Those of you who are unable to attend our AGM and Annual Church Service for reasons of distance or health may not know that the Association has its own Chaplain. I attend the AGM as an ordinary member as I trained at RAF Yatesbury as an Air Wireless Mechanic and was there from late August 1947 to 1st March 1948. During that time I was a member of the Station Church, also dedicated to All Saints. On the Sunday of the AGM weekend, I am invited to take the Annual Service at All Saints' Village Church, preach, and lead the Memorial Service outside afterwards. I also had the privilege of dedicating the Memorial Stone commemorating RAF Townsend a couple of years ago. Other than this, the Chaplain has no other duties. But it has occurred to me that, although I cannot visit members all over the country and elsewhere in the world, there might be occasions when I could become a kind of "radio padre" through e-mail or letter if any member wanted to discuss any religious topic with me. Maybe no one will, but firstname.lastname@example.org will find me by e-mail or at home at Canterbury Bells, Ansford Hill, Castle Cary, Somerset, BA7 7JL
I have lived in Malmesbury since 1972, now retired but for more than 35 years I worked for Post Office Telephones aka BT on exchange maintenance and circuit provision over a wide geographical area. Immediately before BT I took a PMG Marine Radio course at Plymouth Poly. Other jobs before that included working for a company making power transformer etc. Post BT I spent almost 10 years working for a Funeral Director and a local supermarket. For the last 28 years I have been an elected Town Councillor and 8 years ago I was Town Mayor: in which position and until they ceased I attended over 65 repatriations at Royal Wootton Bassett. Shortly before I became Mayor, the Chairman of the local RBL branch said that in view of the support that I have given the RBL over many years he invited me to become a member of Malmesbury RBL branch; In quick succession I was elected branch committee member and Assistant Branch Welfare Officer. My father was Australian and I have attended many ANZAC services at Leighterton. In Malmesbury I am active in many different organisations and serve as treasurer of several.
My Yatesbury connection is principally through my late father Neville Woodcock who worked for the Air Ministry via The Bristol Flying School from early 1940 till late 1947 when The Flying School closed. As a Calne lad I have had a long interest in the various RAF camps in the area.
Rosie Watt was elected as our Treasurer at the AGM in 2009.
She has many varied interests and hobbies, but loves travelling, and enjoys the relaxing Greek Islands. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, listening to music of all sorts and admits to being a big fan of Cliff Richard. Her main hobby however has to be the one that involves her grandson Jasper, who has seemed to totally absorb all of her “spare” time during the last ten years. Her husband John and grandson Jasper are keen Southampton football supporters, whereas Rosie supports a far superior club, Swindon Town!
Rosie is a member of Calne Baptist Church and a volunteer for Independent Age and Calne Community Hub. She maintains contact locally with RAFA, British Legion and ATC.
Alan has done a sterling job as our Honorary Secretary from 1998 until last year, when he became Minutes Secretary. Henow keeps us well-informed and up to speed on all Committee business.
My allegiance to Queen and country began in 1955 following a four-year deferment that allowed me to become a registered pharmacist. After failing the aircrew selection procedure at Hornchurch I eventually arrived at Cardington in November 1955 to be kitted out. I think it was there that I opted for training as a Radar Fitter having always been interested as much as, if not more than, in radio as in pharmacy. Basic training then followed at Padgate - I thought there couldn’t possibly be a colder place in England until I had spent winter in the wilds of Wiltshire! and I arrived at Yatesbury in February 1956. Sadly, I missed the unforgettable journey on the Calne Flyer as Dad was glad of
an excuse for an afternoon off work and was happy to let me drive the family Ford 8 the short journey from Oxford.
The nine-months' training course (ARF111) followed the usual pattern at the end of which I volunteered for, and was accepted to stay on as, an instructor. (The fact that
my fiancée, Margaret, lived within easy travelling distance in Oxford had a significant bearing on this decision). Life as an instructor was very pleasant. Initially, I was
expected to teach trainee Air Radar Mechanics and Fitters about the Radar Altimeter
6A as fitted to the Canberra. As there were not many intakes being allocated this piece
of equipment, I had a lot of spare time. But not for long. Someone in Admin decided I didn’t have enough to do and I was seconded to the General Education section.
