RAF ABINGDON 1978 - 1985
Swindon Nov 2009
As a direct result of contacts made from this site,
Pete Knowles, myself, Dick Sedgewick and Owl Hurst
met up at the Swindon Beer Festival on the 31st October 2009
(Hover your mouse pointer over someone in an image and their name should show up - if it doesn't then I don't yet have their name so if You do please let me know)

I actually got myself posted to Abingdon...... My first posting from training was to RAF Brize Norton where I worked in Base Hanger doing VC10 Major Servicing and hated every minute of it! It was just like working in a factory. I applied for an exchange posting to Abingdon and actually got it and was posted there in early 1978. The unit that I joined was then known as FRS - Field Repair Squadron (later renamed Aircraft Repair Squadron until some bright spark realised the acronym spelled ARS(e) and eventually renamed Repair & Salvage Squadron 'RSS') - and I was posted to the part of it called ARF - Aircraft Repair Flight. The Unit had recently moved to Abingdon from RAF Bicester where it had been called 71 MU and many of the older guys still insisted on calling it that, it was a name that lived on in song of course and many was the time we would sing the unit song:-

'Oh we have a reputation for seducing little boys
and for raping Old Age Pensioners and for stealing children's toys.
We are the perverts of the Airforce, We are the ones you never see
We are a shower of louse-bound bastards
We are 71 MU'.

The other side of the squadron was officially called 'Aircraft Salvage & Transportation Flight', AS&TF or 'Ass 'n' Taff', and was always lovingly known as 'Crash and Smash'.
My brother Steve Cowton was posted there (sometime in the early 1980's I think) so Abingdon had to suffer the consequences of having two of us there!
Also part of the squadron was 'Survey Flight' and 'Battle Damage Repair Flight'.

(patch pics were kindly sent by David Jones)

The RSS cat3 patch
(kindly sent to me by
Jon Howell)

Click To Expand to 'tabbed' Image
Click To Expand to 'tabbed' Image
RSS Squadron photo Battle of Britain day 1984 RSS Squadron photo Battle of Britain day 1985
I remember that the first time I went out on the road was to RAF Benson where we were repairing corroded fuel tanks on Nimrods. The Chief in charge of the Benson job was Tony Wilkes. David Jones was also on this job and remembers Tony buying a brand new Lada and Barney Rubble asking him, "How's the Pantry running Chief?". I can't remember who else was on that gang at the time so if anyone reading this can remember I'd love to hear from you and fill in some blanks for me.
Other jobs that I went out on were (in no particular order, mainly 'cos I can't remember dates) The Lancaster at RAF Coningsby (1979), where the chief was called Johnny Morris and I think most of the unit did some time on that job.
l2 George Sellers George Sellers Pete Lane Ted Moult Dave 'Monty' Cowton Johnny Morris Steve Davis Steve Satchwell Glen Bryant Pete Blackmore Dave Squires Ray Hall Steve Howard Dave 'Rasher' Swift Ray Hall Chris Ireland /> Mick Ogle Steve Stride
  (above and below) The Lancaster team at RAF Coningsby 1979  
Chris Ireland John Weeks Dave Squires Steve Stride Dave 'Monty' Cowton Ted Mault Ray Hall Pete Blackmore Glen Bryant Dave 'Rasher' Swift Pete Lane Mick Ogle Steve Davis George Sellars Eddy Ennis Steve Howard Mark 'Kojak' Thomason Johnny Morris Steve Satchwell
Mick Ogle Glen Bryant

I was at RAF Northolt working on a Devon (I think) where we lived in a pub on rates and amazed the local Indian restaurant by eating pint pots full of chilies for starters. One of the guys was called Colin Taylor, and he turned up in Shrewsbury years after I had left the RAF and we went for a few pints in the 'Harry Hotspur' pub and reminisced - but unfortunately we lost touch again......I remember the sergeant i/c that team was heavily into ELO, though I can't remember his name.

I remember working on a Vulcan at RAF Waddington (I think or was it Scampton?) where we had to hang weights off the wing tips to see if they drooped whilst we were repairing the engine intakes. I remember working on another Vulcan somewhere where we took the fin off but I can't remember which station - can anyone help on that one?.

