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Aircrew Association

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Woking and District

President: Wg Cdr Stuart Holmes

Chairman: Ron Hepburn


   
Contacts Programme
News
Memories

Committee names and brief service histories

Read about our monthly meetings and future programme

Our PRO records the highlights of recent branch activities

CD and DVDs of aircrew memories


Anyone who has served, or is still serving, in any capacity as badged Aircrew in any of
the three Services is most welcome as a member of the Woking Branch of the ACA.

Woking Branch of the ACA was formed in 1988 with just 7 people, but now has grown to approximately 130 members drawn from a wide area to the south west of London.

A very broad range of squadrons is represented. Although the majority of members served in WWII, many with amazingly vivid memories recorded in Upside Down Nothing on the Clock NOW AVAILABLE ON CD-ROM WITH ADDITIONAL VIDEO MEMORIES, there is an increasing number of younger serving and retired members. The branch has also produced a DVD featuring Richard James, Guy Gibson's navigator on night fighters, which is also available for sale. See the memories page.

In addition to regular monthly meetings at Fairoaks Airport, the Branch organises coach outings for members, families and friends. Popular aviation destinations have included the RAF Museum Hendon, Duxford, Old Warden, Brooklands Aviation Museum, Southampton Hall of Aviation, but non-aviation attractions feature as well. Pub lunches several times a year are also very popular, whilst demand for places at the annual Christmas luncheon is so great that early booking is strongly advised.


SITUATION REPORT June 2017

Monthly meetings at the Flight Centre at Fairoaks Airport resumed in March with, inevitably, smaller attendances than in previous years. However, the core band of enthusiastic members keeping the Association in being have continued to turn up and have been entertained by interesting talks arranged by secretary Tony Boxall.

The first meeting brought Hal Green and Jim Davis of the British Airways Heritage Centre to trace the history of civil passenger aviation in Britain from its origins in 1919 through to the formation of the nationalised airlines after the Second World War.

Also in March John Austin arranged a memorable outing to the former Fighter Command Headquarters at Bentley Priory. Borrowing the mini-coach and driver from the Woking Air Training Corps, a party of members was taken on a tour of the reconstructed operations room and other exhibits. After lunch they were driven back to Fairoaks stopping on the way at the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede.

The April meeting included a talk by the author of the historical history novel ‘The Stranger at the Window’, Guy Mcelveney. The plot of Guy’s book was partly based on the life of his great-uncle who was killed when his Halifax bomber was shot down over France in 1944.

May saw the return of guest speaker Alan Grace who brought a series of nostalgic recordings to illustrate his talk on several episodes of ‘the longest day’, D-Day, 6th June 1944.

The continued uncertainty surrounding the future of Fairoaks Aerodrome has, unfortunately, resulted in the abandonment of the plans for a Flying Evening this summer. However, there is an embryo scheme for a possible alternative and we can hope that this may come to fruition.

Eric and Jean Smith
Eric and Jean Smith in happier times

The smaller attendances referred to above are the consequence of the increasing age of the remaining members and this has also brought a longer obituary list as time has gone by.

We record with deep regret the death in December 2016 of Geoffrey Marlow and of Tom Mogford in February of this year.

Our oldest member, Des O’Connell, died on 9th May at the age of 97. Des volunteered for RAF aircrew in 1938, trained as a navigator and was injured and badly burned when his Coastal Command Whitley crashed and burst into flames shortly after taking off from Limavady in 1941.  He was a patient of the pioneering burns surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe, at East Grinstead and became an active member of the Guinea Pig Club.  Despite his injuries, Des retained his cheerful and outgoing personality, returned to RAF service and in the post-war years made his career in civil air traffic control before retiring in 1984.

There appears to be no previous entry in these pages of the death of the wife of an ACA member, but now is the time to set a precedent and record, with deep regret, the passing of Jean, the vivacious wife of former chairman, Eric Smith GM. Jean died following a distressing illness on 14th May and all ACA members tender their sincere condolences to Eric and his family.

Bill Bawden, PRO


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