Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jerry Jeroe


Jerry was born in San Francisco California, USA, in September 1923, the son of a Career Naval Officer. His mother who was born in Surrey, Great Britain was a naturalised American. Jerry spent six years at the Castle Heights Military Academy
(which was the educational equivalent to Harrow or Eton in the UK). Part of the curriculum involved ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) and, as a result, when America entered the War in December 1941 Jerry received a letter from the US War Department stating that as he was eighteen he was eligible to become a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. He immediately agreed and subsequently entered the Service in March 1942. Jerry learned, decades later, that at eighteen years six months, he was, for a short time, the youngest Officer in the entire US Army.

In 1942, Jerry applied for Pilot Training and was accepted as (still a rarity then) an 'Officer/Cadet' in the Air Corps. In his class of some two hundred, there were but five other Officers. Being Lieutenants already, they had none of the duties that represented 'hard slogging' to their classmates. As a result, the six were easy targets for the Instructors and one by one most were dropped out for, in Jerry's opinion, relatively minor reasons. He was second from last to go when, just two weeks before his graduation he ground looped an AT-6 (Harvard) and this finished his flying career. The final Officer of the six graduated and survived the war as a P51 Mustang Pilot in the 9th Air Force in England.

Upon losing out on his pilot wings, he was offered a transfer to Bombardier School, which did not interest him. He could not be considered for Navigator as being so young he had not completed the two years of college which was a prerequisite for this duty.

He transferred back to the Infantry and early in March 1944 arrived in the UK as a member of the 90th Infantry Division. They landed in Liverpool from New York aboard the Athlone Castle, (one of the ships that plied the South African routes in pre war times). The first encampment was between Ludlow and Leominster in Shropshire, on the Estate of Lord Leverhume. They were then transferred to Abergevenny, Wales some four weeks before D-Day. At this point, Jerry was the Commander of the Pioneer Security/ Platoon of the 2nd Battalion HQ Company of the 359th Infantry Regiment, which was destined to land in Normandy as part of an augmented Regimental Combat Team in support of the 4th Infantry Division on Utah Red Beach.

The Battalion S-2 (Intelligence) and Jerry were sent in to the 90th landing sector after the beach was secured. Happily, unlike Omaha, there were little problems on Utah, so it was easy for them to go in and ’lay tapes’ for the Battalion's arrival in support of the Regiment’s other two Battalions (which landed earlier). The tapes indicated landing and assembly positions prior to moving inland to where the other Division Troops were fighting in the hedgerows and awaiting reserves.

Out of the thousands who were part of D-Day Operations, there were only about a dozen whose duties led them to land twice; Jerry was one of those. Because of the success of the first landings, the Battalion was not sent ashore in reserve on June 6th as originally planned, therefore they were still on board the USS Susan B Anthony (named after the famous America Suffragette) at dawn on June 7th. Many years later Jerry learned, there had been Command discussions going on for having the ship diverted to Omaha Beach where a full Battalion was certainly more needed as there was still a hellacious battle going on. For better or worse, at this point the Troop Ship hit a mine and rapidly sank (45 minutes). Amazingly, every GI got off safely by going over onto the nets already in place at the side of the ship. They then jumped onto the deck of a British Destroyer which had immediately lashed alongside, and then straight across on to an American Destroyer lashed in turn to the British vessel. Finally, on to LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) to take them in to shore.

Ironically, Jerry’s father survived two wars in the US Navy without 'getting his feet wet' while his Son was sunk within three days of stepping aboard his first Naval craft!

It was not until 10th January 1945 near Wiltz, Luxembourg, that he was wounded during one of the last operations clearing up the last of the German troops in the Battle of the Bulge. After three short weeks of recovery he was back with his Unit and ended the war near Pilsen, Czechezlovakia, where the 90th met up with the Russians.

