Freefall parachuting – the beginnings, 1954

“Although ad-hoc delayed opening descents had been made at PTS with manually operated parachutes in the early 1950’s, (a flavour of which can be found in this fascinating narrative from John Saxby, OC 2 PTS in 1947:

“- it seems a long time ago when Stannard and I tried out a free fall from 10,000 feet at Aqir in Palestine in 1947 using wrist watches.  I was about to hand over command of No 2 PTS and proceed on demobilisation and it seemed a jolly end to my RAF career.  Group Captain Geoffrey Wood was the Station Commander and took a bit of persuading. Before I left Stannard and I took a Dakota up to 10,000 feet over the station, Aqir – bloody cold – to let them all see what a drop looked like.  Our usual DZ was Yibna some miles away.  At 1000 feet as I remember the school instructors did a demonstration jump with Statichutes as usual, and at 10,000 feet Stannard and I baled out wearing standard Pilot Type parachutes. I spent a lot of the previous night trying to be sure that my maths was right – 120mph = feet per second ??? = how long dare I wait ???   We used our wrist watches to time the drop before pulling the release.  Knowing no better I adopted the standard exit position and reached TV in that position – surprised to feel myself ‘standing’ in the air with the wind whistling past but no feeling of falling – how naive we were.  But then I began to tumble and was sick, remembering to keep my boots out of the way!  Finally I saw Stannard’s parachute deploy and decided to rely on his maths and deployed my own”)

… the first formal recognition occurred when Sir Raymond Quilter, co-founder of GQ Parachute Company, approached No 1 PTS in 1954 asking for jumpers to train for the forthcoming World Parachute Championships. After four weeks training (from scratch!) in basic freefall techniques six instructors were selected for the British team at this second WPC which was to be held at the former French National Parachute Centre, St. Yan, (Saône-et-Loire). They were Flt Lt Doddy Hay, Sgts Alf Card, Danny Sutton, Timber Wood, Norman Hoffman and Tommy Moloney (Below)

2nd WPC. Dumbo Willans, Arthur Harrison,Tommy Moloney, Norman Hoffman, Alf Card, Timber Woods, Doddy Hay and Danny Sutton
Alf Card logbook – freefall training 1954
Logbook extract courtesy Graeme Card
Brian Jones, Danny Sutton, Alf Card, Bert Shearer, Norman Hoffman: Hastings emplane with GQ freefall rigs, training jump 2 July 1954. See logbook above. Photo courtesy Graeme Card
Weston landing: note the position of the GQ single blank gore…
1954 WPC  Poster
British Team Pennant
British Team at St Yan
GQ Single blank gore canopy used by the British team

At this competition the British team were the only jumpers using a ‘steerable’ canopy, as above. The positioning of the blank gore was designed to reduce forward right drift on landing, and was quickly seen as totally unsuitable as an accuracy canopy. Subsequent versions – used up to 1961 at PTS – had the single blank positioned in the rear.

Alf Card Competitor licence

The team returned from France without any medals, but having gained valuable experience in terms of freefall techniques, canopy handling and free fall equipment. Disappointment ensued as the then PTS establishment showed little interest in developing these new ideas, it being felt that there was no requirement for freefall jumping in the Service. The parachutes were returned to GQ, and the cadre dissolved. Only two men had other ideas, which they were determined to put into practice.The prime movers in taking freefall jumping forward at PTS were Alf Card and Norman Hoffman. obituaries/1443195/Norman-Hoffman.html.”

Alf Card
Norman Hoffman

On their own initiative, Alf and Norman formed a weekend group operating at Weston using the 47 Squadron Flying Club Tiger Moth as the sole jump aircraft.

Tiger at RAF Abingdon. Gerry Schellong second left

The pilot was Master Signaller Gerry Schellong, a Czech national, who had survived Russian internment, then escaped from occupied Czechoslovakia to serve in the RAF as a fighter pilot during WW2. The fledgling club attracted a lot of interest, mainly from the younger staff members, although the number of parachutes available was limited, as was jump altitude. Most unfortunately this venture survived only for a few months before they had a fatality and the club was forced to close. The jumper was ex Flight Lieutenant Neil Perry, recently retired as a PJI. He over-delayed from 2500 feet, pulling at about three hundred, with the inevitable consequences. Progress stagnated until 1959 when Alf started an operation at Kidlington airfield with Keith Teesdale and Pete Denley. Alf stored the parachutes in the coal shed of his Married Quarter.

