- Current Issue - Past Issues - Links -

ISSUE 13, SEPTEMBER 2009

Obituaries and Comments
The Queen’s Colour Presentation

Editorial
One of the first things one learns on joining the Services is to never volunteer! What on earth possessed me to ignore this cardinal rule? I can only put it down to too much red wine during the reunion dinner.

I go to these reunions and Iisten to all you guys expound about past events and I marvel at your faultless ability to recall names and events of years gone by. My memory is such that I often can’t even recall yesterday. If I do recall something, the memory is often so fuzzy I am loath to talk about it as I have to make up most of the details as I go along. Nonetheless it appears that I have volunteered, according to Monty, so I shall do my best. But, I really do need topical input from all of you out there.

David’s efforts are going to be a hard act to follow. He designed and formatted this newsletter six years ago and sourced much of the content of the 12 issues to date from his own memory and experiences. I am sure you will all join me in thanking him for his sterling efforts and wish him the best with his new found leisure time.

I won’t promise to do the job for six years, but if I do I will be as old as David is now at the end of it! I just hope I weather the period as well as he has. Please don’t take this as an indication of willingness on my part to carry on this task for the next six years, feel free to volunteer to take over any time you like!
Gus Smart 80th Editor
Back to Top

Reunion 2009  
We gathered at the Garden Hotel Christchurch  for our Biennial Re-union beginning with our meet and greet on Friday evening 20th March.

Our senior member was Ron Price of the 40th entry. We also welcomed visitors from overseas, Alan (68th) and Fran Middleton from Scotland & Tony Kirk & Norman Tait, also 68th, from England . He was visiting his son in NZ who attended with him. Also Alan 66th and Rita Taylor from NSW, Ian 46th and Mollie Welsh from NSW, and Cyril Laidlaw, 74th of Tasmania. Another visitor was Russell Cross an ex NZ RAAF Wagga Apprentice who came to check out if we were suitable for his "Mob" to associate with. They will be very welcome if they so desire.

On the Saturday we had our usual bus outing; this time to the historical harbour town of Akaroa which was first settled by the French. The British arrived in force and told them to leave. The French forces left but the French settlers stayed, and their influence is still to be seen in the names of buildings and streets. They say that French is still spoken though I wasn't called upon to use my schoolboy French which is almost nonexistent after 67 years. An enjoyable outing, marred only by the weather. The reunion Dinner was held that evening with 27 brats and 18 Wives sitting down to an excellent buffet meal. The beer flowed and the noise of the conversations became louder and louder. After the meal we got down to the business side. Our Newsletter editor David Sykes (68th) announced his resignation, and was thanked for his achievements in producing an excellent Newsletter from scratch. We were fortunate to have a volunteer (Gus Smart 80th) to take over. The NZ Apps had a discussion about sponsoring a commemorative window to be installed at St Georges Chapel, Halton. There was only one dissenting voice.

During the evening Ian Welsh (46th) who now lives in NSW told how he had at one time  been an instructor at Halton and  that on applying to be an instructor at the RAAF training school, Wagga, was turned down. The RAAF considered he had insufficient knowledge to teach there.  Was it be-cause he was a POM? I wouldn’t be surprised, and it reminded me of my first encounter with the RAAF when stationed in Hong-Kong. It was decided to hold our next Reunion at New Plymouth in 2011. A Vote of thanks was given to Derrick and Vera Hubbard for their great organisation for the event. Though the weather over the weekend was not the best it did not put a damper on the proceedings. Everyone enjoyed themselves and there was still plenty of talking at breakfast on the Sunday morning.
Bill Cowham 44th

Editorial Comment
Betty and I, with friends Gerald and Pat Wiltshire, spent the week immediately following the reunion in the Army Motels at Akaroa. The weather was absolutely perfect. Pity I can’t say the same about my golf!

