Memories of the Coventry Gliding Club
aka the Gliding Centre, Hus Bos
The second decade - 1963 - 1972
Keith Nurcombe's story, 1963 to 1970:
A prominent feature of the 1950s that younger readers won't recognise (unless they've been to industrial cities in less civilised parts of the world like China or America) was 'smog', a dense acrid mixture of smoke and fog. The smoke came from coal burned in both domestic homes and industry alike. Mixed with traditional autumnal fog the result was very nasty and acrid of a density not seen in the UK for forty years or more. I can recall abandoning my motorbike on the way home from night school - dumping it in someone's hedge - and groping my way on foot the six miles from Cotteridge to Hall Green. Smog was still an issue in the 1960s, and I can recall a similar occasion returning from Hus Bos standing on the front seat of CFI Gus Cunningham's car with my head out of the roof-light giving instructions as we crawled along at not much more than walking pace. "Left hand down a bit.... not too much....MIND THE GUTTER... No, left hand down..." Great fun. Thankfully, the air is far cleaner since we stopped burning coal in our fireplaces and these are memories of a distant past, for us at least.
At the age of sixteen I wanted to advance from aeromodelling to the real thing, but without decent transport of my own I persuaded Dad to take me to the Long Mynd in the family car, a used - but very nice - cream four-door Morris Minor. (I can't remember what had happened to the James 98 I was bought for my sixteenth birthday. It had probably died of old age.) During the run along the Wenlock Edge a repetitive 'ching, ching, ching...' became apparent, getting louder with every mile. Somewhere on the long descent into Church Stretton we pulled over to investigate and were horrified to find the offside rear wheel rim had almost separated from its hub. The pressed-steel wheel had four broad 'spokes', of which three had fractured. The other wheels were OK as was the spare, so we continued on our way. Dad's trials were not over, though, as we were brought to a standstill halfway up the very steep slope of the very narrow Burway while someone edged slowly past on their way down, their near-side wheels up on the narrow grassy verge and eyes sticking out like chapel hat-pegs. After riding motorcycle combinations all his adult life, I think Dad found the car something of a challenge. He had failed his first driving test just days before, and had removed the L-plates for the day. So when the car in front had set off up this very steep hill (1 in 4 in old money) Dad selected first gear, revved the engine.....and rolled smartly back to be arrested by the stationary car behind. Fortunately there was no damage, and now his hill-start was much easier.
We arrived at the Midland Gliding Club shortly afterwards, where I became an Annual Associate Member and booked a trial flight in one of their two canopied T21s. That first bunjey launch - a rubber catapult pulled by six helpers - is something that is still clear in my mind more than fifty years on. It's like stepping off into space, and finding that you can actually fly.
Regrettably, I soon learned that I could afford to either join the club or buy the means to get there, but not both, so a new motorbike - that BSA C15 - was the first purchase I made once I started earning, and gliding had to wait until I had climbed a bit further up the ladder. Although I never did join the MGC I flew my own gliders there from time to time, or joined Coventry Club expeditions there and flew whatever was available.
I may not have joined as a full member, but I did fly there from time to time that year. I recall several flights in the T21. Every time the controls were handed over as we beat a path along the ridge the green ball sank to be replaced by the red ball. I couldn't work out what I was doing wrong, and, as an associate member, I wasn't getting much training. I experienced my first loop in one of those T21's and can still picture the agonisingly slow acceleration from seventy to the required eighty knots even in a very steep dive over the valley. I also remember the hangar-packing being organised by Teddy Proll, a Pole who wore an ankle-length leather coat, and called us all "Chentlemen". I believe he was held in some way to blame for the fatal accident to a privately-owned Slingsby Eagle that killed its occupants when the wings folded over the valley, and left the club with a pall over his head.
It was some decades later that BGA Technical Officer Dick Stratton ran his slide-rule over all the Slingsby wings after our own club Skylark 4 had a wing failure landing in a Scottish field - fortunately on the ground at the end of the landing run - and decided they were too marginal for comfort. The problem lay - as it does with many other aircraft built in this way - in the ribs being threaded onto the spar. The packers glued in-between the ribs to make a level surface to take the ply skin leave stress-raisers at every point they meet a rib. This wasn't appreciated when the wings were designed, but it's clear that several fatal accidents resulted, although they had always been attributed to over-ambitious aerobatics. Following wing failure the aircraft does a half-roll at which point the tail-plane breaks under an excessive negative load. On several occasions, the accident was attributed to the pilot "attempting a roll". All Skylarks and Eagles, including No 89, the one I shared with Mike Costin, Ben Rood and Derek Hucker, had the ply skin removed and the packer re-fitted as a continuous length with the ribs cut to accept it, making it a deeper continuous spar. It was a massive job, and we never liked the glider afterwards. The wing felt too stiff, and bent up sharply at the tips when pulling 'G'.
Three years after my early attempt at gliding on the Long Mynd, in the spring of 1963 after that terrible winter, an article appeared in the Birmingham Mail about gliding at Baginton, Coventry's Municipal Airport, so at the weekend I rode over there with the motor cycle gang (Brian Colley, Mike Ashcroft et al) to investigate. The club was flying from the narrow east end of the strip where the launching was bounded by the road on one side and the recently hard-topped runway on the other. Seeing no other means of access, we pushed our way through the scraggy waist-high hedge along the road and walked over to the launch point to be met by Bill Hall and a mild rousting for abusing the hedge, followed by a warm welcome (and advice to enter by the main entrance next time, please). We were all offered a flight: Col chose an aero-tow in the almost new bright red, canopied tandem-seat Schleicher Ka2 while I chose two winch-launches in the open-cockpit Slingsby T21. I was hooked, and joined on the spot, the only one of the gang to do so. It must have been the next week that log-keeper Anne Shropshire casually mentioned that the club was about to up-sticks to Haverford West for a month - the annual Summer Camp. She then told me that it was likely to be the last camp held there by the Coventry Club as we now owned a new airfield at Husbands Bosworth and the club would probably move next year. All of this came as something of a shock now they had my hard-earned money. However, I might have known it would all turn out well. The club did indeed up-sticks to Haverford West for its summer camp (the famous one where someone who shall remain nameless hit and killed a cow with the Olympia during a field landing) but the Prefect was taken up to the Leicester Club at Rearsby and I was instructed to introduce myself there for my ab-initio training.
Incidentally, I might tell you that after that terrible winter, there were still patches of dirty snow under the airfield hedges in June.
It was clear from the start that THESE clubs bore little resemblance to the snooty Midland Club of 1960. At the end of a very enjoyable first day on the charming rustic grass airfield at Rearsby - the home of Beagle Aircraft just north of Leicester - we all retired to the Wheel Inn where I was staggered to be bought a beer by the CFI, Vic Carr, who stood the first round.
At some point I called in at the farm next door and set up camp in a very nice pasture a short walk from the airfield, and spent two weeks at that wonderful place. Of course, the flying is recorded in my logbook, although the entries for that first June are very sketchy and the dates for July only marginally better, but there are memorable occasions, too: Watching the Auster round-out with tow-rope trailing, starting a large hare from the longish grass, that was struck and killed by the flailing rings at the end of the rope: Keith Moseley collected it for the pot. And watching Vic Carr and Reg Ludgate practice a beautifully smooth aerobatic sequence - simply a series of continuous loops and chandelles in a perfectly executed mirror sequence - in a pair of Olympia 2s just an hour before they took a dual-tow to Baginton to repeat it at the Coventry Air Show.
One instructor who shall remain nameless sat with me in the T21 for my first aero-tow behind a Tiger Moth piloted by Digby Larque. Without any prior briefing he handed me the controls at five hundred feet, at which point we almost did a loop. I recall my instructor screaming as he grabbed back the controls, then following the Tiger Moth - still attached - in a very steep dive to recover, with Digby waving his fist at us. "You didn't tell me you'd never done an aero-tow before." was the complaint. "You didn't ask me." was my response. A lesson for both of us: make sure you ask the right questions, and assume nothing.
I also remember a delightful flight in the open-cockpit T21 with Mike Smith (that's the REAL Mike Smith) where the sky at cloudbase was a mass of swallows making a feast of the flies and midges being carried up in the thermal from that verdant summer pasture.
At Hus Bos we were later joined by another Mike Smith of a different calibre, so we always referred to the original as the REAL one. Mike's story was remarkable in itself. Hewas profoundly spastic, and long before I joined the club his father had taken him to Baginton and asked the club if he could be taught to fly. Most of the instructors believed it an impossible task, but Michael Hunt and Doug Cunningham took it on as a challenge, and the result was astonishing: while Mike Smith was always crippled with twisted arms and face, he became not just a great glider pilot, but a superb instructor with a remarkable calm talent for imparting confidence to his pupils, of which I was one. He also went on to become a Professor of Advanced Mathematics and really made a name for himself. His father was so grateful that he bought the three of them a brand-new Skylark 4 - the Hot Ship of the day - for their exclusive use. It was that Skylark - eventually bought from the syndicate by the club - that had the wing fail in that Scottish field and start the whole train of investigation into the Slingsby wings. Circles within circles!
After being quietly told by someone at Rearsby that I was considered - by some, at least - to be ready for solo after around just thirty-two launches, I returned to Baginton still dual, where my first flight was with Chris Duthy-James who simply tore my flying to pieces. Not surprisingly I was devastated and, like many others, took an instant dislike to my instructor. However, Chris was a canny chap, a very clever and talented engineer at Armstrong Whitworth, and he knew very well what effect his deliberately crushing critique had had on me. He took me off to sit out of the wind where he explained precisely how I had failed to meet the required standard, and the things that needed to be done to hit the spot. Over the next few weeks, with his help, I raised my standard to a higher level. It was Lou Glover, CFI, who checked me out and sent me solo. By then, I had had fifty-three launches, just about the average, and was undoubtedly a better pilot for the additional instruction. These old fellas were all ex-wartime men, and were rather smarter than we young aces realised until we got to know them better. Lou Glover - Lou the Glue - had been a tank gunner from D-Day through to the end of the war, which probably explains a great deal about his quiet and thoughtful air. His personal copy of "Tanks, Advance!" by Ken Tout is still a treasured item in my library, acquired after Lou had left us, well into his ninth decade
(I never heard Lou talk about it all the years I knew him, but Norman James apparently got him to open up after hiring a tank for him to drive on his 70th birthday. Lou recognised the noise of that tank long before it arrived as it approached the clubhouse along the peri-track)
Now a solo pilot flying the open-cockpit Slingsby Prefect I began to get to know my fellow members rather better. The group ahead of me - Ray Stevens, Les Crawford, Lou Frank, and Peter Partridge - now flying the EoN Olympia 2b - were, to my eyes, the aces. Lou Frank in particular, as he had learned to glide at Lasham, the gliding Mecca, and was rather too adventurous and forward-thinking for the Coventry club instructor's liking, and was often in trouble for "pushing his luck" as they saw it. Time was to tell that Lou was right, and that his adventurous approach - not reckless, but based on knowledge and practised skill - was to form the basis of the growth of the club in the next decades. He was a more experienced pilot than I, but his reputation for sailing close to the wind left him a few grades lower in the hierarchy than he deserved. At the time of writing, Ray and Les are still flying at Hus Bos, although too many of our other friends have fallen off the perch in the intervening years (including Lou, who sadly left us some years ago, living in the USA.)
Sometime around late 1963 or early 1964 disaster struck! The club had bought a new airfield at Husbands Bosworth with money borrowed from the Shaw-Slingsby Trust, a charitable trust set up by Philip Wills to secure the future of both Slingsby Sailplanes in particular and gliding in general. The full story is covered in his second book "Where No Birds Fly", but in short, the Charity Commission rejected the charitable aim, and the money distributed by the Trust to support the purchase of several gliding sites had to be reclaimed. An EGM was held at Baginton's Aeroplane Club where a deeply embarrassed Philip Wills explained the sad outcome, and asked to be repaid in order to avoid a grave personal loss. Naturally, his audience was supportive, and our Hon. Treasurer Mike Bagnall offered members Life Membership for fifty pounds. For a poverty-stricken apprentice like me it might as well have been five thousand pounds, but there was no shortage of takers, and Philip - as I understand it - was paid back in full. And what a good buy that was for those who could afford it. In those days ten years was the distant future, and it probably never crossed anyone's mind to cap the gift. The hard fact is that nearly fifty years later the club had lost many, many, thousands of pounds in subscriptions foregone, but on the other hand, kept a few members long after they would otherwise have dropped out. As I write, there are still a few active members in that category even now, fifty years later.
In August 1964, with Gus Cunningham now CFI in place of Lou Glover, we held our first expedition to fly from our new site at Husbands Bosworth Airfield. In truth, this was not the best bit of the old airfield, but the club had limited funds, and the Plots as offered were far from ideal, needing a degree of hair-raising dealing with the local farmers both before and after the auction in order to end up with a viable plot of land. The airfield at this time had no facilities at all. I recall that a borehole had been sunk close to the eastern cross-track in the hope of finding a water supply. A diviner had done his stuff with his bendy willow wands, and a small source was found at around fifty feet, so came to nothing, and the diviner was sent off with a flea in his ear. For our first summer camp there Lou the Glue set up his bell-tent about where the westerly winter hardcore glider parking spot is now, and around eight of us made it our home for three days. We took a big can to the Bell Inn at Husbands Bosworth where the landlord carefully counted sixteen pints into it while we all sank another pint or two each at the bar. Repeating the exercise the following evening, he didn't bother to measure the pints involved, and filled it straight from the pump. It was later, back at the tent, we noticed that it was a MUCH bigger can, and we all had an extra free pint. That was probably just as well for us, for in the small hours Ken Haines got us all out of our sleeping bags to rotate and re-park the T21 in the pitch dark after the wind had got up. Happy days.
My log-book tells me we had another two weekends at Hus Bos in September that year. I guess that was when the first clubhouse was being erected from a flat-pack kit of a dismantled wartime Birmingham prefab. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the roof girders with a spanner while John Edwards - a founding member of the Vintage Aeroplane Club - beat us up at low level, slow-rolling the beautiful Comper Swift G-ABUS he shared with Pete Devey.
The hangar was erected professionally, but its vast timber up-and-over door - designed by our founder, the brilliant engineer Michael Hunt - had been built unbeknown to me in three sections at Baginton in the old Nissen-hut workshop, and was brought over to Hus Bos in an open glider trailer by Ray Stevens. The three sections were carefully laid out in the hangar and joined together by building another two sections. The whole thing was then raised onto a pair of trestles and tested by standing lots of bodies on it, measuring the deflection. (Hardly measurable, as far as I recall). That door was given a life expectancy of ten years. After forty years or thereabouts, the outer skin was replaced, and the whole shebang is still fit for another forty. The chain-gear operating system was designed by Doug Cunningham (brother of CFI Gus) an engineer at BSA Motorcycles, another of the brilliant people the club attracted in its early years. In its first incarnation that first clubhouse incorporated a kitchen and bar at the east end - both separate - and was heated by a solid-fuel stove on the west end wall. A large porch was made from another half-prefab on the north wall.
I was in that first clubhouse one blustery day when a Tiger Moth passed at speed low overhead in the wind blowing twenty-five knots or more dead cross from the south, just about OK for one Capstan on the single cable-winch, but nothing else. That Tiger - one of three - was expected some time soon, having been completely overhauled, re-covered and painted at Baginton, but we were astonished to think that our tug-master would bring it back in such marginal conditions. Gus and I dashed outside to watch the fun. The obvious landing run was due south over the fuel pump, landing directly into wind, where helping hands would have been close by. But no! The pilot set up a cross-wind approach landing to the west alongside the Capstan's launch-point. It touched down, then, as the port wing started to lift, the pilot opened the throttle and went round again. Three times this happened, until on the fourth attempt our hero left the throttle closed as the wing again lifted. The Tiger - still tail-high - just kept turning to its right until it was dead down-wind heading due north with a row of mature oak and ash trees close ahead of it, at which point our hero opened the throttle wide aiming to go between two of them at head-height. Sadly, the trees were less than a span apart, and all four wings of the Tiger folded back while the fuselage headed off into the neighbouring bomb-bay field where it swiftly came to a stop upside down. By this time CFI Gus and I were sprinting from the clubhouse, arriving at about the same time as a group from the launch point, just in time to see the pilot, having extricated himself from the wreckage, remove his face-mask, revealing him to be the one and only Wally B, a man with previous, and whose presence explained all. Ho Hum! No one had been hurt (although I did hear one unkind person regret otherwise) and the Tiger (was it Weary Willie, I wonder?) went back to the repair shop again.
It was that same original clubhouse that saw another momentous occasion. One evening with a committee meeting in progress behind closed doors, I was minding the original small bar with just one customer to talk to: Adam Hepburn, a tug-pilot about whom little was known. Adam - not a young man - used to turn up on a smart motorbike dressed in smart leathers, do his tug duty, then disappear again. I have to say that Adam was not highly thought of as a tug pilot. Not a glider pilot, he could be a little erratic at times and there was a strong feeling that tug-pilots should ideally be glider pilots, too. On this occasion he had come into the clubhouse for a social drink and, with little else to do and no one else to do it with, we were making small-talk. I happened to know that our Hon. Sec. Bill Fay was keen to relinquish his post, although this was far from my mind when Adam happened to mention that he would like to become more involved with the club. I politely enquired as to what he did for a living, and was almost floored when he told me that he was employed by the developer Laing as the Managing Director of the brand-new Birmingham Bull Ring Centre. In those days, in its first reincarnation as a modern post-war shopping mall, it was every bit as impressive as it is today, and all of a sudden, Adam leapt into the stratosphere as far as the club management was concerned. I was staggered to find that none of us had the faintest inkling of his management experience. When the committee returned from their session I took Bill Fay on one side and told him of my discovery. He too, found it difficult to believe, but very soon the facts were confirmed and Adam was swiftly elected to the Committee relieving Bill of his burden. Having Adam as Hon. Sec. gave the club a number of benefits in addition to his business experience. The occasional committee meeting was held in the plush company apartments in Birmingham, with the concourse used for a publicity weekend with gliders displayed to the throngs of shoppers.
I guess it was around that time that the tugs became something of a financial problem for the club. (That wasn't to be the last time, either). Bill Fay offered to buy the fleet of Tigers from the club and lease it back, running it as a not-for-profit business. As this involved no increase in the price of a launch and relieved the club of a terrible burden, it worked well. Better still, Bill was very particular about the pilots allowed to fly his aircraft, and rather than being glad to grab anyone who turned up - as the club had been - he made it clear that tug pilots would be required to meet a very high standard for the free hours they acquired. Almost at a stroke this removed the unreliable and marginal pilots and raised the standard to a higher level. By the time the club chose to reclaim the tugs I had moved abroad and don't have much idea of how things panned out, although I gather that Bill was offended at the suggestion that he was milking the club, and it eventually ended in tears. If that is so, it's very sad: I am certain that the early years at Hus Bos would not have gone as well without this approach, allowing the club to concentrate on the things it could do well without the distraction of maintaining a power fleet.
Without access to the club records I cannot be sure exactly when we built the first extension, other than to say that it was a year or maybe two before I emigrated. Another prefab was acquired and a crowd turned up one weekend to attach it at ninety degrees to the first one, leaving a new flat-roof to build above the new bar that would occupy the large corner between the two buildings. Claude Woodhouse took command, and the new building simply flew up. Erecting it on the old RAF concrete aircraft stand meant that, as before, foundations were not required, merely a levelling of the base.
I'm sure I will find I've left people out, but my recollection is that Lou the Glue and I built a pair of trimming beams for an open-plan L-shaped bar with just a single corner-post at the angle, Joe Horwood and I built the bar itself, Gus Cunningham built the wall fitments, and Jeff Birch built the ply shutters. One wall was clad in knotty pine donated by Alwyn Findon. Elsie May organised the ladies making and hanging curtains and other soft furnishings. Many others also played a part. These are just the names I recall at this distance in time. I guess that it was then that the solid-fuel stove was replaced with central heating.
As a young man in my early twenties, gliding provided all the excitement and social life I needed, so the club became an important part of my life. Working at that time for Dunlop Aviation in Coventry, after work I could choose to either go westwards to Birmingham where I still lived with my parents, and collect clean laundry, or eastwards to Hus Bos where I eventually shared a caravan with Geoff Birch. Before the caravans arrived, though, in the very early days some of us would bed-down under the gliders in the workshop (the building that formed what is now the shower block). One memorable night three of us had bedded down and switched off the lights after the usual convivial evening at the bar. Just as sleep summoned, I was rudely awakened by a blood-curdling scream that lifted me - I swear - all of three inches off the floor as a knife was turned in someone's back. In the following total silence I lay still almost floating above the floor in terror, wondering whether I had really heard it, when there was a faint whisper in the pitch darkness: "Did you hear that, Keith?" from Ray Stevens. The following morning our companion - who had apparently slept on without concern - confessed that he suffered from nightmares, and it was he who had scared the pants off us, without even waking himself in the process.
Lou the Glue partitioned off the first extension of that first workshop and moved in before his own pre-fab workshop was ready. After finishing at the bar, those of us dossing in the workshop would talk there into the wee small hours, or just sit in silence while Lou fed tiny Harvest mice gathering for crumbs at his feet.
Ahh! Happy days.
Lou the Glue built another up-and-over door for his pre-fab, and a small living extension at the east end in which he built a spherical bow window. If you stood in the right spot in the room you could see your reflection in every one of the fifteen facets. That workshop was just big enough to hold his tools and one glider, but not for long. Very soon Lou's collection of interesting or useful junk started to fill it up, and gliders he was working on were left in the club workshop, while the pre-fab held his 'stock'.
In September 1966 I started training as an instructor. Shelley Curtiss had taken over as CFI, and I spent the next few months under training with other club instructors using the 'Bingo Card' system, becoming an instructor in February 1967, just short of one hundred hours and with all of four hundred and twenty launches to count on.
Lou "the Glue" Glover and his flapped Viking I - once part of the early club fleet - 1968
Club Brochure 1968
Bill Grose and Adam Hepburn (facing)
Party night "Up The Flippin Winch Wire" (in B flat)
Phil Banks in full song.
It wasn't all easy-going. Someone found us a proper windsock pole, so Geoff Birch and I spent a weekend digging a deep hole close to the incoming power lines at the west edge of the field. It was two days of very hard work, and we felt pretty good about it as we knocked off for a pint when we'd done for the day.
We didn't feel so good about it the next weekend, though, when Alwyn took me off to one side and told me he'd had to drag the bodies of six drowned lambs out of the waterlogged hole. Unbeknown to us, during the week our farmer friend had let his sheep into the field with their new-born lambs, and some of them had a great time jumping from the mounds of earth before falling into the hole, from which there was no escape.
The sheep were a mixed blessing. In the early days, the income from grazing was very welcome, but by the end of a long flying day the flock was usually encroaching on the launch run. I have a vivid memory of the T21 hauling the cable off the field and taking with it an adult sheep that was sliding down the cable towards the winch when the poor thing fell off from a height of around a hundred feet.
It was some time after I became a club instructor that the BGA introduced formal instructor training, and Shelley decided it would be a good idea if I joined a course he organised at Hus Bos for a new batch of instructors under training - all of them from the Mynd. I put my foot in it right at the start, turning up late afternoon on a Friday when everyone one else had spent the day there. It wasn't just communications that needed sharpening up! I found myself sharing the T49 with a trainee from the Long Mynd, and in my view his flying was barely good enough to qualify him for solo, let alone instructor training. While he frightened the pants off me more than once, I did manage to refrain from fighting over the controls, unlike one of our older instructors sent off to join a course at the Long Mynd. Ken D---- and his fellow trainee instructor fought over the controls of a T49 in the circuit and crashed it, fortunately without injury. Our CFI Shelley, however, had come to us from the MGC and, as Ken had Previous - wrecking the T21 from a cable-break at ten feet - he banned him for life. Ken was a Life Member (our only Banned for Life Member?) and took it badly. He was eventually reinstated by a later CFI, but sadly it all ended in tears again, for some reason.
I should say that Ken was always good company, and it was a great shame that it ended badly.
Shelley was not a bad CFI, but made himself unpopular with his insistence on steep approaches. Not a bad thing, but perhaps sometimes over-the-top. He also believed that none of our members would make the grade as instructors. He was not a young man, and when he found himself a girlfriend it was perhaps not surprising that we saw less of him. After spending a whole busy day as the only instructor there, I expressed my disappointment at his failure to deal with the matter, at which he said "You do it, then." and walked out.
We didn't see him again until about 2005, when I found him watching a competition launch at Hus Bos. Almost certainly now in his eighties, he obviously didn't recognise me, 'cos he told me he had once been an instructor here.
Vic Carr stepped into the void again while I was given a crash-course in CFI-ing, with help from other older and more experienced men.
The first thing I did once I found myself in charge was select five other pilots for instructor training. Two didn't make it, but I'm pleased to report that three did, and served the club well for decades, one of them still instructing as I write. (No names, no pack-drill, as they say.)
Before the year was out I was made redundant at Dunlop Aviation and accepted a job with our Founder, Michael Hunt in Johannesburg, by then Technical Director of Atlas Aircraft. So the next decade will have to be written by someone else..
A proud day for Michael Hunt, as the Coventry Gliding Club opens the gate to Hus Bos, 1965
All hands on deck to hang the first door. Early 1965.
Building the first Clubhouse in 1964
On the roof L-R Geoff Birch Ray Stevens Keith Nurcombe
Below: Reg Ludgate Eric Sower John Williams Reg Neep Gus Cunningham
Ann Shropshire and Marjorie Allen
A clutch of Kitchen Dragons pre Feb 1968 (but who's who?)
Is this Wally Mason's wife?
The first few years at Hus Bos we had stone-picking groups. Doug Sadler's group filled the deep gulley that led into the bomb-bay field. Look over the hedge half-way along the tarmac strip and you'll see just how deep that gully was, and get an idea of the work involved in filling it.
Michael Hunt drove an Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire, a very heavy saloon with a proper chassis. He had it out on the airfield one day with a stone-picking party when the piano-wire cable slipped under the car during a T21 launch. It was quite a sight from the launch-point seeing our distant chairman jumping up and down waving his arms while the T21 pilot tried to saw his lovely car in half. With a proper chassis, the only damage was a small nick in the bodywork at the cill. Great fun!
Olaf Pankhurst was an immigrant from the Ukraine - then a satellite of the Soviet Union. With the Cold War in full swing, it was interesting to hear his response if anyone suggested that the Russians weren't all ogres: "If you think the USSR is so bloody good, you go and live there."
An interesting footnote in view of events around the Ukraine-Russia border in 2015.