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50th Anniversary

Reunion 2010

Where Were You? 

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SIDDON GE                                                                 

July 1955 - left Gosforth Grammar School , just north of Newcastle , with a few crap G.C.E.s and no really well formed ideas about what to do. Opportunities were, shall we say limited in the North East at that time. My father suggested I become a mining engineer, but having seen the catalogue of injuries he had sustained over the years, I was not too keen. My spare time interest was the Air Training Corps; No. 131 Sqdn. in Newcastle . I enjoyed studying Aero Engines there and got to hear about the Boy Entrant and Apprentice schemes. My mother, being very supportive about it all, persuaded the Old Chap to lend his support and I went off to the local recruiting office to find out the score. I was accepted for the next January's entry. The main objective was to get a worthwhile trade behind me so as to assure my future employment. Service or Civil; time would tell.

Jan. 1956 - Halton. Along with the rest of you guys, I commenced training as an Aircraft Apprentice in the Engine Fitter trade; my first choice, so I was well chuffed.

Along with about 20 other lads I was allocated to No.1 Sqdn. 2 Wing and should appear on Rob Dyson's group photo. Unfortunately, we had all been "jabbed up" that week and I had succumbed to a mild vaccine fever and was confined to my pit in the room just behind the rest of the chaps in the picture. So I never actually did officially "Pass In". We were under the guidance of the late and greatly missed (by me, anyway) Sqdn. Ldr. Ray Candy, an ex wartime Flight Eng. and something of a pioneer in the electronics side of engineering in the R.A.F. This man's attitude towards us was in complete contrast to our fearsome Sqdn. Discip. Flt. Sgt. Arthur "Chiefy" Lenz. A roaring disciplinarian and ex Air Gunner who actually turned out to be the best instructor of marching drill I ever came across. He didn't seem to take to us and on one occasion when the tall gangly lads couldn't quite master a neat "HALT" on the snow and ice lying about, he actually bust his pace stick in a rage. I can see his purple face in my mind's eye now. (All true! Ask Rob) After the initial two weeks being looked after by poor old L.A.A. Tom Gilmore of the 74th, I was put into my allocated room, No.4 of Block 8. The L.A.A. was Mel somebody of the 79th. All I can remember of him is that he was a Cornishman. My room mates included Paddy Downey, a lovely chap who, despite all our coaching couldn't quite get past the 1st year exams and remustered to M.T. Fitter, where he did well. Another was Ian "Jock" Law, from the wilds of Argyleshire and the infamous Castle Milk Estate in Glasgow . Jock was engine and car mad like me so we always got on well. Sadly, he was killed in a motorbike accident in Singapore in the early 60's. For a few days, I was the only chap in the Squadron, who could understand a single word he said. Only he and the late Cyril "Tub" Dale, a Yorkshireman, could understand me. Good game......... good game! We all understood each other within the first two weeks. 

After a steady first year I was a bit stir crazy but found salvation in the Racing Car Club. We went to Silverstone nearly every weekend during the season and had a lot of fun. 

I was amazed to be made a Snag for the autumn term of '57 and put in charge of Room 6 Block 8. Chiefy Lenz couldn't have been too pleased at this development as he promptly tried to get me busted. (Twice) It didn't come off, as he was further enraged when I was made C.A.A. of the middle landing in Block 7. Then I somehow got to be S.A.A. i/c Block 7. I was also now senior A.A. in the Racing Car Club. The Sqdn. had no option but to reluctantly put me up for F.S.A.A., everyone being flabbergasted when I got it. (Our Wingco must have been a bit soft upstairs) Cheify Lenz gave in with good grace and proceeded to train me to shout at people. He did a good job, I thought, considering his material. Is it true that I could be heard over in 3 Wing on a Saturday morning parade? Unfeasible as it sounds to me, that is what I was once told. One of the amusing(ish) things about 2 Wing was that the F.S.A.A. had custody of a small, silver tipped swagger stick. The 2 Wing S--t Stick. I got continual mutterings about where folks would like to place that stick about my anatomy, particularly when I was trying to get a Flight of lads returning from a hard day in Shops to smarten up to an acceptable standard. After my usual abject failure to understand anything about Calculus, (I still don't), The Air. Com., Tom Coslett, our first ever Ex A.A. Air Com. gave up on the idea of sending me to Cranwell. Just as well, I had a chip on each shoulder and would never have made a decent officer of any kind at that sort of age. Thankfully, we had George Wade to step into the breach; he made a much better fist of it than I would have.  

Dec. '58 - Came 2nd in Engines to Brian Mott (a well known genius) mainly due to my test job. I won the Crebbin Robinson cup for it and came 1st in General Service Efficiency, whatever that was. About 12 of us passed out substantive Corporals and I was posted initially to Linton-on-Ouse on Vampire trainers. Talk about being thrown in the deep end. I soon realised I hadn't a clue about practical Engine Fitting. A steep learning curve ensued. 

Via Honnington (V Bombers) and Aden (piston ASF) I found myself back on Flying Training Command at Oakington (Varsitys and Vampires again) as a Cpl. Tech. 

I had done the Theory exam for Snr Tech. in Aden to get it out of the way and applied for the rest in early '64. The Service then decided that Cpl. and Snr. Tech would go so I did the 1st Admin and Org. Exam in liu of another Spec.Tech. Qualification. Because of being a Cpl. since 19 years old, I (along with a few dozen other ex brats) made Sgt. on April 1st 1964. Yeah, yeah: I already heard all the April fool jokes. 3 days later, the Winco Tech. H.A.J. Mills, who's previous tour had been Halton, gleefully stuck me in ground School as the Tech. Instructor, where I was known as "Flying Wing's tame technician".   

