Editorial (Newsletter No. 33) April 2005

We are mourning the loss of Claudine Gibbons who received her Home call on 21st February 2005 while in a Spanish hospital. Her happy smile and outgoing personality in the face of adversity will be remembered by all who came into contact her. Our thoughts and prayers are with Brian and his family at this sad time. The Association was well represented at Claudine’s funeral and a floral tribute was sent on behalf of the Veterans Association. Her obituary will be uploaded once the Webmaster finds it.


At the time of going to press 63 persons have booked their place for this function at the Warwick Corus on Saturday 15 October. The hotel has put 38 rooms at our disposal for the Saturday night and 18 for the Friday night. If you wish to attend please book early to avoid disappointment. Full details and a booking form are annexed to this Newsletter.


This had to be cancelled because of the lack of sufficient support probably due to the fact we could not secure suitable hotel accommodation in Fontainebleau. Alternative truncated trip options were considered but no viable alternative was found. A few members are keen to attend the Parade at the Arc on 15 September and are making their own arrangements for travel and hotel accommodation. If you are one of these please let the editor know so that your name is included on the list via the Paris branch of RAFA.


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National Serviceman SAC Trevor Elson served as one of three batmen to Air Chief Marshall Sir George Mills from December 1957 to July 1959 at his residence (Gatehouse) at Rue St Honore, on duty from 7.30 am to 9.00pm. It was a highly responsible job for which Trevor was closely vetted, including a visit to his employer in civvy street at the time! Although it was hard work it was enjoyable, having the opportunity to serve many V.I.P's who came on official visits.

On his demob Trevor returned to his trade in the printing industry. Later he started lecturing in Screen Printing for the local Education Authority. Married to Margaret they have two sons and live in Sale. When the Commonwealth Games came to Manchester in 2002, Trevor volunteered as a VIP Driver and enjoyed driving many of the dignitaries and celebrities around Manchester and district.

December 1957 ~ The first NATO heads of government meeting opens in Paris

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Cpl Alan Mackay arrived in Fontainebleau in November 1965 as a Telegraphist allocated to the US Army Depot in the Chateau de la Boisiere. In March 1967 Alan moved with the Unit to HQ AFCENT Brunssum when the NATO bases left France. His next posting was to Haydock. After service in Shetland Islands, RAF Stanbridge (twice), RAF Gan (Maldives), Instructor duties with R Aux Air Force Edinburgh, RAF Shawbury, 11 Signals Unit Germany, 840 SU Lindholme, 6 SU Rudloe Manor, RAF Gibraltar, Falkland Islands and finally RAF Henlow. Alan left the RAF having completed over 35 years service.

Whilst at Fontainebleau Alan took up football refereeing (instructed by Group Capt Harry King, a real gentleman), and continued this interest for 23 years refereeing over 900 games with some very memorable matches including several top inter-service games and RAF Germany v Borrusia Moenchengladbach when Borrusia were in their prime as a top European team in 1979.

On leaving the RAF Alan took up employment with Mercury Communications in the quality assurance field and met dozens of like-minded ex service communicators. When Cable and Wireless sold Mercury to Siemens Communications Alan continued this employment until full retirement in June 2000. Along with his wife Olga he is extremely active at bowls (indoor and outdoor) and secretary of 2 clubs and is also an active member of the RAF Boy Entrants Association who meet annually for a re-union dinner and service of remembrance. Alan and Olga who live in Wellingborough still enjoy travelling ~ not surprising after all those years in the RAF.

December 1967 ~ Roy Jenkins becomes Home Secretary and Barbara Castle Minister of Transport

Sgt Jess Weir, a Royal Signals Telegraphist arrived at SHAPE’s Commcentre in March 1951 and left in July 1953. Jess, a widower, who now lives in Poole spent 40 years in the Army. More details on Jess including his interests and life after his Army career will appear in the next issue.

March 1951 ~ Montgomery is appointed Eisenhower’s deputy at SHAPE


There follows an extract from the Southwest Rancher sent in by Richard Christensen one of our USAF Veterans in Florida.


At the moment, life seems to be a kaleidoscope of mirrored images and thoughts. Hurricane Frances has come and gone, but she certainly left a lot of debris behind. Thankfully, Ivan bypassed us. Even September 11th has passed without incident. Living on hurricane alley means we must be prepared to weather a crisis at a moment's notice. If people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, then towns that reside in trailers must learn to pack quickly.

