BETTER ON A CAMEL
BOAC and BEA reminiscences, memorabilia and history
 
 
Introduction
Review of background to airline experiences and recollections
 
 
Dedication
About the charity 'Practical Action'
 
 
Foreword
Foreword by Sir Ross Stainton, former Chairman of BOAC
 
 
CHAPTER ONE - THE FAR EAST AND INDIAN OCEAN
airport and airline memoirs about the far east - from India and the Seychelles to Japan
 
 
Burma - Lighting Up Time, by Gerry Catling (1954)
an airport story - cigars as insect repellent
 
 
Burma - The Day of the Dear Departed (1954), by Gerry Catling
memories of a delicate diplomatic exercise with BOAC in Burma
 
 
Burma, etc. - Britannias, by Alan Douglas
recollections of the Bristol Britannia in service with BOAC
 
 
Burma -The Sound Barrier, by Tony Russell (1972)
Dealings with the civil aviation authorities in Rangoon
 
 
Burma - The Fertiliser Factory, by David McCormack (1972)
memoirs of an airline manager - going the extra mile in customer service...
 
 
Burma - Cigars, Religion and Superstition, by Peter Jones (1975)
Meeting the Burmese People
 
 
Burma - Special Adviser to the Manager, by Peter Jones (1975)
attending a funeral in Rangoon
 
 
Burmese Days, by Peter Jones (1975)
a visit to Mandalay and the temples of Pagan
 
 
India - The Morning Commuter, by Peter Fieldhouse (1970)
Getting to the office in Calcutta
 
 
Japan - The Mount Fuji Disaster, by James Wilson (1966)
a retrospective view of the management of the aftermath of a major air crash
 
 
Pakistan - Yaqoob and Musaleem, by Peter Liver (1987)
fond memories of two aged retainers
 
 
Philippines - Cutting it Fine, by David Hogg (1970)
memoir of the chaos to civil aviation caused by a typhoon in Manila
 
 
Philippines - Being British, by David Hogg (1969)
reactions to an earthquake
 
 
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) - The Day my Number (almost) Came up, by Gerry Catling (1960)
memories of a BOAC Comet 4 landing on a wet runway..
 
 
Seychelles Days, by Mike McDonald (1974-1977)
An island idyll..civil aviation (and British Airways) arrive in the Seychelles
 
 
CHAPTER TWO - THE MIDDLE EAST
airport and airline reminiscences and memorabilia in the Middle East
 
 
Abu Dhabi - Ice Cold in Abu Dhabi, by Graham Moss (1970)
keeping VC-10 passengers cool on the ground
 
 
Abu Dhabi - Sand Trap, by David Hogg (1972)
hazards of driving in the desert
 
 
Bahrain - The Traffic Manual Expert, by David Meyrick (1962)
an air cargo problem - loading a BOAC DC7F
 
 
Bahrain - The Thunderstorm, by Ron Colnbrook (1968)
a scary flying story
 
 
Iran - The Nosewheel Incident, by Alan Hillman (1965)
a problem on the runway in Tehran
 
 
Iran - Hold Five, by Brian Cannadine (1972)
Teheran Airport - animal alert!
 
 
Israel - Cultural Differences, Mike McDonald (1972)
airline tales from Tel Aviv
 
 
Kuwait - a 'Fifth Pod' Operation, by Jack Wesson (1965)
a BOAC flight planner's nightmare
 
 
Kuwait - the Oil Drillers, by John Cogger (1970)
a BOAC Sales Manager at work - life in the fast lane
 
 
Kuwait - Out of the Fog, by Peter Richards (1991)
Return to Kuwait after the Gulf War
 
 
Saudi Arabia - Abdul and the Bacon, by David Hogg (1973)
a treat goes missing
 
 
Yemen - Sana'a Memories, by David Hogg (1973)
a testimony of everyday life in the Yemen
 
 
CHAPTER THREE - AFRICA
recollections and tales of life with BOAC and British Airways in Africa
 
 
Ghana - the Watchman, by Anthony Farnfield (1966)
a letter in the files
 
 
Kano, Nigeria - Willie on the Rampage, by Pat Noujaim (1959)
The randiest dachshund in Northern Nigeria nearly causes a delay
 
