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Old 2nd Jul 2001, 01:09
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Flatus Veteranus
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Smile Reminiscences

I thought it might be amsusing to start a thread of anecdotes from old fogies like me. We are not much involved in the burning current topics of Pay, Promotion and Procurement; and we sometimes find it difficult to decode all the contemporary jargon and abbreviations. Some memories of episodes which never found their way into the official histories (for obvious reasons)might be worth recording via the pprune. I would suggest revealing identities only in a laudatory context, and assuming that the thread will only be read after the nine o'clock watershed. Here goes:-


208 Vs HQ MEAF (1952-1956)

The situation at Abu Sueir in the '50s - a fighter squadron of very junior officers in the same cage as the admin tail of a Command HQ - was bound to cause friction. At a trivial level there were harmless pranks. Since the Canal Zone was on Active Service, a number of senior civil servants (mainly financiers) were given temporary honorary rank as Air Cdres and Gp Capts. The lads used to try to pass them on their left in the camp streets and induce them to return salutes with their left hand and then collapse with mirth. At "Stack!" (we flew from 0700 to 1300) there would be a big crush in the mess bar. The bar steward, "Moussa", was a splendid gentleman from Upper Egypt (black as the ace of spades) who had followed the Squadron around since way back before the war. He would pass jars of Stella Ale to any Fg Off from 208 over the heads of rows of senior officers from HQ MEAF. This caused complaints via the PMC which Moussa ignored. Our war of attrition against the local Rock squadron, waged with thunderflahes around the Mess in the small hours, resulted eventually in our banishment to "Wimpy's" - an abandoned contractors compound, remote from the rest of the domestic site.

"Pig-in-the-Middle" of all this was the CO, who took a lot of flak for us. We revered Pat Hanafin (long deceased, RIP), distinguished wartime bomber pilot, test pilot (never did a staff job!) and finally Commandant of ETPS. One day in '54 we got wind of his birthday. Dressed as Arabs we descended on his quarter - about 20 of us, less the Boss. Norah Hanafin was a brick and conjured up grub for us, squatting on the floor, while the CP pushed out Stellas and Brandy Sours. When the booze ran dry we adjourned to the Club and continued the party in the bar. It was cinema evening in the outdoor theatre and the noise of our ribaldry started to compete seriously with the sound track (Shaibah Blues etc etc). A MEAF Gp Capt eventually came in and told us to belt up or he would close the bar. Said Pat: "Not while I'm around, you won't! Sod Off!", and fetched him a kick up the bum as he turned to go. By now, 20m8s were seriously aggrieved that "any fock'n jumped-up staff osiffer should treat our CO like that. We'll teach him a fock'n leshun! After the show - after The Queen of course - we'll chuck the w**ker in the fock'n pool!"

In loud whispers, which must have echoed around the cinema, the junior pilot was dispatched to fetch the keys of the pool, and plans were made to ambush the offending Gp Capt. Trouble was, he was a big sod and he had time to organise support from some equally large mates. They were sober, too, so it became a tricky question of who was teaching the lesson and who was being taught. What started as a bit of a jape escalated into a major brawl. One of "us" ended up in Sick Quarters having stitches, and none of "them" ended in the pool, so I suppose MEAF won on points. The battle ended in a formal "taking of names", which sounded really ominous. We returned to Wimpy's suddenly sober and expecting to wake up under arrest, and it very nearly came to that. The affair was sorted out next morning between AOA and the AOC, we heard, and the Boss (who had not taken part), had to do the rounds of the HQ making the Squadron's apologies.

We had our revenge some time later. We did night flying once a month to tick the boxes in ASRs and, as a matter of principle, chose the night of the full moon - after all, we were a FR squadron! By chance the full moon coincided with another film evening at the club. Some of us were thrashing the circuit, getting in the required number of "night" landings when the Tower bleated that the noise was interfering with the film show: "The Group Captain has instructed all aircraft to clear the circuit". Smelling a rat, the A Flight Commander, Jack Fryer, told OC Night to call Pat Hanafin back to verify the order. What followed for the next few minutes was some of the most sublime flying I ever enjoyed.

