Roger Maunder at R.A.F. Halton.
[Editor: I am sorry to say that Roger Maunder died in March 2012 after a wonderful life some of which you can read below in his autobiography.]
I have to start off prior to Halton for some of the happenings to make sense.
Royal Marine Volunteer Cadet Corps.
I joined the Royal Marine Volunteer Cadet Corps at the age of 8 in 1946, and for the next 5 years I did everything mainly centralising around sport. Being small I was coached at boxing, and over the years fought at 3 different weights those being, Paper, Flea and Mosquito finishing at 6.2-6.8 stone. My boxing days came to an end in my final year when I lost, (hammered) in the Schoolboy Semi-Finals to a lad called Corbett from Birmingham. As well as the RMCCC, I did all sports at school, gymnastics, football, swimming, athletics and horse riding, cleaning out the stables to pay for my lessons (no I wasn't always in the s--t). A Royal Marine Sgt called Alfie Mallard introduced me to Fencing in 1951, and after a little success in the Devon Junior Championships, I was hooked.
At my School (Public Central, Plymouth) I was concentrating on becoming a Physical Training Teacher hoping to go to Loughborough to do my training. Not being a gifted acedemic (i.e. I had to work damn hard to get educational qualifications), my marks in my mock School Certs were not great, so I was advised by the Headmaster to take as many exams as I could to improve my exam technique. I took the RAF Halton entrance exam, the RN Artificers, the Civil Service and the Plymouth Dockyard Apprentice. Guess what? I heard from the RAF first and with the possibility of a glorious career, which included all sports. I joined up in April 1953 aged 15 years and 9 months, (incidently I passed all the other exams as well).
On my first day at Halton I stood alongside this lad on the Parade Ground, and although at first he was hard going, we finished up life long friends, (still going), him, being Bas Mclening. Sgt Davis the Judo expert could have had something to do with cementing our friendship, as they all laughed around me when the Sgt with his face 2 inches from mine, told me to get my legs together as I was standing like a bloody virgin waiting for her first dicky.
I, like everyone around me suffered from home sickness; (apart from a few that were sick of their homes), I really enjoyed the 3 years there. I will state now that there was no truth in the rumour that I had another bedroom in the Burnett Gymnasium, even though it seemed that I spent most of my time there. The Station Commander, Tindal-Carol-Worsely, apart from his many activities and sports car driving skills, was also a very good fencer. In the first 3 months, the Fencing Team, which I had become a member of, had a match against Welyn Garden City. The Fencing Professor there was no other than the ex Sgt Royal Marine, Alfie Mallard my first instructor in Plymouth. The Station Commander arranged for Alfie to come to Halton every Wednesday afternoon to teach fencing. I could never have had better grounding, in that I had the same teacher for more than 5 years. He was also ambidextrous and could fence left handed as well.
Any Sportsman will tell you, that the hardest people to meet are those left handed. Thanks to Alfie who only fenced me left handed for 6 months, I found left handers less difficult opponents for the remainder of my fencing career. The standard of fencing in the area was very good with Aylesbury, Reading, Oxford and in particular, the private schools such as Rugby, Harrow, Eton and of course RAF Locking in the Barrington Kennett Tournament. Alan Smith (also 74th entry) was another good fencer and was awarded his colours, along with myself before passing out in 1956. I see Alan on our re-unions and without doubt he could have gone much further in fencing, had he wanted to. We were allowed to fence in the Technical Training Command Championships and although I qualified on a number of occasions, I was not permitted to progress to the Royal Air Force Championships due to Halton training commitments.
Sgt Cobley later to become Warrant Officer formed an RAF Halton Modern Pentathlon Team, which I became a part of; (pentathlon consists or running,swimming,shooting horse riding and fencing). Well apart from shooting, I had done everything else, so I was well on my way with pentathlon as well. I remember RAF Halton winning the Inter Station Pentathlon Championships with Don Cobley winning the Individual RAF Champion. Don was later to represent Great Britain in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. Again because of Halton Training commitments, I was not allowed to progress further, however, after leaving Halton, I continued and represented the RAF and the Rest of Britain for the next 2 years. I was always chasing Don Cobley, but what an inspiration he was to me, and our team, pushing us to limits that we thought were impossible to attain. Sgt WRAF PTI Diane Wyatt was also another person who influenced my time at Halton. She was tall, athletic, good looking and an excellent badminton player bordering on International status. I would occasionally play against her to keep fit, but felt sure she used me as I never gave up and chased everything. We would discuss all sports and I felt I learnt from her, the importance of watching your opponents, trying to find and remember their weaknesses.
