Cadet Force


From the moment I had arrived back from oxford, Fr. Peter Utley had had his eye on me to join the CCF.  He approached me in the cloister before vespers one day, and said that the Abbot wanted me to join the CCF.   I was very pleased.   it was not so much that I enjoyed the CCF in the school because I did not, but I was quite good at it.  The issue was that the competent monks of each generation joined the CCF, it was therefore a good career move as they say in the Services.   It showed confidence in me by the Senior Fathers, and was a well respected activity in the school.  I was originally to join the Army section, so I was kitted out with brown shoes (I kept them, having dyed the black until the end of my time in the cCCF 2 years later).  But very soon it was decided that I should join the RAF Section with Fr Bernard Boyan who was just setting up the section and Fr Cyril.   I went with Fr. Bernard to White Waltham an RAF station which had courses for new officers and this was an eyeopener both to Bernard’s style and the RAF system.   .

The RAF section paraded in front of St Cuthbert’s house twice a week.  It began at 2.00 and went on to about 3.30.   There was an inspection of the 90 or so members, and then some drill, and finally a class of instruction of the RAF syllabus.  The first was principles of flight and navigation, and the advanced involved engines.   There was always the complaint, that the RAF were always in the classroom.  After a year of two Fr Bernard when to York University and I took over the Section.  I was later joined by John DAvies who was head of biology and had been a friend of mine at Oxford.  He later followed me and took over the section.

Flying was had occasionally by the Air Experience Flights in chipmunks which were stationed at Topcliffe and later at Dishforth and finally at Linton.   On Wednesdays and later Saturdays i would take boys over where some local ex RAF enthusiast would take them up for half hour rides .One of these was a woollen merchant called    Hodgson who was a friend of the Kassapians.(Peter, Gary, Ronald whose father had donated the Abbey Bell called Gregory John)   It was greatly enjoyed by the boys, but involved a big hassle because of the problems of flying conditions.  This was increase when the Air Experience Flight was stationed in Linton on Ouse and they used to come to Dishforth which was by then an army airfield.   Topcliffe trained Air Navigators and we developed a useful link with them to simulate the signals and navigation systems.

I would go on RAF camps which were held at RAF stations – Abingdon FAirford, St. Mawgan, Cranwell. These varied in quality but when there was a good Liaison officer and an operational station we could get a very interesting week.   The high light was a visit to RAF Geilenkirchen when Grp. Capt Rixon was OC.  He had been a great friend of Fr. Peter Utley’s and Fr. Geoffrey’s.  He loved the Ampleforth scene and remained a friend of mine for many years.   He invited the Section to his Station.    Jonathan Elwes was a junior member of the group, two years younger than the others.   It became possible for the boys to go up in a Lightning (Think),but when they were in the air, and I was in the control tower, on of the pilots said he had a  problem and was returning to base at once.  It transpired that Jonathan had had a cold and when he was aloft his ear drums began to hurt.  This was likely to cause frightful difficulties for the pilot.  Once down he was rushed to the MO and things quietened down.   When years later I later met him he told me the rest of the story.  He was determined to get up in the Lightning and suppressed the information.  But it had set him on fire for flying and when he left the School he joined the University Air squadron and gained his pilots licence.  While banking in Hong Kong he flew with the Air Squadron, and on his return bought is one Gipsy Moth.   It was when He heard that the German, K. Rust has landed a plane on Red Square Moscow that he decided to take his Moth to Moscow with Russian navigators and land there at the time that Mr. Gorbachev was meeting the Queen.  With sponsorship from the Daily Mail and two friends, he set up the mission and with 60 mile hops he set off.   When he arrived at Warsaw airport he noticed standing apart from the official part a group of men.   He went over to them and found that they had tears streaming down their faces and familiar ribbons on their chests.  They were the RAF pilots who had fought during the war, had returned to Poland under suspicion and this was the first occasion when they had been even unofficially recognised by the Polish government.