Issue 11, Summer 2008


Newsletter of the 14 Squadron Association

Mike Napier

A DH9a “Ninak” of 14 Squadron over the desert of Transjordan in late 1928 or early 1929.

The Squadron badge can be seen just under the exhaust pipe in the left side of the nose.

Hon Sec’s Bit

2008 Reunion

Saturday 25 October at RAF Cottesmore

We’ve moved back to our preferred month of October this year – and once again the Reunion will be held at RAF Cottesmore on Saturday 25 October at 7.00pm for 7.30pm.  The cost of this year's Reunion Dinner will be £35 a head, the same as it has been for the last 4 years and we believe still offers very good value for money. The Reunion will be held in the Officers’ Mess, but we must stress that the Reunion is open to all members irrespective of former (or current!) service rank.  Once again the format of the event will be based on an informal “fork supper” and we expect to pretty much have the run of the Mess to ourselves.  However, we do also wish to use the occasion to run a very brief AGM to regularize the Accounts and the election of some of the Officers of the Association (see later under “Constitution”)

There is limited (and fairly basic) accommodation available in the Mess at RAF Cottesmore. We have reserved a number of rooms for those attending the Reunion — please book them through the Hon Secretary, not directly with the Mess! The cost of accommodation (including breakfast on the Sunday morning) will be £12 per person, and rooms will be available on a first come-first served basis. If you’re coming “solo” please indicate if you’d be prepared to share a room — obviously if people are prepared to share a twin room with someone else, then we can make the accommodation stretch a bit further! There are also a number of hotels in the local area.

If you wish to attend the Reunion—and let’s go for a big turnout this year—please let me know in writing by 1st October 2008 and enclose a cheque for £35 (or £47 if you want accommodation at Cottesmore) per person payable to “14 Squadron Association”. My address is: Mike Napier, Lowesmoor, Great Rollright, CHIPPING NORTON, Oxfordshire OX7 5RR.

Pub Night - Jun 08

The Annual Pub Night was held on Friday 27 June at the Lamb in Old Conduit Street, Holborn. Attendance was disappointing but it is still early days yet for the Pub Night as an annual event so we’ll be running it again next summer and hoping that more ex-Crusaders will wish to come along!

Change of Command

Wing Commander Steve Reeves has now taken over command of 14 Squadron from Wing Commander Adrian Frost.  We wish them both well in their new jobs - and a vote of thanks is definitely due to “Frosty” for his outstanding support for the Association during his tenure of command.

Happy Birthday, Mr President!

I’m sure that all members of the Association wish to send their congratulations and good wishes to our President AV-M Deryck Stapleton who recently celebrated his 90th Birthday.  Deryck started his tour with 14 Squadron as a Pilot Officer flying Fairey Gordons in 1937 and finished it four years later as the Squadron Commander, having flown operationally on Wellesleys and Blenheims.  His association with the Squadron continued in the mid-fifties, when he  was the Station Commander at Oldenburg at the time that 14 Squadron moved there from Fassberg. 

People News

In no particular order, a brief resume of the correspondence I’ve had over the last few months...


Wal Clarke-Hall is still in good health in Australia having just celebrated his 93rd birthday and he very kindly sent me a copy of his flying log book to add to the Association Archives.  His erstwhile second pilot on Marauders Alan Cadell is now in a nursing home but retains his interest in 14 Squadron.  Continuing the Australian theme, I’ve also heard from Bill Cavanagh, and he and Merv Hogg’s nephew Lee have managed to solve the mystery of one of the “unknown” Marauder crew photographs by identifying “Frosty” Coleman as the captain.  Closer to home I’ve had letters and e-mails from Ron Dawson, who was able to give me details of the Squadron’s move to Iraq in 1941, and from Don Francis who has told some amusing tales of his experiences with the Squadron in the Egyptian desert.  Of a similar vintage to Don is Frank Slack who has just joined the Association - Frank served as an engine fitter from March ‘41 to October ‘44.  Also from wartime days Joe Lowder is on good form these days!

