Editorial (Newsletter No. 32) December 2004
It was hoped to issue this Newsletter before Christmas but all the copy was not finalised in time to meet this deadline. As we come to the end of another eventful year it is worth reflecting to see how your Association has fared over the last 12 months. Our numbers have grown thanks to the efforts of John Day, Dave Bennett in particular and others in general. During the year 22 vets were traced and 20 have signed up. Another milestone was the creation of our website thanks to the skill and efforts of Dave Bloomfield. Our Seventh Annual Reunion at Warwick was a resounding success. At the Annual Meeting our Dedication proposed by Terry Bryant was adopted and is prominantly displayed on our home page. The year was marred by the sad loss of Charlie Collyer. We look forward to 2005 with optimism and hopefully another pilgrimage to France in September. The editor sends his very best wishes for 2005 to all our readers.
(Well we did in fact make it onto our website before Christmas - Can I wish you all happy festivities and a peaceful New Year. (Dave Bloomfield Web Master)
Cpl George Hawes served as an RAF Policeman at AAFCE from October 1953 until May 1956 when he left the service. Whilst at Fontainebleau he met Ginette a French secretary. They married at the village church in Otley, Suffolk in November 1956. After leaving the RAF George worked for Tolly Cobbold Brewery in Ipswich before moving to Chippenham, Cambridge to work with horses. He remained there until he retired in 1997 and now lives happily with Ginette 3 miles away in Ilseham. George maintains his interest in bowls while Ginette is involved with the local WI. George and Ginette have a son and a daughter and 4 grandsons, one granddaughter and one great grandson.
October 1953 ~ Troops are called in to operate petrol tankers to replace striking drivers.
SAC Bob Allen arrived at the National MT Section in Fontainebleau with Mac. McDermott in June 1961- they had both arrived from RAF Bicester in Oxfordshire. Bob found a house in Veneux les Sablons a small town near Fontainebleau. He drove the school buses, picking up children (American, Canadian, British) from the surrounding villages. His wife Jean and two boys (Brynley and Leslie) arrived in August 1961 and Jean soon became friendly with their neighbours. One had a 14-year-old daughter who was learning English in school and both mother and daughter helped Jean to learn French. It was not long before the local football team discovered that Bob would like to play in the team. Thus began a two year friendship being integrated into the town’s community. Mac also joined the football team even though he lived in another village. Football was played throughout the year, summer matches being played on a Sunday ~ exciting stuff.
Names that we have remembered from the MT at that time are:- MT Sergeant Ken Tomkins, John Liddell, Ron Bailey, Ray Keel, Willie (a bus escort).
After France Bob returned to RAF Bicester, he then went to Riyan in September 1965 for a year's unaccompanied posting, he returned again to RAF Bicester in September 1966. and was promoted to Corporal in 1967. In December 1967 his mother-in-law died and father-in-law Harry was offered a home with Bob and Jean. Harry was quite happy living with the family, then in March 1968 Bob arrived home to say he was posted to Malaya in June, Harry asked what about me - Bob replied it will cost you £58 pounds to come with us ~ Harry accepted with alacrity.
Arriving in Malaya in June 1968 they left on the penultimate aircraft in October 1971 returning to RAF Bicester where Bob worked for AS&TF. His work there entailed route planning for aircraft that had crashed to take them back to Farnborough. In January 1974 he was promoted to Sergeant and posted to RAF Abingdon. When the Sergeant's post there was abolished in May 1974 Bob went to RAF Waddington where he remained until August 1975. After a spell at RAF Guetersloh in Germany he retired from the RAF in September 1977 and stayed in Germany working for a local firm. Bob, who has recently undergone eye surgery, and Jean now live in Bracebridge Heath, Lincs.
June 1961 ~ In London cigarettes go up a halfpenny to 1/9d for ten
Cpl Bill Powney who was tracked down by John Day, served in the RAF Police at Fontainebleau from October 1952 until Mar 1955, when he left the RAF. Bill did not return to Surrey Constabulary where he had trained as a cadet, but joined the Surrey Fire Brigade. Following initial training at Fire Brigade HQ in Reigate he was given a home posting to Woking. After 27 years service he was medically discharged having sustained neck injuries whilst on duty. Bill married Jean in 1956 and they have 2 children and 3 grandchildren. Among Bill’s leisure pursuits are canal and river boating, walking the footpaths of Britain and cricket. Bill and Jean live in Woking and takes an active part in local societies and associations
October 1952 ~ 112 die in three train pile up at Harrow and Wealdstone station
Sgt Peter Kinsley, RASC (now Logistics Corps) worked in G2(Intelligence) then G1(Administration) in Cour Henri IV as a shorthand writer from August 1953 until April 1955. Peter ran The Element Express paper from Quartier Chataux. He also covered the NATO conferences in Bad Neunar, Germany, and at HQ Fontainebleau under Le Marechal Juin (the last of the French Marshalls!)