Jerry states: "One of my major operations was during the famous Battle of the Falaise Gap, near Montaine, France. I was one of three French speaking Officers assigned as liaison with the Second French Armoured Division on our flank. For some two weeks, I did little but employ my 'relatively poor' use of French, which still was better than none I suppose. In spite of doing little I was awarded the Croix de Guerre. This, I feel was not for any bravery but for happily not getting anyone killed in either Division by some error of translation".

By the end of the conflict in Europe, Jerry had been awarded a Bronze Star with the V (Valour) Clasp, the Purple Heart, the ETO Medal (European Theatre of Operations) with Five Battle Stars and the much treasured Arrowhead signifying the taking part in the D Day invasion.

After a brief period, the Unit was transferred to an area around Beyreuth, Germany. They were sent there as the first Army of Occupation Troops in that Sector. It was during this period that events took place that coloured the rest of Jerry’s life. He was transferred to duties with the Entertainment Units that were keeping the American Forces reasonably content prior to being transferred onto ships in Southern France to be returned to the US before going on to the Pacific for the eventual invasion of Japan.

This was a very difficult time for the American Combat Forces who had survived the German war, as they were all convinced that they would not survive the Japanese one. However, the A- Bomb took care of that. Visiting the ruins of Hiroshima in the mid-fifties did not change his feelings about the necessity of it's use, he notes.

Jerry returned to the United States in October 1945 and was soon thereafter released from Service. He remained in the Reserves until 1957 when he resigned as a Captain of Infantry. He was fortunate not to be called back during the Korean conflict as he had just started work at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and was becoming more involved in his career.

The rest of his fascinating life is a no less exciting story and he is currently writing his memoirs of working in the film industry throughout the world. We will relate some of the high points of that phase of his life in Part Two of this profile.





Legend for Photograph: Taken in the American Sector of Southern Germany whilst serving in the Army of Occupation in July 1945, aged 21.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Squadron Officer Helen Jackson.


Helen's Story

Helen was born 18th December 1916 and spent her childhood in Glasgow, one of two children of an Army veteran of the Great War. Helen attended a Boarding School in England for six years and left at the age of sixteen.

On leaving college Helen decided that she would like to work in the Banking industry, however, no openings being available she opted to train as a Dietician. Her first post was in Bournemouth followed by another year working at the Royal Masonic Hospital in London.

Deciding that a future working in a private hospital in London wasn't exactly what she wanted to do, Helen returned to Glasgow and took a secretarial training course. By this time, war was looming and encouraged by her Father who told her 'to get out there and do something' she decided to volunteer her services. However, Helen didn't quite fancy khaki and so in August 1939 she volunteered to join the ATS/RAF, which shortly afterwards became the WAAF. The options available were driving or cooking and since Helen couldn't drive but had experience as a Dietician she opted for catering. Her first post involved cooking for 5 Officers of the Royal Air Force Balloon Barrage section. Her first night in the Services were not quite what she expected; sharing a bed with a total stranger, not to mention the resident fleas. Helen was then selected to attend a cypher course at RAF Headington in Oxford which changed the direction of her career.

Having completed her course Helen was posted to Signals, 6 Group at Abingdon under Bomber Command. Spending some time as a Number 2 she quickly rose to Number 1, overseeing the circulation and amendments of top secret coded documents, all of which had to be meticulously accounted for as well as routine cyphering and recyphering. Since lives were at stake, time was of the essence in making sure that communications arrived swiftly and safely at their destination.

Helen's tour included Preston - 9 Group (Fighter Command) Newmarket - 3 Group

( Bomber Command) Leith - 18 Group (Coastal Command) and finally a term at Leighton Buzzard (Signals Group).

It was while Helen was posted to Suffolk that she witnessed the first experiments of the FIDO (Fog Investigation and Dispersal Operations) trials. The idea was to lay a fuel pipe along the runway with holes along the way, which could be ignited to mark and clear the runway for incoming traffic in poor weather conditions.

Being on call when staffing levels were low in the Operations Room, occasionally Helen was called upon to assist with the take off of Bomber Flights and witnessed their sadly depleted return to base.

