The Glorious 74th Entry RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentices (The Coronation Entry).

Stan Norris Remembers.

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The 28 March 1956 was a proud day for me.

Photograph: Man playing a guitar on a beach.

[Photograph: Stan Norris plays his guitar on the beach.]


1. Autobiography: Stan Norris of The 74th Entry.

Off to Innsworth for Kitting Out.

The euphoria of the 28th of March 1956 graduation parade still hung in the air when eleven of us returned to Halton after leave to await our drafts to FEAF (Far East Air Force) and MEAF (Middle East Air Force). Not much was required from us by Admin Wing. We drifted around not doing very much, I remember late breakfasts at the White Heather Cafe on some days and the odd guard duty at the airfield and then it was off to Innsworth for kitting out etc. and for me the next step in an RAF career which lasted until the 28th of April 1992.

Promoted to Corporal in June 1956, I worked on Meteor 13's, Beaufighters, Pembrokes, Chipmunks and Shackletons, helped to build Bessoneau storage hangers (a canvas and wood construction), detachments to Idris and El Adem and regular deployments to Luqa, Ta'Kali and Halfar. In the middle of all this was the Suez Crisis. By the end of the tour I had a wife and daughter.

Our first UK posting was Wittering where we added a son to the family.

Next it was off to Booker as the airframe fitter to the Commander in Chief Bomber Command and along came daughter number two. The postings kept coming, No.103 MU Akrotiri and promotion to Senior Technician later Sergeant.

Back to UK and No.6 Flying Training School, Acklington, a great tour, my first meritorious service award and I passed the Chief Technician exam. Overseas again, to Zambia as a member of a small British Joint Services Training Team. During this time I was promoted to Chief Technician.

A Hurried Exit from Zambia.

And posted to Binbrook to No.85 Squadron. The squadron flew twenty three Canberras and eight Meteors with the engineering manpower strength at just forty eight percent. It was a very challenging tour, it ended when I volunteered for Non Destructive Testing (NDT) duties.

After a nine week course at Swanton Morley I emerged as a probationary NDT Technician and was posted to the regional team at Marham. After six months probation I became the Senior NCO i/c when the previous incumbent was promoted and posted at relatively short notice. And there I stayed for seven years.

My promotion to Flight Sergeant came through but because of domestic problems and a divorce I turned it down. It was short lived however, six months later I was told I was posted to Coningsby, "Oh and by the way, you are going as Flight Sergeant i/c Airframe Bays".

1978. Coningsby "A posting to be Avoided" Said the Driver.


Photograph: Man and Woman.

Photo: 2009 My Wife Ann and Myself on our 30th Wedding Anniversary.

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After a few months I was posted to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight but still at Coningsby, by then I had got married again. After a massive heart attack I was relieved of my duties put on low profile work until we got a new Officer Commanding Engineering Wing (O/C Eng. Wing). This gentleman introduced an Engineering Standards Advisory Team (ESAT), a fore runner of Quality Audit. He wanted ESAT to take a hearts and minds approach to win over the engineering middle management to look on it as a useful tool. So he told me I was i/c ESAT, a post I held until 1982.

Back to Cyprus - as Flight Sergeant i/c Transit Aircraft Servicing Flight (TASF).

What a tour! Just not enough hours in the day. An accompanied tour with my new family, we worked hard, we played hard and we socialised a lot! At the end of the tour I received a second meritorious service award. My UK posting was a bit of a shock. The areas of choice was all in the south of England but PMC (Personnel Management) preferred Kinloss and specifically the Scottish regional NDT team. There was far too much work for the undermanned but great team, for a while it was crisis management and quite a challenge but we got over it. My promotion to Warrant Officer came through and I was off to No.8 Squadron (Shackletons) at Lossiemouth.

My Tour with No.8 Squadron.

During my tour with No.8 sqn. I was detached to the Falkland Islands as O/C Eng Wing HQ Flight. Not the most inspiring job at Mount Pleasant but because it was a good team I enjoyed my tour. Back to No.8 sqn., we had done our last deployment to Cyprus and now the Shackletons were being retired. My last job was to liaise directly with PMC to arrange for all the groundcrew to have one of their three choices of posting. I was posted to No.237 OCU (Buccaneers and Hunters) and four months later had to do the same thing for the OCU groundcrew when that too, closed down.

I Was Left Alone in an Empty Hangar, Not Entirely Idle.

Strike Command asked me to scrape a team together and go to Manchester Aerospace Museum and refurbish the interior of the Shackleton there which technically still belonged to MOD (Ministry of Defence).

The nearest service unit could not accommodate us so we had to stay in a local hotel for two weeks but we managed. At the turn of the year I received my third meritorious service award. With still a few months to serve to my 55th birthday, nobody had a job for me, PMC wouldn't post me so I applied for early discharge. I left the service on the 28th April 1992. 39 years man and boy.

Civvy Street at Last.

In May I became a tour guide at a whisky distillery. The following April I was made the manager of the visitor centre of another distillery. That lasted for a couple of years until it was closed after a take over by a rival company. I handed the keys over on a Friday afternoon and started work on the Monday at my original distillery, this time as the visitor centre manager. The job was intensive, diverse and the pay was poor but I stayed for four years.

Again, it was finish on a Friday and start a new job on the Monday as visitor centre manager at a working Cooperage. That lasted for a couple of years and then I retired - but only for three months! The Scottish Tourist Board wanted a tourist information assistant in Elgin. I took the job and stayed there past my sell-by date until I finally retired in December 2004. Two days later I ended up in hospital and had a triple bypass.

In Retirement.

In retirement I am actively involved with antiques and collectables. I perform at the local folk club most weeks. The Elgin 50+ Walking Group elected me as secretary two years ago and I still fill that role. For a few months I was also a volunteer advisor in the Citizens Advice Bureau.


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