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Sunderland Flying Boat

Old 25th Jun 2008, 20:26
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Sunderlands

Hello Boat Men...............dunno if you've discovered it but there's a great website created by a Tony Hawes (just load the name into Google) an ex-RAF photographer with lots of good piccies of Far-East Sunderlands, including the last flying one and the rather sad boneyard at Seletar.

Get onto his website and particularly look at ; Seletar, China Bay and Gan.

(I've tried to copy some of the photos and display them here for everyone to see but can't do it ! Maybe someone else can ?)
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Old 25th Jun 2008, 20:58
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The first of 74

My first operational flight was called by the Americans a "Fox Green". Anti-Sub.Anti-Shipping and/orWX Recce if flown at night,when a American Met. Officer was added to the crew. These flights were flown for Task Force 76 positioned in the Yellow Sea.Usually flown by the Sunderlands,as the Chinese had a nasty habit of shooting at the Mariners.They would attack from astern with 37mm cannon and break off before in machine gun range.At least one Mariner was shot down and several damaged.Why a Sunderland....the only explanation I was ever given why we were not attacked,Mariners are painted dark blue,Sunderlands are white.Which just happens to be a Chinese funeral colour...bit like shooting at a hearse!!

0400.hrs.early call.get dressed.some pulled their long johns and shirts over their pyjamas,remember no heating on board. Into the crew coach to Briefing,grab a cup of coffee.no breakfast,the Messes were not open,perhaps the reason we were in married quarters, Get latest weather,task and any pertinent info from the Briefing Officer and with his cheery"Life expectancy in the sea today 2 minutes " ringing in our ears,back on the crew coach for the journey down to the pier, Check F700,quick word with Chiefy and onto the launch and out to the trots.Let me remind you again,no heaters,no warm air blowers,just a cold soaked aircraft.The temperature usually minus something.It could be raining/snowing.The crew had to handle chains and shackles without gloves.The engineer had a particularly hazardous job of lowering the leading edge of the wing to start the APU.It could all be very cold and dodgy.Start up,taxy out into the bay,runup,check in with Control,the seaplane tender,USN "Salisbury Sound" moored in the bay,mother ship for the VP Sqdns. It provided the pinnace and was our communication centre throughout the flight.Although apart from "On Task" and "Off Task" messages we maintained radio silence,the frequency was monitored for broadcasts every 30 mins. which could give change of task or diversion.

Airborne at 0600 hrs. we headed for the Shimonaseki Gap.the passage between the two main Islands,leading to the Tsushima Straits.which divide Japan from Korea. We were equipped with ASV VI.C centrimetric radar, designed for detecting periscopes,snorkels,small targets.Consequently it had a wide pulse width,find a tin can in a calm sea at 5nm.But it wasnt much use for map reading,it bridged over inlets and gaps. We therefore used to get the radar operator to practise taking us thro at 500ft..The passage was W shaped,with HT cables at 200ft,with high ground either side.We always out of preference flew 1000ft. or below.The alternative was to climb to 7000ft. and letdown blind the other side.No Area Radar in those days. Once clear of Shimonaseki,one headed north for Task Force 77 south of Vladivostock,or continued West around Korea before heading North into the Yellow Sea for Task Force 76.Depending where they were a 3 to 4 hour transit.All navigation was DR,we had no aids apart from radar.We did have a D/F loop but there were no M.F.beacons.
Once airborne,Tea/Coffee,Bacon sandwiches all round and the Meat/Veg prepared for the inevitable stew.

