RAF HALTON 1953 - 1956
|(Updated 21 July 2003)|
Answering our call for more input from our members Trevor Wright has come up with the following:
When we left Halton, I was one of about a hundred or so of us destined for F.E.A.F. Suez in 1956 caused some delay, so it was October, November before I arrived at Changi. I do remember being Duty Electrician on my first Christmas away from home.
About a year later, having escaped the routine of the Battery Charging and workshop inspections for the "high tech" world of M.T. I was posted to Gan. I was one of the first arrivals not part of 5001 Airfield Construction Squadron, to arrive there. One thing Ground Electricians were not taught at Halton was Marine Craft (deemed to be a specialist subject requiring a Course). This seemingly was not applicable in the Southern Hemisphere, because I was on the strength of the Marine Craft Unit.
Thirteen months into my nine month tour, I came home to Gaydon and back to M.T.
One of the first faces I saw on entering the single storey hut, heated by a coke fired black stove, was Bob Warner. I recall he came from the Thanet towns and was an Armourer I believe. Warwickshire in a freezing cold December was a system shock, Gan being some 20 miles south of the Equator!
It was not long before I was packing my kit again, back to Halton. This time, much to the chagrin of the S.W.O., we were ordered to wear civilian clothing and be non-military!! (Beards and sideburns were however not allowed). I was seconded to Air Trainers on the Bicester Road, the factory being behind the Hop Pole Inn. Project 698 (Phase 2) was all we knew when we arrived. This turned out to be the Vulcan 2, which at this time was still being built as a project. I was on the Flight Simulator Team. We took copious notes to have them all locked away in a safe at nights and weekends. The simulator was built and programmed on design information and was installed about a year before the aircraft entered service. Once flying, the aircraft was so different to the original information that we spent a year modifying the simulator to replicate the aircraft.
Finningley next and it was going to be my home for a long time. I arrived as an Acting Corporal, the youngest and most junior of the team and left as a Chief Tech in charge of the section.
During this time, 1959 to 1971, I had married my childhood sweetheart and lost her to the dreaded cancer. I was not too heartbroken to be selected for the Harrier Team to go to Wildenrath to support 3, 4, and 20 Squadrons. Two and a half years later it was Wittering when I was asked if I would like to go to HQSTC as a specialist support NCO for the Simulator Delegated Engineering Authority.
By now the 22 year point was approaching and decisions had to be made. I bought a small cottage between Aylesbury and Thame - it cost £9,000, I had a £7000 mortgage and had sleepless nights worrying how to pay for it!
Appealing as the outside world appeared on good days, I had other things to consider, and decided to sign on until I was 47 which would give me time to think again - in case I didn't like the life. Record Office had other ideas and said "55 or nowt!" There was always an option clause, so sign on I did.
The support specialist for the Phantom Aircraft Role Office was one Bob Young, airframe fitter of no fixed abode. Bob had lost the end of one of his fingers doing jankers in 1 Wing cookhouse a long time ago .(see Bob Youngs Page) He was a wheel in the Radio Wycombe broadcasting system. I popped in to see him one night, had a voice test and was on his list. I enjoyed being a DJ (unpaid) and on a social visit one evening he handed me a box, showed me the record library and said "you're on in 5 minutes to fill for 45 minutes air time because so and so has not arrived" Bob got his Crown and the last I heard he was at Newton near Nottingham. Shortly afterwards I was promoted and went to Brawdy to take over the Hunter Sims and oversee the installation of the 2 Hawk Sims there. As soon as the 2nd machine was commissioned I was tasked to send it to Chivenor. The first "in service" move of a simulator.
I am ahead of myself here, because the best part of being at HQSTC was meeting the young lady who was the PA to Group Captain Mech. Eng. And Elect. Eng. Any excuse to get typing redone saw me nipping along the corridor to ask. We were married in Dinton cum Stone near Aylesbury in 1975 and have a son. My wife is a Yorkshire lass, so I suspect that is one very good reason for me feeling so much at home here in the North Yorkshire National Park. After 2 years in Wales it was off to Linton on Ouse, where there was "a problem in the department"! I had made the mistake of sorting things out, with the help of a very understanding officer i/c, (there were such people) and was promptly moved to Marham where there was a similar problem.
During my stay in darkest Norfolk, there arose the Falklands conflict. As simulator technicians we were still suspected of having connections with other black arts, and our department was tasked with jobs normally way outside our task perimeters. These were still connected with training, in this case for Navigation equipments not normally in service with RAF aircraft. "Have them ready by yesterday and they must not break down...." was the brief. We must have got it right because shortly afterwards my then boss rang me to ask if I would accept an appointment to Warrant Officer. As our home at this time was in York, and the appointment could be at Finningley (again), it would have been churlish to refuse!
The Vulcans had long gone and No.6 FTS was there, and I became the J. Eng. O. for the training aids. The Argosy Sim was still in use at Benson, a Jetstream or two for multi-engine pilot training, an AEO Sim, two Navigation Sims, a Ground Radar trainer, and a dozen or so Searchwater simulator cubicle trainers. A Nimrod based Air Engineer trainer was being commissioned when I left at my 47 point. That option clause came in very useful.
Here I took a couple of years out. I spent some time as our Parish Clerk. Now that can be a very rewarding job, and I spent a year or so as a Ghost Walk guide in York, great fun. I also wrote a book, which was published, on the history of the RFC Squadrons that were formed and flew from Copmanthorpe airfield between 1916 and 1918.
I managed to secure a temporary post covering for injury at a small factory in the middle of York. The only materials used were pure brass and pure copper. We even brushed off the soles of boots and shoes on leaving work to recycle as much as possible. The end products were underwater cutting and burning heads for use in deep-sea oilfields.
Redundant again in 6 months, I finished on a Friday and the following
Monday I was knocking on the gate at Linton on Ouse again. MOD had decided
to civilianise the Simulators there, so back I went as a supervisor
then chargehand in the department. We had longer hours than the Air
Force days, and less than half the manpower.
During my service time I had avoided volunteering for the Middle East as it always seemed to be a dodgy place to be, even though there were simulator posts to Cyprus. So as can be imagined, I was not impressed to be issued with the latest mark of gas mask and to have to attend a "crash course" in nasty warfare. I was in Riyadh for about 3 weeks when Saddam decided to annex Kuwait. The nearest Scud came down less than a quarter of a mile from our hotel and it was then that B Ae and the British Embassy decided to move us. We were bussed to Dharan, nearer Iraq, to be flown back across Saudi overhead Riyadh on our way to Brize Norton! Some of our "leaders" were ex military just in case you wondered!!
What next? After a break I became a driving instructor for a year having soldiered through all the exams. One can no longer "teach for gain" without licensed these days. Living in a rural area with so many "dead" miles between students this was not going to pay. Whilst I was coming reluctantly to this conclusion I found a post as a Night Manager for the 4 Star Black Swan Hotel here in Helmsley. Soon after starting my new career I went down with a stress induced illness. The causes of the stress were family illness and 24 hour care of my wife's mother. I was off work for 3 months which included a spell in Scarborough Hospital to have fluid removed from my knees. If you haven't got Rheumatoid Arthritis, don't get it!!! For a while I feared I would not walk again, but the staff at the hospital were great and I was able to go back to work as well.
At present I'm retired. I have always been a railway enthusiast and
a job has been advertised in what must be the train lovers' heaven,
the National Railway Museum in York. I am 7T5, proud of it and I want