On completion of his National Service Peter was a sub-editor on the Daily Mirror. Later he became a crime reporter on the Daily Mail and Daily Express where he wrote the William Hickey column before resigning aged 26 to freelance as a foreign correspondent in the South of France and Rome. During this time he interviewed many famous people including Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Brigitte Bardot in her prime and extraordinary characters portrayed in his four volumes of memoirs. His last book Gunner Strikes Back is a “must read” for the vets and will have special appeal to the soldiers who served at Fontainebleau. Peter is now living in Nunhead, South East London.
August 1953 ~ England win back the Ashes after 20 years
MT Mechanic SAC Tim Hunt arrived at Fontainebleau on New Year’s Day in 1962 from RAF Waterbeach, Cambridge and left in June 1964 working at the Base Engineers, alongside a Belgian Air Force Sergeant, a German Navy Unterbootsman (Submariner) and a Dutch Airman. Their boss was Flt. Sgt Samways of the RAF and the Officer i/c was USAF Major Douglas
Their little team was responsible for the maintenance of the emergency generators at the Commcentre, the Receiver Site at Yuri and the Transmitter Site at Melun. Tim also worked in the Main Camp Emergency Generator Plant near the Commcentre building when the French civilians went on strike ~ quite a regular occurrence.
After leaving AFFCE Tim was posted to RAF White Waltham assigned to a Mobile Glider Servicing Party covering the south of England. During this time he went on a six-month's Fitters Course at RAF St Athan.
In March 1967 he was posted to RAF Steamer Point, Aden and when the British troops retreated in November he went up the Gulf to RAF Sharjah to complete his tour.
In July 1970 Tim completed his RAF service at RAF Brize Norton as a corporal.
Since leaving the RAF Tim worked in the Transport Industry at Maidenhead, Chesham and Aylesbury. In 1984 he joined the Waste Industry as a Fleet Manager and, after 20 years and two take-overs by American and French Companies he took voluntary redundancy.
Married to Linda in 1970 Tim has a son, James, who is in his last year at Glamorgan University studying Drama and Media Studies. Tim and Linda have lived in Thame, Oxfordshire for the past 30 years.
January ~ 1962 The De Havilland Trident jet makes its maiden flight.
SAC Ron Young After 3 years service in the UK was posted to A.A.F.C.E in June 1955 with five others who met in London, one of them being Joyce his future wife. They travelled to Dover in the back of an army lorry due to a rail strike. Ron and Joyce were married at the British Embassy in Paris followed by a church service on Camp Guynemer conducted by Wing Commander Gutteridge and a reception in a room near the cinema. Ron left Fontainebleau in April 1958 for demob. After this Ron did some lorry driving before joining the North Riding Police Force. He had major heart surgery in 1994 and now enjoys holidays in Spain and visiting relatives in Canada. Ron and Joyce are living in North Allerton in Yorkshire.
June 1955 ~ The Seven Year Itch starring Marilyn Monroe premieres in New York.
LACW Joyce Osborne served as a nursing attendant on the British Wing of the French military Hospital in Fontainebleau from June 1955 to May 1956, when she married Ron Young.
After their marriage at the Embassy in Paris, they had a church service and reception on the camp. They then lived at 46 Rue de Bois just round the corner from the hospital. Joyce remembers the following colleagues Sisters Brown and Luce, Doctors K Hudson, Chris ?, Austin ? and other ward colleagues Geoff and Jock, Pat Dutton, Margaret Laidlaw, Sheila Walthamstow and Joyce Holland.
June 1955 ~ 13 die when submarine HMS Sidon sinks in Poole Harbour.
From the Postbag
I understand that the late Flt Sgt Charley Collyer had a relative who was awarded the V.C. It could be Flg. Off. C Barton who was featured in a Newsletter published by the Allied Air Forces Memorial and Air Museum, York.