(Brevet pp.10-12)

At about the same time, Norman formed the British Skydivers with jumpers from Boscombe Down operating out of Thruxton.

British Skydivers Demo Team Thruxton 1959. l-r Norman Hoffman, Jake McLouglin, Dennis Lee, Geordie Charlton, Mike McArdle
British Skydivers Team  emplane in the De Havilland Rapide: Hoffman, McArdle, Lee, Charlton, McLoughlin


No 1 PTS  continued to provide jumpers for following WPCs in 1958 (Czechoslovakia) and 1960 (Bulgaria).

1958 ss copy
4th WPC Bratislava. Jake McLoughlin, then at Boscombe Down, on the right. Photo from Mike Reilly “Alone in the Sky” 1963

British Team 5th WPC Sofia, Bulgaria 1960. Peter Hearn, Mike Reilly, Dennis Lee, Geordie Charlton, Alf Card kneeling. Photo courtesy Graeme Card
5th WPC. Loy Brydon USA Team Golden Knights with Conquistador Canopy

Self, C Hangar repack job 1962. Photograph by my father
My USA military surplus C9 canopy modified to a 5-gore TU configuration. Demo jump at Farmers Cross airfield, County Cork, 22 July 1962. Note spectator incursion
With Dave Francombe on British Skydivers demo as above (Brevet pp. 46-7). Photographs courtesy Cork Examiner
Press cutting
Norman Hoffman and Mary Lawlor
Problem for Jake
Jake playing the crowd

During this whole period, as mentioned above, in parallel with our work at PTS, Norman Hoffman had formed his own Display Team, the British Skydivers, operating under BPA regulations. Norman, Jake, Tommy, Geordie Charlton and I were jumping each free weekend and competing in the annual National Championships with some success and representing Great Britain at World and International Championships from 1961 onwards. In June of that year we entered a junior and a senior team in the International European Championships at Leutkirch in Allgau in southern Germany. Dave Francombe and myself were in the junior team, with John Thirtle and Jake McLoughlin in the seniors.

Leutkirch certificate
Seniors: John Thirtle, Les Howe, Jake McLoughlin
Juniors: Jeremy Johnson, Self, Dave Francombe



JT H34.ssjpg
John Thirtle pre-emplane H34
KOHNKE ss enh
Windspringer (Drifter) Leutkirch 1961 with Kohnke triangular canopy
Training Interlude – April 1963

In April 1963 Geordie Charlton and I decided to book ourselves an advanced parachute course in France, and one week after my comeback at Weston I travelled with Geordie to the French regional parachute centre at Chalon-sur-Saône to complete my rehabilitation and get back up to speed. My suitcase had been packed for a week. We travelled overnight by train, arriving at the Centre on the morning of the third of April and were suitably impressed by the sight of the neat low-roofed white buildings of the airfield alongside the RN6, just north of the town. We booked in at reception, had our logbooks and licences checked, then were sent back down town for a medical. This achieved, we returned to complete the formalities and purchase the compulsory insurance. We were assigned to complete a course (Perfectionnement) of advanced manoeuvres; tomorrow we were to start.

It was immediately obvious to us both that the organisation and professionalism of this Centre was far in advance of anything we had in the UK. Chalon was one of the first regional centres to be opened under the National Civil Aviation Secretariat, and was thus state subsidised. On-site accommodation was free of charge; the only cost was for the jumps, inclusive of rig hire, which cost 17/6d (roughly 87p) for 2,500 metres, which was 8,200 feet. Bunkhouse and showers were spotlessly clean; there were offices, classrooms, a games room/bar and a packing room with twelve double tables. All student working areas were kept clean by us, the course students, YHA style. The Chief Instructor was Claude Bernard, a complete professional, who had three thousand jumps to his credit and who was also, as I was to discover, a quiet and effective disciplinarian. His instructional staff were Mingam, Rougebec and Kazmaryk. That evening we were both issued with EFA 650 assemblies(single blank gores) and shown how to pack; a far cry indeed from our own self- modified government surplus equipment. The following morning we boarded the Rapide, which was itself a revelation with an inflight door and bench seats, refinements unheard of in the 1963 UK. The aircraft was flown by Monsieur Distival, a taciturn and diminutive figure sporting a cloth cap, and wearing an ancient back type parachute. Jumpmaster Kazmaryk briefed the pilot: “Monsieur Distival s’il vous plait; un passage à six cent, un passage à mille cinq et un à deux mille, parallèle à la route, direction Chagny; huit personnes à bord, on peut y aller”. With eight jumpers on board we rolled and bumped along the grass strip parallel to the N6 and lifted off in a tight left hand turn, away from the river Saône glinting away to the east. We ran in at 2,000 feet over the airfield, north toward Chagny with the railway track on our left, for the Siki run…

