Website (Latest Update - October!)

This website was originally established in c2002 to provide a place for members to find information about 83rd Entry history, various notable events and to make contact and share items of interest with other members.

After several months and many hours of work, the old 83rd Entry website has been completely re-constructed using new and up to date software and this is the much improved result.

All 83rd Entry members or anyone else that has a direct interest in contributing to the content of this site is welcome to do so. If you have appropriate articles and images that can legitimately be used on this web site, please contact John Burt (See Contacts).

Just to let you know that so far this year (it's now nearly half way through November) and we are doing our 3rd update having added a few more articles, some pictures, added to and tidied up the service records and improved some picture captions by putting a few more names to faces.

By the way, there's nothing more satisfying than getting 'e' mails from our members who are happy with the website and who want to contribute. In particular, members who haven't been in touch for quite a while and are happy to share their life experiences since their time at Halton. The common theme after all these years is that Halton leaves us all with lasting memories that stay with you forever!

2013 Entry Reunion & RAFHAAA Triennial Plans

 In 2013, the 83rd Entry Annual Reunion is being arranged in September to coincide with the Triennial at RAF Halton, so that members who wish to attend can do so.

Currently, arrangements are being made to obtain accommodation at The Peacock Inn in Henton (OX39 4AH); which we last visited for our 2008 reunion.

Since our last visit, the Peacock has undergone a considerable amount of renovation work to improve and enlarge the facilities. Finding suitable and sufficient accommodation in the area around Halton during Triennial weekends is always difficult, so please watch out for the ’e’ mails from Ivor with various arrangements. If you are planning to attend and don’t want to be disappointed, make sure you respond promptly to Ivor.  

A recent recce of the Peacock (for the reunion) showed that since our last visit in 2008, Martin the owner has invested a lot of time and money upgrading and modernising the hotel and its facilities. This work has been achieved to an excellent standard and importantly, without losing any of the character of the place. The excellent food was prepared by the Chef using high quality ingredients and the menu has a good selection of dishes to tempt all palates.

To get a good feel for The Peacock Inn as it is today, visit their website at  

The Triennial Reunion of the RAF Halton Apprentices Association will be held on Saturday 21st September 2013 at RAF Halton.  The format and arrangements will be the same as for the 2010 reunion.

As this is a member only event, please make sure that your membership subs are up to date.  Further details will be published in due course in The Haltonian magazine, which is distributed to members of the Association.

Richard McCarthy RIP

Whilst phoning around to speak with members and chase them up for the reunion this year, Ivor rang Richard McCarthy's number and got his son instead . Mac's son went on to tell Ivor that sadly, his father had passed away on 15th March 2010. Sadly, Mac's wife Teresa had also passed away in the previous year.

Mac's son had previously been unable to contact the Entry because he didn't have any contact details; so he was pleased when Ivor called so he could inform him and pass on the sad news to the Entry family. 

News of Members (Latest Update - October)

It's always nice to get news about our members who haven't been in touch for a while or since they left RAF Halton. This year, since the website was re-constructed and updated, I have received 'e' mails from Mike Stowe and Colin Townsend. Also, I received a nice note from Roger Verrinder's son Ian.

Colin Townsend - 681858 Airframe 2 Wing, 2 Sqn  - Back in May, Colin got in touch and in response to the website update sent the message "Superb, Fantastic, what a great job you and the team have done. It does the entry Proud. Many thanks."  Messages like that make 'our labour of love' all very worth while. I passed on Colin's details to Ivor so he could establish contact and make sure that Colin is kept aware of Entry events.

Mike Stowe - 681975 Armourer 1 Wing - Hello John....many thanks for posting the latest photo on the 83rd website.  I'm delighted to see Kiwi Thomson there, and am reminded of his eventual tragic accident.  For info...(not a lot of people etc....) the idiot on the far left, holding his SD cap and looking like a throw-out from the pioneer corps, would be me....681975 Stowe, M. R.   Left Halton, completed apprenticeship at Rubery Owen in the midlands, and eventually became General Manager of a small engineering factory here in Somerset. A short time there, but the memories of Halton and the times, stay with you forever, don't they?  Thanks again....I'd lost that pic...and my best regards to all.   Mike Stowe  

Ian Verrinder's message was - "Firstly I’d like to congratulate you on your new website. I’ve just ‘had a go on it’ and it’s very easy to use. I guess it represents a lot of hard work but the user will definitely reap the benefit.   On a more personal note, I’m really very grateful for the memorial page you’ve put together about my father. It’s really quite superb. I’ve only just finished looking at it and I’m a bit stunned really. I’ll have another look when it’s quiet!

Colin, Mike and Ian's contributions are very much appreciated. All great stuff to share with our Entry family.

This month (October) Ivor let us know about another one of our long lost members who has surfaced from the other side of the globe, seemingly having come across our website.

John Moon - 682040 Armourer 1 Wing  - Below is the message received by Ivor.  

I have already made contact with Pat O'Shea via Tony Gassner. Below is a brief biography after Halton.  

I applied to be posted to either Singapore or Cyprus so was sent to Gaydon along with Phil Hamlin. I spent the next six to eight months on Victors and Valiant with a brief interlude on Canberras.

I then applied for guided weapons training and spent the next couple of years, very enjoyably, learning all there is to know about the Bristol Bloodhound, this involved time at the BAC in Bristol and Ferranti's Electronics in Manchester. On completion of training I went to 62 Sqd Woolfox Lodge until 1964 when the Bloodhound became redundant and it was decided that anti-aircraft missiles were to be an army responsibility. Not wanting to return to V bombers, and wanting to travel, I applied for and was given a discharge by purchase.   So late in 1964, 600 pounds poorer, I left the RAF.   

February 1965 saw me arriving in Australia as a "Ten Pound Pom". After bumming around for six months I got a job with a minerals sands company on Stradbroke Island, a mini paradise, just off the coast near Brisbane. There I became interested in and studied mineralogy and geology. After a few years the company, Rio Tinto, sent me to Papua New Guinea to work in their minerals exploration division from where I worked in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands. In 1980 I was sent to Perth WA to help with the evaluation of the newly discovered Argyle diamonds mine. I worked on this and other projects until I retired in 2002.  

I met and married my wife Lesley in Perth in 1983, thus putting an end  to my roaming life. We live in a small town called Kalamunda which is in the hills about an hours drive east of Perth. We have two sons both of whom have left home leaving us free to travel.

We were in England last June and I made my first visit to Halton since 1959, much changed of course, I was unable to get into the domestic area which is all fenced off and guarded by the army, very disappointing.  

Probably bored you to death by now, so I'll wish you well and thanks again for the web site.

A nice day at the seaside in August

This is not for the feint hearted!

Every 3 months or so there is a small band of 83rd Entry family members living in the South of England who get together with their ladies for a nice lunch and a good chat. These intrepid warriors are Brian and Maureen Fairclough, Ivor and Margaret John and John and Janet Burt and they can be found enjoying a good time in the areas around Ruislip, Guildford and Worthing.

The most recent get together on a lovely fine day was in Worthing and on this occasion Pam and Tony Miles came across from Littlehampton where they were staying for a break in their caravan. Needless to say, the eight of us were on a mission to enjoy our visit to the seaside and to sample some high quality 'fish and chips' at a local hostelry much lauded by Brian and Maureen.

The fish and chips were superb with very generous portions and thereafter it was a Mr. Whippy with chocolate flake (from the nearby ice cream parlour) for everyone to enjoy whilst sitting on a bench looking out to sea. Just as we used to do as youngsters many years ago.

Tony, John, Brian and Ivor sunning themselves (is this a remake of 'One flew over the cuckoo nest'?)

Janet, Pam, Margaret and Maureen posing with their 'dripping' ice creams. Note the 'lads' in the background eating theirs!

Following our 'well-chosen' lunch menu it was a much needed stroll all the way along the sea front to the pier to walk-off our somewhat full stomachs. Mind you we did stop for a brief rest in one of the shelters, along the way. The picture looks a bit like a souvenir from a 'pensioners outing'!

From the left: Janet, Brian, Maureen, Ivor, Margaret, Pam and Tony

Then it on the move again to the pier and a visit to the 'Penny Arcade' where Ivor kindly gave us all a pot of 2 pence pieces to feed the slot machines. Please note that in our youth we used real 'old pennies'. That's inflation for you!

By the way, Janet was the only one to come away with a prize - a plastic turtle with a broken leg!!!!!

Right in the middle you can just see Brian and Margaret using up the last of their coins.

Time for a last group photo before we left the pier.

Then it was time for a cup of tea / coffee in the Lido Cafe' before we set off on our way back to Brian and Maureen's home. The more robust amongst us chose to walk all the way back; whereas Maureen, Janet and me decided to catch the bus (expensive in Worthing if you forget your bus pass!) to get back to the apartment in time for Maureen to put on a very nice afternoon tea with really tasty cakes (especially selected for chocaholics) and biscuits (real ginger nuts).

Late in the day we said our goodbyes and travelled back to whence we came! All agreed it had been an excellent day with exceptionally good company.


Tony Gassner Updates - August & September

G'day y'all,  

A short note to prove position and situation with the old promise of something a little more comprehensive at a "later date," from here  in Zambia. I will eventually have to return to Somerset West either to continue or, return here for the many possibilities.

Tom's Place

Social life is good to very good, among many activities was a cycle event last week end.  

We - all 100 or so of which about 85 cyclists partaking in the "Elephant Charge" fund - raising cycle challenge made it down to the Zambezi and a very pleasant camp / lodge on the banks of the fabled river. Much good food, enough booze, and a good nights sleep at least for some. I chose to be tented to avoid the snorers; there is always at least one! As anticipated, the cold air flowed down the escarpment to settle in the valley but with much greater effect than expected. I had to get a second sleeping bag  as tents don't retain any warm air - from whatever source.   

Elephant Charge - Start

On the way down had to patch some serious grazes with bandage and tincture of iodine, one a nubile young lady tool a little extra time, then follow behind the rear guard suffering from cramps and potentially heat exhaustion in the last 15 kilometers out of a total of just over 70 with grueling hills, steep descents, ruts and loose stones - not to forget patches of sand. It was challenging enough in a 4X4 with air conditioning.


Elephant Charge - First Water Stop

Two bicycles with broken wheels - one victim ran the last 20 km pushing his! Next years venue may be changed.  

Renewal of my flying licence is on the cards with no difficult problems to overcome, and supplications in hand for residence.

Opportunities are many, so you can guess my desire.  

Pic's attached, I have not reduced, as they should be small until clicked on. If not = apologies.  

Regards,   Tony

Latest installment:

Hello Ivor and John,  

Once again I will be keenly missing the reunion. By next year I hope the situation will be remedied because of returning as a resident to Zambia, the country of my birth then known as Northern Rhodesia.  

Currently I am in Zambia on a visa staying with a good friend who is providing invaluable help in renewing my Private Pilots Licence in a most lenient manner, with a view to the same for a Commercial licence.   

My pal has a number of projects in hand, one is a 60 thousand hectare (132,000 acres) farm financed by German investors, with beef cattle and about 80 thousand hectares of winter wheat. You may be surprised at the wheat, but Zambia is mostly a gnats whisker over 4,000 ft. so winters are cold at night and cool during the day. I am trusting that I will become involved in a proposal suggested by myself on behalf of a South African group to grow up to a thousand hectares of Pyrethrum which is used for organic insecticide and now in demand due to the increasing toxicity and decreasing effectiveness of the industrial types.  

Another project in the planning stage, is a fish farm on the Zambezi. The Government is keen to reduce the 80 thousand tonnes of Tilapia (an African species of fish) imported monthly from China! My pal, Tom's plan is to initially produce One thousand tonnes a month. So with other horticultural / agricultural plans there will be no time for boredom and I trust a return to financial viability.  

The country is doing well largely due to it's mineral deposits with large injections of foreign capital. Development is the prevailing attitude.   

Enough of all that, I hope a couple of anecdotes may be of interest to other 83rd members. It would be really good to read what must be more than a few stories from the lives of all of us. John Moon in Oz must have many from his days of geological survey in places such as New Guinea. 

I will submit two, one is for me at least pure humour; the second could have had an alarming aspect but for the experience under my belt that reduced it to a nothing incident.  

When resident in Malawi as the pilot of the Presidential HS 125/700 in the 80's I was fortunate enough to have the favours of an attractive, well spoken lady botanist from Cape Town by the name of Diedre who was visiting for some weeks, significantly raising the cultural level in che Gassner. One evening we were sitting on the verandah enjoying a tipple and light conversation. Deidre asked: "have you ever flown a, umm, stimulator?" Something welled up in my innermost parts, in moments I was in fits of laughter even falling out of my deck chair. All this was greeted with a stony silence and frosty stare which amplified the symptoms also causing acute abdominal discomfort. It took some time to recover. Relations were restored the following day.  

During the  Angolan war, Dr Jonas Savimbi, an intelligent articulate charismatic leader who had been in contention for the presidency, was then in conflict with the party that had won the elections. Mr. Tiny Rowlands, virtual owner of the Lonrho corporation (and Harrods), had decided to back Savimbi supposing him to win the war; to this end he had supplied an HS 125 / 400 with an English crew, based in Zambia a neighbouring country.

Flying was frequent so that my services were requested to enable rest for the others. One such flight saw us fly from central Angola to Addis Abba in Ethiopia. It was a long day with six legs for refuelling. We flew leg for leg, the second last leg back to Angola was mine in the left hand seat which meant I did the flight planning in the control tower while the other driver looked after refuelling, and for the Viper engines, topping up of engine oil as necessary for the sacrificial lubrication system.    

Soon after departing from Angola for Zambia, almost due east for a flight of over two hours, the beacon behind was turned off so as not to provide direction for enemy artillery. We climbed into the rapidly darkening night sky to 41 thousand feet over almost uninhabited countryside, not a light to be seen anywhere. We might as well have been over desert or ocean, with no beacon before or behind in range. After about an hour the left engine oil pressure gauge started flickering into the yellow band. Next was the red line. Gerry started squirming in his seat - he was after all the skipper - and asked if I had topped up engine oil at the last but one stop, which had been his responsibility. I replied in the negative but noted that I had done the engine course at Bristol where we had been told that they had run Vipers for hours without any damage.

Gerry decided the engine must be shut down. HP cock off, and we drifted down to about 35 thousand, with as yet no radio contact and a black void below. Soon after the right engine oil pressure gauge took up the flickering. I asked Gerry if he intended closing that down as well. There was no reply as he lit up number one and so we climbed back to 41 thousand.   The next morning one of the engineers remarked that we seemed to have used rather a lot of oil. Oh?   There are a few other happenings, some of which in retrospect had me pondering the existence of an almighty. Now I know.

 I often think of the reunion that Phil Pile and I were with you all. That was very good. I remember one of the members asking something like why us 'colonials' had "done so well?" On reflection I am quite sure that it was only the environment and surroundings in which we were privileged to have grown up with plenty of opportunity and often need to use initiative, such as walking through 'bush' country with an air rifle, and later a point 22.  Any one of the 83rd or any English lad would have benefitted from that. There is still plenty of opportunity in Zambia. 

Best regards to all at the reunion,   Tony

Mike Cusack RIP

Dave Taylor sent the following notes to Ivor just after the Reunion weekend.

Dear Ivor, I said I would send an e-mail thanking you for another excellent reunion weekend, which is exactly what we have just had.

However, on my arrival home I have received the sad news that Mike Cusack died on the 6th September. It was after a short illness in hospital on the Isle of Wight where he lived. My daughter saw a note in the local paper that he had died and that there is to be a service to celebrate his life at St Leonard's church, Bursledon on Wednesday 25th September at 2.15pm and all friends are welcome.

I shall go to the service which is just down the road from us and will pass back any further info gained at the service. A sad end to what has been a great weekend.

Best wishes to all, Dave 

Dear Ivor and all, first let me tell you that Angela and myself attended Mike Cusack's funeral on 25th September.