Cyril Barton was a 22 year pilot who gallantly carried out his mission to bomb Nuremberg on 30 March 1944 despite losing 3 of his crew who had to bail out as the result of severe damage to the aircraft from enemy fighters. He limped back to the UK only to receive “friendly fire” which robbed him of all engine power. Crossing the coast near Sunderland he avoided a densely populated area before crash-landing at Ryhope Colliery. Although the 3 remaining crew members survived the young pilot died. His bravery was recognised by the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.
Dave Bennett (Portishead)
After visiting Niagara Falls we
returned to Toronto and then north to visit friends on Lake Huron where we
hired a car for three weeks to enjoy the sights. After returning to Toronto
we flew to Vancouver and took a train through the Rocky Mountains to Jasper
and then drove to Calgary before flying down to New York. Then it was
Washington DC where Peter enjoyed visiting his old haunts. We then took a
train to Richmond ~ very cheap and on time ~ not like BR. Next stop was
Memphis. We are now in New Orleans which is very different. Next stop is
Florida where our son David will join us for Christmas.
Since the publication of “An Erk’s-Eye
View”, I have received numerous phone calls, letters and e-mails from people
who have read the book. Some of these have contained anecdotes which might
amuse, or be of interest to, members of the Association. A selection will be
submitted to appear in the Newsletter from time to time and the first
follows. Where considered appropriate, names and places will be omitted in
order to protect the innocent. The following is from J of Norwich
However due to the huge size of the camp, which was set in a heavily wooded area, and the distance from the billets to the guardroom/gate, seven days punishment with four trips each day reporting to the guardroom clocked up to be approaching 80 miles marching. Hmmmmm!
You may not be surprised to learn that my Raleigh cycle, secreted at an appropriately central point was used by all ‘n sundry to cycle to a point near the guardroom whereupon the bike would be hidden in the woods. The offender would then march smartly up to the guardroom and report for inspection.
This practice was followed for many months, even after I returned to this country for demobilisation. (By this time, due to its huge mileage the bike was not worth bringing back to the UK!) It was some time after I returned to civvy street that I received a letter from one of my ex colleagues at Wildenrath explaining that some offender had “blown the gaff” by marching up to the guardroom for inspection complete with cycle clips.
Just a short note to let you know that Nan and I thoroughly enjoyed our first Reunion of the Fontainebleau Vets Association. We were a bit apprehensive not knowing quite what to expect, but as the weekend progressed we were soon drawn into the atmosphere. The hotel was good, the staff extremely pleasant and helpful, the price was acceptable and all in all a most enjoyable weekend.
It was good finally meeting up with you and Brian Gibbons and everyone we met made us most welcome, and also making a number of new acquaintances over the course of the weekend. You must be pleased with the way things went and can chalk up another successful Reunion.
All the people on Table No. 9 were all first time attendees at the Fontainebleau Reunion and we got on extremely well together, so much so, that all agreed to meet up again next year, and would not be disappointed if you kept the same seating arrangement, at least as far as we were concerned, for 2005. Once again, many thanks and congratulations on a successful Reunion.
Chas Hardie ( Galashiels, Selkirkshire)
Just a brief note to inform you that
Joe Healey, an ex-AAFCE colleague passed away in June ~ I am sorry it has
taken so long to inform you. Although Joe was not a member of the Association
I believe lots of members would be interested. He was a member of the RAF
Police in Fontainebleau between 1960 and 1962 and is survived by his widow
Irene and son Mark.
I said I would contact you again after my visit to Kendal on the Seniors Outing on the 26th August. The day went very well and the weather kind, for a change. I was met, in Kendal, by Roy Francis, recognised him straight away although he is now eighty years of age, still driving, dancing and walking, looking very fit. I went to his home and met his wife Laura who had prepared a very nice lunch. We had a good chat and talked of the past, Fontainebleau, London, where he was a driver for the Marshal of the RAF Tom Pike and Cyprus where he came as personal driver to Air Chief marshal Sir Thomas Pricket. I stayed on with Sir Thomas for the year after Sir Denis Barnett retired before tourex and going to Coastal Command for my last tour. It all went too soon and then we went on to Windemere for the rest of the bus tour.
The plan was for me to go to stay with them this coming week but after making arrangements he had a letter to say he was to go into hospital for an operation he had been waiting eight months for, so the visit is delayed until after the op and he has recovered.
I said 1 would let you know if I could attend the reunion on the 16 October as soon as I had confirmation of my plans. After a meeting today at the airfield I work at I have discovered 1 will not be free that weekend due to commitments. I am sorry but hope next year, when I have retired from Air Traffic duties I will no doubt be free and can plan ahead. .
