RAF Changi Far East Air Force Parachute School 1952 – 1959

The Far East Parachute School was formed in February 1952 to train personnel of 22 SAS, Rhodesian SAS, New Zealand SAS and Units of the Parachute Regiment. The first Chief Instructor was Flt. Lt. Stan Kellaway (below).
Photographs in this section courtesy of George Sizeland and Peter Hearn
Flt Lt. Stan Kellaway
Original team
Team 1956. Rear: Vic Williams, Ben Cass, George Sizeland, Red Summers. Front: Dinger Bell, J Barnden, Timber Wood, Errol Minter, Nobby Clark, Tommy Moloney
Changi Training hangar
Operation “Termite” https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/resources/video/operation-termite
TERMITE ss 11.52.23
Operation “Termite” 8 July 1954. D Sqn. 22 SAS mounting airfield Kuala Lumpur. PJI Sgt Ben Cass (despatcher) nearest the aircraft. Photo courtesy Irene Cass.
TERMITE ss enh
Ben Cass logbook extract for Operation Termite (above). Logbook  courtesy Bernard Cass
Tree dropping from Valetta

“The SAS had been trying several ideas to make jungle parachuting a practical proposition, but so far nothing worthwhile had emerged, the best was abseiling with a mountaineering rope, but this was painful and impossible with full kit. I could see an adaptation of this method might be possible and tried using two-inch parachute webbing. The man had to have some sort of harness on his body when he left the parachute harness so I produced a canvas ‘bikini’. We quickly decided that a webbing line from the suspended parachute harness to the ground was the basic ingredient, but we had to devise  safe braking system to lower him down that line. We got partial success, but eventually devised a buckle with three fixed and two adjustable braking surfaces that met the requirement and these were produced in quantity at Seletar.” (Extract “The Kellaway Saga” by Sqn.Ldr. Stan Kellaway, copy held in PTS museum).

BIKINI tree lowering gear specification

Ben Cass tree-lowering gear demo
New Zealand SAS 1956
Team 1957. Rear: Dinger Bell, Red Summers, Frank Gavin, Eric Naylor. Front: George Sizeland, Nobby Clark, Dick Mullins, Timber Wood, Terry Gray
4 Tonner with Timber Wood and Dick Mullins on the right
George Sizeland Valetta exit circa 1957. Dinger Bell on the left observing
AOC inspection: Red Summers, Dinger Bell, Terry Gray
First Beverley 1958: Dick Mullins, Ken Hester, Norman Pilling, George Sizeland, Red Summers, Dinger Bell, Terry Gray, Bob Uden, Eric Naylor. Despatcher Bill Coad  on right

TEAM 1958-59
Team 1958-59. Rear: Brian Jones, Peter Burgess, Frank Gavin, Terry Gray, Eric Naylor, Jimmy Whitworth. Front: Stan Roe, Dick Mullins, Bob Rhoden.

Far East Air Force Survival and Parachute School 1959 – 1971

circa 1967:68
Team circa. 1967-68. Rear: Frank Platts, Bob Kellow, Stan Roe, Ron Raby. Front: Mitch Crawford, Gordon Flint, Dave Thomas, Barry Furness, C/T Roberts (Radio op). Kneeling: Gardner (Engineer)
Jungle clearing featuring Snowy Robertson and Jim Hurford circa 1964. See also below. Photo courtesy Peter Hearn
Westland Whirlwind in clearing. Photo courtesy Peter Hearn
CHANGI c 1970
Team 1970. Rear: MT driver, Mel Read, Pete Penman, Bob Stephenson, Fred Cook, Bert King, Colin Blyth, MT driver. Front: Ralph Weavill, Les Evans, Ben Cass, John Thirtle, Jack Flint, John Boddington. The School closed down in May 1971
Skydive Singapore
FEAF 1963
Changi freefall demo team. Rear: Snowy Robertson, Mike Stamford. Front: Pilot. Andy Sweeney, Jake McLoughlin, Peter Hearn. Photo courtesy Peter Hearn
Demo team 1965: Peter Hearn,  Unknown, Mike Stamford, Snowy Robertson, Jake McLoughlin, Rhodesian unknown, Andy Sweeney
Peter Hearn, Snowy, and pilot Rudi prior takeoff  for demo at Paya Lebar International Airport August 1963. Photo courtesy Peter Hearn

