Memories Of FS ‘Chiefy’ Davis by WHM (Brad) Bradley 10th Entry
Having read the Permanent Staff Page I was disappointed that there was nothing about Flt Sgt ‘Chiefy Davis, RAF Regt as he was then. He ruled with a rod of iron but us ‘brats’ reveered him. We were ‘his boys’ and woe betide anyone outside of the AATS who tried to discipline us. He was strict but fair and even his German Shepherd dog stood to attention in front of him when he came onto the parade ground uninvited.
There are many stories about him. For instance, when he was orderly sgt he always tapped his pace stick on the corridor wall when approaching our billets to wake us up in the morning. If you didn’t have both feet on the floor when he entered, you got the sharp end of his tongue.
About three years after we had ‘passed out’, Phil Martin, was now a Sgt newly arrived at Ismalia in the Canal Zone, On his first morning, for no accountable reason, he found himself out of bed and getting dressed. Then, he heard a voice from the direction of the parade ground. He looked out of his tent and there was Chiefy, now Warrant Officer Davis, drilling the RAF Regiment. Such was the power of the remembered voice! Phil told me this story about a year later when we met up in Cyprus.
There are two photos at the bottom of the permanent staff page which need amending. One is of Colin Stevens and myself with Sgt Fisher. We were 10th Entry Standard Bearers for the 9th’s passing out parade. The other photo was taken outside the AATS Squadron Offices at St Athan and not Bircham Newton. Jumbo James must have had an aberration when titling this photo of which I also have a copy. Also, The Warrant Officer on the right of the photo was Bill Shakesby and not Jim Sowerby.
Unfortunately, neither can I remember the names of the two unnamed staff.
Administrator Note: The above amendments needed have been made – my thanks to Brad for pointing out the errors.
I have good reason to remember Bill Shakesby well. One Wednesday afternoon I received an urgent message to report to the Sguadron offices immediately. On arrival I was ushered quickly in and found myself standing in front of Bill Shakesby who didn’t say anything for a while, leaving me wondering what it was all about. Eventually he opened the centre drawer of the desk and took out three objects and placed them on the desk top directly in front of me, ‘clunk’, ‘clunk’, ‘clunk’. They were three coshes – lead pipeing bound with black adhesive tape. I new them as I and others had been threatened with them when we were junior entry. They belonged to certain ‘Senior Entry, members whose names I won’t mention.
Bill Shakesby said “what do know about these”? “Nothing” I said. “Oh yes you do”, he said, “ they have just been found in your suitcase. I know all about you. You are Bradley, the ‘Cosh King of the 10th”. At this point, I felt the ground opening in front of me and I could hear the clanging of steel gates and doors. Fortunately, door behind me burst open instead and one, very hot and flustered AA, entered. He explained that he had been given the offending items by departing Senior Entry members who had told him to get rid of them. He had done so, into MY SUITCASE – after he had asked me if he could “keep one or two things there”! I should explain that I had a bicycle and had permission to keep my cycling gear in the billet storeroom, provided I only used them when on leave. Happy deliverance, happy days
I remember Smokey Ralph very well. I was in F Flight, 2 Squadron, 304th Entry and we had a Corporal Smith or Powell I think as an instructor for the first couple of days/weeks. A WO Ralph became our instructor leaving the RAF and joining our class on his first day as a civilian. Previous to that, he worked as a WO in the Training Department along with many others. I remember that one of his close civilian colleagues, also an ex WO I believe, was a Mr Kimber.
Mr Ralph was a superb tutor and had a very relaxed manner which the younger tutors could not match. I remember him “giving me a hint” that I had passed my course (I was not at all confident of having passed the theory part) when at the pass-out do at the Spread Eagle opposite the Cathedral in Hereford.
Mr Ralph was in our formal passout photograph. An absolute gentleman. Very kind and very helpful. I was sorry to read of his passing and he has always remained in my memory.
My thanks to Derek Bower Shorthand Instructor AATS for providing the following memories of his time as an instructor
‘I have been looking through the Website again and it still brings back many good memories of my time as an Instructor. From January to July 1961 I was on the Clk Sec course at Credenhill. Following success I was ‘selected’ for Instructor duties and duly commenced them as shorthand/typing instructor for the 44th and 46th Entries at Bircham Newton. On 3rd January 1963 we left Bircham Newton and moved with the School to Hereford. In 1966, following a tour in Gibraltar, I returned to Hereford as trade instructor for the 307th and 310th Entries. Looking through the Website there are quite a few names I remember. Reg Drinkwater and I were good friends on both my tours at Hereford (he was then RAFP). Smokey Ralph and I were trade instructors with the 307th and 310th Entries. We also together, manned one of the ‘outposts’ on summer camp, in the Beacons. At Bircham Newton, Denis Gibson I recall was one of my neighbours in M/Qtrs as well as being a fellow instructor. Bryan Mahoney I will never forget as a shorthand writer of great esteem. He demonstrated his skills one day by writing at 100 wpm on
the blackboard! ‘
My thanks again to Dixie Dean (40th) for providing the following new information. Reference to Ron Muggelton’s entry on the previous Permanent Staff page he says
‘Sadly Pat (Paddy) Foley died in 2009.