My very best wishes to all at the reunion I will look forward to meeting Vets in the future.
Stan Roberts, (Shawbury, Shropshire)
Although all seven of us on Table 9
were Reunion “virgins” we ended the evening swearing eternal friendship,
determined to sit together next year to carry on as if have known each other
all our lives. That must say something about those who were selected for
Fontainebleau and who attended the Reunion. I am looking forward to the 2005
Reunion as not only do I now know a few Vets but who knows who may unearth in
the next 12 months. Thanks again for organising such an enjoyable week-end.
Another very successful weekend. They
get better as we go along - albeit we all get a year older each time. Pam and
I had a great time and this year the hotel room was very comfortable. Colin
Hogg's 'musical interludes' certainly add to the enjoyment of the evening. He
really got us going this year. Hope you can keep his slots next year. It was
nice to see Jennifer Parry there. She was quite brave to come along with her
sister in law to accompany her. She was fortunate in that there were 4 of us
who were at Fontainebleau with her husband, Med. From their comments they
both enjoyed it very much indeed and talked about being there next year.
(After they have honed up their 'backing skills'!) I also enjoyed the Friday
night. It's nice and informal and we seem to get a good crowd. We all
appreciate the work you put in, Danny. It is evidenced by a successful
Congratulations to you and David
Bloomfield for the excellent website. A lot of work, imagination and skill
must have been used. Once more, the Newsletters are first class and a great
credit to you.
Please do not send any more
newsletters. My father (Jim Muir) has alzheimer’s and has lost his grasp on
I was reading your write up about your life so far. I joined the R.A.F. on the 4th February 1952 and went to Bridgenorth. One of my drill instructors was Cpl. Milligan. He was 'bad'. Years later I met him again. He had transferred to my trade and I out ranked him. What a great feeling.
Anyway I left the RAF in 1974 and became a Road Safety Officer. I came to Florida in 1988 and bought a restaurant. Life has been great to me and I have retired to enjoy our sunny State.
Leonard Slade (Florida)
BOYS’ NIGHT OUT
A LIFE REMEMBERED
Thank you for your article on Charley.
He was a true gentleman and admired very much by all who knew him
I first met Flight Sergeant Charles
Collyer on 3July 1951 when he lowered the tailgate of the 3 ton lorry which
had conveyed me and five others from the Gare du Nord station in Paris to
Fontainebleau. The vehicle had stopped on the parade ground at Caserne
Oamesne. He looked a formidable figure resplendent in the uniform of a Royal
Air Force policeman. His boots were shiny enough to see to shave in and the
creases in his trousers sharp enough to serve as a razor.
In 1952 I married and returned to
France with my wife. FS Collyer was responsible for obtaining the "Carte
de Sejourn" (residential permit) which was required for families.
Shortly after he was introduced to my wife and from then on he always greeted
her with a smart salute and "bonjour madame". He found time to
speak to everyone and would always enquire if there were any problems.
Toward the end of my tour in 1955 the furniture in my flat was repossessed by a Captain in the French Foreign Legion who had just retired. It was his furniture and I had no intention of arguing with an ex-Legionnaire. I had to call on Charley for assistance and we spent many evenings seeking alternative furnished accommodation. When this failed Charley arranged for me to hire furniture thereby allowing me to remain in my flat until I departed from Fontainebleau.
It is not easy to find appropriate
words to describe Charley. He was a friend to all, always helpful and
courteous. I remember him as a gentle man and a gentleman. We will not see
his like again.
We have learned of the death of Charles Collyer which claimed him on the 7th September, aged 84. All those who were connected with military matters and, above all, those who lived the glorious days of NATO in our City have certainly not forgotten, especially the elderly, the courageous and humanitarian activities and courage shown by Flight Sergeant Collyer whilst in the RAF and as head of protocol at the Allied Headquarters (AAFCE) where he dealt with all the Generals until, in 1967 , France withdrew from NATO.
Arriving on our shores with the D-Day landings Charles Collyer was posted here in 1950. Very active in helping not only the English, the Americans, Canadians, Belgians but also the French, in finding them apartments or introducing them to local activities, Flight Sergeant Collyer played a huge role, and was irreplaceable as far as the families of NATO were concerned.
Today our fellow citizen Brian Moulding, also British, as was our lost one, mourned a friend who had long been his boss, and had continued to see him in his retirement.
Retiring to Luneville, Charles Collyer wished to make his final home in Fontainebleau. The funeral service was held last Thursday in the hospital chapel, and he was buried in the cemetery.
