BOAC and BEA reminiscences, memorabilia and history
About the charity 'Practical Action'
Foreword by Sir Ross Stainton, former Chairman of BOAC
Review of background to airline experiences and recollections
airport and airline memoirs about the far east - from India and the Seychelles to Japan
Bangladesh - All Together Now! by John Anderson (1973)
john anderson
Bangladesh - Memories of Dhaka, by Simon Watts (1981-1985)
Life and Work in Bangladesh
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
Burma - Burmese Days, by Peter Jones (1975)
a visit to Mandalay and the temples of Pagan
China - Learning Chinese by Ralph Glazer (1983)
Meeting CAAC
China - Scotland the Brave by Ralph Glazer (1985)
burns night
India - Holy Cow, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Obstruction on the runway...
India - Delhi (Not) Singing in the Rain, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Monsoon (and its Cargo) Close airport
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
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
Dubai - a Training Posting, by Peter Liver (1970)
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 in the Fifties by Jamil Wafa (1955)
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
Yemen - Sana'a Memories, by David Hogg (1973)
a testimony of everyday life in the Yemen
Saudi Arabia - Abdul and the Bacon, by David Hogg (1973)
a treat goes missing
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia - Rats! An Unwelcome Customer, by John Anderson (1978)
An Unwelcome Passenger
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 and Concorde, by Peter Jones (1976-1979)
How Nigerians took to Concorde
Nigeria - Never Knowingly Undersold, by Peter Jones (1979)
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
Uganda - Kenneth's Mortars, by John Anderson (1972)
Diplomatic Incident in East Africa
Zambia - Jottings from the Copperbelt, by Peter Jones (1969-1972)
Malawi - The President's Plane, by Peter Woodrow (1977)
VIP Travel to the Commonwealth Conference...
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 - Customer Recovery, Kenya Style, By Simon Watts (1988)
Going the extra mile...
Kenya - Concorde and other big beasts, by Simon Watts (1986-90)
Concorde and other big beasts
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 - Monkeys in a Hangar, by Ralph Glazer (1954)
Wildlife in Tripoli
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...
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
St. Lucia - There's a Hole in the Runway, by Peter Jones (1984)
suspension of operations in St Lucia
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
Mexico - A Day in Mexico City, by Ralph Glazer (1975)
Concorde, a Road Accident and the Mexican Police
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 Cricket Team, by Peter Jones (1964)
cricket in New York with BOAC?
USA - The New World, by Don Ford (1967-1969)
An expatriate airport manager comes to Chicago
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
UK - A Shetland Story, by Anthony McLauchlan (1972)
Bulgaria - Fog in London, by Mike Lewin (1976)
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
Romania - Heidi's Haggis, by Mike Lewin (1971)
a bit of BEA memorabilia - ingenuity in the kitchen saves Burns Night in Bucharest
Poland - The Stand-off, by Roy Burnham (1978)
an encounter with American presidential security guards
Russia (USSR) - Moscow Anecdotes, by Jim Mackison)
various memories of working and living in Moscow
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) - The Omelette Factory, by Peter Richards (1970s)
Navigating over Siberia
Russia (USSR) - Red Faces in Red Square, By Bernard Garvie (1970)
Diplomatic Incident with Chandelier
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) the Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)
In a Moscow Hotel Room..
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
Spain - A Soft Touch, by Ralph Glazer (1971)
A Meeting with Franco
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
Further reading and watching for addicts....
Some miscellaneous photos that don't have a story to go with them

Dubai - a Training Posting, by Peter Liver (1970)



As a new BOAC overseas trainee, an early test was geography. A smart light blue ‘trainaid’ was provided with stations marked by their three letter codes and a city decode by region down the side. The test sheet was a blank world map accompanied by a sharp pencil and a request to place a dot on the map exactly where each of a selection of stations was located. Hmmm. Lusaka? In East Japan? Er, no, that would be Osaka. Dubai? Where?

This unfamiliarity with what was then known as the Trucial States and Oman was acknowledged a week later with a ‘plane ticket for a first training posting to DXB. There was irony in this as I had read geography at Durham University and it was my department that had been asked to carry out a soil survey by the then Trucial States  Development Council as part of wider work to understand the agricultural potential of the area. I should have paid less attention to glaciation in Norway and noted my professor’s experience of the Middle East.

