I am trying to re-establish contact with an ex-RAF colleague from the 1950's. His name was Wilson and I don't recall his Christian name but all the lads used to call him by his nickname Tug
I believe that he originated from the Hartlepool area. We served together as members of the 81 PR Squadron at RAF Seletar, in Singapore, Far East Air Force (FEAF). At the time (1952-mid 54) the unit flew three Spitfire Mk 19's and about eight Mosquito Mk 34A's.
Their job was to fly over Malayan mainland airspace up to the Siam border, taking aerial photographs of any terrorist camps, noting the map co-ordinates. When the aircraft returned to base the cameras were unloaded, the films developed and delivered to the strategic planning authority so that strike plans could be formulated. I think Tug's age then would have been 19/20ish, he was of medium build and 5ft 9/10ins in height. As you will see from the enclosed photograph his hair colour was deep black. An estimate of his weight was maybe 12 to 12 stone. He was a useful footballer who I believe enjoyed defensive midfield duties with the very successful squadron team.
The reason they were so victorious (only losing one match in the 1954 season) was that most of them had played in junior professional soccer before joining, and others performed with top amateur sides like Pegasus. I think Tug was a five-year regular and his trade was radar or radio mechanic. His rank was either LAC or SAC and he was an extremely popular character, who fitted easily into the daily scheme of squadron life with consummate ease. Several of us, spread as far and wide as America and Australia and all points of the compass in the British Isles, want to form a squadron association and stage reunions, mindful of the fact that the majority of us are well on the road to becoming octogenarians, so it would be great to get it done before we all travel to the hangar in the sky.
To that it would be really very much appreciated if we could get in touch with Tug once again. If he has already gone to his maker, but has surviving relatives or friends, we would welcome contact by them If there are any other ex-81 squadron personnel from any time in its history, presently residing in this area, we would be delighted to hear from them.b I will give you a few facts about the claim to uniqueness about 81 PR squadron: It was first formed in the latter stages of World War One (1917) but has suffered numerous disbandings between then and now. In 1941 our unit supplied Hurricane 2b's under lease-lend to the Russians and our pilots accompanied the aircraft, to teach their Russian counterparts how to fly them.
To demonstrate their gratitude for the gesture, the Russian War authorities awarded us the privilege of featuring the Star of Russia and the Sword of Stalingrad on our squadron badge. In recent times one of those aircraft was found on Russian territory in a sadly decayed state, and arrangements were made for its repatriation to the UK. It can be viewed as a rusting metal frame in a hangar of the Sandown, Isle of Wight Aviation Museum, but a leading spokesman for the East Midlands Air Park, Nottingham, has discovered its location and is keen to negotiate a five to 10-year loan for a given undertaking that a restoration programme will be carried out on their site. The last operational flights of both the Spitfire and Mosquito aircraft were carried out by 81 squadron. In early 1954 we assisted the Rank Organisation in the making of the Gregory Peck movie 'The Purple Plain' which was filmed in Ceylon. We sent two Mosquitos, four aircrew (who did all the flying scenes) and a five-man ground crew to look after the aeroplanes. The aircraft which performed those tasks was RG238 which I regularly looked after at Seletar and I even got a run-on scene in the film.
Every day we were flown about 70 miles north to a disused World War Two airstrip called Sigiriya where we watched the film technicians shooting. It was a fantastic experience rubbing shoulders with such stars as Gregory Peck, Bernard Lee, Maurice Denham, Lyndon Brook, Brenda de Banzie and the Burmese actress Win Min Than, who was making her film debut. They treated us very well and conversed with us as equals.
In late 1954 one of our pilots was bringing his Meteor Mk 10 into land at Seletar in the midst of a heavy monsoon storm which obscured the sea wall from his vision. The aircraft struck that wall and overturned onto its upper side, sliding some 200 yards down the runway before veering off onto the grass of the airfield. It took about 40 minutes before they could cut him from the wreckage and several shots of morphine to reduce his pain from the multiple injuries he sustained. Subsequently he was repatriated to the UK, had one leg amputated, was given a new job as an aircraft control officer, and ultimately became the senior aircraft controller in Britain, retiring with the rank of wing commander. When I had a conversation with that gentleman a few days ago, he told me that our squadron colour proudly hangs in the RAF church St Clement Danes in London. When our association is formed it is my intention that as many of us who can get there, should make a pilgrimage and pay our respects to deceased 81 ers.
Brian D Wright ("Wilbur") ex-81 PR Sqdn Rigger 4093672 SAC
99 Serpentine Road,
Tel: (01329) 237339
Publish Date: 23/09/2005