Fontainebleau Newspaper – (Translation by John Day)
SEVENTH ANNUAL REUNION DINNER (Click here for photographs of the event)
It was another successful weekend at the Warwick Corus Hotel in October with 71 present. A large number of attendees were unable to join us this year due to illness but it was encouraging to see so many members attending their first Reunion.
At the meeting on Saturday afternoon the Income and Expenditure Account was approved. It was agreed that we should endeavour to organise a coach trip to France in Sept 2005. Terry Bryant presented a Dedication that was adopted.
Mike Capon brought a selection of RAF magazines and freebies.
On Saturday we sampled some excellent food followed by musical entertainment from Colin Hogg when the dance floor was crowded. During a short interval the Raffle was held which raised the staggering sum of £420 thanks to the efforts of Claudine Gibbons who sold the tickets.
A selection of photographs is attached as a supplement to this Newsletter
We shall meet again at the Warwick Corus Hotel on Friday and Saturday 14 and 15 October 2005. Full details will be circulated when available. Meanwhile make a note of the date in your diaries.
It is with the deepest regret to report that Pauline Hills passed away on 18 November after a brave fight against her cancer. Not once did she complain and she smiled throughout her illness. She was very supportive of the Association’s activities and many will remember Pauline at our Reunions. Last year she made the effort to join us at Warwick despite the fact that she was very poorly. She will be sadly missed by Les and our thoughts are with him at this difficult time. We shall all miss her. The Association sent a donation to her local hospice.
Brian Gibbons wrote :- Rang Les Hills at Weymouth this morning as we generally keep in touch, but he was too distressed to talk. I knew that his wife Pauline was undergoing treatment for cancer, but was sad to learn that she had died a few days ago. Les promised to contact me in a few days time. Pauline was an engaging cheerful person always pleased to see Claudine & myself when we visited. I understand that Les lost his first wife to an illness.
Our Website is now enhanced by the addition of a Visitors Book. The Members Gallery is desperately short of entries ~ only a dozen or so have provided the information to put on the site. Dave Bloomfield has put in so much effort in developing the site so let us do it justice. If your details are up there visitors may find a long lost friend and colleague. This will help our membership to grow. So put pen to paper and send your particulars to David Rogerson. You may say as much or as little as you wish.
George Millington recently took a short break at Flowerdown House in Weston-Super-Mare. This establishment is operated by the RAFA and RAF Benevolent Fund and offers excellent facilities for respite and convalescence. Full details may be obtained by calling 01934 621664
FIVE DAYS TRIP TO FRANCE - MON 12 – FRI 16 SEPTEMBER 2005
This is a very busy week in Fontainebleau and it has proved impossible to secure accommodation at the Ibis. On reflection this may be a blessing as the hotel is less pleasing than when we were last there in 2000. Other hotels in the area, even the very expensive ones are unable to provide the accommodation we require. Our Tour Operator has therefore looked at options towards Paris at the slightly better equipped Mercure and has come up with the following :-
Mercure hotel Noisy le Grand near Paris.
Cost :- £270 ~ Single supplement: £72. Group Evening meals at £15.00 per person
The price per person is based on a
minimum of 35 full fare paying passengers and includes 4 nights bed and
buffet breakfast accommodation
A deposit of £30 per person will be required by the end of December, with final payment 6 weeks before departure. Travel insurance is required for this holiday and if you do not have your own the Tour Operator’s scheme can provide cover at a premium of £18 per person.
The Mercure relais hotels are, as the French would say, 'simplicity' and more akin to the Ibis whereas the Mercure has a bit more service and is generally considered up-market. The location is also a factor; the relais are built for the traveller and sited close to the motorways usually on industrial sites.
The pick up points in England will be: London Waterloo, Sevenoaks and Dover.
For those wishing to stay at Sevenoaks
on Sunday night 11 September there is a Travel Inn
If you wish to join the party please complete and return the blue form attached to this Newsletter as soon as possible.
Although the itinerary is not finalized we hope to visit Yvres where there is a memorial to the crew of the Lancaster bomber that crashed near the village. Visits to Camp Guynemer and Le Quartier Chataux will be arranged. The highlight will be the parade at the Arc de Triomphe.
You have read on previous pages about “Gunner.” It would be appropriate to place a plaque on his grave on Camp Guynemer with a suitable inscription. Subject to the Commander’s consent this could be laid when we visit the Camp next September.