 
Nigeria - Bush Telegraph, by David Hogg (1965)
bad news travels fast in West Africa
 
 
Nigeria - Things Other than the World Cup, by Don Ford (1966)
BOAC involved in events in Lagos before the Biafran War
 
 
Nigeria - Boom Times, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
the oil boom in Nigeria in the seventies
 
 
Nigeria - an Attempted Coup, by Peter Jones (1976)
violent regime change in Nigeria
 
 
Nigeria - Living and Working in Lagos, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
stories of expatriate life in Nigeria
 
 
Nigeria - Never Knowingly Undersold, by Peter Jones (1981)
Travails with the Lagos Telephone Company
 
 
Nigeria - Student Travel, by Peter Jones (1981)
a student goes to the wrong destination
 
 
Nigeria - Lagos Airport Again! by Nick Robertson (1989-90)
Wild West (Africa)
 
 
Ethiopia - Petrol Rationing, by Doug Tester (1975)
Michael to the rescue
 
 
Uganda - The Road to Kampala, by Peter Liver (1972)
a moment in history - BOAC in Uganda in the days of Idi Amin
 
 
Uganda - Exodus of the Ugandan Asians, by Mike Wickings (1972)
Organising the departure of Asians from Uganda
 
 
Kenya - Nairobi 1956 etc., By Maurice Flanagan
early memories of BOAC in Nairobi
 
 
Kenya - The Frustrations of the Comet 4, by Don Ford (circa 1962)
recollections of ingenious improvisation to make best use of space in the BOAC Comet 4
 
 
Kenya - Nanyuki Wedding, by Steve Sturton-Davies (1992)
a wedding in the bush
 
 
Egypt - The Six Day War, By Ron Colnbrook (1967)
memories of a war zone
 
 
Libya, Sudan and Iraq - The Personal and Confidential File, by Roddy Wilson (1955-1960)
more camel stories...
 
 
Libya - The spirit of Christmas Past, by Gerry Catling (1958)
hijinks in the Tripoli transit lounge
 
 
Libya (and Ceylon) Unaccompanied Minors by Gerry Catling (1959)
The difficulties that younger passengers sometime cause...
 
 
CHAPTER FOUR - THE CARIBBEAN, AMERICAS AND ATLANTIC OCEAN
WESTERN HEMISPHERE
 
 
Jamaica - Dr No by Mike McDonald (1964/1974)
a James Bond memory
 
 
St. Lucia - Hurricane Allen, by Peter Jones (1980)
surviving a major hurricane
 
 
St.Lucia - The Wrong Taxiway, by Peter Jones (1983)
consequences of miscommunication
 
 
St. Lucia - The Red Lady, by Peter Jones (1983)
voodoo and the Boeing 747 - an unsolved mystery
 
 
St. Lucia - The Collector, by Peter Jones (1983)
An Illegal 'Collector' of Rare Species is seen off
 
 
Trinidad - Management Skills, by Bill Smith (1965)
learning the ropes, the hard way
 
 
Bahamas - Cabin bags and Elephants, by Tony Russell (1966)
squashed baggage
 
 
Canada - Gander, Crossroads of the World, by Gerry Catling (1956)
Transatlantic travel as it used to be
 
 
Panama - Don't Stop! by David Hogg (1975-1980)
what about the snakes?
 
 
Panama - Flying Positive, by David Hogg (1975-1980)
BAC-111 pilots in Central America
 
 
Chile - Chile-Chile-Bang-Bang, by Howell Green (1994)
Frustrations in the queue for take-off
 
 
Uruguay - Jet Flight Arrives in South America, by Alan Douglas (1959)
introducing the Comet 4 in South America
 
 
USA - I Was There That Day, by Jonathan Martin (1963)
Dallas 1963, the day of President Kennedy's assassination
 
 
USA - The New World, by Don Ford (1967-1969)
An expatriate airport manager comes to Chicago
 
 
USA - The Cricket Team, by Peter Jones (1964)
cricket in New York with BOAC?
 