Other Supply instructors in the same period were;
Sgt Tom Atton – Tom retired from the RAF in 1975 as Flt Lt.
Sgt Tom Goggin – Tom attended the combined 39th, 40th and 41st reunion in September 2010, he eventually retired from the RAF as a Sqn Ldr.
Civilian Mr Roberts (ex WO).
Another drill instructor at this time also was:
Cpl ‘Ginge’ Turner – not a man to be argued with!
Sgt Mahoney was a Clerk Sec instructor (ex St Athan apprentice).
Chief Instructor was Sqn Ldr N J Keeley (Equipment Branch) – see below’
A Message From Mike Smith
1 Jul 2011
I have been contacted by Mike Smith who amongst other things is currently the PR & Social Member of the RAF Association Cranwell. He served as an Education Officer at Hereford in the late 60s and early 70s and he says:
‘It was interesting to see the article in the latest edition of the Air Force News inviting Education Officers, and other to contact you. Most unusual for Educators, unlike air crew, who can attend Sqn associations. You will see from m y signature block that I am heavily involved with the RAF Association at Cranwell, and am also President of the Aden Veteran’s Fenland Branch, an Associate Member of the East Midlands Police Association (you did not misread this yes police !) and Chairman of the Lincolnshire Civil Service Retirement Fellowship and run the Sleaford and Ancaster Group of the CSRF.
Glancing at your web page I congratulate the web master on his work.
I have many memories of my time at Hereford between Jun 67 (post Aden) to Aug 71 (prior to Digby). Initially on 3 Sqn (Suppliers) but then the senior Educator in 2 Sqn with Shaun ? a civilian of 4 Sqn (caterers) sharing the workload for both sqns. I ran the Motor Club and was OIC the All Ranks Club, established the Rugby Club and was
responsible for the Sat evening entertainments for the Apps.’
I have asked Mike to put pen to paper at some point as no doubt he will have plenty of memories of his time at Hereford. Mike can be contacted on email@example.com
Bill Garman – Civilian Supply Trade Instructor Hereford
10 Jul 2011
In 2007 Gwilym Floyd (320th) contacted me to see if I would publish his wish to get in touch with some of his civilian Supply Trade instructors at Hereford. Very recently I had a response from one of those instructors, Bill Garman and I put the two in touch. Below is the text of the e-mails sent by both Gwilym and Bill and it is also very pleasing to see that the latter is going to dig out some photographs and his memories of his time as an instructor. I will publish these as and when received.
I hope you are well, I don’t think for one minute you might remember me. I was in your class as an apprentice supplier general at Hereford in 1971. I was in the band and became drum Sgt in our final phase.
I was browsing the Hereford apprentice website and thought of you. They gave me your email so I thought I would drop you a line. Not sure how long you were at Hereford but my dad was posted to the gym as a Flt Sgt PTI not too long after we passed out. I too boxed there at least once and went on to represent Wales at boxing.
I stayed in the Supply branch for 7 years before remustering to PTI in ’78 then going on to the Parachute Jumping Instructor specialization in ’84. I stayed there until I left in ’98, 4,000 jumps later (majority were sport jumps). My brother and son are still there at the parachute school so it became a bit of a family thing. My dad was a PTI when I joined up so it was always my preferred path. I know live in Spain with my wife, we have been here for 8 years.
Anyway, that’s enough for now in case you don’t in fact remember me in which case all this will be irrelevant. If you get back to me, maybe we can swap some stories.
Many thanks for your recent email. When I started out as a Corporal Trade Instructor at Hereford in 1966 we used to have a class of 20-25 apprentices for their whole 12 months of training. My first complete Jan to Dec entry was the 308th in 1967 and I am in their passing out photo. It then seems that I took a class of the 309th for their final term in Jan to April 1968, and then reverted back to the 311th entry from April to Dec 1968. I am in both their passing out entry photos. I am finding it difficult to remember which entries I was involved with from 1969. (I do remember spending a time running that practical set up we had in one of the hangers).