Ex Vampire fighter pilots reliving their former glory - Geoff Steggall and Don Headley recently had a Grand Day Out in a Slingsby Firefly


More recent ex-Crusaders from Hunter days who have been in touch include Snip Parsons.  Of the same vintage, David Nursaw and John Preece have kindly provided me with some photographs and reminiscences of their Crusader days, and I have the promise of some more from Bob Honey and Tony Edmonds.  I also received the following by e-mail from Peter Campbell...

“...very interested in 14 Sqn as I was attached to in 1957/8 at Oldenburg as an armourer mech 4152376.  Happy memories!  A group photo was taken about march ‘58 - is there any chance somebody could help, or any contacts around that time? I was known as 'Big Bill Campbell' because I was small ! One memory sticks out which cost the Squadron dear. I was sent into the hangar to bring out a Hunter gun pack trolley. While trying to manoeuvre it between aircraft in the hangar I got it stuck under a wingtip fuel tank, causing a slight leak.  Every one rushed to my aid, quickly plugging the gap.  Then we proceeded to remove and lower the tank; unfortunately it slipped off the winch and split in two causing a major disaster, having to evacuate the whole hangar ! It cost me my pride and 14 days jankers ...  I hope this will be of some use to jogging someone’s memory. Regards Peter Campbell”  Anyone remember this incident?

Especially for Derek Smith (again)... Phantom XV501 in flight, Turnill & Adams November 1975


Ex-navigators who now have proper jobs, John Craig and Rick Pearce were both at the Pub Night, as were Derek Watson and Dan Yeoman (another navigator!).  Perhaps only navigators could read the maps to the pub!.  I’ve also heard from Andy Fuller (engine fitter ‘93-96 and ‘97-00) who is now with Rolls Royce at Heathrow and can remember playing cricket with “Wookie” Reeves at Bruggen.  Kev Turns’ son was in touch to try and track down a copy of the Mike Rondot 14 Squadron Tornado print for Kev’s 50th Birthday.

Web Site

The Association website is going strong.  I’ve not yet been able to update the photograph section to include a lot more photos of people rather than  aeroplanes, but hope to be able to link up with Dougie Roxburgh and get that done soon.  We do now have a “Forum” page which can be used as a means of promulgating  details of reunions etc.

Centenery Project

One fantastic spin-off from the website is that a number of people have been contacting me through the website offering copies of photographs from relatives who served with 14 Squadron.  Recently I’ve had - photos of an Air Gunner’s time with 14 Squadron in 1936-38, a photocopy of Hugh Bates’ wartime flying logbook, and a selection of WW1 photographs, too.  I’m also awaiting some material from the early twenties.

Other than that, research continues and I am getting a fairly comprehensive archive of historical data together - but please keep stuff coming in!  I’m interested in memoirs anecdotes photos - in fact anything connected to 14 Squadron - and I’d particularly like to get more from our ex-groundcrew members.

That’s all, Folks!

Mike Napier

Lowesmoor, Great Rollright, CHIPPING NORTON, Oxfordshire OX7 5RR

Memoirs of an Squadron Engineering Officer - continued... 

Patrick O’Connor - Sqn Engineering Officer 1961-62

Pat O’Connor and Ian Tite stealing a motorbike at Aalborg, while Mike Wagstaff and some bemused Danes look on...

Our visit to Denmark was also memorable. We were based at Aalborg, on the mainland west of Copenhagen. The Danes were wonderfully friendly and sociable, so we worked hard all day and enjoyed the evenings. For the weekend they flew us to Copenhagen in one of their DC3’s. They had appointed one of their pilots to be our guide, and he was showing us the sights of the city when someone spotted a lorry unloading crates of Carlsberg into a bar in the New Harbour district. In those days Neuhavn was a sleazy place, not the tourist attraction it is today. “We’re going in there!” our leader announced. We went down the cellar stairs and settled down around a large wooden table, and spent the whole night there. We had a couple of bottles of our duty free whisky, an expensive drink in Denmark, and if we saw someone who looked interesting we would flash a bottle and they would join us. I remember that one was a very large blonde woman who said that she was a road builder.