 
Ascension and Falkland Islands - Encounters of the Third Kind, by Bruce Fry (1985-1987)
a BOAC station engineer goes on secondment to the RAF in the Falklands
 
 
CHAPTER FIVE - EUROPE
EUROPE
 
 
Bulgaria - Fog in London, by Mike Lewin (19xx)
BEA schedules affected by fog in London
 
 
Cyprus - Suez and the Rocky path of True Love, by Gerry Catling (1956-57)
effect of Suez on BA schedules and social life..
 
 
Cyprus - the Hijack, by Bruce Fry (1970)
when a hijacked BOAC VC-10 diverted all flights to Nicosia
 
 
Cyprus - The Turkish Invasion, by Taff Lark (1974)
Evacuation of tourists when Cyprus invaded by Turkish forces
 
 
Germany - from BSAA to the Berlin Airlift, by Charlie Item Smith (1948-49)
Following the BSAA disasters, the Avro Tudor fleet is assigned to the Berlin Airlift as fuel tankers
 
 
Germany - Learning German, by Larry Gorton (1966)
recollections of a BEA manager having problems learning German
 
 
Italy - The Secret of Fiumicino, by Bill Smith (1967)
airport customer service staff get a morale boost and valuable lessons for motivation are learned
 
 
Poland - The Stand-off, by Roy Burnham (1978)
an encounter with American presidential security guards
 
 
Romania - Heidi's Haggis, by Mike Lewin (1971)
a bit of BEA memorabilia - ingenuity in the kitchen saves Burns Night in Bucharest
 
 
Russia (USSR) Trans Siberian Start-up, by Brian Burgess (1969-1972)
planning for an historic moment - BOAC's trans Siberian route to Japan
 
 
Russia (USSR) - Red Faces in Red Square, By Bernard Garvie (1970)
Diplomatic Incident with Chandelier
 
 
Russia(USSR) - The Omelette Factory, by Peter Richards (1970s)
Navigating over Siberia
 
 
Russia(USSR) the Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)
In a Moscow Hotel Room..
 
 
Russia (USSR) The Security Guard, by Peter Richards (1976)
How to scare a Russian Security Officer
 
 
Russia (USSR) -The Stewardess, by Taff Lark (1980)
shades of 007
 
 
Russia (USSR) - Domodedovo Airport, 'the House of my Grandfather' by Mike McDonald (1989)
a memoir of early days at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport
 
 
Spain - Dictatorship and Honour, by Gerry Catling (1960)
a recollection of Franco's Spain - negotiating the 'personal honour' code at Madrid Airport
 
 
Switzerland - The Precision of the Swiss, by Gerry Catling (1968)
recollections of how we proved to the airport authority that the Super VC-10 was not a noisy aircraft
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Further reading and watching for addicts....
 
 

BETTER ON A CAMEL

camel kano

Welcome to "BETTER ON A CAMEL."



November 2013 Update -

Firstly thank you to Mike Austin and Patricia Fitzgerald for adding a reference to betteronacamel.com on their BAFSTA website and introducing it to a number of retired BA staff who may not have come across it before.

At least two of the contributors to this site, Graham Moss ("Plane Tales") and Ron Colnbrook ("Thursday's Child") have self-published books of their overseas reminscences, which are now available to purchase.  (Are there any others?)

Graham and Ron's enterprise, and the existence of other related books of overseas reminiscences such as "Ah, this Nigeria!" and of u-tube footage of early aircraft and airports (Look at Life - City of the Air) have led me to believe there is a case for including a bibliography, both of contributors' other relevant publications and other related media, such as old film footage, on this site.  (Since writing this only a few days ago, I have just been directed to some more old film footage of VC10 aircraft operating out of Lagos, Nigeria in the 1960s)

So I have started such a list, which appears at the bottom of the table of contents in blue at the bottom left of the screen., and welcome both news of any contributors' (relevant) literary efforts, and references anybody can provide to any more freely available film footage or still pictures that could be of interest to our readers.


Of course as always I still welcome new stories to the website, so please do keep your recollections coming, if you are ex-BA/BOAC/BEA/BCAL or any other part of the extended BA family, and have a memory you would like to share.
  The e-mail address is:-
betteronacamel@hotmail.co.uk
and there is a link at the bottom of this page.




