It's Reunion Time!
Well here we are again on the run up to our next Biennial Reunion which is being held at Napier. This event has been organised by our Secretary, Ed Austin, who has advised that at the time of going to press we have 48 booked for dinner and 34 for the Wine Trail, which is very encouraging but, of course, there is always room for more and if anyone wishes to make a late booking just refer to the details below and proceed from there. The planned arrival date is Friday 23rd March 2007 and we will be departing on Sunday 25th March. Some wives and partners will also be present and Ed has organised an attractive programme and so we are all looking forward to a happy time and to those who are unable or unwilling to attend, we quote those time honoured words many of us wrote on our seaside postcards 'Wish you were here!'
We have had several requests recently from other ex-RAF organisations/webmasters to print links to their websites in our newsletter. These contacts have been made due to these people discovering our website. An example of one of these requests can be seen in 'Letters to the Editor' and it is very encouraging to know that our newsletter is being viewed from afar and that our circle of contacts and friends is getting wider and that our publication and our Association is being greeted with so much enthusiasm. I would like to point out, however, that we badly need your input otherwise this publication will cease to exist. Surely someone out there must have some reminiscences we can all share, so how about it?
David Sykes 68th Editor
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To those attending our reunion; Napier is a new and exciting venue where there is plenty to see and do in the town and local area. To those who have decided not to come for whatever reason, let me assure you that our meeting is definitely not a 'boys own' occasion and that wives and partners are particularly welcome. Our meetings have become more like meetings of friends than reunions and we still have vacancies for any of you who consider making a late booking and who send in this form
The wine trail operators have advised that they can book us on the afternoon run only and at a cost of $45 per person. Anyone who opted to do the wine trail, but is now deterred by the cost ($90 for a couple) should contact me ASAP.
A ramble in Napier is planned for Saturday morning. There are sufficient things of interest near the Masonic if you can't walk too far and so we can split into groups, depending on walking ability. I suggest that everyone gathers for lunch at Valentines, which is near the Masonic and has a wide range of food and gives discount for seniors. Anyone who won't be joining us for lunch should let me know on the Friday. The wine-trailers might need a breather before embarking after lunch, so I suggest they start lunch around 11.30 and their bus will leave the Masonic at 1.30.Those who are not wine-trailing, can rest in the afternoon, or extend their local ramble. The RSA are putting us in their conference room, so we'll have a room of our own for dinner on Sat 24th. Dinner will be at 6.30 for 7.
Ed Austin 80th
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RAAF Apprentice Training
The last intake of Halton/Locking apprentices from NZ commenced their training in 1959 (92nd Entry). From January 1960 through to 1982, NZ apprentices were trained in Australia instead of in the UK. Russ Cross was trained in the second intake of NZ brats in Australia and was in touch with our Association through both Sam West 68th and Ed Austin 80th. Our committee decided that Russ and his fellow ex-apprentices would be welcome to become part of our Association. I attach a copy of an explanatory letter from Russ.
Russ wrote as follows:
That's a very kind offer of your chaps to invite us into your fold and is something to put to our lot in due course, but the RAAF trained Apps don't even have an organisation as such. I am in the slow process of putting together an e-mail address list for all Kiwis who attended RAAF Wagga Wagga and would be happy to liaise between the two groups in the meantime. The first intake of Kiwi apprentices to RAAF Wagga Wagga NSW was in January 1960. I was on the second intake in January 1961. Those first two courses did three years at Wagga before graduating and consolidating with 'on the job training' at RAAF Amberley QLD for six months. The third intake was a two and half year course followed by 6 months on the job. That format remained in place for some time before further dilution and dispersion of the original three year course. The last Kiwis went to Wagga in 1982. In all, about sixty RNZAF apprentices passed through Wagga in that time. In addition radio apprentices were trained at RAAF Frognall which I think was in or near Melbourne but my knowledge of that scheme is negligible. Most re-union activity is based on each intake, usually in Australia, which quite a few courses indulge in. In fact our 40th re-union in 2001 was held in NZ and had a very good turn out of Ockers. Our intake does a re-union every 5 years and I've been to most of them. Our 45th was held in March this year at Nelson Bay NSW and ran for a week!! Huge detox program followed!
Great to make contact with you.
Russ Cross ( 2nd W.W)
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The World's Shortest Fairy Tale
Once upon a time a guy asked a girl "Will you marry me?" The girl said "NO!" and so the guy lived happily ever after and went fishing, hunting and played golf a lot and drank beer and farted whenever he wanted.
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Secretary Ed Austin
Editor David Sykes
Friends of 138 Valiant Sqdn:
The Royal Air Force Forum
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Letters to the Editor
The Australian trained RNZAF apprentices should be made welcome, however I am not aware of NZ trained apprentices as such. NZ training was done as Boy Entrants at Woodburne and they have their own organisation and reunions.
