Photographs & Stories - Doug Mansfield
For one glorious year (mid 60-late 61), I served with 47 Sqn at Abingdon. This was my first posting after basic trade training at Yatesbury, Wiltshire (Now defunct and returned to farmland). On arriving at Abingdon, I just about ***t myself at the first sight of a Bev. I had never seen such a large aircraft and was filled with trepidation at the thought of working on one. My chosen trade was that of air radar mech and I was to service the G3, Tacan and Rebecca navigation radars, plus the IFF identification radar. Basically this involved changing black boxes when they failed to operate correctly.
During the first few days, I worked along side more knowledgeable tradesmen and soon learnt how to clamber into and over this gentle giant. What a thrill to climb out of the astrodome and walk along the spine of the tail boom or out onto those massive wings. Being over six foot in height, I had some difficulty in crawling down behind the engines or up and out the trap door in the middle of the tail plane, via the rear toilet compartment. Being up there was like being on top of the world, although it was somewhat dangerous if the wind was up, and a damn sight more so after a good frost later in the year.
Eventually the order came, "“Mansfield, go and marshal ‘XYZ’ in, and don’t put it on the grass”. Oh my God. I was shaking with fear. I raced out to the chosen parking bay and stood waiting for her to come along the taxi way. All too soon she arrived and I stuck my arms into the air holding my marshalling bats high and wide for the pilot to see. God, he’s going too fast, I thought, when do I start turning him? Too soon and he’ll be on the grass and sinking, too late and he might miss and put the other side on the grass or at the very least, give me a bollocking for making him turn too steep. I soon found out that those pilots didn’t take any notice of us erks and he started turning anyway. I went through the motions of marshalling and stopped him on the desired spot. He closed the engines down in his own sweet time and I sighed with relief. I was lucky in one way as normally we bought planes in through one bay, turned them across the rear of the pan then parked them facing out the next bay. I can't remember why this one was done differently.
One day during the winter and the ground was very soft after a lot of rain, we had it proven that the pilots did pretty much what they liked with regard to parking. A plane turned too soon and went off the tarmac. In a very short time it sank and got bogged. It had to be shut down in quick order and an embarrassed pilot climbed out. He tried to have a go at the marshaller but got a mouthful of rebuke from the more experienced corporal ground crew. Eventually the pilot could only go into the flight office with his tail between his legs as he had totally ignored frantic waving of the arms to stop the turn. It took two Centinal tractors in tandem to pull that plane out of the mud.
Over the period that I was there, I had my first two flights over to Germany. These were to bring army pongo’s (where the brown jobs go, the pong goes) home after maneuvers. Each of these flights has it’s own story.
My last contacts with a Beverleys were, many years later in Singapore, I watched as they literally chopped to pieces the remaining Bevs at Seletar, a heart breaking sight. And a visit to Southend airport where they had a display aircraft that was being decimated by uncontrolled youngers.
All in all, I loved my time with Beverleys, short though it was, and to me they are another 'unsung hero' of the R.A.F.