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RAF Engine Bashers, Riggers and Air Trades

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Were you a RAF Engine Fitter/Mechanic known affectionately as Grease Monkies, Engine Bashers or the like or maybe an Airframe bod known as Riggers. You could be one of the other groundcrew trades like Air Electrical, Air Radar, Air Wireless or Air Instruments.
If  you were how about sharing some of your funny moments on 1st or 2nd Line Servicing. The discussion forum is here

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I was just looking to see if I could find anything out about the  
Hastings that was on 51 Sqdn based at RAF Wyton in the mid 60's.

I joined 51 Sqdn at RAF Wyton when I returned to the UK from RAF  
Butterworth (on RAAF Butterworth), in 1964.

TG530 was used as the support aircraft for all flights overseas.

I flew many many miles in TG530.

Usually out to Malta, then on to Cyprus and sometimes on to RAF  
Sharjah in the Persian Gulf.

On one occasion we were flying from Cyprus to the UK. Malta was  
closed to RAF Aircraft as their Government was having some argument  
with the POMs, so we had to fly via Libya (Was it El Adem or was it  
Idris?, I can't remember).

After take off in North Africa we were just coming up to the French  
coast when as I looked out of the window I saw No 2 or was it No 1  
engine (propeller) being feathered.

The French equivalent of Farnborough was in sight so we landed there.  
Istre. We had lunch and stayed the night. The following morning an  
Argosy rolled up with a replacement engine on board.

We left the two engine fitters and took off in the Argosy back for  
the UK. I can recall seeing the Eifelle Tower as we flew over Paris.

I always remember the name on the rudder of TG 530 "Iceni" .
Do you know where TG530 ended up? (Scrapped 29th August 1967)

John Feltham
Instrument Technician - RAF 12 years - 1955 to 1967.
From Les Bywaters.

51 Squadron, Wyton 1960's

Thing I remember the Haystack (Hastings) for, was one freezing cold  
and icy morning early start.

As a rigger one of the B/F checks was of the dingy compartments out  
on the wing. Took out the emergency window, climbed out onto the wing  
and gingerly made my way along the icy spar to get to the dingy  
compartments. Stood for a second and slowly stepped forward (towards  
the trailing edge from the spar).

Felt my feet begin to slip on the ice but there was nothing I could  
do about it. Still standing upright, I slowly slid down the wing and  
off the trailing edge. Hit the deck still in the standing position  
knocking the breath out of me.

The jarring impact sent shooting pains up my legs that seemed to  
focus on my wedding tackle. Recall being bent over, gasping for  
breath and wanting to die and all I could hear was the ribald  
laughter of the rest of the B/F

Took me yonks to crab-it back to the crewroom.  The localised "hurt"  
must have been OK though, as was the work we did with the "special"  
fit in the bulbous nose of the Canberras. Couldn't have been as  
dangerous as everybody said it was as we managed to have a couple of  
kids later! ;-)

Gary Cooper wrote:
At RAF St Mawgan in 1962 we had just seen a Mark 3 Shackleton in from 201 Squadron that had been on one of those long 12 hour maritime patrols and during the flight the reduction gear on number 3 engine to the propeller failed. When the aircrew were discussing this with us on site, the Air Engineer swung one of the contra rotating props to show how the gear had sheared, the following prop blade came down and cracked the co-pilot on the head. Fortunately no damage was done except to the pilots pride, the rest of us were in stitches! 

Alex 'Tich' Carrie wrote:
In December 1959 at Kia Tak in Hong Kong we had an almighty Mag drop on the No. three engine of our old Sunderland flying boat. As we were detached there we had no spares to talk of and the crew wanted to get back to Singapore so the skipper said if we lightened the aircraft as much as we could he would risk the take off. We went to work with a will and soon had everything off loaded. Some one shouted down the Galley stair that there was one more item so we waited. A while later down came the Engine Sgt. with a five gallon can, when asked what was in it he told us he had emptied the Glycol tank and that must have lightened the aircraft by 40 or 50 lbs. When one of the chaps was about to pass the drum of Glycol out the Galley hatch this Engine Sgt. said no put it in the bomb bay we might need it on the flight back. Never could work that one out he might as well have left it in the tank. We took off ok and got to about 1000 ft. when we hit an air pocket or a downdraft as they say these days. I was stood in the galley and I remember my feet were off the deck, I looked into the bomb bay where one of the crew was floating about a Scottish lad with a look of terror on his face. We hit the air again and ended up in a heap on the deck I looked to see if the Scotty lad was ok just in time to see him heave his washer up into the ration box. He was pigular as popshit one might say as we had 14 hrs. of flying ahead of us and all the rations we could use was the tinned rubbish, no one wanted puked on Bacon and eggs. Good days all gone