(Brevet pp 49-50)


Chalon Parachute Centre 1963
Chief Instructor Claude Bernard
Kazmaryk debrief, Claude Bernard standing. Self and Geordie on left, next to window
Packing hall
Course April 1963.Charlton left of the door, self on left, standing behind Rougbec and Kazmaryk. Claude Bernard centre with shades
Mike Turner, Geordie Charlton, Self


Charlton (white jumpsuit) training jump followed by Chief Instructor Claude Bernard
Self Hollywood exit 8200 feet Chalon


656 ss
EFA 656 canopy


DZ Control
PLF training
Guy Stimbre

Self logbook Chalon April 1963

Later that same year, in June, Norman Hoffman, Geordie Charlton and myself again represented Great Britain in the European competition, again in Leutkirch, and took gold medals in the team event, against strong opposition including the US Army team, the Golden Knights.

… In the event, wind speeds were particularly light for the eight days of the competition, which consisted of four team and four individual accuracy jumps. Top two teams after three rounds were the Golden Knights and ourselves; on round four we jumped first and were all inside the five metre scoring circle, sitting in first place. We were standing watching as the big H34 lifted off to 5,000 feet for the last round with the Golden Knights on board. Prior to take off the wind, although only about five knots, had switched 180 degrees. We watched with disbelief as the Yanks ran in downwind and exited some five hundred metres the wrong side of the target. As Fortenberry, the lead jumper, passed over the control tower at five hundred feet and one hundred metres short he took off his helmet and hurled it to the ground in sheer frustration… . I treasure my first gold medal to this day. For the record we also took silver as second overall in the combined events.

1963 medals
Accuracy Gold Medal, Team Overall Silver

On our return to Abingdon, we were summoned to the OC’s office, presumably to receive official congratulations. Wrong. In company with Jake and Snowy, we were summarily given to understand that we would all be posted off PTS at the first available opportunity, the reason given being that, in the opinion of the OC, we had been around the Parachute Training School for long enough. Wing Commander Bernard F. Stannard was undeniably the boss and, by the end of the year, Norman had gone to Kenya, Geordie to Aldershot, Jake and Snowy to Singapore and I was on my way to Cyprus. With Peter Hearn also posted to Singapore, and Tommy commissioned into the RAF Regiment, the diaspora of the sport jumpers from the hangar was complete…

… Meanwhile, pace the OC, at PTS all our sporting initiatives had not been in vain. Moves were underway to create an official RAF Abingdon Sport Parachute Club, presumably on the premise that if you can’t beat them, join them. Under the chairmanship of Squadron Leader Mike Stamford this Club came into being in August at Weston on the Green.We had taken delivery of a de Havilland DH89 Dominie trainer from the Royal Naval Air Service, at a cost of £400. 00. This princely sum included numerous spares, including two extra engines. On 28th August 1963, with Mike Stamford running the programme we flew three inaugural lifts, two at 5,000 feet and a final lift to 7,000 feet. Jumpers were Norman Hoffman, Tommy Moloney, Jake McLoughlin, Geordie Charlton, Robbie Robertson (“Big Rab”, not Snowy) Mike Stamford and myself. Our pilot for the day was 47 Squadron Beverley captain Flight Lieutenant Crawley. The RAF Abingdon Sport Parachute Club, later to become the Royal Air Force Sport Parachute Association, was born.

(Brevet pp 53-55)

RAF Sport Parachute Club Weston 1964. Back row l-r: Brian Jones, Mike Stamford, Robbie Robertson,Norman Hoffman, Pilot Gerry Schellong. Kneeling front: Geordie Charlton, Brian Clarke-Sutton, Dave Francombe, Tommy Moloney

British National Champions 1964. Geordie Charlton, Norman Hoffman, Gerry Schellong, Brian Clarke-Sutton, Tommy Moloney
CISM Inaugural Parachute Event 15-23 June 1964 PAU
CISM enh ss
Competing Nations
CISM 1964 ss
PTS Instructors Brian Clarke-Sutton, Tommy Moloney, Norman Hoffman, John Thirtle, Geordie Charlton

