuart is ex-RAF
Simon Amos 136th
Simon is now a serving officer in the RNZAF but was formerly RAF
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National Memorial Arboretum
The National Memorial Arboretum is located on a 150 acre National Forest site at Alrewas, Staffordshire, UK. The Arboretum is home to over 100 major memorials representing military and civilian organisations, in addition to many individual dedications. A memorial has recently been installed in memory of Royal Air Force Halton Apprentices and a memorial to Boy Entrants also exists there. The site is said to be a living and lasting focus for people from all walks of life and is a haven of peace and contemplation where visitors can enjoy and learn about the trees and reflect on their special symbolism.
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The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.
Without ammunition, the USAF would be just another expensive flying club.
You've never been lost until you've been lost at Mach 3.
I remember when sex was safe and flying was dangerous!
Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there!
Never fly in the same cockpit with someone braver than you!
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He Was a Brat Too!
The Service Career of Sir Frank Whittle (Father of the Jet Age).
On applying to join the RAF, Frank passed the written exam, but failed the medical: at 5 feet tall he was too short! After following a diet and exercise regime (given to him by a sympathetic PTI) he gained 3 inches in height and chest measurement in six months.
Eventually, 364365 Boy WHITTLE. F. arrived at No. 4 Apprentice Wing, RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, aged 16 years, to train as a fitter in the three years 1923-26. He excelled as an apprentice and was transferred as a Flight Cadet to RAF Flying College, Cranwell. He went solo in 1927 after just 13 hours of instruction - the machine a WW1 Avro 504K; one of which he 'pranged' a few weeks later, with little worse than damaged pride, no doubt.
Pilot Officer Whittle joined No.111 Fighter Squadron at RAF Hornchurch in 1928 flying Armstrong Whitworth Siskins. His next posting was to Central Flying School at RAF Wittering, followed by a further posting, in 1930, to RAF Felixstowe, the Marine Aircraft Establishment, as a test pilot and once again he excelled.
On to RAF Henlow in mid-1932 to attend an Officer's Engineering Course followed by a period in charge of Aero Engine Testing. After a 2 year stint at Peterhouse College, Cambridge where he gained 1st Class Honours in Mechanical Science, followed by one year of post-graduate studies and then assignment to the Special Duties List which allowed him to work full time on 'his engine'.
Norm (Spike) Armiger 83rd.
The following article is my compilation of various paragraphs and statements taken from various documents relating to Sir Frank Whittle and his outstanding achievement in successfully designing the World's first gas turbine jet engine. These documents were sent to me by Mark Bishop, the autistic son of Stephen Bishop (UK) 83rd. The documents included an article from the Far North's Northland Age Community Newspaper in which Norm Armiger was quoted and I am assuming that Norm sent a copy of that article to Mark, who was campaigning at that time (2001) to rouse the British Government into appropriately recognising and nationally commemorating Sir Frank Whittle and his jet engine invention. The indifference shown by the British Authorities to Sir Frank's endeavours to get the first jet aircraft into the air, particularly in view of the threat emanating from Nazi Germany, is nothing short of criminal and it would appear that little had changed up to 2001, judging by the reply Mark received from his local MP. In his letter to the MP, Mark had requested that Sir Frank's contribution be recognised, nationally, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of that first flight. After a few irrelevant pleasantries, the MP did say that he was forwarding the letter to the Director of the Royal Aeronautical Society and, whether as a result of that letter, or other letters sent to prominent people and the many pamphlets that Mark distributed, a memorial sculpture to Sir Frank was recently unveiled in Chestnut Fields in Rugby. The sculpture was commissioned by Warwickshire County Council and rises 5m into the sky and depicts the motion of a wind turbine within the jet engine. It is further embossed with scenes from Sir Frank's life. Perhaps that will be the nearest thing to a National Memorial. Other smaller memorials have appeared in recent years including a memorial window in St George's Church, Halton; a blue plaque memorial at Cambridge University and a model of the Gloster E.28/39 mounted in the middle of a roundabout near Lutterworth and also a full sized replica on a roundabout near Farnborough.
