* * * LATEST NEWS * * *
(UPDATED 14 May 2016)
XM715 For those who are unaware
Former secretary and Victor AEO Mike Beer is a lead part of the constant effort to keep this airframe alive
Their web site is at http://www.victorxm715.co.uk/handley-page-victor-xm715/
Credit Damian Burke on Left,http://www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk/victor/survivor.php?id=88 Tony Banham on Right http://1000aircraftphotos.com/Contributions/BanhamTony/6230.htm
This aircraft is 'infamous' for its last flight with Bob Protheroe in early 2009 - a remarkable piece of 'AFC' material by any description to be able to react and return it for a last grass landing... to taxy another day.
Watch the event on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGjPu6DPzWU
Sqn Ldr Chas Lister [Nav Plotter] back in the office after last flying this a/c in 1966 ... 47 years later
Reunuion dinner today, 14 May 2016
Have you seen these lapel pins for sale on E Bay?
July 2011 [part 1]
Peter and Ruth Ferguson
Richard Ferguson has conveyed the sad news that Ruth Ferguson died on 27th July, following a short illness. He stated: “Amongst her papers, I found a 543 Squadron Aircrew Association letter and I know my brother, Peter, (her husband) flew with the Squadron.”
A service will be held at Harwood Park Crematorium on Wednesday 10th August, beginning at 1.15pm.
The full address is: Harwood Park Crematorium Watton Road Stevenage Hertfordshire, SG2 8XT
Ruth had chosen four charities to benefit from donations and contributions made in lieu of flowers.
They are The Donkey Sanctuary, RNLI, The Mousehole Bird Hospital and Sanctuary and the RAF Benevolent Fund.
Please send any contributions, in her memory, to: EH Crouch 23a Hitchin Street Baldock Hertfordshire, SG7 6AQ
July 2011 [part 2]
Oh to be a webmaster... Oh, what ? me? now? I volunteered? I did? ..me, the son of a Navigator?
The website is under new management – hmmm ... perhaps that’s a bit dramatic!! The aviation community owes a great deal to those such as Gordon Dyer, and I am sure we would all wish to offer grateful thanks to Gordon for his creation of, and subsequent maintenance of this developing resource. Not so many years ago, it was as much as we could do to maintain an accurate log book. Now, with a little fleet-of-foot learning-on-the-hoof [bit like squadron service I suspect] the camaraderie and history of such units can be more easily shared on a wide basis.
It is my hope that I can carry on the high standards and aims set by GD in the future.
If anyone has ideas or ‘requests’ I am always open to ideas at 543SqnWeb@live.co.uk .
Chas Lister [ son of a Nav Plotter of the same name J ]
For those interested in the history of the squadron. The 25th Anniversary Booklet, which was compiled by FS Elliott, is now available from the History webpage. To access the document, from the History page follow the link at the bottom. This will bring up the 16 page document, which is in .pdf format. A copy can then be saved or printed off.
The booklet is an excellent read
Yet again the Officers' Mess at RAF Wyton did us proud and the annual dinner on 7 May 2011 was a great success. The number attending was slightly down on last year's but we had a total of 36 people (20 Full/Associate Members and 16 spouses/family). Peter Boorman and his wife Sheila had the longest journey from their home in Seattle, USA and managed to combine the dinner with a visit to family in the local area.
Our President, Ron Mudge, proposed the Loyal Toast and the toast to Absent Friends. In his short address, he also said that we were looking for someone to take over the web site from Gordon Dyer after he moves it to a new address. Ron kindly donated 3 bottles of wine for a scratch card competition and raised £60 for the anticipated cost of the web site .
Ill health had prevented John Worrall, a previous President, from attending, but John had generously sent £30; we put that to good use in the bar! The diners also generously gave £105-50, which on this occasion will be donated to the Station Commander's charity (The Upsidedown Fund) for children in St Ives.
Ron also described the approaching situation regarding the Presidency. There is no natural successor to Ron when his term ends in May 2012. If there are no volunteers for the role, the 4 in our ad hoc 'Executive Committee' (Ron, Gordon Dyer, Doug Crane and Vic Pheasant) will do a year each after which we can reassess the situation.
The date for next year's dinner has been provisionally agreed with the Mess as Saturday 12 May 2012 .
Post Dinner Note of Action:
Gordon transferred the 543 website to http://www.543sqn.org.uk on 3 June. Gordon will continue to manage the site in its new location until he and the new volunteer webmaster (Chas Lister Jnr) have met and the handover is completed. The old website will no longer be maintained.
Sadly, two members' wives - Maureen (Mo) Nieland and Elsie Painting also passed away this month.
With great sadness we have to report the loss, in late September, of yet another colleague , Colin Painting, or "Pancho" as he was affectionately known to us. Many tributes have been paid to him, including:
Ron Mudge, who wrote to Elsie on behalf of the Association saying "we will miss a man, who was a true professional aviator and one who was good to have in the team, in both the good and the bad times. His good humour, enthusiasm and beaming smile will be sadly missed."
John Elliott echoed this with " I had the privilage and honour to fly with Pancho for a couple of years on the Squadron and to remain in contact with him since. He was a true professional in the air and one of life's unstoppable characters on the ground. I will miss him."
The memorial service will be held at St Martin's Brampton (Cumbria) on Monday 11 October, at11 am. Mourners can go directly to the church or convene beforehand at the Co-operative Funeralcare, Murray Croft, Crawhall, Brampton, where there is parking, either in the yard or on the road. A reception will be held starting at about noon at Brampton Golf Club, Talkin, Brampton.
Air Cdre Basil Hamilton CBE, DFC, AFC
Sadly, we have to report that our ex-CO, Air Cdr Basil Hamilton, passed away on 10 July after a short illness. The funeral service took place at Oakley Wood Crematorium, Nr Warwick CV33 9QP on Tuesday 20 July at 2.30pm. There was a funeral gathering afterwards at the Glebe Hotel, Barford CV35 8BS.
Donations, if desired for The Royal British Legion may be sent to Hemming & Peace Funeral Services, 1a Brewery Street, Stratford Upon Avon CV37 0BQ.
Tel: 01789 205400
Rosie Stone, Basil's daughter had said the funeral was open to any ex-543 Squadron members to come to the funeral but appreciated that in view of the short (3-day) notice not many would be able to make it. Derek Evans, who drove down and up from Scotland on the day, and Gordon Dyer, represented the squadron. Gordon took a Squadron crest along to the Glebe Hotel and this was placed along with pieces of Basil's own memorabilia: medals, log books, Select Classification certificate etc, that the family brought
Gordon Dyer writes "Basil Hamilton was a splendid CO and a great role model to me as a navigator. He was one of the first navigators to be a V-force squadron CO. He was always encouraging and was the drive behind my going on to the Staff Nav and then immediately onto the Spec N course. His leadership style was exemplified by his placing great trust in all the crews. He simply made it clear that he expected everyone to do what was asked of them and of course we all tried our hardest to do so."
Report on 2010 Reunion Dinner and Date for 2011
The 2010 Dinner took place at the Officers' Mess at RAF Wyton on Saturday 8 May. The attendance of 51 people was the greatest number for many years. Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening and the Mess staff made us most welcome, as they do every year. The President, Wing Commander Ron Mudge, set a very short quiz to guess the average age of Members attending the dinner. The answer was 73 years, 4 months and 7 days. There was a large turn out from the younger element of the Association with many in their low 60s which means that there was a correspondingly excellent attendance from those who were on the upper side of the average. Well done to all. Ron gave a short speech during which we had a few moments to remember absent friends. He also mentioned that Vic Pheasant had been approached by a non-aircrew member of 543 who had asked if it was possible to attend the gathering one year. Ron said that an ad hoc committee of himself, Vic, John Elliott (Sec), Doug Crane (outgoing President) and Gordon Dyer (a past President) had agreed that we already had in place an 'Associate Membership' format to embrace ex-Squadron Engineers and Widows and this could be extended to others who had a genuine interest in 543 Squadron. It was proposed that Associate Membership should be approved by the ad hoc committee and thus the total numbers could be controlled and consequently the Mess not become overwhelmed. There was no dissent among the Members present and so we will monitor any response to this report on the website. The date for next year's dinner has been agreed with the Mess to be Saturday 7 May 2011.
