ISSUE No. 21 DECEMBER 2001
As the year draws to a close I wish all our readers a happy Christmas and a good New Year. This year has been a particularly good one for your Association which continues to flourish.
During the year which marked the 50th Anniversary of the formation of AAFCE a total of 45 Veterans were traced of which 30 were brought into membership. The total found to date is well over 150. We still strive to enrol more GIs and servicemen from our other Allies. Two GIs and one Canadian were invited to join but have not replied.
The coach trip to
Our Fourth UK Reunion in October was attended by 72 members who had a thoroughly enjoyable week-end. It was pleasing to see so many of our recent signings in attendance.
Squadron Leader Charles Hobgen,
pictured here with his Assistant Captaine Charles Denamur (FAF) wrote to Johnnie Day after he read his recent
article in Provost Parade. After the war
when Charles returned home from incarceration in Stalag
Luft 3 he stopped flying and transferred to the
Provost Branch. After service at
Officer J P Wood served as SRO to the Commander from Jan 1955 until June 1957. He retired from the RAF in 1983 and was
appointed General manager of the Dolphin Square Trust
Ltd (a London Housing Association) He then spent 10 years as Secretary for the
British Nutrition Foundation. Mr Wood
takes an active interest in the RAFA at local, area and national level and is
currently a Vice-President. He and his
wife Bridget now live in
It has just been reported that Dave Adams passed away
about a couple of months ago. Dave who
was a Corporal MT Driver at
Those who were selected for service with AAFCE in its early days will remember Quartier Chateaux in Rue St Merry where they were accommodated and worked before Camp Guynemer was opened in 1952 ~ it was then occupied by ALFCE.
In the early 1900s the Chateaux served as a Cavalry Training School and the photograph here presented by Colonel Schwartz during our visit there in September, shows the Chateaux as it was then.
Quartier Chateaux is now the home of the Gendarmerie School for Criminal Investigation training.
The cinema remains in use as a briefing/conference room. On completion of their training the trainees are presented with a medal, shown here, one of which was presented to the AAFCE Veterans during their visit.
Both the framed photograph and medal are in my custody and care and will be exhibited at our Annual Reunions.
On 20 October 72 members gathered at Courtyard Leamington Spa for a thoroughly enjoyable week-end at our Fourth Annual Reunion. It was gratifying to see so many new faces present from the recent additions to our membership.
At a short meeting in the afternoon the Income and Expenditure Account (circulated in the last Newsletter) was accepted and it was agreed to defer a call for a further subscription at present in view of the balance in hand.
It was also agreed to arrange another coach trip to Fontainebleau next September and to meet again at the Courtyard on 19 October 2002.
The Raffle realised a staggering £214 for the Association’s General Fund. Thanks to all those who donated prizes especially David Crook who made a large Christmas cake (pictured) beautifully iced with the AAFCE motif in every detail won by Tony and Jen Almond
After dinner we were entertained as usual by Terry Bryant and Dave Bennett with their amusing ditties.
It was an auspicious occasion for Hilton and Maureen Cozens who celebrated their 39th Wedding Anniversary on 20 October. Next year’s reunion should be a real celebration for them.
A REMARKABLE R.A.F. POLICEMAN
This article written by John Day will be included in the next issue of Provost Parade and is reproduced here with John’s kind permission. (All rights reserved)
Flight Sergeant CHARLES DOUGLAS COLLYER, B.E.M. No M 1473858
"I'm 82, and can still stand on my head." This is how Charley, as he is known to all, greeted me on September 14th on the occasion of a re-union held at Fontainebleau, France, of RAF servicemen who had met him during their service at Camp Guynemer, the then headquarters of Allied Air Forces, Central Europe. His story is unique. It could never happen again in any part of the world, to any other serving member of any force.
He joined the R.A.F. in 1943 at Croydon, Surrey. Britain was at war, and as soon as he was 18 he and his best mate, Cyril Barton, joined together. They both wanted to be aircrew but Charley's maths was hopeless. Cyril became a pilot in Bomber Command and won a posthumous V.C. Charley opted for the R.A.F. Police. After basic training at Chessington, he was posted to the Police Training depot at Uxbridge and passed out as a provost policeman in February 1944.