Incidentally you are eligible to use the Army Motels, anywhere in NZ, if you are a member of the RSA. They are good value and reasonably easy to get as long as you don’t want a weekend.

Units are available at:
Mt Maunganui, Rotorua, Taupo, Turangi, Napier, Wanganui, Waikanae, Nelson, Hanmer Springs, Akaroa and Wanaka. Phone: 0800111823 for bookings
Gus Smart 80th
Back to Top

Letters to the Editor
At the recent reunion in Christchurch I was thumped on the arm, turning to see Gus Smart who said “I volunteer”. This took me aback, first it hurt and secondly I had never seen a Brat volunteer for anything, neither at Halton or subsequently. I was hopeful. Dave, who had set up The Wheel in 2003 and has done a great job, had announced he wished to step-down. Was Gus offering to take on the job of Editor?  I thought of hugging him but that was not appropriate so I thumped him on the arm and asked “volunteered for what”

I know Gus will do a great job as Editor and I wish him all the best.   I also know that the fellows will rally round with stories and other contributions.

Thanks Gus.
Monty Firmin 80th 

Not quite how I remember it!  Perhaps my memory is as bad as I say.
Gus

Hi Ed & David,
Thanks for the latest issue of The Wheel, it is always full of interesting tales and I appreciate the efforts that must have gone into producing it.

I am as guilty as any of not offering any copy but I struggle to recall any tales worthy of publication. I am forever amazed at the recall of some of our members - maybe they kept diaries.

In the article about the Buckler you asked about the identity of CAA M.J. Evans - well, I think he blossomed into Air Commodore M.J. Evans C Eng, MIMechE, MRAes, 70th who was CO at Halton in 1983 when I was on the staff of the NZ High Commission in London.

I attended a couple of AGMs and a Passing Out Parade as an official guest and was treated to afternoon tea in the CO’s residence (Beacon Hill House?) by Mike and his charming wife. I also recall Ken Butcher 83rd was a keen member of the Halton Society Car Racing Club when they had the Halton Tojeiro.

I'm sorry I will not be attending the reunion this year, as it happens I expect to be flying a glider in the Whenuapai Air Show on the 21st March although I made the decision not to attend before that eventuated. My best wishes to all who do attend and I trust you all thoroughly enjoy yourselves.
Kind regards,
Peter Thorpe, 89th

Thanks Peter.
With reference to your 2nd para above, how about an insight into a certain Auster incident!! You show me yours and I might show you mine!!! 
Gus

Many of you will have received the following email from Anne Holmstead on the 2nd May in response to the Commemorative Window appeal. I make no apologies for reproducing it here. I knew George back in the late 50’s at No 1 RD. He was always a real gentleman and I had no idea that he was an ex-Brat.
Gus

Hi all,
I am writing on behalf of my father, George Holmstead. I have gone over all the emails with Dad and he has told me to get down to Kiwibank and make a payment from him too, so I shall do that on Monday.

He says that Halton made a huge contribution to, and provided the direction to his life. He will be one of your oldest members I gather, turning 90 years old on Monday.

G Holmstead (George)
33rd Entry, No. 569057

He told me today that he was the first of 3 batches of intakes to be enlisted in the 33rd. They did one batch a week for 3 weeks as there were so many of them. His first day was 14 January 1936 as part of the 1st batch and they swore an oath of allegiance to George V. The 2nd and 3rd batches who started only a week or two later, swore allegiance to Edward VII. By the end of the year George VI was on the throne so in one year he served under 3 monarchs.

His entry (33rd) was
- the last entry to drill in fours,
- the last entry to have the old choker collars, as the next entry onwards had collars and ties,
- the last entry to have a member have a public flogging in the square (I asked what for - he said, someone pinched his mates camera). 

We spent time ANZAC going through a suitcase of old photo's, and there are numbers of them from his Halton days. I continue to try and work my way through them and write notes on them of names/places, and of his memories whenever they pop up.