Whittle: The Tall Poppy
This year will be the 65th Anniversary of the first successful turbo-jet flight by the Gloster E28/39 experimental aircraft, powered by the late Air Commodore Sir Frank Whittle's W1 jet engine. This aircraft, flown by test pilot Gerry Sayer, took off from Royal Air Force Cranwell on the evening of 15th May 1941 at 19.40 hrs landing safely back at Cranwell some seventeen minutes later. Senior Captain Ian Whittle (Sir Frank's son) said on a BBC interview "I don't think the general public world-wide really appreciates that all jet engines throughout the world, propelling all jet aircraft, can trace their lineage back to that original W1 engine.
Recognising the limitations of a propeller-driven aircraft at high altitudes, Whittle's foresight in the 1920s prompted him to set about developing a propeller-less aircraft with an engine driven by the ignition of a compressed mixture of oxygen and gasoline. This new engine was designed to deliver faster speeds and to perform better at higher altitudes. Whittle patented the idea in 1930 whilst serving as a Flying Officer, but, unfortunately, the Air Ministry did not support further development of his invention and he was to face years of bitter struggle against Ministry officials and later, against unscrupulous industrialists. Finally, six years later, the Air Ministry financially funded Whittle forming with him the company named Powered Jets Limited, where he would develop his jet engine, but by then, researchers in other countries, including Germany, had got wind of the jet concept. It was not until 1939, when war was imminent, that the Air Ministry got seriously involved, but it took a further four years to produce the first British operational jet aircraft.
On 12th April 1937, the world's first jet engine was run on a test bed at the British Thompson-Houston factory in Rugby. The jet age had now begun and, by the middle of 1938, despite numerous obstacles, Whittle had established the validity of the jet engine and, eventually, in May 1941 that first test flight was carried out. Coincidentally, in the same month, American General Hap Arnold came to Britain and learned what was happening and within six months, Whittle engines were being made in the USA and so the next Allied jet to take to the air was American. Soon the USA had more Whittle engines and jet aircraft than existed in Britain and Whittle paid an official visit to the USA during the summer of 1942. The visit was outstandingly successful; particularly as far as the newly formed US jet industry was concerned, but it was not until 1943 that Whittle's vital invention 'took off' in Britain when Rolls Royce were brought in. In strong contrast to his treatment in the U.S, the second experimental Gloster E.28/39 jet aircraft was demonstrated to Prime Minister Winston Churchill and senior members of the Air Staff: Frank Whittle, inventor of the jet engine was not invited. Worse was to come for Whittle when early in the following year the government not only nationalised Whittle's company, they also expressly stopped it from ever making a jet engine again!
Frank Whittle was knighted in 1946 and paid 100,000 pounds for the rights to his patent, but this was a paltry sum; the Government was selling his technology at 1 million pounds a time to foreign countries.
Sir Frank Whittle remained bitter about his treatment and eventually moved to the USA. Sir Frank died in Baltimore, Maryland in 1996 and this year will mark the tenth anniversary of his death.
David Sykes 68th
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Inflight Refuelling with Valiants
I was posted to 214 Squadron at Marham in September 1958 when the Squadron was in the process of converting from V-Bombers to In-Flight Refuelling Tankers using a flexible hose mounted in the bomb bay and terminating in a 5 foot diameter drogue. This hose was deployed to approximately 120 feet and when the receiver aircraft locked in, it retracted to 90 feet; then refuelling commenced.
For the first few months, we had short practice flights using our own aircraft; with a few detachments to Luqa in Malta and Akrotiri in Cyprus. Needless to say, for we ground-crew, these trips were a pleasant break from UK squadron routine; giving us plenty of sun, (No melanoma scares then!) some work to do when the various aircraft arrived and no night flying! On one trip we 'showed the flag' to Kano in Nigeria where the local inhabitants were amazed by the sight of 5 Valiants flying overhead, all hooked together, with the last one trailing it's hose at about 1,000 feet. Unfortunately, around this time, we lost an aircraft, at night, on take-off from Marham with a full load of fuel. It crashed not far from a petrol station, near Swaffham, which thankfully survived.
Later on, we started air-to-air refuelling of Hunters, Javelins and various other aircraft, making detachments to Bahrain, El Adem, Gan (Maldive Islands), Karachi, Singapore and Butterworth, among others. In those days, short-hop flights for Support Groups were normal in the RAF and we would fly UK to Malta or Cyprus, stopping for one or two nights, then on to Bahrain and so on. It took at least a week to get to Singapore or Butterworth and the same amount of time to return. It was a hard life, but someone had to do it!