His first posting was to No.1 London District based in South Kensington, where he had his first experiences of a wartime London teeming with servicemen, mainly out to get drunk as quickly as possible, then have a fight with someone.
With D-Day approaching, his second posting was to Newhaven, where he was held in a pool of policemen from both the Army and the R.A.F. awaiting embarkation for D-Day. On D-Day plus 10 he embarked for Cherbourg and landed on the beach from a landing craft full of Americans in full combat gear, wondering what on earth he was doing there. Two months of directing traffic on the Cotentin Peninsula and he was posted to Dieppe. An old house in the centre of the town was the police H.Q. and three months of traffic duty, locking up drunks, and chasing deserters saw him posted back to an American unit and he entered Paris two days after its liberation.
This was a war zone. Germans were still hiding out there, sheltered either by girlfriends or sympathisers, of which there were many, or they had simply deserted and were taking their chances of mingling in with the locals. Based in the Place Vendôme, a now very prosperous area of Paris, he patrolled with the U.S. military Police. Their main duties were searching out these Germans and their French collaborators, but street patrol still took up a lot of their time. He recounts several incidents, the like of which if you knew him, could only happen to Charley. Early one morning, at the end of a night shift, he was patrolling the Champs Elysées. Rounding the Arc de Triomphe in his Jeep he saw a man crouched over the eternal flame which marks France's unknown soldier. He stopped and found a G.I. trying to cook his breakfast on it! Calling up a Yank policeman he had him taken away, and the American invited him to have breakfast at the U.S. Serviceman's Club. He did, and the waitress who served them, a French woman working for the U.S. Red Cross, became his wife two months later. Fast work for those days!
On another occasion he and his colleague were approached by a frantic Frenchwoman indicating that they come into her house. 'Quick, see, quick see' she repeated over and over. After checking in over the radio they went in. 'Ici, ici' she shouted as she led them downstairs. She pointed to an old door. Là, là'. It was locked. He knocked - no reply. 'Non, non, she shouted, 'break it'. Charley considered shooting the lock off, but spying a bit of metal, between them they burst the door open. It was a room the size of a small bedroom packed from floor to ceiling with money. English money. Ten shilling notes, pound notes and the big old white fivers. When it had been loaded and removed to Police H.Q. it was found to be nearly three million pounds, a vast fortune in those days. No, it wasn't retirement time for all involved - it was all counterfeit - part of the German effort to cripple the Bank of England. All the German informants, spies and collaborators had been paid in fake English money, and this was just one of the stores that were found in various parts of Europe. He told of the abject poverty around him, and also the lavish riches of the profiteers. The Black Market was just about the only line of supply - the poor bartered everything, including their bodies, whilst the rich bought anything they liked. The restaurants and nightclubs functioned as though there was no war on. He was eventually put in charge of a section dedicated to tracking down German deserters. He saw the results of murder, rape, arson and torture. He escorted so many prisoners to the Caserne Mortière in Paris for execution that he lost count. Working mainly on tip-offs daily house searches netted hundreds of wanted people.
He was in Paris for three years, 1945, '46, '47 Charley's next posting was to Marseilles. The R.A.F. Police H.Q. was in the Avenue de Prado and there his time was spent mainly on a Royal Enfield motorcycle patrolling La Corniche, a winding coastal mountain road stretching as far as Monte Carlo, hunting out escaped P.o.W's and smugglers! Germans were still being hidden in houses all over Southern France ~ he sometimes wondered if any Germans had gone back to Germany!
When the H.Q. was closed in 1948 he was promoted Flight Sgt. and was posted to Istres i/c the guardroom of 103 staging post under the command of Wing Commander HUNT. These were station duties which came as a welcome relief. The base was an airfield and guarding the aircraft was a priority, as was the M.T. Section as fuel and tyres were like gold dust. His abiding memory of this period is when a Lancaster crashed on landing. Charley managed to pull three men clear, but the 2nd pilot died in his arms crying for his wife Edith.