Whilst at Newmarket, Helen met and fell in love with Martin Jackson, a Colonel in the 8th Army. The 8th Army had been recalled to re-arm and take part in Operation Market Garden. They first met at a birthday party held in the RAF mess. Martin was assigned second in Command to General Horrocks, Special Duties. They married in 1944.

Helen was posted to India early in 1944, but as she was just about to get married, she was released. She was demobilised at the end of 1945 and she and Martin went to live in London

Martin, working for Hector Whaling at this time was sent to Cape Town for a three month posting. However, three months turned into three years where Martin oversaw the whaling season. During this time Helen worked as a Volunteer for the Red Cross. Helen was present in Cape Town during the crisis of the Sharpeville Shootings and Nelson Mandela's arrest.

Martin was then employed by Lipton's Tea, and so they set off for a period in Karachi. Martin went first to make the necessary arrangements and Helen followed expecting to be met at the airport. However, negotiations between the workers and the management at Liptons having come to an impasse, she discovered that Martin, along with the other members of the Management had been imprisoned by the dissenters. They were kept for two days without food and water before being released Undaunted, Helen stayed in Karachi for a year.

En route from Karachi to Britain, they stopped off at Cape Town. Whilst there, Martin was offered a job in administration at the PK La Roux Dam, now known as the Vanderkloof Dam, an important Government project and what should have been a three week holiday turned out to be another three year stay in South Africa.

Having seen enough action for a while and ready to retire, Helen and Martin came to Barcelona where they stayed for a while. A friend had told them about Javea and they decided to take a look. The fell in love with Montgo and bought a home there.

They were close neighbours and friends of Janet and George Duffee who introduced them to the Air Crew Association. Helen and Martin spent seventeen years at the villa on Montgo until moving to the Port in Javea. Helen has been a member of the Air Crew Association since 2003.

During her career in the Women's Royal Air Force she held the post of Assistant Section Officer, Section Officer, Flight Officer and finally Squadron Officer.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

John McMullen


John McMullen.

John was born in Manchester in 1923 and lived later in Blackpool. At 18 he volunteered for the Fleet Air Arm. After initial training he began flying training in England and three months later went to Canada. Six months later he was awarded wings and commissioned as a Sub Lieutenant.

Having completed training on fighters and undertaken six deck landings he was appointed to 882 Wildcat Squadron

aboard HMS Scorcher, an Escort carrier.

The ship was to be engaged in escorting convoys carrying supplies to Gibraltar for N.Africa before which the Sqdn. was stationed in N.Ireland. After several convoys the ship moved in to the Mediterranean and the Sqdn was based in Malta to form part of an assault force destined to take part in the invasion of Southern France.The objectives, apart from supporting the landings, was to prevent movement of the German Panzer divisions.

The task force consisted of three carriers and a cruiser and bombardment spotting, destruction of airfields and Me 109s was part of the plan as well as dive bombing bridges and railway installations. The operation lasted eight days after which the ship sailed to Alexandria before moving into the Adriatic where operations were carried out to support the occupation of the Aegian Islands.

In November 1944 the ship returned to Scapa Flow and the Sqdn was ashore in Orkney, from there the next operations were against shipping and shore bases in the Norwegian sea areas and the fiords. Whilst in the Baltic the war finished.

John's next posting was to HMS Battler, another Escort carrier, which was training deck landing officers. Aircraft flown included Wildcats,Hellcats,Corsairs and Swordfish. At this time he experienced engine failure in a Wilcat and was forced to ''ditch'' but was picked up by a merchant ship after about half an hour.

Training fighter direction officers from an airfield near Milford Haven then followed until demobilisation in August 1946 after which he studied Economics and Commerce at Manchester University until 1948 graduating with a BA(Com).

In order to continue flying he resigned his RN commission and joined the RAFVR to do five years of ''weekend flying''

which resulted in being mobilised for three months during which time he flew Spitfires and Vampires as a Flight Lieutenant before being ''demobbed '' again.

He had flown 728 hours in daylight and 24 at night and had completed 128 deck landings by day and 6 at night.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Douglas (Buddy) Cunningham

The above photo was taken when Buddy was with 102 Squadron at RAF Pocklington in 1944

Douglas was born in NW India at Quetta in 1923 . His father was stationed with the British Army as a teacher, the family returned to England shortly before a severe earthquake which killed many people in the area. Three years later his father was posted back to India and they lived in Rawalpindi for six more years.

Back in England he was educated at the Freemasons School in Surrey and after leaving joined the Westminster Bank as a junior clerk.

In 1943 he joined the RAF and was accepted for aircrew training. The era of the twin engine aircraft such as the Whitley and Wellington were fast coming to an end such that there was an urgent demand for flight engineers and gunners to fill the crews and rather than wait for many months for training as a Pilot or Navigator he chose to take a gunnery course and so began a period during which he survived 45 missions not without some hair raising events.

Bomber Command now had Stirlings, Halifaxes and Lancasters, Douglas did his early missions on the Whitley dropping leaflets over France to acclimatise them to flak and then on to the Halifax. One training flight over the Irish Sea involved 36 aircraft dropping bombs on to a lighted target. They were struck by another aircraft which did not survive. Douglas’ aircraft was badly damaged but managed a crash landing at an airfield, but the aircraft broke it’s back. Fortunately there were no injuries on that occasion.

On a daylight raid 102 Squadron. were detailed to bomb a flying bomb site ,and after suffering engine trouble managed to drop their bombs and turn for home, but then were hit by flak which badly injured the pilot who was attended to by the rest of the crew. They were escorted to an airfield near Arundel by a Spitfire who had also been hit by flak. The pilot survived, but was badly injured.

Night bombing by Lancasters then followed seemingly without too many problems for Douglas, but the overall losses of aircraft and crews were horrific. Some 54,000 aircrew died before Germany surrendered in 1945. The German night fighters developed a technique whereby after locating a Lancaster or Halifax, which had no protection from under the aircraft, they would fire canon shells upwards with devastating effect..

One and a half operational tours plus and a Pathfinders badge, pay great credit to Douglas in his wartime service. He was a Warrant Officer who would have certainly been Commissioned had the war not ended.

After the war Douglas became an Estate Agent in Reigate, but for some years was a member of the RAFVR at Biggin Hill. After a short period away from being an Estate Agent he started up again with two partners and eventually retired to Spain where he joined the Association branch here in Javea.

Alec Jackson January 2008.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

brianacacb

video

Welcome By Brian Weskett
Chairman
Aircrew Association Costa Blanca

Friday, May 18, 2007

Profile of the Month - May/June 2007


Profile of Ian Donald Bale.

Born 11th. September 1919. In Surbiton Surrey. The parents ran a public house , one of two children and although his given name was Ian he was nicknamed 'Buzz' and this stayed with him throughout his career.

As he grew up and attended various schools, some of them in Brighton, he decided that he wanted to be a mechanic and after leaving school in 1934 obtained a job in a garage but this did not fulfill his ambitions so at 17 he walked from Brighton to London to apply for service in the RAF. After an examination they sent him home to be called up at 18 and this occurred a few days after that date being ordered to RAF Uxbridge where three months of square bashing and signing on for four years dictated his future.

Various courses followed until he was to be posted to Malta as a flight mechanic before which he was given a months embarkation leave which he spent in Brighton but then the war broke out and the Malta posting was cancelled, instead a posting to Poland was on the cards but that too fell through. When the offer of a posting to Salisbury in Southern Rhodesia came up it was up and away via a luxury liner around Cape Horn and became part of the flight training scheme there as a Fitter2E which used Harvards. His spell of duty was some three years and he loved every minute of it being a delightful country in those days.

He then volunteered to be a Flight Engineer and was sent back to UK via Durban and then by liner through the Suez canal to UK. Now a Sergeant. His posting was to St. Athen. where he had a Flight Engineers course to qualify and then to Spilsby in Lincs and on to Lancasters

The war now began in earnest for Buzz and didn’t end until thirty one operations later!

A typical night from the Operations Record Book for 207 Sqdn reads.

21/2/45. Lancaster 3. 7 crew members including P/O Bale I.D. Duty , Bombing.

16.51 out, 23.20 home.

Bombing Attack Gravenhorst. Bomb load 12x1000 lbs.

Sortie completed, successful strike on canal.

They got home but on the same page two other Lancasters are recorded as Aircraft missing.

Buzz had a lucky escape on one occasion in that he went sick before his projected 13th. mission and they didn’t return

At the end of the war in Europe there was an idea to send Sqdns of Lancasters out to the Far East to support the American effort to defeat Japan and Buzz was to be posted to that scheme which proved short lived because the atomic bombs achieved the end result.

One day on leave he met a squadron friend who told him that BOAC were looking for qualified engineers to join them but three licences were needed so it was off to school again. The intention was to operate Short Sunderlands as passenger aircraft and also converted Halifax's renamed the Halton, Buzz went on to crew Lancastrians, Hermes, Britannia's,Constellations, Tudors & Comets. In some cases there were 7 crew and 14 passengers. In the Halton it was necessary to leap over the main spar to serve the passengers. A far cry from today. In between he did the Berlin Airlift on Tudors. Finally ending on VC10s on the South African routes.

He had the honour of being chosen to be part of the crew on three Royal Flights. Two to Australia by Constellation and one to the USA by VC10.

British South American Airways also became part of his life , the flights to Rio involved many hours with stops and there was another lucky escape on the route to Rio when a change of aircraft involved a delay and Buzz was due to marry Cherry so a change of FE's was arranged and the Tudor set off for Rio never to be seen again.

Flights in the middle to late 1950s were of necessity lengthy, a typical flight to the Far East involved many stops such as a recorded one in Buzz’s logbook which reads.

Aircraft-Constellation.

London-Rome-Istanbul-Karachi –Calcutta-Rangoon-Kuala Lumpur-Singapore.

Total time 31hours in flight, 8 days including an engine failure. There is no need to comment!

After some 30,000 hours in the air Buzz ended his days with BA as an Instructor and that after 30 years with the company.

Married by this time to Cherry he retired at 55 , two daughters and a son in UK the only place to be was Spain. After an early interest in sailing Buzz built a 41 ft Catamaran and promptly sailed it with two friends and Cherry as crew from UK to Javea.

Cherry who was a charming lady passed away some 8 years ago which we all regretted. They had been supportive members of the ACA since the early days, indeed Buzz is No 3 in the membership list and his quiet manner has obviously been a disguise of an outstanding career in aviation..

Alec Jackson. May '07.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Wg Cdr John & Desi Partridge - after their marriage in March 1945.









The following is a direct quote from the commendation written by the officer commanding 83 Squadron concerning our member, John Partridge (then, an acting Flight Lieutenant). It was written in January ’43.