Teaching elementary maths was not too taxing but assisting the Education Officer to choose the films to be shown in the Astra camp cinema was more interesting. I think
his brief was to make sure that there was a strong educational element to the
programmes. But I like to think that I helped to persuade him that attendance would
be much improved if more light-hearted productions were also included. Brigitte Bardot in “And the Devil Created Woman” was one of my most popular choices I remember.
Having been teaching reasonably successfully for twelve weeks, it was decided three of us should go to RAF Spitalgate to be properly trained as instructors. Accommodation there was more akin to a hotel than the huts we were used to and to have proper central heating was very welcome. Despite the station having very friendly and apparently
lonely WAAFs on the staff, and our almost nightly visits to the local hostelries, we passed out as the top three in a class of thirty. Maybe our selection as instructors at Yatesbury was not as random as we thought, after all.
Back at Yatesbury, there was plenty of time to partake of the various leisure activities on offer. I spent most Wednesday sports afternoons with the Gliding Club, first at Lyneham, then at Upavon. Despite ending up as secretary of the club, I never managed to go solo. The alternative sporting activity that we enjoyed was dinghy sailing on Coate Water at Swindon. The Station had a few dinghies permanently stored there in an insubstantial wire netting enclosure. I suspect that they would be vandalised within a week if they were there now.
Eventually, this life of virtual leisure came to an end and it was back to earning a proper living as a pharmacist. Initially, this was with Boots and afterwards, having married fiancée Margaret in 1959, we ran our own pharmacy in Wantage. The business was sold in 1989 and we have lived in retirement, more or less, ever since.
I can honestly say the twenty-one months I spent at RAF Yatesbury were some of the most enjoyable of my whole life and I am delighted that, thanks to the Trojan efforts of Jamal Khanfer, the site will be preserved for posterity.
I left school at 16 with vague thoughts of doing something in Chemistry. However a one-man local electrical contractor wanted some help for a day so my very first job was crawling under a very dusty floor of an old house. After a while I moved to a bigger firm and served my time as an electrician. I went to night and day school and had just got Higher National Certificate plus endorsements when, at 22, I was invited into the RAF to become a Junior Technician the V Bomber radar at the Bomber Command Bombing School at RAF Lindholme, (after eight weeks at RAF Wilmslow and nine months at RAF Yatesbury). I would have enjoyed it more had I not been married with a three month-old son when I was dragged in, kicking and screaming.
On escaping in 1961, I joined A. Reyrolle, a large switchgear firm on Tyneside as a Contract Engineer, designing and supplying 132kv and 275kv electrical substations to the CEGB. After three years of this I moved to Bristol on the other side of the fence and built them all over the South West.
In 1970, following a major re-organisation of the industry I moved from the High Voltage transmission side to the power station side as, what turned out to be, an odd job man. Over the next 14 years I was the spares man; the hydrogen “ expert” large pump “expert” did two six-month spells at Oldbury P.S.; was computer contact for critical path analysis of Power station overhauls; plus numerous other tasks.
In 1984 I moved back to the transmission side where at one time or another, I ran National Grid’s transport, ordering vehicles by the hundred, still did major spares, I ran the Skycradle programme, these are the large mobile cranes that protect the motorway when work is going on overhead. My main job was checking the power lines by helicopter usually with an infra-red camera looking for hot joints, and following the sudden death of my boss, ran the helicopter unit for a while. I took early retirement in 1992 as I could see how the industry was going downhill following privatisation
We finished up with five children and I now have seven grandchildren, six girls and one boy. Unfortunately my wife died in 2002.
For hobbies I played rugby for 40 years and still play cricket, (not very well, mainly for the drinking sides). I walked the 270 miles of the Pennine Way with my eldest son (twice). I took an Open University course in Physics and Geology.