Snowy on reserve at Paya Lebar demo. Not worried as main belonged to Jim Hurford

sports ground demo ss
Demo RAF Changi Padang circa 1965
jake argosy
Jake McLoughlin spotting the Argosy circa 1965. Note WDIs . Photos courtesy Sean McLoughlin

NEAF Parachute Medical Rescue Team Cyprus 1962 – 1966

RAF News
Hastings inbound over harbour
Rescue Drop Zone indicated
Tight DZ
Return to base. Sqn.Ldr. D. Brown (MO), Sgt. Rogers-Jones (Nursing attendant), Flt.Lt John King (MO), Flt.Lt. John Robinson (Team Leader), Cpl. Duncan (W.Op), Senior Tech. R. Brown (Nursing attendant)
January 1963. Guests of King Paul and Queen Frederika of Greece at the Tatoi Palace in Athens
Photograph courtesy James Duncan. See below
Personnel above – Facebook entry courtesy James Duncan
James Duncan with King Paul. Courtesy James Duncan

King Paul (centre) John Robinson at extreme left
British Embassy Athens. John Robinson on left

Kastellorizo Island today

RAF Akrotiri – Kastellorizo 200 miles
Author’s note: The despatcher on this sortie was Flight Sergeant Alf Card. He dropped the SIKI, spotted the aircraft and put the jumpers all onto the DZ. Here is his account from his book “It don’t mean a thing if you don’t pull the string!” published in 2002. 

“… Not long after my new boss arrived, we had our second callout. It was a request for aid from a Greek doctor on the island of Kastellorizon (sic), a Greek island just off the Turkish coast. Evidently, a young Greek lady was expecting her first child and the delivery was showing signs of complications. In addition, the doctor had few medical necessities to hand such as the need for blood plasma. Consequently the RAF in Cyprus were asked for their assistance. The weather was too bad for the Air-Sea Rescue launch to attempt a landing, the seas being very rough and coast very rocky. As their was an airstrip, it was decided to drop the Paramedics to render hat assistance they could. The actual date of the drop escapes me, for some reason I have not written it in my logbook. But, I know it was a few days before Christmas 1962.

We fitted our parachutes and loaded our supplies aboard the Hastings and took off for the island, arriving there early in the morning. The wind was within the dropping limit, I think about 12-15 mph at ground level. A quick ‘recce’ of the island showed that the only suitable place to drop was a small field quite close to the shore, which was extremely rocky. It was obvious that it was going to be very tricky indeed. The field looked no bigger than the average suburban back garden and was surrounded by a stone wall. Circling around, we ran in and dropped a dummy we had brought, this gave us an idea of the wind. Watching the dummy land, we made another run in and dropped the team leader. We had arranged to drop the rest of the team in pairs, starting with doctor Squadron Leader King and one of the nursing orderlies. Receiving the all clear from the boss on the ground, I checked each jumper’s kit and gave them what advice I could to help them. As each pair made their exit the skipper of the plane adjusted his drop to try and make sure that they all landed within the field. Fortunately, the wind stayed a steady 12mph and I could see they were all performing excellently, handling their parachutes like veterans.

Once the team had jumped, we made one more pass over the DZ and headed back to Akrotiri to standby in case they needed more supplies. I would have liked to have jumped, but their was no point in my jumping as there was nothing medically I could do. I would be far more use back at the base, assembling supplies if they were needed and should we need the Regiment, I would be on hand to get them ready. Word soon came back that everyone had landed safely, mother and baby were both well and that the team would be on their way back as soon as the weather improved, which it soon did, enabling the team to arrive back just in time for Christmas.

