At Savoia’s request -The Rhodesian Election Contract 1980. First of all can I preface this by saying that it was 30 years ago so this is my best recollection after all this time – anyone who was there please correct any faults in my memory.
HM Government awarded a contract to Dollar Helicopters to provide 10 JetRangers to fly election supervisors to locations in the Rhodesian bush to ensure fair play in the elections which saw Mugabe elected. We provided 2 airframes from British Caledonian Helicopters – the company was formed from the takeover of Ferranti Helicopters some 10 months earlier. The 206’s were G-AWJW and G-AZZB and were still in the basic Ferranti livery. The other pilot was the late Chris Powell and his engineer was the late Eric Hardacre. My engineer was Gordon Winfield.
Terry Neill and Roy Neep were our liaison people in Dollar and they accompanied us to Rhodesia. Now this is where memory fails me somewhat. Yes, there were two airframes from Air Hanson, G-BASE was one of them. Spotty Mulhern flew one of them – he sadly died in that CFIT accident in a S76 in Ireland some years later. There were two 206’s from Gleneagles (G-AWLL was one) and one from Helicopter Hire (G-BGYF). The deep blue 206 in my ramp photo in my earlier post is G-BARX and was owned by Suttons Seeds. The registration of the yellow 206 with a part orange/red top deck is blurred but is G-BAX?. One 206 not in the photo was G-WOSP which was operated by Wasp Helicopter Hire of Glasgow and was the only casualty of the contract – more on that later. As for the other registrations/operators I'm afraid my memory has failed me.
The contract was a short one, starting in mid February 1980 and ending in early March. The first thing to do was to strip down the aircraft for transport to Rhodesia. All ten 206’s went out in one DC10 freighter and the amount of strip down can be seen from the photo below of JW and ZB leaving the BCAL base at Shoreham for Stansted, and yes, that is a DHC-4 Caribou in the background.
The crews reported to Heathrow and along with about 400 UK policemen were flown in a BA 747 to Salisbury via Nairobi. Part 2 follows tomorrow.....
Last edited by Speechless Two; 19th Jul 2010 at 00:26.
Just to comment on Savoia’s reference to all the 10 206’s in one DC10 – this is an assumption on my part as I wasn’t involved in that side of the logistics. There may have been two freighters, I just don’t know. No, we were not involved with any of the Rhodesian Air Forces Alouettes. I do recall an early morning sweep one day where a few Alouettes took off accompanied by a couple of DC-3 gunships.
Re Earl’s comment about PLM – I don’t think they were involved although I could well be wrong. I think Savoia has it with G-BAKF as the registration of the Dollar machine.
So, back to the plot. Pilots, engineers and airframes arrived at Salisbury Airport and we were billeted at the University on the opposite side of town from the airport. We had a couple of minibuses allocated to us and as we arrived it was surprising to see the University entrance guarded by some field guns, plus there were armoured troop carriers strategically positioned everywhere.
The task of rebuilding the 206’s began the following day. We utilised one of Jock Malloch’s hangars for this.
He owned an air cargo company I think. Malloch was rebuilding a Mk22 Spitfire and it had its first engine runs whilst we were there. Two years later he was killed whilst flying this aircraft on the last day of filming a documentary “Pursuit Of A Dream”.
British Air Ferries also operated in Rhodesia on a Government Contract with a couple of Heralds at the same time as us but I don't know what that involved.
Roy Neep was the engineer in charge from Dollar and as you can see from this photo of him it was easy to take inspiration from him with his smart dress and natural leadership qualities!
Chris Powell and I got hold of some spare “Election Supervisors” sticky labels and cut them up in order to name G-AZZB as “Capt Beaky” and my 206 G-AWJW was named “Hissing Sid”. Those of a certain age will remember Keith Michell’s hit record of that time:
The bravest animals in the land are Captain Beaky and his band
That's Timid Toad, Reckless Rat, Artful Owl and Batty Bat
They march through the woodlands singing songs
That tell how they have righted wrongs
Once Hissing Sid, an evil snake, kept the woodland folk awake
In fear and trembling every night
In case he gave someone a bite
Said Artful Owl, 'We'll lie in wait
And one of us will be the bait."