In 1970 I became a Civilian Trade Instructor and am convinced that I remember being in a passing out photo at the end of that year which would have been the the 317th entry I think (I could have also been involved with the 314th entry in 1969)?
However, your email suggests that by 1971 the training had been split into 3 phases so that each trade instructor had a class from an entry for 4 months instead of 12. I don’t remember this, but that, together with the passing of time, has made it even more difficult for me to remember the names and faces of the Apprentices I taught, and would explain why I can remember training Adult Suppliers on shorter courses in the gaps between Apprentice classes, and why I can remember being fed up that I had lost my long Summer holidays!
So sadly I do not remember you, although your face could be slightly familiar – sorry about that.
I left Hereford in November 1971 to join a major UK Tobacco Co, (this must be why I am missing from the 320th entry photo) eventually becoming Head of Purchasing. I remained with them for the next 25 years until I took early retirement to live in Devon, where I still live today.
I must say that I have enjoyed looking through the Apprentice website, there are photos of lots of permanent staff I remember from those days. Alan Bell, the website Administrator, has asked me to let him have some of my memories of Hereford from the perspective of a permanent member of Staff; much of this will have little relevance to your time at Hereford but is the reason why I have copied him in on this reply. I am in the process of trying to dig up some photos before I write to Alan again (I will copy you in on it if you would be interested).
Anyway, many thanks again for getting in touch with me to remind me of the Hereford ‘days’. I thoroughly enjoyed my five years living in that part of the world, and my involvement with all the Apprentices I came into contact with; you were all smashing lads.
Best wishes and kindest regards, and I hope you are enjoying living in Spain as much as I am enjoying living in Devon.
My thanks to John Nash (38th) for providing more information about above picture (Left). John says:
The JNCO seated front row second from the left is Cpl Wally Wallington. The FS seated second from the right looks to be FS West who was, the Bowler House Senior Instructor, but I can’t remember the name of the Flt Lt in the centre. (He preceded Flt Lt Godfrey as Bowler House Chief Instructor).
Someone in the early thirties entries should remember.
John also recalls: Cpl ‘Wally’ Wallington who was about 6ft 13ins and a total contrast to our other Cpl DI by the name of Jimmy Stewart who was some 5ft nothing in his boots! One of Jimmy’s favourite expressions when standing closely in front of you in his Drill Flight was “I can see right up your nose lad!” Indeed, from his height, he could see up everybody’s nose! On the other hand, Wally Wallington was able to check the peak and the top of your SD Cap for dust without the need to
remove it from your head! However, Wally as a policeman was a damn sight more friendly than as a DI, and to the best of my recollection, we all had a pretty good time jointly exploring the sights, sounds and smells of Penang.
Administrator Note: Any further info will be welcome! For my part, the 29th Entry and others at Hereford at the same time will remember DI Jimmy (Lupty) Stewart. Later at RAF Medmenham I was Orderly Sergeant one night and had the dubious pleasure of being in the Guardroom when Jimmy (then an SAC by the way) arrived on posting. He firmly denied ever knowing me from my Apprentice days but I am sure he did!!
Administrator Note: My thanks to Tom Feeley (GDT Section RAF Bircham Newton 1961-1962) for the following:
I have just recently come across the pages relating to Addmin Apps. My claim to fame is being posted to Bircham Newton in 1961 (RAF Regiment GDT) on my return from Cyprus.
The Regiment section at that time was, Flt Lt Ted Gee, Flt Sgt Taff Rees, Sgt Slater (i.c Fire Section) Peter Ruff & yours truly Tom Feeley (both at that time Cpl’s). I was one of the first personnel to be posted when Bircham was being run down prior to closing & as I had done all my courses whilst at Bircham, NBC, Fire & Rescue, First Aid etc was posted to RAF St Mawgan on the fire section. There was one other Regiment personnel there when I was there & that was Ginger Turner, DI, came from Stockport.
Many years later I attended the unveiling ceremony when the memorial was erected to all who had served at Bircham & there I met up with two ex App’s who remembered me I had been pushed into signing the visitors book by my wife & the two who I met up with had seen my name & came looking for me & it came about that they had been talking about Peter Ruff & me on their way to the service. They recalled a certain lesson that I had been giving on the Bren Gun & the “weekend finger”!! I last saw Peter about three years ago, he did complete his Officer course & finished up a Sqdn Ldr. We converse regularly via email & still have some great laughs about our time at Bircham, especially the time spent on the snooker table in the Cpl’s Club!!
Nice to know that the spirit of comradeship still exists via the Admin App’s.