Monty Firmin 80th
Re. the picture of 3 Wing Boxing Team, I was in the No.1 Wing Boxing Team at that time and my memories are only of our instructor, Cpl McManus, who was at one time a professional and of two close friends Gilgannon from 63rd and Derek Holt 66th/68. I did not fight in any command matches, only internal ones at Halton. One of the main reasons for being in the club was that after running up to the top of the Pimple and back before breakfast, we then had a hearty breakfast of steaks etc. which kept us from feeling hungry when faced with the delights of the School of Cookery meals.
Terry Moore 66th/68th UK
I was given a website a few days ago by a John Cooper who runs the site. John is ex-87th (Rookie!) and the site is FREE. It takes the form of a forum in which every subject under the sun appertaining to RAF life is discussed. I've found it really interesting and have already made some five submissions and for two of which I have already received replies.
Bryan Beames 66th
(The site address is shown here DS Ed)
Thanks for putting a link to my Website http://74th.co.uk
I keep checking your NZ Website 'The Wheel' to keep up to date with what's happening across the other side of the world. Always find it interesting. Keep up the good work! If you come across any ex-74th could you please ask them to get in touch and hopefully submit a short article in the 'Life after Halton' section that I am building up on the Website. You may have come across Chris Miles (74th) in NZ, who kindly volunteered one of the first of these short autobiographies.
Joe Bosher 74th UK
The following letter was sent to our secretary Ed Austin:
I got your e-mail address from an article I saw in 'The Wheel'. It was passed to me by former Boy Entrant Ray Jones because of an article about 'Operation Too Right'. This was of interest to me as the founder of our little group known as 'Friends of 138 Valiant Squadron'. We have a couple of guys in the group who were on that op. I have created a site: www.valiants-r-us.co.uk and you might find it of interest. If you would care to put a link in your excellent magazine, it would be appreciated by all of us. David Sykes (68th) might also find this of interest.
Robin (Nobby) Unwin (UK)
Re. the picture of the Boxing Team 1951: I recognise W.O. Parkes. He became the Apprentice Wing W.O. at Locking when we moved there from Cranwell at the end of 1952. One of the pictures taken at our Passing Out dinner has WO.Parkes in the centre. He was a great chap and continued to work at RAF Locking after he completed his service and I met him when I was on a course there in 1957 and also in 1960 or 61. I think he lived in Locking village after leaving the RAF.
Peter Magnall 67th (C) UK
I am Secretary of the RAF Locking Apprentice Assoc. www.raflaa.org.uk and also Chairman of the 72nd Entry Assoc.
I have been very involved over the years in trying to find my former colleagues of the 72nd.For your interest and possible publication in your newsletter I attach the list of those who have so far eluded me out of the original 112. (Historical note: The 71st Entry were the first entry at Locking in May 1952.)
Dave Gunby 72nd (L) UK
If anyone can help Dave track down ex-Locking 72nd bods please let me know and I will consult the list. DS Ed.
The following was forwarded by Ed Austin, our Secretary.
All the very best, keep up the reunions. We hold our next Reunion in September. We shall expect our usual number of about 25 plus wives and a few widows. It's not bad for 83 year olds!
Dennis Davies 41st Entry Branch UK
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It is with sadness that we record the death of the following member. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to family and friends.
Len Phillips 41st
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Obituaries and Comments
I received an e-mail from Roger Phillips, Len's son, to say that Len passed away in April 2005.
Dennis Davies 41st UK
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Whither dwells the Pither
That flies ere days of yore?
'Tis often seen yon hither
In a little place near Gore.
Our President, Bill Cowham, kindly sent in a copy of 'Switches On', the official newsletter of the Croydon Aviation Heritage Trust, which is located at the Old Mandeville Airfield, Gore, in the South Island. The newsletter detailed the successful build and flight of a replica of the Pither and Bill suggested this could be the subject of an interesting article and so, thanks to Bill and the kind permission of the Trustees and Chairman of the Trust, Mr Ian Tulloch, the following paragraphs have been evolved from the contents of their newsletter. Thanks also to Rosemarie Smith for her superb photo reproduced above from the front cover of 'Switches On'.
The construction and flight of the Pither was due to the inspiration of Colin Smith, a member of the Trust and he was ably assisted by Bill Sutherland, who took on the task of producing a suitable engine to produce the 250lbs thrust which Pither himself had measured and recorded for posterity. The successful flights were made by Gerry Chisum, a pilot from Alaska and no doubt, in true Kiwi tradition, the whole project would have become something of a team and community effort which, most surely, would have contributed greatly to its eventual success.