Gary Cooper wrote:
1969 RAF Wattisham detachment to RAF Valley. The Armourers dropped a live  Red Top Air to Air missile on the deck whilst arming up a F3 Lightning, not written off though! Boy did we ever scatter! On the same detachment one of our jockeys locked on to a Jindivik pilotless aircraft instead of the drogue, the live missile was fired and the 100000 Jindivik was brought down in the Irish Sea.

Jim Duncan wrote:
Four of us were detailed to see off a USAF transport from the SASF pan at Negombo. The aircrew and one other guy, (travelling groundcrew fronted up). The groundcrew guy was a typical big-mouthed pillock, who told us he did'nt need any damn Limeys'  help. We sat on the ground and watched while he did everything himself, then with a John Wayne salute he ran across to the freight door as the aircraft started to move out. Sadly, he slipped while trying to clamber aboard, and was run over by the tailwheel! We curled up and applauded as his transport lumbered off the pan without him!  We approached his writhing body and asked if he'd like to repeat his one man show, as the rest of the guys in the crew room would love to learn from him!  The tower was informed and the kite had to return to the pan. It took off without him later in the day, and he spent some time in SSQ while his ribs were sorted out. Luckily for him there was no freight aboard, otherwise he'd have gone home in a box.!

Dave Bloomfield writes:
For a period, whilst stationed at Waddington in the early 60's, I worked on tanker pool. We had 44, 50, 101Sqdns and 230OCU, all Vulcans, so we were kept busy as they were flying night and day around the clock. We used to refuel the tankers from a bulk installation, which was near to the dispersal where a squadron was always on QRA standby i.e. bombed up and ready to go to war. It was always a race to get back to tanker pool to continue our game of dommies so one night my mate and I were refuelling our tankers from bulk - we were both empty - so should have completed our loading at the same time. I heard my mate Pete start his tanker, crash it into gear and drive off out of the POL installation. How did he fill up that quick I thought. The next thing I heard was the POL storeman screaming for him to stop. The prat! instead of filling up in the normal way Pete had coupled up to the belly coupling, in this way you get it in faster, but it was strictly against all the rules. OK he could have got away with it, but he simply forgot to disconnect from bulk before pulling away. You guessed it - he pulled the belly coupling right out of the tanker and 2,500 gallons of avtur came pouring out - it was hilarious to see Pete trying to stop the flow by pushing his beret into the hole - he yelled for me to couple up my tanker to his and try to defuel him, but of course there wasn't time - I couldn't help him anyway because I was in a laughing fit to bust a gut. The poor POL storeman sh!t himself because he realized that he was for the high jump as well for allowing Pete to refuel through the belly coupling. The story doesn't end there though - The 2500 gallons of avtur ran down the peri track and flooded the QRA dispersal, thus the squadron on standby would have been prevented from start up should the need have arisen because of the fire risk. The Station Commander was not a happy chappie because he had to declare to Bomber Command HQ that his QRA squadron was grounded! At the subsequent "Do you wish to accept my punishment or apply for a court martial", Pete was fined two weeks pay (15)
For some reason Pete was sent back to the MT Section to do RR's (Routine Runs - Rations, dustcart collections etc)


Happy Days?

John Joyce wrote:
I recall my flight home to the UK in a Hastings aircraft that had departed RAF Changi and was attempting to land at Katunayake. The Hastings had a reserve crew on board, the pilot made three attempts at landing, aborted the first two and when finally landing on the third attempt, the crew stood up and clapped and cheered...!

Gary Cooper wrote:
The new Station Commander was assigned to RAF El Adem which is a remote post in the Libyan Desert. During his first inspection, he noticed a camel hitched up behind the mess tent. He asks the Flight Sergeant why the camel is kept there.

