The bookings for the Annual Reunion are disappointing. This is disappointing probably to an aging membership. I urge you to reflect to see if you could support this function. The Angel Hotel in Leamington Spa offers a comfortable, relaxed and informal weekend. The manager and his staff are attentive and always helpful.
Yet more veterans join our Happy Band. Does anyone remember Malcolm?
We give a warm welcome to SAC Malcolm Lumb who was one of the earliest to arrive at Fontainebleau. After 1 years’ service in the UK his posting to Fontainebleau in October 1951 came through. Malcolm, a Telegraph Mechanic, worked in the Comm. Centre. As a skilled tradesman he had many problems and breakdowns to resolve in those early days. In his autobiography there is an account of his time in France. An extract is included in this Newsletter. His story will be continued in future editions. He returned to the UK for demob in September 1953. He then took up a position with Cable & Wireless Overseas and Marine Division. Now retired he lives in Potters Bar with his wife Megan. Apart from gardening Malcolm and Megan were active officials of the Herts County Schools Badminton Tournaments when their daughter, Ceri, was playing. He has also enjoyed many holidays in Wilderswil in Switzerland which is now almost a home from home.
FROM THE POSTBOX
I have recently received information from a good friend who is with NATO in Brussels, who offered to put on an exhibition in Fontainebleau featuring the move from Fontainebleau to Brussels. This was turned down by the Fontainebleau Marie. This ties in with the total lack of interest shown by the Marie when we contacted them in an attempt to find out what was going on at Camp Guynemer. The silence was deafening and we never did receive any sort of reply either from the Marie, the architects or the builders. I have come to the conclusion that they do not want to hear or see the word NATO and could almost be in denial that we were ever there!
Michael Capon, Tonbridge
Does anyone remember a boxing tournament between RAF GERMANY AND RAF FONTAINEBLEAU against the German Air Force at Fontainebleau in 1962-63? What a tournament it was we were all square before the final bout, when this 6ft plus German entered the ring followed a 5ft nothing RAF lad called Dusty Miller. We thought it was all over but half way through the second round the German turned to his supporters, hands raised high as if he had already won the contest with ease. When Dusty Miller saw this he came in with one solid uppercut that bounced the German onto the canvas where he stayed thus we won the tournament.
Jim Howes, Bourne, Lincs.
I read Newsletter 63 with interest especially the article about Gunner our mascot. Yes, I say “our” because I was a room-mate of Peter Kinsley and a fellow conspirator at keeping him safe from the Corporal Major. In the book, presumably to avoid legal problems, he spelled my name in the Scottish form (Wallace). It is quite amazing how Gunner was able to spend so much time in the barracks without meeting a more terminal fate at the hands of the Corporal Major.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep up with comrades since leaving the Army. Soon after, I signed a contract to work for an American concern in La Paz, Bolivia. Then, after a few months in the UK, I emigrated to Canada where I have lived ever since My only military "thing" now is an annual attendance at the ANZAC service here in Ottawa My wife is a Kiwi and we have been active in the ex-pat Kiwi community of both Montréal and Ottawa since 1980.
I wonder if there are any other members of our organization who might now reside in Ottawa or Montréal.
Charles Wallis (1953/1956) Ontario, Canada
You asked me how I was able to gain entry to camp Guynemer; I went straight to the camp and showed my National ID card and some photographs of myself in uniform in traffic control at the gate. I did not contact them before with the question if I could have a room in the old barracks. A nice and English speaking girl at the reception told me that there are no more old barracks. Then I asked about spending two nights in the new quarters, and to my surprise she said: "yes that is possible for €55 per night".
I got the feeling that the camp is now a Sports Facility. I met a military and civilian delegation from Germany and some young French girls riding horses. There were residents from the village in the pool.