Best wishes for the window project.
Anne Holmstead
On behalf of George Holmstead
P.S. Dad is in Te Hopai Rest Home, Hospital Road, Newtown, Wellington – Ph 04 -380-2002

I would like to pass on the membership’s best wishes to George and his family. I am sure that George would appreciate a visit from any of us visiting Wellington in the future.
Editor

To the Editor
My wife Rita and I recently had the privilege of attending the Bi-Ennial reunion of the NZ branch of the Ex Halton Apprentice Association.

The whole weekend including bookings at he Garden Hotel had been undertaken by Derek Hubbard and his wife Vera and thanks to them the weekend ran very smoothly. (Here, here! Ed). On the Saturday morning a coach trip to Akaroa had been arranged, unfortunately the sunny weather that had prevailed for most of the preceding week took a turn for the worst, but we think that everyone enjoyed the day despite that. The dinner on the Saturday evening was a great success with many photographs taken and no doubt many conversations taking place recalling the old friends, activities and places where one had been stationed. Unfortunately like all good things the end had to come! Sunday morning saw many ‘good byes’ and agreements to meet at the next reunion, if not before. Rita and I departed Sunday afternoon back to Sydney and we hope to be able to attend the next reunion whenever it’s held in NZ.
Alan Taylor (66th) Aus.

From Peter Cornellius

To Dave.
We trust that all is well with yourself and your good lady. My own aviation  news is that following an introductory flying lesson 70th Birthday present from Janet last July I have followed up and been taking flying lessons. I have now done all the evening classes & passed the necessary six PPL exams. I solo’d in April. (Copy of certificate attached. I sent the picture via e-mail to the ex-Cranwellian group and a guy in Canada who is a wiz ‘kid’ with graphics added the rest.)
 
Best wishes,
Peter.

Back to Top

Obituaries
Laurie Stormont, 71st Entry, passed away on the 6th May 2009. Editor.
Back to Top

In Memoriam
Laurie was an independently-minded fellow who willingly helped out when needed. A cheerful itinerant, he visited us some years ago and we rehashed old times. Sadly, we didn't stay in touch thereafter. The last contact I had for Laurie was C/o Phil Chubb.
Our condolences go to his family and friends.

Best wishes
Clive Shaw (74th)

Philip Chubb advises that Laurie had lived in the flat under his home at Whiritoa Beach home for the past four years. During this time he suffered from poor health and after a fall about five weeks prior to his death he was admitted to hospital where he died on the 6th May from a heart attack.
Editor.
Back to Top

Next Reunion
New Plymouth
March 25/26th 2011

It was decided that our next reunion will be held in New Plymouth. Sam West very kindly leapt to the fore and volunteered to organise it. He advises that negotiations are well under way for venue and activities. So, keep that date marked in your Diaries. He will have more information for you in the next Newsletter.
Back to Top

Commemorative Window
As noted in the President’s ‘Reunion Report’, a decision was made  that the NZ sponsored Apprentices would provide a window to be installed in St Georges Chapel, Halton, to commemorate New Zealand’s participation in the RAF Apprenticeship Scheme. By default I have worn the task of making this happen. Our request for contributions has been well received and Ed Austin tells me that we have $3,224.22 in the kitty. This response has been very gratifying and I would like to thank all those who have contributed including the Ex RAF Apprentices who have come on board and wish to be associated with it. Thank you also to those of you who have contributed ideas and suggestions regarding the proposal.

Initially I had thoughts that the RNZAF crest and or the NZ Coat of Arms would form the basis of the window design. It was proposed that we would provide a rough outline to the RAFHAAA sponsored designer to bring to fruition. Subsequently I was put on to the local designer and maker of the very impressive stained glass window that is in the Woodbourne Chapel. Initially he was not interested as he has virtually given up that particular interest but when I showed him the www.7t5.co.uk website he became very enthusiastic and undertook to design and make a window for us.