1950 found him in Fontainebleau at the H.Q. Allied Air Forces Western Union at Quartier Chateau. It was here that 'Mr Fixit' was born. With his French wife as interpreter they quickly found a flat in which to live. A colleague asked if he could help find him a flat, and he did. In no time the word got round that Charley Collyer could find you a married quarter. There was a fairly large contingent of British Army troops in Fontainebleau as well as the R.A.F. and they began approaching him. Then an officer asked for help, preferring an outlying village rather than the town, and so was born Charley's kingdom. Word spread that a R.A.F. Sergeant Policeman in Fontainebleau, called Charley, could get you anything from a house to compassionate leave.
In 1952 when Camp Guynemer was officially opened Charley was posted there, still as a policeman, but more and more as a welfare officer. He had his own office, and word eventually reached Field Marshal Montgomery, Commander-in-Chief of all Allied Forces in Europe. He asked to meet this man and at the end of their conversation stated the words which made Charley the legend he became.
"This man is doing a far more useful job here than he ever could in England. He is to stay in France as long as he wishes to do so".He had virtually a free hand. He was the unofficial Billeting and Welfare Officer and young men went to him with any manner of problem - lovesick, homesick, worried about family - he heard everything. There was a saying doing the rounds "If you've got a sore throat, don't go to the M.O., go and see Charley."
He did his rounds on his bicycle, a British Rudge, circa 1950, which he still has, and uses every day. He had a phenomenal memory: (a bit dimmer now), a dozen people could stop him and tell him their woes or needs and he would deal with each one in order when he got back to his desk. 'Baptisms to Burials' should have been on his door, because he even organised those. I don't know how many children he is Godfather to; it is a lot. His well-deserved British Empire Medal was awarded to him for 'Services to the Welfare and Administration of British Forces abroad' in 1956, and was presented to him by Wing Commander R.G.M. STEVENSON on the parade ground at Camp Guynemer.
Charley stayed on at Fontainebleau 'til 1967 when the camp was closed. What now?
Here is where Monty's directive finally paid off. He was posted to the British Embassy in Paris! Here a post was found for him in Security and he had the unenviable job of looking after the Duke of Windsor, HRH Princess Claude of France, her brother the Compte de Paris (Pretender to the French throne), various Generals, and finally the Queen Mother, to whom he was presented. (PHOTO)
At the end of his 29 years service he returned to Fontainebleau in 1972. He had worked closely with Royal Air Force padres whilst welfare officer, and religious activities now took up a lot of his time. Co-founder of the Sunday School at the British church in Fontainebleau with Brigadier John HUNT, the Everest conqueror, he became superintendent on the Brigadier's retirement, and looks back on this as one of his most satisfying achievements.
For several years he was an accredited guide at the palace of the Emperor Napoleon and an authority on Empire style furniture. He continued to be invited to various functions at the British Embassy, and could often be seen in period costume (PHOTO). One of his favourite tricks was to emerge from the palace late at night and approach the guards who were unaware that he was still there, and frighten the life out of them.
For nearly twenty years we lost sight of him. We now know that he spent many years in devoted attention to his wife who suffered from a crippling disease which eventually took her life. However, as a sprightly octogenarian, he is back. We have had two reunions at Fontainebleau and he has taken an active part in organising the French end of things. He is still the same old Charley, wanting to help someone.
Last year, aged 81, Charley was walking one afternoon in town. Suddenly in front of him a woman at a bus stop was attacked by two muggers. Without even thinking he went to her assistance and managed to apply a headlock on one of them. The secod, who by now had the woman's bag, turned on him and punched him several times about the head and body. By now people were arriving. The mugger with the bag ran off, someone called the police, Charley, blood pouring from him, held on. The police arrived and literally had to prize him from his arrest. "R.A.F. Police" he muttered through bruised lips - "I learnt that grip 60 years ago; they can't get out of it, you know." The two muggers were arrested and sentenced to 23 months in prison. They were Rumanian refugees. Charley was given a hero's write-up in the press.