Team nominal rolls 1964. Courtesy President CISM Parachuting Committee Colonel Gernot Rittenschober
Overall Team results. Courtesy Col. Rittenschober
Sikorsky Uh 34 jumpship
French competitor exit
Screen Shot 2019-02-26 at 15.25.13
TU Canopy

CISM 1954 HODs ss
Heads of Delegation. John Thirtle middle row third right
CISM TODAY – 2020    
Courtesy CISM
Fast forward 1968
British National Championships Netheravon 1968
BPA Magazine August 1968

Geordie Charlton Weston 1968
Team training Rhine Army Parachute Centre Bad Lippspringe August 1968
RAPA DH Rapide.
Brit Team: Self, Charlton, Peter Schofield (Head of Delegation), Mike Turner (Coach), Dave Savage. Kneeling Ken Mapplebeck, Brian David
PTS jumpers Ken Mapplebeck, Geordie Charlton, Self
Day off at the Möhne Dam.
Möhne See

IXth WPC Graz 1968

Clock Tower Graz city centre
Brauhaus Puntigam


 World Parachute Championships poster

The competition area was in a clearing some five hundred metres to the west of the main runway, backing on to a wooded area. The target area is still there to be seen today, forty-five years later. The team tents of the twenty-six competing nations were ranged in a semi circle one hundred metres from the target centre. The aircraft in use were Antonov AN2s from the USSR, the DDR, and Czechoslovakia. We made one practice jump on the Saturday; then we had a three-day hold until the organisers and judges finally got their act together, and finalised the rules and conditions. International competition was still in its relative infancy, rules were still being updated and developed year on year. The points-based scoring system remained unnecessarily complicated; in accuracy for example, 250 points were awarded for a dead centre and points deducted for each centimetre off the disc. The dead centre disc was 15cm in diameter and everything was measured manually, a fichet being placed at the first point of contact. The electronic pad was still six years in the future. The Style event was similarly points based. A further anachronism was in competition management, in that the individual accuracy event was just that – each competitor jumped on his or her own individual pass for four rounds. Team Accuracy was a separate event, comprising three rounds, four jumpers per team. It was not until several years later that the International Parachuting Commission (CIP) adopted the International Military Sports Council(CISM) rules in that Team Accuracy and Individual were combined, individual results being extrapolated from the team scores. With 26 nations competing, comprising 129 male and 53 female competitors that made for a lot of go-arounds for the Antonovs to finish the four-round Individual Event. Under these conditions it was not surprising that the competition took two weeks to complete. At the end, the Meet was dominated by the USA and the Soviets, who took first and second places overall respectively, with the DDR in third place. Canada was fourth and Czechoslovakia was fifth, whilst the Brits achieved their best result so far with sixth position out of 26 teams in the World Overall standings. Whilst the Soviets dominated the Style event, the USA had marginally superior accuracy jumpers. This notwithstanding, the latter were comprehensively outjumped by the Czechs, using the KRAS PTCH-7. Czech jumper Jaroslav Kalous won the male Individual Accuracy with four DCs, after a dramatic three round jump-off with Australian Colin King; Helena Tomsikova won the female Accuracy, and the Czech female team took the Team Accuracy event. Only a disastrous first- round jump pushed the Czech male team into 15th place in Team Accuracy. This certainly worked to our advantage as we achieved the first-ever British medal at a World Meet, coming in bronze position behind the DDR and the USA. Geordie scored two dead centres and a 17cm in this event. The camaraderie between competitors was exceptional, although there was a poignant interlude at dinner one evening, when the Czech team appeared as a group in silent protest as Soviet armour rolled into Prague on the night of 20th–21st August. We Brits made friendships, in particular with the Czech competitors, which endure to the present day; and Ivo Skotak loaned me a PTCH 7 to jump on the closing ceremony. Following the medal presentation Mike collected in our jumpsuits to return to the BPA office, and we headed for home the following morning with abiding memories of a great competition experience in the most beautiful Styrian landscape, of many new friends, and of the outstanding hospitality of our hosts.