Some Hereford Memories – Leon Wreyford (B80001010)
20 Feb 2012
As an ex Apprentice Supplier General – Jan to Dec 1970 – I recall the following instructors at RAF Hereford;
1) Cpl “Titch” Friend. Royal Air Force Regiment. Trained us in Field Craft,Bivouacs,the Range etc.. Friend by name and nature.
2) Sgt Rudge – Drill instructor – feared by all.
3) W.O Ben Harborne (Retired mid way through our one year apprenticeship and continued on at Hereford in a senior civilian capacity,Admin)
(I have a fond memory of a wet weather drill conducted in the hangar with both W.O Harborne and Sgt Rudge impromptu tap dancing in full regaliaincl rain coats and glistening steel studded boots. The performance rivaled Fred Astaire and ‘singing in the rain’. The echo in that hangar was most impressive incl a few hundred steel studded apprentices).
4) Mr Stevens – Trade training Instructor, Supp Gens.
5) Flt Lt Cummings – Education Officer.
6) Flt Lt Clarke – a Pilot on his ground tour. Flt Lt Clarke was i/c 317 Entry – a great officer and leader.
7) Flight Sgt Apprentice Steve Shay – whom I heard through the rumour mill went on to become a Group Captain.
8) Jock Symington (Sgt Apprentice) and current webmaster of the 317 Entry RAF Hereford website.
9) W.O Pullen (correct name, I think) was the Apprentice Drum and Bugle Band – bandmaster.
Some Bircham Newton Memories – John Wells (44th Entry)
As an ex apprentice of the 44th Entry (Sept 1961 to Dec 1962 at Bircham Newton) I can add some more names to the list of instructors there at the time:
Drill Instructors (with their memorable lines) were:
Sgt “Wally” Prior – “I’ll have you lot scrubbing this parade ground with tooth brushes if you don’t wake up your ideas”
Cpl “Foxy” Fowler – “I was in the corporal’s club till 11 o’clock last night; on the job till 2 and I’m still more awake than you lot” – (I believe ex Royal Navy DI who was on the Coronation Parade) A great father figure who’s lovely wife served in the NAFFI shop
Cpl “My mother could do better than that” Brown – a young Scot who was reputed to be a National Serviceman – very smart
Cpl “Ginge” or “The fireman” Turner – RAF Regiment. “I’ll stick this pace-stick so far up your backside you’ll think you’ve got gold teeth” This shouted at us whilst making us do about-turns on a sheet of ice at Hereford in winter 1963.
Supply Trade Instructors:
Sgt Brian Hennerly – Ex 16th Entry – nice guy but easy to divert onto stories of his time in Malta or his old V8 Pilot car – we all failed our first half term exams. He was one of the instructors who took us on our canoe expedition across Scotland in March 1962.
Sgt Ifor Griffiths – He took us over after the mid-term exam debacle. A former RAF and Wales hockey player, a good intstuctor and a deadly shot with a bit of chalk.
Under his care we all passed our final exams and passed out as J/T’s.
Sgt Wally Prior – A Further Tribute
It is with great sorrow that I learned of the death of Sgt Wally Prior in Newsletter 89. Not exactly a ‘father figure’ he certainly instilled a sense of self-discipline in the ‘brats’ he cajoled, bullied, but certainly cared for in his own way.
Arriving at Bircham Newton on 12 September 1960, probably the only apprentice to ever arrive with a push-bike, I can still remember his comments on parade the next morning, “ When I was a boy, I had some tin soldiers, I lost them, I cried. My mother said ‘Don’t worry son, you’ll get them back one day.” Well I have, and look at the
bloody shower I’ve got now!”
Certainly I don’t think any of us appreciated him at the time, but I for one, was certainly grateful in later years for what he taught us of life.
I certainly never expected to see him again, but in 1969, on compassionate posting to Swinderby and becoming disillusioned with the computerised accounts trade, I applied to remuster to RAFGD following the death of my father. Who should be the SNCO i/c the RAFGD courses, of course, Wally Prior, He vaguely remembered me
from my apprentice days. Later still in 1980 he was still at Swinderby in charge when I took my RAF Admin conversion course. I passed both of these courses near the top of my class, and this was in part due to Wally’s excellent instruction and advice. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Ian Dennis (593969 – 41st Entry).
Reg Drinkwater – An Obituary By Alan Bell – 29th Entry
I heard of the death of my old friend Reg Drinkwater whilst at the annual Association reunion at Preston on 16th June 2012. For a number of years he had been suffering severe mobility problems which unfortunately deteriorated after his wife Marge had been admitted to hospital. He was moved to a care home in June but unfortunately died suddenly shortly afterwards. Living in Gloucester myself after leaving the air force in 1974, Reg and I became firm friends and we continued to have regular contact after I moved to France 11 years ago. I spoke to him just a few days before leaving for the reunion and, despite everything he was his usual chirpy self and was most unhappy that he could not make the Preston reunion. His passing will certainly leave a gap in my life and I suspect, in those of many others who knew him.
