BETTER ON A CAMEL
BOAC and BEA reminiscences, memorabilia and history
 
 
Dedication
About the charity 'Practical Action'
 
 
Foreword
Foreword by Sir Ross Stainton, former Chairman of BOAC
 
 
Introduction
Review of background to airline experiences and recollections
 
 
CHAPTER ONE - THE FAR EAST AND INDIAN OCEAN
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
 
 
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
 
 
Dubai - a Training Posting, by Peter Lever (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
 
 
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
 
 
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 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)
Ndola
 
 
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...
 
 
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
 
 
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
 
 
CHAPTER FIVE - EUROPE
EUROPE
 
 
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) 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 Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)
In a Moscow Hotel Room..
 
 
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
 
 
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
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Further reading and watching for addicts....
 
 
PICTORIAL APPENDIX
Some miscellaneous photos that don't have a story to go with them
 
 

Mexico - A Day in Mexico City, by Ralph Glazer (1975)

The French pre-production Concorde aircraft, which had arrived at Mexico on a proving flight the previous day, would be leaving for San Francisco in the afternoon. It was the main story in the TV news, and in the headlines in the Mexican Press.

I was on my way to a Concorde-related meeting in the VIP Suite at Mexico City Airport, and had joined a line of cars waiting at the red traffic light at the turn-off to the airport, when I heard him, and then saw him in my mirror, skidding towards me, evidently out of control. The central reservation to my left was clear, and I just had time to turn my steering full left and release my brakes before he hit me hard, so hard that I was briefly airborne before I crashed down on the central reservation, alongside the car which had been in front of me. My car, a Dodge Dart, had a bench-type front seat for the driver and a passenger, its back held upright by a transverse steel rod, which had snapped on impact; otherwise, it could have been my neck…

My seat had collapsed under me, leaving me lying on my back, looking at the inner roof of my car, and at the Mexican faces peering through the windows, hoping for a glimpse of the corpse. As I recovered from the shock, I realised that, miraculously, I was unhurt, and as I struggled to sit up, my audience fled in terror, evidently believing that they had witnessed a resurrection.

A policeman on a motor bike helped me to my feet, and politely informed me that I was under arrest; the car which had run into me was the property of the Federal Government, and the driver was a Federal employee, so this was a Federal case, and although not responsible for the event, I was being held as a material witness. Transport was on its way to take me to the central police station, but, he asked, where was I heading when the accident happened? When I told the policeman about the Concorde meeting in the VIP Suite, he offered to take me there on his motor bike, and, formally dressed in the blue pinstripe suit made for me by my tailor in Madrid, and clutching the brief case and the umbrella which I had retrieved from my car, (only a bowler hat was missing) I perched on the pillion seat of the motor bike, and we were off.

The VIP Suite, normally used as the Arrivals and Departure Lounge by Royalty and Heads of State passing through Mexico, had been taken over by Aerospatiale, the French partner in the Anglo-French consortium building the aircraft, to celebrate Concorde.  A six-piece Mariachi band, (two trumpets, two violins, two guitars) was playing on the terrace of the VIP Suite, while waiters circulated with trays of canapés and glasses of champagne.

And outside, the star of the show, Concorde itself, graceful, elegant in Air France livery.

Aerospatiale’s guests included the British and French Ambassadors, executives of British and French companies doing business in Mexico, the airlines, the Department of Civil Aviation, and a sprinkling of the usual celebrities. In this distinguished company, my arrival in the VIP Suite, police escort carrying my brief case and umbrella, could have been part of the show.

The British Ambassador was impressed:  ‘How do you people do it? The police never carry my brief case!’

‘You have to get yourself arrested first,’ I said, and told him what had happened. (I had been his dinner guest two weeks earlier, and we had got to know each other quite well.) After hearing my story, he advised me to contact the Embassy as soon as I got into town, ask them to call BA’s lawyer, to be extremely careful about what I said and did, and sign absolutely nothing before the lawyer arrived.

At this moment, another policeman joined us, come to take me to the central police station, and as we left the VIP Lounge, with my new escort now holding my brief case and umbrella, the Mariachi band had stopped playing and the French Ambassador was delivering a speech.

Following the British Ambassador's advice, I called the Embassy as soon as I got to the central police station. They quickly contacted the BA lawyer: he was out of town, but would see me by late afternoon. In the meantime, his advice, like the Ambassador’s, was: do nothing, say nothing, and sign nothing.

In the meantime, I was getting hungry, and tried to leave the police station to find a restaurant and get some lunch, but was stopped by the policeman at the door, who pushed the muzzle of his gun into my chest, saying: ‘Esta detenido: no puede salir.’ ( ‘You are under arrest: you cannot leave.’) So I called the Embassy, and, bless them, they sent some excellent sandwiches, and cans of Cerveza Sol, the Mexican beer.

Hoping to get a statement from me about the morning’s accident, the police tried the nice cop/nasty cop approach to questioning me, but finally gave up when they realised that they were not going to get a single word from me without our lawyer's blessing, and left me to my own devices.

Then the police station main doors burst open to admit four policemen carrying a man they had arrested, face up and apparently unconscious, one policeman to each arm and one to each leg, but as soon as they had released him and set him down on his back, he jumped up and, shouting obscenities, ran for it but, unfortunately for him, in the wrong direction, straight into the custody cells, where they promptly locked him up.

The BA lawyer was well known to the police as an occasional lecturer in Civil Law at the Police Staff College. An inspector who was an old acquaintance came out from his office to greet him, and offered us the use of a spare interview room where we could meet in private.

Once we had settled in the room, the lawyer looked carefully about him, inspecting, finally concentrating on the ceiling light, and said:  ‘There it is! Just watch this!’ And,addressing the light bulb, he said:  ‘Dos cafes con leche, por favor.’(Two coffees with milk, please.)

Five minutes later, there was a tap on the door: a kitchen hand came in with two cups of coffee and some English digestive biscuits on a tray.

‘See what I mean? As the Holy Bible says: ‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you.’ Jesus had The Almighty in mind, but here it refers to the light bulb.’ (He had trained as a priest before turning to law.)

‘So much for our privacy! But let’s get down to business. Please tell me exactly what happened this morning. All events leading up to the accident, the accident itself, and everything that happened afterwards.’

He listened, made notes and said: ‘That seems fine. You see, the Federal Government have lost a car, and I understand that their employee, the driver, has a broken leg and internal injuries. It seems that he fell asleep at the wheeI - and he almost killed you. If it can be shown that you were responsible for the accident in any way, the police would be reluctant to set you free. But there’s no question of that.’ He looked up at the ceiling, and, addressing the light bulb, said: ‘We’re ready for your statement, if we can find somebody to do the typing.’

Another tap at the door: the same inspector as before:  ‘I can do your typing.  I spend half of my time typing reports, while the criminals are left to go about their business without police interference. One day, the Hacienda will pay for a secretary to do the work, but until then, I am the best typist in this police station.’

There was a typewriter on the table.  The inspector  settled down comfortably behind it, facing the lawyer, saying:  ‘A la orden, (at your service) Maestro,’ and he typed as the lawyer dictated the text of my statement. When he had finished, the inspector handed the statement to the lawyer, who scrutinised it closely, and passed it to me.

It was a splendid sample of jargon-free drafting, not open to misinterpretation of any kind, and I was glad to sign it and hand it to the inspector, who took it to his office, and came back moments later, carrying my brief case and umbrella:  ‘We’ve been looking after these while you were our guest, but now you’re free to go, and to take them with you.’

He shook my hand:  ‘It’s been a pleasure to meet you, but please don’t come back.’

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