The Royal Air Force as seen by John Cooper

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RAF Changi


Forte et fidele
I was never stationed at RAF Changi, Singapore, I played tennis for RAF Seletar against RAF Changi on several occasions in 1958 and represented RAF Ceylon in the FEAF Tennis Championships at Changi in 1959. I flew into Changi once and out of Changi twice. I somehow seemed to have an affinity with Changi, the village, the Creek, Fairy Point and 48 Squadron in particular.
It was whilst at RAF Katunayake, Negombo, Ceylon I worked on Hastings, Beverleys and the Far East Communication Squadron (FEC's) aircraft with many other types thrown in for good measure.  
Handley Page Hastings C1, C-1a and C2
These were some of the index numbers:
WJ336 WD490 WD498 TG520 TG525 TG531 TG536 TG570 TG579 TG580 the call signs are eluding me but GPH  GPJ  GPN  come to mind. 48 Squadron RAF Changi took charge of the Hastings aircraft in May 1957 and continued through until disbandment on 3rd March 1967 when Lockheed Hercules replaced the 'Hastybird', Operation Firedog (1948 - 1960) was still in operation over mainland Malaya where Hastings were used in supply drops against Communist insurgents.
A list of aircrew who served on 48 Squadron
George Applegarth  Pilot 1958-60
George Bish  Master Engineer 1957-60
John Hallett  Navigator
Peter Holc  Master Signaller 1960
Derek Jack  Air Quarter Master 1960
Ralph Lines  Flight Engineer
Mike Nash  Pilot 1959-61
Ron Pearsall  Navigator
Mike Sedman  Pilot
The crews on 52/110 Squadron Valettas
'Skid' Morris, Les Sands & Arthur Dodkin (Pilots)
Bernie Aslett, Jack Trainer & Len Pritchard (Navigators)
Ken Denman, Colin Cullis & Terry Hines (Signallers)
A list of Ground Crew names
Andy (Ernie) Anderson  Airframes ASF 1963-65
Alan Boothby  Engines 1958-61
John F Brignell (Briggers) Airframes 1970-71
Spike (John ) Castle  Engines 1958-61
John Chambers  Airframes 1962-64
Jimmy (Pete) Gould  1966-67
Geoff Lunn
Roy Pontin
Rob Romano FEC's 1959
Rod Rumsby  Airframes 1958-61
Al (Ginger) Watson  Engines FECS 1964 - 1966
Stewart Tucker ASF 1957-1958
Peter (Sandy) Sanders Air Radar 1961-64
Bob Young  ASF
Blackburn Beverleys C1
I worked on these 'Bevs' on occasions, somehow these four aircraft were connected to 48 Squadron (perhaps a detachment flight?) from June 1959 to October 1960 and would sometimes complete the Negombo-Gan-Negombo airbridge before the Gan runway was completed. I certainly recall the red diamond logo on the fin and white lettering of 48 Squadron. Perhaps someone can help me on this topic. 
Hastings of FEC's
Again my memory is slipping here and I do recall three of these V.I.P. aircraft as being WJ326  WD500  and TG507 but which ones were associated with FEC's I cannot recall.  I had the occasion to work on them when passing through Negombo but never had the chance of flying in one of these luxurious beasts.
I am in touch with Neville Cooper a Signaller on FEC's in the late 50's and again in the early 60's, Gordon March a Flight Engineer on FEC's 1965-68 and Pete Flounders who was groundcrew on FEC's during 1960-62. I also recall the AOC-in-C Far East The Earl of Bandon passing through on many occasions, he was affectionately known as Paddy the Abandoned Earl.
Added 20th May 2004
by John F Brignell
I know it's a big jump, but I was posted to 48 sqdn (from hovercraft at Lee-on-Solent) via a quick course at Lyneham in the middle of 1970. I took over B shift from 'Curly' Trainer  and stayed to the bitter end. We were originally over at the end of the 'Jap-Strip' opposite 205 Shack. Sqdn. but as Changi ran down we moved to the dispersal below the control tower. The Sqdn. was moved to Lyneham and then disbanded. Sqdn. silver and stuff was flown back to Lyneham on XV279 when this a/c went to Colerne for Inspection. I went with it as inventory holder and years later (when at Thorney Island on 242 OCU) found that I was still the inventory holder as the a/c had never been signed over to anyone else.
Do any of your readers remember the incident with one of the 48Sqdn. Hercs when during cruise, 'ELEVATOR SNATCH'  took place. Flt.Lt. Dyson (Capt) Fg. Off. McDonald (co-pilot) and Geoff Morris as flt. eng. I won't mention the LOADMASTER at this stage. A/C pitched up and down violently for some time and was returned to base 'VERY' sick. We replaced the elevator pack , did all the tests and air-tested it , ALL OK .
    It happened again in Alice Springs. Elevator pack was again replaced and a/c returned to Changi.  Of course all this work was carried out at sqdn. level as by this time there was no  ASF.
Added 12th March 2005 from Pete Flounders

