Gordon Tripp's Stories

Gordon Tripp, who died in November 2012 aged 86.

From a collection of Aircrew Stories from our past and present members
which honours their memories and their service.

Aircrew Association, Surrey Branch 2012

Tributes given at Gordon's Service of Thanksgiving for his life, at Leatherhead Crematorium, 18 December 2012.

- by his brother Martyn on behalf of the family

As a young boy growing up in England near the end of the Second World War, I eagerly awaited the mail delivery to see if there was a letter to my Mother, from my brother Gordon in the Royal Air Force.

She would read me his lines of laughter as he described events in places like Ternhill, Spanhoe, Chivenor, and other long forgotten places - that he would take off from - with the firm intention to return to - God and the engine willing.

Later there were letters from more exciting places like Cyprus, Deversoir, Khartoum, Singapore, Baghdad - where his squadron would be asked to demonstrate the abilities of the new aircraft they were turning over to the aircrews stationed there.

And then finally came “demob” and what to do with his life after flying fighter jets and fighter bombers?

The answer was civil aviation – but he needed multi-engine experience. So, every Monday to Friday he worked as a clerk in a sausage factory – then on Friday evening he would tear home from work and head on his motor cycle to one of the RAF stations near our home and there take to the air as a reservist in twin-engined Oxfords or Ansons until he eventually accumulated sufficient multi-engine time to sit the examination board to qualify as a commercial pilot. While he waited for the results he would ferry ex-RAF planes to countries he was familiar with in the Middle East.

He passed his commercial license and commenced flying for Silver City Airways transporting British holiday goers and their vehicles across the English Channel for their vacations on the continent.

Marriage to his girl friend Beryl was followed by a move to the exotic island of Trinidad in the West Indies. Times of joy and sadness followed with the births of his daughters Lesley and Martine – and later joy of becoming a grandfather to Marcus.

The loss of his wife Beryl and of his daughter Martine took its toll, but his grandson Marcus was to become his pride and joy. And in Canada, a nephew was born who perpetuated his name – he was christened Brian Gordon Howard Tripp.

We gather here not to mourn him, rather to honour his achievements, successes and his companionship - may he rest in peace.

Martyn then read the well known sonnet High Flight by P/O Gillespie Magee RCAF who was killed in a training accident on December 11, 1941.

Now take back the soul of Gordon Howard Tripp, whom you have shared with us. He brought us joy; we loved him well.

- by Flt Lt George Blundell-Pound RAFVRT, OC 1408 (Dorking) Squadron Air Training Corps

Good afternoon everybody. I have been asked to say a few words about Gordon's time at 1408 (Dorking) Squadron Air Training Corps and his time in its parent service the Royal Air Force.

Where to start with Gordon? Born on the 27th March 1926 he joined the RAF in 1944 aged 18. By 1948 he was learning to fly Spitfires.

Perhaps I can share an anecdote from when I first met Gordon when I joined 1408 Sqn as an officer and by then Gordon had been a Civilian Instructor for as long as anyone could remember. Whilst I was on holiday in Florida I had a picture created which appeared to show me on the front cover of an aviation magazine getting an award. I hung it on the wall of the Squadron's mess which prompted the suggestion that perhaps some of the other members of staff might produce pictures of themselves enjoying aviation.

Noel Baker who then was a Captain with GB Airways produced a fine picture of himself seated on the flight deck of Boeing B737. Chris Wick, a Civilian Instructor like Gordon produced a picture of him stood by his glider at RAF Odiham where he was the Chief Flying Instructor at the Kestrel Gliding Club. Not to be outdone, Gordon produced this picture which shows Gordon standing in front of a Mark 16 Spitfire at RAF Chivenor in 1948. That trumped us all and so he became 1408's own Spitfire pilot!

I recall Gordon saying that 25% of his flying training course managed to kill themselves during training which took him on to fly Tempests initially in the UK and then Egypt with 213 and then 72 Squadrons. As Gordon said the RAF had a saying that if the enemy did not kill you your aeroplane certainly might. I thought I should read a short extract from his own modest account of delivering a Tempest from the UK to Pakistan shortly after he had left the RAF in 1952. He has just left Cyprus for Baghdad.

