Rock Ape Remembers
by G Boam, Cyprus
My first introduction to the RAF was through a careers office in Nottingham, being a victim of winter lay off in the building trade. So, March 1959 saw me off to RAF Cardington, travel warrant in hand. I took the oath of allegiance on 9 March and was then promptly marched off for the regulation 'short back and sides.' After the processing and paperwork was completed, it was off to RAF Wilmslow (Cheshire) for six weeks square bashing. I and the rest of the flight were introduced to a Scot, Cpl Angus and, wait for it, a Sgt Bates Gordon. My initial thoughts when the dust had settled was, 'What the hell am I doing here?' But it was made easier with guys from my home town and I began to enjoy it all. After the square bashing and one week's leave the fun really started: six months Regiment training at the Depot, RAF Catterick. Again, it was all the easier as I soon struck up some great friendships with the rest of my squad.
In October 1959 we got our first posting to RAF Akrotiri by means of a IQ-day cruise on HMS Dilwara - she finally docked at Limassol old jetty. Then we were transported to RAF Akrotiri with the usual accompanying calls of 'moonies get some in' and other calls not mentionable in this story! We were given one day to settle in and then activities started: we had arrived on 37 Squadron, part of 3 Wing LAA and were equipped with the L40/70 Bofors. Our living accommodation was in tents - three to a tent - the lines were set up by the old cinema. After a couple of nights it seemed as if I had been there for ever and for the next 18 months we carried out fencing duties around the airfield, guard duties and patrols etc. I was also on the first detachment of one-week duties guarding the Ladies Mile Yacht Club. For our entertainment off duty the Wing Club was a favourite haunt and we also had some hilarious nights out in Heroes Square - more a family place then.
On parade in January 1961, we were told that we were to return to Blighty so that 37 Squadron could reform at RAF Sealand. This time we had a lO-day cruise on HMS Dunera followed by a short transit period at RAF Upwood and then to RAF Sealand for 18 months. Surprisingly enough we had a really good time here with plenty of free time in nearby Chester. We were kept busy with lots to do - some of this included L40/70 Bofors live firing on the Manorbier ranges (Near Tenby), map reading exercises on the Bethesda mountain complex and wireless training on the C42 operating from RAF Burtonwood. Then we were given news that our names were on a short list for an overseas posting again and surprise surprise, I was off back to Cyprus - this time to 34 Squadron. In October 1962, I departed from Stanstead to Nicosia, then on to RAF Akrotiri by road. On arrival on 34 Squadron, we had our first encounter with the infamous WO Danny Gourd (enough to say that he is still a legend in our generation of gunners and no doubt to many others after us!)
After a few months, WO Gourd departed and things got back to normal! While on 34 Squadron, I was fortunate to be taught to drive as a B class driver and learnt how to tow the guns and generators. Soon I was on an advance party for a two week exercise in the Libyan Dessert based at RAF El Adem. The flight there I remember well was in a 'boneshaker' Hastings. When the exercise was complete we returned back to normal duties, but in November l963 the troubles started in earnest in Cyprus but then I was returned to RAF Innsworth ready. for demob. I had completed my five-year term, a period. in my life I would not have missed for anything.
Eventually, I retired to Cyprus in 1992 where I have been ever since. I joined the RAF Association (Aphrodite Branch) in 1994 and have never missed a social evening since, held first Thursday every month at the Sergeants' Mess. I have been an active committee member for six years or more and now am the vice-chairman. I am very keen to trace some of my old mates on37 and 34 Squadrons and if they wish to contact me they can do so at the address given at the end of this article. In particular I would like to trace WO W McStay, (Ex RAF Sealand) SAC Andy Christie, (Turriff, Scotland?) SAC Chris Wilson (4249475), (Purley, Surrey?), SAC T Steele, (Stoke on Trent) SAC Jock. Doull, (Aberdeen) Fg Off David Radband, (Ex 34 Squadron), SAC Jock Hughes, (Kirkaldy Fife), Colin Newton ( Honley Huddersfield ), Mick Bodycoate (Tutbury Staffs), Terry Chaimbrlain (Burton–upon–Trent Staffs), John Beatie (Wath-on–Dearne Yorks),
A Rock Ape Remembers Part 2
Joining 3LAA Wing 37 Squadron in October 1959 we had some great NCOs, Cpls Jim McGrath and Niel Horsfall spring to mind. They told us some great tales. We were known as 'Dog Flight'. Until one day a new sergeant arrived his name was Sgt Paddy Foggarty, his first order on parade was you are 'Delta Flight' . Second day he shouted 'On parade Delta Flight'. No one came from the tents for 10 minutes. .we didn't like change.. .but he won in the end. Our primary task was bed wiring on the airfield perimeter, salt fiats side. That was a task having to hit the deck whenever the V-bombers and Canberras took off, I still have the scars!
My mate and I had regular visits at night to our tented accommodation from WO 'Ginny' McStay who helped us with our 'pork chops' cooked in mess tins on the Aladdin paraffin stove - we helped him with his gin. WO McStay's ideal life statement was 'to retire to a warm climate, bottle of gin in back pocket, sit under a tree and relax'.