(Brevet pp. 90-92)

Czech PTCH 7 canopy over target area
Elegant precision: Barbara Roquemore USA
And again: Billy Lockward USA
Contrasting styles – big reach, front risers…
Swiss Team jump
Team tents
French team tent
Soviet team
Antonov jumpships
Czech team kitup
Czech jumper Jaroslav Kalous emplane for demo jump
Czech jumpmaster Ivo Skotak

Czech demo exit 10,000 Graz Thalerhof Airfield
Target area
Ken and Geordie with Czech team
Female Accuracy Champion Helena Tomsikova CSSR
Jaroslav Kalous repack
Colin King (Australia) after round 4
King and Kalous
Jaroslav Kalous disc after final jump off. Ivo Skotak on right
Spectator tribune
World Accuracy Champion 1968 Jaroslav Kalous CSSR with King (Australia) second and Dupin (France) third
Geordie Charlton
First British medals at a WPC – Team Accuracy. Geordie, Ken, Self

46 years on. Photo courtesy Paul Charlton 2014
Ivo Skotak, Geordie Charlton, Czech coach Boszick
Boszick, Self, Geordie, Ivo Skotak
Styrian landscape, taken after closing banquet
Antonov sunset

We returned to the crew room after a few days off, with a sense of déjà vu. Life continued at PTS and, medals or no medals, the main task remained. The team split up, Geordie was scheduled for Hereford, and Ken went to Cyprus; whilst I, having been promoted at the beginning of July, was back on the floor as a Syndicate Flight Sergeant. I would rate 1967–68 as the most intensive period of jumping of my career; in all I made over six hundred descents, a respectable number for that era. I would also rate Geordie and Ken as the best two individual competitors the School has ever produced. Geordie represented Great Britain at four World Championships, Ken at three. Both possessed a fiercely competitive instinct and it would be invidious to separate them in terms of ability. Suffice it to say we enjoyed an unforgettable two years together, and that Ken and I would continue to work together in the international arena for many more.

(Brevet p.92)


We returned from the World Parachute Championships in time for what was left  of the PTS stand down, and for the next twelve months I was fully employed on Basic Training Squadron as a syndicate Flight Sergeant. The C130 Hercules was now coming in to replace the Argosy, and from September 1968 until April the next year most of my jumps were military static line, working on balloon programmes, Hercules aircraft drills and jumping the Mk 4 PX canopy with the net skirt. In April, the club opened at Weston again for business, we had quite a few promising young competitors, not only from the PJI ranks but also airmen from Abingdon and other neighbouring units. From the middle of July Geordie and I ran a training camp at Weston as a lead up to the Nationals; this was to pay off handsomely, as the RAF team swept the board at Netheravon in August, winning both the Team Accuracy and Team Overall event. The team was John Robinson and Tony Dale (PJIs), plus Mike Deakin, Tony Born, Dave Brewin and Bob Swainson, with myself as coach. Our best jumper was Tony Born, placed 4th in Style and 4th overall. Tony continued to work hard at his jumping, and next year was to earn his place along with Geordie on the National team at the 1970 WPC in Bled.

(Brevet p.105)

Team training Weston July: OC Weston Peter Williams, Station Commander Gp. Capt. Thompson, Self, Bob Swainson, Tony Born, Dave Brewin, John Robinson, Mike Deakin, Tony Dale

Netheravon 1969
Nationals Netheravon August: Self Team coach. BPA Secretary General Bill Paul on right
RAFSPA Overall Team Winners: Bob Swainson, Tony Born, Tony Dale, John Robinson, RAF Abingdon Station Commander Gp.Capt. Thompson, Mike Deakin, Self

RAFSPA 1972 – 1977

When we returned to Abingdon after the Falcons final Hongkong demos, the boss called me into his office…. Peter Hearn asked me to work full time at Weston to expand and upgrade the weekend Royal Air Force Sport Parachute Club into a full time Centre. This was a dream job indeed. We were now to run parachute courses for service personnel under the auspices of the new Adventure Training Scheme, with the following remit:

“The aim of Adventure Training courses is to provide an opportunity for personnel to participate in adventurous activities which are challenging and involve controlled exposure to risk. The training is designed to develop many of the personal attributes and skills vital to operational capability, including leadership, teamwork, physical fitness, self-reliance, physical and moral courage, initiative and determination. This aim will be met through the medium of training in basic static line and freefall parachuting. ”

All the basic facilities were of course already in place; now the Club was to be expanded into a full time Association. The directing staff were Flight Lieutenant Peter Burgess, OC Weston, as Association Secretary, and Flying Officer Peter Smout as officer in charge. Snowy Robertson and myself were to provide the experience and freefall expertise. I handed over the Falcons to Andy Sweeney, put on my tracksuit, and headed for Weston…

(Brevet p.138)