I did do work as well, honest! (although I did find it hard to fit it in). Bas and myself were together in our workshops, airfields, schools, pay parade because of our surname. It was always Mansfield, Maunder and Mclening lining up to get our 7/6p a week.(big deal). Bas lived in Oxford, so on our 36 or 48 hr passes, we would run down the disused railine from Workshops to Wendover and hitch a lift to Oxford. His father would bring us back to Camp on Sunday evenings.
[Photo] Top L-R : Alan Smith , Rog Maunder , D Clack , Alan Lane , Dave Barrett
Bottom L-R : _____ , Wg Cdr Brinn , Bob Boulton-Aubert
It maybe that our Entry suffered due to the fact that after our 1st year we were divided amongst the 3 Wings, in an attempt to curb the inter entry wars. We started off in 1 Wing, and later Bas and myself moved to 3 Wing, under Wing Commander Brinn an infamous international Rugby Player. I was promoted to Cpl Apprentice in the last 18 months and had a bunk, in charge of a room with lads from all different entries, who were in the process of re-sitting exams or ceased training and were awaiting interviews or discharge. I did find that part of Halton an eye opener and did find that particular variety of apprentices stimulating. Some evenings we would sit around and discuss the problems and see what thoughts others had, and see if certain things could be changed to see if it would make any difference. That room was certainly an education to me and certainly helped me in the future.
There was always something to do, and I am finding it hard to think of all the things we crammed into 3 years. We would go to the TOC H in Wendover, a dancing school in Aylesbury, explore Tring, Aston Clinton etc, always on the look out for birds (you know I mean the feathered types).
I will always remember the riding stables where I would train for Pentathlon. There was a very attractive girl (flt sgt's daughter), who I chatted up on many occasions. One day a certain Flt Sgt Aldoes had some of us in the 3 Wing Gymnasium and shouted out the following in his north country accent, " It has come to my notice that certain A/A/A/sss, have been going out with my daughter, this must Commence to Cease forthwith", I wondered why he was looking at me?
The Airfield Phase came around, and a New Zealand Apprentice who was nicknamed Prof Brenkley said to me that he wasn't going to march up and down 4 times a day, and of course I went along with this. I don't know how but he acquired a Tandem and for the first 3 days everything went well. We would ride down to the woods, hide the tandem and tag on the back of the flight for the final 100 yards or so. The return journey - up the back way to 3 Wing via the hospital. On the 4th day we were peddling like mad down Chestnut Avenue, when we had to pass a Sgt riding his bike. Head down, don't look back as he shouted, "You two report to the office when you get down to Airfields" Well being honourable lads, we avoided the office like the plague. Later that morning, Prof and myself were summoned from the Airframe Class by Sgt Jack Diamond and told in no uncertain terms that our cycling days were over, and that we were to "burnish the drip trays" for the next two weeks. He didn't charge us, but was apparently overheard by someone else having one hell of a laugh with the Warrant Officer, saying what will these "brats" get up to next (incidentally, he did keep us at it for the full 2 weeks). Word got back to our Flt Cdr who had us both in his Office to read Airfield Standing Orders for the next 7 days.
Our finals were coming up, and Bas and myself would revise as much as we could, but found it hard, as Bas had interests in the Motor Club and was a member of the Sports Car Racing pit crew, at the same time being a very good diver, so was often training with the Swimming Team. As mentioned earlier, I was either at the Burnett Gymnasium, training with Sgt Cobley or on a Fencing Fixture (at least once a week in the season). A part of the Hydraulic Phase, Bas and myself decided to take a chance with him revising the Dowty Main wheel undercarriage, and me the Vickers Nose wheel Oleo Assembly. We went around the hanger together on our exams, and when it came to the Hydraulic Section, Bas was asked to describe the Vickers, to which he replied "that's his, but if you want me to describe the "Dowty", then I will. I couldn't believe my ears when the Sgt said, "ok clever clogs, tell me all about it" Bas and myself made it.
As I had left school with no certificates, I was hoping to get my Ordinary National Certificate at Halton and I must say every opportunity was there, but I did not achieve the required results, in fact I was way off. Towards our Final Graduation, we were paraded on Henderson Parade Ground and an Officer called out names, which included Sgt and Cpl Apprentices and told them to line up on the side instructing a Sergeant to march the 35-40 Apprentices away. We were then told, "that lot have failed and you have scraped through" Charming! Not something to be proud of, but we were told that the 74th Entry had one of the worst records ever to Graduate from Halton. A shame really, particularly when we were known as the "Coronation Entry"
Our Graduation Parade was great and we received our postings and dates to report to our stations to take up MAN service. The posting was RAF St Athan- yes Bas as well.
