The FIFTH Entry was attested at RAF North Weald on 11 October 1948. Training was undertaken at the Administrative Apprentice Training School RAF St Athan in the trades of Clerk General Duties, Clerk Accounting and Equipment Assistant until 19 May 1950.
Obituraries John Pack CBE
JOHN PACK CBE – 5TH ENTRY (1931-2008)
On a sunny afternoon on 16th October 2008 in a packed St George’s chapel, RAF Biggin Hill, we said farewell to John Pack. John was an achiever. After evacuation to the usa during world war II John returned to the UK and on 11 October 1948 joined the RAF as an Administrative Apprentice in the 5th Entry. He quickly made his mark, was promoted to L/A/A and subsequently Cpl/A/A, the highest apprentice rank in those days. On completion of apprentice training in May 1950, he was awarded a cadetship in the GD Branch and trained as a pilot at RAF College Cranwell. Flying became his passion and he was never more happy than when he was in the air and at the controls of an aircraft. His RAF flying career began on Vampires followed by Canberras, as a pilot flight commander and then Squadron Commander. Subsequent appointments included Station Commander, RAF Kinloss, where he received his CBE, Group Captain Central Tactical And Trials Coordination, Air Commodore Operations HQ Strike Command and AOC RAF Gibralter. Retiring in August 1986 as an Air Commodore John had achieved the highest RAF of any post war Administrative Apprentice. An achiever in every respect he was also a ‘people’s man’ making friends throughout his service career and in civilian life, an aspect that was frequently referred to during the service of remembrance. Retirement was not to sit back and take it easy. He was active for five years in the family business in Germany, hands on in the family hotel business in Jersey and flying at every opportunity from Shoreham, Jersey and in the USA.
It was not until 2007 that John was able to attend Association Annual Reunions which he thoroughly enjoyed. Indeed he was looking forward to the 2009 reunion in Preston. Association members paying their last respects ato John were Don and Sylvia Burlingham (5th), Mike Heritage (11th) and his partner Madge, Bill Huggins (5th) Sam Mold (1st), Peter Pendlebury (5th) and Jim Wilcox (5th). Jim Wilcox Chairman RAF Administrative Apprentice Association
JOHN MELVIN PACK
We, the 13 other 5th Entry clerics, occupants of Hut D24, RAF St Athan, first met John Pack on the 11th October, 1948, and it was almost immediately apparent that he was a “one off” Having been evacuated to New Jersey at the outbreak of war, John completed his senior education in Newark, New Jersey. Each year, the graduating class have a book published, containing a photo of all the graduates, and with a brief “XYZ is the student most/least likely to….”. John showed me his copy of the Book, KRAWEN, I cannot remember what was said about him; but were I writing a summary, I would have written, “The student most likely to achieve the most.”
John played (!) the clarinet, but what we appreciated more was his portable record player when he introduced us to Danny Kaye, Mel Torme, and Nat King Cole. One of Kaye’s songs, a comedysentimental ballad including the names of all the various fruits in the States I still sing occasionally, and as badly as John played it!
He was never a goody, goody, apprentice, and had an infectious type of humour and adventurism whereby he began his interest in aviation. On the airfield were parked many old aircraft, mostly Beaufighters, and we clambered around them pushing and pulling all the levers we could find – we tried several times to retract the undercarriages, but it never worked. I obtained a small aircraft ‘memento’ which I had to store in a safe place, the EWS tank by the NAAFI (I checked in 1999 but the object was no longer there), I asked him when next we met what he had done with my ‘memento’!
In quick time, John was promoted to Leading Admin App and placed in charge of a 4th Entry hut. This did not go down well with a ‘senior entry’ but after a discussion with Bert Storey of the 4th, the occupants were won over by John’s personality, (I only heard this story on 11 Oct 08 from a 4th Entry ex-app).
Many of we scribblies had problems with some or all the aspects of training, but not John, without any apparent effort he sailed through trade, handicrafts, sport, drill, and the absolute necessity for turnout.
With his American background, he was the star performer of the Apprentice basketball squad, he was also a good goalkeeper, and when I coerced him to play rugby, I was miffed to find he could punt the ball 60 – 80 yards effortlessly (I had practised for years but could only manage 50 yards or so – and that with a following wind).
In due course John became the senior Admin App as Cpl Apprentice, and where he did an excellent job, firmly but fairly, he played no favourites, not even his chums in the 5th Entry!
It was no surprise to anyone that on Pass Out, John was awarded the General Duties (Flying) Cadetship, well merited and loudly applauded. I must add that other cadetships awarded were not always so highly regarded by the Unofficial Apprentices Selection Committee!