I slept there at the same place of the old barracks with air conditioning, shower and toilet in the room. I ate there; good food, kind of Ikea cafeteria. And I've swum there in the Olympic size swimming pool, but with a rubber swim cap mandatory. I sent a CD with my new pictures to David Rogerson. I have some pictures of 1965 which I will send to you. Hope you know a little bit more about my motor trip which I found fantastic.
Jan Jong, Verstuurd, Netherlands
I would like to thank the many members for their kind messages (not forgetting their Christmas cards). Fortunately, my health has not deteriorated over the past year. The removal of twenty-odd lymph nodes from my neck appears to have checked the skin cancer advancing any further down my body. There have been a few side effects. During the operation, the nerve to my lower lip was cut. Now I have a lop-sided look, an occasional lisp and no whistle, so I won't be wolf-whistling any young girls! Still, on the whole, I'm in a reasonable state as I approach my 85th birthday. Best wishes to everyone.
My thoughts on the closure of Camp Guynemer - Did I think it would ever close – well no! I have been told that the reason it was demolished was because the buildings were old but I do not buy into this. If you go up the road to Caserne Lariboisière, which has recently been refurbished and houses the Gendarmerie motor cycling school, this was built in 1842. I cannot, therefore, think that with the spending of a bit of money, Camp Guynemer could not have been likewise refurbished. When you hear the words, “P.F.I. contracts”, and knowing how it works in U.K. with half the land ending up for other purposes, with the French Army enlisting Barclays International to finance the demolishing and rebuilding of the new complex, what do you expect?
Michael Capon, Tonbridge
Sorry for taking so long to reply. My health has not been too good and I rather got behind replying to my e-mails. I am pleased to say I am on the mend now and catching up with my e-mails. I have just read Newsletter No. 63, sounds as if you had a good reunion.
Please convey our kind thoughts to Ted Caton and his wife Ann we both hope Ted’s health has improved since the last Newsletter was published. I would also like to congratulate Ron Pole on being presented with the “Legion of Honour Medal” for services to France.
I passed on the information reference the “Atlanta” car to Mark Embry, to date I have not heard from him. I see your request was also sent to him? I recently received a letter from the wife of Cliff (Nobby) Clark, poor old Cliff is in a bad way he cannot walk very well and for most of the time is confined to his arm chair, what makes it worse for him, is that he cannot use his fingers to write or use his computer, so if any of our Vets who can remember Cliff could give him a telephone call I am sure it would be greatly appreciated.
Les and Bernadette Hills, Western Australia
Following a fall in the street at Christmas 2015 in which and Ann and I were both injured, I was diagnosed as having Parkinson's Disease and told that I might have had the disease for several years. Despite medication and exercises prescribed by the hospital, the worst symptom (loss of balance and consequent problems with walking) I have slowly worsened and can no longer cycle or drive so taxis are the main means of transport. Sleepiness is the other main symptom but I do not worry too much about this! I have also been told that I am anaemic; investigations into this have revealed a number of ulcers so more medication.
Ted Caton, Chelmsford.
Ted has been a mainstay of the Association having contributed articles for our Newsletters. He was a regular at our Reunions with his wife, Ann, until last year when he found travelling too difficult to bear. - Editor
Thanks for your hard work - although I suspect you enjoy it. I know what newsletters are like - I did one for Herts Junior Badminton for about 16 years and, although it was hard work on occasion getting information - and persuading some of the players to write about tournaments - it was nice to see the finished product. Everyone seemed to enjoy reading it - the children as well as their parents and as a copy went to the English Schools Badminton Association (which was part of Badminton England) it used to go Nationwide and I’d get comments from all over the place. Very interesting.
Megan Lumb, Potters Bar
JAN JONG’s PICTURES OF THE TOWN FROM A RECENT VISIT TO FONTANEBLEAU
TWENTIETH ANNUAL REUNION
Our gathering for the Reunion is the highlight of our calendar. We return to the Angel Hotel in Leamington Spa on 11 October. The facilities at the hotel are excellent and we have always been welcomed by the manager and his friendly staff.