' I climbed to 18,000 feet, over Lebanon, then Syria. Everything seemed normal. The explosion in the engine swung the aircraft sideways. A red light shone fiercely from the panel and the vibration was so bad that I could barely read the instruments. The oil temperature was at maximum, and the pressure fell rapidly to zero. The engine was finished.

I called ‘Mayday’, and was answered by Cyprus radio, so someone knew I was going down. I shut off fuel and ignition and looked for a good spot to land. Everywhere seemed flat from that height. I decided to drop the tanks, so that if they did not come off I had time to bale out. I pulled the lever. Both parted company from the Tempest. I could no longer hear Cyprus as I got lower. At 1,000 feet I jettisoned the hood.
Suddenly the ground that had appeared flat took on an undulating appearance. I was quite low now, and committed to landing, too late to start searching for a better spot. A rise in the ground prevented me from seeing anything ahead. I resisted the temptation to pull back on the stick and try to stretch the glide. A stall at that point would have been disastrous.

The Tempest brushed the top of the rise. Prop blades bent along the cowling. A shallow valley opened up before me. I headed down into it, and this time there was no bounce, just skidding along the soft earth, feeling the rapid deceleration, and then, everything was still.

In seconds I was out of the plane making tracks to the rear, away from any possible explosion or fire. Neither occurred. I began to wonder how far I was from civilisation, then three fighters passed overhead. I thought: ‘Good. Somebody’s looking for me.’ Later I found out that they were indeed looking for me – to shoot me down. One of my drop tanks had exploded within sight of a village, so it was assumed that I had slipped across the border from Israel, and dropped a bomb. The state of war was still very much alive at that time. Arabs started to appear. I wanted them to stay away from the aircraft so I tried to convince them that the ‘benzine’ (petrol) might blow up.

A young soldier cycled up and saluted enthusiastically. I wrote a note addressed to the police or military, and he took off, riding at top speed. An hour later he arrived back in a truck with a dozen soldiers. An officer asked, in good English, if I was the pilot and then, was I hurt. I answered yes, and no. The next question sent my heart into my boots. He said ‘How many more bombs have you got?

I looked at the soldiers, armed with sub machine guns, miles from anywhere, in that patch of semi-desert. I denied carrying bombs, and explained I had to shed the drop tanks to do a belly landing. I asked if anyone had been hurt. Fortunately, it seemed not. We went to the aircraft and I demonstrated the jettison lever which apparently satisfied him. I breathed again. My personal gear was retrieved, a guard was posted on the plane and we proceeded to the barracks in Homs. There, I was given a stiff scotch and a meal and finally dispatched into the care of the British Consul in Damascus. Next day I was issued with a visa and started making arrangements for the recovery of the Tempest.

When everything was complete I caught a plane to Cyprus, and from there to UK arriving home on Christmas Eve. At some stage I realised how lucky I had been when the previous contract was cancelled. Though disappointed then, I now knew that I might not have fared so well in Syria if that job had materialised. It was to fly a batch of Spitfires to Israel!' This extract from the Surey Air Crew Association web-site.

So Gordon was both a lucky and skilful pilot. He then joined Silver City Airways flying Bristol Freighters known to its pilots universally as the Bristol Frightener where Gordon's engine failure drills would again come in handy. So started a civil airline career that would last nearly thirty years. After Silver City came BWIA (British West Indies Airways) or B-Wee and flying Douglas DC-3s, Vickers Viscounts, the Boeing B727 & Boeing B707 and finally Singapore Airlines again on Boeing 707s before finally retiring from flying.

Gordon joined 1408 Sqn on the 1st October 1981 and instructed young Air Cadets in the mysteries of Principles of Flight and Navigation for the next 24 years before retiring again and joining the Squadron's Civilian Committee for the final 6 years of his life, continuing to encourage young people to take to the air and challenge themselves. Gordon will have taught literally hundreds of cadets over those years motivating them in their interest in aviation as they encouraged him to tell them his flying stories again. It is no surprise that we have here today an ex cadet of the Squadron, Sgt Mike Allison now a crewman on Merlin helicopters at RAF Benson, two ex Commanding Officers and a current officer.

Gordon, on behalf of the cadets you taught, our grateful thanks.

Silver City Airways
British West Indies Airways

page last updated 30 Dec 2012