Said Captain Beaky, "Have no fear!
For I alone will volunteer!" Etc etc
We all attended a briefing by the Rhodesian Air Force and it soon became clear that the ceasefire was by no means 100%. Having read newspapers before I left the UK this came as a bit of a surprise as I thought the conflict was completely over. We also received briefings on the weapons threat and it became clear that the safest height to operate was at or near snake height.
This had its dangers as shown by the loss of an RAF Puma the previous December when it hit telephone wires and crashed, fatally injuring both pilots and the crewman. Six RAF Pumas had only been in theatre for five days before the accident – their tasking was to support the ceasefire monitoring force. I can only speak for my own operations but I very soon stopped the ultra low flying and went most places at 500ft - apart from anything else it was too difficult to map read.
We had plenty of willing hands to move the aircraft around and I don’t suppose I was the only pilot or engineer who was helping push the aircraft only to be yanked out by a white supervisor and told firmly to let the black labourers get on with it and we were only to steer. Different cultures etc etc...
Once the helicopters were rebuilt and test flown we decided to go into Salisbury for a few drinks before flying on the task started the next day. The Monomotapa Hotel looked inviting so we attempted to enter the bar only to be told that it was temporarily closed for refurbishment. The previous night some white Rhodesian soldiers, obviously bored by the ceasefire, had decided to play Russian roulette and one of them lost.....
As far as I am aware we all returned to the airport at the end of each days flying. The country was divided up into 10 sectors centralised on the airport and my area was out to the north east as far as the Mozambique border. I always flew with my engineer on board, just in case, and each morning we positioned to a hotel in Bindura to collect an Election Supervisor. Some days we also collected a Ranger and very occasionally an armed soldier.
From there we would fly to various locations in the bush, shutting down for about 40 minutes at each place so the polling stations could be checked out. The polling stations were where the 400 UK policemen were deployed. On one occasion the Ranger asked me to alter course for a while and then said I could go back on track. We would have gone over a large rock outcrop and when I subsequently queried the course alteration he told me that the rock area was a bit of a hot spot - not the rock in the photo below, this just shows the queues building as they waited to vote.
Wherever we landed we were surrounded by crowds of laughing children and made thoroughly welcome by the adult villagers. One lady invited my engineer and me into her family hut and we chatted to her until it was time to go. She had never seen a helicopter before. I have often wondered how the decline in Zimbabwe has affected her. It was very humbling being able to spend time with her.
Polling day came and the flying intensified. We were tasked at one point to land at Assembly Area “Charlie”, adjacent to an airfield in the north east. There were, I think, nine Assembly Areas in the country and these were locations where the guerrillas gathered so that they could vote.
Forgive me if the word guerrilla offends – I do appreciate that one man’s guerrilla is another man’s terrorist.
I think there were about 2000 guerillas at “Charlie”. There were also about 30 British Army troops at the location. The amazing thing was that the guerrillas at “Charlie” had not been disarmed – they still had every kind of bush warfare armament still with them including rocket propelled grenades and shoulder mounted anti-aircraft weapons.
The Army briefed us that agreement had been reached with the guerrilla leader for us to land at the airfield. We were to arrange to be overhead at 2000ft at 1100 precisely, as shown in the photo above, to do a lazy descent and to avoid any blade slap which could be misinterpreted as weapon firing. H’mm, avoid blade slap in a 206! We were also to land on the western threshold as the remainder of the runway remained mined.
Assembly Point Charlie was in the north east of Rhodesia near the Mozambique border as shown below:
So we landed and were greeted by a young Army Captain. He told us we would be there for an hour and we were welcome to walk a few hundred yards to the Army encampment where we could get something to eat. I set off with my engineer a few paces behind. We passed through some groups of black soldiers wearing green uniforms and armed to the teeth. I said good morning to them as we passed and they returned the compliment. My engineer then called out to me “Hey, Tony, where are all these guerrillas then?” Ever had that feeling that you wanted the ground to open and swallow you up?