"Well, sir," is the nervous reply, "as you know, there are 600 men here and no women. And Sir, sometimes the men have ... mmm .... urges. That's why we have the camel, Sir."

The Group Captain says, "I can't say that I condone this, but I understand about urges, so the camel can stay."

About a month later, the Group Captain starts having a real problem with his own urges. Crazy with passion, he asks the Flight Sergeant to bring the camel to his tent. Putting a stool behind the camel, the Captain stands on it, pulls down his pants, and has wild, insane sex with the camel.

When he is done, he asks the Flight Sergeant, "Is that how the men do it?"

"Uh, no sir," the Flight Sergeant replies. "They usually just ride the camel into town where the girls are."

Denis Williams wrote: 

I was quite busy, trying to free a fuel jettison pipe, which had been left down on landing on a Sunderland Flying Boat. Not too difficult a job, on land, but this had to be done on the oggin. Fitted  out with the usual accoutrements, hacksaw tied to one wrist and file to the other, I jumped into the sea. I'd spent the best part of an hour, most of it underwater, sawing and then filing the offending object, when a voice said." Do you need any help"?

Looking down at me from the galley hatch, was a young, recently arrived Sergeant , whose name evades me: armourer as I recall. I intended to ask him to remove the free end of the pipe, from inside the aircraft, whilst I carried out any adjustment from under the hull. I answered him with. " Yes I would thanks".  My surprise, as he stripped off his shirt and jumped into the water, quickly turned to laughter as he was swept past me by the ten knot current, arms waving lips shouting some obscenity. 

He hadn't noticed that I was secured to the aircraft by a rope, but was rescued within minutes by the bomb scow. I don't think he ever spoke to me again, or repeated his experience to many.

Terry Ball wrote:
1/    Whilst on 38 Sqdn Luqa Airport in Malta 1964, I happened to be in the civilian flying staff area and heard one stewardess say to another. 'They're an ugly looking aircraft, the Shackleton'. To which stewardess two said, 'Yes, but I love the way the propellor flicks to and fro on start-up.'
 2/    China Bay, 1957. We, (the groundcrew), were lolling about with some of our local coxswains and labourers on the pierhead when the visiting AOC, Ceylon was being shown around by our CO, Tony Fegan.
'Where are your lads then?' said the AOC?
'You see the natives on the end of the pier?'
'And you see the smart looking fellows getting them organised?'
'Well, the gollies are mine,' said Tony.
3/    38 Sqdn again, Luqa, 1965. It is raining so hard a sheet of unbroken water lays across the entire airfield. Visibility is about 20 feet. One of our lads is nominated to go and close a  Shackleton window. Off he goes, driving the tractor. After about 10 minutes he returns, completely soaked.
'Bloody hell Pedro, it's wet out there.'
'Wetter than you think,' says Pedro, 'I've just driven the tractor down the scanner pit.'
For the uninitiated, the scanner pit was a big square hole in the ground to let the aircraft 
undermounted radar scanner be extended downwards for inspection. Normally there would be heavy wood sleepers covering the opening but the rain had filled the pit and the sleepers had floated away. A David Brown tractor fits the hole with about a couple of inches to spare all around.
These anecdotes are true

Dave Bloomfield wrote:

One of the most heart warming incidents occurred when I had to drive the AOC in C FEAF from the Officers Mess at Katunayake to the UK High Commissioners residence in Colombo. The Humber Super Snipe was a dream machine in those days and no one under the rank of Air Marshal had the privilege to ride in it.


On the afternoon in question it was literally peeing down when I picked him up and as we approached the guardroom to leave camp, there was the DAPM in all his glory standing under the canopy ready to throw up one nice salute as I cruised by. Unfortunately before leaving the camp I would have to stop, get out and remove the pennant from the front of the bonnet and cover up the star plates on the front and rear bumpers. Sh!t, I thought, I am going to get bloody soaked. I heard the all but inaudible hiss from behind me as the AOC lowered the partition window between driver and back seat, “Sit tight driver” he says and waves over the DAPM gesticulating to him to remove the flag from the front of the car. The DAPM ran through the rain and rapidly removed the flag, but found great difficulty, as we all did, in replacing the finial back on the flag post. As he handed me the pennant through my partially open window I then handed him the canvas covers for the star plates – if looks could kill! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall and heard what he said to his sergeant and two corporals who had been standing under the guardroom canopy with him. It probably made their day as well.
Gary Cooper in conversation with a VIP Hastings pilot flying the C-in-C FEAF in 1953 reports on a similar theme where the C-in-C's pennant was aloft the cockpit of WJ325, the aircraft had taken off with the pennant in situ, it wasn't until sometime later that a crew member reported to the pilot that the pennant was still flying, the pilot throttled back on the engines as much as he dare to avoid stalling to retrieve said flag! 

