Anecdotes

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Fellow Sufferers

PRE-GRAPPLE: 'Paddy' Matthews (service ref. 3522227) 'Harry' Harris (gliding course mate- RAF Lyneham; 1956) Keith (RAF Innsworth & Christmas Island) Don Butterfield ditto Bob Blower ditto Vic Rodgers ditto Don Mason ditto GRAPPLE OUTBOUND Pat Coulter (BOAC stewardess; Stratocruiser 'Cleopatra' 4th/5th Dec. 1956) Marty Funk (United Airlines stewardess; 5th Dec.

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Back To Blighty

On July 10th, some of our group was scheduled to begin the long haul home. Around 1030, a howl of engine-noise heralded the arrival of a Super Connie into the airfield pattern. The randy ones (i.e. most) amongst us were up there awaiting its arrival, not so much to cheer the departure of colleagues, but more to get our first sighting of a nubile young female hostess in eight months. A very good-looking young bird she proved to be too!

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The Big Bang

Early April must have been some sort of monsoon period. We had many prolonged downpours lasting several hours each, and the diary records occasions when we had to dig trenches around our tents in an attempt to keep a dry floor area. It also made trips to the cinema pretty miserable as we huddled beneath groundsheets whilst trying to enjoy the movie. Frequent power cuts did nothing to relieve our misery.

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Flyguy

Being very keen on flying, I'd been putting out feelers as to the chances of a trip in one of the Shackletons engaged in met patrols and other surveillance tasks.

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Life On A Target Island

On January 29th, I learned that I was due to a nice little posting down to Malden Island about 400miles south. The RAF it seemed didn't believe in too much notice; take off was scheduled for 9am next day. At the appointed hour, a few other 'lucky' sods and me clambered aboard the Dakota aircraft for our three-hour trip. At least after this, we could boast of having crossed the equator, if not much else. I haven't recorded the name of our pilot, but the name Squadron Ldr Hurst has swum up from the memory banks.

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Start Of New Year (1957)

There was one 'downer' which appeared around this time. Some guy named Dickey Valentine, had recorded a song called 'Did you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island?' Music was being piped from various sources continuously, around the island, but this particular tune started to get on everyone's' wick. No doubt thinking they were contributing to 'troop moral', folks back home were requesting that the song be played over and over. Good job old Dickey didn't bother to visit; I think he'd have been fed to the sharks in short order. December 28th brought my first close encounter with a shark.

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Getting There

My first knowledge of Operation Grapple, and it's proposed venue at Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean, came in the early months of 1956. At this time, I was halfway through the RAF radio operator's course based at Compton Bassett in Wiltshire. One day, my mate 'Paddy' Matthews, turned up with the news that Britain was about to carry out testing of it's first nuclear weapon, and that these tests would involve a 'cushy' posting to an exotic island 1200 miles South of Hawaii.

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Events Until Christmas

Life under canvas had its ups and downs. We quickly found out that the Island's crabs, of which there was a vast multitude, were in the habit of taking a nightly dip in the ocean. After dark, the air was filled with a kind of clicking noise as these things scuttled down to the waters from nearby coconut plantations. Apparently they preferred the direct approach, since no attempt was made to divert around the various tents.

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A Near Miss

The Super Connie slammed down onto Christmas Island's runway, completing our long haul out from the UK back in December of '56. Out trudged its weary cargo of erks, nco's and officers-the RAF's finest, there to do our bit for Queen and Country by helping explode a few heavy calibre squibs. After several days of exposure to a wide range of temperatures, from a drizzly Heathrow to a freezing Goose Bay (-17C and blowing a gale) and on to the balmy delights of California and Hawaii, a dip in the inviting blue Pacific waters seemed like a 'good idea'.