In his small flat he treasures his momentoes of his life in the R.A.F. Police. He has only returned to England once in 58 years, and that was as the representative of Camp Guynemer at the funeral at R.A.F. Halton of Wing Co. Colin COOPER., an officer whom Charley had helped at Fontainebleau.
He is an unassuming man who sincerely believes he was only doing his job and wonders why anybody would be interested in hearing about him. There are dozens and dozens of people who have cause to remember you, Charley. If you are one of them, reading this now, and you would like to send him a card, his address Mr C. D. COLLYER, B.E.M., 97 Rue St. Merry, Fontainebleau, S.M.33700, France. It would give him great pleasure and perhaps he would begin to believe that we all owe him a great deal.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
This story is available on the Internet ~ www. ........www.readerswrite.co.uk.......click on "War & the forces".....click on "A Remarkable RAF Policeman.
The following verses were recited by Dave Bennett after the Reunion Dinn
I went back to the old airfield
At the close of an Autumn day,
To find the tower crumbling,
The hangars filled with hay.
The dead leaves swirled and eddied
And crunched beneath my foot.
This concrete base, complete with plough,
Was once the gunners hut.
What could it be, what was it
That I had come to find?
Traces of my vanished youth?
Or was it peace of mind?
The shadows darkened, lengthened,
As slowly I strolled around,
Stood and looked and listened
As they crept along the ground.
And then I heard – or did I?
A faintly mocking laugh,
The tinkle of a spanner,
The chuckle of a WAAF.
The muted sounds of Merlins,
Throttle eased by ghostly hands,
Screech of tyres on tarmac,
The lost coming in to land.
For here were ghosts in plenty,
Young ghosts of yesteryear,
But I am young no longer
And am not wanted here.
I went back to the old airfield
At the close of an Autumn day.
I wish to God that I had listened,
And I had stayed away
FIFTH ANNUAL REUNION ~ 2002
The fifth reunion will be held on Saturday 19 October 2002. Many of you have decided to arrive on the Friday to leave the whole of Saturday to relax and socialise. We are likely to reach our maximum capacity of 72 so you are advised to book your accommodation as soon as possible ~ ring the hotel, Tel : 01926 425522 and ensure that you mention that you are in the Fontainebleau party and then let me know.
The following menu is from Brian Gibbons’ collection of memorabilia. Didn’t the GIs eat well !!!
DET2, 1141st USAF SPECIAL ACTIVITIES SQUADRON
FRESH SHRIMP COCKTAIL
ROAST TURKEY DRESSING
VIRGINIA BAKED HAM WITH HAWAIIAN SAUCE
GIBLET GRAVY CRANBERRY SAUCE
BUTTERED PEAS AND CARROTS
CRISP CELERY STRIPS
ASSORTED OLIVES SWEET PICKLES
HOT ROLLS BUTTER
MINCE MEAT PIE PUMPKIN PIE
WITH WHIPPED CREAM TOPPING
HARD CANDY ASSORTED NUTS
Palmers Travel have provisionally reserved accommodation at the Novotel at Ury on the outskirts of Fontainebleau for our party from Friday 13 to Wednesday 18 September 2002. The hotel is on the edge of the forest and only a short walk from the village of Ury which is approximately 3 miles from Fontainebleau town centre.
The hotels in Fontainebleau are fully booked during this period. The Novotel is superior to IBIS. All rooms have air conditioning and en suite facilities, colour TV and telephone. There is a lift to all floors and there are tennis, golf and swimming facilities. Mountain bikes are available to ride in the Forest. The cost for the travel and hotel accommodation (bed and buffet breakfast) is £270 (Single supplement £69). Whilst all holiday costs have increased since the atrocities of 11 September the increase is due mainly to the hotel upgrade.
The free car parking facility at the Coach Station in West Kingsdown will be at our disposal.
To enable me to measure the support for the trip please complete the attached questionnaire. Once there is sufficient support I shall confirm the booking with the tour operator and make arrangements for us to attend the Parade at the Arc de Triomphe on 15 September and visits to Camp Guynemer and other places of interest in Fontainebleau.
You may consider that staying in Fontainebleau where there are many restaurants and places to visit is more important that attending the parade in Paris. If this is so we should be able to switch our dates to a time when the IBIS in Fontainebleau can accommodate us. Please express your views on the attached questionnaire.
