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My Personal Bucket List

© Copyright 2018 by Terry Aspinall


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ISBN: 9781370484782

Published by Terry Aspinall

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Dedication


I would like to mention a few people who have helped mould me into the person I am today (2018). Firstly, my Mother and my Father, along with friends Paul Defane (New Zealand Musician), Rick Sparks (after leaving School we knocked around together), Tootsie Lawrence (who talked me into joining the Royal Marines), Ray Callahan (Musician who taught me how to play Bass Guitar), John McVie (Bass player who helped with advice), David Cook (Pilot) and his wife Catherine (Teacher), Pete Bowden (Hang Glider Pilot), Hans Van Oyen (Musician, we gigged together for 30 years), Ben Wright (Musician), Snowy, Mel and Sharpie (Hang Glider Pilots) Graeme Henderson (Hang Glider pilot, and historic researcher, for keeping me honest), and a special thank you to my sponsor, dearest Emily my wife.


Parts of this book have been taken from my Autobiography 'Almost Total Recall'.



Introduction



In June (2018) I will be 75 years old, and I have just been asked by a close friend if I have completed or at least made a 'Bucket List'. The truth is I had never thought about it. In fact, until it came out as a film a couple of years ago, I had no idea what a 'Bucket List' was.


After a little research I have concluded that the term 'Bucket List', is a list of all the goals you would like to achieve, dreams you want to fulfil and life experiences you desire to experience before you die.


Having already experienced a lot of travel during the 60's, 70's and 80's, I have no further plans of places of interesting that I would like to visit. Instead I have concluded that as of now, I would like my 'Bucket List' to comprise of some of my personal Achievements. A long with the meeting and introduction of famous or well-known people from around the world. The latter being helped along by the computerised digital media that has certainly taken the world by storm and helped make it possible for all of us.

I'm assuming that many of these have only been possible since the late 1980's. Although for me, I have only owned a computer since 1994.

I'm very proud of all my Achievements, although many of them were planned, others came about by fate. I have added a 'Time Line' in a later chapter called 'Achievements'.

I'm also aware that I have experienced several accidents and 'Near Misses', as we call them. Having concluded that I have definitely used up all my so-called quota of Nine sorry 'Eleven Lives'. Therefore, I have also decided to add a 'Time Line' list of those I survived.


While I was attending Combs Ford Primary School one of the female teachers had read the 'Autobiography of a Super Tramp' to my class, over a several weeks. Even though it was an American story, it became one of my long-term goals to one day write my own 'Autobiography'. For some reason even, the word 'Autobiography' became a word that was well and truly imbedded in the back of my brain. It was just something I wanted to do, and probably the first long word I ever remembered. Although I must confess that how I was going to write it never a cured to me at the time. Maybe I was ahead of my time, in for seeing computers and being able to dictate into them. Although to just tell people that was what you wanted to do, sounded like you could just click your fingers and complete the task in a couple of days.


TABLE OF CONTENT

Copyright

Dedication

Introduction

Chapter 1 - Swimming

Chapter 2 - Edinburgh to Marble Arch

Chapter 3 - Royal Marine Commando

Chapter 4 - Sir Winston Churchill's funeral

Chapter 5 - Love of Music

Chapter 6 - Touring Germany

Chapter 7 - Dunwich Cliffs

Chapter 8 - Microlight Distance Record

Chapter 9 - Woburn Abbey

Chapter 10 - Advance Foods

Chapter 11 - Autobiography

Chapter 12 - Correcting History

Chapter 13 - Stowmarket Nursery

Chapter 14 - Thrashing Machine

Chapter 15 - Guy Fawkes Rock

Chapter 16 - Learning to Swim

Chapter 17 - Dodgem Cars

Chapter 18 - Motor Bike Shop

Chapter 19 - Pushing My Luck

Chapter 20 - The Cromer Rotor

Chapter 21 - Helicopter Near Miss

Chapter 22 - Parachute Malfunction

Chapter 23 - Lockerbie

Other books by this Author

http://www.terryaspinall.com

http://www.royal-marines.net

Chapter1

Swimming


I was never a football or cricket player, but I did take to the water like a duck. Having an outdoor swimming pool close to where I lived, attracted me whenever possible. Enabling me with the skills to compete at local swimming competitions. Later I represented my school, the Stowmarket Secondary Modern, the Stowmarket Swimming Club, and later the Royal Marines. I still have four Medals I won representing the 779 Squad Royal Marines while under training at Deal during 1962 (two firsts, and two seconds). While later in Singapore I still have a couple of Cups I won representing 40 Commando.


During my last couple of years at school l always wanted to visit Singapore. Having seen a local teenager having joined the Merchant Navy and returning from Singapore wearing a beautiful silk embroidered jacket. That's what I wanted.


Chapter 2

Edinburgh to Marble Arch


1959. December. One night while watching the television news I saw an article about Dr Barbara Moore, a Russian born Dietician who had walked from Edinburgh to Marble Arch, a distance of 395 miles. Completing the task in seven days and twelve hours, to claim some sought of record, while surviving on her specially prepared vegetarian diet. A challenge was then offered by a garage owner in Staffordshire to beat her time. Anyway, it was all big news in those days and everybody was talking about it. Later that same Monday evening I went along to the Cosy Café in town, having changed its name from the Warming Pan. Meeting up with Harry Powell who was in the RAF at the time and stationed at nearby RAF Wattisham. Harry had also seen the news report on the television and was very interested in the subject. A conversation developed between us and we both agreed that we could beat Dr Moore’s time. By Wednesday that week, we had made up our minds and decided to have a crack at the record, so I got some details from the newspapers and started making a few arrangements.

