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
Bangladesh - Days in the life of a new Station Manager, by Jim Mackison (1976 - 1980)
Turbulent times in a challenging environment
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 C. I. (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 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
Russia (USSR) - Moscow Anecdotes, by Jim Mackison (1970)
various memories of working and living in Moscow
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

Russia (USSR) - Moscow Anecdotes, by Jim Mackison (1970)



I received a Russian phone call in our airport office overlooking the Sheremetievo apron:


Me:                         BOAC                                                              

She:                         Who?

Me:                         British air company

She:                         Ahh... Angliiskaya

Me:                         Would you like to come round for some tea?

She:                         (pause) … Niet…I only drink champagne. (click, end of call)


Was it that girl I’d noticed on the transfer desk?


In cold war times social mixing was not encouraged either way. Person to person, however, ordinary Russians are warm, lovely people. Official relations were often prickly. Speaking Russian was useful, but not essential for doing my job. I demonstrated to my nervous successor that I could do the handover using English only.


I’d already been to Moscow as a student in 1966. By the time I joined BOAC as a trainee in 1968, I had studied Russian for 6 years. I went as a Russian speaker on negotiating trips to Moscow, culminating in the 2-week Air Service Agreement talks with the USSR in 1969.


Studying Russian doesn’t make you fluent, and certainly not a simultaneous interpreter. The Board of Trade had a real professional. BEA’s Mike Tomkins (later of BOAC) was extremely good. Then there was me. I managed to do what was required in sub-groups. At the crunch cocktail party, the BOAC lead, Basil Bampfylde, called me over to interpret a private chat with Mr Besedin, the USSR lead. It concerned limiting our pool payments to Aeroflot for the privilege of flying 2 round trips a week over Siberia. There were lots of zeros in the numbers going to and fro. Mustn’t get this wrong, I thought.


Over the middle weekend the UK delegation were treated to an excursion to Tashkent and Samarkand. We left Domodiedovo in a giant Tu-114: Mach 0.71, 8 contra-rotating propellers, wood-panelling, curtains, fold-down bunks in the front cabin. Through the darkness, ice and snow we shivered towards the steps. A small jet engine mounted on a truck was de-icing our wings. I was last up. The others filled the front cabin. I went through the curtain to find 100% seat factor apart from 2 aisle seats at the front for me and our security escort. I sat down self-consciously, knowing that 200 soldiers, workers, peasants and several live chickens were staring at the back of my head.


London – Moscow – Tokyo started in June 1970. I was sent out to help our man in Moscow, Roger Moulding, for the inaugural east- and west-bound transits. At the party the night before, Roger shared his worry that no positioning cabin crew had turned up for Moscow/Tokyo the next day. Mid-party we took a phone call from Sheremetievo. ‘5 cabin crew have arrived via Zurich without visas. We’re locking them up!’ The airport was used to ‘no visa’ arrivals, and had accommodation (not really prison cells) across from the front of the terminal. ‘There’s nothing we can do from here. We’ll see you tomorrow.’ I went out to see them. Livid but professional, they operated as if nothing had gone wrong.


Some weeks later at the end of the 2-year traineeship, I was told to join the Station Officer pool, and ‘your first posting is Moscow.’ The Station Officer role was ops, flight planning, crew admin and whatever else Roger wanted me to do. (BEA, Aeroflot and Air India looked after other functions.)


Natasha was my contact at the Sheremetievo met office. For eastbounds she used to give me first the 200 and 300mb weather charts up to Khanty Mansiisk in western Siberia, then an hour later just the 200mb chart on to Tokyo. That day I looked at the first chart, and my stomach sank. The Highs and Lows were in the wrong place. The Lows should be north of the track, giving me anti-clockwise winds and positive wind components. On this occasion it was all reversed. I knew at once that I would fall off the edge of the pre-computed flight plan. The Boeing 707-336 was already near the limit of its range. We had blank fuel flight plans in the office, operating manuals and a Dalton computer. I pulled out the flight manual showing pressure levels, temperatures, weights at start of leg, fuel flows per hour and so on. I’d never done it since the training school. ‘Of course, you’ll never have to do this for real. It will always be a pre-computed flight plan, and/or your staff will do it.’ Another nervous bite of the caviar sandwich and a swig of Riga beer I had bought before knowing the problem. Luckily the Cranebank training worked.