I approached the RNZAF and they have agreed to transport the Window to the UK and the RNZAF Liaison Officer in the NZ Embassy, London, is on board and will represent us at the unveiling ceremony if we can’t have representatives present. It is hoped to have every thing in place for the official dedication to occur in conjunction with the Triennial Reunion in September next year. I have reproduced the initial design below.

Initial Design for Commemorative Window

This is a very rough first draft of the proposed New Zealand commemorative window to go into St Georges Chapel at Halton.

The design is limited by the size of the available window space (93.3 x 31.8 cm).

A Mt Ngauruhoe type mountain at the top followed by greens and browns of the land to the stylised kiwi (made up of silver ferns) on a white back ground with red, white and blue horizontal bands at the sides as a centre piece.

Below more NZ landscape with a river flowing through it from right to left. It is possible that the river will commence at the foot of the mountain flowing under the centre piece.

The dash between the years 1951/ 1962 will be in the shape of a rugby football.

OK now for the dissenters out there, if any. I have solicited input and received very little. One suggestion was to use the NZ Coat of Arms. I must admit that my initial thought were along those line mimicking the Rhodesian window style, however, after discussion with the designer I am now convinced that his design will have a distinctive NZ flavour and be a fitting tribute to our involvement with Halton.

Initially the centrepiece was going to be the RNZAF Roundel but the overall width limitations preclude this. We have come to the conclusion that a stylised Kiwi (probably black/silver) will be better.

In closing, it is very hard to visualise the final product from the preliminary sketch produced here. Remember that the skill of the artist in the selection of the glass, its shapes and combination of subtle colour variations is what will make this design stand out as depicting NZ as we know it.

Well folks that’s it. I hope my computer skills will improve with time and also that all you out there get in behind and contribute so that I have something to practise on!      Gus.

Back to Top

Wing Commander Ernest Millington
Wing Commander Ernest Millington, DFC, who has died aged 93, was the last surviving member of the wartime House of Commons, having won a dramatic by-election at Chelmsford a month before VE-Day for the radical socialist Common Wealth party. He held the seat at the 1945 election – the only one of the party's three MPs to survive – but lost it in 1950 after joining Labour; by his death he held the record for the longest time lived by anyone after leaving the House of Commons.

What was his connection with Halton?    Read on

Millington was commanding the Lancasters of 272 Squadron when Chelmsford's Conservative MP, Colonel JRJ McNamara, was killed on the way home to take up his seat after visiting his old regiment in Italy . Under the wartime electoral truce Labour and the Liberals agreed to a Conservative taking the seat unopposed, but Common Wealth – founded in 1942 by Socialists who rejected the truce – put forward Millington, and in April 1945 he won the by-election with a majority of 6,431. Aneurin Bevan told him the result persuaded the Labour leadership to end the wartime coalition, and precipitate a general election before Japan was defeated.

Millington, who described himself as "a communist with a small 'c'", found himself at 29 the "baby" of the House. He made an immediate impact as one of the first public questioners of the morality of area-bombing German cities, saying: "What we want – that is the people who served in Bomber Command and their next of kin – is a categorical assurance that the work we did was militarily and strategically justified." Yet he was a strong defender of Arthur "Bomber" Harris, insisting he had been much maligned.

When the general election was called, Millington convened a meeting with Chelmsford's other opposition parties, which resulted in the Labour candidate withdrawing. Campaigning on the need to nationalise land, he went on defeat the former Essex cricketer and Great War MC Hubert Ashton by 2,080 votes.

Millington, who took the Labour whip from 1948, was an energetic and popular Member, assiduous in taking up farm workers' grievances over tied cottages. But he disliked the Parliamentary grind, the constraints of party and the "poverty" of trying to keep a family in the style his constituents expected on £1,000 a year. Moreover Chelmsford had never been Labour territory, and at the 1950 election Ashton ousted him by 4,859 votes.