The whole operation had gone quite well, everyone was pleased, including the Greek government. From our point of view, my boss and I were very satisfied with the team’s performance. It is no easy thing to be hauled out of bed early in the morning, fly for a few hours and then jump out onto a strange DZ, especially such a tricky one as Kastellorizon. The lads themselves were quite pleased with their efforts, they felt it had all been worthwhile. There was some question as to the advisability of dropping the team, as it was felt (not by us) that really there was no need to have dropped them, supplies would have sufficed. Be that as it may, it was valuable practise for the team, had it been an aircraft down on the island, there is the possibility that they could have saved several lives.”

(Alf Card 2002)

Alf Card kitting up 1962

Alf made his final jump on the island onto the Ladies Mile DZ on 9 January 1963. Ironically he suffered a mid-air collision with another jumper at a height of some fifty feet and suffered a C class tibial fracture which ended his career. He had made 1003 descents.

Alf’s Final Logbook
Logbook Alf Card. Courtesy Graeme Card
Alf’s First Logbook
Courtesy Graeme Card. Note signatories

His replacement was Flight Sergeant Hughie (Dinger) Bell

28 copy
Flight Sergeant Hughie (Dinger) Bell, RAF Akrotiri 1963
Basic course RAF Akrotiri 1963
Wing PJI RAF Nicosia
RAF Akrotiri
Self with 70 Sqn. Loadmasters RAF Nicosia 1966

Salt Flats in winter, Ladies Mile RAF Akrotiri



Episkopi Bay 06.30hrs. Evdhimou DZ inland to the west
See above

Despatching 2 Field Squadron RAF Regiment



RAF El Adem 1966


The following month, Ted (Allen) had organised Exercise Sandfly, a training sortie out of Akrotiri for a DZ out in the Libyan Desert at Ras al Ilbah, some seventy miles west of Tobruk. We took off in Hastings 575 from RAF Nicosia at 02.40 with twenty team members on board, all with PWCs, plus Paul Hewitt as drifter. The loadmaster was Ivan Richardson of 70 Squadron and the pilot was Flight Lieutenant Chris Eddy. We arrived overhead the DZ at about 06.00, to see the smoke from the sodium DZ marker blowing horizontally across the rocky desert. Ted radioed up, surface wind 12 knots, clear drop. Round we went, and out went Paul on the green. A couple more dummy circuits, then, from the DZ: “Negative Drop, return to base”. The wind had gone above limits; Paul had landed in a rock-strewn wadi downwind and had sustained a broken leg. We returned to RAF El Adem intending to disembark and await the return of the DZ party and Paul. We came in to land and the touchdown was extremely heavy, the aircraft with twenty troops with full kit on board bounced an estimated thirty feet into the air and hit the runway again with the starboard undercarriage taking the impact. The oleo collapsed and we careered along the strip at an extreme angle, waiting for the starboard wingtip to dig in and send us into a giant cartwheel. At this stage, the port undercarriage collapsed also and the Hastings dropped level and carried along sliding on its belly, with the fuselage rapidly filling with a choking dust coming up through the floor. The aircraft skidded violently through a one hundred and eighty degree turn and finished up at rest on the rock-strewn earth parallel to the runway facing the way it had come. Seatbelts unfastened, we opened the port door and the troops started to clear the aircraft in short order. In an attempt to speed up the evacuation, I removed the starboard door, only to be confronted with a fireball from the starboard wing. I replaced the door with alacrity, and turned around to find myself on my own in the now deserted aircraft. I exited the port door at some speed and sprinted to join the rest of the troops and the crew a hundred metres away. By this time the fire crew had arrived and covered the starboard side with foam. Full credit for this most rapid response must go to the Corporal in charge of the Fire Section Duty Crew, who hit the alarm button the instant he saw the Hastings make first contact with the runway threshold. We flew back home the following day on a Britannia, leaving the Board of Inquiry to pick over the pieces.(Brevet pp.65- 66)