I did enjoy Halton, mainly because of the Airframe Trade, which I consider is vast, workshops, airfields, and schools (which was tolerable). The amount of sport was tremendous, with Pentathlon, Fencing and including the General P.T. all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I came from a wonderful and loving home (I cried every time I had to return to Halton after leave) I knew the Royal Air Force was going to be a major part of my life and that I would enjoy it. I have always considered that the Training given at Halton was second to none, with the discipline strict certainly contributed to turning out men with smartness and backbone.
Well off to good old RAF St Athan, South Wales.
Rog Maunder after Halton
Along with many others and my lifelong friend Bas McLening, we were posted to RAF St Athens, arriving early April 1956 with most of us being placed in Aircraft Servicing Flight (ASF) working on Meteors, Venoms and Canberras. I also worked in the Aircraft Component Section carrying out repairs to Ailerons, Flaps and Elevators of all types of aircraft. At that time National Service was in full swing so we were rarely troubled with lack of manpower, added to which they had a variety of skills. I worked for my 1st year with twin brothers called Wilkinson who had just completed their civilian apprenticeship as airframe fitters with BOAC. They were terrific and I learnt so much from them that we were soon to become the "A" team (that's of course when I was there).
RAF St Athen camp was divided into two with 32MU on west camp and the School Of Physical Training on east camp. As I had qualified to enter the RAF fencing championships at Halton, I fenced in May on east camp and became the youngest ever entrant to win the coveted Royal Air Force Master at Arms.
I was also doing Modern Pentathlon so my programme of events from May went like this:
- Three weeks training Modern Pentathlon (guess where- Halton)
- Inter Service pentathlon championships at Aldershot (1week)
- Fencing in the Britannia Shield at RAF Uxbridge, competing against French and Dutch Internationals.
- Inter Service fencing championships at the Royal Tournament Earl’s Court.
- Pentathlon national championships at both Melton Mowbray and Aldershot.
I returned to St Athen some 10-12 weeks later to join the twins again. As you can imagine I did not head the popularity poll, however, a kind Flt Sgt Davies (who obviously had a sporting background) said providing I did the work whilst I was there, he would have to put up with it.
My training schedule was pretty strenuous with shooting practice at 5-30am (2 mornings a week) followed by a 3mile run (every morning), back to the block, shower, change, catch a quick breakfast before joining the flight at 7-45 to march to work. After work at 5, I would run to east camp and complete 20 or so lengths of the swimming pool, followed by 2 evenings a week fencing training. On Wednesday afternoons (sports afternoon) I would join a Sgt Pti Jim Cooney and we would go horse riding at Rhoose (some 8 miles away). I also went fencing in Cardiff on Thursday evenings having lessons from Professor Glyn Reynolds (welsh national coach) and soon became a member of the Welsh team.
I was promoted Cpl in the September and during the next 10 years my stripes were up and down like yo-yo's Cpl/Cpl Tech, Sgt/Snr Tech, Ch/Tech going to RAF Kirkham to take my Special Technical Qualifications. I took and passed- Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Wheels Tyres and Brakes, Aircraft Pressurisation and Aircraft Aerodynamics. After the first 18 months I found the schedule for fencing and pentathlon too much and after representing the rest of Britain in 2 internationals I decided to call it a day and concentrate solely on fencing.
In 1957 we started to carry out Majors on Valiants and I was the Cpl in charge of the fuel tank replacements. When we first started we were doing majors in 65 days and when I left some 20 months later, we were turning them around in 20 days (round the clock working). I recall one very lucky time when an SAC and myself were having to change a leaking Mainplane tank outside the hangar which had a serious fuel leak. We were both inside the tank when Hazell(the SAC) dived pass me, out of the manhole cover screaming get out, get out. We both landed in a heap on the raiser under the mainplane with him shouting that the lead lamp had 'arced' across the tank. The Electrical Chief confirmed this and no more lead lamps were used from then on. For about a month we used torches until new small ruberised neon lamps were introduced. Phew! How close I came to not writing this story. (SAC Hazell never went back inside tanks anymore- I wonder why?)
I again won the RAF Master at Arms both in 1957 and 1958, travelling onto the Royal Tournament and winning a few individual weapons at the inter-services. I was also fencing for Wales and the Combined Services so I don't know how, but I did find time to marry a lovely nurse (from my home City of Plymouth). Edna and myself will be celebrating our 54th wedding anniversary in May 2012.
