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RE: Anecdotes

From Lionel Mussel:
Another slightly scary flight was during particularly high tides along the East Coast when Transport Command helped out by bringing sandbags from Europe not help stem the floods. We picked a load in Milan and on the way back over the Alps lost the supercharger power on one engine and had to feather it. With the other three on climbing power we couldnt reach safety height and had to pick a course through the peaks.  Our increased fuel consumption made it look like a landing in France but when we cleared the mountains and descended to our normal cruising altitude and restarted the errant engine  things looked much better and we made Lyneham alright although with a very small fuel margin.
No other Hastings were allowed to go over the top and had to go the long way around.
By the way I did a number of trips by Hastings to Australia and on one of them we flew boffins and radioactive material from the nuclear bomb test site at Emu back to the UK. The cargo was checked every morning by the boffins using a geiger counter.
I liked Australia very much and have lived here for more than fifty years - Ive visited Woomera where they tested guided missiles and we used to land with the Hastings.



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I remember that incident very well - one of my Flt Engineer mates was the guy who went down to check and found the tyre checker's head severed from his body! In the dark the props were invisible and I nearly did the same thing myself one night! Realization came as if someone had thrown a bucket of icy cold water over me


Lionel Mussell


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Reflections of some of my R.A.F. National Service days


By Michael A.Richards


(2479346, LAC Richards, Air Wireless Mechanic, on completion of a two years engagement, in the R.A.F. in July 1952)

My stay at Lyneham was to last from mid September to mid November 1950 and I quickly became very familiar with the terms HF and VHF and neutrons, electrons, cathodes and anodes etc. I soon got to learn also how heavy were the TR 1154/1155 HF sets as well as the TR 1143 and TR 1430 VHF sets! Experiences of course all with Handley Page Hastings aircraft. 

Some of us used to revel in circuit and bump test flights of Hastings aircraft at night. I must have had about half dozen trips of this nature. Groups of about half a dozen at a time for each flight were allowed to participate in the flights. We would all have to report to the stores to collect and sign for a parachute before each flight. Returning them back the stores immediately flying for the night had ceased.

I remember that never once were we ever given any formal training on how to fit and operate a parachute! If anything drastic had have happened however, we all quickly developed a very good idea of how to operate them by applying straightforward common sense despite always making best use of the parachutes as convenient seats during the flights! 

During the whole of my two years service as a National Serviceman in the R.A.F I only managed to get home three times on leave, to see my folks back in Northampton. Particularly of course my Dad. These being a 36hour Pass when at Wilmslow, a 48hour Pass from Lyneham and a seven days embarkation leave, also from Lyneham, during late October and early November 1950. The seven days leave being very significant as an indicator that soon things were about to change for me drastically. 

This all started to happen on November 12th when about forty plus or so of us, were instructed to thoroughly pack our kit bags and be ready for a night in transit at Clyffe Pypard, that strange little place on top of a hill, the following day, November 13th! 

Each one of us was a stranger to the next one with certainly in my case, not a familiar face to seen anywhere in the group! I am sure that went for each and everyone us too. This was understandable as we were all obviously from different trade backgrounds. Most were National Servicemen with only a few Regulars amongst us apparently. 

Then the real adventure began. We were to be at the ready, with our kit bags packed, at 5.00am the next day November 14th, and to be ready for onward transit by air! The morning was dark, cold and very misty when we all boarded an R.A.F. bus for the short trip to Lyneham Airfield. Not one of the forty or so airmen on the bus had any idea where or were told where we were all going! Through the misty murk we could just make out the majestic silhouettes of the Hastings aircraft as the slight traces of a dismal dawn was breaking. 

The bus stopped when it had reached Hastings registration number TG530. This was to be our transport we quickly learned, to wherever we were going! 

Each one of us was orderly checked in to a rear facing seat on board Hastings TG530, and then when all other loading operations had been completed, it was time to go. 

At precisely 7.45am on the morning of November 14th 1950, Hastings TG530 took off from Lyneham in the autumn mist, with fifty-two service personnel on board, including the flightcrew.

We were eagle-eyed young boys really setting out on a great adventure, completely oblivious of our final destinations, and totally reliant on the flightcrew whom we all hoped did know where they were going! The next few days would soon unfold and reveal their secrets to us all. 

After levelling out at 9500ft, we soon learned that we were on our way to Malta that was to be our first stop. We landed at Luqa Airfield Malta, early in the afternoon, after the flight of this first leg, which had taken six and quarter hours and the first thing that happened as soon as we were off the aircraft was for our Inoculation Certificates to be very thoroughly checked. 

This was to be the pattern set for every leg of the journey from thereon. Our Inoculation Certificates, next to our 1250s, were like secondary Passports.

After getting fixed up with a meal, a bed and blankets, several of us took the opportunity of taking a look at Valetta, the capital city of Malta. A very dusty and dry place I remember at the time. 

A very early start was planned for the next day and we were soon to learn of the real business plan and procedures of the flight. After a night of very little sleep at all, we were soon up again and back in the Hastings for a 04.45hrs take off in the dark, for the next leg of the journey to Fayid in Egypt. We climbed to 7500ft and after about half an hour into the flight, realised that some of our numbers had not re-boarded the Hastings to go to Fayid. It then dawned on us that this would be the plan for each stop along the route of the flight. Those that did not re-board the Hastings, had discovered their final destinations and of course their postings! 

Hastings TG530 droned onwards into the dawn and into a new day, which provided us with some spectacular horizon colours. Flying into the dawn had been described to me as a particularly beautiful natural phenomenon to witness and that description proved to be very true on that morning. It took the best part of four hours flying until we touched down at Fayid, in the desert and the blazing heat, in the middle of the morning! We were scheduled to take off again at 14.00hrs in the afternoon, but that was not to be. At Fayid engine problems had been reported to the ground crews that caused a four hours delay in the intensive heat of the desert, while the engines were checked over. 

When we finally got round to re-boarding the Hastings again for the next leg to Habbanya in Iraq, we again noticed that our numbers had been further reduced.

I personally felt sorry for the chaps who did not get back into the Hastings. Snug back in my seat on the aircraft, I was secretly rejoicing that I had not been posted to Fayid, which struck me as being an unfriendly and even hostile place in the intolerable heat, in the desert and in the middle of nowhere! 

The nights dropped in fast at Fayid in November and it was in the dark again when we took off at 18.15hrs for the calculated three and three quarter hours night flight to Habbanya. We eventually touched down at Habbanya at 21.55hrs and spent the night in tents. Habbanya was another place I soon discovered that I was very glad to get away from, with no ambition ever to go back, I declared to myself, if I could possibly avoid it! My most vivid and long lasting memory of the place was the appalling breakfast we were served the next day in the camp cookhouse.

We were served by a local native cook I presumed who spoke only poor broken English but to his credit, smiled a lot which displayed a very gappy set of decaying teeth every time he smiled!

My Dad used to refer to some Middle Eastern delicacies as camel **** and tram tickets and that is the best description I can come up with for what Mr Gappy Teeth had placed on our plates! Whatever it was it was black/grey burnt and looked, smelled and tasted disgusting! The strange thing was that we all ate whatever it was on our plates because there was no alternative, along with the equally disgusting brew provided that was supposed to be black coffee. 

You can tell I felt really sorry again for the chaps that had been posted to this place and considered myself very lucky to be amongst those of us left who were instructed to re-board the Hastings again for the next leg of the journey! 

It was now Thursday November 16th 1950 and we were all set again, in our seats with our seat belts on, ready for a 08.45hrs take off from Habbanya for Mauripur (Karachi) in Parkistan, the next leg. This leg was relatively uneventful and it took the best part of seven hours, cruising at a flying speed of around 215mph at steady altitude of 9500ft, when we eventually landed at Mauripur at 18.30hrs local time.  

We spent the night in tents and it was here that we were told to at last, to change into our tropical kit due to the stifling heat we were beginning to experience. We had no further bad experiences here in the cookhouse either, that I can remember. 

Our numbers reduced further here and when we re-boarded the Hastings on the next day for the next leg, there were less than twenty of us left from the original forty or so that had originally started out from Lyneham and I was still one of them! 

We took off from Mauripur at 07.50hrs on the Friday morning, for a long flight to Negombo in Ceylon, as it was then, and it was on this leg that we received a warning of what was about to happen during the next few days.

The flight was only 150 miles out from Mauripur and cruising at our seemly favoured height of 9500ft when the outboard engine on the port side, decided to stop suddenly! The engine was feathered then the captain completed a 180degree turn to put us on track for a return to Mauripur. After about fifteen minutes had passed by flying on this track, the engine sprang back to life again as suddenly as it had stopped! The flight engineer had obviously managed to restart the engine, which caused the captain to have a re-think. He promptly made another 180degree turn to put us back on our original track for Negombo. Exciting stuff for all of us novice observers! 

With all four engines running seemingly sweetly again, we continued on course at around 220mph and 9500ft, for a tiring and sweaty long flight, on to Negombo.  

We touched down at Negombo at 14.25hrs in the afternoon and when the doors of the Hastings were opened after landing I thought I would die from the extreme heat and humidity that we were all suddenly confronted with! Our Inoculation Certificates were promptly checked as usual and then we were driven to our quarters which turned out to be a solidly built building, built of I know not what but not a tent, with beds for about twenty airmen. Each bed had its own mosquito net which we were informed should always be in place when the bed was being used!

Such was our exhausted condition that after attempting freshening up in the sparsely equipped ablutions area, all we wanted to do was to try and cool down and recover by just laying on our beds dozing and drinking water. Contemplating the next days flight, which we learned, was to be to Changi, Singapore, the Headquarters of the FEAF. There were now only about twelve of us left from the original forty or so, who were trying to cool down and we were beginning get to know each other! At least my eventual group of six did, and firm friendships were beginning to blossom between us in this strange setting we found ourselves plunged into. 

As a very hot, humid, lazy and uncomfortable afternoon turned to dusk and eventual darkness and somebody put the lights on all hell broke loose!

We had suddenly been invaded by dozens and dozens of huge flying **** beetles, teaming in through the open windows of the billet and attracted by the sudden switching on of the lights!

Seeing these creatures; was really believing I can assure anybody! Of course most of us had forgotten about the mosquito nets and we had no option but to declare war on the **** beetles! Strange creatures in that their navigation systems were non-existent as they frequently bumped against the lights, into us, and every other object that happened to appear in their paths! By good old fashioned swatting methods with anything we could lay our hands on, between us we must have demolished well over two hundred of these most objectionable intruders! The battle lasted about an hour and a half after which things began to settle back to some sort of normality. We were then faced with clearing up the disgusting mess that the dead, very squashed and bloody beetles carcasses presented us with! It was as if many very large blackberries had been deliberately thrown around at random and then systematically squashed underfoot!

We had a very disturbed night of attempted sleep due to the heat humidity and the **** beetle encounter but under our mosquito nets this time! We had learned our hard lesson fast! At the crack of dawn we up again, and after a good breakfast, (we had no cookhouse problems at Negombo), we were all ready to re-board Hastings TG530 for the final leg of the journey to Changi.


Comfortably apprehensive in our seats with our seat belts firmly in place, the twelve of us for Changi waited at the end of the runway for our take off clearance.

TG530 slowly began to roll, gradually yet strangely and sluggishly trying to build up speed for take off. What seemed to be about half way into the take off run, the captain abruptly cut all four engines and aborted safely, the take off of the Hastings!

Whilst taxying back to the dispersal point we were informed that a fault had developed with the communications system. To my mind this could only be the TR1154/1155 HF equipment, and would have to be fixed before we could proceed any further. The time was a little over 06.15hrs on Saturday morning of November 18th 1950 when we arrived back at dispersal.

About an hour or so went by while the wireless fault was being fixed and we were all ready again for another attempt at take off soon after 07.50hrs.

At 08.05hrs Hastings TG530 began another take off attempt which was considerably more exciting than the first! This time we did accelerate quite quickly and normally, as it seemed, along the runway for take off. The acceleration of the aircraft continued and only at the very last possible moment I am sure, the captain decided to abort again! I honestly thought we were going to crash into the palm trees that surrounded the whole of Negombo airfield, but we didnt!

We were quickly informed this time while taxying to back to the dispersal again, that the outboard engine on the port side was not developing sufficient power on take off, which would mean a possible 24hours delay!

This was the same engine that had given us our anxious moment 150 miles from Mauripur when we had turned back on the previous day and it made me wonder about the validity of the reason given for our first aborted take off? 

A 24hrs delay it turned out to be, which gave us an unexpected opportunity to get to know Negombo a little better and more importantly, to begin to get acclimatised to the extreme hot and humid climate that we had arrived at. It was in reality, an unexpected holiday and we were soon to discover a totally deserted and gloriously sandy Negombo beach, with palm trees in abundance! It was akin to some of the best Hollywood film sequences. The only thing missing being a total absence of any bathing beauties! With the standard of the cuisine and beverages in the cookhouse quite acceptable, we began to feel contented with our lot.

We all enjoyed our newly found recreational respite from the **** beetles also, for much to our surprise, they did not re-appear on the next night. We made maximum use of our mosquito nets though! 

The next morning Sunday November 19th we were all up again at dawn for breakfast and another attempt at getting off the ground for our flight to Changi but alas this was still not be!  

We made yet another aborted take off attempt at 08.15hrs and were then promptly informed that this time it would be a delay of at least 48hrs to accommodate an engine change which we immediately interpreted as more bonus time at Negombo beach, for the dozen of us! We were temporarily made with all this unexpected leisure time on our hands and in such a beautiful place, all at the governments expense! 

On Tuesday November 21st we were briefed that all engine repairs on Hastings TG530 were nearing completion and that we should prepare ourselves for another attempt at take off in the morning, for Changi, departure time planned for 06.00hrs. 

After a good nights sleep under our mosquito nets again, we were really beginning to get to know the ropes, and still no more take over attempts by the **** beetles, we were up yet again at the crack of dawn for breakfast anticipating another attempt at take off! This time things were about to turn out relatively, as they were planned. 

After breakfast the twelve of us remaining, of the original forty plus that started out from Lyneham, were transported out to the waiting Hastings TG530 in the station bus.

It was Wednesday November 22nd 1950, nine days from our departure from Lyneham on November 14th the previous Tuesday. 

We climbed aboard the Hastings once again and settled down in our seats, seat belts on and taxied to the end of the runway ready for take off. The time was 06.12hrs.

The captain released the brakes and TG530 began once more to steadily build up speed on full throttles with all four engines roaring away angrily. This time we did at long last, achieve a good take off but I swear that we only missed the palm trees again by inches! 

We climbed steadily, levelled off at 9000ft and set course at a cruising speed of around 220mph, for Changi Singapore at last. The flight plan we were informed told us that the flight would take seven hours and ten minutes of flying time to touch down at Changi. So we all settled down to enjoy the flight and although another long and weary flight it turned out be, we did have another taste of unexpected excitement before we landed again! After about three hours into the flight we ran into some very bad weather conditions, which in turn led to some very alarming turbulence! Our captain, I never did get to know his name, being the clever man that he was and we had all come regard him very highly, made the wise move of starting to climb to get above the severe tropical storm that we had quite suddenly run into! We were immediately instructed to put on our oxygen masks for the first time on any of the legs, which we were very happy to do as we finally levelled out at an altitude of 14,500ft. Looking down, it was very easy to see that we were flying over extremely black and angry looking mountainous ranges of huge nimbus cloud build up.

It took about a thirty minutes to clear the bad weather zone, which enabled us to descend back down to 9500ft. With the oxygen masks dispensed with, we resumed our steady cruise of 225mph, all the way to a position 95miles north west of Singapore, where we began our let down into Changi, tracking over Seletar on the way down. We touched down at Changi at precisely 15.28hrs local time, the final destination of Hastings TG530 on that particular operation, originally started out from Lyneham. I made a note in a log I had been keeping of the whole journey, that the landing was rather bouncy! 

The whole operation had been planned to take five days to complete. It had taken nine! 

To cut the story short here, the last twelve of us that had gone all the way, found ourselves posted to the Far East Air Force, but this was not the end of the line for six of us, we were soon to discover. National Servicemen Alder, Dixon, Holder and Richards - and Regulars Buist (a mad Scotsman when drunk (!), we were later to discover), and Bill? something or other, found ourselves still in transit and waiting for a posting would you believe!This of course suited all of us for, with the experiences of Negombo beach still fresh in our minds, we were handed the gift of another unexpected holiday, this time for a full two weeks of it, and again at the governments expense, exploring the beaches around Singapore! 

All this came to end when news of our postings finally came through.

We discovered at long last, and much to our delight and spirit of adventure, that all of us had been posted to R.A.F Station Kai Tak at Hong Kong, and soon to be boarding an R.A.F.Dakota aircraft that was to get us there, just before Christmas 1950.

Thats another story though that will have to wait to be told on another day possibly? 



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I was a second pilot in 511 Squadron, RAF Lyneham from July 1952 to January 1953, when my National Service was completed. Apart from the usual continuation training, I did three paratrooping detachments at RAF Abingdon but only two overseas trips. The first, in September was to Aden with WJ337 skippered by F/L Burgess; the route was via Idris (Tripoli) and a overnight flight across the Sahara to Wadi Seidna (as Khartoum was temporarily closed to four engined aircraft. We returned by the sme route.
The next trip was Operation Sterling. Four aircraft WJ332; TG601; and TG556 together with either TG571 or WJ328 took part. We flew first to Idris and then to Fayid, where we arrived from the north in formation before peeling off (it must have looked quite impressive from the ground) to land. At Fayid we picked up troops, I think they were the East Lancs Fusiliers, to ferry them down to Kenya for operations against the Mau Mau insurgents. We stopped for refuelling and a meal at Wadi Seidna, before going on down the Great Rift Valley in the dark to arrive at Nairobi. One of the aircraft diverted to Entebbe with some sort of trouble, so we had to go over the next day to pick up their passengers. We then returned to Fayid, loaded up with the East Lancs equipment and went down to Nairobi for the second time. On one leg we invited an Army captain to the flight deck; I got out of my seat to let him see what it was like "up front". It became apparent that he was desperately searching for an intelligent question to ask, then it came; he pointed to the undercarriage lever and asked "Is that the lever that trnsfers the drive from the wheels to the propellers on take off?"
If anyone is interested I have a copy of the nominal roll of air and groundcrew who took part in the operation.


I remember once doing night continuation training of circuits and bumps, during the long taxi-ing round the perimeter we had a BBC comedy radio programme on and drifted off into the muddy grass where we were well and truly stuck!

John Payne



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I jumped out of Hastings many times when every exit was, to me, problematic.  The aircraft was brilliant for head-bangers (sub-standard exits led to helmeted heads banging down the outside of the fuselage) and 'stroppy' blokes (static line burns round the neck were frequent), but not recommended for any normal person


The Hastings encouraged me to move quickly to freefall where the added complications of the static line do not come into the equation.


Barry Fleming

Parachute Regiment

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