Millington struggled to find a job, and after being blocked from chairing a radio series because of his politics, he rejoined the RAF in 1954 as a flight lieutenant, only to leave the service in disgrace less than four years later.Appointed personal assistant to the Air Commandant at RAF Halton, he was commissioned to write the base history and became entertainments officer, but left for a posting in Malta without handing in £25 2s 3d, the proceeds of three dances. Millington claimed he had not been able to contact the officer to whom the sum was due and had always had funds to cover the amount. But a court-martial in January 1958 heard he was in financial straits after a cancelled posting to Aden, and sentenced him to be cashiered for fraudulently misapplying Service money. On review, the sentence was reduced to dismissal from the service. The case was a sad postscript to an enterprising and courageous martial career.

Millington had joined the Territorials as a sapper after Munich, became a gunnery officer but found life with his anti-aircraft battery undemanding and volunteered for the RAF (he later discovered the Army would not have promoted him because of his opinions). Life as a pilot instructor also palled, so he transferred to heavy bombers, flying 30 sorties including daylight raids over Stettin, Stuttgart and Wilhelmshaven, and attacks on oil installations in Romania , Czechoslovakia and Eastern Germany. At Christmas 1944, his squadron was called in to blunt the German counter-attack in the Ardennes by bombing concentrations of heavy armour. On one of these raids his aircraft was hit. Two engines caught fire, but he pressed on to the target and got home safely.

After taking his seat at Westminster he was awarded the DFC, which, he said modestly, "came in the post on completion of a tour". The citation read: "The fine record of his squadron is undoubtedly due to his courage and leadership, and the enthusiasm with which he inspired his crews." Those qualities were spotted by Air Vice Marshal Sir Ralph Cochrane. Called to a conference of senior officers (all of whom far outranked him) at 5 Group, Millington heard with dismay that new tactics were to be adopted with squadrons flying in close formation over enemy territory. When no-one else spoke up, he objected that this would be impossible without very heavy casualties, as squadrons had never been trained to fly in formation.

That afternoon Cochrane arrived, asked Millington to repeat his objections, agreed with him and countermanded the proposal. He promoted Millington – whose radicalism he shared – on the spot to Squadron-Leader, and a few days later made him a Wing Commander, with command of the new 272 Squadron based at Balderton.

Ernest Rogers Millington was born at Ilford on February 15 1916, the middle son of Edmund Millington, a sergeant-major and staunch Tory who became a senior print union official, and the former Emily Craggs. At ten he won the third best scholarship in the county, but his father was skeptical of the benefits of education; Ernest had to hitchhike to Chigwell School to persuade the headmaster to give him a place. He loved the classics, but resented his classmates as "fat and stupid sons of Essex farmers" and by 16 was on the committee of the Labour League of Youth, addressing meetings all over the London area. When his father found him speaking from a Socialist platform, he threw him out of the house and Ernest was forced to leave school.

An employer who spotted him doing the same in Hyde Park dismissed him on the spot, and throughout the 1930s he would get a job because he was bright, only to lose it because of his politics. He eventually became an accountant at an electrical works. The Labour Party disliked his campaigning for a united front against Fascism, and the Ilford party expelled him after Herbert Morrison went there in person and threatened members with disbandment. Millington vowed not to rejoin until Morrison asked him.

In 1944, attracted by its doctrine of Christian socialism, he decided to join Common Wealth, the idealistic party founded two years before by Sir Richard Acland. He became a sought after speaker; at one meeting Margaret Thatcher – who lived close to where his family was lodging – was impressed by his delivery, if not his content.

Chelmsford was a predominantly rural seat and the Conservatives' fifth safest, but its electorate had been inflated by thousands of munitions workers from London. Millington – selected at a meeting in Newark station waiting room between briefing his squadron and take-off – aimed his campaign at them, but all three party organisations were ranged against him; the Conservative candidate even produced a telegram of support from Clement Attlee. Nevertheless Millington trounced him, polling 24,548 votes.