Over the next 11 years following our Pass Out, I never met John, but via the travelling jobs I had and jungles drums I did hear of his activities and movements.
In 1961 I arrived at Waddington just as 83 Sqn had moved to Scampton, but since the Vulcan Simulator was at Wadd, John would visit and we would have a quick word or two.
Then another interregnum until 1976 when I was the non-professional Gp Sy Officer at 18 Group when John was Stn Cdr at Kinloss. I happened to see the draft of a proposed visit to Kinloss and spotted a couple of no no’s his staff had missed! I gave him a quick call and he had the programme amended. Several times subsequently I have spoken to colleagues to pass on advice, and sadly have been greeted by ‘mind your own b….. business’, there was none of that from John.
At Northwood I was involved in the admin connected with the Annual Reunion of Coastal Command C-in-Cs, and heard an interesting conversation, an old C-in-C asked John’s successor how things were going at Kinloss. The Gp Capt replied that it was going well, but he was still having to cope with the spirit and legacy left by John. Incidentally John was the first non-maritime Stn Cdr at Kinloss, and breaking into that hierarchy too raised a few eyebrows.
Next came RCDS, a prerequisite for further promotion. After that, one is normally put in a holding appointment. At Strike Command where we next met up, two events that illustrate John’s personality. One day he was chatting to some of his colleagues, so I saluted them and marched on, John grabbed, or rather punched me in the stomach and said “Too proud to speak to me Huggins!”. One Dining In Night with all the Gp Cdrs, a schooner race was set up. There were two false starts, senior officers complaining about sharp practice and the atmosphere became somewhat tense, at the third start, when John’s turn came, he just poured the whole of his pint on his head, defusing the situation with humour.
It was at Strike, however, that due to his honesty, John was never promoted.
He was offered two possible appointments for his last tour, Air Attache Ottawa, or Air Commander Gibraltar; since he had served at Ottawa previously he opted for Gibraltar.
I met John once again at Gibraltar whilst carrying out an inspection, and we again recalled days and colleagues of the past.
At my next station, the CO had served under John and was always complaining about his own promotion. He didn’t realise I knew John, and from time to time would moan, about everyone’s promotion but his. After one Dining In night, about 0200 whilst he and I were polishing our boots, he got on again, questioning John’s intelligence! Quietly (I assure you), I remarked that there is perhaps a more important word beginning with ‘i’, “And what’s that?” he asked. “Integrity” I replied.John joined our Assn quite early on, but due to his many commitments was unable to attend our reunions, until the latter two, at Bristol, and then at Huntingdon. I chided him about two incidents long time passed – “How is it that you weren’t charged with the rest of us at St Athan for not changing for PE on a wet, cold winter’s Monday morning first period?” His answer was that he had quickly untied his bootlaces and obviously was getting ready for PT! The second point I ragged him about how most of our Entry were sent to the Canal Zone in 1951 Here his reply was perhaps more acceptable He replied “I did go to Suez, in 1956!” He flew, we had to go by boat!
Despite all the pressures he had faced, John still looked much younger than most of us, and had retained his enthusiasm and his wicked sense of humour.
On reflection, in my many years in the service, I met four people whom I would follow anywhere, John, two Gp Capts, and FS Davis. However, I would trust John and Dave not only to lead well, but also aim for us to survive!
John, we will surely miss you, but be assured that you will long be remembered by all who knew you.
Vale old pal.
OBITUARY THE LATE BOB WHITE
On 11 Oct 1948 Jim Wilcox, John Blighton, Alan Milestone, Don Burlingham, Peter Pendlebury, Derek Cattermull, Roland Pickering, John Pack, Paul Holmes, Bill Huggins and Bob were shuffled into Hut D24; what an illustrious group! Bob had blond wispy hair, a ruddy tan, and came across as a West Country bumpkin! Most of us were worried that we would not make it, with fortnightly tests in trade, shorthand, and typing, but Bob never seemed worried and sailed through these tests with a smile. A number of our Entry took risks! Whilst Bob didn’t, he always had a look as if he knew something we didn’t! He was always willing to try anything in the sports line, without taking it too seriously. Jim told me that he met Bob in the Canal Zone, just as Bob was returning to the UK to try for aircrew testing. Whilst he didn’t make it, he won the 2nd Prize – for he was not sent back to Eqypt (he must have guessed at this!). He met up with Pete Pendlebury at Innsworth, and they spent time and money at the local dog track, unsuccessfully, as both had to serve on in the RAF. On leaving the RAF Bob trained in a specialist medical field in which he continued for many years. When we met up at a local get-together, he mentioned that he had a medical condition, but without any drama, and with his usual cheerfulness. He had hoped to go up to the RAF Bomber Command Memorial with us, but again, with humour, said he decided not to go and then “bail out” whilst there. Friendship is not measured in time, but rather in its depth. Vale Bob, your memory will remain with all who knew you.