Denis Williams wrote:
I was a brand spanking new rigger on flying boats. Not long qualified and proud of the job I had just finished:  refurbishing the "bog" on a Sunderland.  I'd removed it, stripped it down, cleaned, repaired, replaced parts and replaced it and was watching it taxying away from the slipway.

After about a hundred yards, - no metres in those days - it turned round headed back to the slipway, the Flight Engineer waving wildly and calling for beaching gear.  I'd only forgot to put the olives back in the pipe connections hadn't I and the " Kite" was leaking like a sieve. Good job that story didn't follow me over to Seletar, or I'd have been called  "Olive"  for much longer than I was.

Terry Ball wrote:
Late 1950's, China Bay, Ceylon. Sunderland Flying Boat Detachment.
An aircrew sergeant had acquired a small, furry four-footed creature as a pet. Nobody could identify it. Bit like a mongoose I think. On the return flight from Ceylon to base in Singapore the animal escaped and disappeared. At Squadron HQ the aircraft captain wrote, under 'Action Required', in the aircraft logbook, 'Something loose in the bilges.' 
The rigger detailed to check the aircraft carried out an investigation and wrote in the  'Action Taken' section, 'Something tightened in the bilges.'

Gary Cooper writes:
The Boat Race

The Queens Flight (TQF) RAF Benson and 24 Squadron RAF Abingdon decided to have a competitive boat race on the River Thames. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. On the big day, they were as ready as they could be. The Abingdon team won by a mile.
Afterwards, the Benson team became discouraged by the loss and their morale sagged. TQF decided that the reason for the crushing defeat had to be found. A Continuous Measurable Improvement Team of Executive Officers was set up to investigate the problem and to recommend appropriate corrective action.
Their conclusion: The problem was that the TQF Benson team had 1 person rowing and 8 people steering, whereas the Abingdon team had 8 persons rowing and 1 person steering. The Executive Officers Steering Committee immediately hired a consulting firm to do a study on the management structure.
After some time and billions of pounds, the consulting firm concluded that "too many people were steering and not enough rowing." To prevent losing to the Abingdon team again next year, the management structure was changed to "4 Steering Officers, 3 Area Steering Officers, and 1 Steering Wing Commander" and a new performance system for the person rowing the boat to give more incentive to work harder and become a star performer.
The next year the Abingdon team won by two miles.
The Queens Flight Steering Committee laid off the rower for poor performance, sold all of the oars, cancelled all leave, called for new equipment, halted development of a new canoe, awarded high performance awards to the consulting firm, and distributed medals, promotions and knighthoods on the money saved as bonuses to the senior officers.