As a party leader at Westminster – albeit a party of one – he was entitled to speak from the Opposition front bench, and did so on four occasions, once elbowing Churchill out of the way. But as a one-man band he was ineffective; the Common Wealth organisation had fallen apart (though it lingered on until 1993) and even Acland had joined the Labour Party. Millington stuck to his pre-war pledge not to rejoin Labour until Morrison asked him. Then, one day in 1948, Morrison, now deputy Prime Minister, did just that, unaware the young MP was someone he had personally thrown out.

But the Labour Party offered little comfort – Millington found the trade unions visionless and once had a stand-up row with Ernest Bevin. Defeat in 1950 came almost as a relief. After leaving the RAF he trained as a teacher. His first charge was a class of school leavers in Shoreditch whose only ambition was to work for the Kray twins. He got them to turn the school's rubble-strewn site into a productive garden, then made them remove mantraps they had dug to stop other children stealing the vegetables.

In 1965 Millington became head of social education at Shoreditch comprehensive, and two years later took charge of Newham council's Teachers' Centre, which he ran until 1980, also writing books on East End history. In retirement he moved with his second wife to a converted bakery in France He maintained his interest in British politics, observing that until Tony Blair became leader, the Labour Party had failed to understand it could not win more than one term of office without middle-class support. Yet he disdained Blair for lacking idealism.

Ernest Millington married Gwen Pickard in 1937; they had four daughters. After their divorce in 1974, he married, secondly, Ivy Robinson.

In Who's Who he listed his ambition as "to survive to 100!" Quite a chequered career!  I wonder if his Halton history was ever published.

Thanks to Bill Howell 68th for putting me on to this article.
Editor.

To read more about this intriguing man dial him up on Google

Back to Top

The Queen’s Colour Presentation – 25th July 1952
We had been practicing for weeks; we trumpeters had been learning how to play the ‘Royal Salute’ with each of us playing in one of 3 different pitches in order to get that full-bodied, harmonious, high-pitched sound which typifies this special fanfare. At last the great day arrived and Her Majesty, the uncrowned Queen-apparent Elizabeth, arrived at our main parade ground at No.1 School of Technical Training, RAF Halton, where approximately 2000 Air Force Apprentices including several intakes from Pakistan, the first intakes from New Zealand and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in the 68th and 71st entries, the first intake from Burma (now Myanmar) in the 69th entry and the first intake from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 70th entry, were awaiting the arrival of her Majesty. All the assembled apprentices, lead by the Escort Squadron the 63rd Entry, were all standing smartly to attention with rifles sloped and awaiting the next command. Then, as Her Majesty approached, came the command from Group Captain D.O. Finlay, “Parade, Royal Salute---Present Arms!” There was a ‘Smack!’ then ‘Whack!’ as the rifles were thumped by nearly 2000 palms as the first moves were performed; then a final ‘Crump!’ and the ground shook as a thousand-odd heels slammed down, as one, to complete the salute. Then a heart-stopping pause and the next thing we trumpeters were playing the fanfare and, though I say it myself, it sounded superb!

Next came the inspection by Her Majesty and the attractive young queen was standing on a dais mounted on the deck of a specially modified RAF Land-Rover. She was wearing a light summer dress, a white hat and she held the rail in front of her with her white-gloved hands and, as she toured the ranks under the calm summer sky as the military band gently played, a mischievous zephyr came from nowhere and caught her dress and gently blew it upwards, momentarily exposing the royal lingerie. Only those few in the immediate vicinity, standing to attention with eyes front, witnessed this event as she passed and in those days there was no Sun newspaper or paparazzi to sensationalise such an event and normality was restored when, calmly and with dignity, the young queen’s white-gloved hand pressed her dress back down to the designed length.