Starting at the beginning of this story, Herbert Pither, a keen cyclist, engineer and cycle manufacturer, designed and built a plane from cycle tubing and fabric, which he successfully flew on Oreti Beach in July of 1910, just 7 years after the Wright brothers first flew at Kittyhawk. Mr Pither's aviation activities were duly recorded in an article in the Otago Witness newspaper in 1910 and it was from the photographs published in the newspaper that enabled Colin Smith to produce scaled drawings from which he was able to construct the replica aircraft.
One of the first of many problems that Colin encountered was the fact that he had little knowledge of the principles and material specifications of early 1900s bicycle manufacturing and he was fortunate enough to locate a Mr Ken Baxter from Invercargill who was one of the last known living bicycle manufacturers of the old-fashioned style. Colin did alter mechanical mechanisms to enhance flight safety but in tackling each problem he was mindful of the enormity of the task that Pither must have confronted and went on to solve, whereas Colin had the benefit of 90 plus years of aviation engineering techniques to assist him.
A major issue of the reconstruction was to replicate a power plant resembling Pither's own engine and as it was known that the engine would have approximately 1300 to 1400 max RPM of long stroke to match the propellers of the day and having around 4 litres of capacity, all other features became very much a matter of trial and error. Fortunately, Bill Sutherland offered his services to construct the engine.
Bill was also a member of the Trust and set out to produce an engine capable of producing at least 35bhp at around 1200 rpm, equating to the 250 lb thrust recorded by Pither. The engine became something of a product of Kiwi ingenuity and was based on a P76 Leyland alloy block chopped, channelled & welded to accommodate a crankcase and mounted with Cirrus cylinders, custom made pistons, Gypsy Major con rods and oil pump and a custom made crankshaft with as much stroke as could be squeezed into the block. After frustrating problems due to carburettor design and crankshaft balance, the engine was finally successful and more than equal to the task required of it.
Colin Smith decided that for safety reasons he would make the propeller from wood, rather than the steel forging and riveted aluminium blades that Pither had used and so he managed to located a drawing of a 1910 wooden propeller of the same diameter and theoretical pitch to produce the 250 lbs thrust required. Colin went off in search for some good Southland beech which was duly delivered to Alan Brindle, the propeller expert at Mandeville, who produced a beautiful 1910-style wide bladed propeller.
The completed Pither Replica was successfully flown by Jerry Chisum on 19th February 2005 and is a great tribute to the skills and ingenuity of all those involved, particularly the instigator of the project, Colin Smith and also not forgetting Bill Sutherland, who produced the custom-made power-plant.
Compiled by David Sykes 68th (Editor)
THE PITHER FLIES - THE PILOT'S STORY
Saturday 19th February 2005 at 7.30am. No wind. The orange dawn sky filters it's light through the translucent fabric wings of the 1910 Pither Replica built by Colin Smith & Bill Sutherland at Croydon Aircraft Company.
The V-4 engine barks to life and settles into a rumpety-rump idle at 400 rpm. I taxi into position on Mandeville's runway facing into the sunrise. The engine builds revolutions; the four short exhausts emitting muzzle blasts and sparks. The speed builds. At 20 miles per hour the tail lifts the rear wheel 10 inches off the ground; I power back to slow and regulate the aeroplane's altitude with the elevator control. It IS controllable!
Over the next run I use more throttle to bring the tail up and build speed to over 30 mph. I ease the nose up slightly and feel the Pither lift off to a height of 6 to 8 inches. The pitch control works! I ease forward on the yoke to let the aeroplane settle to the ground. It proves it is flyable!
Subsequent runs - 6 more flights - prove it is definitely controllable but unstable in pitch (altitude) and sluggish in roll (wing warping).
I am honoured to be nominated for the job of Test Pilot.
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First V-Bombers To New Zealand
WP207 (138 Sqdn) touches down at Harewood Airport, Christchurch NZ on 19th September 1955 - Operation Too Right.
The following article has been taken from 'The Press' printed in Christchurch NZ on Tuesday 20th September 1955. The article is written in the stilted language of those times and the headline describes the arrival as 'long delayed' and in the article it mentions 'long-heralded Valiants'. I think this is due to the fact that WP206 lost an engine en route to Negombo (Sri Lanka) and made an emergency landing at Sharjah (Trucial Oman). It took about 4 days for us to change the engine and, as a consequence, it delayed our schedule. It was a great trip and I was able to meet up once more with my ex-Halton RNZAF friends during my tour of New Zealand. This was the very first visit by V-Bombers.
