Life After Halton.
Tony Dovner 74th Entry RAF Halton Aircraft Fitter - Airframes.
My posting on graduation as Junior Technician in March 1956 was to 115 Sqdn Canberra B2's at RAF Marham in Norfolk, the Engineering Officer was Master Engineer Peter Trick , a war time experienced ex brat. Ironically it was Flt Lt Peter Trick who welcomed me as a sergeant to RAF Lyneham when I came back from Germany in 1967.
Throughout my Bratship I played football for Halton Apprentices and was selected for RAF Marham and Kings Lynn second team in the Eastern Counties League.
In September 1956 I was detached with RAF Marham's 214 Valiant bomber Squadron to RAF Luqua on Malta for the Suez Crisis, my contribution was carrying out the before and after flight inspections on the Valiants which completed about 49 bombing sorties on Egyptian airfields and dropped around 1,500 bombs without incurring aircraft damage. Back at Marham on Valiant servicing my name came up for overseas posting and I soon found myself at RAF Innsworth kitting out for the Far East. I was thankfully spared the troopship flying in civvies by civil charter Handley Page Hermes from Blackbushe Airport near Camberley on a five day flight to the then Singapore civil airport at Paya Lebar. FEAF HQ Singapore posted me to the Aircraft Servicing Flight at RAF Changi on Valettas and Hastings, but I was transferred to the Hydraulic Bay, maybe because of my 85 percent finals pass in hydraulics. The warrant officer in the PT Section greeted me in a friendly way and told me I would be playing in the Station football team the following Saturday ;when I asked how he knew I played football he said I would be surprised , but throughout my tour I played for RAF Changi and RAF Seletar in the Singapore League, often at Merdeka (Freedom) Stadium in Singapore City.- My Changi billet was on the top floor of Block 151, a short walk to the mess, Malcolm Club and NAAFI , ex 74th John Davis and Dennis Grundy were on the ground floor. Transport from billet to work was by truck, RAF bicycle and then I bought a Lambretta scooter.
I celebrated my 21st birthday at Raffles in Singapore City with John Davis, we finished up on Lims stall at Bedok Corner for some of the best Chinese food on the Island , more Tiger beers, and watching the superb Malayan sunset . - Promotion to Cpl Technician came with a posting to the RAF Maintenance Base at Seletar, a short ride across the Island on the Lambretta.- The Seletar MU held and supplied all Far East Airforce aircraft. - Valettas, Hastings, Pembrokes, Devons, Twin and Single Pioneers, Austers, Vampires, Meteor TT's, Whirlwind and Sycamore helicopters, in one way or another I worked on all of them. - Did any of you do night guard duty armed with a .303 rifle and 15 rounds up on searchlight towers at Seletar looking out over the Straits of Johore and surrounded by every conceivable option of flying nightlife homed in on the light which had to be regularly moved ? Few if any even dozed off , there were rumours of Japanese ghosts and heavens knows what else out there in the swamps !! - A highlight of my FEAF tour was flying up to Bangkok Airport in late 1959 as part of a team to survey a Thai Air Force Percival Sea Prince. We lived in luxury for two weeks, toured City and Temples, I played a couple of frames of snooker with the ex Cranwell Chief of the Thai Air Force. Ex 74th that I met at Seletar were Norman Vacher, Barry McLenning, Len Whitehead on 205 / 209 Sunderlands, and also bumped into Ned Kelly. - Whilst at Frasers Hill in Malaya I had met the sergeant in charge of FEAF air movements and good as his word he spared me the troopship again because I flew back to UK on an ex Christmas Island Hastings - WD491- Changi , Ceylon, Karachi, Aden , Khartoum , El Adem and Malta, landing back at RAF Lyneham on a dark cold foul day in January 1960.
Welcome to 49 Maintenance Unit RAF Colerne near Bath.- I was now working on modification of Vampires at St Athan / Shackletons at St Mawgan / Victors at Gaydon / Javelins at Moreton Valence, and playing football for RAF Colerne in the local league.
I was selected for the RAF Maintenance Command side in the 1960 RAF Command Championships during which I injured knee cartilages to the extent that the Group Captain consultant at RAF Hospital Wroughton advised me not to play again so I had to hang up my boots when I was only 23 years old.
