The Shackleton Association

The Shackleton Story by Bill Billings (continued)

Part Six

Later rescues of special note include taking photos of Eric Smith on the very wet end of the strop, saving a crew member from trawler ‘Jean Goodgy’. An epic tale in itself.

In the mid 60s, a trawler crew, minus their trawler, from Aberdeen, not really seen by the SAR crew but a marker was released by Reg Rowe, who saw a ‘bit of yellow’ in the water. Surface craft homed in and entire trawler crew was rescued. The (Shackleton) crew (probably captained by Bill Houldsworth) was invited to Aberdeen from BK for a civic reception dinner and a night stop; they did not reappear for about 4 days, and were then still in fairly bad shape.

The Cable Layer ‘Ocean Layer’ had been on fire at about 20.30W. We took press photographers to get their pix – including an old bat from the Daily Herald, who was not supposed to be on board, but, at the end of the runway, climbed up the nose hatch of our pretty new Mk 3. Located the ship, did many photo runs, with old bat complaining about our ‘expensive, luxurious seating in a warplane’ A nameless Eng, - let’s call him Smith – somehow put the idea of a whip-round from the reporters for the crew. They obliged; we had a dinner to spend the proceeds at St Issey, and then all eleven crew visited the nameless (antipodean) Captain’s quarter at St Eval, where a nameless ‘wide’ signaller, almost caused a riot. Lips are sealed. Gave another nameless signaller, of royal descent, known therefore as ‘Rex’, a lift in my car, down the side of which, en route, he provided an advertisement for red wine. With yet another ‘Busy-busy’ signaller, to Rex’s home, entered his bungalow, propped him against bedroom door and left him to explain to his bride of 5 weeks.

Med, 38 Sqn: The luxury liner ‘Canberra’, on fire with many passengers on £10 trips to OZ . (their eventual arrival by flights from Malta, probably prepared Oz for the later arrival of the founder members of the Association). Anway, took daring photos etc, attributed in local press to wrong crew member. Later, received invitation for visit aboard. Sounded great, but not much in the way of free booze. A nameless wife wore a huge hat, which really made the occasion for some of us, but unfortunately, there was certainly no real royalty aboard, so none of us got medals.

Going to War (Sort of). Suez! Packing pongoes into fuselages for return journeys. 22 December, another trip requested; 220 Sqn nominated. Both Flight Commanders volunteered as pilots. Nav Leader as Nav. Eng Leader as Eng. Sigs Leader detailed two Sergeants. Got back on Christmas eve. Hope that Santa forgot that Sigs Leader!

Cuba Crisis: Emergency wills, leaving all debts to relatives and friends. Nasty weapons; all came to a halt, without any further problems.

Radfan rebels; 20lb bombs and 20mm canon. Double stoppage after 17 rounds; no medals.

Cyprus, pre invasion: Buzzed by Turkish fighters. Beat up the odd car on the panhandle road. Fuselage fire, started in starboard electrical trough drama. No medals, or even legal Duty Free, as we were not UN forces.

In writing this lot, I am grateful for inspiration from many people more august than I, for gen, plus what Autolycus picked up. Also, for the memories of many friends, with whom I have flown, lost in accidents and in other events; Notably:
Glenn (Jock) Stewart, Bob (Lofty) Becker, Don Grafham, Dennis Evans, Bob Law, Brian Mercer, Ken Geatorex, Pete Gibbons, Bob Wilson, Len Scholfield, Mike Hibberd, John (Wee Jock) Young, David Winks, Len Rose, Pop Gladstone, Fred Buttimore, Spider Webb, Ivor Stanley, Neil Adams, Gwyn Reece, Roger Bowen

And many others, too numerous to mention, including my Ma-in-Law And, of course, certain b@?!*+%5 who survive, to this day. In Coastal, we all knew who they were.

Bill Billing