Purely on residential grounds, I represented Wales in the 1958 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff winning 2 Bronze medals in the team Foil and Sabre. A young Duke of Edinburgh made a very welcome appearance and it was lucky for me that I wasn't carted off to the 'Tower' when I narrowly missed him during one of my Fleche (running) attacks. Following the Games I was short listed for the 1960 Rome Olympics, however, I was posted abroad to Aden in January 1959.
Aden RAF Khormaksar 1959-61
I was one of the 1st men (dirty dozen) to form 131MU increasing to about 40-50 men within a few months. I worked on Venoms, Meteors, Pembrokes, Single and Twin Pioneers, and later on Hunters carrying out detatchments around the Gulf, Bahrain, Burami Oasis an Army outpost, where we spent 6 weeks (4 of us) repairing a Twin Pioneers nose undercarriage (shooing away the camel spiders) Sharjah and other lovely sandy places. We repaired all types of aircraft including an old York, which actually made it back to UK when we thought it would be a miracle for it to even take off from Khormaksar. Edna joined me in the May and although conditions were pretty bad to say the least, we did enjoy our holidays down at Mombassa and Nairobi. One morning (early) we were awakened in our flat by Bas Mclening who had found where we lived as he had about 6 hours ashore from his Troop ship (I think it was the Delwara) on his way home from Singapore. That was quite a day and it wasn't the last time we were to meet up again. Our 2 years was up and I was posted straight back to St Athens.
RAF St Athens 1961-65
It did not seem as if I had been away, in fact I can remember a couple of chaps saying, "haven't seen you lately Rog, been on your sporting trips again" We started to scrap the Valiants (cracks in main spars) then onto Vulcans and my favourite Canberra. Because of my sporting jaunts, I did make enquiries as to changing to the Ped Branch but was told no way as I could not re-muster down out of the top 5 trade groups.
I was fortunate again to win the RAF Master at Arms for the years 1962, 63 and 64 and won the Inter Services Champion at Arms in 1962 being only the second ever RAF person in history to lift the Trophy being presented to me by King Hussein of Jordon. I think in every sportsman life you will always get a year that will shine above all the rest and 1962 was just that for me. Had it not been for the RAF I would never have been able to do the sport but even with this fantastic backing I found it virtually impossible to fund the trips away. We were completely amateurs in those days with no backing or financial support from Countries like they are now.
I take nothing away from our sports competitors and particularly in this Olympic year feel admiration for them all when you consider all the hours of training that they have had to put in to get to the top few in their respective sports of this Country. I feel sad when the media appear only to glorify the gold and those competitors who achieve silver or bronze and others who just miss out receive very little recognition. I represented Wales again in the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. Wales did really great and we missed the silver by 1 fight in our team foil. I don't think that I had ever fought better, yet that 1 fight on countback placed us 4th. UGH!!! I was promoted Snr/Tech in 1963 so I was on track to get my Ch/Tech within the 12 years of leaving Halton. RAF St Athen had been an excellent Station and we had a very happy 4 years there. So off to Germany.
RAF Geilenkirchen 1965-1968 Germany
On arrival I went to ASF where I was asked what previous aircraft I had worked on stating that I had most experience on Canberras. I was told that I was the ideal person to be I/C Javelin Servicing. (good thinking batman). Fortunately for me, within 1 month I was instructed to go to 3 Squadron (canberras) line hut right away and take over the line as the chief had been taken ill. The squadron had BI 8's and I spent the next 3 years enjoying some of the best times of my RAF career. The annual monthly detatchment to Cyprus (Akrotiti) was one of the highlights. The Squadron Commander was Ray Offord (ex brat) later to become CinC Middle East (photo in Trenchard Museum) led a squadron of the highest order and morale. (worked hard and played hard along with the occasional drinkypoo). On the sporting front, I played both Soccer and Rugby for the station and entered a few German fencing competitions. One fencing competition was held at Wilhemsaven when the RAF sent over a team from UK, we had our RAF Germany team competing against internationals from Germany, Holland, Austria and Italy. Our RAF Germany team did very well indeed, in fact we came 3rd in team sabre. Bas was at Laarbruch and on one trip up there met up with Tony Dovner which was very nice indeed. Bas was then posted to Geilenkirken for his last 18 months in Germany and the nights we had in the Sergeants Mess with our respective wives will always be remembered. No 3 Squadron went to Gutersloh and as I only had 2 months left of my 3 year tour remaining, I remained with others and sadly made preparations of closing the Station down to hand it back to the German Airforce. Oh well- back home to Blighty.