ANNUAL VISIT TO YEVRES
This year our visit for the Memorial Service will be on 1 October. Michael Capon is organising the trip again this year if you would like to join the party please contact Michael Capon - Tel no 01732 505864 or e-mail capon email@example.com
MPH CLUB – ARTICLE FIRST PUBLISHED in AIRCENT REVIEW
The club was originally formed as the fruits of an afternoon outing by Messrs. Evans, Shaw and Reynolds in their respective vehicles one weekend in February 1959.They enjoyed themselves. The following week, with the assistance of other car-owners and their hangers-on, a rally was arranged by Ken Shaw and myself under the singularly inappropriate title of “Operation Roadmaster”. 12 cars set out, and to our intense surprise, 12 returned, having apparently had great fun. We thought “Good Lord” and proceeded to add insult to injury by arranging another one – in view of the fact that Johnny Britton won “Roadmaster” we called the next one “Operation Macchiavelli” – and spelt it, too
In “Macchiavelli, we became more ambitious and featured a stop and start on a very steep hill in Boigneville. The now departed back to the USA Brother Burkhardt (USAF) livened this one up by careering backwards with his large Willys Jeep and nearly removed the need for a church symbol from Michelin Map No 6.
The winner was PO Smith (RN) who putt putted around on a 125cc BSA Bantam bike in natty nautical style behind windscreen and leg shields in grey flannels and blazer while the other motorcyclists’ looked like they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, and proved that Sprites and Spridgets, etc., are no answer to slow steady and faultless. This rally also produced the first MPH Bulletin – a small column in the Aircent Revue, which attracted much favourable comment.
NATO’s THIRD ANNUAL REPORT by JENS SOLTENBERG, SECRETARY GERNERAL
The report provides an overview of how NATO protected its citizens and projected stability in 2016. It includes details on how NATO is enhancing deterrence and defence, engaging in dialogue, investing in security, improving capabilities, supporting the fight against terrorism, building relationships, sharing expertise, advancing the role of women in peace and security, and adapting as an institution
The full report is available online.obtained by Michael Capon
LOST IN FRANCE by BRIAN GIBBONS
On a recent visit to my late wife’s family in Fontainebleau I stopped for an impromptu lunch at a bar-restaurant in the Place d’Etape. Somewhere I had often frequented all those years ago. Following my two years posting with the Royal Air Force at Camp Guynemer, I spent a further three years as a civilian working for the US Army at Caserne Lariboisiere, enjoying such long lunch breaks would often eat in town.
Sipping my aperitif and glancing across the road I thought about how all the surroundings had changed. Of course, many of the shop fronts were different, but not the buildings themselves. Tucked away in a corner stands a relatively small bar and I was immediately reminded of an amusing incident that happened there just a couple of days after my arrival……………
Many of us, I am sure can recall the oddball plumbing and quaint toilets in France, and there at Chez Pierre’s, as it was then called, I had my first encounter! Shortly after ordering my first beer in France and so proud that my schoolboy French had been understood, I slipped in to the rather dingy toilet.
To my horror when I pulled the chain the complete system came away from the wall splitting the water inlet pipe from the tank and ball-cock. In an instant the cubicle was transformed into a shower room! What on earth was I to do? Sheer panic was quickly replaced and thanks to my street-wise London East End upbringing, I managed to smile and squeak a hasty “Au Revoir”, leaving my half-empty glass on the zinc counter as I dashed out into the sunlight………..Never to return !
Another dark and grotty toilet actually came to my rescue a few months later but this time in Paris at a club in Pigalle to be exact. I can’t quite remember as to why Terry Vine and I were there, we had probably been visiting churches or visiting educational museums or the like and got lost. On my return to the bar, having been chatting to a charming young lady upstairs, I ordered a round of drinks.
