Probus Visits Glider Heritage Centre

A party of twenty, consisting of members and some wives/partners had a real treat when they visited the Lasham Gliding Society at Lasham airfield, south of Basingstoke. In the party were two retired RAF officers maintaining their interest in heavier than air machines.

After coffee in the restaurant we were taken to a briefing room where an extensive presentation on all matters connected to gliding brought some interesting facets about early attempts at flying. Many commercial pilots also own a glider and it is reckoned that the plane that came down on the Hudson River in New York was not the disaster it could have been but for the fact that the pilot also flew gliders. Surprisingly it is possible to own a second hand glider and trailer for around £9,000 although the very latest hi-tech version could cost up to £250,000.

Then driving in a slow convoy around the perimeter of the airfield, passing around the hangers where commercial passenger jet aircraft are serviced and on to the south side to where the Gliding Heritage Centre has its own purpose built hanger. A second one is in construction.

The  hanger is chock full of gliders of various vintages clearly showing the evolution of the species from 1932 onwards including two with swastikas and many are still in a flying condition. Every bit of space was filled with these exotic, colourful, little planes hanging from the roof and carefully placed around the floor. This was a visual experience made better by the guide fully explaining the changes to the aircraft on display. Keeping up to date there was even a glider flight simulator.

Just to remind us that Lasham is still an operational airfield, during lunch a Norwegian Air Boeing 737 commercial jet came into land on the mile long runway to then taxi round to the service company that rents its space from the gliding society who owns the airfield.

Thanks are due to member Stephen Thair for arranging this visit, who has maintained his interest in avionics since qualifying for his private pilot’s licence some years ago and to Bryan Nagle for supplying some of the photographs.

A History of British Forces Broadcasting

Operation TigerCapture
Speaker Alan Grace (far right) with UK troops in Germany 1980

The Probus Club of Basingstoke enjoyed a presentation by Alan Grace about the life of a programme maker living with our armed forces whose broadcasts allowed them to maintain morale by keeping contact with families in UK and also provided them with much needed entertainment.

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Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe

Many people of mature age will remember Two Way Family Favourites on Sunday mornings. Then known as the wireless it was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. It was claimed that this was the only radio programme that had the smell of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. The German end was run by BFBS (British Forces Broadcasting Service) with, for some time, Jean Metcalfe there and Cliff Michelmore in London.

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Bill Crozier the longest serving host of Two Way Family Favourites

In World War 2 both American and Russian military had radio services for their troops and after the Americans joined the war effort the British War Office was persuaded by Col David Niven and supported by Glenn Miller that our troops would benefit from a similar operation. The first military broadcast services saw life begin in Algeria in 1943 and run by the Army Welfare Service. The only drawback was that there was no money, no equipment and no staff.  And it was firmly established that editorial control was to be independent of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces themselves. By some miracle they were on air in seven weeks.  It was set in a former harem but the fully glazed floor and wall tiles had to be draped in army blankets to deaden the appalling acoustics. The first requested record was the famous German wartime song, Lily Marlene.

In the following years over 100 radio stations were set up from Aden to Zeltweg.  Some of the earlier stations were mobile housed in ten ton trucks with transmitters, generators, record library and studio. They followed troops through the Italian campaign and then into mainland Europe. Fixed sites were based in a range of extreme locations from the magnificent Musikhalle in Hamburg that had escaped bombing, down to an old cow shed in Cyprus, tents in the Canal Zone and shipping containers at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

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Rehearsing a radio play rewritten to avoid breach of copyright

Some of the people involved became household names. Cliff Michelmore, Frank Muir who was a photographer but volunteered to be a writer, Peter Sellers, Raymond Baxter who went on to front many BBC TV programmes including Tomorrow’s World, Brian Moore who went on to become a top sports presenter with ITV, and Roger Moore who was told that as he could not act he should go back to being a male model for knitting patterns. He later sent a postcard to the producer who had dismissed his talent which said that although he could not act he had still had a good life and signed it 007.

In 1957 Alan Grace started working with what then was BFN in Cologne as an announcer and sports producer, while a national serviceman in the RAF. Over the next four decades he experienced life throughout the world’s trouble spots where British forces were involved. Such places of conflict had radio and then television services provided for service personnel and their dependents worldwide. