Exchange of letters with Dennis WardI have removed Dennis's address and phone number. If anyone want's these contact me by email.
30th Sepember 99
Here's a voice from the past - Alex Gumbrecht, 75th, Locking. Recently I was at the RAFLAA AGM and your name came up conversation as it invariably does with anyone from C Squadron in the 1950s. It was your name and Sammy Sweetlove that were mentioned while I was talking to a chap from 72nd (didn't make a note of his name, dammit) but he said he'd seen you recently.
Anyway, and I thought I'd drop your line for old times sake. Despite the rousting I got from both you and Sammy in the three years 53 to 56, I have fond (sloppy word, but I can't think of better) memories of you both. At the end of those years I realised that you'd achieved your objective in turning me from a raw ex-grammar school boy who thought he knew it all, into a young man capable of dealing with whatsoever life threw at him. For that I owe you a debt of gratitude and I've never forgotten it.
Do you remember Annesley (Des) De Soyza? Well, I finally made contact with him again over the Internet after 42 years and met up with him at a reunion of Royal Ceylon Air Force ex-brats in Sri Lanka. I enclose a story of that reunion. If you don't recall Des then it will mean nothing -- if you do it will make interesting reading
I am sure you will remember Geordie Maxwell from A Squadron. I met him again Borneo in 1964 and by that time we both shared the sergeants mess. He was a super guy have around -- typical Geordie humour. The last I heard of him was a telex from UK. He went home before I did and took a set of goats eyelashes. These were reputed have sexual stimulation powers (I leave to your imagination as to what you did with them). Anyway, a couple of weeks after Geordie left Borneo he sent this telex saying how great it was to be back in UK and adding "I didn't need the goats eyelashes at all"
Weve had few 75th reunions these last few years. Some of the names of those who turned up might ring a bell: Platt, Tory, Fowler, Adcock, Beedham, Francis, Bridges, Snape, Loveridge, Leadbeater; Cundy, Scofield, Thorpe, Gentry, Snape, Saunders, Collingham, Young, Gary McGregor, Armstrong, Graig, Baker, Hardwicke and Parsons. Parsons is also widowed and he remarried last year. I went to the reception. He married a 24 year old South African girl - reckon hell peg it with a smile on his face!!
The last reunion was in 1998 in Ironbridge -- we try to vary the location if we ever have one in your neck of the woods I'm sure youd receive a fine welcome if you'd like to come.
Meanwhile, the upshot of me getting contact with Des De Soyza is Im off to Australia over this Christmas and Millennium as a guest of him and his family. I'm also due to see Terry Ginge Clark (the top-class athletic walker), Brian Reader and Jock Birnie while Im there. If you care to drop me a line before 22nd November Ill take your letter with me - its a chance to say hello from over the water and over the years. I dont know whether youve join the Internet revolution but if you have we have a web site of sorts at www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~alex812/75th/
You may wonder how I can just take time off to go to Australia. Im a widower of some six years now so I'm not tied. I still work but self-employed (least that's my story).
My best regards
4th October 99
What a lovely surprise to hear from someone from the 75th. It has always given me a lot of pleasure to hear from anyone from C Squadron regardless of entry. It fills me with a sense of pride when I hear of you all doing so well for yourselves, both in the RAF and in civilian careers.
I have strong contacts with the 72nd because one or two of them found me when I had my village pub and consequently I was invited to their reunions and became Honorary Vice President, Ripp as President. I also made contact again with my old boss Sammy. I know he was the best boss I ever had and he was streets ahead of the other Squadron Commanders in his care for the apprentices under him and he had no favourites. Sadly he has now passed on. Ripp was unable to attend the last reunion through ill health - he is not a well person but he is past 80.
I am pleased to hear of your contacts with the Ceylonese lads. I remember them well. Sally, 72nd, eventually turned up at one of the reunions and later extended an invitation to anyone of us to visit Sri Lanka. I was unfortunately unable to take advantage of it. However, quite a few of the lads did, including Brian Strudwick and John Revell. I am sorry to have to tell you that John Revell has lost both his legs but it has not stopped him from getting around and being cheerful. I understand he takes an active part in improving facilities for helping the disabled.
I am pleased to hear of your contact with Geordie Maxwell. You are right he is a fine fellow and was a good pal of mine. If you still have contact with him I would like his address.
If you wish to make contact with anyone from the 72nd, I am enclosing Robbie Packhams address. He is the No 1 organiser of the 72nd reunions etc. and has everyones addresses and up-to-date telephone numbers and I am sure he will be pleased to hear from you.
Again I am very pleased you have contacted me. Give my regards to all the 75th boys. If anyone is in this area, please call and it would give me great pleasure to attend one of your reunions.
I am going to pass on your currying favour to Robbie and I have no doubt it will be read out at our next 72nd gathering. It really makes very interesting reading. Again, thank you for taking the trouble to write to me and I hope to meet you and some of the lads in the not too distant future.
Email from Brian Reader.Brian Reader sent this email and I have edited it slightly to make it Web compatible. AG
As you observed Australia is rather large. When our State was twinned with Texas, (founded same year as SA, 1836), we had great pleasure telling visiting Texans that we could loose Texas in South Oz. You know how they always like to boast how big everything Texan is!
I'm pretty sure that both Ken Snape and Peter Platt were in the same billet as me the first year at Locking, probably Dave Young as well. When I get a scanner I will send a photo that I have of the blokes in the billet, can't remember the number. I assume that you have the passing out parade photos, and the 1955 summer camp at Braunton. Couldn't think at first where to start to tell you about what I have been up to over the last 42 years but here goes:-
I got married in 1961 and we have three boys who have done extremely well, I like to think that it's because we came to Australia. The eldest is an eye surgeon, at present just finished working in Plymouth and about to return to Australia. The middle one having got his PhD here is a research electronics engineer with Lucent Technology in Swindon, the youngest is in Barcelona working for Amway and is about to be European manager of their computer division based in England. The following is a brief outline of my "doings" since 1956. On leaving Locking I was posted to RAF Wittering; ground elements of landing aids for Vickers Valiant. I then went to :-
- 80 Operational Conversion Training Unit, RAF Waddington: Avro Vulcan B1
- 61 Squadron, RAF Upwood; Canberra B1, visiting RAF Luqua, RAF Binbrook
- Guided Missile Fitter Servicing Course 7, RAF Yatesbury; Bristol-Ferranti
- SAM Bloodhound Mk.1
The course took us to: RAF Wilmslow and Ferranti Ltd at Withenshaw: RAF Box and Bristol Aircraft Co. and Bristol Engines Co.; RAF Northolt, and E.M.I., Feltham, Middlesex; RAF Hatfield and De Havilland Aircraft Co.; RAF Yatesbury to await posting to Bloodhound Unit. Then ...
- 141 Squadron, RAF Dunholme Lodge, Bloodhound Mk.1; living on R.A.F. Scampton.
- 6 months Bloodhound Mark 1 Go-No-Go Test Equipment Servicing Course, all round the manufacturers again.
- Member Squadron and the Station Rifle Teams for unaltered .303 service rifle, shot at Bisley.
- 15 Joint Services Trials Unit Bristol Bloodhound 2 Trials:-
- Royal Air Force Turnhouse, Ferranti Ltd., Silver Knowles, Edinburgh,
- Royal Air Force Support Unit at the Weapons Research Establishment, Salisbury, South Australia
- Range E, Woomera, South Australia
- Bristol Bloodhound 2 Trials Unit; Royal Air Force Aberporth, Cardiganshire.
- Maintenance Unit Number 60, Royal Air Force Leconfield, Yorkshire; English Electric Lightning MK6.
- As you can see they didn't let moss grow on me!
I was discharged from the Royal Air Force September 1967. After the RAF I went to Leeds University on a grant, not much fun with a wife three boys and a mortgage, but we survived. I continued my belated education with two years at James Graham College (also in Leeds)which was a teacher training college for mature students. Teaching salaries being what they were in England I applied and was accepted to teach in South Australia.
After experiencing two terms teaching at High School a position came up at the School of Electronic Engineering at Kilkenny Technical and Further Education College, this was a great improvement as I would be teaching mainly adults. I don't recommend teaching teenagers who are not interested, especially the sciences to teenage girls!
For 23 years I taught Electronics and Radio at Trade Level; Physics, Electronics, Mathematics, Project Management, Australian Social Structure and Technical Communications all at Associate Diploma Level. I retired June 1995, actually the Department paid me to go away and leave them in peace.
My main hobby is researching and making historic costumes to a high degree of accuracy for theatre, film and re-enactments. It was at Woomera that I first became interested in theatre and in particular property making so I joined the Woomera Arts & Drama Group. Much later I decided to study drama etc. at Flinders University, Adelaide and later at the South Australian College of Advanced Education. Even later I taught some Theatre Technician Courses at Croydon Park TAFE College, occasionally lectured on the history of costume at the South Australia College of Advanced Education, Underdale. and was the consultant for the Theatre Technician Certificate Course (Costume) for the new Centre for the Performing Arts, Adelaide.