I am very interested in WW1 and visit the battlefields in France and Belgium several times each year. I have given talks on the subject to various organisations.
I joined the Association in 1997 and became Membership secretary in 1999. I wrote the “ History of RAF Yatesbury” in 2004.
Phil Tomaselli, 146 Stockwood Lane, Bristol, BS14 8TA Tel.01275836795
Tony has been our Public Relations Officer for two
years and is the standard bearer for the Kingston
branch of the Royal British Legion. Whenever those duties do not conflict, he also parades our standard
and organises the ceremonial at our Service of Remembrance at Yatesbury each year.
My rather chequered career in the Royal Air Force actually started off in Bangalore in Southern India at
St Joseph’s Boys’ School and College affiliated to Madras (now Chennai) University as far back as
1949. I was nearly 19 and a member of the Indian
Air Force Cadet Corps. India was still of Dominion status, and still entitled to the ‘Royal‘ prerogative, ie Royal Indian Air Force, Royal Indian Navy, etc. This was dropped when India became a republic on January 26th 1950.
I passed the initial test for aircrew with flying colours and I was all set to embark on a
career in the Indian Air Force. I was told to report to Ajmere in the North Punjab (now Rafasthan) in December 1950. However, fate took a hand in the shape of my father, a
retired Army colonel, for I was quite a mischievous young man. One night, at 2am, with group of other like-minded rowdies, I had rung the bell of the Good Shepherd Convent, getting the poor nuns, novitiates and boarders up for what they thought was morning ablutions! I was chased by an irate Gurkha watchman , but my athletic prowess saved
me even though the local police were called out in the person of Inspector ‘Dirty’
Doherty. I led them a merry dance by hiding in people’s gardens. None of us was caught,
but my father had had enough, and in short order, I was given an emergency passport, stamped by the British Resident, or Consul as they are now called, and found myself
aboard the SS Strathnaver bound for Blighty shores.
Arriving in the UK was a gloomy prospect for me, bitterly cold at three in the afternoon, feeling more like three in the morning. Tilbury is not the most welcoming of places for newly-returned or imported emigrés. To be pitchforked into this world of bleak climate coming from torrid, tropical pastures, where servants were on hand to pander to one’s
needs was indeed a culture shock to say the least. This totally different land and society
was to become my home from December 19th 1950.
Christmas that year was a lonely one, spent with my sister Kaye, who had already
emigrated to the UK and was teaching music, maths, English and French at the Convent
of the Holy Sepulchre at Goodings near Newbury. The nuns made a special effort for
our Christmas, letting me have a “cell” while I set about finding employment, insurance card, ration book, etc. Remembering that Britain had just got over World War II, I was overcome by the kindness of the nuns and the staff of the convent. My induction into
the Royal Air Force was nearly unsuccessful. I applied for aircrew duties as a pilot or navigator, and at the Selection Board, found the test papers quite easy, having just completed School Certificate in eight subjects. . I was therefore quite dumbfounded
when the results were given out and my name was not included! I queried this with the officer in charge, only to be told that, as I had got 100% in all three papers, I must have cheated! I appealed to the senior officer of the board, who said that I could take a retest. This officer was appalled at this slur on my character and bawled the miscreant out, who rescinded his decision with a grudging apology. To cut along story short, I went to the Aircrew Selection Centre at Hornchurch and was rejected owing to one eardrum being slightly perforated.. However, I was asked if I would consider engineering in the form of radar/wireless. Magic words then, so I accepted ad signed on initially for eight years.
I was quite thrilled when we were all sworn in as recruits, but, horror of horrors, I was
sent with a load of Scotsmen and Irishmen to the dreaded West Kirby! This was the second dirty trick that the RAF played on me. I must admit that it was a brutal place, nothing but the bleak, biting wind that cut you in half when you tried to march. I feel though that they treated me kindly in a rough sort of way. They let me sleep by the stove, which I had to keep black-leaded. I think that my Indian Air Force Cadets training background helped me to cope with the drill, and I made a lot of friends helping out the slower lads. I was christened ‘Sabu’ from day one - remember ‘Sabu the Elephant Boy’ of film fame? – a nickname that followed me all through my RAF career, ‘Sab’ for short.