Whilst in the toilet I checked my wallet and found that all it contained was my F1250 and a rail ticket. Quite a surprise really as I had just swapped a couple of cartons of cigarettes (surplus to requirement cigarettes you understand) for an innocent few francs. The squaddies nightmare……………I had been “rolled” and couldn’t pay the bar bill! I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my brow as panic set in. Somehow I sensed a draught and looking round I saw an old ill-fitting door with three large rusting bolts. In a flash of inspiration I drew the bolts, gently pulled the door open and could feel the cold night air envelope me. I was in a courtyard and could see traffic passing close-by. It was a long walk to the Gare de Lyon. “What happened to you last night?” But I was too embarrassed to answer truthfully. “Somehow I must have got lost”
MY TIME IN THE RAF by MALCOLM LUMB an extract from MALCOLM’S AUTOBIOGAPHY
I got my National Service call-up papers in 1950 and, after a change of glasses, was accepted for the RAF. After training at Padgate I moved on to Compton Bassett for technical training. From there I moved to Chigwell - an overflow site for Henlow. On 27th June we moved to RAF Henlow just north of Hitchin. This is a pre-war permanent camp with brick barrack blocks and was a very big maintenance unit. As such it was much regimented and we had to march to and from work which was in a building on the edge of the airfield.
While at Henlow and Chigwell I used the free theatre ticket facility that was offered for HM Forces and managed to see a number of shows at London theatres. A number of us had applied for overseas service and I put down for Germany and/or the Far East.
At that time there was a single track railway between Hitchin and Bedford with a stop at Henlow. This was useful as I could get the midnight train from Leeds, change at Bedford and have a snooze in the Hitchin train which was in the platform until it left at about 6am so that I got back to camp by 7a.m.
On one of these trips I met up with a corporal who worked in the admin office at Henlow and he said I was lucky to be going to Fontainebleau. I wasn't officially told for a couple of weeks but I had to have several security clearance interviews. Then on 15th October I was on my way. First I reported to the Rail Travel Office at RAF West Drayton for a couple of days, then on 18th from Victoria Station to Dover for the ferry to Calais and train to Paris where the group of us in transit were met and taken to Gare de Lyon for the train to Fontainebleau where we arrived at 2010 hrs.
The British contingent was housed in part of an old French barracks (Caserne Damesne) which was probably new in Napoleon's time. The loos were holes in the floor and we were 10 to a room on old iron beds. The communications room was in the part of Fontainebleau Palace called Cour Henri IV. The Germans had obviously used it before us as you could see a swastika under the paint on the wall.
We were part of the Western Union forces with Americans, British, French and Belgians and had equipment from each country in the room working circuits to our separate national headquarters. We had one line through to Stanmore and one to High Wycombe.
Fontainebleau was still recovering from the war and the local bridge over the Seine was still a temporary Bailey Bridge. We used to go there to hire rowing boats on occasion. There was a creaky old tram which ran from the station to the centre of town. This led to the story of one RAF guy who got drunk and was found lying between the rails convinced that he was lying on his old iron bedstead.
We were allowed civilian clothes when off duty which helped to avoid any problems with the locals who, having got rid of the Germans, didn't want more occupying troops.
In November 1951 there was an exercise (exercise Caravan) and a large USAF convoy came down from Landsberg in Germany and set up camp in the forest. I had to go out to visit them several times to sort out some communications and was fascinated to see and sample the mobile kitchen. We had turkey, roast potatoes etc. which was far better than our usual fare back in camp. Over the period of the three days of the exercise I was called out 7 times to repair equipment either at base or on the exercise site.
On December 19th I was instructed to go to Paris with a Corporal Thorne to attend a Christmas dinner at the Royal Air Force Association in the Champs Élysée. It was rather daunting as the place was full of RAF and French Air Force officers with lots of medals and wings! We were chosen as we were both members of RAFA.
I had some leave at home at the end of December (28th) and, on returning to Fontainebleau, I took my bicycle back with me in January 1952 which allowed me to explore the area.
