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TOPCLIFFE musings.

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TOPCLIFFE musings.

Old 29th Nov 2014, 14:26
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TOPCLIFFE musings.

Do you have any memories of Topcliffe please? I was forecasting there c.1967.
Mainstay of our business was the Varsity squadron. Their boss, I believe, was SLdr Tommy Tucker, complete with scarlet lined greatcoat and assertive manner. Two pilots were Poles, known to us as Flt Lt Shitslinger and MPilot Smackyerarse .......... close approximations to their real names. The Varsities provided good variety for us, and I believe supported V Force dets to Maccrihanish. Whence came boxes of kippers for Met. on a pre-order basis.

In my memory it is always winter there, snow, greatcoats, gloves, and a skiddy drive from Thirsk.

Two of us lived in Thirsk, the other was F-ing George. Our boss was Jack Houseman, twice torpedoed in the war, with a twitch to go with it. Ken Winspear made up the team of forecasters. Jack and Ken both went on to great things as their merit was acknowledged.

We saw a lot of the JPs from Leeming, and I never knew why ........... not far for a land-away was it?

When I was posted to Guetersloh the Varsities indulged me in both directions whilst getting sorted, including sitting up front, so they clearly forgave me for duff forecasts!
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 14:57
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Halfway round finals in a Chipmunk for my first go at landing a taildragger, the old AEF pilot points to a tiny field just below and announces:
"I put a Wellington down there in 1941."

Upset the concentration somewhat.


Turned out his final engine had failed short finals. They all walked away.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 16:01
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Unhappy Topcliff Musings

Langley
Topcliffe was the school for budding AEOs and AEOps (Siggies then)
The little trail of varsities would bimble off daily on a four hour cross country with the students blasting the airwaves with morse and voice transmissions. (WT and RT sorties) I always wondered if this radiation would affect any family prospect but fortunately it was a myth. I was a junior nav on a holding posting at Topclife and though I was the only nav on board the varsity, the staff pilots and pilot assistants knew their way all round the routes better than I did. The weather in the Vale of York was always pants at that time of year so some exciting approaches were made on recovery.
Apart from some memorable evening sorties into Thirsk I have no lasting fondness for Topcliffe.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 16:03
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LB

JPs? probably first solos (nice and quiet); Linton used Dishy sometimes for the same reason. (circa 1970 anyway)
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 18:53
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LB
I did my first solo on a JP there in 1965 just after a Bassett spun off the runway!
I used to take my girlfriend* to The Shoulder of Mutton for turkey rolls!!


* Long since promoted to The Management.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 19:14
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I was there 71/72 as a young 18 year old AEOp student. Loved it so much I deliberately extended my stay by 12 weeks!!! This was my first experience of living away from home and I will always have fond memories of the place. At the time there were quite a number of great pubs including The Bog and Bird (Moor and Pheasant), The Lamb and the course pub the Shoulder of Mutton. Ah memories.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 21:42
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Thanks to all .... filling in a few gaps for me.
One thing I remember was the night the duty observer was arrested by the RAF police dog and his newly arrived corporal. The observer was never asked to show ID on entry as he had been at Topcliffe man and beast. He fell asleep in the office wearing an old coat, right in the window. and failed to produce an ID. Hadn't carried it for ages.
Fortunately the other coppers knew Old Lol.
He was still whingeing when I arrived at 0500 for the early shift.

[0500 !!! Nobody starts a shift these days at 0500! We must have been mad to fall for it].

Bloody cold winters which lasted 6 months.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 21:58
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Winter of 63/64...

.....walking from the Annex to the Officers' Mess for breakfast one foggy foggy morning I broke a twig from one of the flowering cherry trees. It was covered in ice and inside there were six distinct sooty rings.

After a few non-flying days the staish decided that there would be a max push which he would lead. As a stude AEO it was my turn in the right hand seat and MPlt Dixie Dale was captain. As we lined up we could see the square root of bugger-all, he looked over and said "This is bloody silly" as we roared off on an instrument take-off. I think we ended up at Kinloss for the night.

The fact that I loved it there was partly due to the fact that we were treated like adults (unlike the u/t pilots up the road at Leeming)and a lovely young lady at Ripon teachers training college. Really happy days they were.

The Ancient Mariner
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 22:21
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And the freezing fogs of those days, with the A1 not fully dual carriageway. Car nav. was aided by the mileometer ["turn right after 4.3 miles ...."]. Wind the windows down to listen for traffic before turning right.