The tasking continued and we landed at Centenary – a military airfield in the bush where we had arranged to refuel from drums. We were parked in one of the revetments and next door was a military Cessna 337 with wing mounted machine guns. I’d never seen one before in this configuration so I stupidly took photos of it. Within what seemed seconds two LandRovers full of troops arrived and I was hauled off for questioning. After a slapped wrist I was allowed to keep my photos as shown below.
Unfortunately my flying was curtailed before the end of the contact as at the end of one day we were positioning back to Salisbury when the RRPM started hunting from about 94-100%. I started a climb and put out a distress call. An RAF Puma heard it and started making his way towards us but we made it back to the airport at 1500ft before he arrived and as we were light I decided to do an EOL rather than have something quit at low level during the approach.
We didn’t have a spare governor with us so that was the end of the operation for me. The only casualty suffered during the whole thing was G-WOSP which hit a telephone cable on landing somewhere. No-one was injured but the 206 could not be flown out and had to be retrieved by the Rhodesian Army. They were not best pleased as the site was 60 miles from the nearest tarmac road and it was not uncommon for the dirt roads to be mined.
Back at the University we were watching television in a Common Room along with the black students. When Mugabe’s victory was announced they started waving their flags emblazoned with a cockerel and ran around making cockerel calls! Very soon the sound of automatic weapons could be heard as they were fired off in celebration. The time had come to leave the new Zimbabwe.
For me it was full circle – I had been flying Wessex from Ark Royal fourteen years earlier in 1966 as part of the Beira Oil Blockade following Ian Smith’s unilateral declaration of independence from the United Kingdom so had seen the beginning and end of UDI from a helicopter. A beautiful country whose people have been mercilessly persecuted by Mugabe for the last 30 years. So sad.
Last edited by Speechless Two; 20th Jul 2010 at 01:02.
The image posted earlier of Colin Chapman (Lotus cars) displays the John Player colour scheme used to repaint G-TALY when it became G-JOKE. In the same image Chapman was sitting on the edge of a Lotus Esprit which was used in the film ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’.
Caroline Monro, the 'pilot' who 'flew' the Helicopter Hire JetRanger 1977 and is the reason Crewdson had to wear a wig during filming.
Low Flier identified himself as having flown this aircraft but was unsure of the registration … only that it was in different colours, akin to a ‘raspberry ripple’ and was crated up and shipped off to Rhodesia in 1980.
Enter Speechless Two … with photographic evidence of the said Rhodesian op and depicting the ‘raspberry ripple’.
We established that the ‘raspberry ripple’ G-BGYF was not in fact the 206 used in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ as it was only registered to Helicopter Hire in 1979 whereas the filming took place in 1977 so we are still searching for the registration of the HH JetRanger used in this film.
Earlier Geoff introduced G-WIZZ to the discussion alongside his experience of having delivered G-TALY from Frosinone to Fairoaks. G-TALY ended up being painted in a colour scheme similar that that of WIZZ and which had been taken from the Team Lotus JetRanger AYTF.
The link between TALY and WIZZ was therefore their paint jobs .. plus the fact that Geoff delivered them both from the Agusta factory. This left the connection between TALY and AYTF being with Savoia who flew them both plus .. their paint schemes.
Enter Dennis Kenyon … who seems, with his partners, to have owned all three helicopters plus .. G-AWJW the 206 which Speechless flew on the Rhodesian Election mission. Now who would have guessed those connections?
Alouette III of the RRAF such as would have been in the regions where Speechless and his team worked.
Royal Rhodesian Air Force Roundel 1970-1980
Last edited by Earl of Rochester; 8th Jun 2013 at 09:53.
Lt Gen Peter Walls, who was Commander of the Rhodesian Combined Operations, at the time, died this morning. An extraordinary man, who was commander of the Rhodesian C Squadron, SAS during the Malaysian emergency, Mugabe asked him to stay on as head of the army after independence. At this time Gen Walls became famous for a quote
On 17 March 1980, after several unsuccessful assassination attempts Mugabe asked Walls, "Why are your men trying to kill me?" Walls replied, "If they were my men you would be dead."