WOTG 1976 ss
Weston-on-the-Green Dropzone
RAFSPA jumpship DH89A Dragon Rapide 1972. Photos Mike Hand
Ken Mapplebeck briefing, with Terry Cooke

Terry Cooke, landing training
C9 canopy Weston
Irvin Talisman reserve canopy Weston 25 March 1972. Photo by the author
The morning after, 06.30 hrs: Rapide pilot John Stappard ponders the aftermath of a competitor’s disappointing first round…

RAFSPA pilot Gerry Schellong receiving presentation from Air Marshal Fred Sowery 1972
British Team Heathrow, en route for XIth World Parachute Championships USA July 1972
Ken Mapplebeck, Brian Standring. John Kemley, Bill Paul, Dave Savage, Bob King, John and Sue Meacock. Photographs by the author.
Arrival New York City. Dave Savage, Brian Standring, John Kemley, Ken Mapplebeck, John Meacock, Bob King
British Team Training Camp Raeford North Carolina July 1972
Bob King, Sooty Standring, Self, Paul Keith Thacker (R.I.P.), John Meacock, Ken Mapplebeck, John Kemley, Dave Savage. RAF personnel in bold throughout

Raeford target area

John Kemley debriefing by Gene Paul Thacker
C182 emplane Sooty Standring, Ken Mapplebeck, Bob King
Ken Mapplebeck Cessna exit
self raeford exit ss
Self follow out

En route to Talequah from Raeford. Ken Mapplebeck in the door
talequah ss final
Team pennant

… Further practice jumps were made during the week and as the days went by various impedimenta appropriate to a parachute Meet, such as windsock, telemeters, and anemometer began to arrive and were assembled in the vicinity of the pit. The National Guard erected a field kitchen and a spectators’ stand was put up to augment the plentiful bales of hay. Much in evidence also were the American national team with their highly vocal entourage who had, presumably all together, been training on site for the previous four weeks and who were displaying impressive accuracy with Papillons and Mk 3 Para Commanders in national colours. Spectre at the feast was American National Style Champion Roy Johnson compete with plaster and crutches, having contrived to break a leg in training the previous week. On Friday evening the hosts suffered a further setback when the World Championships Friendship Saloon was raided by the local constabulary in the middle of a welcome party, State alcohol regulations apparently having been contravened, and the Assistant Meet Director, Lenny Potts, was incarcerated in the local nick. This unfortunate occurrence detracted somewhat from the festivities but it was confidently asserted that the Opening Ceremony on the morrow would fully vindicate the Organisation and bring some sense of order to the proceedings. Alas to relate, the said Opening Ceremony passed off unnoticed by ninety percent of the teams, perspiring dutifully in their tracksuits and waiting in vain for someone, anyone, to tell them what was going on. The serious business began on Sunday 6th August with the first round of Team Accuracy in marginal conditions with winds at altitude in excess of 20 metres/sec and the met information over one hour old. Undisturbed by the spectacle of the American women’s team fast disappearing over the brow of a nearby hill, Meet Director Heaton attempted to order the British team aboard the helicopter with the met now 90 minutes overdue. His suggestion was, however, firmly resisted until the necessary details arrived to indicate opening points of 1200 and 2400 metres for first and fourth respectively with fifteen degrees variation to boot. This information was superbly exploited by the team who opened their bid for honours with consecutive dead centres from Mapplebeck, King and Standring with Meacock a shade short on 1.12m.

(Brevet pp.281-282)

British Delegation at Talequah. Rear: Brian Standring, John Kemley Ken Mapplebeck, John Meacock. Front: Bob King, Alan ‘Doc” Johnson Head of Delegation, Self,  Dave Savage
Standby for Opening Ceremony, with Czech team. From left: John Kemley, Bob King, Ken Mapplebeck, Dave Savage. Kneeling Brian Standring, Sheila Luker, Self on right with Adrian Johnson
Soviet and Brazilian teams also on standby