One memorable occasion was when the Vulcan flew non-stop from London to Darwin. We were based at Tengah and had 4 Valiants with full fuel loads to do a 'stream take-off', at full throttle, at 4.30 am. To say that the Squadron were not very popular with the local RAAF and the local villagers is putting it mildly!
I was demobbed from 214 Squadron in September 1963 and, not long after that, all the Valiants were scrapped. A pure coincidence I can assure you!
Alan (Pin) Taylor (Aus) 66th
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Halton Visit - Dedication and Remembrance
My wife Margaret and I travelled to UK last October and decided to visit Halton on 8th November for a window dedication in St George's Church and to attend a Remembrance Service at the Tribute afterwards. Before leaving NZ, I contacted a fellow 68th Entry member, Jim LeMoine, who lives in the Midlands and arranged to meet up with him and wife Geraldine at the church. Jim also co-opted Jim Murdo (also ex 68th) and wife Ann.
Margaret and I checked into 'The 5 Bells' in Weston Turville the night before and we found it to be a superb place with an excellent menu and top quality food and we were booked into a good sized room with an ensuite and so we were very comfortable. The next day, we arrived at St George's Church a little earlier than the appointed time and there was already a large assembly of ex-Brats and their wives and families gathered outside the church. The Golden Oldies Pipe Band was also there and they were practising a few numbers prior to the official ceremony and before we all filed in to take our pews.
The service was dedicated to the earliest boy trainee mechanics of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), who first started training in 1917 and whose commemorative leadlight window had just been installed in the front of the church. These Boy Mechanics were the fore runners of the RAF Apprenticeship Scheme and a talk giving a description of their living conditions and their training was given by Air Chief Marshall Sir Michael Armitage 56th as part of the service and it was clear that those young boys had a very rugged time and it made our training sound like a picnic! They were domiciled at Cranwell and, in their first years, their living accommodation was in bell tents and they slept on palliasses filled with straw. The palliasses were only allowed to be filled every 6 months and by that time the straw had turned to chaff and with the unsanitary conditions in the tents, particularly in the cold Lincolnshire winters, epidemics were rife. It was said that the boys with illness were not allowed to eat with the healthy ones and so, in order to control and identify the sick using the mess, they were issued with colour coded patches to wear on their uniform which identified their illness and so all those of one colour messed together! There is one known survivor of these ex-Boy Mechanics, aged 105, but he was said, understandably, to be too delicate to travel to the service.
Afterwards, we grouped around the Tribute for the Remembrance Ceremony and the assembly was complete with an RAF Escort Party and Last Post and Reveille were played and it was all very moving. Following on from the ceremony, we were bussed to the Officers Mess at Halton House for a lunch comprising finger food and drinks. (Halton House is like a beautiful wedding cake in golden stone and was built and formerly owned by Lord Rothschild.) This was a great experience and the Golden Oldies Pipe Band serenaded (if that is the right word - sorry guys, you were great, but I wish you had been fitted with a volume control so that we could carry on talking!) us from the minstrels gallery. The wives were full of smiling admiration when we all yelled "Oi!" in the appropriate places when 'The Black Bear' was played and it was quite an emotive trip down memory lane.
We left Halton House in our bus and went to a Pass Out Ceremony of the RAF trainees, which was very good to watch and this was followed by a visit to the Apprentice Museum, which is housed in the former gymnasium on the edge of Henderson Square. Our bus took us back to our drop-off point and passed through the old field kitchen training area, through lines of trees in beautiful autumn colours and along the base of the Chiltern Hills. We then passed Maitland Barracks ( 3 Wing) which was my first home at Halton.
We invited the two Jims and wives to have dinner with us at the 5 Bells and, as we had all served at Gaydon at the same time, there was plenty to talk about and because the wives all came from Warwickshire they were talking as enthusiastically as their ex-Brat husbands. The two Jims and wives had to drive to the Midlands in the dark, but that time together at dinner was the 'icing on the cake' at the end of a super day.
David Sykes 68th
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