This officer has now completed 48 operational missions totalling 287 hours flying and is well on the way towards completing a most outstanding operational career. Most of his sorties have been bombing raids on German targets and include nearly all the most heavily defended ones, and always he has sought and attacked his targets with courage and determination as is rarely met. On Millenium 11 on Bremen, he arrived to find the target obscured by 10/10 cloud, but undaunted by this, he descended through the cloud and found and bombed his target from a height of 1,500 feet. Shortly after this he took part in a daylight raid on Danzig, and although the most appalling weather conditions were encountered en route, making it impossible to keep formation, Flt Lt Partridge pressed on and finally bombed the submarine yards from below the very low cloud base. His aircraft was very heavily engaged by light flak and one of the petrol tanks was holed, but he still went down to shoot up search lights and gun positions on leaving the target. One week afterwards, Flt Lt Partridge made a most spectacular daylight raid on the Krupps works at Essen. This raid being made with a negligible amount of cloud cover from the English coast onwards. The target was attacked from 6,000 feet and severe damage was inflicted on the aeroplane by the very powerful target defences, the wireless operator being wounded and one engine being put out of action. On the way home he was attacked by two ME 110s and by two FW 190s and further damage was sustained. Before this encounter was broken off, Flt Lt Partridge was reduced to two engines, but he eventually succeeded in evading these fighters, and made a safe landing at his base. Shortly after this sortie Flt Lt Partridge was leaving Hamburg when he observed considerable activity from flak ships operating in the Elbe estuary, disregarding the risks he ran, and in spite of the fact that one of his wings had been hit by Hamburg’s guns, he descended almost to sea level and machine gunned the flak ship from very close range. This was on his 31st trip, and he was then taken off operations, much against his will. Within a fortnight, however, Flt Lt Partridge rejoined his squadron when it was transferred to P.F.F. and on Path Finder duties he has continued his extraordinary career. He has been employed as a target finder throughout and he has fulfilled this function with outstanding success.

On one of his early Path Finder trips, when detailed to illuminate Frankfurt, one engine failed before leaving the English coast on the way out. Undismayed by this occurrence, he continued on to the target although only just able to maintain the required height from which he had to drop his flares. This he did successfully and on time. Since then, he has twice had engine failures before dropping his bombs on Italian targets and has been able to re-cross the Alps only with great difficulty and after jettisoning much equipment. On another recent occasion when attacking Stuttgart, such was his determination to place his marker bomb exactly on the aiming point that he descended to 3,000 feet to release it, in the face of intense opposition from the ground.

Throughout the whole of his brilliant operational career this officer’s morale has been of such a standard that it is a class by itself. He sets a most outstanding example to all operational crews and is an inspiration to his companions in this squadron. I have no hesitation in giving him the strongest possible recommendation for an immediate award of the D.S.O.”

On 11th July 1942, John was awarded the D.F.C. for his part in the famous daylight raid on the submarine yards at Danzig – a round flight of 1,750 miles, the longest day time raid of the war. Later in July, he was awarded a bar to his D.F.C. for the daytime attack on the Ruhr when one of the attacking ME and FW aircraft was destroyed and two others damaged by John’s gunners. He was awarded the D.S.O. in March ’43 as a result of the above citation. In September 1942, John was initially awarded the coveted Path Finder Force Badge; and later, in April ’43, he was granted the honour of wearing it permanently as a result of his extended Path Finder operations.

A confused partridge (with wings on back to front) was painted on the fuselage of John’s Lancaster – “M for Mother”, and later appeared at the entrance to the Pathfinder Club in London, which John helped to found.

By the end of the war, John had completed 61 operational missions without a break.

John was born in Northampton on 23 March 1914, and had two elder brothers and a sister. He went to Northampton Grammar where he loved and excelled at several sports. This love of sport was to play a great part in his later life. After leaving school, he initially entered the murky world of insurance, but emerged into the light when he started taking flying lessons as a sergeant pilot with the RAFVR at Luton airport on Magisters, this was between Dec ’38 and Dec ’39.

At the outbreak of war, John joined the RAF, and there followed his training on Tiger Moths and Oxfords culminating with the award of his “Wings” at Shawbury in March ’41. Navigation and operational conversion training was next at Cranage and Cottesmore flying Ansons and Hampdens. At last, in August ’41, John arrived at 83 Squadron based at Scampton, where he flew Ansons, Hampdens, Manchesters, and of course the Lancaster. A year later, the Squadron was transferred to Wyton where they continued with Path Finder operations. Most of you will be aware of what Path Finding involved; if you don’t, ask somebody – it was truly awesome. In March’43, John was transferred to the Path Finder HQ at Huntingdon where he notched up several more aircraft types.