Entering the Patrol Area,it was Lock and Load,which I believe is the current phraseology,all guns were tested,Bomb racks run out and circuits checked,we carried 250 lb, depth charges,turrets and beam .5's manned,ready for action we started our patrol.The one thing we tried never to do,was overfly the Task Force,Navy gunners have notoriously twitchy fingers! and I dont think their aircraft recognition was all that good.
Depending on task given,we could be on patrol between the TF and Chinese Mainland looking for subs. and fast patrol boats.All Sunderlands carried the callsign "Watchman,we guarded a VHF channel .If the trip was a weather recce,we would have come on task at midnight,carried out the same patrols,but at dawn passed weather observations to the TF for that days missions.Occasionally when flying between the TF and the Korean coast,we would get a call from observors on off shore islands for relay to the TF.Must have been the equivalent of todays Navy Seals.It was so cold,it was normal for ice to form on the galley roof from condensation.We could plug in up to four positions so that crewmembers could use electrically heated socks and gloves,more than four ,blew the fuse,so it was the nose and tail turrets plus the beam .5's.
After six hours on task.we would depart.bomb racks run in,guns stowed hatches closed and the long transit back. Once approaching Tsushima the weather socked in,the radar was on the blink. so we had to climb to 8000ft. to clear high ground.we subsequently flew into a embedded CuNim Tropical CuNims are BIG B****RDS!! we dropped like a brick,full power ,went down like an elevator.we finally came out,fortunately over the sea at 1000ft. and crept back to Iwakuni.After refuelling,debriefing,you had had a long cold 18 hour day.ALL I wanted was a hot bath and bed.
As an aside,for that flight I was awarded two Medals!! British Korean Campaign and United Nations Medal.seeing as Seletar was an operational posting my first flight entitled me to the General Services Medal[Malaysia] So I had earned three campaign medals in six days.Commonly referred to as the"Easy Three"
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Old 25th Jun 2008, 21:01
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(I've tried to copy some of the photos and display them here for everyone to see but can't do it ! Maybe someone else can ?)
Rather naughty as his site says:

Photographs are Copyright 2008 Tony Hawes and may not be used for commercial purposes without my express permission. You are welcome to use them privately, on your own web site for example, but as a matter of courtesy I'd appreciate that you tell me you've used my photo(s) and give me credit by mentioning my name in the caption - many thanks.
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Old 25th Jun 2008, 21:35
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You should try and get hold of "Bird of the Islands" by Sir Gordon Taylor - fascinating story of setting up and using an ex-Imperial Short Sandringham as a luxury air tour service in the South Pacific. Several good pics too!

SD
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Old 25th Jun 2008, 22:06
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Warmtoast...............This isn't a commercial site and I had every intention of complying with the request to give credit to Mr. Hawes had I been able to download the photos.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 01:00
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As it happens, Mr Hawes is a member in good standing of PPRuNe and particularly of this forum. Perhaps when he next drops in he will honour us with his photos and tales.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 09:07
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Warmtoast..................I've just realised, you must be Tony Hawes.
Sorry if I've upset you, I just wanted to share your extremely interesting and very professional photographs with other enthusiasts. As evileyes suggests, perhaps you'd like to ?
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 11:15
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The rest of the month soon passed.Two convoy escorts in the Wonsan area.two more Fox greens and one refuelling group for Task force 77 off the east coast and four Tsushima Straits patrols.All Anti-Sub and shipping patrols.

We returned to Seletar via Kai Tak. Oh it was great to be warm again and fly in shorts! Carried out my first anti-Pirate patrol in the Mallacca Straits,visited Glugor,Mallacca,then to China Bay for ASR for ten days. On return,air test,loop swing Off to North Borneo,Labuan,Kudat Anti -Pirate patrols off N.Borneo for several days and return to Seletar.
My next trip was to be my first "Firedog" operating against the insurgents in Malaysia.
Its not my intention to relate all the history of the insurgency,suffice to add that a terrorist band having been located,or suspected to be operating in a area from strikes on villages/rubber plantations/intelligence.The area would be ringed with troops.First in would be either Lincolns or Brigands from Tengah to drop some heavy stuff to wake them up.We then followed and did our stuff for the next two hours.Hoping to drive them out into the troops.