I worked at RAF St Mawgan doing a radar mod on the Nimrods there and we lived out on rates in Newquay and I seem to remember going up to either Lossiemouth or Kinloss to do the same mod on some Nimrods there too.
I remember working on a Lightning at RAF Binbrook that had had an engine bay fire.
I worked at RAF Wittering replacing intercostal ribs on Harriers.

w Mitch Dave 'Rasher' Swift Dave 'Monty' Cowton

Repairing tail skid on a Harrier at RAF Wittering.

Monty with Dave 'Rasher' Swift, Mitch and Gary Snow (Gary sadly died in the late 1990's -
thanks to Ron Askew-Reeves
for letting me know)

w Mitch Gary Snow Dave 'Rasher' Swift
u During the Falklands conflict I seem to remember working on a Victor tanker at RAF Marham where we worked 14 hour shifts and lived in an old Married Quarter (thanks to Ron Askew-Reeves for remembering that!) to get it back in service only to hear that it burst into flames before it could return to Stanley - does anyone remember that? (left) Chief Tech in charge of the job was 'Mo' Morris. (thanks to Owly for sort of remembering his name &
David Jones for correcting it!)
u Pete Blackmore (left) Pete Blackmore posing with a Harrier at Wittering. (Pete sadly died in April 2011 - thanks to Hughie Devine for letting me know)

I vaguely remember another Victor that we worked on but I can't remember where - we were polishing corrosion out of a shaped aluminium block that had to be done to extremely fine tolerances, I seem to remember using 'Jewellers Rouge' powder and very fine emery cloth and endless hours of polishing the damn thing.....

I remember coming back from leave to find that nearly the whole squadron had all gone off to Nevada to try and fix a squadron of Buccaneers that had problems with the wing fold joints failing, causing the wings to sheer off.

More Nimrod work at Leuchars where we were reaming out link pin bushes I can remember that Alistair Mitchelhill (below first picture on left) was on that one as a Junior Technician at the time.
The other two pictures are of a job on a phantom, also at Leuchars, again with Alistair but I can't remember the Chief Tech's name but the other guy's first name was George and he was Scottish. (thanks to Stan Johnston for that)
s Alistair Mitchelhill s George ? Dave 'Monty' Cowton
s George ? Alistair Mitchelhill

I did some work at RAF St Athans I think on a Vulcan though that could be wrong.
I worked at RAF Chivenor on a Hawk I think, but can't remember much about that one.
I can remember working on Jet Provosts at RAF Leeming where we were doing a mod which was variously called an 'Australia patch' or a 'Snoopy patch' because of its shape. This was to lead to me becoming NCO I/C of Jet Ptrovost Repairs back at base (Abingdon) because the Cpl in charge of that project, Steve Petley, had sadly been killed in a motor bike accident on the road to Wantage at Venn Mill. I was called in to replace him as I had knowledge of that particular job. Also killed around that time was John Staine who died on one of his regular parachuting weekends at Bicester.

Also back at Abingdon when there was no work out on the road I can remember rebuilding a Spitfire that I think had been involved in a collision on the ground whilst taxiing at an airshow in Geneva (It's tail no. was AB910) - again I think that most of the unit were involved in this one as it was an ongoing job that we worked on when back at base.
Another similar job was the Meteor engine cowlings that I vaguely remember being involved with and I'm sure there was another ongoing base job to do with a Mosquito?.
I worked on a job at RAF Coltishall which I think was a Jaguar, though what we did to it I can't remember..........
I was on a job at RAF Wattisham which was a Canberra I think, though again I can't remember much about it, and another at RAF Valley which I suppose would be a Hawk......I'm sure there were others that I've completely forgotten too.........

Pete Lane Ray Hall Steve Satchwell Steve Stride Dave Squires Eddy Ennis Ted Moult John McHie Steve Davis John Lewis Mick Ogle Gordon Dow Pete Blackmore Steve Howard Dave 'Rasher' Swift
Socially back at Abingdon I remember nights out on the piss in Abingdon town usually with 'Bob Middleton, Ray Hall, Steve Davies, Dick Sedgewick, Kev Butters, Steve Stride, Brian Brimmell (I remember meeting up with Brian many years later when I was stationed at RAF Cottesmore and he turned up as an Engineering Officer.............).
Most nights I seem to recall that we would end up in 'The Broad Face' where we were the bane of the Landlord's life (his name was Dave Reid) as we would invariably end up singing all the RAF and the rugby songs. I can vividly remember taking part in a raft race and Tug -o - War over the river by the pub one summer and all of us crossing the bridge on our knees and hi-hoing into the pub.
I seem to remember Steve Stride 'tightrope walking' over the bridge parapet starkers and falling into the river - did that really happen?
Dave 'Monty' Cowton
(above) The Wedding of Tracey, the landlord of The Broad Face's daughter.
I remember going to several 'Great British Beer Festivals' at 'The Alexandra Palace' where we would drink enormous amounts of Real Ale then stagger back to the 'Union Jack Club' where we always stayed. On the subject of Real Ale, I seem to recall going on a pilgrammage of sorts to 'The Blue Anchor' which was a pub in Cornwall which brewed its own ale and reputedly sold the strongest beer in the UK. I also remember going on the Norfolk Broads where three or four of us hired a narrowboat and putted around the canals in search of Real Ale pubs to moor up at for the night.
One of the great social events that will forever stick in my memory is the trips that we made down to Pompey where Steve Stride hailed from. He introduced us to Percy, the landlord of 'The Forest Home' and we had some of the wildest times I can remember down there.
The 'highlight' of these trips was of course the Tug-O-War competitions that would be held on the Sunday morning after all the locals had made sure that we'd had a skinful the night before (not that we took much persuading...) so that we were in no fit state to stand any chance of winning!
Then we would spend most of Sunday afternoon playing drinking games - does anyone remember the draughts competitions - Oh my God!!! Also schooner races and a strange game where we had to leap towards the dartboard and place a matchbox on the mat closest to the board without headbutting the wall......
Another event that I remember was the trip to Paris to watch the six nations rugby game England v France. I remember Brimmell doing the silly walk with a bolster wrapped round his head and I know I have the photos somewhere to prove it so watch out Brian.... I also remember Steve Stride attempting a flying rugby tackle on someone at the top of a flight of steps leading down into the Paris Metro and missing them completely and ending up in a heap at the bottom of the stairs ... I seem to have a very vague recollection of Steve Stride (funny how that name keeps cropping up) doing a strip tease on the luggage carousel at the Hoverport ? I also recall that we all went down the 'Pigall' on the night after the game (which England won of course - didn't they actually win the championship that year? It must have been mid eighties) and God knows what we got up to there ... but as far as I can remember we all got home safely so no-one went missing in action.....
Brian Brimmell
Speaking of Steve Stride I remember him rugby tackling me at Coningsby as we were messing about on a dispersal pan during a piss-up to celebrate something or other and I was so pissed that I didn't realise until the next day that I had actually broken my arm in the fall! - I spent the next six weeks or so with my arm in plaster. That woiuldn't have been too bad except that it made me stand out from the crowd somewhat and a few weeks later we were involved in a bit of a barny with a squadron from Wittering (I think) where a barrack room door handle got broken and when asked who did it they explained that it was the big bastard with the broken arm wot dunnit ....

I remember we put together a rugby team to play a charity match against 'F Hangar' the unit permanently stationed at Abingdon that carried out Jaguar Majors. It was a freezing cold december afternoon in 1979. As I recall we lost ...

Thanks to Howard Rynston (ex AS&TF) for naming Pearce Newman (stood between Glen and Sid)

I remember myself and Bob Middleton blagging a trip to Guernsey in a Hercules that was carrying the RAFMSA stunt team who were appearing at a 'do' there. We went as 'Official Photographers' ...

Don't remember the names of the guys in the photos but I do remember that we had a wicked time and it led in turn to us going with them up to Edinburgh for the Tattoo later that year which was a fantastic jolly ...

These pictures are from a job that I just cannot remember.
The aircraft is a Canberra. The Chief Tech was John Thompson (thanks to Gordon Childs for that) I don't remember the other guy except that he was scottish.
Can anyone help with this one?

Dave 'Monty' Cowton John Thompson
Dave 'Monty' Cowton

Thanks to Dale Hemmings who kindly sent me this information about Ray Binfield and pointed him out on the 1983 sqn photo so that I could tag him:-

Ray was seconded to help out with the DC10 which had problems with stress fracturing the hooped supports of the fuselage, he was part of the team that redesigned them. He was then part of the crash and recovery unit at Abingdon when the red arrows were based there, He held the civilian rank of Wing Commander but was never saluted. The highlight of his career was having access to the officers mess which he greatly enjoyed. In his former years he rode speedway for Longeaton and had a fantastic bike collection in his later life including a Vincent Commet, KTT Velocett which was rode at the TT and a Douglas Dragonfly which was the factory machine that was displayed on their handbook. His Rarest bike was a flat-tanked Trumph which he found in a barn in Belgium and partially restored when he was in Germany. When Ray passed away, he donated all his bike collection to the National Bike Museum. 

A few assorted pictures that were left over ...
The photos below were kindly sent to me by David Jones
Lanc Steve the MT Driver fixing his guitar Lanc2 Steve Davis
above and below right: Lancaster at Coningsby 1978
lossie1980 John McGhie John McGhie Jim Beckett Jim Beckett Brian 'Spider' Webb Brian 'Spider' Webb Brian 'Spider' Webb Brian 'Spider' Webb 'Jack' Russell 'Jack' Russell Owl Hurst Owl Hurst Owl Hurst David Jones
lanc3 Steve 'Baggy' Howard Steve the MT Driver fixing his guitar Steve Davis
Hunter at Lossiemouth 1980
valley Andy Willerton
yeovilton David Jones John Bellsmith Ken Waugh
Hawk XX226 wheels-up landing repair at RAF Valley
Canberra WE122 at Yeovilton - Summer 1978
The Phantom Milk Thief (PMT) of Block 9
ARF v F Shed rugby match (see above)
The photos below were kindly sent to me by Chris Ireland
benson Tug Wilson John the Painter Tim Booth Tim Booth Kev Fisher Keith Alderson Chris Ireland  
Stride Steve Stride
Coningsby1978 Dave Squires Glen Bryant Steve Davis
RSSAbingdonBeerCall Steve Satchwell Steve Satchwell Tony 'Strangepork' Roberts Brian 'Speedy' Gagen Brian 'Speedy' Gagen Chris Ireland Chris Ireland Keith Alderson Keith Alderson Keith Alderson
below: Dave Squires kindly sent some recent photos
dsq1 Dave Squires dsq2 Dave Squires
Dave Squires
Manning a gun in an airworthy B17 in Florida, note the hat!!!
and the riveting wasn’t bad either.
with two old friends
at a free air show at Cocoa Beach.
I think this was taken due to the scenery!!!
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Pete Lane Ray Hall Steve Satchwell Steve Stride Dave Squires Eddy Ennis Ted Moult John McHie Steve Davis John Lewis Mick Ogle Gordon Dow Pete Blackmore Steve Howard Dave 'Rasher' Swift Pete LaneTed Moult Dave 'Monty' Cowton Johnny Morris Steve DavisSteve Satchwell Glyn Bryant Pete BlackmoreDave SquiresRay HallSteve Howard Dave 'Rasher' SwiftRay HallChris Ireland />Mick OgleSteve Stride Bob Pascoe Bob MiddletonDave 'Monty' CowtonRay Hall Graham Lowe Mick BunnySteve DavisDave 'Monty' CowtonSteve StridePete Knowles Ted Moult Graham Lowe Dick Sedgewick Steve Stride Brian Brimmell Gritter Gritter Brian BrimmellMick BunnyDave 'Monty' Cowton Gritter Brian BrimmellMick Bunny Pete BlackmoreDave 'Monty' CowtonI should know who this is but I don't Dave 'Monty' Cowton Brian Brimmell Pearce Newman Phil Smith Pete Wiseman Flt Lt Gatenby Tim (Barney) Wright Dave 'Monty' Cowton Ray Hall John Stain Steve Pettley Pete Thrippleton Dave Watson Dave Blogg Gary BrownGlen Chapman Glen Bryant Sid Fairclough Dick Sedgewick Phil Smith Tony 'Strangepork' Roberts Don't know who this is but I should ... Dick Sedgewick Tony 'Strangepork' Roberts Dick Sedgewick Dave 'Monty' CowtonMonty with 'Cat 3' on a Canberra at Coningsby Bob Middleton Bob Middleton Monty Pete Knowles Dick Sedgewick Owl Hurst Chief Tech 'Mo' Morris Pete Thompson? Pete Thompson? Pete Wiseman Pete Wiseman Bob Foster? Pete Wiseman Tim (Barney) Wright? Tim (Barney) Wright? Tim (Barney) Wright? Tim (Barney) Wright? Bob Foster? Bob Foster? Dave Watson? Dave Watson? Dave Watson? Flt Lt Gatenby Flt Lt GatenbyPete Thrippleton