I saw Town staff packing furiously to evacuate the Town Hall Trailer. I saw neighbors helping neighbors to board up their houses. I saw our volunteer fire fighters representing the Town in the Emergency Operations Center, moving the Town Hall equipment to an evacuation storage facility, setting up large animal hurricane quarters in the Town parks, and clearing the streets of fallen trees after the storm left.

Taken together, these very real images from the past few weeks create a picture of a united and caring community. So, I would like to personally thank all of my neighbors who appeared in my yard and helped put up my storm shutters. My neighbor, George, who stepped on his glasses as he helped me catch my turkeys so that I could put them into a cage to protect them during, the storm, gets an apology as well as a thank you and an IOU for a new pair of glasses. Each and every member of the Southwest Ranches Volunteer Fire & Rescue gets a thank you and an "atta boy' for a job well done as does each member of the Town staff.

On behalf of the Officers and myself, I want to thank everyone that was able to come out and help with the removal of the awnings over our vehicles, removing equipment from the Station and moving three of our vehicles away from the Station.

Then came the call from our Town Manager. "Please send a crew to the Town Hall to help with the removal of all of our computers, printers and documents and take them to a storage facility near by."

After the hurricane passed, Lt. Tom Mroz had put out a notice that we would meet at our station on Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. to start our grid search and removal of any trees in the roadway. With Lt. Allan Silverman at the E.O.C. Headquarters representing our Fire Department and the Town of Southwest Ranches, we kept in touch and were the eyes and ears of the community, reporting back to him on power outages, wires down and trees blocking roadways that we were able to cut up and remove with our chain saws.

Again, thanks for all the help from those that were able.
Chief R. Christensen Sr.
Fire Chief Southwest Ranches Vol. Fire-Rescue

The Town of Southwest Ranches joins Chief Christensen in thanking all the volunteer firefighters who assisted with pre and post storm activities. Your unwavering dedication to the Town and the Residents is greatly appreciated. The following is a list of the volunteer personal who gave of themselves so thanklessly.

We cannot say thank you enough for all the work you do.


Didn’t 2004 rocket past ~ or maybe it just seemed like it at Clairinsh, because there were spells of frantic activity and then we went on to autopilot in the quiet times. Most of the frantic activity has been calling the repairman -we've obviously reached the stage, after 13 years here, that every damned appliance we bought has reached the end of its active life -the washing machine was going to cost too much to repair so we had to buy a new one, the dishwasher refused to play and is currently in the "too hard" basket, the ride on mowers ought to be on elastic bands because they boinggg back and forward to the repairers so regularly, now Christine’s car electric window has jammed -open, of course, and stripping the door panel I find they assembled the car round that window and you can't get at anything.

Not helped by us having what has been officially pronounced the warmest winter and the driest 10 months since records were kept -the Jan/Feb Wet was a non-event, and only in the last month have we had any respectable rain, though the dam is still bone dry and all the peoples water bores round about are just trickling. In fact as I write this today (Tuesday 7/12) it has been pouring down in a sudden storm, so we can but hope it augurs well for this Wet season. It has come too late for many of our plantings, especially for the fruit trees, which look very sad and will not produce this year, as we couldn't irrigate.

Christine has been completely immersed in her various conservation activities, and is currently hard at work on a booklet (sponsored by the Shire Council and National Heritage for printing and distribution) to be given to "incomers", on native plants for garden planting -the sponsorship doesn't cover her time, the use of our computers, travel, petrol, etc., I might add. Luckily we upgraded to a second {Windows XP) computer to augment our "98" one so we can both work at our respective stuff -I'm still Secretary of U3A CapCoast and doing their Newsletter as well, as well as battling the rampant weeds which are now emerging after the rain and "maintenance" of our piece of land, so we're kept fairly busy.