If you have ever flown over primary jungle,you will know,its as featureless as a one colour carpet. we were given coordinates and where the troops were.Usually there was some evidence of the previous strike,but not always,the jungle can absorb a lot.We would establish a datum.Road/river.high ground,something we could perform timed runs from.The last thing we wanted to do was bomb our own chaps! We were loaded with a bomb room full of crated 20lb fragmentation bombs,four to a box. Armourers had loaded and crutched eight either side on the bomb racks.These were dropped on the first run by the Nav.from the nose.Thereafter our lords and masters at FEAF HQ. thought we should bring the bomb racks in,load and crutch attach nose pin lanyard and run out ready for the next run.with the bomb room stacked high with boxes it would have taken all day!! Old Hairy's knew a better way. open a load of boxes,remove pin stack vertical eight to a box either side. Nav in nose does timed run,now,now now,crewmember in galley on intercom,gives the signal .two members in bomb room throw bombs out of hatch ,one by one.Works perfectly! Now there can be the odd diversion!! these boxes were stored in open sheds.it quite common to open the lid and find a red ants nest! in which case,heavo,entire box and contents thro the hatch. The odd nonchalant throw,bomb hits cill, bounces back into bomb room!! First time I saw this,I nearly S**t a brick...casual smile by old hairy,picked up thrown out. The bombs had a spin off nose cap,which had to be removed before it became armed.
Having continued in this fashion for about an hour ,we would,tidy up close bomb doors and man the guns.Down to just above treetops, and again with timed runs open up.Usually with no specific target in sight,just keep the buggers running hopefully.The pilots could not join in with the fixed nose guns,trajectory too flat.Time over target usually around 1.30. Then what was known as a "Flag Wag" We would return very low level roaring over villages to let them see we were about and perhaps scattering a few chickens and water buffaloes in the paddy fields.
I did 24 of these,nearly reached the total of 100 Ops. Many of the chaps did,not that it ment anything, but its a nice round figure!
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 12:43
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Old Hairy

Thanks for the latest instalment - keep up the good work.

Earlier you said:

Thanks once again,you have helped add a bit of colour to my stories
So I thought I'd add a little more colour in the form of the only photo I took in colour of a Sunderland.



Taken around mid September 1958 at Gan, this 205/209 Sqn aircraft (P ML797) was one of the last Sunderlands to visit Gan. On this occasion it had been tasked to fly from China Bay in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to Male, the capital of the Maldives and return to China Bay with some UK diplomats from the UK High Commission in Ceylon, but on arrival at Male it damaged a float whilst attempting to alight in a severe swell; it then diverted to Gan and after temporary repairs it returned to Seletar via China Bay.

According to the 205/209 squadron Operations Record Book in the National Achives at Kew, the last Sunderland to visit Gan was on 20th December 1958, but this was after I'd left the island on posting back to the UK.

History is attached to this particular aircraft (P ML797) because on 20th May 1959 at RAF Seletar it flew the final RAF Sunderland flight with the C in C FEAF, Air Marshal The Earl of Bandon on board.

And here is a photo of the C-in-C ("The Abandoned Earl") having a beer with some of his men on an earlier visit to Gan.


Last edited by Warmtoast; 25th Oct 2010 at 22:28. Reason: Restore deleted photos
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 12:51
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Evil Eyes and Virgo.

Perhaps when he next drops in he will honour us with his photos and tales.
I may just do this at some point, but not immediately, so watch this space.

Meanwhile my online album can be seen here:

Tony Hawes - RAF Service 1951-63

and as a PS I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer, not an ex-RAF photographer.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 13:29
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S'land

Currently PPRuNe has two superb threads running. For those who have not yet seen it may I recommend the Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW11 on the military board.
Gaining An R.A.F Pilots Brevet In WW11

OK. I have to admit that there are many more than two superb threads, but I must admit that reading these two are giving me a lot of pleasure.

Absolutely agree! As the son of a wartime Sunderland pilot who learned to fly in Pensacola, I've been riveted by both of them.

