Issue 9, Summer 2007


Newsletter of the 14 Squadron Association

Mike Napier

Fairey Gordon of 14 Squadron flying over Transjordan circa 1936.

The Squadron operated these aircraft between 1932 and 1938

Hon Sec’s Bit

Many thanks to all those who have been in contact with me over the last 6 months or so, by letter or email.  I had an e-mail from Jeremy Payne who is now living in Dubai, and flying for Emirates; he’d be delighted to hear from any ex-colleagues from 14 Squadron days and I’ll pass on his e-mail address to anyone who wants to send him a obscene message.  Jeremy had heard from Mike Alton (“Tart”) who apparently “sounded happy, and living in Luton, which are not 2 words I'd expect to see in the same sentence!!” Coming the other way is Nige Cookson (“Cookie”) who has now completed his tour in the USA and is resident in the UK for a short time while he learns Turkish (yes, that’s right!) before he goes off to become Our Man in Ankara next year.  Also from the ex-Tornado world and living in foreign parts is Mark Fairhurst (“Sharkey”) whom I bumped into over a beer in Valencia, where he’s at the NATO Headquarters and hoping to stay out there (and who can blame him?).  Mark tells me that Ian Gale is about to take over command of 31 Squadron at Marham.  I had a long telephone conversation with Mark Miles who served on the Sqn from 1985-87 and had fond memories of being part of the groundcrew for Dave Snow’s Tornado display - Mark wishes he had some photographs of those times, so if anyone can help let me know.  Actually I did get a stack of photos (though from a couple of years after Mark had left the Sqn from David Turns who was on the initial detachment to Dhahran before the first Gulf War. 

From a slightly earlier vintage, I’ve continued an entertaining correspondence with Bob Broad whose adventures as a 14 Squadron Venom pilot I hope to publish in future newsletters.  From the same vintage I’ve also tracked down Ces Crook in New Zealand, who has promised me his side of the story.  Also, thanks to a sharp-eyed Bernie Tebb who spotted a 14 Sqn tie at Farnborough, I’m in touch with “Smudge” Smith (I still don’t know his proper name!) who flew Venoms and Hunters in the ’50s. Geoff Steggall, also from that golden age of flying has also continued to answer my various questions about what he got up to! 

Thanks very much to John Hanson for a copy of his cine film of life on 14 Sqn flying Canberras in the early ‘60s—or more accurately “life on 14 Sqn sitting on sunny beaches in the early ‘60s!”  I’ve also received some photos of a stiller (and less sunny beach) nature of 14 Sqn Hunters from Brian Batt, including some of the “14 Sqn Spitfire” which was the Wing mascot at Oldenburg.  I also got some details about the Spitfire from Frank Davies amongst his reminiscences - so perhaps that will be material for a future newsletter article!  

Thanks to Dick Froom for a couple of long letters and also Peter Henry who has either just celebrated or is about to celebrate, his 90th birthday - many Happy Returns!  Also from the wartime membership Brian Dutton shared some amusing anecdotes from his time on Blenheims, and Alex Thomson recalled scoring the winning goal for the Sqn aircrew football team at Protville!  And I’m in fairly regular contact by phone with Joe Lowder, who remains on good form 

Ron Dawson , whose account of nearly getting caught by the Afrika Korps appears later in this issue, was reminded by Jim Hanson’s article in the last issue about finding German ration boxes and has sent me a story (for a later issue) about why it’s not always a good idea to open “mystery boxes!” I have also heard from Ron Page who has now recovered from a crashed computer and a cataract operation (not linked as far as I know!).  

I hope that the sun came out by the time George Ecclestone finished decorating his house (on wife’s orders) and escaped into the garden!  And thanks to Sandy Sanderson for sending me some of his photographs of Fassberg in the mid-50s. 

Over the last few months I’ve been in touch via e-mail with Colin Campbell and Bill Cavanagh (both in Australia), Jim Sewell, Bernie Tebb, Eric Owen (who kindly sent me the obituary note for ex-Sqn CO Peter O’Brien which I have précised on the back page), Martin Spanswick, Mike Levy and Don Bond 

I was contacted by Walter Ground, who served as an Air radar Mech in 1960-61 and is interested to get in touch with any contemporaries on the Sqn.  Also David Housely has been in touch—he is building up his own “personal history” of the Sqn covering his time; amongst some anecdotes he sent me was one of an airframe fitter who sat in the cockpit one day at the Armament Practice Camp at Sylt to carry out his checks, pressed the wrong button and sent a burst of bullets across the airfield!  (It wasn’t him he assures me!) 


The Association Website continues to attract quite a lot of interest, and in the last few months I’ve been contacted by the son of Hugh Bates (wartime Blenheims & Marauders),  son of Ray Cocks (late ‘40s Mosquitoes), niece of Walther Rice (wartime WOp/ AG killed in a Marauder) and son of Philip Holden-Rishworh (early ‘70s Phantoms, now living in Canada).   Thanks to Dougie Roxburgh, who keeps the Website going when he’s not flying Boeing 747s for Virgin.  I know that it still needs a bit of  updating (we seem to only manage to get time to do it every few months or so!), and hope to sort that out in the near future.  Any suggestions/constructive criticism gratefully received. 

Pub Night

The Pub Night at the Lamb in Lamb Conduit Street, Holborn in June was enjoyed by those who attended (the clever ones, that is, who worked out that I didn’t mean “2008” in the flyer I sent out advertising the event—sorry, everyone, for my being a donkey).  The idea of the Pub Night is to provide an opportunity to get together in a much more informal atmosphere than a formal reunion.  Many thanks to Dougie Potter for arranging it— we’re going to make it an annual fixture   so keep Friday 6th June free next year (yes, I do mean 2008 this time!).  Amongst those who came along this year were Douglas Moule (now a Training Captain with easyJet), Martin Wintermeyer (teaching in North Yorkshire), Andy Jeremy (Boeing 757 Captain with BA) and John Craig with the UK Airprox Board, which causes a few heart-stopping moments whenever I get a letter from him!).  Apologies to the others present whose names have not got back to me via the grapevine!   

RAF National Service Association Open Day

I was contacted by Mr Honey of the RAF National Service Association to let me know about the Association’s Annual Open Day which is held at Cosford in June.  We were invited to have a stall there advertising our wares, but I declined this year - but perhaps if any of you ex-National Servicemen wish to go along next year as representatives of the 14 Sqn Association, you could let me know.  I hope to get round to putting an advert about the 14 Sqn Assoc into the RAF National Service Assoc magazine sometime soon. 

Next OC 14 Squadron Named!

It seems as if the present OC 14 sqn, Wg Cdr Adrian Frost has only just started, but in fact he’s been in post for 18 months or so and his successor has already been nominated in the person of Wg Cdr Steve Reeves.  Steve is no stranger to the Crusaders, having previously served as a pilot (and mighty Qualified Weapons Instructor no less) at Bruggen and Lossiemouth between 1997 and 2000.  I guess that he’ll take over the reins from Adrian sometime in the new year, and we wish him all the best with his tour in command. 

Centenary Project

Many thanks to all who have contributed, and a continued plea for more reminiscences, anecdotes, photographs, films –any material which might be of interest - from your time with 14 Sqn.  No matter what your branch or trade was while serving, or how long or short your association with 14 Sqn was I’m interested to hear from you! 

That’s it, Folks!

Mike Napier

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

Update From The Frontline - Return From The Gulf (Again)

Bryn Wiliams writes from 14 Squadron...

The mighty Crusaders have recently returned from the Gulf region again, following a highly successful detachment in support of Op TELIC. The Sqn found itself in the highly unusual position of integrating into operational use, the new Litening 3 targeting and laser-designation pod, acquired as an  Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) for the Tornado GR4 in mid 2006. This process involved Sqn aircrew being hands-on from a very early stage in the service life of the pod, introducing it onto the jet after only limited testing by the Fast Jet Operational Evaluation Unit, and then designing the SOPs for use of this awesome new capability. Similarly, the Sqn engineers have been heavily involved with integrating the pod from a ground perspective. Litening 3 supplements the TIALD pod, which has been in use for the last decade and a half, and gives the GR4 a major improvement in capability. Not only are the fidelity and definition of the images received by the aircrew (the pilot can now see the real-time images as well as the nav) much improved, but the pod also has a data-link capability which allows the Forward-Air-Controller (FAC) you are working with on the ground, to receive the imagery, real-time, via a lap-top computer. This understandably speeds up the whole process of Close Air Support (CAS) operations.

A typical sortie lasted between 7-8 hrs in duration with 3 air-to-air refuelling brackets. We would transit from Al Udeid (Qatar) up into Iraq, where our tasking would typically be in or around the Baghdad area, although missions in support of ground operation elsewhere, such as in support of UK forces in Basrah, were not uncommon. The flexibility offered by a pair of GR4s, meant that we would often end up working as single aircraft on different taskings – typically in support of coalition convoys, armed over-watch of a specific area or to support a TIC (Troops In Contact). The latter would involve an immediate re-tasking in support. The FAC could request a Show-of-Force (often specifically requesting a Tornado) - which involves a low level pass (100-200ft) at something like 550Kts plus. This technique is a very effective method of dispersing crowds around any hostile situation. If the situation required further involvement then the GR4 would typically be armed with the dual-role Enhanced Paveway 2 bomb (1000lb GPS/laser guided munition) and the 27mm gun for strafe attacks. The feedback we received from the FACs within theatre was very positive and the quality of picture delivered by our new capability was the best from any fast air asset. This fact, coupled with the flexibility that we offered, meant that we found ourselves in situations that we would have never previously been utilised in with the TIALD pod.

Whilst we were manning the Tornado det in Al Udeid, HRH The Prince Of Wales came to visit, and met a number of Sqn members

Military tourism proved to be relatively thin on the ground. Various crews diverted into both Balad and Basrah during the detachment, but the award for best diversion went to Flt Lt Pete Geddes (our Junior Pilot) who on his first sortie in theatre ended up diverting into Bahrain. It took 4 days to fix the jet and get them out, by which time the 5 star hotels and Formula 1 race circuit had been well and truly enjoyed!! Needless to say, Pete was the most popular pilot on the Sqn for quite a while!

Other than successfully integrating the Tornado fleet’s newest capability the other big talking point of the detachment was the “great storm of March 2007”. A violent storm struck Al Udeid Air Base during a B-Shift beer call. The Boss and Sengo were called out of the bar when the Jengo rang to say, that “the wind had dragged the aircraft shelter through a few degrees”. The real truth is shown below...

It goes without saying that the aircraft inside was heavily damaged and was brought back to the UK in pieces courtesy of a C-17 transport aircraft! The wind speeds of 75-80kts were the highest speeds ever recorded in Qatar and other damage included a C-130 Hercules, which had been blown into a fuel bowser and a P-3 Orion being blown onto its tail. One hell of a strong wind, I think that you will agree. Certainly, the engineers of A shift will never forget that night!  

The Sqn returned to the UK for some hard earned block leave in early April. Life remains as busy as ever and we seem to be constantly short of personnel. We have 2 crews off to participate in the NATO TLP Course, to be held at Karup AB, Denmark. The Sqn deploys to Turkey on Ex ANATOLIAN EAGLE during June, whilst we are off back to the good ol’ US of A during July-August, for a heavy weapons detachment at Davis-Montham AB, Arizona. We hope to see you all at the association weekend later in the year.

Regards from the frontline.

From the Archives

Bryn’s report from the Squadron reminds me of the saying “Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose” as they say in Kyrgyzstan.  Firstly, for your delectation, a  Royal Visit to an operational detachment in the Middle East...

This is King George VI visiting the Squadron at Bone in 1943 (and that is Bert Shearman’s Marauder in the background!

...and secondly, more on Winds in the Desert...

This is the Airmen’s Mess after a passing whirlwind had done its thing in the Western Desert circa 1942.


Hunter  XJ646

David Winterbottom is researching the service life of a former 14 Sqn Hunter aircraft on behalf of the Malta Air Museum, based at the former RAF Ta Qali site on Malta.   The Museum is shortly to receive an ex-Indian Air Force Hawker Hunter, which had previously seen service in the RAF as XJ646 with 14 Sqn during the 1950s in Germany.  The Museum would be most grateful for any photographs of the aircraft in service with 14 Sqn which could be used to form part of the aircraft display in Malta.  David is also interested to obtain any accounts by former pilots flying the aircraft or engineers working on the aircraft.  He also adds “Should any of the Association members be visiting Malta they can be assured of a warm welcome should they wish to reacquaint themselves with the aircraft.”  So there you are if you fancy a holiday in Malta!  Please let me know if you can help and I’ll put you in touch with David Winterbottom.


Adventure In The Western Desert, June 1942

R G Dawson 

During June 1942 14 Squadron was operating from a desert landing ground near Sollum in Libya and although under frequent attack from low-flying ME 109's this was not the main concern: the Afrika Korps was just about to break through the 8th Army defensive line adjacent to, and around, Tobruk.  This did in fact, happen soon enough and the whole of the front totally collapsed, leaving all squadrons operating in that area in danger of being quickly overrun and their aircraft destroyed.  In the absence of any specific instructions from HQ, the CO decided that all our aircraft (Blenheims) should take off immediately and fly east until they found a landing-strip that could accommodate them as near as possible to the RAF HQ at Burg-el-Arab.

All remaining personnel were instructed to destroy everything that could be of use to the enemy, load themselves into the squadron's trucks (mainly Bedford 3-tonners) with as much water and rations as could be found, and make their way separately (not in convoy) to Burg-el-Arab. It was advised that the coast road should not be used as this was continually under attack by ME 109's and JU88's, and that a course at least 6 to 8 miles inland would be best.  Also, single vehicles were less likely to be attacked than a group.

This trip eventually took about three days and nights, but as it was impossible to navigate by night we bedded down under the truck and waited for dawn, hoping that we would not be spotted by the enemy

On the second night having found a small depression in the desert in which to bed down, we were awakened by the rumble of tank engines and German voices. On peering carefully over the edge of the depression we found that a whole regiment of Afrika Corps tanks and vehicles, having broken through the defensive positions set up by the 8th Army, was parked about 100 yards away having a stop for food! 

We were expecting to be challenged any moment or to receive an 88mm shell through the truck, but whether our truck was not seen in the small depression or whether the enemy just assumed it was an abandoned vehicle we shall never know. 

In the event after about an hour, the whole tank regiment moved on eastward and in the morning we were able to continue with our journey and were lucky enough to avoid any further contact.  We did, in fact decide to take a chance on the coast road as it would be so much quicker. This proved to be a good decision as we were not attacked at all, and the only happening of note was that near Mersa Matruh we came across a NAAFI Supply Depot that was being abandoned and we were told to help ourselves to anything we wanted, so the truck was quickly loaded-up with cigarettes, Egyptian beer (awful stuff) and toilet paper, which we had not seen for years!

A couple of Ron Dawson’s colleagues take a look at a Panzer IV which had been abandoned by its former owners. 


I regret to report that a number of our number have received their final posting to the great Crusader Squadron in the sky...

Norman Hooker passed away in July at the age of 88.

seen above left with Harold King in Cairo in 1942)  

Norman served with 14 Squadron’s Wireless Section throughout the Desert War and has been a great supporter both of the Squadron and the Association.  His account of his return visit to North Africa in 2005 was published in the Old Crusader Issue 7, and Norman has also provided the Centenary Project with a number of photographs of  his time with 14 Squadron.     

Jack McConnell, wireless operator in Flying Officer Mackenzie’s Wellesley and Blenheim crew (and a founder member of the Assoc) passed away in July.  Jack had a couple of lucky escapes in his time - the first in 1940 when his Blenheim was shot down over Eritrea and his crew was rescued by the CO, Squadron Leader Stapleton who landed in the scrub next to the crashed aircraft.  On the second occasion the crew became lost after a night mission to Crete in May 1941 and had to abandon the aircraft when they ran out of fuel: McConnell and the navigator were rescued after wandering around the desert for three days, but nothing was ever found of the pilot Mackenzie. 

L Tulley who was in the Wireless Section at RAF Amman from 1937-39 passed away in February.  He was very proud of his association with 14 Squadron (and provided some interesting photos including the one in Old Crusader Issue 6 of a Fairey Gordon entangled with a local taxi!). 

The photo above is taken from the RAF Amman Rugby XV 1937-38 season, with SAC Tulley sitting at the feet of a certain Pilot Officer Stapleton.

Me323 pilot Walter Honig, died in June at the age of 87.

Oberfeldwebel Honig was shot down off Cape Corse on 30 July 1943 by Gil Graham in the back of Dick Maydwell’s Marauder.  The iconic photo of Walter’s aeroplane under attack is reproduced below - thanks to Gil.  Walter met both Dick and Gil in 1982 and subsequently formed a strong friendship with both his former adversaries.

Peter O’Brien OBE, DFC*, OC 14 Squadon 1946-47 has died in Toronto at the age of 89.

Eric Owen writes “Peter St. George O’Brian was my C.O. while I was stationed at Wahn (Cologne), Germany with 14 Squadron in 1946/47. I remember him as a very tolerant man, well liked by his squadron members. He especially liked to be on the playing field and while he was a rather undistinguished footballer, he could beat anyone in the 100 yards sprint. One of my main memories is the comradeship we enjoyed as team-members on the Squadron medley relay team. He, always seemed to be floating along in the 100 yards dash, while I slogged around the 800 yards portion. But we never lost a race!”

Born in Toronto, Peter O’Brien attended the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell, where he graduated with the Sword of Honour as top cadet of 1937.   During  the Second World War  he flew with several fighter squadrons, and fought in the Battle of Britain;  he was twice awarded the DFC. Peter's war included getting shot down off the coast of Brittany and rescued by Free French torpedo boats while a German E-Boat closed in. He finished the War on the Joint Planning Staff at the War Cabinet Rooms in Whitehall. After the War, he had commands in Aden, Cologne (14 Squadron,Wahn) and Leuchars, Scotland, and was promoted to Group Captain of Operations, Fighter Command. In 1954, he was appointed to the OBE and in 1957 he was made ADC to the Queen.  In his civilian career, Peter was engaged in Human Resource Management at Urwick-Currie, W.H. Smith (Canada) and Southam Press where he was Vice-President at the time of his retirement in 1982.