We are sad to report that Brian Kennelly died suddenly on Saturday 20 March. He had already suffered some strokes in recent times. 543 Squadron was well represented at the funeral on 1 April (Vic Pheasant, Dick and Rosemary Collins, Glyn and Joyce Wadey and John and Jan Elliott); Tricia had already noted that Brian would have seen the funny side of the date. The crematorium church was packed. Tricia and family were in good spirits and the family readings by a son and a grandson would have made Brian proud. Much was said about Brian's time on Canberras and Victors (both Blue Steel and Photo Recce) and how he had enjoyed his service in the RAF, including visiting many parts of the world. Tricia will not be able to attend this year's dinner but hopes to be able to in future years.
Dinner 2010 Saturday 8 May - Extract from the Secretary's Note
Vic Pheasant visited Alweras on 18th July and was able to take this pictue of the 543 tree. It is clearly doing very well
Another Sad Farewell
Sadly, Lee Lister, passed away on 19th May. Though neither Lee or Chas have been able to attend the last three reunions, over the previous many years Lee had supported Chas superbly during his time and role of Association Secretary. John Elliott, Gordon Dyer, Doug and Mo Crane attended the funeral at Houghton Church on 4th June.
Report on Dinner 2009
The annual reunion dinner of the Association took place at RAF Wyton on Saturday 9 May 2009. A total of 38 attended, an increase compared with last year, and a sign perhaps that members had made a special effort to mark the 35th year since the disbandment. Terry Rogan and Chas Lister were accompanied by their sons! A great evening was had by all and the Mess did us proud as usual.
Doug Crane was the President for just this single year while Ron Mudge divested himself of other commitments, and Ron now takes over for a full 3 years, we hope! Doug reminded us that Ted Webb had passed away during the year, and we had a minute's silence for all Absent Friends. Ted, an AEO, was a great character with a huge sense of fun and an amazing limbo dancer. He was a credit to the the West Indies.
Arthur Crighton told us that he had copies of two Air Clues articles, one published in 1965 on Exercise (or should that be Operation?) Pontiflex and the other, from 1966, on the use of the Victor Mk2 in PR. Gordon Dyer has now both articles on the web site (see links via History Page). Gordon additionally told us that Don Chester wants to write a biography on Wg Cdr Ronald 'Ras' Berry OBE DSO DFC & Bar, a 543 Squadron CO; he was at Wyton in 1956 and took the Squadron to Suez. If anyone has any anecdotes about 'Ras', Don would very much appreciate them at email@example.com.
Sadly, two members' wives - Julie Dyer and Janet Coltman passed away this month.
Report on Dinner 2008
A total of 30 members, and in some cases spouses, attended. There were a number who come every year but also some who can only make it occasionally.We are pleased that both groups made the effort. The format was the usual with a buffet, drinks and loads of chatting. John Worrall handed over the presidency to Doug Crane after a 3 year term. Our thanks go to John for his work in making the evenings go well. Doug has agreed to be the interim President for a year when Ron Mudge will take over having recently ended some of his other commitments. The number of no replies was quite large and so the Secretary (John Elliott) will write or email to everyone with the message that if there is no response by the time of the next dinner, we will assume that our message is not reaching the recipient and so will delete him from the distribution list. Hopefully. many will appreciate that 2009 marks 35 years since the disbandment and will try to attend.
Dedication of the Armed Forces Memorial
As you will know HM Queeen visited Alrewas on 12 October 2007 to dedicate the Armed Forces Memorial. Wendy Quinney has been in touch to confirm that she and her son Phil attended. Wendy was able to confirm that the 543 Tree was thriving and had not been affected by the August floods (see below)
She also forwarded a montage of photos taken on the day, one of which shows the Victor crew list of colleagues lost in 1973 carved on the memorial wall.
Double Blow to Association
We are very sad to report the loss of two colleagues who passed away in August:
Pete Ferguson - was a stalwart of the association who attended dinners with Ruth regularly. He was a great Victor pilot as well as being a warm and caring colleague. He was a Master Green IRE.
Mike Freeman - served as a navigator plotter on Valiants and was well known for his prowess at rugby.
We remember them fondlyfor their comradeship and support for the association in the past
Date for your Diary - Annual Dinner 2008
The 2008 Annual Dinner will be held on Saturday May 17th 2008. Reserve this date in your diary now.
Visit to 543 Tree at National Memorial Arboretum on 14th July
It is almost 4 years since the dedication of the 543 Tree at the National Memorial Arboretum . Gordon Dyer visited Alrewas on 14th July 2007 and is pleased to report that the silver birch is now tall ( about 12 feet high) and very sturdy. It is one of the tallest in the RAF Wing. See picture below along with a copy of the plaque.
See how much it has grown since September 2003.
If anyone wants to find their way to the tree the satellite images below, obtained through Google Earth, exactly pinpoint where the tree is. Its lat/long according to Google Earth is 52 degrees 43 minutes 41.7 seconds North, 01 degrees 43 minutes 38.4 seconds West.
The three images below are at "low, medium and high resolution". The principle point on the high res image is centred on the actual tree. Recce has certainly moved on since 543 days! The low res picture shows the car park and the overall site, the mid res shot allows you to plan your walk to the RAF wing.
Please note these images are not real time but represent the latest images of the area in the Google database. There is a major construction going on in the circular area - the Armed Forces Memorial which is not shown in the images.
If anyone wants to download Google Earth and take a look at a satellite image of any point in the world here is a link you can use. You can see your own house by entering your postcode, or as I did with the 543 Tree enter the latitude and longitude. There are zoom and left/right adjustments control so if your first entry point is not exactly right move the principle point till you find the spot. The new lat/long is available as a read-out on the screen. The format for entering lat/long - with the tree position as example - is 52 43' 41.7" N 01 43' 38.4"W
Annual Dinner 2007
This years's dinner will be held on Saturday May 19th at the Officers' Mess at RAF Wyton. John Elliott will send out a further e-mail/letter in about March 2007 giving the usual information on cost etc.
Annual Dinner 2006
This year's dinner will be held on Saturday May 20th at the Officers' Mess at RAF Wyton.
We have been told that accommodation in the Mess will be very limited this year and that those needing an overnight stop should try to book elsewhere. Huntingdonshire Tourist Information has a web site at www.huntsleisure.org which lists accommodation including hotels and B&Bs.
All applications (and cheques) to attend the dinner must be with John Elliott by 13th May at the latest.
We are very sad to report that Peter Firth, passed away on 26th October. Peter was well known to many as he served as Nav Rad on both Valiants and Victors, and had been a long-time member of the association. For the last three years he gave the toast to absent friends at the Annual dinner. We will remember him as a highly experienced, hard working, cheerful and loyal colleague. He will be sadly missed.
The funeral will be at the Cambridge Crematorium on Thursday 3rd November at 2.15 pm, and afterwards at Slepe Hall St Ives.
Annual Dinner 2005
The 2005 reunion dinner was held at Wyton on Saturday 14th May. As usual it was a very enjoyable occasion with 37 members and partners attending. It is much appreciated that some members make such a commitment to the reunion by travelling very long distances. The travel record was broken by Ted Webb's attendance.