But we had many many observations from many many RAF bases, staffed by professional observers. These were supplemented by AA and local council basic-trained observers which meant that [although the forecasts were a bit iffy] the actuals were plentiful so updates were always available to the decision takers. Even the aircrew sometimes passed us a cloudbase on take off, helping to calibrate our Mk I eyeballs.
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Old 29th Nov 2014, 23:07
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Early 1980s, Teesside Airport, hoping for Vale of York fog to clear. Ringing around usual suspects (Leeming, Topcliffe, Linton, Fenton etc) for a sign of improvement. Asked someone at Topcliffe for a cloud base and got the famous reply "hang on while we dig a hole to find out!!!"
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 01:32
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After reading some of these comments I am beginning to wonder if I actually was stationed at Topcliffe. I do not remember the weather being that bad. In the 3 months of my flying phase we did not cancel once. I also played rugby twice a week once for the station and on Saturday for Ripon and cannot remember to many bad weather matches. Still I sometimes have trouble remembering what I was talki!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 06:58
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Ah, the Lamb at Rainton a pub with an 'eccentric' landlord ... he handcuffed a stude to a beer pump! I believe he was ex RN.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 07:17
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One of the pubs had a dog that loved to eat a whole tube of Polo's. The landlord made more money out of selling them than from the beer! I think it was the same pub where they did a smashing pie and mushy peas. I once burnt my thumb when the peas spilled onto my hand.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 07:37
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The Shoulder is now a fancy restaurant called the Lobster Pot, and the station looks much the same apart from a few new buildings and a wire fence excluding the airfield from the domestic site as it still used as a satellite airfield.
We had a reunion not that long ago which seemed to go quite well. The Army Sergeant Chef did a superb five course menu and I left a couple of cases of Champagne glasses in the Sgt's mess cellar in case we ever do it again. If we did then I think the Finningley chaps should be included as their base is no longer in existence.
I think I enjoyed my time there though I found the Varsity quite crude, the STR18 HF radio belonged in the museum and I only remember one instructor called Morson (M/AEOp) who seemed to frighten some of the students. He took the fire axe to my colleague (student) but didn't like being bullied himself. From there I went directly to Ballykelly and joined 204sqn with no OCU at all. Imagine how I felt in the Shack if the Varsity was crude.
The freedom at weekends of clowning about on my Triumph motorcycle on the main runway was brilliant and I mastered standing on the saddle, a trick I did once on the long straight road back from a lunchtime session at the Shoulder. The car I passed was one of the hierarchy on the AE school.
Happy days? I think so looking back. I spent most of my free time in Harrogate which was where I got the nickname 5aday. I don't like veggies all that much either.

ps I was one of the two students who parachuted into Topcliffe - we both ended up in Catterick (Hospital I hasten to add) with broken legs. Six months later( at Headley Court) .......
That's another long story.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 08:21
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BSS

Aaarghh! Wretched place - home of 'Bulldog Standards Squadron' (aptly titled BS sqn!) and RNEFTS in the early 1990s.

We had to trek oop Nawrth once a year to have our UAS bad habits corrected and to listen to the poor sods doing their A2 groundschool sessions. Normal BSS sentence was about a week, then back to the UAS to carry on as before.

One snag was that there was never any accommodation on base for visitors. Normally, there were only the options of the kindergarten at Linton, or suffering the strange ways of the pongos at Dishforth. At Linton it was the annex, with barely enough space to do any preparation for the following day's fun and frolics; according to a chum who took the Dishforth option they were all expected to dine together and spend the evening discussing foxhunting or polo together...

Ah yes, the A2. No-one on our squadron had passed for over 2 years and even then it had taken them several goes. Mutterings about 'turning errors of gyros' and weirdly obsessed met theory - WTF do I need to understand about global circulation to explain why we're not going flying, Bloggs? I refused point blank to do my A2 until a proper syllabus existed, rather than the "I know more questions than you know answers" bolleaux of most of the BSS gang. But after getting back from Gulf War 1, I learned that a syllabus was indeed about to be issued. Oh good....

Thus it was that the following year, after one routine BSS week in the spring, I found myself swotting up all manner of stuff before setting off North for the joys of the A2. I'd just passed ATPL air law 1&2 for my R/BCPL/FI ticket, so had already had a bit of a head start, which helped a lot. Fortunately I'd also managed to get a room at Leeming, so was at least living with reasonably grown-up folks for the 2 weeks of Topcliffe hell. You had to be 'recommended' to take the assessment at CFS, which I scraped through after a misery had sat stone-faced in the LHS playing Bloggs for my final trip, the loathed 'Descending 2'. Groundschool hadn't been too bad though - but memories of explaining the theory of a machmeter over lunch to some staff chap who was swotting for his A1 and couldn't understand the notes struck me as being of real relevance for a Bulldog QFI.... In fact I'd worked out that there was a line missing from the notes; when I explained, the poor bugger told me that he'd been up all night trying to fathom it out! About the worst part of the groundschool was sodding Met - some of the old buggers seemed to love to ramble on about obscure concepts such as 'thermal winds' and were really miffed when the sensible syllabus had slashed most of the crap we were supposed to learn.