Hastings crash landing El Adem 4 May 1966. (Brevet p.66)

Skydive Cyprus

In 1951 the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group was sent to Cyprus, but soon became involved in maintaining the security of the Suez Canal Zone between 1951-4. PJIs George Munro, Busty Alderman and Roger Gibbard were among the Pitts Road contingent and took the freefall opportunity at Nicosia airfield, beating us to it by some twelve years… (see below)

PJIs George Munro, Busty Alderman and Roger Gibbard

Anson emplane – with PJI despatcher Danny Sutton

 The Cyprus Combined Services Parachute Club

On 2nd September 1963 I left the UK for a three- year tour at RAF Nicosia in Cyprus. On posting, my terms of reference included giving support to the Near East Air Force Parachute Rescue Team and No. 3 (LAA) Wing RAF Regiment, both based at Akrotiri. The Officer in charge of the NEAF Rescue Team was Flight Lieutenant John Robinson with Flight Sergeant Hughie (Dinger) Bell as his number two. This rescue team comprised medical and mountain rescue personnel, with the RAF Regiment in support. Another friend was Flight Sergeant George Bruce, ex PTS, who was running the Mountain Rescue Team, at that time also based with me at Nicosia. This now made four qualified active PJIs on the island. Six days after arriving at Nicosia I excused myself from the PTIs and their Olympic swimming pool and flew down to Akrotiri to meet John Robinson, Dinger, and the rest of the team who shared a headquarters and parachute training compound with 3 Wing. This was a most fruitful meeting indeed as it rapidly became apparent that John was massively keen to start freefall training on the island. All they needed was kit and an instructor, and it just so happened that I had brought out four B4 rigs with me to Cyprus, being my share of the now defunct Kidlington Skydivers Parachute School. My apprenticeship was over, and within two weeks we had a freefall programme up and running.

This opportunity arrived with my first day’s work at Akrotiri on 27th September. Because of air traffic considerations all parachute programmes had to be completed by 08.00 hrs, and in consequence I flew out from Nicosia at 04.30 in a 70 Squadron Hastings on my first sortie as despatcher for RAF Regiment personnel, a static line programme on to the Ladies Mile DZ. I had previously asked Chris Eddy, the Hastings captain, if there was any chance we could do some freefall jumping once the troops had gone. He proved most enthusiastic and gave John Robinson and myself a perfect run in at 5,000 feet as a final pass…. Over the next three weeks John Robinson, Dinger Bell, George Bruce and myself made half a dozen freefall jumps from the Hastings after the static line troops had been despatched, before the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) at NEAF HQ heard about it and promptly banned the practice, deeming, quite correctly of course, that we were using non-Service equipment and had no authority whatsoever…. Nonetheless, an abiding memory remains of a solo jump from 10,000 feet at seven o’clock one morning over the Ladies Mile beach DZ. I had despatched Dinger on a five second delay and the Hastings went up to the top with only myself and the loadmaster left in the back. We ran in over Limassol bay, the green light came on just past the shoreline, and I left the starboard door with the whole sky to myself. The Akrotiri runway was over to the left, the base itself was fringed with dark green orange groves, the salt flats glittered ahead in the clear early morning sunlight and I went into a no-lift dive then tracked all the rest of the way down, just because I could. Fabulous experience. Opened at 2,000 feet, nil wind, and I hit the sand a half metre from the target centre. I had been on the island for five weeks and it was only going to get better.