BETTER ON A CAMEL

The title "Better on a Camel" was a popular and gently teasing nickname, as well as an acronym for BOAC - British Overseas Airways Corporation.

BOAC was the main long haul predecessor of British Airways, and joined with British European Airways (BEA) to form British Airways in 1975.

This is a collection of memories of events over the past 60 years or more, contributed by over 30 former (mainly overseas, but some flying) staff of BOAC, BSAA, BEA and British Airways.

There is no single theme, only that of memory of a tale worth the telling.

There are recollections of events which have passed into history over the past half century. Stories both funny and serious, some with distinct elements of farce. Not only camels, but other unpredictable creatures feature from time to time.

The website is free of charge to all readers. The original plan was to publish it as a book, and any revenue from it was to go to the charity 'Practical Action', who help the poorest people on earth to take steps to improve their lives with appropriate "Intermediate Technology." This is a term coined by Dr.E F Schumacher in his iconic book "Small is Beautiful", first published in 1975,which was the basis for many of the principles followed by Practical Action in their charitable work.

However, in the end the book became a website - giving me the advantage of keeping the collection alive to add further tales over the years.

If you particularly enjoyed the stories, you may well want to follow the link (at the bottom of the page) to www.practicalaction.org to find out more about the excellent work they do worldwide, and, if you can, make a donation. Any amount, however small, will be gratefully received, and will be put to good use to relieve the effects of extreme poverty. If you do donate to Practical Action, it would be most helpful if you would mention that you have learned about them from this website.

If any overseas staff, past or present, of the British Airways family would like to contribute any experiences which they particularly remember, I'd be happy to have them contact me by e-mail at www.betteronacamel@hotmail.co.uk (link at bottom of page)

Any stories I am able to use will be fully credited, although I may need to make small editorial adjustments. Illustrations would also be welcome where they support the text.

If any readers would like to make comments - or indeed corrections - on the material or website, they may use the same e-mail address.


My grateful thanks are due to a number of people for their help and encouragement in producing this website:

Sir Ross Stainton, who was the Chairman of BOAC when it merged with BEA, has very kindly written a Foreword.

Ba Thompson gave me generous help with the proof reading and provided invaluable professional advice in the editorial process.

Annette Hedges kindly allowed me to reproduce the frontispiece picture; apparently the Emir of Kano's camelborne envoy used to blow his horn before the daily BOAC Argonaut took off - to warn camel trains of its presence - or was it simply as a greeting to the flight - I've heard both explanations put forward!

Ian Beckett was able to recall in detail one of the tales of our Lagos days; various other colleagues and friends have offered help, advice and support as this website has taken shape.

I also owe a debt of thanks to the kind folk at the British Airways Archive and Museum Collection, who have allowed me to reproduce some of their collection of old aircraft prints to decorate the website, as well as sharing their own knowledge of the period. There is more information about the archive on their website www.bamuseum.com.

And of course, my especial thanks to the willing contributors who have generously shared their stories with me, and who made this website possible in the first place. I am most grateful to them all.


They are:

Brian Burgess
Roy Burnham
Brian Cannadine
Gerry Catling
John Cogger
Ron Colnbrook
Alan Douglas
Anthony Farnfield MBE
Peter Fieldhouse
Maurice Flanagan CBE
Don Ford OBE
Bruce Fry
Bernard Garvie
Howell Green
Larry Gorton OBE
Alan Hillman
David Hogg
Taff Lark
Mike Lewin
Peter Liver
David McCormack
Mike McDonald
Jonathan Martin
David Meyrick
Graham Moss
Nick Robertson
Pat Noujaim
Peter Richards
Tony Russell
C I 'Charlie Item' Smith
Dr William E (Bill) Smith
Steve Sturton-Davies
Doug Tester
Jack Wesson
Mike Wickings
James Wilson
Roddy Wilson


Enjoy!

Peter Jones


Practical Action - helping the world's poorest people to help themselves

Better on a Camel - click here with new stories, comments, suggestions

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