David Sykes 68th
'VALIANT JETS MAKE LONG DELAYED SWEEP INTO AIRPORT' The Press 20th Sept 1955
With a crackle and whoosh as of a forest fire in full career the Valiant jet bomber swept across Christchurch Airport at 100 feet and pulled up in a dramatic climb. The four long tubes which encased the engines looked from below like a cluster of vast organ pipes and the air throbbed with the power they ejected. The long heralded Valiants arrived over Harewood at 2.40pm yesterday and curved away to spend the next 30 minutes showing the flag over the city and surrounding districts.
The trip from Adelaide (Edinburgh Field) was done in 3hr 25min, an average of 510 knots but across the airport the jets travelled at only 350 knots. Not very fast! "Well," said Sqdn Ldr R G Wilson, DFC, who commanded the flight, "you don't throw these big machines around much". He explained that the Valiants are designed for best performance at high altitude. The Tasman was crossed at 35,000 ft and above and a 40 knot tail wind also helped to push the aircraft along.
The Valiant is not a fighter and does not pretend to behave like one, nor does it need to when the performance was as impressive as yesterday's. Even when they are taxying, these machines suggest a concentration of power well able to deal with any bomb-carrying the Air Force may demand of them. While their engines were running on the ground a heat shimmer from the jet vents rose 20ft. and the high-pitched shriek from the idling motors cut into ear-drums half a mile from the parked aircraft. There is no reason that the RAF is going to reveal the maximum performance of the Valiant while it is still on the secret list.
As the first of the Valiants came round the circuit for its landing there were few employees at Harewood who did not find their way to the tarmac. Passengers waiting to board National Airways Corporation flights and passengers required to board their transport for the city all pressed out to the grass verge as the Valiant made its approach. In vain the loudspeaker declared that the bus to the city would leave in "two minutes". With its landing flaps drooping ungracefully above its wheels, like the skirt of a button-gaitered matron of forty years ago, the Valiant was finally poised for its touch down. A puff of blue smoke sprang back from the tyres and again as the machine twice brushed the runway before settling down to it's long landing roll.
It was September 1955 and not October 1953 and there was no international air race, but a Valiant had landed at Christchurch.
Before the second machine had come in and switched off, the six man crew of the first was already being welcomed on the tarmac. They were congratulated by RNZAF Inspector-General Air Commodore R J Cohen, OC RNZAF Station Wigram Gp Cpt. F R Dix and the Senior Liaison Officer (UK) Gp Cpt. F Rump.
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NZRAFAAA Napier Reunion - March 23/24 2007
If you have not already booked and would like to make a late booking, please refer to the details below and complete this slip and send to:
38 Waimai Ave
or by email to
(Please do not send money or cheques)
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Napier 2007 Reunion Details
Our 2007 Reunion is being organised by Ed Austin and the venue is in Napier which, for those attending from outside the Napier area, will require accommodation for the nights of Fri 23rd and Sat 24th March.
Napier is the Art-Deco capital of New Zealand and offers a wide variety of attractions including the Sunken Gardens, Marineland, Botanical Gardens, National Aquarium, the Faraday Centre (Technology and Science), Old Prison and the Bluff Hill Lookout. There is also Miniature Golf and a Miniature Railway. There are a number of attractive restaurants and cafes and also a number of pleasant vineyards, which we will be visiting on our wine trail.
Ed has reserved 25 twin and double rooms (all with ensuites) at the Masonic Hotel and these will cost $95 per room and should be booked without delay by those wishing to attend. The Masonic is located on the corner of Tennyson St and Marine Parade and is not far from the RSA (34 Vautier St). We will be using the RSA for our Saturday night dinner because the Masonic is more expensive and has limited seating and is also open to other diners. The cost of the dinner is around $23 - $25 per person.
There will be a ramble, visiting places of interest, on Saturday morning and we will be divided into various groups, depending on walking ability. The time of departure of the rambling groups will be notified at the Friday evening meet-up at the Masonic. Saturday lunch will be at Valentines and Ed has suggested that those going on the Wine Trail book in for lunch about 11.30 am to allow time for a 'breather' before departing on the trail. Ed has organised the wine trail for Saturday afternoon, which will be by bus (thankfully) and which will leave from the Masonic at 1.30pm, returning later in the afternoon to be in good time for our dinner at the RSA in the evening. The cost of the Wine Trail is $45 per person.
If you have not already booked for our reunion and would like to make a late booking, please print, complete and return the questionnaire (Click Here) and send it on to Ed as soon as you can.
Everyone will be on a 'pay as you go' basis for accommodation, meals and bus trips. If you require accommodation then you are requested to phone the Masonic (Ann Philips) on 0800-627-664 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to put names to the rooms. Please quote 'Pre-booked Air Force Reunion March 23/24' so that Ann knows you are part of our group. Anyone attending the dinner but not staying at the Masonic should let Ed know on the attached form.
If you are arriving on the Friday, we aim to meet in the Rosie O'Grady Bar in the Masonic at 6pm.
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