49 Maintenance Unit RAF Colerne was disbanded in 1962 and absorbed into 71 MU at Bicester / Oxon and 60 MU at Church Fenton / Yorkshire so I asked to go to Church Fenton near York , a good posting and as a corporal technician I even got a bunk to replace my last one at Seletar. - Most work involved Vulcan bomber modifications at RAF Waddington or Scampton near Lincoln , I once took a crew to a Scampton Vulcan which needed a complete re-skin of the engine intakes. We worked with 71 MU Bicester for weeks modifying all of 43 Squadron's Hunter Mk 6's at RAF Leconfield near Beverley.- I did a one man job at RAF Leuchars on a Hunter with gun pack damage caused by air to ground firing, and enjoyed visiting St Andrews the home of golf.
A sad visit was to a Victor bomber crash site near RAF Syerston, it was the third Victor to crash, ( one in the sea near Cyprus, and one off the Welsh coast ) all later found to have been caused by the failure of the APU, auxiliary electrical power unit, whilst flying only on the two outer engines. The aircraft came down onto a farmhouse near Bawtry killing all five crew, the farmers wife and domestic help, missed a school full of children by a few hundred yards leaving only the undercarriage wheels sticking out of the ground. 60 Maintenance Unit was then moved up to RAF Dishforth which was not the best of places to be so I decided that three moves in three years was anti social and applied for a posting to an operational airfield and chose Transport Command at RAF Lyneham on Britannia's and Comets.- I worked mostly on the Britannia fleet route rectifications, sometimes flew route to Cyprus and Canada as servicing crew on military exercises, but also did some route rectification on the Comets. - In 1964 I volunteered for RAF Germany and was posted to 16 Squadron Canberra B (I) 8's at RAF Laarbruch on the Dutch border near Nijmegen / Venlo.- A few months after my arrival 16 Squadron sent a detachment of six aircraft to Malaya for the Indonesian Confrontation , groundcrews flew by RAF Britannia via Cyprus to Changi ,then up to Kuantan , Malaya by RAF Argosy to the tented accomodation of the Cyprus based Canberras we relieved. When one of our cannon armed Canberras on interdiction of Indonesian shipping and troops diverted to RAF Seletar with damage around the port inner wing during air to ground firing I was flown down with an extra pair of hands to replace the complete inner wing leading edge and I enjoyed the chance to visit Seletar again.- Back in Germany and promotion to Sergeant meant a move across the airfield to 31 Squadron's Photographic Reconaissance Canberras .- I enjoyed running the squadron night flying desk, aircrew sometimes landed back early claiming snags to ground the aircraft and get to the officers mess nights, but we understood each other and the loyalty of air and ground crews on 16 and 31 Squadrons was great. It was the same throughout the Royal Air Force that I knew.
For what it is worth an umpire on a NATO exercise told me that my aircraft achieved one of the fastest turn round times recorded on a Canberra..
Whilst at Laarbruch , I sang in the the 30 odd strong " Laarbruch Singers" choral choir, we put on Christmas, Easter, and Summer shows which were recorded by the British Forces Broadcasting Service and played on their network. I had applied to sign on for 22 years service but was told there were no vacancies in rank and trade so asked for RAF Lyneham as the airfield of choice to depart the RAF where I was greeted for the second time by Peter Trick. When I told him my service time was up in a few months he kindly put me in charge of the structures window servicing bay .
The Sid Phillips Band and Acker Bilk played me out of the Royal Air Force in style in wonderful weather on a long light summers day at the RAF Lyneham Sergeants Mess Battle of Britain Ball of 1967.
Civvy Street took a lot of patience and understanding but I was armed with my Halton Brat Survival Training so I just "Ploughed On"- Here is a quick resume of what happened to me.
Inspector at Vickers Armstrong Works at South Marston / Swindon.
Aircraft subcontract work on Britannia's & Jetstream production at Handley Page.
Concorde Flight Trials at Fairford on the Hydraulic & Fuel Systems.
Plessey Industrial Hydraulics - UK Service Engineer then Senior Sales Engineer.
Sauer Sundstrand / UCC Intl / Vickers Fluid Power / Hydraulic Pumps UK.
World Book Childcraft International - Mailing Manager. - Company Ceased Trading
Alentec Orion / Dacoma Ltd - National Account Manager Environmental Products.
I took early retirement from Alentec Orion for tumour surgery but recovered well enough to keep my hand in for six more years working from home with computer, phone and fax looking after the Kent, Surrey and Sussex businesses that I had set up for Alentec Orion / Dacoma Ltd.
I finally retired to Eastbourne when I was 70 years old.
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