For three years I was seconded from TAFE to the South Australian 150th. Celebrations Board to advise on costumes, to teach people and to make specific costumes. I ended up teaching people at 16 towns all over the State how to make 1836 costumes. I also designed and conducted 1836 Costume Workshops for men and women's clothing, on one occasion the male members of the Victoriana Society and some of the women made thirty complete men's 1836 evening outfits on a production line system. Most of the men had never even held a needle before. Some of the historical costumes I have made:-
- 1853 Mounted police uniforms for the South Australian Police re-enactment of the Gold Escort from Castlemaine in Victoria to Adelaide, 1986.
- 1836 Uniform of a Colonel of The Devon Regiment for, Sir Donald Dunstan, Governor of South Australia
- 1836 Ball dress, 1836 day dress and bonnet for Lady Dunstan
- 1836 civilian costumes for members of the South Australia Jubilee 150 Board
- 1836 Royal Navy Uniforms for Captain Hindmarsh and Lieutenant and 25 Royal Navy ratings.
- Costumes for The Constitutional Museum exhibitions
- 1890's naval uniforms
- 1890's Royal Marine uniforms
- Women's costumes of all eras.
Over the years I have given hundreds of talks and fashion shows depicting the history of costume. One of the more unusual courses which I conducted recently was making historic side-saddle costumes. With the recent interest in the "RMS Titanic" I gave a talk on "Costume in 1912" to the Titanic Society. I also give talks on other aspects of Victorian history such as "Queen Victoria's Army", "Victorian Theatre", etc. One interest I have at present is to make half-scale models showing the history of fashion, both male and female, 32 made to date.
In 1985 I founded a re-enactment group to portray Royal Marines of 1836 using the drill manual of 1827. I had to research and make all the uniforms and equipment. The group went on to give several hundred performances until they were disbanded this year. Among their achievements were being Guards of Honour for:- Charles and Diana, Prince and Princess of Wales; The Duke and Duchess of York; The Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke; The Premier of South Australia, John Bannon; The Governor of South Australia, Sir Donald Dunstan; The Governor General of Australia, Sir Ninian; Martin Stephens, The Lord Mayor of Adelaide. Plus these occasions:-
- The Arrival of the First Fleet Re-enactment The Arrival of the Tall Ships
- 1986 South Australian Golf Open Championship 1986 Adelaide Grand Prix
- They appeared in the 1986 Adelaide Military Tattoo, the South Australian
- Police Tattoo and at sunset parades with the Royal Australian Navy.
- On one memorable occasion they came ashore in long boats to re-enact the first landing in South Australia of 1836. They even got as far as Norfolk Island to perform.
In 1983 I formed the Victoriana Society of South Australia to foster interest in the reigns of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII. Later forming a dance group within the Victoriana Society called "Danse Victoriana". This went on to perform hundreds of dance displays, from a grand Titanic Ball to a Colonial Ball at Government House for the 150th. celebrations of South Australia's founding.
My other hobbies are making models, genealogy and cooking (particularly Asian food). At present I am making a model of the Great Western Railway at Minehead in Somerset in 4mm. I also make model ships and model soldiers. Olive and I occasionally do some catering. Don't know how I had time to go to work.
Email from Lalith (Diss) Dissanayke.
(Remarks in italic are mine - Alex G.)
I did receive your email and thanks . I managed to access the 75th web site and get Bob Cooper and Dave Young .I have had no response from them yet. I also contacted Ginge (Clarke) and received an response immediately. He is going to UK on the 2nd and has said that he would contact you. It is great to be in touch with you after so long. It is also a shame that we missed each other after getting so close (I was in NZ in January 98). Maybe we will have better luck next time. I did write to Peter Platt after he invited me for the Cambridge reunion but never continued the correspondence. As Ginge has very correctly said this (email) is a fantastic invention and no excuses this time.
After Locking I didn't stay in the Air Force too long. I was only interested in sports and not Radio and Radar. I completely changed my trade to printing in 1960. This gave me another chance to get back to UK. I did a three year course in printing at Manchester Polytechnic.
I did meet Harry Hawkes with whom I kept in touch off and on, and even went back to Weston on a couple of times, pub crawling for old time's sake.
I remained in the printing trade until a near fatal heart attack forced me to retire at 60. I underwent bypass surgery but that did not prevent a second attack two years later. I have two children my daughter being a doctor married to doctor. They emigrated to New Zealand and I followed with my wife and son. I had to undergo Angio-plasti (how do you spell this) last November to treat another block.
That's my story in short. A reunion this year in UK is out of the question. I am hoping to go to Sri Lanka in March next year. In 2000 it is definitely on if only Peter (Platt) or somebody else could arrange one. That's it for now
(Porky pies=lies .... Cockney rhyming slang)
Like how I ended up as an Air Commodore
How I flew Hunters in the Borneo Campaign
How I left the RAF early to get my Ph.D. at Oxford
The story of my drab, miserable life