…The intervention of the SASO meant we had to seek elsewhere to continue our freefall programmes, so naturally we looked to the Army. 16 Flight Army Air Corps were based at Kingsfield in the Dhekalia Sovereign Base Area, on the east coast about sixty miles from Nicosia, and two weeks after the RAF embargo we were operating again. The AAC already had much experience in dropping jumpers and the CO, Captain Pete Courtnay, had welcomed us with enthusiasm…

… Now that we had access to aircraft and to an unrestricted DZ at Kingsfield airstrip in the Sovereign Base Area we were confident we could form ourselves into the Cyprus Combined Services Parachute Club. The founder members were George Bruce and myself from Nicosia and John Robinson from Akrotiri. Right from the beginning we were almost overwhelmed with volunteer student jumpers, the first of whom were members of George’s mountain rescue team. In view of our limited resources we had decided from the outset that only parachute-trained personnel could be accepted for freefall instruction. In addition, the landing area was the end of the airstrip itself, and consisted of hard compressed gravel, demanding good proven landing technique. Our opening training programme took place on the 1200 metre Kingsfield strip on the 16th of November 1963, and, as we had no accommodation on the airstrip, all the parachutes were stored in the RAF Nicosia Safety Equipment Section. We had a good friend there in Jerry Hoyt, who gave us hanging space and the use of his packing tables. Every Saturday morning I would leave Nicosia at 06.00 and drive the sixty miles to Dhekalia with the gear. Meanwhile, John Robinson plus George Bruce and his team, now relocated to Akrotiri, would rendezvous at the airfield at 07.30. We would jump for about three hours until the sea breeze went above limits, then repack for the next session. George’s mountain rescue team would often then proceed north for an exercise in the Kyrenia mountains. In all, we were to complete six sessions before Christmas…

(Brevet pp. 56-59)

Mountain Rescue Team on Pentadactylos, Kyrenia range
As above: Chris Shorrocks on left.

A further significant development occurred when, in February 1964, No. 2 Field Squadron (Para) RAF Regiment was deployed to Nicosia, under the command of Squadron Leader Gerry Wilson. Gerry was unique in the Service in that, along with the RAF Regiment shoulder badge he wore pilot’s wings, parachute wings, and the ribbon of the Military Cross with which he was awarded for gallantry in the Yemen in 1958. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ obituaries/military-obituaries/air-force-obituaries/8832548/Wing- Commander-Gerry-Wilson.html.

Gerry proved to be a most useful ally indeed as he joined us at Kingsfield as a club member on our return there later in the summer, and the following year he was to be elected as Club Chairman. Meanwhile we had obtained funding for the Club to purchase Irvin Skydriver 9 TU canopies to replace our old C9s. These Irvin canopies were the UK version of the American Conquistador TU canopies, and were 1. 6oz low porosity nylon fabric with a 9-gore separation. At last we were all equipped with bespoke canopies to replace the government surplus 1. 1oz ripstop parachutes which had served us so well for the past three years.

(Brevet p.61)

Club members Kingsfield Airstrip Dhekalia 1964. SqnLdr Gerry Wilson, Tony Dale, John Robinson. George Bruce is next but one to John

Self in rear of Auster with Bill Ramey in front. George Bruce on the strut

Irvin Skydriver 9

George Bruce and self Dhekalia demo 6 November 1965

Lineup and salute. Willie Reed collects the canopies

The situation was to turn dramatically on Saturday 21st December when violence broke out between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island. This rapidly escalated into a full scale conflict, and, by the 28th of December the Cyprus garrison had been reinforced by the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment and the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade Group. Deployed with the latter were 21 Recce Flight Army Air Corps, to be based at RAF Nicosia. The island was partitioned with the Turks to the north and the Greeks in the south and the so-called Green Line running through the centre of Nicosia. After four weeks the situation had stabilised sufficiently for the visiting Army sport jumpers to get together and consider jumping in any spare time they might have. Many of my old friends from the UK Army teams were now right on the doorstep – Captain Tom Ridgeway, Leo McArdle, Bob Reid, Jim Walmsley, Mike Turner, and Pete Paganelli among them. By March 1964 all visiting forces had been transferred to United Nations command (UNFICYP) and exchanged their red berets for UN blue, and Tom had organised a Beaver for jumping on the airfield. In April Tom’s UN team gave a demo into the station sports arena for a 70 Squadron party, 7,000 feet from the Beaver with smoke, whilst I was given an honorary UN blue beret for the occasion.(Brevet p.60)

U.N. AAC Beaver, training sortie RAF Nicosia 1964. Pilot, Maxie Blackburn, student jumper, Self, Jim Walmsley, Bob Reid

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 15.34.31
Bob Reid in the Beaver; note Chalon patch
Bob exit RAF Nicosia 10,000ft
Self demo landing RAF Nicosia Sports Arena 22 April 1964
UN Demo Team as above: Tom Ridgeway, Pete Paganelli, Leo McArdle, Bob Reid, Self
Self, George Bruce and Bob Garrett (on detachment) Nicosia 1964
BREVET pic 34
With Tony Dale and Auster pilot Dave Jackson RAF Nicosia 20 February 1965. Cyprus height record to date 11,600′  (Brevet p. 77)

In September we heard that the Parachute Regiment Display Team – Red Devils (alias Red Freds) http://www.red-devils-fft.com – were due to visit Bahrain to give a series of demonstration jumps. 1 Para were at the time serving with the Bahrain garrison, and John Robinson organised a short detachment over there for himself, George and me, ostensibly for a triangular competition against the two Army teams. We flew over early in October to meet up with Geordie Charlton, on detachment from Pitts Road with 1 Para, and Leo McArdle, a very good friend from the previous year. The Red Devils’ own DH Rapide G-AGTM, was flown out from Farnborough to Bahrain, via Lebanon and all points east, a flight which took seven days. The aircraft was heavily laden with a complete public address system for the shows, also as passenger on board was the pilot’s wife, who was reportedly eight months pregnant. The couple settled in a local hotel to recuperate, and handed over the Rapide for team training at the Zallaq airstrip on the west coast of the island, about fifteen miles from the capital Al Manamah.

(Brevet p.63)

Red Devils lineup in front of Rapide. L-r Jim Walmsley with bergen, Brian David, Ernie Rowberry, Charlie Gowans, Gus Martin, Keith Jones, Jack Fowler. Photo by the author.
Zallaq airstrip. Self standing left, Geordie Charlton standing right. Freds kneeling in front.
In the Rapide. Geordie Charlton and Keith Jones at the rear. Graham Cathro and Ossie Power in front.
M ss 2
PTS Detachment Muharraq, Bahrain, 1965. Sitting l-r Jesse Pye, George Hill, Paddy Wall, Alan Wardle; Geordie Charlton standing. Photo courtesy Brian Smith (Paddy’s nephew) and John Griffiths.
RAF Akrotiri 1964
RAF Akrotiri NEAF Staff demo 25 October 1965, Sqn. Ldr. Gerry Wilson, Self, George Bruce, John Robinson, pilot Chris Yates (Brevet p.77)
RAF Nicosia 18 Jan 1966. Cyprus height record 12,700ft. With PJI George Bruce and DZ Controller Flt. Lt. Pete Addis (right)

My last jump on the island was, fittingly enough, from a 70 Squadron Hastings, this time totally legal and authorised, using an Irvin PB4 on to the Ladies Mile DZ. During my three years at Nicosia I had completed three hundred parachute descents on the island, and, considering this was officially a PTI duty tour, I had no complaints at all. My family, too, had benefited enormously; despite the travel restrictions imposed by the Emergency we had travelled the length and breadth of this beautiful island, sunned ourselves on its beaches north, east and south, from the panhandle to Paphos. We had explored the Troodos and Kyrenia mountains in winter and in summer, and returned to the UK after three happy years in the sunshine. All in all, a tour to remember, but it was time to return to the Parachute School and to mainstream jumping.

(Brevet p.67)