EoR, The helicopter in your post looks like a K car of Fireforce. Fireforce typically consisted of four Alouette III helicopters, each manned by a pilot and technician/gunner. Three were known as “G-cars,” and used for troop transport, while the fourth, called the “K (or kill)-car,” carried the Army unit commander, who directed the operations below. It could also be used as a gunship when required. When I left the service of Her Majesty I was offered a job flying them, but after a few years mud marining I decided that I should get a civil licence so declined. I was in BCalH with Speechless and well remember feeling jealous that he was going! Of course, since then I've actually spent most of the last 32 years in Africa, but it seemed like such a great thing to be involved in at the time.
Just tuned in and thoroughly enjoying the continuing stories ... quite a walk down memory lane for we COFs and the brain cells are stirring nicely.
For Savoia. I had dealings with Peter Cadbury circa late 1970s when I was demonstating an Enstrom to him. In the event he purchased a new Cherokee 180. I landed at his strip airfield somewhere near Maidenhead and I'd have to dig out log books to get the reg nos if asked. He went on to acquire G-CHOC later. I recall one of my Enstrom owners (Humphrey Mead) lost his wife Jane to him but it all seemed to end happily.
Over the years, I did fly some 1234 displays, mainly Enstrom but there's no freebie Enstrom at my garden gate! I did get a dedicated Enstrom painting by an aviation artist ... a nice picture which should be around after I'm long gone.
Yes the Branson empire did eventually buy my old Skyline business but chucked it in rapidly when one of the company B206's (G-BUZZ) landed too close to a second 206. Both were badly mangled.
Back to that wonderful flyer John Crewdson. I flew with him on many occasions at a time when I persuaded him to try out an Enstrom for HH's London police contract. I have a piccy of myself flying Enstrom G-BBRS over the Thames on the police contract. It actually made the front cover of Air Pictorial. The BRS was for my b oss: Betram Roy Spooner .. of the Spoonair business at Fairoaks and Shoreham.
And how about this. Following a M/R head service on the Enstrom G-BCOT at Helicopter Hire, the pitch change push/pull roads enclosed within the mast were re-connected 120 degrees out of phase! I think it was David Voy who was the unfortunate tasked to fly the first blade tracking flight (at night) Not much chance of quickly working out which control sequence might have got him safely back down. But he did albeit with some airframe damage.
But back to John Crewdson. I also flew with JC on the first "Rollerball." 1973/4 ish. I recall landing with him out of Pinewood at Blackbushe for fuel. We still had the film logo ... "Energy Corporation" on the nose resulting in the refueller saying he'd charge it! (we did pay tho')
Much of the Roger Moore 'Spy Who Loved Me' remote control scene was filmed with a full size mock-up (G-BAKS) It later stood in the AMH hangar at Fairoaks for a few years gathering dust. The airborne shots were filmed at the then derelict gasworks on docklands. Sadly G-BAKS was lost on the south downs on its way to Goodwood one night in the early 1990s. (RIP JH)
SO ... so many memories, so many names. I can't believe I go that far back but am still flying most weeks. So thanks again Mods for the consideration AND there must be more stories out there .......
SoggyBoxers: Sorry to hear of the passing of Gen Walls. He was doubtless a capable leader who's contributions to Zim were significant.
Lt Gen Peter Walls (right) c. 1990
It turns out that, on a visit to Hethel, none other than Speechless actually got to drive the very Lotus Esprit used in the film!
Speechless' modesty prevents him from mentioning that he was at the Lotus plant on a Ferranti Helicopters charter for Colin Chapman in which he flew King Constantine to an F1 event where Lotus were racing.
King Constantine II of Greece who was flown by Speechless on a VVIP Ferranti Helicopters charter from the Lotus factory on behalf of client Colin Chapman.
Dennis: Its wonderful to know that you are still flying (and therefore also presumably keeping well). There is little doubt that you are one of the UKs leading personalities in the rotary wing industry and which status is well deserved. Speaking of more stories .. you might consider recording a few of your own, there's probably enough material for a good book! Intriguing also that through you, most of the aircraft we've been reminiscing over have been in your possession! How nicely this links everything together. I do wish you and your family every happiness in the years ahead.