I decided to cash in on our health insurance by having a dicky ticker episode in July, which entailed an ambulance to Rocky, stabilized in the public hospital and then a Royal Flying Doctor flight to Brisbane -would you believe that the city of Rockhampton and its catchment area of about 200,000 people as far west as Emerald doesn't have a cardiac surgeon? Spent four days in the Wesley Private hospital in Brisbane which was -ah interesting. First day I had a morphine jab, discovered I have an acute allergic reaction to morphine (there goes a career as a drug addict) which caused some flurry of activity. Next day angioplasty and stent inserted, no problem. Third day a massive femoral bleed which entailed a large lady doctor putting her whole weight on her fists in my groin for twenty minutes -and we hadn't even been introduced, (ended up with the 3rd best bruising they'd had -all came to inspect it- from navel to knee -I did remark to the surgeon that if I'd belonged to a London gentlemen’s club, I'd have been blackballed literally. ..Went right over his head). Fourth day was uneventful. ..how boring. Christine had flown down by Qantas, and we returned home on the fifth day, to receive all the bills which were promptly passed to the health fund -about £7,000 sterling (plus $55 for a pretty bracelet which says "No morphine" in the event of future accidents!) Incidentally, you get presented with pretty pictures of the "before and after" heart to keep. Since when I had a colonoscopy last week (stupidly told my GP my Dad had a colostomy and he snapped on the rubber gloves before I could regret it) which was clear as a bell, but again given pretty pictures! I think I'll root out some old X rays, make a nice collage of the lot and submit it to the Tate Modern Gallery or for the Australian Archibald Prize.

Again this year we are not travelling down to Brisbane for the Indulgence Season. Most of the people in the street are going away, leaving the place deserted so we have been appointed official plant waterers, animal feeders, post box emptiers, bush fire fighters and neighbourhood watch! Probably fly down in March when it cools off down there (can be even hotter than here, being inland). Because this Christmas will be the first for Diane without her husband Jim, who died last January, we had intended to go down, but at least she has her family around her for the usual hectic round of visiting. Our son Alasdair and family are proposing to be out here in September '05, and I may have an ex RAF colleague visiting as well, not to mention the Brisbane rellies popping up, so Clairinsh will get at least three good spring cleans. ...

Rain has now stopped, blue sky everywhere and the place is steaming well We've had temperatures in the high 30C's already and summer's just started, I think we're now getting to an age where we do the Spanish Siesta bit during the heat of the day, or give up and use the air-conditioners -though with them it's just such an effort to go out of the cool even late on in the afternoon. The other solution is to fall into the pool a lot, get out dripping wet and let evaporation cool one off, but it doesn't last long! However, with the new growth of grass our wallabies have returned, not in the numbers of the past, and very twitchy -probably because the dingoes are howling in the hills nearby most nights as if they were auditioning for a Transylvanian horror movie.

We still keep in touch with UK happenings through the weekly editions of UK newspapers and the Web, none of which make Britain attractive enough to want to give up our Capricorn lifestyle to return! I doubt I could take a cattle class air journey now, though I suppose if Christine’s Gold Lotto came up and we could travel business or first it wouldn't be so bad for a holiday, but chances of a winning ticket are a bit remote! As the rest of the world is obviously going barking raving mad it's particularly nice to be in a little remote corner of it, though. As far as I know we haven't even got a mosque in Rocky, though the (self appointed) Chief Mullah of Australia is almost as rabid as some of the British imams. Anyway, if we came back to Britain, how would my GP keep up the payments on his BMW? Akshully, with my polycarbon hernia repair, titanium stent, teeth by Airfix, eyesight courtesy of optometrists specs, I was just commenting that when I eventually snuff it, never mind the funeral director, just wheel me along to the local recycling plant.

Enough prattling on -by the way, no "home made" Christmas Card this year, I think they gave me a sense of humour by-pass when I was in the Wesley, because the Muse has deserted me, and unlike Christine, I can't get my printing costs covered by the Councillor Government! Have a wonderful Christmas, and may 2005 be a bumper year for all of us, look after yourselves.

Ronald (Jock) Fraser, Queensland, Australia


I arrived in Fontainebleau in July 1957. At first it was a bad memory when I was put in a room with an airman who was a nice chap but the smell from his feet was unbelievable. The next day I had a word with Charley Collyer and was promptly relocated to another room. Almost right away I got to know Gunner and we became very good friends. Then in December 1958 I married Francoise a French girl from Paris and her mother rented a big house for us in Baisle Rai. When Gunner saw me get into my car he wanted to come home with me. I would not let him sleep in the bedroom so he slept in the armchair. I don’t think Gunner was very happy as he tore the chair up during the night and we had a new loose cover made to cover the damage.”

John Hookway ~ Plymouth


It is good to read of the new members in the latest Newsletter. I do know Bob Allen as I used to play football in the MT Section team and also in the International XI. I hope that he will be able to attend the next Reunion. Linda and I really enjoyed ourselves last October and look forward to the next one.

