14 May 2006
I (Ed) received an email
out of the blue from Norman Kirton, currently residing in Australia who
had come across a modelflight web link to the RAFMAA Website. His trip
down memory lane perusing the RAFMAA Photos resulted in an email to me.
To know that RAFMAA is reaching so many people worldwide and serving to
rekindle memories of times gone by is so encouraging. Our communication
has resulted in Norman putting a few words together for you all to
enjoy. Thanks Norman, enjoy the weather—it still rains here in the UK!
NORMAN DAWSON KIRTON
Oct 1959 to Oct 1962
I was called up for
National Service in the Royal Air Force in October 1959.
I served the first few
months at Melksham Trade training following the initial “Square bashing”
at Bridgenorth and was then posted to RAF Watton, “B” flight which
operated five Vickers Varsity and two Hastings aircraft. There were
also several Canberra , two Mk1 Comets and a few Lincolns operating at
that time. I loved to watch the Lincoln landing at night from the model
club which was situated on the Peri track. This base was then attached
to Decca Navigation and these aircraft were used on Radar coastal crawls
and the odd trip to Germany. During my 2 years National Service I still
built and flew models. In fact, I acquired a Yulon 29 there (Oh where is
it now?) and built FAI and “B” team racers plus a few Combat models.
There were many models left in the Watton Air Force base model club by
people who had built them and then been posted away. I acquired a
Mercury Junior Monitor fitted with an Allen Mercury 35.
my stay at RAF Watton (Norfolk) I met the owner of Norwich model shop,
who, I found out, blended the fuels for ED at that time. I bought my
first Oliver Tiger (£6 and 15 shillings) from him which I later found
out was the very one used by Peter Chinn in the Aeromodeller test.
I also met Red Phinn, who
was based at RAF Colerne, at that time. He was a well-known identity in
the RAFMAA and a very competitive flyer in Combat and F/F Power. I
remember him flying a Dixielander Free flight power model and one
memorable trip was collecting Red from Colerne on weekend leave and
taking him up to my parents house near Durham where we stayed
overnight. We then went to a North East model rally. The only thing I
can remember about it is that it was so windy that we sat in the car and
watched as sheets of corrugated iron blew over the fields in front of
us. Red was the only one daft enough to fly, and flew a combat model,
doing multiple eights with the engine stopped. I seem to remember that
we drew names out of a hat for places in the end.
I also went to RAF
Luffenham (US Airforce base) to compete and there was asked to fly a Rat
Racer for Pete Wright (well known Speed flyer at that time). He had
built a beautiful cigar shaped Rat, powered by one of his speed Dooling
29’s. Man did that go!!!. Trouble was that we flew on grass and he had
spats on it, which tumbled it over every landing and broke off the tail.
He glued it on with balsa cement for the final (no cyano then) and
pinned it. During the race the cement let go and the pins allowed that
tail to cant over at about 45°.
This made the model almost unflyable and I was using full up and down to
keep it in the air and just missing the other two models.
Was I glad when the engine
cut and the tail settled down for a nice landing. We wisely withdrew. I
shudder to think what I would have felt if I’d smashed the Dooling.
Whilst stationed at
Watton in Norfolk, I again went to the RAFMAA championships in 1962 at
RAF HALTON, gaining a third in combat with a Jr Monitor (AM-35), and
placing 2nd in
speed (with an FAI teamracer - ETA 15 Mk1), 1st
in “B” team race (O/D Eta-29 - Gus Johnson from the USAF was my main
opposition), and then whilst pitting in the final of FAI Team Race, was
hit in the forehead by a landing model, shearing all of the 6BA bolts
holding in his Oliver Tiger. I remember pushing his model to one side
and carrying on flicking with blood dripping over my model and then I
passed out. I was transported to RAF HALTON sickbay and had 5 stiches
inserted in my forehead. I seem to recall that the offending model was
owned by someone called Johnson and flown by Arthur ?????.
I came round I was in the bus going back to Watton, and found that I had
won the Victor Ludorum Trophy for the Base; we were all euphoric at
that. The Officer in charge of the model club was Pilot Officer Geoff
Byrd, another conscript, who was renowned for F/F flying wings at that
time, (although I only found this out later). He was in charge of the
RAF Police and was very useful later as I was on a charge prior to the
Championships and he got me off to attend. My stay in Sick Quarters
afterwards completed my ‘Jankers’.
As a point of interest my
pay at time of discharge was Four guineas at the rank of SAC. How does
that compare to today????