Speechless: Dear Friend, where do we begin? Perhaps first of all (I can't get it out of my head) of what Bob's reaction might have been upon seeing JW & ZB, icons of the Ferranti fleet, plastered with stickers and with their ground support being overseen by Roy Neap decked out in his displayed apparel! Smelling salts and brandy, I think, would need to have been at hand!
The only time I flew operationally with Bob (as opposed to being his student) was in his final professional post as ops mgr of Aero Helicopter in Tanzania. This was, for the most part, a bush operation but .. he had the pilots decked out in tropical whites (I have photos somewhere) and which no one had even seen in that region - save with the occasional visiting Naval ship!
You mention the willingness of the Africans to assist (such as with pushing out the aircraft). Having spent many years on the Continent I have become enamoured towards their people. Some of them devils, yes, but most a collection of humble, genuine, loving, passionate and sincere people.
What Mugabe has done to Zimbabwe and for race relations in general, is unforgiveable, and, seeing as no one has had success in effecting his assination, it will perhaps be up to Providence to execute his final judgment.
Such wanting leadership, and the resulting poverty (in every respect) this inflicts on others means that for some of those who may have been pushing your aircraft, this might remain as one of their 'great' stories .. when they tell others how they assisted in 'helping to make ready to fly' the 'white man's' aircraft.
Mercifully, things are changing, gradually. Improved education and steadily growing economies mean that there is now a new generation of Africans empowered as never before and such people are beginning to make their mark, not only in Africa, but around the world. Africa, in my humble view, is the continent of the future.
For Rhodesia the transition to Zimbabwe was essential even as the reign of apartheid had to come to an end in SA. While what replaced Rhodesia, and the impact it has had upon its inhabitants, may be questioned, I have every confidence that, ultimately, it will lead to something better. What was important then was making that all important transition from the 'white man's' regime to local governance and ... in this respect dear friend .. you played a part. Well done!
Sad to hear that Malloch died in his Spit but well done to him for embarking on such an ambitious enterprise.
I noticed that the ex-Ferranti aircraft had their exhaust stacks removed for the transit. Perhaps to offer protection against any knocks.
So, your contract there ended with an auto into Salisbury! I think everyone involved would have offered there applause for a job well done - as in the entire contract.
Extraordinary - given the landscape of helicopter operations in Africa today, to see UK civilian helicopters in these numbers. A great memory indeed.
A big thanks for your kind words ... we COF's need a little encouragement as time goes by and the young batch of whizz kids come whistling by.
I tell everyone that I'm 'semi-retired' but why on earth would anyone stop doing something that is so much darned fun. In my less busy days, these days ... I'm getting offered some super writing jobs. Off next week to do a piece on the 429 ... normally no one would even let me get in one! Hope it will make the front cover of BLADES.
I see the G-TALY - G-CSKY things seem to have run out of steam, but for me its been a terrific read, especially throwing up so may names of the 1970/80s
And here's a slightly late apology. So sorry we didn't have the chance to chat when you visited us with the Colonel at Skyline in the early 1980s! Not me at all and as you mentioned I must have been off & away on something or the other at that time.
I take it you recall Squadron Leader Tony Clarke's standard pre-flight phrase ... "are you hot to trot." A really lovely man He never forgave me for sending him off on a short flying training job. His customer was a Dick Hampton. You couldn't make it up!
Best wishes to all pruners especially those who remember me.
A small addition to my Rhodesia story. Just found the Salisbury Herald newspaper for March 4 1980 in the loft (the day the election results were announced) and it says that here were 12 Assembly Areas for the guerillas, not 9 as I had said.
We had T-shirts made up for all of us whilst we were there, shown below. If I tried to put it on today, some 30 years later, it would be a very stretched 206 indeed!
For the record, I was the first pilot at Alton Towers, having answered an ad from Peak Aviation, and we collected JLBI from Gatwick, where John Broome handed over the banker's draft. Those were the days when just about everyone had a helicopter, Laings (Francis Davy), Barratts, the lot. Most of us used to meet at the Ship in Weybridge, because either Air Hanson or Alan Manns used to do the maintenance.
Bob Smith took over from me after about 3 months, I went to Kilroes, then I happened to land at Alton Towers one day on some sort of photo job and got offered my old job back. A couple of years later, Rod Wood took over.