Opening Ceremony with the United States Cavalry
Cherokee Chief
Supporting cast

Brit Team with Huey. Self, Dave Savage, Ken Mapplebeck, John Meacock, Bob King, Brian Standring, Sheila Luker, John Kemley
Target area. Canopy is a CSSR PTCH-8
Judges in action
Another day at the office
Soviet competitor
Paracommander Mk 3
Shape of things to come. US alternate Bill Hayes on Paraplane Cloud
Jumpers’ judge. Chief Judge Nikolay Kalchev (Bulgaria)
John Meacock, Ken Mapplebeck, Sooty Standring, John Kemley. Kneeling Dave Savage, Polish jumper, Sheila Luker, Bob King
Bob King, John Meacock, Ken Mapplebeck, kneeling: Sooty Standring, Sheila Luker, John Kemley, Dave Savage
DDR Team
Ken Mapplebeck with Bob King
Doc Johnson with Sooty Standring
Meet Director Norman Heaton
Roy Johnson USA Style champion hors de combat with training injury
Rest day.John Kemley, Dave Savage, John Meacock, Bob King, Ken Mapplebeck
Cooling off
On the skis
Cherokee Heritage Centre. Helmut Schlecht in Bavarian lederhosen
BPA Magazine October 1972
Photograph courtesy BPA Magazine
Back to Weston…
Weston jumpers circa 1973 –  Mick Skinner, Unknown visitor, Paddy Byrne, Mike Hand
Mike Hand on Papillon canopy.
Student on C9 LL canopy
Blue Peter visit Weston 1973. Bob Souter on cine, Ray Willis still camera. Photos courtesy Ray Willis
Bob Souter with Blue Peter John Noakes 1973
Noakes training jump
Ray Willis with 35mm Nikon
RAFSPA Robins Display Team 1973
Robins 1972
RAFSPA Robins Demo Team, Abingdon March 1973: Self, Ken Mapplebeck, Harry Parkinson, Peter Hearn, Peter Smout, Graham Pierce
Abingdon Airfield with pilot John Stappard
With Peter Hearn over RAF Abingdon 8 March 1973. Photo Ray Willis
Mk 1 Paraplane over Abingdon Airfield March 1973. Photo by the author
As above

Self on Mk.1 Paraplane February 1973. Note no stabiliser panels, no slider

These Paraplanes were the first viable ram-air canopies on the market in the UK; although the Russians had had a prototype at the Graz WPC four years previously, they had not jumped it as they were unable to control the opening shock. The deployment on these canopies was controlled by a top reef – a system of rings and ropes on the upper surface, attached to the pilot chute, the canopy opened against the resistance exerted by the pilot chute. (Pilot chute controlled reefing, PCR, patented by Para-Flite). On packing, we included a slipknot on the lines before the mouthlock to slow the opening still further. The canopy itself was about 180 square feet, with a speed comparable to a PD 170 today. The lines were long, it had no stabilizer panels; it was certainly not an accuracy canopy, but it was a real crowd pleaser and we had no hesitation in buying three of them as demo canopies.

(Brevet p.140)

Visit of 38 Group AOC Sir Denis Crowley Milling to Weston May 1973
Left to right: Pete Smout, Self, Graham Pierce, Dave Bennett, Sir Denis, Ken Mapplebeck

RAFSPA 1975 – 1977

March 1975 saw the introduction of our new jumpship – a five place Cessna 206, registered G-ASVN. This aircraft was the replacement for our Rapide, which had been sold. When the Cessna arrived, concurrently, and to his vast disappointment, Gerry Schellong had been deemed redundant. He retired from parachute flying and concentrated on his equally beloved garden. A true legend, covering two decades of Sport parachuting, no account of the period would be complete without acknowledging the sheer enthusiasm, unstinting support and professional expertise which Gerry Schellong rendered to RAFSPA. He was simply one of the very best.

(Brevet pp. 151-2)

Gerry Schellong 1972
Farewell to the Rapide. Belfast Hangar Abingdon Feb/March 1975

Engineer, Pete Smout, John Mace, Unknown, Stn. Cdr. Gp. Capt. G M Maloney, OC PTS Brian White, Keith Field (Pilot), OIC ATF Dave Stillman, Ken Mapplebeck, Joe France, Engineer
Hail to the Cessna. Weston March 1975
Unknown, Dave Stillman, Unknown, Keith Field, Stn. Cdr., OC PTS Brian White, Bob Souter, Joe France, Ken Mapplebeck, Snowy Robertson. Both photographs courtesy Dave Stillman
New RAFSA jumpship. Photo Mike Hand

… At Weston we continued to be occupied with competition training, and it was encouraging to see the emergence of new Classic competitors from our Club jumpers. Prominent were Peter Dowling, a solicitor, based in Reading and Paddy Byrne, a Junior Tech based at RAF Benson; Paddy went on to make the National team at the Zagreb WPC three years later. Mike Hand, although not a competitor, was an ever-present on the scene and a very useful air-to-air photographer to boot. In August we hosted the Nationals at Weston for the fourth year in succession. Our best result was that of Ken, who took second place in Style, whilst RAFSPA took second place in Team Accuracy behind the Duck End team starring Bob Hiatt and Bob King. Top jumpers at this Meet were established as John Meacock, Ken Mapplebeck, Scotty Milne, Bob Hiatt and Bob King. All five were all to continue to figure prominently at future World Championships. Although not directly within my remit, PJIs Ray Willis, Bob Souter, Joe France, Ty Barraclough and Henry MacDonald won the National 4-Way event at Dunkeswell and represented Great Britain at the first World Relative Work (Formation Skydiving) Championships in Germany.