From August ’43 until his demobilisation in May ’46, John served at various locations and in roles too numerous to detail, e.g. OC 92 Group Instructor’s Flight; Chief Instructor No. 14 OTU; Officer Commanding HQ Bomber Command. He had started his RAF flying career as a Sergeant Pilot, and five years later retired as a Wing Commander having declined the offer of promotion to Group Captain because it involved an immediate posting to the Far East.

Whilst at 14 OTU Market Harborough at the end of ’44, Wg Cdr Partridge – in the course of his duty – visited a station dance, and encountered a “pretty little blonde girl who unfortunately had had a little too much to drink.” Desirée was a member of the famous ENSA group who were entertaining at the Garrick Theatre. Like a good officer, he took her back to her quarters which were out of bounds to all males. “An RAF police sergeant knocked on the window of my staff car to remonstrate – the poor man nearly had a fit when he saw it was me” says John. Three months later, in March’45, the couple were married. Desi and John celebrated their 62nd anniversary and John’s 93rd birthday with their friends and fellow members at the Costa Blanca Branch luncheon earlier this year.

On leaving the RAF, John decided to enter the world of commerce, and set up a small business in Northampton, playing rugby for the Old Northampton RFC in his spare time. Despite its success, John couldn’t settle down and rejoined the RAF in August 1949, once again a Flt Lt, and to his total disgust “too old to fly” at the tender age of 35.

In its own way, John’s second RAF career was almost as colourful as the first – though nobody was shooting at him this time. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient room in this profile to give details, but John served for another 20 years in such places as Linton, Bawdsey, Anstruthers, Abu Sueir in Egypt – where he was the CO and saw it’s closure, Ismalia in Egypt – from where, he and Desi popped into a car and drove back to England. He then served at St Athans for three years, Andover, Kenley, and Andover once again for his final RAF tour finishing in ´69. During his stay at Abu Suier, John, who had already played rugby and cricket at a very high level, developed a great enthusiasm for squash – which was to be significant in later years.

It was “by accident”, according to John and Desi, that they founded the RAF Andover Pony Club when at Andover in 1961. Their daughter Denise eventually owned three ponies before finding one suitable for her own abilities, so John – who knew absolutely nothing about horses – decided it would be a good idea if they could create a club that would be available to the RAF and local children who could not afford the normal fees for horse riding. Between the three of them, and local help, the club, based in the beautiful grounds of Amport House, soon had 50 young members who learnt all the skills of horse riding and care. They also enjoyed camping trips with the catering provided by Desi. This was to be the start of a long period in John and Desi’s lives where they encouraged and nurtured a love of sport in younger people. Whilst compiling this profile, I have seen many touching letters of thanks and appreciation from young people and organisations for their selfless efforts.

On finally leaving the RAF, in ’69, John was employed at Redrice Public School as games master and sports coach. Again, he utilised his own sporting ability and enthusiasm to inspire young people, some of whom went on to represent England. Whilst at Redrice, he and Desi fulfilled another long held dream. They created the Redrice Squash and Country Club at the school. It was built to John’s design and was opened on 1 June ’74. John did all the coaching and Desi the catering. Its popularity grew rapidly and was soon subject to expansion and eventually was bought out by investors.

John formally retired from Redrice School in 1979, but continued to coach and referee voluntarily for another two years.

It wasn’t long before their roaming instincts got the better of them again and they started touring in a motor home which towed their own car – all together a vehicle 42 ft long! In their travels over the next years they visited most of the countries in Europe and also Morocco. One day, during their travels, they received a phone call from Denise saying that somebody had made a generous offer for their house in England, and in 1994 they selected their plot on Monte Pego, moving into their villa the following year.

John and Desi celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary amongst a vast group of friends and family at Monte Pego in March '05. They continue to illuminate the lives of all those who know them." Or else simply leave out the first sentence and use "They continue to illuminate the lives of all those who know them."

Ian Thomas March ’07.