Tim Hunt, Thame, Oxon


I am the current Station historian here at RAF Northolt. I have just received an enquiry regarding a Flt Lt S D Cassell, who is listed as being with the RAF Support Unit at AAFCE, Fontainebleau, France, with a c/o given for RAF Northolt. I assume this reflects Northolt's transport and communications role, which leads me to think that shuttle flights were staged through Northolt across to France (Paris?). I was wondering whether you might know of this officer, or if you could provide any information at all about the RAF Support Unit and the AAFCE.
Many thanks in advance.

Mark Bristow ~ Sgt No 1 AIDU RAF Northolt

If anyone can help please get in touch with the editor


Thought you'd be interested to know I've found my work permit from Fontainebleau and a photo of Bob and I with French friends. We had a friend with her 4 children over from Nottingham yesterday, the eldest boy is 15 and football mad. During the visit he asked what the nameplate on a footballer statue meant and the licence in front, when I told him that Bob had played for Veneux les Sablons and he had to have a licence to play, also that they won the Paris Cup, I think he looked at Bob with a lot more respect maybe realising that he was not always old.

Nothing new to report, I keep looking on the website.

Jean Allen ~ Lincoln


Many thanks. It was great to see the little fella (Gunner) again !! I am sure he will be famous some day. There are enough dog lovers in the world to appreciate this little genius. .

Peter Kinsley ~ London


In the last news letter (which I have inadvertently deleted without printing it off!) you mentioned that Arthur Mooney from Scotland had informed you that JOE HEALEY had died leaving his widow Eileen and son Mark. I was with Joe in Fontainebleau and spent many happy hours in his company as did Keith Adams. He was another great footballer and I have some photos of him. Could you forward my name and address to Eileen through Arthur with my sincere condolences to her. Perhaps you could mention to Arthur that I recall that he and Joe were great friends our in Fontainebleau days although he wasn't a snowdrop -I remember him well. I am very sad that Joe has crossed over without joining our splendid Association. Maybe Eileen would like to come to our Reunion in October.

Colin Hogg ~ Warwick


You will see from the Income & Expenditure Account further on that there is good stock of merchandise the sale of which enhances the Associations funds. A few books written by Peter Kinsley were purchased. One “Gunner Strikes Back” is an amusing tale of the soldiers of ALFCE stationed at Quartier Chataux in 1953 - 1955 as seen through the eyes of “Gunner” the dog they adopted.

“The Valley of the Butterflies” is the author’s memoirs of his time in South West France in the early 1950s. Excellent bedtime reading these books are priced at £8.00 each ~ well below the retail selling price.

A complete set of Newsletters, including all the picture supplements is available priced £3.00.

A LIFE REMEMBERED Claudine Emma Claire Gibbons Aug 38 ~ Feb 05

Claudine was taken from us quite suddenly, after an illness, whilst on holiday in Spain with Brian, her husband.

I did not know Claudine during my Fontainebleau days. I met her during my first holiday in France with 'The Vets'. Since then I've been back to France and attended the Reunions at both Leamington Spa and Warwick in the company of Claudine and Brian. Although she had difficulty with her mobility she was always active. Sometimes, she would need a little extra help to surmount an obstacle and there were always willing hands. Nothing deterred her from putting a lot in and getting the most out of the holidays, visits and reunion activities.

Claudine was in her element at our Reunions and all of us who have enjoyed these convivial weekends will have memories of her. Many of those memories will revolve around the sale of raffle tickets. Who, especially the gentlemen, could resist her Gallic charms and not buy a bunch of tickets. That saucy smile and lovely French accent were totally irresistible. The ladies supported these money extraction activities - they know how gullible we are!

One of my personal delights was telling friends and acquaintances that during the weekend I had had a 'French Bird' sitting on my knee. Others shared my pleasure, I know. Claudine's untiring fundraising helped to finance the Association.

My wife Pam and I, together with a significant contingent from the Fontainebleau Veterans Association, were amongst a large congregation at her funeral service in Poole on 15 Mar 2005. The Eulogy was given by Brian her brother-in-law. Many members of her family from France were also with us. One of her sisters spoke about her in French and the Priest said some words in French after his address.

We shall all miss Claudine's mischievous charm, warmth and congeniality. Some like me, I suspect, perhaps a little more than others. Adieu, Claudine.