The highlight of the ceremony took place when Her Majesty approached the Colour which had been placed on piled side-drums and which she then presented to the kneeling Colour Bearer, Sergeant Apprentice Mike Hines, with identical twins Sergeant Apprentices Clive and Richard Grant bearing arms at each side of the Colour as the Colour Escort. These Sergeant Apprentices were all from the 63rd Entry which was the Senior Entry at that time and this Colour presentation by the Queen was shown as part of the collage of film clips at the start of the Movietone News, which was shown in UK cinemas for about the next 20 years or so.

Afterwards the Queen was to dine at Halton House, a magnificent building which could be said to have the appearance of a beautiful wedding cake made in golden stone and which was built and previously owned by Lord Rothschild. We trumpeters were lined up in the ornate Minstrel’s Gallery and we looked down into the opulent dining room in which we could see the long tables laid with glistening tableware and gleaming silver. Suddenly our middle-aged bandmaster, Warrant Officer Carlton, signalled the start and, as he stood conducting us on the balcony with his back to the dining room we played the ‘Officers Mess Call’ and then, as Her Majesty entered the dining room we let rip with the ‘Royal Salute’ fanfare once more. Then a curious thing happened; as we ended the fanfare Mr Carlton crouched down low and removed his hat, which exposed his balding head and, crab-like, he moved towards us shooing us with his hat and, gesticulating wildly, he indicated that we were to turn around and exit in the same manner as he did. We all bent low, snatched off our hats and, Gollum-like, made our way out from the Royal presence. Had the Queen spotted this most undignified departure I am sure she would have kept her composure but, unlike Queen Victoria, she would have been very amused.
David Sykes 68th Entry

I played in the ‘real’ Band and vaguely seem to recall Mr Carlton as being the bandmaster. I also have the name W/O Eves (known to us Brats as Turkey ) in my memory. Is my memory playing tricks? 

The photo on page 70 of Bill Taylor’s “HALTON And The Apprentice Scheme" could show me front row left hand side, (I think!). Who is the W/O? I think it is Mr Eves.
Editor.

P.S. now you can see an example of what I am on about in my Editorial!!
Back to Top

Bristol Freighter  Pitot-Static Lines
Back in 1970 as Flt Cdr E&I at Base Auckland I was giving the W/O Instruments (Raz Berry) a hard time over the number of Pitot-Static defects occurring on the Freighter’s. I obviously wasn’t listening to him and one morning I received the following missive on my desk.

You’ve been informed, respected Sir,

In a manner most emphatic

That replacements have oft occurred

Of pipes both pitot and static.

You wonder just why this is so

This unscheduled arising

But when you’ve learned the ‘raison d’être’

You’ll find it’s not surprising.

In ‘51 or thereabouts

The year doesn’t mean a damn

The Freighter was drawn up by a bloke

Who designed the Wellington Tram

It’s hard to say just why this plane

If plane it can be named

Just shakes and rattles itself to bits

And just who can be blamed.

Everything rattles and rolls that can

If it’s fastened down or no

It rattles at frequencies most weird

Whether flying fast or slow.

The cows it flew to Norfolk once

Were too scared to moo or mutter

And for months the unravelled Jersey beasts

Gave out not milk, but butter.

But back to facts - the pipes that break

How often I did not tally

Are made (according to the spec.)

Of five sixteenth O.D. ‘ally’.

They break mostly in the fuselage

And the disturbing fact is

The ruddy airframe’s vibrating round

Simultaneously on all three axis.

The pipes vibrate and this sets up

A change in molecular structure

They harden up – can take no more

And then you have a fracture

A mod came out some time ago

One Oh Nine was its numerical label

To change the auto coarse pitching pipes

With tungum – when we were able.

The pipes are examined as per the book

Examined most carefully

For damage (as far as can be seen)

On every check No. 3.

The suggestion years ago was this

To remove all pipes and bung ‘em

And fit throughout both P. and S.

New pipes made from tungum.