I was just 16 when I first met the man who in his own words ‘made men out of boys’. How true that was. Reg was the 29th entry’s first drill instructor at AATS Hereford and his attempts to turn a motley crew of boys more or less straight out of school into airmen, started the moment we had been attested. He was a truly natural DI with a sharp clear parade ground voice. He was always immaculately turned out with razor sharp creases and highly polished boots and if ever youngsters like us needed a disciplined service role model, Reg was it. A no nonsense man, never a bully, I found him always strict but fair. There were times of course when we hated him for chasing us around and seemingly able to find faults despite our best efforts!
Reg went on to become an RAF policeman and in his usual style threw his heart and soul into the job. He was promoted to Sergeant and to my knowledge received at
least one AOC’s commendation. Following his discharge Reg retired to his home town of Gloucester where he lived with his wife Marge until his death.
In 1987 I was working in Cheltenham when I decided to organise the 29th Entry’s first reunion. I contacted Reg who agreed to surprise us when our coach arrived at RAF Hereford for a tour of the station. Needless to say he had lost none of his vocal powers and the subsequent hilarious ‘parade’ was handled in his usual immaculate style much to the amusement of the those trainees gathered to watch! At dinner that evening Reg was asked to say a few words. Although a simple man, Reg possessed a natural eloquence and I think his words that night left a few of us with a lump in our throats. ‘I am proud of you’ he said ‘and if I have played a small part in your success then I have done my job’ On that night and on the other occasions when Reg stood up and spoke to us at our annual reunions, that same eloquence manifested itself.
Reg lived and breathed everything Royal Air Force and in his later years decked out his bedroom with RAF memorabilia. At the aged of 78 or 79 he bought himself a computer and after a few hiccups with learning the ways of e-mail, he formed his Number One Flight. He had a huge mailing list of ex-apprentices whom he kept in touch with as well as talking directly to some on SKYPE. Understandably never an expert with the computer, he did encounter a few problems. For example, I can remember many a time talking him through how to turn on his sound!
RIP my old friend, I am sure you will ensure everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion up there!
Reg Drinkwater – An Obituary By Derek (Dick) Payton 25th Entry
I was sorry to learn of the passing of Reg Drinkwater. As a 16 year old apprentice at Hereford he, and his colleagues Sgt Joe Salter and Cpl Bebb of the RAF Regiment managed to instill discipline into myself and many other youngsters in the mob. What good role models those three gentlemen were. I shall never forget that on returning to the UK in May 1966 from AFNORTH HQ to take up the position of Sgt PA to the CO of RAF Benson, I went to Hereford for a week of shorthand revision, and there standing at the main gate was Sgt Snowdrop Reg Drinkwater. As I got out of my car to book-in at the guardroom, Reg said, “Hello Payton, how’s it going?” That was after nine and a half years since we’d last met. That to me was class! I was proud to have been a member of his Number One Flight E-mail circuit. It was a pleasure to have known you Reg, and many thanks for all you did for me and many others during our early RAF careers. All the best mate, and I sincerely hope that where ever you are, you’ve got a good supply of Famous Grouse or Bells!
Ex-Permanent Staff Attend RAF Bircham Newton 50th Anniverary Celebration 30th September 2012
The celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the closure of RAF Bircham Newton in December 1962 was a successful event and it is estimated some 500 people attended.
Marshal of the RAF Sir Keith Williamson took the salute at the lowering of the ensign at the end of the days proceedings.
We had some interesting visitors to our Association meet and greet table (hosted by Barrrie Loftus (41st) and Dixie Dean (40th)). Amongst these were two former SNCO permanent staff instructors of the Pay Accountant trade: Bob Mabbott (16th) who taught the 41st, 42nd and 43rd entries and Ron Tilbury who instructed the 40th.
Ron had not met with any of his ‘students’ since they passed out in December 1961 and we were able to update him about all of them. It transpired that one of them only lives about 5 miles from Ron so hopefully they will be able to meet up.
A New Photo Appears On Facebook – May 2016
Trawling through the RAF Hereford group on Facebook I came across this photograph If anyone has any information regarding any of the instructors shown in the photograph, I will be pleased to include them here. Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Clk Sec Permanent Staff RAF Bircham Newton 1961-1962 – Pictures Provided By Rick Short