Keith Adams ~ Stevenage

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Claudine through Mike Capon and Dave Bennett. A tragic loss to all of us and to Brian of course. Claudine was a lovely person and an inspiration to everyone. She will be remembered always

Max Avey ~ Trowbridge

Please extend my very sincere regrets to Brian on the death of Claudine. As you know, my youngest much loved son died a few months ago and I do know the pain and suffering Brian is going through at this terrible time. Thank you for sending flowers from the Association.

Jennifer Parry ~ Wrexham

Her smile outshone the brightest moon
Like a heavenly chorus her laughter filled the air
Her pretty face radiant with untold joy
Were taken away from us- too soon

All eyes would be on her as she floated into a room
Her sylph like frame the envy of some ladies
She flirted with admirers but was only acting
Why was she taken away from us - so soon

The joy she brought to others just by being Claudine
The way she said your name with
The accent which gave it a little intrigue
We ache because she was taken from us-now unseen

She is at peace and can now rest
With those who have gone before
To the place where all such souls should go
When here on earth they have done their best.

Terry Bryant ~ Warminster

I must add my own tribute to a lovely lady. In spite of her disability Claudine never complained and always had a smile on her face. She made a valuable contribution to the Association of which she was so proud to be a member. Whenever asked to help, she did so willingly and threw herself into the task. Claudine will be sadly missed especially at our Annual Reunion Dinners. She will be remembered.

David Rogerson ~ Southampton


NATO Power Lacking

Speaking at Fontainebleau on December 7th, General Norstad, American Commander-in-Chief, Allied Air Forces, Central Europe, said that air power available at the present time was "far short of the military requirements." The General went on: "I believe, however, that the forces we now have in process of organization and equipment represent a significant factor in the overall balance. We are reaching about this time a level where in the sad event of war we could take a toll and exact a price. We cannot, of course, achieve our full military mission by any means. But I think we have become at least a small deterrent factor."

Flight and Aircraft Engineer ~ 16 Jan 1953


A selection of Mike Capon’s pictures from 1958 can be viewed in the 'Photo Gallery' (click here) – Will be re-available in 2016!


The following shows that the Association’s funds are in a healthy state. Once again it is not necessary to make a call on the membership for subscriptions.

Income and Expenditure Account ~ 6 months to 31 March 2005

Cash Balance at 30 Sep 04 £334.45

Subscriptions £72.10
Reunion Wine £315.00
Reunion Raffle £420.00
Merchandise Sales £166.00

Total Income £973.10

Postage & Telephone £73.56
Printing Stationery & Copying £16.23
Donations £38.00
Merchandise £277.00
Other £323.40

Total Expenditure (£728.19)

Cash Balance at 30 Sep 2004 £579.36

Merchandise in stock at cost
3 Ties £18.06
19 Blazer Badges £172.33
23 Table Mats£69.92
54 Coasters £78.08
19 Mouse mats £88.16
Kinsley books £62.00

Total value of stock at cost £488.55

Balance ~ cash & stock £1067.91


We meet again this year for our Annual Reunion and Dinner at the Corus Hotel, Warwick on Saturday 15 October. So far 63 have booked their places for the Dinner.

The price for Dinner Bed and Breakfast is £57 per person per night. There is no single supplement for those attending on their own. Whilst the price has increased this year the hotel offers excellent value for money. A deposit of £10 per person is required with your booking. To avoid confusion ALL bookings must be made through D M Rogerson to whom your deposit should be payable. Deposits will be deducted from your account when you check out of the hotel.

As previously dress is lounge suit or smart casual to reflect the informal atmosphere. After dinner Colin Hogg will provide musical entertainment either side of the raffle for which we need prizes to be donated.

In the past many of you have decided to make a week-end of it by arriving on the Friday thus giving an opportunity for recollections with old friends.

The Corus have reserved 21 rooms for the Friday night and 38 for Saturday. You are therefore advised to book early to avoid disappointment.

During the summer the menu will be circulated from which you can make your selections.

If anyone is visiting France with a car and is able to bring back some wine for the Dinner please let me know and funds will be made available for the purchase. I have agreed a £2.50 per bottle corkage charge with the Corus.

9 April 2005

AND FINALLY. . . . .

Ex servicemen continue to visit our Website and some make contact with a view to finding out more about our activities. We would like to see more members sign up to have their potted histories included in the Members Gallery ~ so get writing and send your copy to the editor. The Newsletters will continue to appear on the site and maybe time will permit to include some more photos from our Fontainebleau days. Thanks are due to Dave Bloomfield our webmaster.