Leon Smith wrote:
I was in RAF Bruggen in Germany in Spring 1958.  The Duke of Edinburgh was visiting the station, but to this day none of us knows why.,  Naturally there was a big parade a fly past and a guard of honor.  My squadron, 87, had to give the fly past in our new Gloster Javelins. 
Now as any ex-serviceman knows on VIP visits white overalls are worn. So the great day arrives nice and sunny, time for the off , two mechanics per plane, one airframe one engines ,12 planes to go, my engines offsider was Chunky McHarr (due to large waistline), ladders in place, strap in the driver and conductor, pins out of the bang seats, and lets start engines, contact, cartridge fires and lots of sooty smoke and the port motor starts, contact again, lots of sooty smoke but the starboard engine is not going.
The pilot is not happy (he is the boss, a Wing Commander,} { he who must be obeyed and he who must lead the fly past) so its off with the cartridge cover and Chunky goes inside to do whatever you did inside cartridge compartment.  Now me I come from a long line of cowards going back to Saxon times and even putting your head into a place where things went bang and sooty smoke came out of was not for me, I left that to Chunky. 
Ok back to our story, Chunkys' out of the hole and putting the cover back on, contact, loud bang we both hit the floor together flat in the sooty dirt,  over our heads went a turbine blade it embedded itself in a mast 200 yards to our rear, at head height it would have taken both our heads off if we had not dived into the dust.
Now the fun starts planes on fire rear cockpit hood cover is blown off and lands on the wing after reaching 50 foot upward. This is all too much for the conductor who is out of his seat and away on the wing and down the rear and running up to the crew room and safety.  He forgot to put his pin back in his bang seat leaving it live,  the pilot was made of stronger stuff switched the good motor off and wait for the ladder and pin in his bang seat before getting out then running for the crew room and safety. Both men had wet themselves, so they did not stay around  for the men to see an officer can also misfire in his pants.
The fire crew soon had the fire out and the Squadron took off one plane short.  Did the Duke notice?  Who cares?  Postscript as we left the scene we bumped into the squadron disciplinary Sergeant who had come down from his office to see what all the noise was about, and he put us on a charge for having dirty overalls during the Dukes visit.  Yes we had soot all over our white overalls but at least we still had our heads, our reward from saving the Wing Commander from a BBQ?  He dropped the charges...big deal..... did I mess my pants, that's for me to know, and the reader to guess, at least I kept my head.

My tale come from my last posting at RAF Valley

In AFS we had been having problems with one of 4FTS Gnats and had taken the engine out and refitted the rear fuselage, tapped up all the engine electrical connections and remove all engine related fuses ,
connected up all flying controls and adjusted the nose oleo pressure so it sat at the normal attitude the battery was connected.

On the day in question we parked the Gnat at the end of the flight line to make room in the hangar I can't remember the exact nose number but call it 02 , by chance it was next to 20. It was the practice for the student to get to his allocated aircraft a little ahead of the instructor and do the pre flight walk round and
strap in .

The student arrived did his walk round removed the intake blanks and got aboard and waited , next door an impatient some what bad tempered instructor waited for his student , yes you have guessed it the student was sitting in our engineless Gnat 02 instead of the serviceable 20. I did not witness the event my self but the story was related to me by the lads on the flight line when they could stop laughing and manage to talk.

The conversation between student and instructor as related to me is unprintable on your web site.
As a postscript the student in question was later scratched of the course and failed to pass out.

Dick Woodard Airframe Fitter


We used to clean the hangar floor on a Friday by spreading 5 galls of Avgas on the floor and then sweeping it the full length of the hangar using sawdust and big (platform) brooms. Health & Safety eat your heart out!

Barry Salt Engine Fitter


I have come across a fact that I bet not many people know. I have been in touch with a cook that was in the RAF and the eggs we ate came from the UK. (Serving at the time in Singapore) they had all been injected with a chemical preservative and could be stored for a long time. Nevertheless it was estimated that one in five were bad.

I Quote from this guy.

'Cooking these eggs proved to be a a daily adventure. We reckoned that every 5th egg was so bad that it was never cracked, it went straight into the bin. At least twice a day our assumption would be proved wrong because having cracked anything up to a dozen eggs into the pan, one of these rogue eggs would get through. To say the egg was rotten would be an understatement. The 'egg' was black liquid, the stench was awful and the reaction to dropping liquid into hot oil was dangerous to say the least. This in turn required the binning of all the eggs in the pan because the aroma would affect them all'. 

All I asked him was what caused the plastic layer on top of the fried eggs we got in the mess, now I dare not ask him why the tinned sausages we used to get had a consistency of horse sh!t and old tram tickets.

I feel a distinct dose of Gulf War Syndrome coming on and now know what stunted my growth, it wasn't smoking after all.



Hi John,
              I was a Junior Tech engine fitter on 70 squadron at RAF Nicosia during 1956.  We had a Hastings crash at Kormaksar [Near Aden] in that year .The crew brought back a blob of melted aluminium so it was a write off .The pilot was Sqn/Ldr "Paddy" Greer who was also squadron C O.I cannot remember the number of this aircraft. (WD483)
  Another of our Hasting transported Archbishop Makarios to Mombassa when on his way to the Seychelles.My claim to fame was that I fuelled it up for the trip.  Thanks Arthur Melton.

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