On Saturday 2nd February there was a big parade held in the Palace grounds for a farewell to General Eisenhower who was in overall command of the Western Union forces which were now becoming known as NATO. We marched into the grounds through the main gate and then into the courtyard overlooking the carp lake, where there was a general inspection and a farewell speech from General Eisenhower. One memory is that on the march in the front rank halted unexpectedly with a concertina effect behind (in front of all the bigwigs!) In the early part of the year the American forces were increased and a communications unit arrived. They were mostly from Spokane in the state of Washington and the officer Lt T W Haislip became our immediate boss. In February, I was given responsibility for working on the Cipher equipment as well as teleprinters. This meant that I was called out whenever there was a fault on the Cipher equipment.
In March 1952, Sid Edwards and I went to Compton Bassett for a Trade Test which we both passed (he got 73% and I got 81%). This was to upgrade to a Senior Aircraftsman (SAC).
In 1952 the new purpose built camp, Camp Guynemer, named after a French air ace, was built on the outskirts of Fontainebleau in part of the forest and, on 13th June, we moved into the accommodation. There were only 4 to a room and each person had a wardrobe, bed, chair and bedside mat. In our room were Sid Edwards, Doug Green, Bill Boyd and myself. Sid was from Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Doug came from Hornsea near Hull, Bill (who was killed in a motorbike accident after demob) lived in Dyce, Aberdeen. The heating was underfloor. Each block had two storeys with a common room on the ground floor. Toilets and bathrooms were in each wing of the block - a nice change from some of the older RAF camps. The NAAFI was more like an American service canteen and proved to be quite popular. There were three dining halls, one for the American and Canadian forces, one for the French and Belgian, and one initially for the British and Dutch forces. However the Dutch did not like the British food (which was still subject to some rationing) and managed to get themselves moved into the American/Canadian mess.
The communications centre and administration area were completed later and we moved into these new buildings in July. The new site gave us lots more circuits and a whole new set of Olivetti teletype equipment which few of us had seen before. Each of the mechanics had to go for a maintenance course at the Olivetti factory in Ivrea in northern Italy where the equipment was made. The first group of Sid Edwards, Sgt. Sagnier (French Air Force) and Topel (USAF) went in April, followed by Sgt. Denny (USAF), Peter Aplin and myself on 6th May. We had to go to Paris to catch the overnight sleeper to Turin which was quite an experience. I remember waking in the morning and the train was travelling through the Alps which were still snow covered - my first view of the Alps.
In Ivrea we stayed in a hotel by the bridge over the river and it was very comfortable, I can still visualise the hot rolls and croissants we had for breakfast. I had a view of the mountains from my room. We had an Italian interpreter, Signor Cigalini, with us most of the time and he was extremely helpful. Whilst there we went to the Opera in Turin for a performance of Rigoletto, we visited a huge monastery in the mountains to the east of Ivrea (Biella and Oropa) and then at Whitsuntide we went to Courmeyer and took a trip in the cable car to the side of Mont Blanc. We were a bit above the snow line and it was cold. We got back to Fontainebleau on 7th June and started putting our new knowledge to good use.
By now we had four RAF mechanics, Sid Edwards from Ilkeston, Peter Aplin from Taunton, Doug Green from Hornsea near Hull, and me. During the summer a number of us went to the Supreme Headquarters of NATO which was then near Versailles to play and/or support our cricket team.
During this time a number of communications vehicles were supplied to us and we had to install the equipment in them. Having done that we took them out into the forest and hooked them up so that we could communicate with our base.
In January 1953 I went on home leave and crossed the Channel on the French ferry Côte d'Azur on the day the big North Sea storm was starting. I remember sitting in the bar looking across the ship and never saw the horizon as we were tilted over by the force of the wind the whole way across. It wasn't until I got home that I found out about the awful weather which caused so much flooding down the East coast and in Holland and Belgium.