I still have my flying log, covering the period I was with FECS. 8/4/60-24/8/62. I have just found your splash and crash site. I can confirm that we only had two Hastings on the squadron along with three Valetta's and two Pembroke's. The hasting were one MK4 VIP, WJ324, witch was replaced by WJ326 in December 1960. And modified C-MK1A (with tip tanks) TG507, which was replaced by MK2 (no tip tanks, I hated filling those tanks as we sat on the wing leading edge and leaned forward, as they filled up, the a/c would drop suddenly which was most disconcerting!) WJ333 in March 1962. Both of the latter aircraft went to HAECO (Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company) in Hong Kong for modification before we received them. According to my log book, one of the Valletta's was 499. I don't know about the other Valletta's or Pembroke's. The crew for 507 and 333 was Pilots; Capt. F/lt 'Ted Andersz, Co-Pilot; F/lt 'Ash' Hugget, Flt/eng; F/Sgt 'Hank' Hancock, Sig; M/Sig 'Ron Radford, Nav; M/Nav George Davis, AQM Sgt 'Ken' Gorham, Eng fitter; Cpl 'Frank' Chapman, and A/F yours truly. These were replaced over the period by Capt; F/Lt 'Pete' Garner, Co-Pilot; P/O 'Roy' Hodges, F/Eng F/Sgt 'Johnny' Fairclough, Sig Sgt 'Craig' Lewis, Nav M/Nav 'Bunny' Austin, AQM Sgt 'Butch' Bye, Eng fitter, Cpl Pete Round. On the one occasion I flew in the Valletta, the pilot was F/Lt Braund, and we actually made it to Gan! Via Nicbar and Katunayaka, (15/7/60-15/7/60). By the way, the Hastings that crashed at Seletar during my time, I'm sure my father, a chief tech with ASF was connected with the enquiry, I believe the out come was that one of the engines on the 'inbd' side of a turn stopped, and the crew stopped and feathered the other engine on the same side. The aircraft hit the ground vertically and dived into a pond without touching the trees surrounding the crash site. I worked on the 'Changi Broadcasting Service' in my spare time, and one of the other guys was a photographer, who was present during the salvage operation.

regards Pete Flounders

    It was always the same crew and the same a/c. Numerous suggestions were put forward including a large snake in the control cables running across the cargo bay roof. After the 3rd pack change, which I carried out myself on a Saturday night, we put the a/c up for airtest on Sunday morning with the 4 hour standby crew  due to fly it. They were very reluctant as it was Dyson et al now nicknamed 'SNATCH' Dyson and requested parachutes. I refused their request and told them that if they were too chicken to fly, I would go with them.
    We took off shortly afterwards. Air test all OK.  While we were UP the crew decided to do some crew-training and co-pilot McDonald was gived a few circuits and roller landings. After his second and during his third , a huge cockroach fell out of the overhead panel into his lap. Naturally his attention was diverted for a while and the Herc. (left to it's own devices) lifted off on it's own and headed directly for the control tower across the Changi road. As I was standing directly behind the co-pilots seat I had a good view of the duty atc contoller looking rather panic stricken as we thundered directly towards him. 'I have control' came from Snatch and the a/c turned sharp left and back in line with the runway The remainder of the flight was OK and the a/c returned to the Sqdn, serviceable.
The mystery was eventually solved when it was realised that all the control cables ran under the flt. deck floor, across the E&E bay ceiling before running up the face of the fwd.bulkhead. Herc. operators will remember that the LOADMASTER kept most of the perishable supplies in this area because it was cold. 
PS Some one may remember the TV programme Squadron. IN this show  the incident was portrayed as a ground crew CH. TECH. who wanted to divert the a/c so that he could visit his brother.  Did they really mean ME!!!!    For the really curious,  YES. I Do know who it really was !!!
Added June 2nd 2004 the last two CO's on 48 Squadron at Changi were
 'Micky' Dalston and I think the one before him was Harry Newton. Sqdn disbanded in 1971 from 'Briggers' who flew back to the UK with the Squadron silver.
Sadly John Brignell passed away in late 2004 after undergoing heart surgery.
I stumbled across you web-site while looking for something quite unrelated.  I haven't had time to read very much of it but have noticed reference to 48 Sqn Disbanding in 1971 when it left Changi. That may be the case, but if it was the squadron reformed under Wg. Cdr. Dalston (Later Gp.Capt, sadly now dead) when it arrived at Lyneham. I joined 48 Squadron in December 1971 .  I left Lyneham in 1976 and the Squadron finally disbanded a couple of years later - 1978 I think.
Del Williams

48 Squadron Hastings RAF Changi Singapore.
Far East Communication Squadron (FEC's) RAF Changi Singapore.
48 Squadron Beverley Flight.


Copyright John Cooper

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