The next day Ian Tite, one of our best drinking pilots, and I visited a fun fair somewhere in the city. We decided to have a go on the dodgem cars. I suggested we try a high-speed head on collision. We orbited at either end, then when it was clear we charged one another. The impact was interesting: my mouth hit the steering wheel and I was bleeding profusely. Other drivers were staring as I mopped the blood with my handkerchief and completed the ride. I still have the scar.

Most of our deployments were to practice air-to-air live firing. The Hunters would attack a banner towed behind a Meteor fighter (on a very long nylon rope!). The ammunition used was the non-explosive type, with the business ends dipped in coloured paint. We would then collect the banner when the Meteor pilot dropped it by the runway, and count the colour-splashed holes. It was a very competitive affair, between pilots and squadrons. On one competition, at Nicosia in Cyprus, our top four aces took on the best of the local squadron. We won, but were greatly assisted by the fact that the CO of the other squadron’s aircraft guns failed to fire. He was last seen angrily stalking his engineer.

Because we were so near what would have been the front line if WWIII had started, our NATO TACEVALs were serious exercises. The sirens would sound, usually in the small hours, and everyone would get into work as quickly as they could. You never knew for sure whether it was an exercise or the real thing until you got there. My job was to get as many aircraft ready to fly as soon as possible. Sometimes we had to operate from the aircraft bunkers scattered around the airfield. To make it all more realistic, the British army would be invited to invade us, and we had to dig trenches and fight them off. Only blank ammunition was used, of course, but I remember one scary time when an armoured car drove up to my trench in the dark and opened fire with his machine gun. The fact that we had been told to defend in the opposite direction, so we were being gunned down from behind with no earth rampart to protect us added to the feeling of terrified helplessness, as the gun rattled and flashed, and I prayed that no live rounds were mixed in among the blanks. The TACEVALs usually lasted two days, during which we stayed on camp and worked non-stop.

Social life in RAF Germany was excellent. Alcohol and petrol were duty free, and the breathalyser had not been invented. The officers’ messes were usually the old German wartime buildings, so they had a very different character to the typical UK ones.   The Gűtersloh mess was the one built by the Luftwaffe before the war, and included a cellar bar in which the old Luftwaffe graffiti had been left, including the words “Juden raus!” (but removed soon afterwards), and a little drinking room in the tower where Hermann Goering used to entertain his friends. In the ceiling was a beam which was cut through the middle and hinged at the ends. A lever under the wooden table caused it to “break” and fall a foot or so. Goering had had this ingenious contraption made, so that if any of his drinking friends told what he considered a lie, he could make the ceiling fall, in accordance with German folklore. The mens’ toilets were equipped with a pair of “honkatoriums”, a sort of wall-mounted lavatory specially designed for vomiting into.

The mess was the place to be every Saturday night, and I remember one evening when the 14 Squadron bachelors decided to take a few crates of beer up into the Goering tower. After much drinking we began to throw the empty bottles out of the windows. The next morning the station’s senior staff were unamused, and fines were added to our mess bills for the damage and clearing up.

A popular drink on special occasions was “Pimms 79”. It had been invented by another RAF Germany Hunter squadron, No. 79, and when they disbanded 14 took over their silver, including the Pimms 79 mug. This held about two gallons, and was inscribed with the formula, consisting of copious amounts of vodka, gin and other alcoholic ingredients, as well as some Pimms No. 1. It was the custom for aircrew to have to quaff a pint when they were declared operational, that is, ready to go to war. This led to some extremely drunken evenings. I remember Stu Lumsden pounding out the time to a Beatles song on one of the bare pine tables with a glass tankard: all of the tankard had disintegrated except the handle that he gripped, and the table top was awash with beer, blood and broken glass. I was thankful that the custom did not extend to engineers.

Groundcrew on detachment to Aalborg - can anyone put names to these faces?