It was during my Moscow posting that Dawson’s Field happened. The Peoples' Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) had hijacked a TWA 707, a Swissair DC8 and later a BOAC VC10 to a remote Jordanian airfield demanding prisoner releases. The subsequent blowing up of the 3 empty aircraft was on (nearly) every front page around the world. Every BOAC airport was instructed to frisk joining passengers and search hand baggage. Moscow’s Border Guards were having none of it. We were stopped in the terminal. ‘We’ll do it on the steps.’ On the steps we were physically stopped again in a robust way. I went to the flight deck and asked for newspapers to show the guards. They were completely stunned to see pictures of the 3 blown up airliners. Nothing had been announced to the Russian public. Objections were dropped.


Weekends were for relaxing. Our Irish catering attachee from Cabin Services, inspired us to take a taxi to the Hippodrome, Moscow’s horse-racing centre. The course was packed full of cheering crowds to watch the horse- and trotting-races. ‘We can’t come here and not bet on something.’ ‘I don’t know how. I ...’  ‘Go on. You’re the Russian speaker. Just ask someone.’ I reached the front of the queue at a line of betting kiosks. ‘Vam shto?’ Pause. ‘What’s going to win?’ ‘Put it on No.6,’ whispered a voice behind me. ‘5 roubles on No.6 to win!’ The horse won, much to our surprise. We lost the winnings later, but that first bet felt like we had beaten the system in some way.


One Sunday lunchtime I walked from the Metropole Hotel, along the Arbat for a beer at the British Embassy club near the Ukraina Hotel. The bar was empty. Jack, the barman, poured me a pint. 10 minutes later 2 attractive young Russian ladies came in from the park outside. ‘No Russkies, out, out,’ shouted Jack. I asked the girls what they wanted. I explained, ‘Niet, eto nyie restoran; eto Britanskoye Posolstvo.’ They looked shocked. They wanted a glass of water on this hot day. We gave them a glass of water and they left. When I left later on, they approached me. ‘We are students from Kiev. We came to visit our friend. There was no answer at his door, and we have nowhere to stay tonight.’ Alarm bells went off. I wished them luck and moved on. 2 nights later, I came across one of the young ladies in the foreign currency bar at the New National Hotel. ‘Oh, it’s you. Where have you been? Why haven’t we been out?’ My Russian struggled, but I did agree to meet her the next evening. After the next day’s flight had departed, I consulted a trusted Russian contact at Sheremetievo. On hearing the story, I was told, ‘No, no, Jimmy. You don’t go there.’ I didn’t.


In those days you didn’t play games with any authorities. You couldn’t challenge the system, but you could make it work for you through personal interaction. I have never felt safer in a city. The rigid system brought perks. I stayed at the Metropole in a ‘Luxe’ room, the top category. Whether you used the extras or not, they were available: the use of a car and English-speaking guide for 3 hours a day; a daily breakfast voucher. I didn’t need the guide, but the car, yes. That nice Intourist lady would even allocate me a Chaika limousine, if I needed transport for a special occasion. One day the National Hotel phoned BEA to alert us that Intourist HQ was holding a pile of breakfast vouchers allocated to the crew rooms unoccupied every weekend. I collected the vouchers to test my theory that we could use these 1 rouble vouchers to buy champagne, beer, caviar etc. Our social life began to improve.


I still wear the fur hat with ear flaps, which I bought in 1966.


One of Samarkand's Main Square Madrassahs

The Ancient Observatory of Ulugbek (observable are Mike Tomkins, Frank Waters, Dusty Doust and Basil Bampfylde)

Dawson's Field


One of Samarkand’s main square madrassahs
Samarkand: the ancient Observatory of Ulugbek
Dawson’s Field Hijack September 1970
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