I've had the pleasure of fully exploring the interior of Hendon's Sunderland with my Dad (30 years ago before its later restoration) and I work within sight of Solent Sky's example and so have been inside it several times, but I can't truly imagine what life was like for these chaps on active service.

These threads do give us a wonderful insight - thank you!!
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 13:52
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Stunning thread. Thanks to all. Especailly Old Hairy.

I spend a good amount of my spare time guiding people and especially kids around and onto the Flight Deck of the Solent Sky Sandringham. (ex JM715 sunderland III)

I was lucky enough to fly in her in the 70's during a visit to the UK, (a good chunk of it in the flight deck) and having read much about Sunderlands I delight in regaling our visitors with some real life stories rather than dulling museum visitors with numbers and statistics.

Old Hairy, any time you want to come along and sit back at the controls let me know and I'll pay for your entry and sit with you as you reminsc.

Superb.
Trevor

Last edited by Corsairoz; 26th Jun 2008 at 23:25.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 14:32
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Warmtoast. Another fantastic photograph for my files Thank you. especially the attached info. case of real "Broken Float Drill"
Ive a few more stories yet to post.I must say how much Ive enjoyed recounting the old days.Put a spring in my step!

Trevor. Thank you for your kind offer. I have visited many years ago ,but would like to take you up on your offer,perhaps when I return from holiday,end of July,early August.I will PM you.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 14:44
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The only Sunderland story I have is that I was hitchiking in New Zealand in 1985/86 and they have (had) one in a small outdoor museum. Previous to seeing this one, I had only ever seen pictures in books. She was certainly impressive close up, but you could already see that she wasn't happy living outside.

A couple of days later I got a ride and we got talking about the museum. It turned out the guy who had picked me up had ferried that aircraft [boat?] over to NZ, on a trip that IIRC had laster for three months To say the least, he was not happy about the state she was in now, having sat outside for several years.

I wonder if he's reading this thread.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 15:54
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Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh.I think it was 1953,when the Sunderlands acquired for the RNZAF started staging thro Seletar enroute from UK. They had if I recall, twin radio masts on top of the fuselage? I know we were quite envious of the new fit.
I forgot to thank you for your tip,appreciated.

I have been amazed at the interest this thread has invoked.I have long known of the affection of those priveledged to fly her,but it seems we are not alone in appreciating a once great workhorse. Not to mention a really superb aircraft.
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 17:44
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A few lighter moments;
The places we routinely visited,and the fact that Customs & Excise was non-existent was just too much for some. The undoubted "King" was our other Gunner,Bill, a cockney.He was more like a travelling salesman.He had a finger,if not a whole arm in all the rackets that could produce cash.He was a "Ladies Man-Par Excellence"could charm the birds off the tree.
He was the only chap I knew in FEFBW to have a brand new Car!! Remember this was not long after WWII andsuch commodities were only just starting to flow.He was not selfish,he did let us in on some of his routine items.Ive absolutely certain many more lucrative schemes he kept to himself. One could for instant buy a Rolliecord reflex camera in Hong Kong and providing the seals on the box were intact,sell it for double in any shop in Iwakuni.Likewise ladies shoes,bought cheap by the suitcase full in HK [remember to buy small sizes].Could be disposed of with out bother.There was a snag.On Base,two currencies were used,BAFS for UK/Aussies,Script forUS.Either was convertible into Yen,but Yen was NOT convertible.Therefore one lived ones social life off base on your ill-gotten gains, or tried to buy something in the way of Japanese Porcelain,Carved Cherry Wood,something you wanted,or you drank a lot!! Bill had a source of cultivated pearls!! which he sold for another,albeit he said," small profit" to a merchant in Singapore,putting his gains back into Singapore Dollars ready for the next roundof his enterprise.