There was a bluff Irish DI, Sgt ‘Spike’ O’Toole - his name still strikes a chord of fear in recruits of yesteryear – whose favourite trick was to jump out at you from the billet steps on morning parade and bellow, inches from your face,”AM I HURTING YOU, AIRMAN? Puzzled, I would reply,”No, Sergeant. Why?”. “BECAUSE I AM STANDING ON YOUR ****ING HAIR! GET IT CUT YOU CURLY-HAIRED B****R!” Yet, when I was leaving West Kirby for trade training at Yatesbury in February 1951, Spike called me to his room, shook my hand and showed me what he had written about different recruits in assessment of their calibre. Against my name, he had written, “ A very likeable rogue, but very good at drill etc, and very helpful towards his fellow recruits. He will probably go far in the service”. Was nearly moved to tears at my first testimonial in the RAF!.
Clive Simpson- Newsletter Editor
Born and raised in a mining village in South Yorkshire, my parents were determined that I would not 'end up' in the steelworks or the coal mines. My Father sent off for the recruiting pamphlets for all four services (the Fleet Air Arm was still a separate service) and the first to arrive was the RAF. He assumed this was a divine message and duly discarded the others. An early indication of Parent power!!!!
In August 1960, with my 5 newly acquired GCE's, I presented myself at RAF Cardington for assessment and selection. I wanted to be an MT Mechanic but the Attesting Officer obviously had a quota to fill and so I was told that I would be far better employed as an Air Wireless Mechanic.
26 January 1961 and a tearful Mother accompanied me to the railway station as I set off for the wilds of what was then Salop and a place called Cosford. “Make sure they give you enough to eat” she told me.
As a Boy Entrant in the 42nd Entry I must confess that I enjoyed life at Cosford and eventually passed out in July 1962 as 1943721 SAC Simpson. My first posting was RAF Finningley, great, 15 miles from home. From there I went to St. Mawgan in 1963 and then, in May 1964, SRO's told me that I was to go to Yatesbury for my Fitters Course. You can see from the date that most of you had been demobbed (and some of you retired) by then. June 1965 I returned to St. Mawgan as a J/T and from there went to RAF Valley.
At this time I decided that the quickest way to get promotion was to apply for Aircrew and consequently found myself at Topcliffe on the Air Signallers course. Postings to various Shackleton Squadrons followed and then I 'volunteered', at the suggestion of the Station Commander at Kinloss, for the Winchman course. The remainder of my service until 1986 was spent as a trapeze artist under various makes of helicopter.
Leaving the RAF I applied to retrain as a Plumber and subsequently started my own small business in London, my wife’s home town.
HM Coastguard then made me an offer I should have refused but didn't. The remaining years until my retirement in 2009 were spent with HMCG.
So here I am 'volunteering' again (some people never learn!). I just hope that, one day, I will be at the same standard set by my predecessor David Clark. Until then I will just bumble along and do my best to ensure that you all regularly receive a copy of SPARKS.
Bill Hauxwell, 18 Hollyhock Close, Basingstoke, Hants., RG22 5RF
Tel. 01256472035 E-mail Whrafyatesbury@aol.com
Profile. W. Hauxwell
Born in Darlington county Durham in 1934 and moved to Thornaby-on- Tees just prior to the outbreak of WW2. Found an old tricycle in the coal shed and thus started my interest in cycling, I was soon riding it on two wheels.
Educated at a technical school, which gave me a very good foundation for the rest of my career. Worked in a radio and electrical shop after I left school. One reason for getting the job was that I could ride a bicycle as our radio’s were colleted and delivered by carrier bike. We did outside jobs such as aerials and this entailed cycling with a large toolbox in the carrier and a double extension wooden ladder on one shoulder. Saw my first TV on a converted ex RAF radar set which had a 5 inch green screen.