Both Angela and me knew Mike's first wife Ann and in fact it was them that introduced us way back in 1963. Mike was married to Ann for 22 years before they divorced, Ann has now remarried but Mike lived with another Ann for 23 years although they never married. He had two sons from his first marriage and seven Grandchildren, none from his second partnership.

Mike did not pass out with our entry but with the 85th and was posted to RAF Lyneham, however he had an ankle injury from playing football and ended up in RAF Chessington rehabilitation unit for nearly a year getting a medical discharge at the end of that. I tended to lose touch with him after that as I was posted abroad but I know he finally ended up working for Red Funnel on the Southampton to Isle of Wight ferries. Unfortunately it was too many cigarettes and too much drink that did away with him, but to me he was always a mate and will always be remembered.

Regards to all Dave and Angela  

 Duncan McLaren RIP

Ivor sent the following note.

Having just recently informed you of a member found, I now have to inform you of the passing of one of our members - 682478 Duncan McLaren, Airframes  3 Wing.

Duncan's wife Carole informed me that he died in March this year. He had been ill with lung cancer. Duncan was one of several members of the Entry, including me, whose first posting was RAF College Cranwell. He eventually went to work in the tobacco industry on the engineering side of things.

Pat O'Shea - September Update

Hello John and Ivor:  

Sadly, Judy and I cannot make it this year but will be thinking of you all. Please let  the members know that we will be with them in spirit.  

While trolling through the HAA website I found this photo (see Gallery) on the 81st site. Brian Spurway, 81st was a good friend of Kiwi and I think he posted this pic. He had contacted me some time ago re Kiwi.  

John, when we last spoke you asked me for the group photo of one of the reunions-can you please advise which one? I looked through the site and it seems to have a photo for each year.   Also re other photos, we mainly have photos of our and the Triennial reunions, or our Halton days rather than recent photos of members. I do have the 2001 photos with Prince Philip, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and can provide them if you still think that is a good idea. Let me know.

 I am also attaching the Haiti URL, now being updated. Here is a pic (see below) of the recent graduation of 75 boys and 60 girls. Very disciplined and well done. As you know, a number of the members have been donors in the past  

Please give my best to all,   Patrick

P.S.  I responded to Patrick and identified the 2010 Triennial as the event that has no images to support the write-up by Chips. Also, I asked Patrick to send the photos of him with Prince Phillip, et al in 2001.  It's all part of our Entry history!!


A reproduction of The Haltonian front page (November edition - Issue 67).

These very well chosen words of Remembrance by Sir Dusty Miller (210th) certainly reinforces the importance of The Halton Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.

Click image to enlarge

RAF Thor Missile Force in the 1960's

To read the "Thor, Bomber Command's God of Thunder" article referred to in John Burt's Service Record click-on image below.

2014 Entry Reunion Planning

Ivor, being one of those people that doesn't let the grass grow under his feet, has already started planning for our 2014 Reunion. Here's a quick update so far.

 Thanks to those that responded (to Ivor's questionnaire). It fell into mainly into 3 camps, so Ivor is asking us to focus on these options so planning can go forward.

1. Lincoln area. The Petwood Hotel would not budge on some of our requests but the idea of visiting the area did appeal to some members. So if suitable accommodation etc. can be found, would this be your choice.

2. Return to The Peacock. We know what we get. The problem would be to have some activity or places to visit. Suggestion would be, if it could be arranged and that is an if, is to visit RAF Benson on the Friday morning. Apologies to the ladies but that is how it goes. Another visit and I don't know if they do them, is Martin Bakers at Denham.

3. Return to Telford. Some members thought this was unfinished business but accommodation would need to be better. 

The review did indicate a maximum room charge B&B £85 is the top rate for most. Dinner for 3 course in the range £25 - £27.50 for a suitable choice. Date was mid September, I therefore suggest either Saturday 15th or 20th September 2014. So it is over to you and I would appreciate an early reply.

Note: Ken and Ngaire Butcher are thinking of coming over to join us, if all goes well.   Ivor

If you are planning on attending the 2014 Reunion, please make sure you respond to Ivor's 'e' mails as soon as practicable, otherwise he'll just get grumpier!!

John Burt