Fluffy Huggists,are not a new phenomen.Communicable Sexual Disease was obviously causing concern amongst the hierarchy.So.......The Archbishop of Lichfield was summoned to give the lads a talking too...As if that was going to do any good?
We just happened to be off to Iwakuni and the Venerable gentleman and party,were to be transported.We left at crack of sparrows early Sunday morning,were about halfway To Kai Tak,when we got a message on the intercom that one of his acolytes wished to visit the flight deck.Not unusual.He appeared and approached the skipper and said"His Eminence would like to hold a short prayer meeting in the Wardroom,would any

member of the crew wish to attend?" The skipper said yes we would all come,which somewhat confused him,and he shot back to the Wardroom.George was in,so leaving just the Flt.Eng. we all trooped down after the skipper had a quick word on the intercom.All squeezed into the Wardroom to find the Bishop being talked to rather animatedly by his acolyte.The Bishop said he wished to bless us all and was certain we had more important tasks to perform.In all the shortest service Ive ever attended!!!
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 20:22
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Old Hairy,
Cleaning out my shed a couple of months ago I found a Royal Air Force Station Calshot wall plaque - [motto Ducunt Astra].Like me it's suffered a bit of wear and tear and I've no idea where I've got it from etc., ...but if you'd like it for your shed or lavatory wall please pm me with an address and I'll put it in a jiffy bag and send it to you [gratis obviously]


[I also found an RAF Tengah car bumper badge -it's mainly chrome and is very slightly damaged...but if anyone wants it for their shed/loo pse pm me and I'll send it -gratis of course]
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Old 26th Jun 2008, 20:35
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Before drawing your attention to the importance of pics I would like to welcome 'Old Hairy' and his remarkable tales of derring do. His lucid descriptions are a joy to read. I remember seeing Sunderlands in Pembroke Dock in the 50's the best bit was the take offs and landings, a wonderful sight.

Now, over the years we have had some superlative photos placed on here. Some of the best you will ever see I hasten to add.

But..........one thing we insist on is that you respect the fact that they do not belong to PPRuNe. They have an owner and he can if he so wishes remove them or leave them. So, you may not use them or copy them. I daresay that if you request permission it will be given providing you give due credit to it's copyright owner.

We are very fortunate indeed to see some rare pics and we will not tolerate any abuse of copyright - you will instantly lose your rights to use PPRuNe if you do.

We know that you will respect that.

Just enjoy is the name of the game.

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Old 26th Jun 2008, 22:23
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Old Hairy, your your story of Sunderland days at Calshot and the far east has brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. My dad - who have been 82 this month, was at Calshot at the same time as you on ASWDU. He had been on 209 from November 1946 to January 1949, had a brief period with 205 and 201, before arriving at Calshot in June 1949. He subsequently flew Neptunes (217) and Shackletons (120, 228, 210) and spent 2 years with the US Navy (VX1) flying S2Fs and P2s - or SP2Hs as they were by then. I only arrived after his Sunderland time was over, though I know that it was one of the most exciting times of his life. I have all his log books and browse through from time to time. I particularly enjoy the entries that say things like "Compass swing - 3 duff engines. Alighted off Changi - taxied back", and the regular trips Seletar-Kuching-Labuan-Jesselton with P and F plus the odd "GG - VIP". I'll keep reading your story - in the meantime if I can scan some of his old photos I'll post them here if that's OK?

More soon please!

Caramba
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Old 27th Jun 2008, 00:01
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Caramba, I am so pleased you have enjoyed my stories.Although I was at Calshot at the same time as your Dad,remember I was a sprog,he WAS a Flying Boat Man.to quote the "Two Ronnies",I looked up to him,he looked down on me!
I am very aware that I came to the Sunderland as a young man,now 79,there cannot be too many of us left.I am priveledged to put these stories in the public view. Delighted they have been so well received. I had just composed my latest, which I had not intended to post yet,but in view of your post and the places you name.I thought you might like it.

The Royal Flight.