In 1952 I realised I would be called up for National Service so decided to volunteer, and a very nice recruiting sergeant singed me on for 5 years.
Soon it was off to Cardington for kitting then Bridgenorth for square bashing and this is where I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Survived the 8 weeks and off to Yatesbury. I don’t remember much about Yatesbury apart from the name Harris for some reason. Sweets came off the rations, the station theatre was like a large fridge and I was in sickbay with just one oral exam to go. Posted to my first permanent station at Pembroke Dock. I still can’t work out how one can use the term ‘permanent’ to a RAF posting.
We had Sunderlands and high speed launches and I took a particular interest in the relatively new sono buoys. Promoted to LAC and went on my first overseas trip to Malta for NATO exercises. Towards the end of 1953 sent to Locking for a fitters course, posted back to PD and helped to equip a new sono buoy workshop. December 1954 posted to RAF Gielenkirchen on the German, Dutch boarder near Aachen. This station had 3 squadrons of Sabres but was soon re equipped with Hunters and Swifts. Whilst there with my 5 years coming to an end and a bounty scheme of £100.00 so I signed on for another 5 years and extended my tour. Three months latter I was back in the UK because of cutbacks.
Posted to Middle Wallop near Andover to the Joint Experimental Helicopter Unit working on Sycamores and Whirlwinds and the first detachment was to Gutterslow Germany.
A year latter it was a posting to RAF Benson to the Queens Flight working on De Haveland Herons and a Devon plus Whirldwinds. Several oversea trips to places like Italy, Africa and Pakistan. I finished my service there in 1962.
I have worked on light aircraft, and for the Atomic Energy Authority, Westinghouse Brake & Signal and finally Smiths Industries.
My hobbies are photography, cycling and one day my model railway.
Bill is one of our founder members and for many years was the SPARKS Editor. He is still an active member of the Association committee and is a stalwart of the RAF Air Sea Rescue Association.
In 1953, I joined the Royal Air Force as a Boy Entrant at RAF Yatesbury in W Lines. After 3 months’ Educational Training and square bashing, it was decided that I would be a U/T Air Radar Mechanic CMS.
We remained at Yatesbury for seven months, until it was decided we were corrupting the regulars and we were sent to RAF Cosford to join the other Boy Entrants.
In September 1954, I passed out as an SAC qualified to service centimetric radar. My posting was to RAF Topcliffe in Yorkshire which flew Neptune’s. They had American radar, so I was a dogsbody for some weeks until the next conversion course was run. I was then employed in the Radio Servicing Bay mainly on paperwork as the Warrant Officer found out I was applying for pilot training as soon as I became 18. He told me I had to read the Daily Telegraph and marked the sections I had to read each day. He also got it authorised that I could read the paper during normal working hours!
Early in 1955, I went to RAF Hornchurch for pilot selection, and although I knew most of the answers to the questions I failed the medical. The Warrant Officer detected I was totally dischuffed with the RAF and without my knowledge he got me on to a Fitters’ Course again at Yatesbury. All went well until we came to the first equipment which was IFF 10 which at that time it was highly SECRET. We were taken into a locked room with all the curtains drawn and shown the box for all of five minutes which included a quick peek inside. We learnt the theory for the rest of the two weeks, but when it came to the Trade Test the TST Sergeant obviously knew nothing about IFF 10 and asked me questions on theory which I had already forgotten. So I failed the test. I was back-classed for two weeks and then went through the same charade of seeing the box for five minutes and then did the theory. This time, I was asked questions on IFF 10 and passed. I passed all the other equipment as we had hands-on practical.
When I returned to Topcliffe the Warrant Officer asked where the hell I had been, and when I answered,“Yatesbury”, he replied, “I know you have been at Yatesbury, but you were supposed to be back here two weeks ago!” I explained how I had failed IFF 10 and been back -classed, and he said, “You had better know it now, as there are twenty-four sets lying on the floor in RSF and nobody knows what to do with them!” Apparently, the Neptune’s were causing havoc with the early warning radar, as they disappeared out over the Atlantic out of radar range and when they came back they were classed as ‘bogies’
and fighters had to be scrambled to intercept them.
I was given three weeks to unpack and set up all the test equipment - which Yatesbury did not have - build a test bench and have every Neptune with an IFF 10 set within that period. I must have done a reasonable job as I had to train another fitter to do my job and I was sent to 203 Squadron. The Neptune’s were Lease-Lend aircraft until the Shackleton came into service. 203 was the first Neptune squadron to be disbanded and the aircraft sent back to Lockheeds. I was then posted to Kinloss as they had Neptune’s but that lasted only five months, as they had too many bodies fighting to test the radar.
My next posting was to RAF Felixstowe which nobody had ever heard of. I arrived there to find it was a Rock Ape Station and when I went to SHQ I was told to go to the Marine Craft Unit where I then came into contact with Air Sea Rescue launches. It was the cushiest job I ever had in the Air Force, as there was only half a man's work. I taught myself to fix the HF and VHF sets out of boredom and also how to repair ordinary household radios which earned me a lot of kudos, as I did not charge much to do it. I kept each set under test in my bunk until I had fixed the next one so I always had a radio.
This lasted for two-and a-half years, although they tried to post me to Khormaksar and then the Thor Rocket Programme in America. But I never got further than Innsworth, where I was taken off it, as I was graded A4G7 medically. A4G8 said you were in your box! This was a leftover from my Pilot Selection and it took them four years before I had a proper check-up at RAF Ely Hospital. There, they kicked me out with nothing wrong with me and a grade of A4 G1. The Marine Craft Section at Felixstowe disbanded in 1959 and I was posted to 18 Group Headquarters at Pitreavie Castle, but had to go to RAF Leuchars where they kept the three Ansons. I was there for three months and then we all moved to RAF Turnhouse which is now Edinburgh Airport. That lasted for six weeks and I was then posted to Cyprus for two-and a-half years.
I arrived in Cyprus on 24th December 1959 where we were paid two weeks’ pay and told to go and find a bed and come back on 2nd January 1960. I was put on Third Line Servicing at 103 MU. Ironically I had to build and set up the British Version of IFF10 whilst I was there. During my stay there I took and passed the Cpl/Technician’s board.
When I came back to Blighty I was sent to RAF St Mawgan near Newquay on Shackletons. I promptly fell out with the Flight Sergeant, an ex-blacksmith who re-mustered to Wireless at Mech. Level. When he threw away the gash box, I called him an idiot and when he tried to charge me, I told him that I outranked him technically. When all the sets were held up on the shelves waiting for screws which we usually got out of the gash box, all hell was let loose. The Wingco Tech came down to RSF to see what the problem was, and, as TACAN, which I looked after, was the worst offender, he came to me. I explained about the gash box and how it was thrown away. He asked who did it and he ordered a gash box to be started immediately. I believe Chiefy got a severe rocket but he got his revenge by posting me out to a Squadron two weeks before I was due to go to Yatesbury to take my Senior Tech Practical as I passed the paper first time with good guesswork. I failed by four marks which made me livid and I decided to get out of the Air Force as I was fed up with being ordered around by idiots.
I tried for an exchange posting, but it was turned down. I then volunteered to be squadron marker on the AOC’s parade, as I knew he always spoke to each squadron marker. When he asked what I thought about the Air Force I told him. He turned to the Squadron Leader and said, “You have got problems. Sort them” and I was off the station within the week. I went to RAF Stradishall which was Navigator Training School on Varsity and Meteor NF 10’s. I was not happy there as most of the time I spent sending all my guys out checking aircraft to prevent them doing aircraft cleaning whilst the riggers and engine fitters were inside drinking tea.
In December 1964, when I still had two years to serve, I bought myself out of the RAF for �� and joined IBM as a Computer Engineer. I remained with IBM for 27 years before taking early retirement in 1992.