RAF Benson 1968-69
I worked as Line Chief (promoted from Germany) on Argosy's (114 and 267 Squadron) centralise servicing. Anyone who had been on a Squadron like me found it different !!! After about 6 months I was called in to see my Flt Cdr who congratulated me on becoming selected for Crew Chief on Vulcans. "You must be joking" was my response. Benson had won the Inter-station fencing championships at the Royal Tournament and it was at a presentation with Benson's Station Commander who advised me that I was being put forward for a commision. Wheels move fast. Next day - papers came - 21 days later Biggan Hill - 10 days later told I was successful and had 48hrs to make my mind up to accept Engineering or Supply. Advised to go Supply (never any regrets) and 2 months later started Officer Training at RAF Henlow. I thoroughly enjoyed it and then held at RAF Brize Norton for 6-9 months before going to RAF Upwood for my Supply Course. After the 3 month course I was posted to RAF Cranwell.
RAF Cranwell 1969-71
I was posted as Officer ic Tech Stores, POL, and R&D. Great posting and was promoted Flt Lt after passing the last Officers 'B' exam. (6 months of hard graft) I then attended the Air Movements Course at Brize Norton in 1971. It was following this course that I was informed I was posted to Tactical Supply Wing at RAF Stafford. I was sad to leave Cranwell as Edna had returned to nursing in Sleaford and the Station housing the beautiful Officers Training College which was superb in all aspects.
RAF Stafford 1972-76
I joined Tactical Supply Wing as Flt Commander and Officer i/c Supply and Movements. TSW had only been formed in 1971 and I was to serve no fewer than 3 Wing Commanders in the 4 years that I was there. We went under the nickname "Avtur will Travel" carrying out refuelling and resupply in the field, operating 10,000 gallon pillow tanks and 400 gallon seal drums. We operated extensively with the Harrier and all types helicopters, Wessex, Pumas, Gazelles, plus Joint Service and Foreign Air Forces who we were operating with. We travelled all over the world Denmark, Germany, Norway, Turkey, Cyprus, Belize, just to name a few.
Time off for sport was now at a premium. I was at RAF Halton in 1975 at the RAF Fencing Championships and had won both the Foil and Sabre and only had to enter the Epee to win the Master at Arms and become the only person to be the youngest and oldest ever to win the coveted trophy. Unfortunately, I was recalled to Stafford for Tactical evaluation and deployment to Denmark, that's life.
My wife and I returned to Stafford in June 1996 by invitation to celebrate TSW's 25th Anniversary and had a great time meeting up with many of the guys talking over old times - quite nostalgic. In June 2006 we were again invited back and sad to say did not meet one person who we knew. We stayed two nights in the Officers Mess and were the only people in residence, so you can imagine the disappointment we had.
RAF Rheindahlen 1976-79 Germany
Posted as the Supply Officer to the Harrier Delegated Engineering Authority. This was a wonderful posting and a fantastic job to end my career in the RAF. It was my choice as I could have stayed until 55 or even longer had I wished. I can honestly say that I never ever woke up and didn't want to go to work. Anyone who can say that has had a great time and a wonderful career.
I have so much to thank the RAF, mainly with sport. I could never have afforded my numerous sports in particular fencing in civvy street.
What do they say "behind every successful man is a woman". True to my case. We have 4 great children, boy and 3 girls, 53, 51, 49 and 47. Added to this we have 9 grandchildren and 4.6 great grandchildren. We now live in a bungalow in Sparkwell, just outside Plymouth, with our son, middle and youngest daughters near at hand. Our eldest daughter lives in Holland and has done so since 1979. Our youngest daughter has turned traitor as her husband is currently the Base Warrant Officer and Ceremonial Training Officer at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth and having been posted to Cranwell (the RAF equivalent), I know just how proud he feels. Their son is also in the Royal Navy having just come home from his 6 month summer holiday in the Falklands.
Bas McLening lives in St Austell so we see each other quite often. We have both returned to Halton for the majority of the reunions and thoroughly enjoy meetings up with our old chums. Bernie Goodenough did a sterling job as our entry secretary for over 10 years, however, he handed over to Tony Merry. Tony organised our Golden Graduation Celebrations (Coronation Entry) in March 2006 and those who attended will tell you how wonderful it was. Apart from the Triennials, Tony arranges at least one meet a year, moving it around the country, so as to include as many members as possible. The last trip we went on was to RNAS Yeovilton and Tony did an excellent job with the organisation etc. I am hoping to continue meeting up with the guys for as long as I can, in the meantime Edna and myself try to go on as many holidays as we can to ensure we spend what little inheritance they think they are getting, and more important enjoy our retirement to the full and be happy.