RAF HALTON 1953 - 1956
|(Updated 21 July 2003)|
Reminiscences from John George (in Australia)
The most memorable thing I remember about Halton was trying to avoid parades and school! Something I achieved with remarkable success. When your squadron commander asks you at one of the Saturday morning inspections if you are going to attend your own passing out parade you realise they may be on to you! My other great pride and joy was my 1936 Vellocette two stroke which was kept in the back of a pub (it was a fair walk) plus civvies for that odd moment when one was not at camp! My first traffic offence was when we graduated, driving home from Halton, I was pulled over for riding a motorbike in a dangerous condition - broken and loose spokes in the wheels and the battery secured with a piece of string. I might add it was good quality string but I still fronted up in court and got fined four pounds, a princely sum in those days. The only thing I still do that originated in Halton is that I am still a blood donor.
I put in for overseas postings and managed to end up at Boscombe Down, about forty miles from where I lived. Work was very interesting, working on a variety of aircraft from the Belvedere, Valiants for the atomic tests, Hastings, Javelins etc. etc. After a while I was posted to RAF Leuchars, near St Andrews where 151 Squadron were re-equipping with Javelin Aircraft and disposing of their Venoms. As the only person on the camp who had worked on Javelins it was only natural for them to put me on 43 Squadron - Hunter Mk6, aircraft I had never worked on. Whilst there, I joined the Mountain Rescue Club and had a great time each weekend climbing with the club. I also decided to improve my education because I wanted to be selected for Pilot training. It wasn't until 1960/61 that I eventually made my way to South Cerney to do the three months stint. That was one of my favourite times in the air force and they did manage to make me march. As for being in bed by 10 PM and patrols to catch us coming in late did not quite suit my private life, I found coming in at 3 A.M. I missed everyone. Although I survived on little sleep, I did survive and got posted to Leeming for Pilot training. Flying was fine until I was on limited panel instrument flying and I had lots of problems so after 67 plus hours I was back on the ground servicing aircraft again.
I left the air force in 1964 and worked for a short time at London Airport with BEA. After 5 months I was on my way to South Africa to start work at a South African Government funded aircraft factory and later with South African Airways, dock maintenance of Boeing 727s. I also worked on the engines and eventually was company approved. They used group certification in those days. My first experience with home built aircraft, a Benson Gyrocopter, a Yodel I think it was called and a Peil Emeraude. Sitting on a cut down kitchen chair doing about forty knots with a rotor above you and a prop behind you at 5,500 feet above sea level at Pretoria airport on a hot day trying to make that gyrocopter take to the skies was quite stimulating. I was however still keen to fly - my air force experience had only whetted my appetite.. At 6 dollars an hour even I could afford it (tail dragger Cub, then a Cessna 150).
One of my instructors was ex Gruppenfuhrer Kurt Boner of the Luftwaffe who worked at SAA servicing passenger seats. Apart from probably being the world's first jet test pilot he also had the first all night fighter jet squadron (Arado 234 and ME 262). An interesting man to talk to of his wartime experiences whilst supping an ale or two. Although I eventually wrote my commercial pilot's licence, I was really too old for an Airline career so I became a Flight Engineer with SAA. It was a great life but for the politics of the country, which was why I came to Australia in 1974. Again I had to rewrite licences but only for Flight Engineering and I ended up as a Flight engineer with Trans Australian Airways - also Boeing 727s until an early retirement due to a medical problem in December 1983.
After retirement, I bought forty acres and designed and built my home in Victoria, a southern state where the winters could get very cold and the summers hot, in excess 40 degrees Celsius some days. I had a small flock of a hundred superfine sheep to keep the grass short. As my wife and I prefer warmer winters we now live in Queensland where the summers are slightly cooler and the winters much warmer and we can spend more time fishing, going off with the caravan and just being outside. It is indeed very beautiful here.
Now I am a committed member of the Returned Services League - the RSL and I serve on the committee. Every year we have a parade and I march with pride. Perhaps I am a little late getting my act together but better late than never.