And as the freighters fly the skies

Til replacement time is ripe

We’ll accept our lot, and when they break

We’ll change the ruddy pipe.

Many of you may remember Raz, he was a real character, never got upset and had a wonderful dry sense of humour…he had to with me as his Flt Cdr.
Gus Smart 80th
Back to Top

John Winn 84th sent in an amusing account of the journey back to Halton after a weekend in London. Thanks John but, unfortunately, the article has had to be abridged due to limited space.                                                                    As supplied by Dave (Editor)

At our age, drinking alcohol was still a novelty. 'Apprentices are forbidden to drink alcohol', said the rules. In practice this was interpreted as 'don't get caught'. Beer by the pint was the preferred drink, perhaps by tradition but certainly because of the price. I remember the endless experiments with watery milds, bitters, black and tans, and black velvets whilst trying to convince myself that this was the drink to which I could relate and we all talked  knowledgably about which was a 'good brew'.

Whatever our state and in whichever part of London we had finished our evening, we had to be back at Baker Street Station by 10.15 pm for the last train in order to be back at camp before 23.59 hrs. Unlike the usual London Underground trains with their modern, bright red carriages, our Wendover train was composed of a collection of ancient, dull-brown carriages, divided up into compartments with no corridor or toilet. Meanwhile, as departure time approached, the rowdy apprentices increased in number and volume. At last the guard blew his whistle and there were the inevitable last minute arrivals, flinging themselves aboard to a chorus of cheers and banging of doors. A lurch, a flickering of lights, and the train rumbled off through the tunnel from which we shortly emerged to clatter, often to the accompaniment of bawdy songs, through the lights of the London suburbs. Inevitably, the consequences of drinking pints of beer began to be felt and I can recall helping a friend, in dire need, by holding on to the back of his clothing while, from the open compartment door, he watered the passing housing estates. Luckily there was no one in the same mind further forward of the train and at the same time I did wonder what the effect of a watery connection between my friend and the electrified rail would be! Stops at stations were of a few seconds duration only and it was not until we reached Rickmansworth that relief was possible. Here the electrified line finished. The engine was uncoupled, to be replaced with a steam engine. The process gave the needy just a few minutes to sprint across the platform to the Gents and, providing you were one of the first arrivals in a crowd of perhaps a hundred, you could relax for the rest of the journey. It is my suspicion that this late-night engine changeover was always done in record time because in daytime it was usually a much more leisurely process.

After the changeover we set off behind a chuffing steam engine and we slowly climbed the gradient of the Chiltern Hills. We stopped often at stations but beyond Missenden we reached the summit. Once over the top we would pick up speed, now the fastest of the whole journey. Down the hill, under the road bridge with a rush of sound and then brakes hard on as we drew into the platform at Wendover. The time was now a little past eleven and ahead was a fast walk, mostly uphill, unless you ensured you won the race to get one of the three taxis standing outside the station!!!  While the train was still rocketing into the station doors would be banging open, figures poised ready. As soon as the speed had dropped to a survivable level, bodies launched themselves out onto the platform; legs flailing to remain upright and letting momentum carry them. Station staff cowered in doorways as a tide of teenagers thundered past and it took only seconds for the peace of this quiet country station to be rudely shattered, but on one particular night, either due to the fog or slippery rails, the driver had misjudged his stop. The quick movers already had the doors open and figures were throwing themselves out, lemming-like, into the foggy darkness, not landing on the anticipated platform but dropping through space to bounce down a grassy embankment, amid yells and curses. The engine was whistling furiously, adding to the bedlam and, as the noise subsided, the railwayman’s plea “Don't get off! Stay on the train!” could be heard. The train backed into the station where the rest of us disembarked, whilst bedraggled and bruised figures struggled up the platform ramp. The railway staff sounded concerned, but they also looked very happy!!
John Winn 84th
Back to Top

- Current Issue - Past Issues - Links -