Never was I so glad to see Topcliffe disappearing in the rear view mirror as I set off for Sunny Scampton!

Oh and the A2 test? Cancelled on Day 1 due to Wx (the reason for which I was obliged to explain....), but I breezed it the following day (it helped that the PoW-ess was visiting Lincoln Showground, so our flying was a bit restricted ) and actually enjoyed the groundschool bit with the CFS chap who was very amiable.

Topcliffe might have had some odd weather, but so did Scampton. The duty liar for my A2 trip guessed cloud tops at FL40 - but we didn't come out until about FL70. Primary exercise was 'Stalling 2' - after the clearing turns, my jovial 'student' announced "Can't wait to see your aeros, 'sir'!". "I think you just did", I replied. But the gloomy weather had one advantage - the secondary exercise was IF with 'Bloggs' flying a 'radar to visual'. As we reached the instrument pattern from the West, I spotted the met radar tower at the old Ingham aerodrome, so knew exactly where we were (our aeroplane didn't have VOR/DME fitted...). But rather than taking control, waiting for the A15 and then turning 90 to follow it to right base, I wisely elected to let 'Bloggs' carry on, knowing that this would waste a fair bit more time, leaving less for whatever tortuous villainy he had in mind!

It seems that the weather-guessing knowledge of your days at Topcliffe must have been rather better than the bloke at Scampton that day, langleybaston! After I finished the A2 session, the clag descended and I didn't escape it until Lincoln. In June!

Topcliffe - I have to say it wasn't much liked by those doing pre-A2 work-up at BSS!
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 08:32
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I seem to remember a landing on the A1 instead of Dishworth or was it Topcliffe?
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 09:30
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I forgot - Merlin - the landlady at the Shoulder was no where to be seen on our reunion visit. Quite an amazing lady as a landlady. So many late lock ins even during the week. I recall there were 32 malts on the top shelf and in my time I think only one student managed to get all the way along the shelf. I think he was a Trainee Flight Engineer. I recall I got about half way but I was mixing them with a couple local beers as well.
A couple of times the instructors at Topcliffe just drew the blinds down and left our group to try and recover. And - we were back at the Shoulder at lunchtime again. Merlin really had a magic spell over our small group.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 11:01
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No memories due to having been born there in '56! My dad was a Siggie on Neptunes at the time. Have yet to persuade him to come onto here.. Always raises an eyebrow when I say I was born on an airfield.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 11:31
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I flew into Topcliffe from Catterick on 16 January 1970 as a young Army Sioux pilot to form 660 Aviation Squadron AAC. 2 Flt AAC with Beavers was already there. It was the start of the happiest time of my military career. We were made very welcome. The flying around North Yorkshire was great and the weather made it more interesting for our bread and butter low level activities. The RAF professional aviation environment was a good place for us to operate from. The O Mess was a wonderfully relaxed and comfortable home after the formal rules and restrictions of an infantry battalion mess. Most of the living in RAF aircrew were middle aged bean stealers but they were a very congenial bunch. Best of all there were wimmin, and families could came into the bar in the evening when we would roll back the carpet and dance. I think the barman was called Freddie!

Our favourite places for romantic eating out were The Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe Hotel (sole nantua and chunk of Aberdeen Angus) and The Old Deanery in Ripon, both still in action.

In the end I married one of the lovely young air traffickers in Topcliffe Church with the reception in the Mess. Now I am retired we live not a million miles from Topcliffe on the edge of the North York Moors, God's own country.

RAF Topcliffe has a very special place in my affections.
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Old 30th Nov 2014, 11:48
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STR 18

My route to Topcliffe was via an apprenticeship at Cosford. During the airfield phase I looked at the STR 18 on the newly arrived Shackletons with awe and amazement as HF training was done on the Collins 618T (How sad is that remembering numbers!!!). The instructor said, "I shouldn't worry yourself with that lad, you'll never see that again". Little did he or I know that within 18 months I would be struggling to tune those wretched 3 MHz frequencies on the Scottish route. And as for the 'one armed paper hanger' perhaps another time.

I can't say I enjoyed the place, too much pressure, but I certainly enjoyed the subsequent job.

The weather? Foggy drives from Leeds with passenger giving me distance to curb, (she must have done well, she is still making me my tea). No flying for two weeks as the Vale of York fog bank refused to move. And yes cold in the winter.

Our Poles were Sqn Ldr Ignatowski, his nav was Flt Lt Bruno, (may have been a Sqn Ldr I can't remember). Whenever they disagreed they did it in Polish. Learning the job was bad enough, but when you didn't understand the teacher - tricky.

The reunion made the place seem much smaller than I remembered, but life is like that.
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