!952. HRH Princess Marina.The Duchess of Kent,accompanied by her son,The Duke of Kent,were to make a tour of the Far East.Part of this tour was to include a ten day visit to North Borneo.At that time the only landing strip existed on Labuan Island.So it was decided that the Royal Party would be flown in a Sunderland.I often wondered how she felt about that,as her husband had been killed flying a Sunderland? Using a operational aicraft for the tour was a bit of a headache,when it came to providing suitable accomodations.Although the longest planned flight was five hours,all possible contingencies had to be catered for.It was decided that SZ578 on major servicing would be the the aircraft. and would be repainted dazzling white,with modifications to the Wardroom and other "Facilities". To this end soundproofing ,cushions with slip covers,carpeting,electric fans,teak coffee table and the Wardroom resprayed a tasteful dove grey. A Icebox was fitted in the galley. The next question to be addressed.Who was to Captain the aircraft? My skipper was chosen,he was adamant that he wanted his own crew,so yours truly became a member of the "Royal Crew". The entire crew was not needed,no Gunners would be taken,but we did have a "Savoy" trained Chef added to our number.He hated flying,but what that man could achieve with two primus stoves and a hotplate was amazing!. The Ice box was liberally stocked and although the Royal Party consumed very little,canapes and chilled white wine, We did well! We were also provided with snazzy white flying overalls,boy did we look good.BUT. the bean counters again!! we were give one set for a ten day trip in the tropics,no laundry facilities? Try mooring and slipping with greasy anchor chains,shackles etc in the temps we operated in and maintain an immaculate appearance.We evolved a scheme whereby we would prepare the aircraft on short slip,ready to start.Then change into white suits. One crewmember in the bow in white suit,the rest of us lined up on the wing.Royal party on board,down on the flight deck shed suits,start up taxi out,takeoff.The chap in the bow would leave as soon as the Duchess was in the Wardroom.to be replaced by another crewmember hidden in the heads,that way we managed to keep them somewhat respectable,although we did warn the ADC that should any member of the Royal Party wish to visit the flight deck,we needed some ten minutes notice or they could be some embarassment. But I get ahead of myself.

Anyone who has been involved in any simular operation will know the B*lls**t and panic resorted too,by those responsible for planning.We had,in another aircraft a run thro the trip to check moorings,at Kuala Belait,on a river the mooring buoy was attached to a concrete block that was bloody useless,the river was full of debris.It turned out in the end the Government Officer arranged for the Dyaks upriver to stop all rubbish from coming down.At Sandaken.we were expected to moor to a normal ship buoy,around ten foot long,six foot diameter.If the boat was blown,or swung by the tide we would have been holed.This was all sorted and it was decided that an armed boatguard would be needed,capable of slipping and taxying the boat.quess where I came in?
The final rehearsal in the Royal Aircraft,involved the AOC and Mrs AOC plus hangers on for a full run thro the entire ten day programme.They ate considerably more food than the Royal Party! but it turned to our advantage latter,more for us. Ever had Foie Gras sandwiches,chilled white wine,sat on the wing,watching the sunset,followed by smoking the Royal Markowitz Black and White cigarettes? I have!! followed early the next morning by a launch approaching out of the mist??!! We were not expecting anyone until mid morning,clutching our Webly 38s we told them to stand off and explain what they wanted.A rather immaculate gent stood up and in a plummy voice said "HRH has expressed a preference for brown toast for breakfast.Unfortunately we do not have any,but understand you might have some".To which the Eng. replied,"sorry mate we ate it last night"
The tour went without out incident and was a great success.The itinerary was;
Seletar to Kuching
Kuching to Sibu. Sibu to Kuching
Kuching to Jesselton
Jesselton to Sandakan.Sandakan to Jesselton
Jesselton to Brunei
Brunei to Kuala Belait
Kuala Belait to Seletar.
In between we popped over to Labuan to refuel and restock the ice box. We were quickly relieved of our snazzy flying suits,on the very day we returned to Seletar.!!
I subsequently met HRH,when she presented the standard to 57 Squadron at Honington in1962.she greeted my wife and I like long lost friends,asked after our son,and chatted for five minutes.Now I realize they are briefed in advance,but this was one gracious Lady.
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