In Memoriam

Sqn Ldr Richard Russell

Dear Members and Friends of 55 Squadron,


I have to report that sadly Richard (Dick) Russell, who was active on 55 Squadron from 1962 – 1965 and also 1982, has died. The news reached me via Friend of 55 Squadron Pat Roberts.

Further details appear below as received.


Personally I first met Dick, when I was going through the Victor simulator course as a new copilot. He and Bill Cox were the instructors and did a very good job there. He was always friendly and competent and well respected. Later on he became a flight refuelling instructor at squadron level. For this reason Dick was chosen at very short notice at the end of his flying career to train on the Vulcan bomber primarily in order to fly, during the refuelling brackets, the first aircraft which bombed the runway at Stanley airfield. This came about just after he had handed in his flying kit for what he thought was the last time... Dick wrote an account of this Falkland Islands raid in the Tanker Stories section on the website.


If you knew Dick and would like to write an appreciation, or have a good photo, please send it to my email address and I will put it in this section. Thank you,


Bill Palmer


This just came from Bill Williams:




This is cut & paste from an email I and others from the Sqn got from his son.


'The funeral for Dick Russell has been arranged for Friday 14th June 2024 at St. Mary’s church in Denver near Downham Market for 1.45pm. For those planning to visit and park you might like to park on the side street nearby Ryston Road or as I plan to up at the recreation ground quite close to the cemetery but 200m from the church.


It’s a bit tight at the cemetery so we are doing a family gathering at the graveside immediately after the service then hopefully meeting some of you in Fincham at The Farmhouse ( ex Timbers) for some light food and banter.  Here we will endeavour to display some photos and memorabilia we have of his.  You might find your name in some of his log books! ( I hope they are not super secret!). 

You are all most welcome to meet the family here at Timbers/ Farmhouse in Fincham. 


Funeral Director is AJ Coggles of Downham Market.  If you wish (but don’t feel obliged) please make a donation through AJ Coggles (01366 384 182) towards Alzheimer’s research.'






Bill Williams


Note, There is accommodation available at The Farmhouse if needed:   ed.



This from Ken Thomson:



Sad news to read about the passing of Dick Russell.
Like yourself I remember Dick well from Marham and the OCU.
I have often recounted Dick stories in my volunteer guide role at the National Museum of Flight

Dick started as an Air Gunner on Sunderlands if I remember correctly. I recall him bemoaning the perception of Sunderland life of sunbathing on the wing of a white one in Singapore. Whereas Dick’s memory was of getting soaked in the tilly boarding the aircraft. He said that was 12 hrs freezing or getting broiled depending on how close you were in your position to a heating outlet...

My other vivid memory is when we operated out of Sculthorpe and Dick was on Tansor (standby for tanker sortie) for some reason. He and Ted Guy were deep in conversation moaning about the music on the tannoy. I can still hear Dick saying , sotto voce, that “it just wasn’t the same without Vera Lynn...“

Good man all round

Ken Thomson  

Edward (Ted) George Randall, Flt Sgt, 55 Sqn


We have just heard from Ted's brother Harry, that Ted  died on 11. March 2024.   Ted served at Honington and Marham on Victors and also elsewhere in the RAF on Buccaneers.   Details of the funeral arrangements are shown in the slides below.

Ted Randall -  Second from right in this picture
Ted Randall - Second from right in this picture
Sqn Ldr Michael How 55 Squadron
Sqn Ldr Michael How 55 Squadron

Michael How, Sqn Ldr 55 Sqn



Michael's son, Chris informs us, that Michael, who was on the squadron in the early 1960s, died on 11th August 2023 in Canada, where he lived and Chris has sent the following link to Michael's obituary:


Michael had flown with Duncan Harvey, David Jones, Ed Bond and Ron Wormald in 1961 to 1963 and died surrounded by his family.

Mike Harrall, Flt Lt 55 Sqn


Member Bob Ferrier passes on the following  information from Mike Harralls will executor:

It is with a heavy heart, I have to share the sad news of ex 55 Squadron Captain, Flt Lt Michael (Mike) Harrall  . On 7th May 2023 in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Mike passed away. At the age of 83, he has had a full and enjoyable life. Whether it was flying planes or drinking a glass of wine in the sunshine, Mike was sure to be laughing and smiling.


I would be grateful if you could let anyone who may have known him know of his passing.

Mike’s funeral will be held at Whissonsett Church, Norfolk, on 7th June at 12 noon. He did not want flowers but asked for donations to the local cats home. (This would be Dereham Adoption Centre, Hoe Rd., Longham, Dereham NR19 2RP. They have a donation web page:  ed.) The information came from the executor of Mike's will.


Mike joined the squadron during my time and I remember him as an enthusiastic squadron member and helpful comrade. He joined our Association website in 2020 and sent me a copy of the humorous private book of his life story and times in the RAF, which he had written for his family.


Best wishes,


Bill Palmer

Member, Rob Deacon Elliot has written:

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend Mike Harrall's Funeral next week.

However, I have made a contribution to Mike's suggested Cat Charity and attach the following few words...




I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Mike Harrall.


Mike and I flew on the same crew on 55 Squadron in the early 70s. He joined as a Captain after serving on Valiants and then afterwards on PR7 Canberras in Germany. He had hoped to be posted onto Buccaneers but this was not to be. I was his first-tour Co-pilot on 55 Squadron.

Mike was an excellent operator and a popular captain with all crews. Not always the most diplomatic type, he was forthright and firm in his opinions, but invariably had a kind and thoughtful twinkle in his eye. Mike was also a good teacher. He qualified as an Air-to Air Refuelling Instructor(AARI) and was generous in the way he taught me and let me fly many of the prodding sorties.

Mike enjoyed his time off-duty too. He was great company on overseas detachments, in particular.

I shall miss Mike not just for his guidance and encouragement whilst in the air, but mainly because he was such a staunch and loyal friend over many years.


RIP Mike and thanks for your company.



Rob Deacon Elliott (Deac)



Ray Lawton Flt Lt 55 Sqn

This message has come on 13.January from Member Keith Evans:


We heard yesterday that Ray passed away about a week ago - don’t know any more details so far I’m afraid. He has lived in Wales for many years.


He was a very professional AEO and we flew together on 55 for some years in the 1960s, with me as co-pilot and later as captain. One of our last overseas trips together was the May 1969 Daily Mail Trans-Atlantic Air Race, based in Goose Bay and refuelling the Royal Navy Phantoms in the supersonic category. His late wife Jane and he were devoted. We spoke several times a year on the phone and he was always telling me how much he missed her. 


There are a couple of photos of Ray with our crew in the Member section.


I believe the funeral will be in Hereford.

Best regards



Peter Jones Flt Lt 55 Sqn


We have received this forwarded from Gary West, about our member Peter (Pete)  Jones Navigator on 55 Sqn 1967 - 1969


"I regret to announce the death of Peter J Jones, tanker navigator on No 55 Sqn in the 1960's.  Pete's wife, Eileen, is not au fait with e-mails, but daughter, Bev Paxton is contactable at  Eileen said that Pete had been suffering from a number of problems recently and had succumbed on the  7th May.        .



If anyone would like to attend Pete's funeral, or wishes to send condolences to the family, the details from Bev are as follows:-



Peter's funeral is on 24th May at 12.00


Waveney Memorial Park,


Warrens Lane, Benacre Rd


Ellough, Suffolk


NR34 7XE




Eileen's address is:-  24 Champneys Rd, Diss, Norfolk, IP22 4PS


We have a charity in mind if anyone would like to donate to it;


The Pain Relief Foundation 


(Charity No: 1156227)


Clinical Science Centre


University Hospital Aintree


Lower Lane


Liverpool L9 7AL




It would be lovely to see any of Dad's old friends and colleagues. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.


Peter Roberts

Peter Roberts on retirement
Peter Roberts on retirement


Barry Masefield wrote on 19.01 2021:


I have some sad news to tell you. I heard last night that Peter Roberts passed away last weekend. I have no further details. Our thoughts go out to Pat and the family.


Stay safe, Barry M


I personally have memories of Peter as a very kind man during his first service on 55 Squadron around 1970. If you would like to write a dedication to Peter or have any further news, please send it to me,

Bill Palmer



Pat Roberts has written:


Dear Bill,

Thankyou for writing and thanks to Barry informing you . Peter was always happy about 55 Sqn days... We met in West Berlin during the cold war days . I was a QA At the BM Hospital, He had done the Russian course and was at RAF Gatow - 54 years ago. IC an intelligence unit I believe. He was not allowed East , but when single I was, even though I looked like a Vopo when dressed in my number 1s in an army car.

He came back to Marham as Nav on his beloved Victor - he was on that 'plane in 1959 when it was first made and he was nearly the last alive from that crew - he ended up I think as the oldest RAF man in the first Gulfwar in Bahrain, aged 57 & left the RAF a year later.

 He and Dickie Russell have attended a few 55 reunions together but not for a while . Dick moved away in Dec - a few ancient RAF colleagues are still around nearby. I was glad I was a nurse, so that in his last 2 -3 weeks over Xmas and NY, I could make sure he was kept pain free..

 Just had Mike Howling on the phone - bad news travels quickly... but it was blast from the past and enjoyable.

Thanks again for your condolences, I don't mind hearing from others who remember him.

Should anyone ask, Online donations can be made  by following the following link to:

"Memory Giving" : at

Peter contributed to and volunteered for many charities but this was the one he stood in all weathers outside a supermarket, rattling his tin.


I've attached some pics . we had a great life together lots of travel and skiing till the knees gave way.  


Keep safe , Pat Roberts


8 B, Market Place, Downham Market, Norfolk, UK

    Above:                        Peter Nav Training in Canada                                                                       In action - Bahrain

From Mike Harrall:

Hi Bill, sad to hear, lovely bloke Peter.  Never forgave him for thrashing me on the squash court (using his left hand!)...

I have just spoken to Pat at length,

All the best,





and Dick Smith writes,

Sad news of Peter's  passing. A kind gentle man.

Dick Smith

(55 Sqn 86 to 93)



Ron Wormald

Gary West  writes:


It is with great sadness that I have to let you know of the death of Ronald (Ron) Wormald. On the 5th of October 2020, I received an e-mail from Ron's wife, Lesley, in Toronto, Canada, to tell me that he (Ronnie) had died peacefully that morning.

Ron and I had been contacting each other sporadically over the years since he had emigrated to Canada, and in the last time we spoke, he told me of the serious heart problem he had developed. He had been in hospital in November 2019 and again in late August this year, before Lesley brought him home.


I met Ron on No 55 Sqn at RAF Honington in 1964, and I first flew with him when I was "guest" co-pilot on Sqn Ldr Brettell's crew in January 1965; Ron was the Navigator. Later, in March, I joined the Jimmy James crew, with Ron, Pete (PR) Jones and Jock Penman. We had a busy year, including the presentation to the Shah of Persia at RAF Wyton, the rescue of XH614 from Singapore after the repair following it's centreline closure, and the move to Marham and change of role to tankers. We were a very happy crew, and got on very well together, socially as well as in the air. Ron was always calm, confident and competent - a pleasure to be with.


Ron Wormald was born to Ralph and Jessica in 1937, but, at the age of 14, he was orphaned. He was offered a place at the Royal Hospital School - at that time, a school for the Naval orphans - and did very well at both academics and sport, eventually becoming head of Hood house. At the age of 17 he gained a place at London University to read science, but after 5 days at college, he decided to join the RAF instead.

I think that, at the end of his tour on 55 Sqn Ron had reached the end of his 12-years of service and was not offered further service. He and his first wife, Joy, emigrated to Canada, but they separated later and Joy returned to the UK. In those days, navigators were still carried in the larger airliners, and Ron became a Nav with Air Canada.

Ron was a keen member of the No 55 Sqn Association, and came over the Atlantic with Lesley on at least two reunions during my time leader of the Association. Ron was 83 years old, and is survived by his wife of 34 years, Lesley, their married daughter Kate, and his granddaughter, Fiona.


Lesley has written,

"Ronnie enjoyed his first 4 years as a navigator with Air Canada. They would drop him at the first Caribbean Island while flight continued to other scheduled islands. He was only required on open ocean transit and could then lie on the beach for 2-3 days till they came back for him!! He spent quite a bit of time on the beaches of Antigua. Ronnie then became a First Officer with Air Canada, when the airline no longer required navigators. Not everyone passed the transition. He later had opportunities to become Captain but turned them down, as an Air Canada short range captain was earning  the same as a long range F/O on the 747-400 and with his seniority, Ronnie could pick his flights. His seniority also allowed him to pick his favourite Captains. He and his English friend Captain Keith had great times together -  doing many 3 day layovers to Madrid.

Very sorry to have to tell you that he died this Monday morning. He was very peaceful at home - surrounded by visitors popping in and out, and helped by carers and daily nurses. He had enjoyed a visit from the family on Saturday. On Sunday he became confused but was laughing at himself getting muddled." 


At his request he will be cremated. To respect distancing, there will be no ceremony.


Address of Lesley Wormald for condolences is: Lesley is also listed in the Friends of 55 Squadron in the Member section.

Contributions to the Heart and Stroke foundation of Canada are requested instead of flowers.


Ron Wormald as his 55 Squadron friends remember him
Ron Wormald as his 55 Squadron friends remember him
And with the J James crew in Tengah as mentioned by Gary West, above
And with the J James crew in Tengah as mentioned by Gary West, above

Alan Kearney


I have just been informed that Alan Kearney, previously a 55 Squadron Copilot/Capt on the Victor Tanker at RAF Marham, died on Sunday 29. March 2020,  following a long illness.

The following tributes are from Bob Tuxford and Alistair Sutherland:



Bob Tuxford wrote,



I first met Alan Kearney at Marham in August 1971 as we were together on the same OCU Course. He was one of the most intelligent and professional tanker pilots during that era, and I always had the utmost respect for him. His qualities as an officer and gentleman were clear for all to see, and I consider it a privilege to have served alongside him during my RAF tenure.


From Alistair Sutherland,



I first met Alan over 50 years ago when, as a recent Cranwell graduate and a young co-pilot, he joined 55 Sqn at RAF Marham. He was a grand fellow and someone whose company I always enjoyed. He was also a very competent officer and an excellent pilot, who went on to achieve a very successful career – at one stage serving as the Station Commander, RAF Brize Norton. Now I, like many, was well aware that Al was extremely ill. Nevertheless, his bravery, fortitude and good humour were always to the fore and these qualities were most apparent to his many friends and also when we met at the Aviation Focus Group (AFG)  lunches in the RAF club over the past few years (functions which some of you also attended).





Condolence address:

Mrs P. (Trish) Kearney, Merrygate, Stockton Ave. Flrrt Hants, GU51 4 NH



55 Squadron Members buried at Hinaidi Cemetery Iraq

This message and photos were received in October 2021 from  Friend of 55 Squadron Steve Johnson


Work started at Hinaidi on the 29th Sep and I’ve been sent a few photos of men re-measuring the perimeter prior to digging trenches. They also included shots of headstones, three of which belonged to 55 Squadron men. I have attached them for your interest. Though many headstones have been broken up completely or removed from site, there are still a large number that are recognisable. I’ll let you know if I find more.


Kind Regards

Steve Johnson


Corporal W McArthur, died 12/12/23

F/O Arthur Columbus Drew, pilot of a Wapiti Serial K1390 which caught fire in mid-air. He died of his injuries on 19/06/33

F/O Aubrey Ledger, killed on 04/12/23 when he got his DH9a Serial H173 into a flat spin at low altitude and crashed


Bob Callaghan - 55 Squadron Warrant Officer


Dear Members,


I am sorry to inform you that Tom Callaghan, the grandson of  WO Bob Callaghan, reports that Bob died on 23.June 2019.


The funeral will be held at the Mintlyn Crematorium, Bawsey, Kings Lynn at 13:45 on Monday 8.July 2019.

Afterwards at the Wildfowler Pub, Sutton Road, Terrington St Clement, Kings Lynn


If you knew Bob, any tributes will follow this post, Thank You



By Steve Chapman (Jnr Tech)


Dear Bill,


Thank you for posting of Bob's passing in your In Memoriam section, I would most likely have never known otherwise.

Bob was a Flt Sgt on the control desk when I arrived on the squadron in 1975, I remember him greeting me with "Welcome to Marham's premier squadron" and that he exuded a firm but fair persona. I quickly grew to like Bob, you knew where you stood with him and beneath his tough exterior there was a gentle giant lurking. He was a stalwart of the squadron, always keen to promote its interests and to ensure that the rules of fair play prevailed for all of its members regardless of rank.

The squadron bar, The Probe And Drogue, was opened during his time despite what I gather might have been a little opposition to it from external sources. I don't know if Bob was instrumental in getting approval for the bar but I would be surprised if he didn't have a hand in it at some stage given his presence on the squadron. It was a morale booster and I think a first on the station which no other section had at the time, it gave kudos to the squadron and the benefits were those which he liked to promote. It was sad to read of his passing but it prompted me to look at the few old photos that I have and some happy memories came flooding back. God speed Bob.


Kind regards,


Steve Chapman


By Colin Seymour,  Wg Cdr, Squadron Boss


Dear Bill,

I hope my memories of WO Callaghan help a little.

I do not know how long Bob served on 55Sqn as B Flight {Eng Flt] Warrant Officer, but he was in post when I took over as CO in 1980 and he was still in post when I left two years later.

I remember him as a very capable manager, who was dedicated to both the Sqn and the RAF. He was popular with all his 100 or so subordinates and well respected by all ranks who worked with him at both Sqn and station level. He was in every way typical of the corps of warrant officers who formed the backbone of the RAF and helped to ensure its long- term well-being and success.

Best wishes, Colin

Report from Australia 27.05.2019 - picture below

                                                                              Eric Strange - WW2 Squadron Member


Good afternoon


I have done a little bit of research on a past member of 55 Squadron on the occasion of his passing.


Eric Strange died in Riverton, South Australia a couple of months ago aged about 98 years old. We do not know a lot about him and were not able to attend his funeral service (as the RSL attempts to do in honour of a deceased service person) due to private difficulties.

I am lead to believe that he served with the squadron in North Africa during WW2 and later when as a member of the local nursing home he always referred to the number 55 with special affection (when calling Bingo numbers for instance).


I am not sure if this information is of any interest to your association


Kind regards

Michael Johnson JP



Hon Sec./Treasurer &  Projects Coordinator

Returned & Services League


Riverton Sub Branch

PO Box 107

Riverton  SA 5412

Eric Strange
Eric Strange


Dear Members,


It is with great sadness that I have to announce the death of Sqn Ldr (Retd) B E (Jimmy) James. I was informed by Mr David James, Jimmy’s son, that Jim passed away quietly in his sleep on Monday, the 4th of March.


The funeral service will take place on 29.03.2019 at 13.30 hrs




Breakspear Crematorium
Breakspear Road




and afterwards at:




Sandy Lodge Golf Club
Sandy Lodge Lane




Anyone who wishes to contact the family should do so at:


Gary West 19.03 2019



A tribute to Jimmy James

Sqn Ldr (retd) Jimmy James


I first flew with Jimmy on the 2nd of December 1964 at RAF Honington on No 55 Squadron, flying the Victor B1A. At that time I was a “spare” co-pilot, but I became permanent co-pilot on the James crew in March of 1965. The Navigator/Bomb Aimer was the late Peter R Jones, Nav/Plotter was Ron Wormald, now resident in Canada, and the AEO was the late “Jock” Penman. We continued to fly together on the bomber until after the demise of the Valiant in May of 1965, when we were posted as a crew to RAF Marham on No 55 Squadron, in advance of the first Victors to be converted to the tanking role – the Victor B1A K2P – the two-point tanker. I continued to fly with the crew after my Intermediate Captain’s Course and until I had my own crew in June of 1966. Jimmy was a wonderful captain. He exuded professionalism in his work, was meticulous in everything he did, calm in times of pressure, patient and understanding of (my) youthful over-exuberance, always considerate and helpful, jolly and humorous – surely a great leader and an iconic captain. We were a very happy crew indeed, bound together as a great team on duty, and with our wives, great friends socially. He was the model to which I aspired.




After his time on Victor tankers, Jimmy flew the Comet on No 216 Squadron, and we met again at RAF Northolt when he was a VIP pilot on No 32 Squadron flying the DH 125 and I had No 207 Squadron on the other side of the airfield. I flew with Jimmy and his crew as a guest on a training trip to Cyprus. We actually only got as far as Naples because wind conditions were such that the 125 could not fly legally on the next leg to Crete! We kept in contact after we went our separate ways, but the next time I met Jimmy was when or paths crossed again in Lagos when Jim was flying a Gulfstream for Coca Cola, and we entertained him and his crew to dinner at our home.  We met again later, quite by accident, in a restaurant in Nairobi. Jim was still with Coca Cola and my wife and I were visiting our daughter and family in Kenya.




Jimmy and his dear wife, Betty, attended the No 55 Squadron Association reunions regularly until the final one. Betty passed away in early 2018, and according to his son, David, Jimmy never really got over her death, and succumbed himself, less than a year afterwards.


Gary West 19.03.2019


Gary has now sent some photos of Jimmy James and Victor crew which will be put in the Member section. The one here following was taken by Gary at Tengah:

James crew and Servicing crew at RAF Tengah
James crew and Servicing crew at RAF Tengah

John Foot


Dear Bill and Gary,


It is with great personal sadness that I have to inform you that John Foot passed away on Saturday. Having been in the Cambridge area over the weekend, Eileen and I were able to spend a few hours with Olive, Steve and Gillian yesterday before returning home to Sussex. I am assisting the family to notify John’s former Service friends and colleagues, and wondered with your connection with squadron associations, if you would kindly forward this message to that wider audience. I do not have details of the funeral arrangements yet, but I will pass that information on as soon as I have it.



Fond regards, Bob



Bob Tuxford


Hello Gary,


I tried to contact you yesterday. I’m assisting the Foot family by circulating the sad news that John Foot passed away last Saturday, and his funeral details are as follows:




Date & Time:  Tuesday 16th October 2018 @ 12:15pm at the following 




Venue:                 Mintlyn Crematorium, Lynn Road, Bawsey, Kings Lynn, PE32 1HB.




I’ve copied this email to Bill, in the hope that we might circulate these details of John’s funeral across the No.55 Sqn distribution list.




Thanks for any help you may be able to provide. 



Bob Tuxford


Mob ~ 077 3405 8000
Home ~ 01825763939
E ~



Wg Cdr William (Bill) Massey


Alistair Sutherland informs us that our member and ex comrade Bill Massey died on 8th February in Norfolk.   He had not been well for several years and was confined to a wheelchair.

Those of us who were on 55 Squadron in the 60s and 70s will remember Scotsman Bill, who had been a gregarious soul as Flt Lt Nav and remained so after his very popular promotion to Sqn Ldr during an excercise - homebound from Tengah - through Gan.

 Bill Palmer

Final arrangements for Bill Massey’s funeral as received from  Alistair and son Kevin, are as follows:


SERVICE: Will be held in the Mintlyn Crematorium, Lynn Road, King’s Lynn PE32 1HB at 2.30pm on Wednesday 7th March.


REFRESHMENTS: Following the Service, Bill’s family would be delighted if you could join them for refreshments in the CONSERVATIVE CLUB, 7 Gayton Road, Gaywood , King’s Lynn PE30 4EA.


DIRECTIONS: The CONSERVATIVE CLUB is easy to find and is only a 5 minute drive from the crematorium. Exit crematorium – turn left towards Lynn – take second exit on roundabout into Gayton Road – pass hospital on your right – continue towards Gayton Tower – just before Tower you’ll see CONSERVATIVE CLUB on your right (opposite side of theroad).


PARKING: Is available opposite the club (your side of the road) or, if full, at Tesco’s only 2 minutes further on.


ATTENDANCE: To estimate the number to be catered for at the Conservative club, Bill’s son ,Kevin, would be grateful if you would contact me by Email or by phone 01485-528965.


Finally, although I’ve attempted to contact all the folk who knew Bill well, undoubtedly, I will have missed quite a few. Therefore, please pass on the above information to anyone you think would like to be informed.

Look forward to seeing you on 7 March.



Alistair Sutherland


We have received the following tributes to Bill:


From Alistair Sutherland


Dear Friends,


I first met Bill at RAF Marham in the early 1960s when we flew on different Valiant Squadrons and played rugby for the Station team. Incidentally, Bill was an excellent player; at school in Edinburgh he attended George Watson College (a prestigious rugby playing establishment) and there he captained their First XV and also the combined Edinburgh schools team.


In 1967, I returned to Marham as a Flt Cdr on 55 Sqn, and I was delighted to find that I had Bill by my side as a most loyal and competent lieutenant – and he never let me down. Reference, the Squadron’s overnight stop in Gan, I was there. That evening, I popped into the main Mess and there I espied the newly issued promotion list on which the name of a Flt Lt. William Massey, RAF Marham featured. Thereafter, I returned to my room, obtained a set of Sqn Ldr shoulder rank braids, got the Boss (Wg Cdr Brian Carruthers) out of bed (nice man but not a party animal) and entered a very packed and noisy Transit Mess. There a rather bemused Bill Massey was called forward, handed the rank braid and informed he was now a Sqn Ldr (these were the days before the ‘Blue Letter’). All present were delighted, the ale flowed and the mess was soon ‘jumping’. In sum, it was a night to remember.


Alas, a few weeks later I was not so pleased with Bill’s recent promotion! I was short toured to become the CGI of the newly reformed 232 OCU at Marham while Bill – bless him – replaced me as a Flt Cdr on 55 Sqn – a position in which, as a very popular and highly respected officer, he did an excellent job. Of course, like us all, he did have his off days and he could get a bit tetchy at times, but he soon reverted to the friendly, jovial fellow we all knew so well.


As many of you are aware, Bill and his wonderful wife Dawne were renowned for their hospitality – and Bill’s extremely strong home-made wine was not for the faint- hearted. Sadly, Bill truly believed his plonk was on par with the world’s finest vintages – how wrong can one be? The first glass made ones’ lips pucker and taste buds shrink; after a few more, a wonderful sense of well- being prevailed and ALL the ladies began to look wonderful; any more vino and the outcome was usually disastrous, and I can well recall meeting some very bleary-eyed, extremely fragile lads and lassies the morning after a hectic Massey ‘Do’.


In the early 1970s, once again our paths diverged and I did not see Bill again until 1979 when I returned to Marham as the Station Commander and he was in post as the Wing Nav/RadarI leader – for Bill a very undemanding appointment.. As an aside, I must mention TACEVALS. Around 1974, when I commanded 57 Sqn, the Station was subject to an extensive Taceval. Suddenly, over the Tannoy, all the station execs were told to report to the Station Commander’s office. There we were greeted by a very subdued and worried man (Gp Capt Caillard) who said: ‘Gentlemen, the Taceval has been suspended because we’ve failed to reach the requisite standard and I’ve been informed I may be relieved of my command’ Wow! a very sobering situation and one which made me declare, when I became the Station Commander, that Sqn Ldr Massey would henceforth be responsible for all matters related to Taceval. In brief, Bill tackled the task with gusto and determination and the Station emerged from two very demanding and lengthy Tacevals with glowing results. Shortly thereafter, Marham was awarded the prestigious Stainforth Trophy to indicate it had been judged the most effective and efficient station in Strike Command. Naturally, I was delighted, but I truly believe this success was, to a great extent, a reflection of Bill’s sterling endeavours in the Taceval field.


Toward the end of my time as Station Commander, I was unofficially informed that Bill was on the Wg Cdr promotion list – great news. A few weeks later, however, I received a very depressing phone call – Bill had fallen off the list. Now, knowing the system as I do, I knew that it was most unlikely that Bill would be promoted to Wg Cdr at a later date. Consequently, I sought the assistance of a very senior, Air Rank Officer. Now I never asked how he did it, but once again Bill was back on the list and I, like many others, was delighted when he was promoted to Wg Cdr – and then went on to Command the RAF detachment at Decimomannu in Sardinia – as usual with commendable results.


In retirement, Bill and I lived close bye – he in Necton near Swaffham, I near Fakenham – and we frequently socialized and made merry (along with Dave & Betty Sherringham and Larry & Pauline Blake who’d moved to Swaffham). On several occasions, we also enjoyed overseas holidays with Bill & Dawne ( Northern Cyprus, Portugal etc). Sadly, as you all now know, following the loss of his beloved Dawne, Bill never fully recovered and his health started to fail. I visited him often and he was always in good cheer. Moreover, as an expert bridge player, he spent much time playing and winning Internet bridge competitions and, I can assure you, his brain remained as sharp as ever. Nevertheless, eventually, he could no longer walk, was confined to a wheelchair, in pain and subject to hospital stays. Thus, I was not surprised when, towards his end, Bill told me ‘I’ve had enough and wish to go’, so in a way, his passing was a blessing.


Now none of us will ever learn if old Bill went ‘upstairs’ or ‘downstairs’, but what we all do know is that wherever Tartan Buddha, resides a bloody good party will soon ensue. Our Bill was a character blessed with many fine qualities and he’ll be sorely missed. I last saw him a few weeks ago; we enjoyed a dram and on leaving, I proposed a Scottish toast to an old friend and a fellow Scot, I’d known for 56 years:


Here’s Tae us –Wha’s like us? –Damn few – and they’re A’ Deid.


Finally, to all the stalwarts – air and ground crew – who served on 55 Sqn, I’ll close with the following good old Scottish toast:


Here’s to th’ smiles of the Lassies we love.


Here’s to th’ friend ever faithful.


Drink to th’ hearts so loving and true.


And never may we be ungrateful.

All the best,

Yours aye, Alistair