I was interested in Harry Trumbell’s recent article on his time at RAF Medmenham and with 249 Squadron Akrotiri. Why I hear you cry! Well, first of all I have known Harry for most of my adult life as we were Admin Apprentices together in the 29th Entry. However, I had no idea until I read Harry’s article that he was ever at RAF Medmenham. I was stationed there 1963-65 following my tour of Singapore working in the so called rabbit warren HQ Signals Command and then again for a short time after my Cyprus tour in 1968. I was promoted to Sergeant during that second tour and was subsequently posted to Strike Command to become PA to AO Eng. However, I do remember one memorable incident that took place after my promotion and before I left Medmenham for Strike. On orderly Sergeant one night I was present in the guardroom when a familiar face appeared at the window kitbag in hand and arriving to book in, having been posted to the unit. He was none other than one time Hereford Cpl DI Jimmy (Lupty) Stuart now an SAC. He did not recognise me but was very reluctant to admit he was the same Stuart I knew at Hereford 1957-58. Nevertheless, it was quite amusing to have him in front of me at that time, responding to my questions with ‘No Sarge’ or ‘Yes Sarge’ and then me saying to him “Right Stuart, you can run along now laddie and find your billet.”
Anyway back to Harry and 249 Squadron Akrotiri. As it happened I was at HQNEAF Episkopi from 1965 until 1968 and started my tour as PA to one Group Captain Fuller who was then the SPSO. He was a grumpy character but I will always remember with affection his deputy ‘mad’ Wing Commander Phil Hyson who was a great bloke and who I recall, would career around the island in a souped up Mk I Cortina. When Group Captain Fuller moved on I volunteered to work in Command P2 under the patronage of Squadron Leader Vince Farningham a Branch Commissioned officer close to retirement. Dear old Vince had not a clue about staff work or administration in general so was I quickly able to make myself indispensable to him. One of his duties was the allocation of soon to arrive aircrew to 249 Squadron’s Canberras. He very soon left that job to me and as a result, I became almost on first name terms with Wing Commander Flying at Akrotiri by regularly having to ring him up to inform him who I was placing with which aircraft on the Squadron. The power the power!!!
On one occasion, old Vince felt I had to be with him when he once took me on a trip to Luqa on a P Staff inspection. After a very noisy trip in a Hastings, we were ferried to the SHQ where my boss left his briefcase in the staff car. He asked me to pop out and get it for him. Without a hat and expecting to be back inside in seconds, I proceeded outside but was hailed by the owner of a very loud voice ponderously riding towards me on a bicycle. Turned out he was the Station Warrant Officer, a fierce looking Scot who then proceeded to berate me for not wearing a hat, being a disgrace to the uniform, undeserving of the rank of Cpl who should demoted as an example etc etc.. He took my details but, not knowing I did not belong to Luqa, eventually remounted his bike and rode off threatening to throw the book at me. His parting words were ‘You will be hearing more of this laddie’.
It was not until 1969 at Strike Command that I once again came across this guy who was again, unbeknown to me, the SWO. Having volunteered to act as a pall-bearer for a colleague who had died, I was present at the line-up of SNCOs outside the guardroom where the pallbearers were being chosen. The SWO walked past me then turned back and said ‘Do I know you from somewhere Sargeant?’ As it happened I had not recognised him so was able to honestly reply that I did not think so. He walked on for a pace or two then turned back and said ‘I know who you are, you were that bloody corporal I picked up for not wearing a hat at Luqa!’ Why is it that SWOs always seemed to have incredible memories? Needless to say, we often came across each other in the mess and had a laugh about it over a pint. Funny old world isn’t it?