I absolutely loved it and stayed a couple of years, earning an A2 grade after one year and a C-inC's Commendation after 2. The student pilot's average age was 22 and we got on like a house on fire. (I was still single, enjoying blasting around the Cambrigeshire lanes in my Mini Cooper like a lunatic. How I survived, I'll never know) 

Eventually common sense prevailed and I went off on the Air Engineers course at the end of 1966 as I'd heard it paid more. 

I joined 267 Sqdn Argosys at Benson and did the 6 year Airman Aircrew thing. (Amusingly, about half of 267 and 114's Co-pilots were ex students of mine.) I met Kath, who was separated and with 2 small lads in 1967 and we  were married in 1970 after her divorce was finalised. I left the Service and 114 Sqdn, in Dec. 1971 after the Argosy was as long last replaced by the Herc. On my first Ardet detachment to Muharraq in 1968 (as a Flt. Sgt.) who turned out to be S.W.O.? Why, my old friend Chiefy Lenz, of course. Boy, did he give us the run-around?? We did most of the Station duties, later finding out that as a Lodger Unit, we shouldn't have done any. 

Jan 1972 - commenced a Comet 4 course with Dan-Air. Did 6 years on them till converting to B727s in 1977. Quite a lot of old service buddies, some ex brats, in the Charter business so I was quite happy. Kath and I had our own son Phil in March 1972. Money was tight for a couple of years but I started to work on cars in my spare time as Charter work was then very seasonal. Kath told me that a period of 2 years once passed without me taking a day off. I was either flying or fixing a car. 

I made Senior Flight Engineer Officer (what a mouthful) in 1976 - and who had joined the Comet Fleet in, I think '75 at Manchester as a First Officer after leaving the Service? Why non other than Tom Gilmore of the 74th. We became very good mates and I used to fix his car for him. (Last news - living in Oakham and a member of the Peterborough Branch.) 

I did a 3 month detachment to Australia in early 1990 to earn the budget to radically hooliganise my Mini Van. Then on August the 14th suffered my first mild heart attack. Another 3 weeks later really put the kibosh on my flying career. Game over with 12,600 hrs logged. Dan Air sympathetically dismissed me after 6 months as I hadn't regained my license. The Van did get hooliganised and proved great fun. 

I wasn't too well for a bit, then in early '92 Social Services, on hearing that I could walk a couple of hundred yards on the flat and about 25 uphill, declared that I was no longer an invalid and was merely out of work. Nice!! 

No aviation jobs near Glossop, Derbyshire where we lived  from 1973, but I had kept in teaching practice with our local A.T.C. Sqdn for 20 years, so I applied for a Training Dept. job at the then brand new Shannon Aerospace and joined as a Systems and Engines Instructor in Aug. 92. Just before the company officially opened on Sept 19th. I'm on the original company photo.  

I was asked to take on Air Legislation and Company Procedures as a specialisation while teaching U/T Technicians in Aeronautical Fundamentals. A bit of everything Systems and Engines for 10 weeks. My "Air Leg." course was hawked around by the Marketing boys who, before Euros, charged IŁ 450 for my 3 day course and IŁ 850 (both plus VAT) for my full house, beginners 5 day course. My record in the early days was 6 different nationalities in the same 3 day class for qualified Licensed Engineers. It was a fundamentally boring subject for them and it took about a day and a half to "reel-'em-in". It had to be done before they were able to certify work.

I also set all the exams, it taking one Slovenian MD80 Engineer 3 attempts before he eventually scraped a pass. I was terrified he was going to kiss me when I told him the good news. On the side, as it were, I was also the Company lead Engine Type instructor, qualified on JT8D 100s & 200s, CFM56s, P&W 2000 & 4000 and G.E. CF6. 

Eventually, in 1995, my arteries completely furred up and I underwent a triple by-pass in Dec. of that year. 12 hrs technically dead, with heart and lungs by-passed while they re-plumbed the works. Been fine since. 

Sept. 1998 - Joined Oxford Aviation College, teaching Pilots again. We came back as our Mike's ulcerative Colitis was really worrying Kath and her health was starting to become at risk.  Being in another country when your firstborn is ill doesn't sit well with most Mothers, I guess. 

Oxford is run a bit like a Service unit. Been there, done that, so I left after a year and retired at 60. We had sold both our Irish bungalow and our Glossop house and bought a big-ish house in Chipping Norton for cash. With no mortgage, a partial Airline Pension and some cash in the bank it didn't seem worth the hassle. All we had to do was survive till 65 and the State Pensions would chime in for both of us. 

Unfortunately, our Phil contracted Colon Cancer in 1992, eventually passing away at home on Aug.14th (that date again) 2002. I couldn't stand the house after that and we looked about for somewhere else. We thought Oakham, about half-way between our surviving sons Mike and Richard would be good, but couldnt find a smallish 3-bed bungalow with the required double garage. No such animal we thought. We searched near Market Deeping where our Mike and his family, (2 sons now) live before trying Chesterfield where our Richard has lived for about 25 years. We found a 3 bed bungalow (with double garage for all my tools and my Kit Car) about 3 miles out of town and having downsized, were able to afford to completely modernise the place. We also, dare I admit this, run a Volvo turbo-diesel Estate as the family transport. However, I do go to Silverstone or Oulton Park most years to have a charge round in single seaters. Once a hooligan.................