Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Memories of Swinderby

This is me and the lads. Royal Air Force Swinderby ('Swinders') September 1978. Thats me in the middle rank, third from right. The chap to the right of me is Peter Orme, from Sheffield, one of the great characters of our intake.

Front rank, far right, is Eric Mayne, from Biggin Hill. Eric was my roomate in the notorious 'spurs'. I actually preferred the spurs to the hideous Gibson Block, with its dormitories. Eric was very quiet, and got on with what had to be done. He was highly intelligent, and one of the older members of the intake, I was one of the youngest. He was the perfect roomate.

Front rank centre, with the pace stick, is Corporal John Weeks, our drill instructor. He scared the hell out of us for six weeks, and once threw my boots through a window because there was a speck of dust on one of them. He actually turned out to be a really nice guy. I met up with him again a few years later when he was posted to Wattisham as the guard room corporal. I remember us getting absolutely hammered together at a British Legion club somewhere on the east coast, after a Remembrance Day parade. I loved parades, and always volunteered for everything.

Rear rank, seventh from right, is Simon Gregg, from Market Harborough. I didn't have so much to do with Simon at Swinderby, but after passing out we went to Cosford together to do our trade training, and over the course of four months we became very close friends. We had similar tastes in music, and both enjoyed the cinema. He had a great sense of humour, and was very easy to talk to. One Sunday, I caught him listening to the The Archers on Radio 4. From that point on he was known as 'Archie' - everybody in the RAF gets a nickname. I was 'Ted', for obvious reasons. John Weeks had a different name for me - several of them, in fact!

At the end of our course at Cosford, we were told one morning "postings are up!", and so the four of us who passed the course ran off to the general office to see where we were to be posted, all hoping that we would not be sent to Scotland.

I got Wattisham, with its Phantoms, Simon got Wittering, with the Harriers. We were both thrilled.

February 2nd, 1979, in a heavy snowfall, we stood on the platform at Birmingham New Street station, shook hands, and went off to see what lay ahead. Simon was killed in a tragic accident shortly afterwards, something that upsets me deeply to this day. You couldn't imagine a nicer lad than Simon.

Swinderby is closed down now. Unless you have experienced it, you cannot conceive of what those six weeks were like. But the feeling you have when you pass out at the end of it makes it all worthwhile.

Well done to Michael Slevin for putting this little video together.


  1. Thanks for that. I was there in 1966. The food was terrible, when the CO came to say 'hello' after a day or two of arriving, he asked me what I thought of the food, I told him. I was a hero to the others from that moment!

  2. Hi thank you for mentioning my little video.I felt I had to do something to remember the station and all the people who passed through there.Michael Slevin.

  3. I was there in 1979 nothing changed except they had build a couple of new blocks with carpets which was harder to keep clean that the polished floor but didn't have to walk to the sides inthe corridors