My employer allowed me to take two weeks holiday. I then had to scrape some money together to help finance our challenge. Mind you there was also a rather large carrot being dangled in front of us, in the form of a £1000 prize. All my work mates at the 3 in 1 factory started laying bets against me. Cecil Goymer in the mixing room bet me £1 that I would not even go to Edinburgh. His actual wording was I bet you don’t even get on the train. Jimmy also from the mixing room bet me £1, I would not start the race, while Ken their boss, bet me £1 that I would not make it out of Scotland and so on. I believe there was about twelve bets in all, a grand total of £12. If I failed it would cost me about four weeks wages. I was confident that I could at least start the race and if I got to the Scottish border I would be in the money.

Harry and I eventually left Stowmarket railway station on the Friday night at about 6.30 pm, being seen off on our folly by a host of local dignitary's which included the Stowmarket Major Mr. Weston Howard, and Brenda (my girlfriend at the time). Well at least the first £1 was already secure in my pocket. For once in my life I was one up.

We travelled all night arriving in Edinburgh Scotland by about 6am the following morning, to utter chaos. There was no organisation, nobody to tell us were to go or even were to start. Furthermore, I was disappointed that there was nobody giving away numbers, so we could be identified. However, after a time, we did manage to find a local newspaper office that helped us with most of the details. After interviewing they took us to where the other contestants were starting the race. Then after extracting a few final details from us about our attempt, another journalist and a photographer saw us off on our long trek south. By this time, it was exactly 12 noon on the Saturday morning.

To us it all seemed uneventful, all we did was to walk for as long as our legs would carry us. Something like sixteen to eighteen hours a day. Our route was to take us out of Scotland and over the Scottish border known as the 'Carter Bar', and straight down the Great North Road heading South towards London. Which in those days was the main arterial road that ran up the centre of England from London and known as the A1 trunk road. Up until them we had not trained for the event. To me walking was walking and wasn't that something we all did every single day of our lives, wasn't it supposed to come naturally to us.

As we slowly made our way South, there were constant reminders and signs that many other walkers had been along the road ahead of us. Quite a few of these other attempts had attracted big followings and sponsors that included large entourages of vehicles. As we continued our walk, we passed some of them by the side of the road, with the occupants nursing their competitor's feet and later withdrawing them from the race. Gradually these vehicles became fewer and fewer, the further we walked south. Then on the Sunday, a reporter who was chasing up a story caught up with us. He then proceeded to tell us that somebody had been caught cheating, by taking a ride. He went on to tell us that we were going to need some sort of proof that we had walked the whole way unaided. This was devastating to us and for a time, we stopped to discuss our situation further with the reporter by the side of the road. Although it did not take us long to make up our minds that there was no way we were going to return to Edinburgh and to re-start the race all over again. Even if we did, we had no idea how we could prove that we had walked the full distance anyway. Finally, we decided that we would get prominent people in each town that we passed through, people like Police officers or Bank Managers, or maybe a Vicar, to sign a piece of paper for us. Stating who they were and at what time we had passed through their town. With that, we said goodbye to the reporter and headed south for Marble Arch in London. Sadly, later we were to learn that this would not be enough proof to satisfy the guy who had offered the challenge and reward.

One of the biggest thrills for us was to watch the steady stream of contestants dropping out of the race the more miles we covered. As we passed through each town or village, the locals would tell us how many walkers had been through a head of us. The further south we reached the fewer walkers were reported passing through ahead of us, and it felt good because the numbers were dwindled rapidly. The other thing that gave us a big thrill was the fact that most of the other walkers had car loads of gear and food to assist them. Some even had beds built into the back of a vehicle. While all Harry and I had was a small shoulder bag, containing just a few basics to survive on, namely a bottle of Lucozade (energy drink) and a couple of bars of chocolate. We didn’t know what a tooth brush or a bar of soap was.

During the week leading up to our trip to Edinburgh, I had received a vast amount of advice from everybody that even included the factory cat. The Boys in the mixing department were the worst offenders, usually most of their advice bordered on simply poking fun at me. I like to think this was all done to try to get me to call off the escapade, so that they could collect on their bets. Like I said earlier it amounted to four weeks wages. I always remember Cecil telling me that before I go I should soak my feet in vinegar, so the skin would pickle and become tough. Don’t know where he got that one from, but I wasn’t trying anything like that. However, there was one piece of advice I took very seriously and that was to purchase a pair of new boots. This sounded a good idea and made sense that I should try and protect my only means of propulsion. So along I trotted to Gordon Ince, a gentlemen’s outfitting shop in the middle of Stowmarket town to purchase a brand-new pair of bright shiny size 11 Army boots. Mr. Ince who served me, had already heard of what I was intending to do, so he deducted a few shillings off the price for me. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that they would have to be broken in. The only boots you could purchase in those days were what we called Ex-Army Navy stock and they were hard as nails as we say, and very uncomfortable to wear. They would usually cause very large blisters on your feet, until they had been worn for short periods of time, over a couple of weeks. Not like today, as they are all nice, soft and ready to wear straight off the shelf, with no braking in period required. Anyway, the day we started the walk, they only lasted three hours on my feet. Even after trying another of Cecil’s bright ideas of bandaging up my feet. They made my feet so painful that I had to tie their laces together and hang them around my neck, and to revert to wearing the black suede (brothel creeper) boots that I had travelled to Edinburgh in. These I wore for the remainder of the walk. By the time I reached London the soles had long since come off and I arrived at Marble Arch walking on the inner part of the shoe base and wearing large holes in my socks. However, because of their weight and the swinging motion around my neck I eventually dumped them by the side of the road.

We did not meet too many people by the road side as we slowly advanced towards London, which was good because we did not want to waste too much time stopping and talking with them. Then just as we were about to leave Scotland we stopped at the Strawbridge Hotel. Where Harry met up with a young girl who was working at the hotel kitchen. Here we did allow ourselves a short break, so Harry could chat her up. Although I used the time to grab a couple of winks of much needed sleep.

We were only carrying a small amount of money with us, a shoestring attempt is not quite the word I would use, to me we were almost completely broke. Therefore, we were forced to rely solely on fish and chips, Lucozade drinks and the occasional hand out. While sleeping rough in anything we could find. Like haystacks, a telephone box and once just North of London, a manure heap so we could enjoy the heat it was giving off. I somehow seem to remember that we had read that Dr Barbara Moore had done the very same thing, and so that's where we got that idea. Remembering that this walk was taking place in early January. When I say sleep, I do not know if two hours qualify as sleep, because that is all we were allowing ourselves. Washing became a luxury because I do not think we washed during the whole week, boy we must have been a little high on the nose when we finally arrived in London.

An interesting observation was that while in Scotland, the people were very friendly and helped us whenever possible. It seemed no effort for them to feed us and allow us to sleep rough in their barns. However, once we were in England, things changed nobody wanted to know what we were up to. For some unknown reason they did not want to get involved. At one stage, we were even chased out of a haystack by an irate English farmer.

While walking on the English side of the border, we approached a local farmer who was tending his herd of cows. He must have seen us coming and made his way to the gate by the road, arriving just as we got to the same spot. The minute he said morning to us, I knew we were going to have trouble trying to understand his accent. In the distance was a small town so I asked him in my broad Suffolk accent if there were any Café’s. He turned around looking at his herd of cows that had by now gathered behind him. After a couple of seconds, he looked back at us and said, "No mate there all Cows". We walked away laughing to ourselves over the incident, as I still do today. I like to think he thought I said Calves. Mind you I’m still not sure maybe the joke was on me, but for the life of me I cannot imagine why.

A high point for us was when we caught up with an old guy who was walking a head of us. He was also on the challenge, being sponsored by his village. He only had to finish to become a local hero, I believe he was about sixty-five years old. He tagged along with us for about a day, making us laugh with all his jokes and great sense of humour. Then not being able to keep up with our pace, he finally bid us a tearful farewell and gave Harry his spare pom-pom hat for luck. It’s the same one you can see in the photos.

One night about 100 miles North of London we came upon a large section of the road that had been closed off by safety barriers and cones, because of road works that were taking place. Somehow in the darkness, we became lost and ended up on the wrong side of the barriers, not realising until it was too late. We then found ourselves trying to walk on a very thick layer of some sort of sticky tar. Remembering that it was winter and should not have been sticky. Once we had realised our mistake we tried to get off the section of road, but in the darkness, it was hard to see where the treated section ended. In a vain effort we had to walk a considerable distance on the tar like covering, at times it felt so sticky that we were having a job to lift our feet up to walk. When we did finally make it to safety, it felt like we had just added two inches of material to the bottoms of our shoes. It then took us a further 50 miles to wear it off. Mind you by that time the soles on our shoes were getting a little thin so in a way it was like having an instant re-tread applied the bottom of the shoes.

Then came the good news we had been waiting for, as we went through St Neots just North of London. We were informed that we were the first walkers to go through the town. Hearing this good news made us quicken our pace, for the first time we were thinking that we might actually win this race. Up until now it had only been a big joke between us, we were doing it just for the laughs, and to see if two ordinary working-class country lads from Suffolk could achieve something on this scale. We felt good, as far as we were concerned we were the Kings of the road. You know the old Suffolk saying, 'You Won’t Hurry Me I’m From Silly Suffolk'. Although I think today the term would be more like a couple of 'Silly Tractor Boys'.

Just North of London we were both feeling very hungry, unfortunately we had no money, as it had been spent a couple of days earlier. By an amazing twist of fate, I picked up a two-shilling piece from the side of the road. Within minutes we were sitting in a local transport café having ordered a plate of chips and two forks.

My Father who was driving his brand-new Triumph Herald car found us twenty miles North of London somewhere near Hatfield, as we were walking by the side of the road. We stopped, and spent some time chatting and eating some welcome food that my parents had brought with them. Dad also gave Harry a nip of whisky, but stopped short of offering me one, according to him I was too still too young to drink. (Little did he know?)

By the time, we reached Marble Arch it was dark, it being 7.30 pm in the evening. Along with my parents, there was also a few of my fellow work mates that had made the trip. I must admit that it was a surprise because up till then I had always thought that most of the factory were just making fun of me. I always supposed that most of them never thought I was serious about the challenge. There was Raymond Taylor, Evelyn his girlfriend, Ennis Fenner and his wife, my Mother and Father all waiting for us. Dad then spent almost an hour running around looking for a policeman to record our arrival time. I suggested we break a window and then the whole police force would turn up. Finally, a policeman was found, and he recorded our arrival time as seven days eight and quarter hours and that included the three quarters of an hour it took for Dad to find him. We had beaten Dr Moore's time of seven days and twelve hours. Not a vast difference in time but enough to beat it. A great feeling.

During the trip home the weather broke, and a large amount of snow fell in just a short period of time. At times, it became very dangerous to continue driving through the storm. However, our little convoy of two cars slowly pressed on and we finally all arrived home safe and sound about three o’clock in the morning. It turned out that the snow fall was so heavy that it was one of the worse winters for about ten years. It was also felt that if we had not completed the walk, then the weather would have forced us to abandon it and being so close to London that would have been heart breaking.

Harry and I spent most of Sunday morning sleeping, but by midday we were up and feeling right as rain. Then most of Sunday afternoon was taken up undertaking newspaper interviews, as the news of our achievement had travelled fast. We had actually woken up to a couple of journalist already in the bedroom taking photos of us.

Bright and early Monday morning it was back to work to pick up all those bets. Even my Boss was surprise to see me at work, expecting me to take the second week off to get over the walk. It was a big surprise for me when he gave me the second weeks wage as a prize. I think I came out of the whole deal about even, but we never did receive the £1000 bet from the challenger. My Mother phoned and wrote to the garage owner who had offered the prize, in order that we might stake our claim, but it was all to no avail. He simply refused to pay us, saying we did not have enough proof, proving that we had completed the walk within the seven days twelve hours. Later there was a story doing the rounds that he had never intended to honour the challenge in the first place. Furthermore, he did not even have the money, all he wanted out of this stunt was the publicity. Well he received plenty of that, only it was all bad. As a couple of the national newspapers ran the story on him not paying. I believe that it helped tip the scales so in the end he went broke. The whole episode did not bother me, I just put it all down to experience. I’d had a good time and for me it was time to move on. To start looking around for the next hair brain scheme, or that’s what my Mother used to call all my exploits. I was just hyperactive and always had to be doing something, as is still the case today.

I had Successfully achieved another challenge and felt pleased with myself.


Barbara Moore was born Anna Cherkasova in Russia on 22nd December 1903 – 14th May 1977. She was a Russian-born British engineer who gained celebrity status in the early 1960s for her long-distance walking and health beliefs.

Moore was among the first generation of Soviet female engineers after the Russian Revolution in 1932, she became the Soviet Union's long-distance motorcycle champion. She immigrated to Great Britain in 1939, marrying an art teacher, Harry Moore, but they later separated. She also used the name Barbara Moore-Pataleewa.

In December 1959, she walked from Edinburgh to London in early 1960, and walked from John O'Groats to Land's End in 23 days. She then undertook an 86-day, 3,387-mile walk from San Francisco to New York City, where she arrived on 6th July 1960.

She was a vegetarian and a breatharian, believing it is possible for people to survive without food. She walked with only nuts, honey, raw fruit and vegetable juice for nourishment.


I never met up with Dr Barbara Moore.




Chapter 3

Royal Marine Commando


During the 1950's, not many people travelled abroad. It was a time when the country was still trying to rebuild after the horrors of the Second World War.

However, that was all about to change for me, as I took a bold step and joined the 'Royal Marine Commandos'.


Having visited the Royal Marines recruitment office on Lloyds Avenue in Ipswich Suffolk. I was amazed that I passed all the questioning direct at me. However, I was later to learn that nobody ever fails the test. That the recruiters take everyone who walks through the front door. The so called weeding out of weaklings takes place during the training. I also mentioned about my walk from Edinburgh to Marble Arch. Their response was to tell me that I was the sort of person they were looking for and wanted in the Marine Corps. During training an edition of the Corps 'Globe and Laurel' magazine was released in July, informing the Corps of my walk. To which I received a lot of ribbing from some of my fellow squad mates during training. At least they knew that I would never give up on any task.


1962. 12th April. As I stepped off the train at Deal railway station, I was wearing a pair of tight Levi jeans and a black leather jacket. I was also sporting a mop of very long hair that had taken me almost eighteen months to grow. To some of my fellow passengers I must have looked like an alien from another planet. Because all around me other young men disembarking from the same train were sporting short haircuts and wearing smart Italian style suits. This being the style that was trying to replace the long-favoured Teddy Boy look that I preferred. The Teddy Boy look featured a long-draped jacket, whereas the Italian one featured a short length jacket, it being not much longer than a waistcoat. However, I always felt that the long jacket suited a tall person while the Italian style jacket enhanced a shorter person.

I felt out of place standing there on the platform not knowing where to go or whom I was supposed to meet. However, that was all about to change as I noticed a very tall slim built man in military uniform strutting down the platform and heading in my direction. "You one of mine" he bawled at me, "What's one of yours" I replied sarcastically. "Don't be smart with me laddie, you’ll make a bad name for yourself in this outfit". "I’m addressed as Colour Sergeant to you". Fine I thought, thanks for telling me. He continued shouting at me "By the looks of you, you must be one of mine, outside and in the van". I could not understand why he had to keep shouting at me, after all we were standing within an inch of each other and he was almost licking my nose. So why could he not talk in a normal voice like everybody else.

He suddenly turned and strutted off down the platform looking like a tin soldier bawling at anything that moved, including other bewildered young men standing on the same platform just like me. I decided to make my way down the platform and out of the station building into the courtyard as he suggested. Where I was confronted by a van standing in the station courtyard, just as the Colour Sergeant had told me.

The van was a dark blue Bedford Door-mobile, with the letters R.M. painter on the side. Must stand for Royal Marines I thought, believing I had past my first test. Although on second thoughts maybe it stood for 'Right Mess' something I thought I might just be getting myself into. I looked in the back of the van and found it full of several other bewildered recruits. Unfortunately, there were no empty seats, however I did notice that the front passenger side seat was empty, so I jumped in. I could not believe my luck or the space I had around me, compared with the other guys all crammed up tight in the back.

I was just settling down when Bang, a wooden stick crashed across the top part of my thighs. Something I was later to discover was known as a pace stick and used to measure out a marching stride. "In the back laddie" the bawling Sergeant had returned with a vengeance, apparently, I was in his seat. "Not making a very good first impression are we", he continued to shout at me. I could see that life with this mob was not going to be a bed of roses like I had first thought. I jumped out of the front seat and somehow managed to squeeze myself into the back. ending up sitting on somebody's lap. We then sped off at break neck speed to the Royal Marine barracks.

Well I had made a bold step and joined the Royal Marines hoping I would become a Commando. Amazingly I did complete and pass my parade ground training.


Amazingly even during training at Deal I was allowed to travel to Holland for a ten-day free holiday. Although, that's how it was described to myself and most of the other recruits, in the 779 Squad.

The Royal Navy was looking for volunteers to paint one of their ships, H.M.S. 'Rame Head', a Submarine depot ship. It turned out to be a little bit of a conn, as we had to paint it during the out-and return trips. To be rewarded with ten days off doing whatever we wanted while in Holland. Only to carry on painting on the return trip home. I still remember the comic answer when I asked what the rules of painting were. Being told that if its bolted down we paint it. However, if it moves its thrown over the side (Only Kidding a Royal Naval joke) As it was later explained to us. As one of the recruits did throw something in to the North Sea.

But first we had to scrape or hammer all (and I do mean all) the old paint off, which turned out to be harder than I first imagined, and to then give it two coats of Battleship Grey paint.


Then it was onto Portsmouth and a couple weeks sea training while bunking on the 'HMS Sheffield'. The same ship that was bombed by mistake during the Second World War, by the British.

Then two weeks at Poole learning how to exit a landing craft and firefighting skills.

Finally, the last piece of training I knew was going to be the hardest part of my training. It was off to Lympstone and the Commando Training, that took all my intelligence and know how to get through. Although the Royal Marines motto is never, and I mean never GIVE UP. That motto helped me get through.

To be presented with the reward of a treasured 'Green Beret' was one of my greatest Achievements I have ever obtained. I still have it to this day and proudly wear it every April while on an 'Anzac Day' parade, marching through the streets of Brisbane, while remembering our lost comrades. ‘Lest We Forget’.

Upon completion of my training I was posted to 40 Commando Royal Marines, at that time it was based in Singapore. During my flight in a 'Comet' jet airliner, we landed at 'El Adem' in Libya to refuel. Then a long flight down the centre of Africa. Being classed as Shock troops we were not allowed to fly anywhere near Egypt. Then up the eastern coast of Africa, and the next stop was at 'Kormaxa' in Aden. Once again to take on fuel. Then off to Gan an Island in the Indian Ocean for another refuel, before heading for our destination, Changi Airport on the island of Singapore.

A couple of hours drive North in a military truck, and I arrived at 'Burma Camp' in Malaya. A couple of weeks after arriving at 40 Commando we were headed for Sarawak and North Borneo on active service duty.

From February 1963 to October 1964 I was on Active Service as a member of 40 Commando Royal Marines, while serving in Sarawak and North Borneo. Although it cannot be classed as an Achievement. However, it was a time that I strongly believe I helped the people of Borneo and my mother country the UK. I enjoyed the country along with it's jungle, and its people who made us very welcome in most areas we were deployed. I am proud of the part I played in freeing the people from the clutches of border crossing rebels and Indonesian insurgence.


Chapter 4

Sir Winston Churchill's Funeral


1965. January. Sir Winston Churchill (Prime Minister for the UK during the Second World War) became seriously ill, and doctors agreed that he would not recover. 41 Commando was given the task of training to be the official bodyguard during the funeral. Because during the war Churchill always had a personal Royal Marine bodyguard wherever he travelled. We started training and rehearsing the drills that would be required of us as Guard of Honour during the funeral. After a week’s gruelling hard work, it was decided by the powers that be, to give us a break and to send us all home on leave. I must say that decision was well received by all, especially after the rehearsals had been so intense and full on. We all left Bickleigh camp on Friday at midday. Being told that if Churchill survived until the Monday morning, then 43 Commando who were stationed at Stonehouse Barracks in Plymouth, would take over the funeral duties.

I travelled all the way home to Creeting Road in Stowmarket, arriving home at around midnight, to be greeted by Mum and Dad and some well-earned sleep. However, the very next morning 24th January at 8 am, I received a telegram from my Plymouth Barracks, informing me that Winston Churchill had passed away overnight and so would I return to my barracks, as soon as possible. I then spent all of Saturday on a train returning to Bickleigh, upon arrival I gathered all my belongings together, and as a unit we all travelled to London. Where we moved into the Chelsea Barracks? This was to be our headquarters, where we had to undertake further practice for the funeral. Only this time it was held on the streets of London at 4 am in the mornings, trying to keep it secret from the public. A couple of these practice sessions were held in the snow. To stand at attention for many hours in the snow is not a very nice experience.

Being in London meant we were all having some good runs ashore at night. It did not take us long to visit the usual haunts with lots of drinking etc and staggering back to the barracks after midnight. Then trying to get some highly prized sleep before getting back up at 3 am, so we were ready for drill at 4 am. Can you imagine the state that some of us were in.

The funeral took place on Saturday 24th January. We were all formed up on the cobblestones of Tower Hill, if you ever see a photo there were 120 Royal Marines and I was next to the right-hand marker. Therefore, on the photo I’m second from the left in the front row. Marching and standing at attention on those cobblestones was very hard, I think one of the Marines in the back row even passed out. I say that because at all times we had to look to our front. It’s a chargeable offence to turn your head to look at some strange noise that might be attracting your attention behind. However, I was looking at the crowds of people on the other side of the road, in front of us. It was their reactions that told me that something was not quite right. At first, they were only pointing but soon they started shouting and pointing. The next thing I remember is some of them saying, "He’s going, He’s going, He’s GONE" and with that I heard a deafening thud somewhere behind me, while the people in front of us were laughing. Apparently, a Marine had passed out by falling back wards in what we call the at ease position. Anyway, the sergeant at the back left him on the ground for a couple of minutes to regain his senses, and then hoping he had come around he and another sergeant just stood him up and he returned to the at ease position as if nothing had happened.

I can remember hearing the very loud booming noise of the bass drum, keeping all the military personnel in step. As the funeral possession approached us from St Paul’s Cathedral. The gun carriage carrying Churchill’s coffin stopped in front of where we were all formed up on the badly slopped hill. Then as it was lifted on to the shoulders of the pole bearers, I believe they were from the one of the Guard Regiment. The coffin being lead lined was very heavy and the service men wearing steel studded boots on granite cobblestones, was not a good mix. As one guy started to slide, I thought they were going to drop the coffin, but it all turned out okay. The coffin was then carried down the hill to board a small boat by the Tower Pier for a short trip up the river. As a mark of respect all the large cranes on either side of the Thames river lowered their jib's as a mark of respect, as the boat went past. Too then be taken to a railway Station heading North where he was eventually laid to rest on his Blenheim estate.

Then it was back to Chelsea Barracks, pack up all our gear and return to Bickleigh in Devon. Although I do feel very honoured to have been part of the ceremony, for once in my life I had taken part in history. Although to this day I have still never seen any photos of the event.

As a foot note, and having watch the B.B.C. Video a few years later, I did not see any hesitation of the pole bearers lifting the coffin off the gun carriage. No, I did not imagine it.



Chapter 5

Love of Music


After leaving the Royal Marines in 1966, music became my main love and interest that almost took over my entire life for the next 50 years. In which I was able to play all over the UK, Germany, New Zealand and Australia. I loved every minute of it, and if given the chance I would not change a single minute of memory.


I first became interested in music, and in particular Rock n Roll, while serving in 40 Commando (stationed in Burma Camp Malaya) while watching four fellow Marines from C Company putting a band together. I would watch them practicing in the camp cinema whenever possible. However, it was the Bass guitar that really caught my eye and implanted an idea in the back of my brain. That one day I would like to maybe learn how to play it.

After moving to Leiston in Suffolk and working at Richard Garretts engineering factory I befriended Ray Callahan. Ray was very talented and played Guitar and Keyboard like a pro. He was so talented that he taught Dave Bridges how to play Guitar, Ben Wright the Drums, myself Bass Guitar, and Ron Knights what was expected of a singer. We ended up forming a band and yes, he even came up with the name 'The Forbidden Fruit'.

On Sunday 13th October 1968, I met up with John McVie of 'Fleetwood Mac' fame, at a gig at the Manor Ball Room in Ipswich. I spent half an hour with him during a break, picking his brain for any tips I might be able to use to help improve my playing. I ended up playing some Riffs that he used. When asked by many about my style, I would always refer to it as the 'Callahan - McVie' style.

It started a long career of music that allowed me to play all over the UK, Germany, New Zealand and Australia, that lasted well over 50 years.

Although they were not top bands, I did support several top liner bands of the day. I can honestly say that personally I believe I achieved something good from all of them. If given the opportunity I would not change anything, as it all helped make me into person I am today. In the playing of music and my personality.

The following is a rough list of the bands, and recordings:

1967. 'Forbidden Fruit'. There was one recording made on Ron Knights Fathers Reel to Reel tape recorder, in the International Club in Leiston. However, the machine was set up a long way from the stage, and the recordings are not very good. At least we all have copies of the recordings. I believe the recording was of four tracks. Although on a sad note just as I'm writing this article I was informed by Ron, of the passing of 'Dave Bridges'. A sad day.

1969. 'Brothers Grimm'. The band only lasted a few months, although we did play at one of the holiday camps in Clacton Suffolk.

1971. 'Jim West and the Texans'. With Jim I recorded an L.P, and a single at the Scrubby Recording Studio in Norfolk, released under the Gemini Label. While in the studio I also helped lay down a couple of backing tracks for 'Allan Francis Smethurst' aka the 'Singing Post Man'. Although I never did get a copy of the disc's.

1973. The 'Nightriders', were a county music band based around the local area of Saxmundham Suffolk. We also toured Germany, where we played at local venues and American Air Bases. Having taken a great interest in the 'Beatles' and knowing that they spent a lot of their early apprenticeship in Germany. If it was good enough for them, then it was good enough for us.

1975. 'Knoxville County' we recorded a self-penned single at the 'Hillside Sound Studios' Ipswich, run by brothers David and Richard Allison. We also recorded at 'Radio Medway' in Maidstone Kent. Ten tracks for a later night Radio show.

1985. I upped and moved my family to New Zealand. At the time I was working for Bernard Mathews and was asked if I would go there and help build another factory for him.

1986. 'Stratus' was a New Zealand band, named after a company I was privately running selling Microlights and Hang Gliders.

Three years later I was once again on the move. Jumping over the ditch as they say in this part of the world and settled in Brisbane Queensland. I have no further plans to move anywhere else. He says with fingers crossed behind his back. What's that old saying "Never Say Never'.

1989. Cross Cut' was in Australia, followed by 'Wishbone Jack', the 'Fabulous Chryslers', 'Highway 409', and '409'. There might be a couple more in there somewhere? There are a few recordings from that time, but I've lost the details of who was recorded. What where or why?

In 1991, I spent some time in the Taramalin Sound Studios, recording with 'Cross Cut'. Laying down several tracks and hoping to release them on an LP. However, it was not to happen, and it was only used as a demo track helping us gain more work. Later I was to return to the Taramalin Studios along with my Daughter Sharon, Hans the singer and Guitarist Lawrie Dillon. I still have four tracks from that session, and very proud of one of them. 'Jackson' was recorded with Sharon taking the main vocal while I backed her. I think Hans recorded 'Traveling Man' on his own.

While with the 'Fabulous Chrysler', Hans, Len Lotz and I recorded 16 tracks at 'Video Pro'.

Chapter 6

Touring Germany


1972. During late February I was approached to join and play bass guitar for the 'Nightriders'. At that time, they were one of the top country music bands in East Anglia and operated from the Saxmundham Queens Head Hotel. Its owner Brian Kirk and the singer Barry Seaman also ran a music agency from the Hotel premises. Although Brian managed the band, Barry looked after it's every day running. Barry came from Blyford and was a very professional guy when it came to music, using the stage name of Bob Wayne. Years later I was to learn that he had taken it from a member of the Merle Haggard band from America.

The band under took several tours around the UK, operating as far North as Newcastle, and as far west as Cornwall. Although the London tours, and there were several were the ones we enjoyed. After the Beatles toured Germany many bands tried to emulate them by doing the same. The 'Nightriders' became lucky and we completed the well sort after tour of Germany. Although to be honest we were asked to replace 'Country Fever' a top London based band who had double booked a load of dates. At that time, they featured Albert Lee, one of the country's top guitarists, who went on to be world class. ‘Country Fever’ were also one of the top bands in the UK at the time. While in Germany we also backed La Mel Prince the American female version of country singer Charly Pride.

We all thought we had made the big time. However, it was not to be, although we did pick up a lot of work touring around the UK. As far north as Newcastle, and over to the western side of the country and especially Cornwall. Although the feather in the cap was the tours of London, where it was all happening in the music scene. At one time we recorded at the B.B.C. studios. The tracks were used for a couple of years on a program call 'Night Ride'. Being on line from 11pm through to about 3am.

In May 1972 we played at the Wembley Country Music Festival alongside Tom T Hall, Hank Williams Jnr. Ann Murry, Bobby Bare and a couple of others I can't remember. I also believe that it was only the second festival that had been staged at that time. We entered a competition and sadly came second to Frank Jennings and the 'Country Syndicate'. Whose prize was a UK tour with Jerry Lee Lewis.

Also, during 1972, we under took a live recording session at Gunton Hall Lowestoft Suffolk. Backing artists like 'Little Ginny', Jed Ford, Bob Wayne and Ray Dexter. During the summer we also played mid-week at some of the Norfolk Holiday camps.

In August 1972 we recorded six tracks at the B.B.C. radio studio. A couple of tracks were played on their 'Late Night' show that aired after 11pm each weekday and were repeated many times over for a couple of years.

Chapter 7

Dunwich Cliffs


1977. The day came, when the conditions looked perfect for a first soaring flight from the Dunwich cliffs. Along with John Sharpe we drove to the site and rigged up the Hang Gliders. The wind was blowing directly onto the cliff but was not very strong. After a couple of top to bottom flights, I became very frustrated. Would I ever soar this dam cliff? Anyway, I packed up and headed back to my car when David Cook and John Wells turned up with his new fixed wing known as the 'Fledge'. I knew this thing could fly here, its L/D (lift over drag) being far superior than mine something like 9 to 1? The same as Cookies VJ 23, and I did so want to be first. I convinced myself that if it can fly here then so can I. After all I had been the first to fly the Cliffs although it was only a top to bottom, landing on the beach. Therefore, without any further hesitation and thought about the situation, I turned around and went straight back to the cliff top.

By this time a little bit of rivalry had crept in between David and myself, since I had been going to Cromer to fly. At first, I did not rig up, I watched Cookie supervising John and launch him off. Wow he went along the beach about one hundred meters, almost getting up to soar, and boy he was not going to beat me. Therefore, I rigged up quickly, Sharpe said I was mad to try it as by now the wind had gone a little South of East. This was new ground for us. Without hesitation I walked the hang glider to the edge and clipped my harness to the glider. Then I waited for a few minutes until a felt a gust of wind come through and just launched off the cliff.

Wow to my amazement I went straight up, where as I had always gone straight down. Not only that I kept going up and was heading south along the cliff towards Minsmere. What a flight I could not believe my luck, and it felt just great, I flew all the way to Minsmere, turned around and returned. I was told later that David watched every minute of my flight from the beach, and even walked into the sea to make sure I went right to the far end of the Minsmere cliffs and back. To rub it in, I completed the task six times and that day nobody else managed to soar that cliff. I stayed up until the wind dropped, and I was finally forced to land on the beach. Wow what a feeling I had, to lie on the beach for half an hour just to come down from my high-spirited feelings. Only then and with hind sight, I wished that I had tried to undertake a top landing back onto the cliff. It was 24th September 1977 and I had just become the first person flying a hang glider, to soar the Dunwich and Minsmere Cliffs. What a feeling it is to be first at anything. I know that the date is correct because by that time we were all keeping flying time log books. This really was an Achievement for me. Something I enjoyed every single minute of, and of being able to say that I was the first to fly, and later the first to soar the Dunwich Cliffs. Although I have to mention that I'd had to wait a couple of years until a hang glider had been designed, that would be able to cope and allow the pilots soar some of Suffolk's small sand dunes and cliffs. Birdman Sports from Marlborough in Wiltshire and their Moonraker Hang Gliders.

Chapter 8

Microlight Distance Record


1983. June 5th. By now there were some very fast Microlights being brought on to the market, and it was so easy to fly to different locations. Therefore, I decided to try to break a few records myself, before somebody else had the same idea. I was lucky to assemble a small group of friends and helpers to assist me. My plan was to undertake one flight and in doing so to try and break about four records all at the same time.

I mapped out a triangle course from the Thorpeness cliffs to Elmswell (to the west of Stowmarket) to a point South of Norwich and back to Thorpeness. Each leg was about thirty miles long and added up to a grand total of ninety-one miles, which I later had verified by a government department. The only record to date in a Microlight was twenty-seven miles in a straight line. Mind you in those days, nobody seemed to bother with such trivial things.

I managed to get Pete Bowden, his family and friends from Felixstowe to go to Elmswell and a couple to the point south of Norwich to photo me as I flew over. Later they would all make statements for me that they had witnessed me flying overhead. They even managed to take a photo of me, with somebody in the foreground holding up a newspaper with the day’s date, it even included the guys watch, how’s that for ingenuity. David Cook saw me off from the Thorpeness cliffs and later witnessed my return. What a feeling I had inside of me as I finally landed back at Thorpeness, I was over the moon and could not believe what I had just achieved.

I rang the local Radio and newspapers officers in Ipswich informing them of what I had just achieved. Claiming the World and British record for an out and return flight of ninety-one miles and the World and British straight-line Record, it being one of the legs of thirty-one miles, and a couple of others I cannot remember right now. Suddenly I was a big celebrity, but sadly it was all short lived and I was brought back down to earth with a big jolt. The week before my attempt a pilot in America had stripped everything out of his light aircraft, filled it with fuel and flew eight hundred miles on one tank. It sounds so crazy, but the silly rules of that day allowed him to do it, so my day of glory was very short lived. You might like to read the newspaper and magazine cuttings of the day that are included on my website.

However, on a brighter note, the British National Record of 91.62 miles set on 5th June 1983 was recognised and because of the American fiasco all Microlight definitions were changed so it would not happen again. It was agreed throughout the world that the definition of a Microlight/Ultralight, meant that it had to weigh under 150kilos This was also in my favour, because it meant that all records would start again and that all existing records would stand forever and would not be able to be broken. To this day I hope I am still the proud owner of a British record and possibly a European, although I’m still not sure if that one was ever rectified.

I had always known that David’s VJ23 could break any record, and I had agreed with him more than once that I would be satisfied if I could only hold a record for just one day. In that way, at least it would be in the record books for all time. I under stood that all records can and will be broken, so just that one day would be my crowning glory and it was.

While on the subject of Microlight records, by 1982 I had become the first person in the UK to obtain an F.I.A. Bronze Calibri Flying award for Microlights. (Federation Aeronautic International). By 1984 I had become the first person in the UK to be awarded the F.I.A. Silver Calibri Flying Award and was well on my way to becoming the first Gold Award. I was one of a group of three pilots who had obtained their Bronze and Silver Awards. We had all passed the necessary exams and where in the process of logging the necessary hours flying time in the air. One of the other pilots was Peter Troy Davies, who David Cook had employed as his test pilot for the Shadow Microlight he had designed and built. During which time I had become friends with him. Afraid to add that I cannot remember the name of the third person. Sad to say that within a few months I upped my whole family and we all moved out to emigrate to New Zealand. The third pilots name has deserted me for the time being. The reason I mention this is that the F.I.A. had previously announced that the first fifty pilots to gain the F.I.A. Gold Award, would have their names recoded for the whole world to see. An award I strongly believed I could have won? Although I have to admit that I never did find out who eventually won the race and became the First to be Awarded the Gold Award in the UK.


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