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50th Anniversary

Reunion 2010

Where Were You? 


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.681780 Redvers Bryn Spratley. 82nd Entry.  

Born :- 17th August 1938 Queen Charlotte`s Hospital. West London              


     To avoid the bombing my parents decided to move to my mothers home in Merionethshire. The training camps were being built and my fathers skills as a plumber were in demand. I went to the local school in Bryncrug where there was a sprinkling of English kids and I seemed to cope. When my mother fell ill with pneumonia I was fielded out to relatives in a quarrying village called Corris and in the three months I was in Corris I learned Welsh but I forgot my English and my English father couldn`t understand the bloody child. Hence the accent!.

     Sometime in 1943 I was walking up to our Hamlet from the village school with the kids and a peculiar aircraft flew over, and when my father came home I remember telling him about it. He asked me to draw the aircraft which I did, he said that there was no such aircraft, but when we were out together one flew over and it took some time to find out it was a Lockheed Lightning. From then on I stopped wanting to be a doctor and I wanted to be a pilot and this was the start of a life time romance with aircraft.

     I was not a god pupil; not that I minded School, in general I spent my time in the County School at the top of the B stream or the bottom of the A Stream with the usual report that said “Has ability but does not try “ I had found that if it came to it  I could do some very intensive studying over a short period and get the result I required.

     When it came to `O` Levels my maths teacher told me I might get Arithmetic but I would never get mathematics due to the atrocious state of my algebra, so the week before the exam I crammed solid on my algebra and passed with 85% having never achieved more than say 35 – 40% on all previous occasions. September 55 saw me back in the 5th Form  with every body asking me what I was going to do with my life ( this included me).

     Just then fate came to the rescue, I was called to the headmasters office and I duly presented myself and , to my delight  there was a real life Squadron Leader , followed closely by dismay when I realized he was looking at my report book. His first greeting was, “So you`re the guy that wants to be a pilot in the Royal Air Force”. I said “ Yes” and he said “ Looking at this report book you`ll never be a pilot so long as you have a hole in your ass”. The effect on the headmaster ( a very religious man ) was really gob smacking. He then proceeded to ask me what I knew about aircraft and was suitably impressed to say my knowledge was very good. He did say my maths etc . was good enough for me become a Royal Air Force Apprentice what ever that was. If I completed the course I would become educationally qualified for Aircrew. I was instantly interested. That evening I went home with a load of information, and by the end of the month I was in the school library sitting the entrance exam

     The medical was the next hurdle and after having my hearing test they had a prod around my ear and when they saw that I had had a mastoid operation the prodding got more intense followed by a further hearing test which I failed. I left Halton in deep despair. On the train to Baker Street I realised that I had an ear full of blood. When I got home my stepfather put pen to paper and complained . In late January I was called down to an Air Ministry Office near Goodge Street where I was given a full medical, I joined the Royal Air Force with the medical rating of A1G1. This was February 1956, I was a late arrival and 15 days later I was seventeen and a half so I got in by the skin of my teeth.

     I missed the initial period of the induction and went straight into a mixed entry room, the Gods really shone on me that day  my bed space was between two 75th Entry blokes Bert Longstaff and Gaff Maguire, both over six foot and my friends from the word go. They taught me a lot and I helped them a lot, they were the best minders a guy could have. By the time they passed out I was totally street wise. Due to my general disposition it wasn`t that long  before I got to know WO Carter ( my first jankers, illegal possession of a hammer head ) and he was Orderly Officer. He asked me if I had polished the back of my cap badge I said yes and he said “Why “?, I said “ Because they told me you would ask “. After that I was " young Spratley". Some time later I was talking with our blocks Sgt App. And Carter came upon us and during the conversation Carter said if the Sgt was in sack cloth and I was in Saville Row he would look Saville Row and I would look sackcloth. Another time I was on my way to Three Wing just as the 18.00 hr jankers parade was forming  and Carter was stood at the far corner of  Two Wing Mess  and as I approached  he said “ young Spratley if you stand with me for just a moment you will see a wondrous and miraculous sight” just then Moody 79th came racing into sight  and Nick Carter bellowed “ I saw you Moody” to see a full gallop change into a crippling limp was a wondrous sight. Some time at the beginning of the second year or there about I had my turn at standing out in front and barking orders. This was a total disaster  as the flight kept on marching towards One  Wing and me totally tongue tied  and Fl;t Sgt Lenz turning them about “ Why can`t you shout an order, I`ve heard you attract someone`s attention across the square “, I can do it for one person but not a crowd. He said “Rubbish”.

     Workshops I enjoyed, although during my second year I was asked if I was working my ticket I said no why was I being asked?.I`d not failed a single course. I was taken to see WO i/c workshops (I think his name was Varty) who informed me that they were convinced that I could do very much better and being I was not working my ticket he would be monitoring  me much closer. Back to the old school report.

     Schools was a disappointment to me when I started  I was ahead of the syllabus and I lay back and I was unaware of us going onto fresh material  and I literally failed to catch up so in the second year I was no longer in the National stream . It took two years in Tech to make up for that lapse.

     After Halton came 32 MU .RAF  St Athan and clocking in and marching up and down to the hanger after my first stint as key orderly, I started using my motor bike and in 1960 and 1961 I was motor cycle escort for the AOC. We met him off the aircraft, escorted him to the parade ground and off down Llantwit Major to the local café. I couldn`t believe it we had the afternoon off to bull the bikes and 10 bob for fuel and materials. That was the last AOC`s I was involved in. 103 MU and 60 MU  I was always on detachment. At 32 MU I worked on Anson, Vampire, Meteor, Canberra , and Valiant.

     During my time at 32 MU  I was on PWR`s for El Adem and the consensus among the older and more hairy of the community was that the experience of a few sand storms with dust in every orifice would knock all that cockiness out of me; to their frustration El Adem was cancelled and the following year I had another embarkation leave for Cyprus.

     103 MU Akrotiri July 1961 two weeks after the last restrictions were lifted on British Forces. 103 `s main tasks was major repairs and salvage which gave me my first experience of clearing crashed aircraft, When my Cpl/Tech came through I was sent to Nicosia on a permanent detachment. It was a nice life, no duties and the boss 70 miles down the road in Akrotiri , the only time we saw him was when he brought his wife to Nicosia for shopping and he spent the time with us. Our i/c at Nicosia was a dab hand at diversion and within no time at all he would have diverted the old man to Wapitis over the North West Frontier or Khormaksa and we would be all in the crew room ( packing crate ) for a couple of hours. The Detachment Office, Store and Crewroom  were all large packing crates that had been 103 MU Detachment ( Nicosia ) for many years. When 43 Squadron moved to Khormaksa  it was decided  that all MU work would be covered from Akrotiri. I n my last year at Akrotiri I had four detachments to El Adem and one to Luqa. While at Nicosia I would wander over to the Ground Electrical section and have a chat to Jim Robson and Tim Hine. I left Cyprus with two guys from Akrotiri  travelling from Limasoll  to Genoa in MV Elat and then motoring from Genoa to UK via Kitsbul.

     My last unit was 60 MU. Jan 1964 to July  1968 at Dishforth and Leconfield this was truly a gypsy existence working on aircraft at Kinloss, Leuchars, Turnhouse, Alkington, Leeming, Topcliff, Finningley, Waddington Cottesmore, Syerston, Ternhill, Shawbury, Valley, Coltishall, Wattisham, and overseas detachments to Tengah, Butterworth and Khormaksa.

     I left the RAF having been for interviews at Weybridge ( Field Service Engineer) and Airwork at Southend ( Where I was advised to look at the airlines) arrived back at Leconfield to see a BOAC advert in Flight . I joined the airline  on August 19th 1968 going through the wrong door and ending up in workshops. I went to workshops to cover them till the winter work program started on the VC10 or B70. Unfortunatley Eagle Airlines went bust and 60 Licensed Engineers became available to BOAC and they were better suited for the jobs. The detail shop was something to behold as the vast majority of the men there  had been prototype fitters and I was truly astounded by what they could dowith sheet metal. The workshop also overhauled about a thousand mechanical components from torque tubes to lostmotion assemblies and DV windows . I kicked my heels in workshops till the B747 came along and I spent eight years on the B747 , by this time the shift work starting to get to me and a friend advised me being I had the qualifications  why did I not look for something else. I enjoyed the work on the B747 , I liked the people, the days were OK 7 on 4 off followed by7 on 3 off, but the hours were 0630 till 1430 I was constantly shattered and 1430 till 2245 seven days of no socialising. The day I thought of this I walked passed the vacancy board and there was this jobin TIS (Technical Information Services ) I thought this will do for a while and twenty four years later Senior Development Engineer Redvers Bryn Spratley retired from British Airways.