The scene was set, all was prepared, latrine buckets were all empty, the parade was well rehearsed, large and impressive with 9 Wings of 3 Squadrons of 2 or 3 Flights, formed on three sides, 3000+ personnel on the centre of the main and only runway. The C in C inspected all Wings and every Squadron and each Flight! As one can imagine this took a little time! But, the 1st aiders kept up a steady evacuation of the dropouts, which, at the prevailing temperature, were many, but the C in C was
unperturbed and the inspection completed. Thus, as the parade marched off, the timed programme for the inspection was already running well behind time. In early 1958 103MU had lost a Hanger and a couple of aircraft to an Eoka bomb, so, there was lots of security and, and lots of fire practices. Flt Lt French, the Equipment Officer, (Frenchie to his staff), being a career officer, had volunteered to be 103mu’s Fire Officer, and, he had exercised the fire practices until he had it off to a fine art.
A standard fire practice was planned as part of the C in C’s inspection, to impress him. A 45-gallon drum full of rags doused in Avtur had been strategically placed by the Aircraft Repair Flight’s remaining hanger and the Fire Section suitably briefed and on standby.
I cannot personally confirm the next set of events, but can only reiterate the tale as it was told to us. The C in C was running 45 minutes late, and Frenchie was very concerned that the Avtur was evaporating and, the subsequent demonstration fire would not be very successful, so, about every 10 minutes he would add a little more Avtur. Eventually the cavalcade arrived, Frenchie was introduced and briefed the C in C as to what the exercise was to achieve. Viz., a small fire, local fire
control, a call to the Fire Section for a fast response and, the successful dousing of the fire.
At this point Frenchie stepped up to the 45 gallon drum and struck his match, he had been totally correct in his concern about the Avtur evaporating but, had failed to appreciate that the fumes had pervaded the local area, and actually, right where he was standing! Whoosh! Frenchie was startled by the ensuing fireball, as was the OC 103MU and the Station Master, but, as he was the one with the match, he was not quick enough to avoid totally the ‘Whoosh’ generated. The well-trained Local Fire
Control Team ensured the Fire Officer was quickly extinguished and, the fast arrival of the appropriately positioned Fire Section controlled the situation. The remaining Hanger was saved, the C in C, to his credit, was heard to say to the severely singed Fire Officer ‘ Very impressive Flt Lt’.
Frenchie drew himself to up, called his grinning well trained Local Fire Control Team to attention, saluted and said quite faintly, ‘thank you Sir’. The C in C’s cavalcade went on their way with wide smiles on their faces, and Frenchie returned to the Equipment Section, at which point I, a Cpl at that time, was there and present.
The door burst open and Frenchie with the W/O entered, Frenchie was dressed in his best KD No6 uniform made in the best ‘Far East’ gabardine, he appeared to be livid, but who can tell, his uniform front had melted and had a very puckered appearance, the black plastic buttons on it had assumed the shape of pear drops, his moustache, eyelashes and eyebrows were either severely absent or a shadow of their former selves and, to add insult to injury the peak of his No 1 SD cap had melted and looked like a droopy ducks bill.. I think he was a little upset (livid) about the whole thing, but it was a little difficult to tell as his face had suffered a degree of sunburn or afterburn which made it difficult to decide with any certainty. I do not think he realised just how lucky he was! Or how entertaining he could be! Suffice it to say a good inspection was had by all excepting ‘Frenchie’ who was bemoaning the cost of a new uniform and his service dress hat for some weeks. We all felt very sorry for him! Well as best we could.