If you have enjoyed reading this article, you can find stories from the rest of Pat’s career in the RAF at:

The Association’s Constitution

It is now 5 years since Tim Anderson, Mike Napier and Dougie Potter answered Joe Lowder’s call for help in running the Association.  Joe had agreed to be the temporary Hon Secretary and Treasurer back in 1986 – but was still doing both jobs seventeen years later!  The result was that in 2003 Tim, Mike and Dougie effectively appointed themselves as Vice President, Hon Secretary and Treasurer respectively, but they also stated that they would put themselves forward for formal election at a later stage.  Since then they have been joined by Mac Furze and Tom Boyle who were democratically appointed as Vice-Presidents last year.  Tim, Mike and Dougie think that the time is right for an election and therefore we intend to hold that election at the Annual Reunion this year.  The periods of Office for each post will eventually be 5 years; however, for this initial election some of the posts will be for shorter periods so that we can “stagger” the subsequent elections.  In that way we’ll have elections for only one post at the AGM in future years.  The Offices up for election this year are as follows:

Vice President.For 1 year.  Present incumbent Tim Anderson

Treasurer.  For 2 years.  Present incumbent Dougie Potter

Hon SecretaryFor 3 years.  Present incumbent Mike Napier 

All three of the present incumbents are prepared to stand again, but if anyone else wishes to have a go at any of the jobs above, please give your name to the Hon Secretary by 1st October, and we’ll put it to a vote at the AGM.

Tim Anderson, Mac Furze, Dougie Potter and Mike Napier met up in April to review the last five years and to discuss the Way Ahead.  As a result there have been some minor amendments to the Association’s constitution as published on our website.  Most of these are a “house-keeping” exercise to ensure that what is on the website reflects the reality of how we are now operating.  The Hon Secretary post has now been expanded to include the duties of “Historian”.  

One area of discussion was how the Association can be more pro-active in advertising itself, and one idea was to advertise on websites such as Forces Reunited.  Another idea is to have volunteer “Era Points of Contact” who can chase up their contemporaries to sign up to the Association and to come along to Reunions - for example, the reason that the Canberra era is so well represented at Reunions is because of the efforts of Bill Yates in getting a number of his contemporaries together four years ago.  So if anyone feels inspired to take responsibility to chase around their contemporaries, or if  you have any thoughts on the how we can make the Association better, please let the Hon Secretary know!


Peter Henry


I am sad to report that Peter Henry has died at the age of 90.  Just before the war, Peter Henry was working as a stockbroker’s clerk in the City and decided to join the “weekend fliers” of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to spice up his life.  He joined 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron Aux AF, which was then flying Harts and Gladiators, as an “erk”.  615 Squadron’s Honorary Air Commodore was Sir Winston Churchill and Peter met the Great Man on several occasions.  Called up for full time service at the start of the war, Peter served with the Squadron through the thick of fighting during the Battle of Britain at RAF Kenley.  In 1941 he was selected for flying training and went to South Africa where he gained his wings.  On completion of his training Peter was sent to North Africa, where, in early 1944, he was posted to 14 Squadron.  Peter flew Marauders with the Squadron as second pilot to Bill Mailer on coastal reconnaissance missions throughout the Mediterranean.  On the successful conclusion of the Mediterranean campaign in September ‘44, 14 Squadron moved to Chivenor, and Peter converted to the Wellington MkXIV. Now with his own crew he flew on Anti-Submarine operations during the final stages of the war in the Atlantic.  When 14 Squadron was re-numbered 179 Squadron in May 1945, Peter remained with the Unit – staying, too, after the subsequent re-numbering to 210 Squadron.  During this time he flew Warwicks and then Lancasters respectively.  As Peter himself recently wrote “What a life - Stockbroker’s clerk to Lancaster driver in 8 years!”  Peter has been an active member of the 14 Squadron Association for a number of years and, in particular, I have enjoyed a regularly amusing and informative correspondence with Peter over the last 5 years.

Peter Henry, standing left, with Bill Mailer and the rest of the crew in front of a Marauder in late 1944

Ray Ball - a Post Script

I received the following from Tim Marsh after Ray’s Obituary appeared in the last issue of The Old Crusader...

Ray Ball’s obituary on the back page is of interest to me since he was my parents’ village butcher in Chiddingfold Surrey!

I have fond memories of going in to his shop when I was growing up and remember certainly all the traditional Wedgwood plates on display all over the butchery. I am not sure if it is my memory playing up or rose tinted spectacles but maybe there was some 14 Squadron memorabilia there too ! I do remember, though, my mother telling of his joy when I was posted to his old Squadron and his interest in my involvement in events back in 90-91.