John South

E-mail johnsouth7@googlemail.com

Although John has not sent anything specifically for posting, these are some of his early emails sent, remembering times at Shinfield and elsewhere.

Email sent to Andre 6/7/2008

Hello Andy, Have just stumbled across your website and found it fascinating. My Wife - Liz, who is a really keen gardener was impressed with your photographs of the garden. Where have all those years gone - Shinfield Park feels like a half remembered dream. It was the only RAF Station that I remember with real pleasure and I bought myself out a few years after  the Station closed.

Would have loved to have come to the reunion but we were living in Spain at that time, perhaps will be at the next one. You were the only person I recognised in the group photos taken by Jan Norton though some faces seemed vaguely familiar. Is that Sgt John Morris on the left?

Some memories of those days are crystal clear. I remember travelling up to Leeds for your Wedding to Pat and joking about Pats Father who was an amateur hypnotist. Ray Willis claimed that you had been put into a trance for the whole proceedure! Also remember hiring a car with you in Reading and spending time travelling round Cornwall. You took a guitar with you to impress Girls I think and at one stage we were so short of money we crept into the transit block at RAF St Mawgan and slept there before eating in the Airmens Mess.  We visited your Father in Chiswick on the return journey (87 Rusthall Ave) and you attempted to sell me a semi derelict motorbike which was leaning against some railings!

Email reply from Andre 16/8/2008

Apologies for taking a while to get back to you.

Yes, the time has flown and I too remember much of my time at SP with pleasure. Strangely though I cannot for the life of me remember what I did from day to day in Command Stats for the 3 years I was there. It is quite difficult to remember just how the processes of record holding, data manipulation, analysis and presentation were actually carried out without the use of computers or indeed the internet. I vaguely recall knitting needles stuck in the side of boxes full of cards, and flipping the lot over over to see those cards selected. It sounds particularly tedious now, but then it was the state of the art! I remember brand names such as Linedex, C(K)ardex and Kalamazoo. Ironically enough, 15 years ago, I left college life and teaching behind to go back to the modern equivalent of what we were doing in Command Stats. Now I use SQL Server, Access, SPSS and Excel to manipulate, analyse and format data and the Web to both collect and distribute information. 

Glad you like the website(s). It took a few attempts to finally put them into a form that was acceptable ... and, most important, that don't need constant attention.

The reunion was OK, but there was not really anyone there that I knew - although we all got on like a house on fire and a few of us walked around what is left of the old camp site. Incidentally, it was not JohnMorris on the left ... I knew his name on the night but have forgotten now! As I said to Tony Lewis recently, I don't think John would ever come to a reunion ...  Did you really recognize me?

I didn't remember that you were at the wedding at Harrogate ... was Ray there too? Yes, Pat's father tried to hypnotize me once ... but failed ... I don't think I was willing to go under. Pat and I didn't last long once I had left the RAF. We got divorced and I went down to London that September, 1968 to begin my various periods of study. I began teaching in 1973 at Orpington College.

I do remember coming to see you in (I think) High Wycombe and you were then painting and decorating.

I have never been able to trace Ray Willis. I know he joined the Falcons sky diving team ... but that's it. Searches on various forces websites have yielded nothing. Did you ever contact him again?

I have no memory of hiring the car in Reading and driving to Cornwall etc ... I wonder why I have blocked it out ... the whole thing must have been quite exciting!

It would be great to meet up at some stage, although I think perhaps Jan is trying to organize another reunion.

Very best wishes ... and hope to get together again soon.

Email sent to Andre 6/10/2008

Hello Andre, Sorry about the delay in replying. Yes, I was definately at your first wedding and I think Ray Willis was there too but cannot be certain after all these years. Do you not have any photographs apart from the one of Pat and yourself cutting the cake?

You wonder what it was that you actually did while based at Shinfield and I must confess that I am equally baffled I know that every month a digest of  aircraft statistics was produced that involved flying hours, serviceability rates of various aircraft etc and this was compiled from masses of signals that came in each day from commcen. It was a job for which I was completely unfitted because I had no head for figures and a complete lack of mathematical ability - I've no idea how I came to be selected as a Stats Clerk - they probably used a yardstick dating from world war 1 where someone with a stutter was trained as a machine gunner!

Can remember that shortly before your first marriage you developed (or so it seemed to me at the time) an overwhelming interest in Maths and were fascinated to such a degree that nearly all your spare time was spent studying. I can also remember that you were an avid reader of science fiction and were probably the only airman in the history of Shinfield Park to cook meals in those tiny rooms where we slept. Can't recall how exactly you managed to cook - you must have had some kind of electric hotplate in there but the result was mouthwatering!

Am unable to recall you visiting me at High Wycombe I'm afraid but obviously you must have done. I bought myself out there and embarked on a career as a  self employed decorator in which I was happily employed until retiring about five years ago.

Returning to Ray Willis - I last saw him in Bahrain in 1971 when he was a member of the Falcons parachute team. I do know that he was at Abingdon for many years as an instructor but he seems to have vanished without trace. I live in Honiton now and Ray came from Exeter a few miles down the road and I stayed with him at his parents place several times. Can't for the life of me remember where he used to live and guess we will never meet again but that is service life for you.

Have just realised that you must have been in Aden at the same time as me and it is highly likely that we met out there without realising it. One of your photos is clearly of Elephant Bay where I used to spend all my spare time fishing and swimming. I was at Khormaksar for two years from April 1965

and thoroughly enjoyed most of it.

Well Andre it's been nice talking to you again and I hope to hear from you soon. All the best mate.

© Andre Francis 2018