Bill Huggins (5th)
OBITUARY JOHN WALTER BLIGHTON (5TH)
When I think of John, two of his attributes spring to mind, firstly he always seemed relaxed and cheerful, secondly his excellent footballing ability. The 5th Entry could have represented the Wing, we had such good footballers, but John was El Supremo. On the field he never seemed hurried or flustered, he epitomised calmness and, unlike some of our Entry players, he did not resort to roughing up the opposition. Prior to entry into the RAF, he had trials with Chelsea, but told me he failed because of his weak heading ability. He subsequently had trials with Arsenal, and played with the RAF, home
and away, then, when stationed at Scampton, he played for Scunthorpe United. For many of us, the fortnightly nit-picking progress tests were a real trial – yet John never seemed to worry about them – he must have found them easy. He served in the RAF until 1974 and then joined BR – I reckon it must have been the uniform that attracted him! At the age of 63 John had a heart attack, but as soon as he could, he returned to work until he retired at the age of 65. John attended our Bingley Reunion and I didn’t immediately recognise him without his former sleek black hair, but we quickly tuned in to where we had left of in May, 1950. At the service in Lincoln it seemed there were more BR than RAF veterans, but the atmosphere was of happy remembrances all round. Brenda and I chatted to Joan and their son, and I was able to regale them with some, but not all, of our doings as Apprentices at St Athan. For the whole of our training, I slept directly opposite John in D24, and will long remember a cheerful, humorous, and personable young man, who retained his humour and sense of duty throughout his life. Vale, dear John.
Bill Huggins (5th)
OBITUARY PETER PENDLEBURY 1932-2014
Peter joined the Admin Apps School at St Athan in 1948 and was a well-respected member of the 5th Entry – training as a Clerk GD. We lived in D24 with other members – Bill Huggins, Jim Wilcox, John Pack, Alan Milestone and others. We passed out at Easter 1950 and went our separate ways – not for long however as Peter, Stan Walton and myself found ourselves at 2 S of TT Hereford as Instructors. An intake of 40 people arrived after a couple of weeks and two courses were formed – I had the ‘A’ Course of 19 airmen and one airwoman and Peter had 20 airmen. Two weeks later ACW Jones, the WRAF trainee was transferred to Peter’s course as we had started walking out together and our Supervisor was not happy about it. At interim exams however, the failures of both courses were recourse and I was given the remainder – including ACW Jones – no-one in authority noticed. Sylvia Jones and I married in 1953, Stan Walton was our best man and Peter our Guest of Honour. Whilst at Hereford in 1952, I bought an ex-WD motorcycle and after only a week’s rider experience decided with Pete Pendlebury to go to London for the week-end – we took off the ‘L’ plates on the bike and off we went. On the Oxford bypass I, through inexperience, pulled in front of a lorry and nearly killed both of us. Peter said he would go back to Hereford on the train – but come the Sunday however we had no money so he had to return on the bike. We got back safely and shortly afterwards Peter and Stan applied for overseas service and went off to France. Sylvia and I next had the pleasure of meeting Peter and his wife Yvonne when Peter passed out of his commissioning course at RAF Feltwell. We were stationed nearby at Mildenhall and Sylvia looked after Peter’s first- born whilst Yvonne attended the passing-out parade. We then did not cross paths for some time – Pete and Yvonne went to Yorkshire and Sylvia and I to Singapore. After I left the Service in 1972 I officiated at a European Cup tie in Malta between Malta and Greece and was interviewed by BFBS. Pete, who was in hospital in Malta at the time, heard the interview, got in touch and we caught up with our news. Peter finished his service in Yorkshire as a Sqn Ldr and Sylvia and I had the pleasure of meeting both Peter and Yvonne several times at reunions. The world will be a poorer place at Peter’s passing and Sylvia and I and his friends in the 5th Entry will miss him greatly.
Don Burlingham (5th).
OBITUARY R PETER J BUCHANAN
I have often commented on the smartness of some of our departed colleagues – and which was required of all of us! Peter was the smartest of all in my time,he had so much going for him, being tall and quite slim. On the order “Tallest on the…..” I would note where Pete was heading – and go the other way.
In the 1951 Trade Reshuffle, he somehow slipped up and as we were both at Kasfareet I offered to help him sort it out, but he didn’t bother. He’d quickly absorbed the Canal Zone Attitude – alla keefiq. He got on well with all, and ws well liked, was always cheerful, and lived life in his own way. He was a member of our Assn for many years, but bowed out when he knew the end was near. VALE Pete.
Bill Huggins 5th Entry