Off duty nights were spent in the Wing Club playing darts and supping the 'Keo'. One night I remember playing 22 games against a gentle giant of a guy called Paddy McClean, 27 Squadron - he never won one game, the rest of the guys sat in awe, Paddy came back most nights but alas he never succeeded.
Christmas 1959 came and every squadron on camp did a theme. Ours, 37 Squadron, was Ship's Deck and Wheelhouse. All materials used were scrounged from all over camp, the bulk of the work was carried out by my best mate, 'the late' Sid Wilson form Boston, Lincolnshire and yes, we won it easily. The squadron leader OC - his name escapes me - was over the moon.
1960 regularly took us on exercise. 40/70 Bofors firing on Akrotiri cliffs, near 280 Signals Squadron being eaten alive by the mosquitos. Then more wiring tasks to do. Towards the end of 1960 we received our orders to reform 37 Squadron at RAF Sealand (after the Americans left). Eventually arriving at RAF Sealand early 1961 we faced hard work getting all our 40/70 Bofors and equipment in the allocated buildings - very little space - but we triumphed in the end.
Many exercises followed, one I remember was when we travelled to RAF Manobier and it was the time the German tank Corps were on a visit to Castle Martin army depot for training. As we drove through town en-route in convoy, the locals lined the streets shouting 'Go home Krauts!'. Well, they didn't know the difference between Bofors and tanks so we laughed at them and gave them a few shouts back. I remember our driver pulled out the choke for a few seconds and then pushed it back making the vehicle backfire, they scattered sharpish.
After 10 days at RAF Manobier, we went back to base. Soon after we went on detachment to the then USAF base Brize Norton providing airport security for the Ban The Bomb' demonstrations that were taking place.
We stopped over at RAF South Cemey, Gloucestershire, having a good night in the Naafi. So when it closed and still wanting to carry on we wheeled the jukebox outside for a while. During our stay at Brize we met a good friend of SAC Harry Starling, a Gp Capt Sullivan or 0' Sullivan. Our NCOs went spare because Harry was on first name terms - it created quite a laugh!
Then after 18 months at RAF Sealand, October 1962 saw us off to RAF Akrotiri again, having to miss my sister's wedding on 20 October due to flying out the following Monday to join 34 LAA Squadron, 3 Wing.
After a while I took my B class-driving test and passed, also 'gun towing' (the driving stood me in good stead for civvy street). I volunteered for DZ (Dropping Zone) duties for the parachute team, down to the 'salt flats' for 0530hrs. Picking up the spent chutes and transporting them to RAF Nicosia in exchange for repacked ones. I remember SAC Dave Ripley doing a stand up landing and Sgt Ron Braclley giving him hell. It was a once a week duty. Things went on as normal until November 1963 when the troubles started again - but I had my demob. date set for January 1964 and my kit had already gone 'deep sea' so after Christmas it was back to UK.
After my demob I started my civilian life at work for the then NCB (National Coal Board) Notts area, in the Scientific Department. After six months I transferred to the Transport Section driving HGVs for 10 years - then on to plant hire for three years. I was then very fortunate to get back to the NCB's Notts HQ at Eastwood eventually as an executive chauffeur to the managing director of Coal Products Ltd for nine years, then promoted to personal chauffeur to the Deputy Chairman of British Coal. Finally retiring in September 1992. AIl thanks to the RAF for my driving course!
November 1992 I was back in Cyprus where I've been ever since. I joined
RAFA 1993 and Since March 2005 I took over as Chairman, now I
enjoy all the hard work for RAFA Aphrodite Branch at Akrotiri. Cash sent
back 2002 £6,000, 2003
£6,000 £4,500 raised last year (2004) for sending back to RAFA HQ in UK
, so our hard work pays off.
FROM THE JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL AIR FORCE REGIMENT
Whilst on 40/70 Bofor Demonstrations in Sheffield 1961/62 a detachment of 4+2 Nco's and one Officer, it was originally a recruiting drive with 37Sqdn we had some spare time Sat& Sunday so 4 of us SACs and Cpl Rabbie Burns set off in Paddy Corrigans car down to Marlpool Derbys to my parents house, slept on the floor & settee we ended up in a pub in Ripley Derbys called (wait for it ) The Cock Hotel, we had a magic night with the resident family known as Champagne Charlie (they always drank it ), we then went back to RAF Norton Sunday night, during the week we were running short on cash so Paddy Corrigan who had done some wrestling went in the booth at the fair held on The Moor Sheffield, he won his bout and got paid the princely sum of I think 10 pounds which we paid in to, all in all it was a fun detachment thanks to Flt Lt Barry Stock, Sgt "Geordie Scott", the names i remember are G Boam, Terry "Tex" Arnold, Paddy Corrigan, Paddy McKay, the drivers i forget so if they see this sorry. We did get some recruits so a well worth exersise, we did several more around the country but this one the most memorable one
Email Gordon email@example.com