I received the following a few weeks ago from Richard McLoughlin. I wonder if any of our readers will be able to help. Come on guys put your thinking caps on.
“It would mean so much to me if I could find Angus Brodie again. My parents were like second family to him; he had no living relatives. We first met 1953/54 at RAF Hereford doing a Clerk GD course and we remained in touch for almost ten years. He frequently spent his weekends with my parents.
By 1958 he had made Sergeant and whilst I went off to AIRNORTH in Norway, he went off to Fontainebleau sometime either 1959/60. I bought myself out in 1963 and at that time we were still in touch. In 1961/62/63, he wrote and told me that he had met an American Service Lady (I always presumed USAF but perhaps it could have been any of their services?), they were getting married and he was going to live in the USA. I have an idea that her first name was Ester but I may be wrong. Later on, he was in contact to say that he had gone into Banking in the US and from then on things went wrong. Between 1963 and 1966, we moved house three times and over the next ten years we moved a further four times and I believe this is how contact was lost.
So I am asking :
1. Did you know Sergeant Angus Brodie, Clerk GD or Clerk Sec.?
2. Did he get married in France?
3. Do you know the maiden name of the Lady he married and which US service did she belong to?
4. Any contact at all since those days?
5. Possible US address, even US State would help?”
If anyone has any information please let me know and I will pass it on.
CYPRUS HOLIDAYS (PAPHOS)
One of our members, John Allison operates a scheme for holidays in Paphos. Below is a brief description of his operation with the lead page from his brochure. If you are contemplating a holiday on this lovely island in the Mediterranean why not give John a call.
Do I need to remind you that there are plenty of ties, blazer badges and enamel badges in stock all at reasonable prices. To add to our range we are investigating the production of glass paperweights, bookmarks, table mats, coasters, plaques and mugs with the AAFCE motif.
Mick Capon has discovered a Website that gives details of motion pictures held in the USAF Archives of Camp Guynemer from its opening in 1952. I shall endeavour to obtain some suitable material and will report further in a future issue. This establishment may also assist in tracing some more GIs who served with us.
John Ross Aylward is making excellent progress since undergoing major surgery earlier in the year. Unfortunately a minor setback prevented his attending the Reunion where he planned to chat for the afternoon. He is able to speak well and he tells me that he will be returning to work very soon and has asked me to pass on his best wishes to all the members. You cannot keep a good man down but John please do not overdo it.
John Hanlon missed the trip to Fontainebleau and the Reunion due to surgery on his knees. John is up and about and expects to resume AAFCE activities next year. John recently received his badges and membership for No 603 Squadron City of Edinburgh Royal Auxiliary Air Force unit in which he served for 16 years until 1988.
In recognition of all the help he has given the Association Mick Capon was presented with a bottle of champagne and two flutes at the Reunion. Mick and Anne wrote “Thank you very much for the champagne and flutes we received last Saturday. The gift was very special as we weren’t expecting anything. It will be put to good use in the near future. Our second grandchild, due in November will be toasted in style and we will raise our glasses to all who we met at the Reunion and especially absent friends.” We wish Mick and Anne many happy years of leisure.
Bill Garland’s planned move North of the Border fell through when he lost the house at the other end. Bill hopes to relocate to his native Scotland early next month ~ that will give him Christmas and New Year to recover from the stress.
Roy Packman wrote to me on 9 November from Ohio ~ “Last week I had eye surgery which included an in-plant. Very successful and for the first time in 60 years I can see from my left eye without glasses. I am pencilled in for a further op on 27 Dec to have the other eye done and am looking forward to starting 2002 with NO GLASSES!!!” ~ I reckon Roy will be able to pass the medical for a second career in the RAF.
It is disappointing that the Membership List included in the last newsletter was removed in a few cases before posting to the next member on the list. This meant that people lower down the list did not have an opportunity to see it. Therefore it is attached to this Issue. PLEASE DO NOT REMOVE it ~ you may if you wish, obtain a copy at your local Copy Bureau.