That October, a sleek VC10 took two of us to Dubai, a first glance from the air showing nothing but desert and a small town clustered around a large creek. We were soon settled into one of Dubai’s two international hotels, the Al Bustan (The Garden) a short stretch of scorching sand from the fledgling airport. The crew stayed in the other slightly grander one downtown, the Carlton.

For our first shift, we put on our new BOAC uniforms with crisp white military style short sleeved shirt with blue and gold epaulettes resembling a midshipman’s tabs. The BOAC airport manager was friendly but a little unsure what to do with such barely trained individuals. Check-in seemed a good place to start and we were assigned to DNATA, the handling agent, and the tender care of their Indian shift supervisor. He was a wise old bird, especially in the mysteries of excess baggage charges and how they were avoided. He soon had us peering behind the check-in hall’s columns for stashed bags the scales had not seen.


Meeting the incoming aircraft was a hats on, stand smartly, moment the formal effect of which was somewhat marred by the loaders’ local custom of holding your hand - out of cordiality rather than misplaced affection!


Once a week we handled the Gulf Aviation flight to London via Bahrain. This was operated by a BOAC VC10 ‘transformed’ into a GF service by us placing a large sticker on the forward sides of the aircraft saying ‘GF001’ and loading another sticker for the return flight ‘GF002’. Simple.

The cargo shed was another revelation to a trainee. Leather goods from India, mangoes from Pakistan and from London, Zurich and Geneva - gold and silver ingots up to 5 kgs. The new airport had helped boost the gold and silver trade with India. Local merchants attracted by the prices in Europe shipped it into Dubai for conversion into tola bars (11.3 gms) and then on to the sub-continent by dhow.  Here demand for gold ornaments was strong as were the restrictions on the private import of gold. The tola was an ancient Vedic measure of mass that British India had used as a standard. Following metrication its use had survived in the gold trade. The ten tola bar was the most popular being quite portable and, one suspects, easier to conceal.


Our aircraft flew in one night with a pallet full of silver, all carefully netted and lashed down.  (We had yet to do the course ‘Lashing and Binding 1’ and could scarcely imagine the joys of  ‘Lashing and Binding 2’.) There was no security except our little lockable cage in the shed, until a red open Land Rover turned up, driven by a young Englishman from the British Bank of the Middle East and a Bedouin with an old Lee Enfield .303 rifle in the back. We loaded a fortune onto this Land Rover, the Bedouin climbed on top of it and the vehicle drove away, very low on its springs. It was bound eventually for the creek and its dhows to be ‘re-exported’ to India.


The friendly airport manager offered us the occasional use of the station VW Beetle, but I needed to obtain a Dubai driving licence. I have this still, with its youthful face staring out of the past at me together with that crisp white shirt and enamel BOAC name badge. To get the paperwork done, however, one had to go to the main police station and get the Superintendent to sign and stamp everything. When I entered his office there were at least thirty people present as if he was holding a form of ‘majlis’. I took a vacant seat at the back where a very cultivated young man in thobe and shemagh talked to me about London. Did I often go to the Savoy? Surely I had met his brother? Eventually he decided it must be my turn. He rose gracefully and the room fell silent. He took me through the throng to the Superintendent’s desk, who looked me over suspiciously and without a word stamped my licence. I thanked my companion and retreated. I wonder to this day just who he was.

At that time the town, Bur Dubai, was small enough to walk around in an hour or two.  The gold souk was quite modest and dusty then but full of life and enterprising merchants. One could buy a wide range of gold and silver jewellery as well as more domestic items such as huge brass trays for serving mutton and rice and long-spouted traditional coffee pots. The creek at this point was lined with berths for sea-going dhows and the wharves were piled with boxes and bales. The seamen were very affable and would invite you to look around. If you peered down a hatch you could glimpse a gleaming new Perkins marine diesel engine that would no doubt have given a turn of speed sufficient to outrun an Indian customs cutter.

Friday was sometimes a day off. One week I was asked to if I would play rugby for the nascent Dubai Rugby Club and to turn up at this particular flat. When I did, I found it full of young men, very little furniture and two huge refrigerators full of beer. I don’t recall ever getting to the sand pitch and barely remember some jolly soul putting me in a taxi back to the hotel. Amazingly, on the strength of this ‘performance’ I was selected to play against Bahrain the following week. 

This colourful posting came to an end all too soon and it was time to climb aboard the VC10 to return to a November in London clutching two coffee pots and a letter instructing me to report to Cranebank Training Centre for 'Operations 2', lots of meteorology and the mysteries of the intertropical convergence zone. ‘Lashing and Binding 1’ would have to wait.



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