87 PADDY BYRNE EXIT 1975 copy
Paddy Byrne Cessna Exit
Note stopwatch as sole instrument. Photos Mike Hand

… The Cessna came back on line in September and the following month we were visited by the Air Officer Commanding in Chief Strike Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Smallwood. The Weston cloud base was about fifteen hundred feet solid; nonetheless the AOC expressed a wish to fly the 206 on a live sortie. Squadron Leader Fred Marshall (OC Advanced Training Squadron) volunteered to accompany me in the back. We threw a WDI below the cloud, then climbed and ran in toward the bottom end of the DZ at three thousand feet above the white shining carpet. I could see nothing at all. The AOC glanced back over his shoulder seeking enlightenment and, not wishing to disappoint him, I gave him a confident five right correction. A momentary gap revealed we were right above the turkey farm, very deep, so I gave the cut, hopped out and pulled high on five seconds. I came out of the cloud, fortuitously set up for the cross in front of the control tower, and touched down right on target. Fred Marshal followed close behind, and we were both standing in front of the tower as the AOC landed and taxied over. We naturally congratulated him on his excellent run in and everyone was happy, OC PTS Brian White in particular.

(Brevet pp.171-172)

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Air Chief Marshal Sir Denis Smallwood, AOC in C Strike Command, after flying the Cessna at Weston October 1975. With Keith Field (hidden) Squadron Leader Fred Marshall, Sir Denis, Wing Commander Brian White OC PTS. 

3 WAY ss2
3 -way Weston 9 Oct 1975. Photo by Tony Dale
RAFSPA 4-way team 1975
National 4-Way Champions Halfpenny Green 1975.  Ginger MacDonald (DZ), Ty Barraclough, Henry MacDonald, Ray Willis, Joe France. Photo courtesy Ray Willis
Ist WPC Warendorf 1975
BPA Magazine October 1975
BPA Instructor Course Weston 1976.  Paddy Byrne top left back row. Ty Barraclough kneeling left front row. National Coach Charles Shea-Simonds centre, self in uniform on his left.
Brit Team: Bob Hiatt, Bob King, Jackie Smith, Dickie Bird, Chrissie McGuire, Sally Smith, Scotty Milne, Ken Mapplebeck, Self (Coach), Sandy Milne, Jane Waugh
Michel Prik, French parachuting pioneer and legend of the 1950’s, at Bergerac DZ control. Photographs by the author
Bob Hiatt Antonov exit

Robin Mills style tuck
Target area Bergerac. Japanese team stack
En route Bergerac for Rome
Team Hotel Sylvan
Tivoli Gardens Guidonia
13th WPC ROME 1976
Brit team Guidonia airfield, Rome. Rear: Robin Mills, Ken Mapplebeck,  Scotty Milne, Charlie Shea-Simonds, Bob Hiatt, Dickie Bird, Bob King. Front: Dave Waugh, Jane Waugh, Sally Smith, Sandy Milne, Jackie Smith, Chrissie McGuire, Self
Chrissie McGuire, British ladies team
Cloud, competitor unknown
German team leader Helmut Schlecht with telemeter mounted video camera
Huey emplane. Scotty Milne, Ken Mapplebeck, Robin Mills, Bob King
Bob King
Robin Mills
Scotty Milne
Dickie Bird (Alternate), Scotty Milne, Ken Mapplebeck, Bob King, Robin Mills
ROME 1976. 0.00jpg
0.00 for jumper number 206

Happy Ken
British National Championships Dunkeswell 1977
Silver medallists Joe France, Bob Souter, Ray Willis, Ty Barraclough
2nd Relative Work WPC Gatton, Australia November 1977 – Judged on telemeters…
BPA Magazine February 1978
British 4-way Team at Gatton: Joe France, Ray Willis, Bob Souter, Ty Barraclough