In April 1953, Flt Lt Howes, Peter Aplin, Doug Green and I went across to RAF Kidbrooke for a cipher course. We went from Orly in a civilian plane to Heathrow. On the way back we flew at what is now a very low height and could see all the houses, roads and even cattle in the fields. In June Sgt. Sagnier (FAF) and I went to Orly airfield for four days with some communications equipment.
Each year NATO played 'war games' and in July 1953 one of the USAF technicians and me were instructed to go to Aachen in Germany to sort out some American and British Cipher equipment which was on exercise. With him driving, we went in a USAF car via Laon and Liège to Aachen and the exercise site which was near Aachen. Having fixed the problem, we were wanted in Brussels so went to Geilenkirchen RAF station (which had been a Luftwaffe base) for a flight. Whilst waiting for the flight we were kept in a hanger because, being NATO staff, we were regarded with some suspicion in case we were actually causing problems. I wandered over to look at a Sabre fighter in the hanger and was rather brusquely ordered back into the office. Eventually a Belgian Airforce Oxford arrived to take us to Brussels. It had a job taking off with the weight of equipment we had with us but we did make it. We stayed in Brussels for a couple of days before being flown back to Geilenkirchen to pick up the car and set off back to Fontainebleau. We were both very tired by now and somewhat scruffy so when we got to Luxembourg the hotel we tried was non-cooperative and directed us to a farmhouse in the valley. I remember climbing up into the softest bed I had ever had and don't remember anything more until breakfast time. From there we drove down to Metz and Verdun where my colleague suggested we diverted to look at the cemeteries and memorials. We eventually arrived back at Fontainebleau - not a difficult journey these days but before motorways it just took a long time.
Towards the end of my time at Fontainebleau, I saw an advert in the RAF magazine for Cable and Wireless asking for communications personnel to join the overseas staff. I contacted them and they suggested calling in the London office when I was next in London. Lt Haislip wanted me to stay on at Fontainebleau and suggested that if I didn't want to sign on for more years in the RAF, I should transfer to the civilian staff. However, as I knew that my Civil Service job was still open for me and, being somewhat apprehensive of the future, I decided to leave.
Leaving Fontainebleau in September 1953, I went to RAF Lytham St. Annes which was the demob centre for the RAF where I was 'processed' and given my demob suit, hat and coat and sent on my way home.
50th ANNIVERSARY OF NATO’s FINAL DEPARTURE from FRANCE
Michael Capon is in regular contact with NATO’s senior officials in the Netherlands. He was reminded that it was 50 years ago that the final vestiges of NATO finally left France to establish the Organisation in The Netherlands. An event to commemorate this will be held. Michael will be informed of details in due course.
ANNUAL CHURCH PARADE at YEVRES 1962 courtesy JIM HOWES
While I was looking for something for Pat I found the two photos of the Yevres parade I attended in1962, one of the parade and one of the slap up meal they put on after the Church Service. If you look down in the right bottom corner on the picture on the right you will see the head of Flt Sargent Charley Collyer
Cliff (Nobby) Clarke is suffering from the ravages of advancing years. He is confined to his chair and unable to partake in his normal activities. His wife Beryl is his carer. I know from experience the demands this puts on Beryl. We all hope that Cliff’s condition improves enough to regain his independence.
Our dear friend, and one of our oldest Veterans, Ron Pole had a fall in January and required hospitalisation to treat a broken hip. When I spoke to him recently he sounded in good spirits and had all his family around him. Ron has supported nearly all our excursions and events. He has many friends in the Association. Ron we salute you and wish you a speedy recovery.
An index of Obituaries and Welcome Notices published in your Newsletters over the years should be available on our website soon.
Editor : DAVID ROGERSON, BROOKWOOD, HUNGERFORD, BURSLEDON, SOUTHAMPTON SO31 8DF
TEL 023 8040 2846 E-mail; firstname.lastname@example.org