The service received from the mess was again excellent and we much appreciate the effort by the Mess Manager, chefs and staff to make the occasion so successful.
Some points arising:
(1) The joint winners of the after-dinner competition,"Wordsmith of the Year" were a team led by Ted Webb, and Dave Woodroffe.
(2) John Worrall has take over as Association President from Gordon Dyer who is stepping down after 3 years in the role. John is hoping to join the world of electronic communications soon. Gordon will continue to manage this web-site until another volunteer can be found.
(3) It was agreed that members could bring guests other than their partners to future reunions. This would be helpful to those who in future may have to rely on a friend or helper to bring them to the venue. This could also help the asccociation to maintain numbers attending the dinner which would help to keep the price at an economic level.
(4) Gordon was pleased to report that Wendy Quinney has been in touch and that he had extended an invitation to her to attend next year's dinner.
14th April 2005
We have received the sad news that two of our colleagues have passed on:
John Sands - ex-Flight Commander, died in the Isle of Man on 31st January, at the age of 80. John will be remembered , inter alia, for commanding for the first Valiant squadron detachment to Townsville between June and August 1962. In bringing this to our attention, Derek Evans said that he was one of the best pilots he flew with in 30 years.
Roger Willson - ex-Nav Plotter on Victor 2's in the early 70's. In bringing this to our attention, Colin Painting remarks that Roger had had a very successful career in the electronics industry after he retired.
50th Anniversary of Squadron Reformation
On 1st April 2005 we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the re-formation of 543 Squadron at Gaydon. The squadron, with its Valiants, moved to Wyton in August 2005. It will be very appropriate to have a special toast at the dinner to all colleagues who served on the squadron over the next 19 years to 1974, especially those who have passed to those other shores.
5th January 2005
Those from Valiant days will remember Ted Webb, AEO, as a great friend and colleague. Gordon is delighted to report Ted has made contact with him after a gap of some 38 years having found the website. Ted says in his e-mail:
"Let me say right off that I have now received a great gift for Christmas 2004 - this opportunity to establish contact with the 543 Squadron Aircrew Association. I applaud you and other persons involved in this splendid initiative with which I now seek to associate myself for the few remaining years of my life.
After my re-entry into civilian life in early 1965, I returned home to Trinidad and Tobago and joined BWIA where, following an attachment with British Caledonian Airways, I gained the Flight Navigator's Licence and established the Nav Section for long haul flights to the UK/Europe utilising Boeing 707-300 aircraft. I eventually succeeded to the position of Systems Manager Flight Operations, managed the transition to Lockheed Tristars - 500 in the 1980s eventually retiring from the airline in 1993 as Vice President, Caribbean and South America.
On many of my flights operationally and otherwise to the UK, I sought information about 543 reunions with little success. I even visited the Mess at Wyton on two occasions in the 1970s by which time the squadron was disbanded but I was able to reminisce with a few friends in the Huntingdon-St. Ives area about 543.
I continue to come to London three or four times each year and am currently pursuing membership into the RAF Club. I notice from your newsletter that Fred Haynes has passed on. He will be missed above all for his dry humour. My regards to Doug Crane and all the others."
Ted has been immediately enrolled in the Association. We hope very much that he will be able to make it to a reunion some time soon
(1) Following the expression of member's wishes a donation of £100 was made to the National Memorial Arboretum on 22nd June 2004 (see background below)
(2) John has now taken over the role of Secretary and the accounts.
(3) Jo Redfern has kindly donated an important 543 Squadron historical photograph to the Officer's Mess at RAF Wyton. The large photograph (40" by 20") shows all personnel assembled in front of a Victor SR2 at Wyton on 19th October 1967. This framed version was presented to Hugh Redfern when he relinquished command of the squadron.
The photograph was taken to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the squadron at Benson on 19th October 1942.
Annual Dinner 2004
The 2004 Annual Reunion Dinner was held in the Officer's Mess on Saturday 8th May. Some 28 colleagues and partners attended and had a very enjoyable evening
Gordon announced that as a result of the vote by members, associate membership of the 543 Squadron Aircrew Association would be open to widows, ex-crew chiefs and others who have made particular contributions to the association. Colleagues warmly welcomed Jo Redfern to the dinner.
Doug reported that due to pressure of work, particularly that expected for a forthcoming election in 2005, he would step down as Secretary. John Elliott volunteered to take over as Secretary once the 2004 dinner accounts had been settled and records could be transferred.
Father Time 2004 Report
Has not been kind since the 2003 Annual Dinner. We lost Ned Western in July 2003.
We also received the sad news of the loss of two other colleagues - Fred Haynes (ex-Valiants) and Chris Adams (ex-Victors) - who both died in late February 2004. Those who knew these colleagues personally will miss them . We extend our sympathy to Margaret and Veronica and their families.
Chas Lister recovery from his stroke remains steady and slow.
Dedication of 543 Squadron Tree
Fifteen members - a total party of 28 , with partners - attended the service to dedicate the 543 Squadron Tree at The National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffs on 12th September 2003.
Everyone who attended found the service moving, very relevant and very worthwhile. We were fortunate in having The Revd Tony Wood, Rural Dean , to act as officiating chaplain.
He has performed the duty for several dedications and he conducted our service with great sensitivity. The actual service which was held in the Millenium Chapel at the Arboretum allowed for participation by members. The Welcome, which Gordon wrote was given jointly by Tony and Gordon. Ron Mudge gave a reading. Everyone said the words of dedication at the tree. Return to 2007
For those interested here is a link to the full form of service.
Following the buffet lunch we had discussions on the following:
- disposal of circa £100 surplus from contributions. A variety of views were received on this. The National Memorial Arborteum was taken over by the Royal British Legion at the end of last year, but the Arboretum continues to operate as a separate cost centre. Gordon recommends that if the surplus is donated there be a 50:50 split between the Arboretum and the RAF Benevolent Fund
- the name and scope of the Association. This is against a background of a request in July from The Revd. Derek Hickman (an ex-photographer on the squadron, and the designer of the excellent 543 badge on the web-site) to widen our association to all ranks. After takings soundings and views from colleagues, and considering the logistics that would be involved in a change, Gordon recommends that our association stays as it is. Derek Hickman has been told that there is no objection to him or anyone else launching and organising a 543 Squadron Association with the assumption that members of our association could apply for membership of any wider 543 association if they wish.
- the tenure of the President. There was a considerable majority (80%) in favour of "permanency". However several members made very sensible comments that permanency was not realistic. Gordon would prefer a tenure of about 3 years and would be happy to hear from anyone who might wish to offer their services from, say, July 2005.
Future Communication Methods to Members
A large proportion of people these days have an e-mail facility and we are therefore moving to a system where most of our communication with members will be by this medium, supplemented by the news page of this web-site. We hope that this will enable us to save the time and expense of using ordinary mail. We will of course use ordinary mail to keep contact with those who do not have an e-mail facility.
The web-site continues to bring benefits. At least one new member has joined up using the application form on the site.
It was very gratifying to receive an e-mail from John Philips' daughter who had found the site following a Google search. She was very pleased to see that her father's memory had been commemorated at the tree dedication.
We continue to look forward to getting your ideas about using/improving the web-site. A number of questions arise.:
- Additional pages? How about a Memories page - for individuals to submit their own personal reflection of an occasion they recall of squadron life? If anyone would like to share a personal memory please submit text.
- Should there be additional links? if so to where?
- is there a better place to host the site?
- is there anyone keen to take over the running of the site?
Note - there is now a link to this site from a comprehensive RAF history site at: