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John Hassell

Rocky Thompson


 John Hassell. 586894. 69th Entry (4M9)

This memoir is currently being updated by the originator.

Cranwell 8/51- Locking 7/54.

Air Radio Fitter. Class 69F. Made the dizzy heights of CAA i/c the Band.  Usually known as Johnny.


Posted to Gaydon and immediately detached to Upwood. RSF and Major/Minor servicing on Lincolns.


Returned to Gaydon and posted to non-existent 138 Sqdn together with Brian Mayall. The pair of us were then put in a very lonely dispersal building with a mountain of F673/674 and 675s, the RAF Vocab, and told to demand a complete Valiant B 1 Sqdn. I recollect it took two months of pen pushing.   When 138 was up and running it was posted to Wittering, but not so for Johnny and Brian. Somebody must have been impressed with our work for we were posted to non existent 543 Sqdn and told to repeat the exercise but this time with Valiant B(PR)K machines.


Posted with 543 to Wyton.


Posted to 15 Sqdn (Victor B1s) at Cottesmore.


Posted overseas to Akrotiri in Cyprus and 73 Sqdn with Canberra B2's.


Posted home to Lyneham on Rectification Flight. Comet 2's, Comet 4C's, Britannias and anything else that saw fit to land there. What a treadmill! Round the clock shifts with never less than 15 snags outstanding.


Demobbed after my 12 yrs and took a staff job in the Development Flight Test Hangar at Bristol Siddeley Engines at Filton. I spent 16 months designing and building the radio installation into a very non-standard Vulcan XA903. This aircraft then test flew the Olympus 593b which was fitted into it's bomb bay, later to power Concorde.


Joined BEA at Manchester Airport as Licensed Radio Maintenance Engineer and worked all the BEA/BOAC/BA fleet until I retired in May 1991 at the age of 56.

I now live with my wife Christine in Wilmslow, Cheshire, about two miles from the airport. I have a married son, daughter and three grandchildren all within easy reach. I am an inveterate DIY man and run two classic VW Beetles, one is standard, the other is VROOM! both are in daily use.   I had a triple heart by-pass in July 99 and am feeling great apart from a rather painful muscle disease that plagues me and limits my exertions.


John Hassell - My wartime life.

1940 Voluntary evacuation with my mother and billeted into the home of Mr & Mrs Lelliot who lived in the gate lodge of an estate off the B2028 just N. of Ardingly village. This was not very nice and we then moved to a left-hand end terraced cottage nearly opposite the school in West Hoathly, which I attended. Probably around the end of 1941 we again moved, this time for short period to a Mrs Venn's house at Forest Row, this was about a couple of hundred yards out of the village on the opposite side of the B2110 from the village school which again I attended. After a short period we moved again about half a mile further out of the village to No. 3 or was it 5 Post Horn lane at Forest row.

During all of the forgoing Dad stayed and worked in London driving trams, actually having two destroyed whilst he took cover. Mother and I occasionally traveled up to London for a few days and on one of these train journeys I believe that I met Douglas Bader. I remember meeting this pilot in our compartment and talking to him. He showed us his two tin legs and gave me four rounds of 303 tracer as a keepsake!

In 1943 we returned to 89 Honeybrook Road, Balham, London as the air raids were now rather less intense. We still spent a great deal of our time in our Anderson shelter which was at the bottom of the garden and I remember the bombs falling all around nearly every night. At this time I attended Bonneville junior school and well remember starting out to school with time to spare to collect shrapnel and cartridge cases on the way, very good for swapping sessions at break time!

In 1944 the flying bombs (V1s) started to arrive and I remember hearing the first one come down. Due to the fact that the engine stopped a few seconds before the things came down, we all thought it was an aircraft that had been brought down. It wasn't until two days later that we heard about the new weapon. The V1 had a very distinctive engine noise and as I lived in the South West of London they used to fly right up our road. I would stand in my garden, and when I heard one coming would blow my whistle long and loud, so that the neighbours could take cover and then I would run for the Anderson shelter. My Dad judged it was too dangerous for Mum and myself to stay in London and Mum found a job in Chorley, Lancs. My mother was Steward of two blocks of war workers accommodation in a very large war workers camp on the A581 about a mile from Chorley. This camp housed about 2000 girl warworkers from the Royal Ordinance works there. I revisited the site in 1976 and it was virtually derelict apart from the main buildings that were in use by the Lancs Police.

During my wartime stay there was an American base just a mile or so up the road and with 2000 girls in the hostel and no visitors allowed inside, we few boys that were there were much in demand as message takers and very well stocked with gum thankyou! When last visited this American base was being used by the Lancs Fire Service as a training school. My mother and I stayed there for perhaps a year and then returned to London.

I well remember the D Day invasion, aircraft were flying over all day and night. At night the signalers were flashing down Vs in Morse and everyone on the ground was flashing in return it was quite a sight. I suppose it was around the end of 1944 that the V2s started to fall, in fact they were much less destructive then the V1s. The V1s blasted a very wide area making a large number of houses uninhabitable, but the V2s although they totally destroyed a small area did not wreck so many dwellings. Another psychological plus was that when you actually heard a V2 it was all over and finished with, there was no terrifying wait between the engine cut and the explosion as there was with the V1s. At the later end of the V2 period I went into hospital with blood poisoning due to a blind boil on my left wrist and I could hear the detonations and was worried stiff for my Mum and Dad.

On VE day my dad took me up to Piccadilly Circus. It was jammed solid with people merry making and celebrating I can still vividly recall the sights that I saw.


 February 2008 




Service History - 586883 LAA Thompson RJ (Rocky)

Prior to joining the RAF as Apprentice 883, I attended the Fakenham Grammar School in Norfolk where I played cricket with, the then unknown, Peter Parfitt. I taught him how to keep a straight bat (and if you believe that you'll believe anything).

Joined the Cranwell Brats on 28 August 1951. Having completed the entrance exam I was told that I had achieved such high marks in Maths and Science that I had been specially selected for Radio Training at Cranwell. Later discovered that a friend of mine had achieved such abysmal marks in Maths and Science that the only option open for him was a position at Cranwell! Ah well, it is all water under the bridge.

During Cranwell fifth term (I think) was asked to choose specific radio trade. Thought that Airborne was a bit naff 'cos I couldn't get into an aircraft radio bay and, anyway, my mate Peter Dowsing was going ground radar so that was I wanted. Inevitably, I never ever met up with Pete again apart from a 9-month stint straight out of brats at Henlow. So… career is as follows:

 August 54 to Apr 55.

Radio Electronic Calibration Centre (RECC) Henlow. Fell in love with a WRAF girl having only heard her sing, and then fell out of love when I saw her. Notable events: as Duty Cal Pip received so much food that the whole section failed to eat it. Taking advice of my seniors packed it in my case and took it to my girl friend's house in Weston Super Mare. My luck…it was the day of a detailed kit inspection for all airmen departing Henlow. Cpl (he had better remain nameless) who advised the disposal instructions was with me. He was Irish but of the extreme shades of pale as we went to the RAF Henlow railway station. Second major near cock-up. Called by WRAF block over Easter 55 with pleas for help. Couldn't contact duty leckie so could duty Cal Pip come and fix their electric fire, 'cos it was cold. Did so, despite the knowledge that it was an offence punishable by death to leave the RECC un-attended in case of power cuts and crystals dying….Oh my god, what a responsibility. Anyway, turned up at WRAF Block and spent one hour rejecting pleas to come inside and keep many nubile members warm (while I fixed the electric fire) only to be confronted by the hardest nose WRAF Cpl I had ever met. I have no doubt that I would have been Court Martialed if I had responded to their heartfelt pleas (Groan).

Apr 55 to June 55.

Promoted Cpl and Posted to Radio Experimental Unit at RAF Watton. Worked for Pop Popperwell of Watson-Watt fame and learned about the naivety of scientists. (If I impregnate this cylinder with iron filings and put it on a lathe, the iron will be equally distributed about the cylinder…centrifugal force had not yet been invented?).   Also spent two months calling storeman Sir and Pop Popperwell mate; the former always wearing a three piece suit, the latter an old Harris Tweed jacket and corduroys!

June 55.

Selected for No 8 Joint Service Trials Unit. Unfortunately, F Sgt i/c Orderly room (as it was then) got confused. Called me in and said: "You are posted to China Son. China is in the Far East that means you are entitled to 14 days embarkation leave. However, you are running for the Command next week and you have to do this and that so you can have next weekend orf!. Oh! And by the way, since you are going to the Yellow River, you have to go to Ely to get your yellow Fever Jabs"…which I did. Only to find that I had been posted to No 8 JSTU (Yellow River) Detachment where the Yellow River was the Radar Type 83. I was the only technician I ever met who had been inoculated against his radar!

Many months at BTH (British Thomson Huston) Rugby (Where I met and married the first and only Mrs Thompson) followed by a short time at RRE Malvern working for a Flt Lt E Dunn BEM (Ring a bell?).


From Malvern, after the birth of our first-born, went to Woomera in South Australia for 20 months as part of a team comprising Alex Fisher (57th) Johhny Thompson (65th) Russ Thompson (69th), self and Don Tubb (68th/69th) all working for one Flt Lt Gerry Trevains, another Association member.


Posted to some unknown Signals Unit, which turned out to be RAF Trimingham in Norfolk. On investigation I discovered that Johnny Thompson of the 65th Entry should have had this posting but he went in my place to Locking as an instructor! Stayed at Trim, working for Jimmy Cargill (another ex-brat), until the system caught up with me and sent me to Dunholme Lodge to work on Bloodhound missiles again.


Commissioned in Engineering Branch. 4 Months at Feltwell followed by 12 months at RAF Technical College Henlow. Apparently was denied the Sword of Honour at Feltwell 'cos my hair was too short (More likely because I was caught un-escorted with a WRAF cadet who later became Lady S……)

After Henlow was specially selected (ring a bell?) by the then Gp Capt Sinclair Davidson to initiate Technician Apprentice training at Locking. For second part of that tour shared an office with the infamous Vic Ludlow.


OATS course at Tern Hill followed by posting as OC 1003 SU at Amoy Quee in Singapore. Found I was the first RAFCO of the old Army Receiver Site and inherited such worthy's as Steve Slim to run the receiver side while Joe Barker was my WO on the Satellite site.


Promoted Sqn Ldr and posted back to UK. Attended No 6 AMEC Course at RAF College Cranwell before joining RIU at RAF Medmenham. Became Chairman of the Medmenham Theatre Club and, with much help from Dennis Davey and his wife Pat, built a new theatre in the old wooden church.


Posted to HQ DCN as Chief Systems Engineer working for the late Wg Cdr Tony Burdess - a grand chap. Served under two Group Captains at DCN; John Clements (ex president CAA) and Peter Law also an Appsnetter.


Posted as OC 12 Signals Unit Cyprus. A superb posting with lots of fun, sport and Amdram. Even became a reported for BFBS, the Forces Radio service!


Posted to the staff of CINCHAN at Northwood as c3.2. where I shared an office with a US Navy Lt Commander and a Dutch equivalent. Spent a happy year teaching the Dutchman to swear in English. (It is amazing how many swear words make good adjectives!)


Selected to join the team for SSIN (who better?) SSIN being translated as Secure Survivable Integrated Network - later to be re-named at UNITER. Worked for first Peter Owen and then Dusty Saunders and seemed to get moved between London MoD buildings at a great rate of knots (I wonder, were they trying to tell me something?)


Promoted Wing Commander and posted within the Director of Signals Air as Signals 44(Air) What a job!! My own budgets, private airline and regular trips to Berlin.


Posted to HQ RAF Germany as Wg Cdr CE1 then into retirement and potential oblivion! Took over the Officers' Bowling Club at Rheindahlen and became hooked at a sport at which I can still beat my grandchildren (that is when the legs don't let me down!).

1985 to 1988.

Worked as Engineering Project Manger for Intereurope Technical Services in Hatfield. Many ex-brats there including Terry O'Riordon of my own entry and Rod Donohoe of the 70th.

1988 - 91.

SD Scicon as Sales Manger; found myself as part of a team of ex RAF, Army and Navy officers. The expense account was nice!!

1991- 94.

BT SISL Business Development Manager; similar set up with many ex-service people around.

1994 to 1998.

EDS Senior Business Development Manger and general factotum. If there was an unusual task, I got it. One included seeking from the UK Foreign Office a licence to negotiate with a Yugoslav who wanted to buy UK cryptos. Needless to say, no licence.


Semi retirement, first working part time for Sopheon and then with Claritas.



Have been Chairman and Admin Sec of the RAFCAA but am now just a Life Vice President.   I also edit a local community Magazize and still chase girls.   Progressively less likely to catch them because of old age and, when I do, can't remember why I was chasing them in the first place!  Despite my advancing years, I find myself filling the post of Deputy Chairman of the village Residents' Association, Chairman of my GP Practice/Patient Committee and member of the Village Liaison Committee.   Have just recently been coerced by one Ken Robson to take on the role of Scrutineer of Accounts for the Association.

February, 2008




























































































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