I then worked for JCB for a short while, flying their longranger (RIP Chalky - one of nature's true gentlemen, and you are still missed with fond affection).
Before I went flying, although it was one of the catalysts, (seeing how well looked after helicopter pilots are), I was a PBI. We were stationed at AP PAPA which was in the very north of Rhodesia, in the Zambesi valley near the border with Zambia.
I do not recollect seeing any civilian helicopters although for the election we had a very British Bobby complete with pointy helmet which was a little out of place.
We also were looking after around 2000 guests with about 20 soldiers from our unit. We were also 'bombed' by the RAF on the first day when they dropped several one-ton loads of tentage (without parachutes) directly on our camp!
We also had the daily visit of Pumas and Gazelles bringing in mail and fresh milk in plastic bags - sometimes mixed.
I have two overriding memories - the day when we were 'stood to' loaded and safety catches off ready to defend against an attack by our 2000 guests, and the collective groan that went up aboard the Vickers FunBus on the way home when they announced that Mr Mugabe had won the election.
Just under two years later I was walking through the gates at Middle Wallop to commence my flying career.
Dennis: At the time I was with Skyline you were involved with something or other, I don’t remember what, but I think you and Bob had at least one chat by phone.
During the course I stayed with Tony and his wife (If I recall correctly she held some civic post within the community – I remember several times a mayoral looking car coming to the house and Mrs Clarke being decked out in ceremonial apparel). His ‘hot to trot’ question was usually posed immediately after breakfast heralding the short drive to Booker. On the way home he would normally stop at one of his favoured hostelries in Marlow for a post-work pint where he would jokingly assassinate the skills of his students. He was, on all counts, a wonderful person.
One day on a nav exercise Booker got socked in so Tony decided to drop in on one of your clients, Tony Pond, to whom I think you sold an Enstrom. His bird wasn’t there that day so we were able to put down on his neatly constructed pad. As the blades were milling down (this was in TALY) a maroon coloured Aston Martin appeared in the driveway with a chap called Rowan Atkinson behind the wheel (at the time embarked upon a television series called Not the Nine O’Clock News). Tony (Pond) was the perfect host and the lot of us were served a fine afternoon tea. I sat back waiting to see what amusing comments might emerge from the comedian but was treated instead to the spectacle of Tony being largely oblivious of Atkinson’s identity and which led to a line of questioning about the actor’s work and which was, well, priceless! We had a good laugh about it in his pub that night.
You may be right about the TALY story running out of steam but, there may be a couple of puffs remaining. PPRuNe contributor GeoffersInCornwall (who delivered TALY from Frosinone to Fairoaks) has threatened to enter the stratosphere of his environs (loft) and locate evidence of the delivery! This will represent the first image of TALY since post #1 (a big event for this thread).
If you have any TALY/CSKY or AYTF photos we’d love to see them.
I hope your 429 review went well and that it made the cover of Blades!
G-AWLL in Glasgow after your Rhodesian expedition This aircraft was originally McAlpine's (1968) before being sold to 'Valley of Gleneagles Helicopters' as they were then.
You mention that your Rhodesian exercise was in February 1980 and I’m guessing this brought you back in time for perhaps the only VVIP charter in BCal’s history.
It was the morning of Sunday 30th May when Bob and I were aloft (and I’m reasonably certain we were northbound out of Heathrow) when we shared the same airspace as two BCal aircraft operating (I think) as Papal One and Two. Papal One, if memory serves, was under the command of Chris Hunt (the chap who inducted me into my first helicopter experience). Were you around fro this event?
Remarkable how little information is available about this job.
Good to see you on the thread and to see 'BI' outside Stretton Hall. The instrument panel brings back many memories!
Savoia - I wasn't involved with the S61 Papal flights as I was on the S76 by that time, but the visit was May 1982 not 1980. GeoffersinCornwall may have been involved but I'm not sure about that. I do recall that when the Pope sat down in one of the 61's his seat support collapsed....very embarrassing!
A thought - maybe the mods should rename this thread "A haven for rotary nostalgia posts" to reflect the way it has developed?
Last edited by Speechless Two; 28th Jul 2010 at 17:21.