I bounced Jack, one of A Flight latched onto me, pursued hotly by one of my B Flight junior pilots. Jack led us a merry tail-chase, culminating in a run down the length of the evening convoy passing through the Canal - below the level of the banks. We then joined up in a box and did a slow run past a passenger liner, with gear and flaps down and landing lights on. Jack was a superb leader. On his first tour he had led the 65 Sqn team at Duxford, which had the Fighter Command display franchise. I had been No 3 in the Middleton-St George team, and the other two were fully worked up; since we had the MEAF display franchise, all pilots had to show that they could hang in steadily before being declared operational. So we started doing aerobatics. Beautiful, soft moonlight, no problem with dazzle, air as smooth as a babe's ass, vis unlimited and a crystal-sharp horizon. "It wuz parfik!". The word came back from Abu Sueir countermanding the previous instructiuon "which had not been issued by the Station Commander". So we returned to base and went into our routine centred over the Officers' Club. Nothing ambitious, just rolls, loops and wingovers in a tight box which, lacking powered controls and an elevator trimmer on the stick, was hard work in the normal ME turbulence. We finished with our bomb-burst break. Back at the squadron we were met by Pat Hanafin who said we had caused quite a stir at the club. Looking up from a well-lit club into the night, it looked inky black, and all they could see was our nav lights gyrating, and hear the "blue notes". They thought we were mad, and some wanted us charged with dangerous flying. But Pat, after we had explained the situation, supported us fully and nothing more was heard.

Jack had won a sword of honour at Cranwell. He is still with us (he was my best man), but his subsequent career was stunted by his inability to suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately for him, and the RAF, most of the fools who ran foul of him were his bosses.


Can anyone give an eye-witness account of the notorious 1 Group reunion held in a marquee at Waddo in the mid-60s? It was soon after the cancellation of TSR2 and the chaps were a bit pi$$ed off. They tried to burn the tent down and some airships got barracked and howled down. It resounded around Whitehall the next day.

presto digitate

[This message has been edited by Flatus Veteranus (edited 02 July 2001).]
Old 2nd Jul 2001, 14:53
  #2 (permalink)  
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The 1 group dinner is lovingly recreated in this thread:
Old 3rd Jul 2001, 22:06
  #3 (permalink)  
Flatus Veteranus
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Thank you 3(Attack). The best account I have seen/heard. I believe half the problem was due to the Bomber Command culture - minutely detailed planning. Each squadron's coach was given an exact time time of arrival, which had to be made good +/- a minute or less. Consequently the squadrons built in a traditional bomber "trombone" to their route, and when they found they were running very early, stopped at various wayside hostelries. The rest is history. It was not very well "hushed up". Story has it that CAS had his chain pulled by Phil the Greek a short time later. Anyway, Waddo tried to make amends by having a golden jubilee dinner in about '68. No other squadrons were invited, but a list of VIP guests as long as your *** starting with Sam Elworthy. It was a very civilised evening. Thanks for the link.

Can anyone recall details of the Bachelors' Balls held at Luqa in the '50s? The idea was for the single officers to repay hospitality received from the married. They were costume efforts, on the theme "Barons & Peasants" or "Romans & Slaves". I gather they got fairly wild. Particularly when a CO's lady was auctioned off as a slave and did not fetch a very good price. Also there were visits to Takali for summer camp by RAuxAF squadrons from UK. One of the more chic squadrons chartered an aircraft to fly out their wives/girlfriends for a big thrash. The Mess was a converted Nissen hut with, in the bar, a large stone fireplace with a wide mantlepiece. Story has it that some of the debs, hot from the London season, were up there dancing the CanCan "Sans culottes". 208 were NOT present (hard luck!).

presto digitate

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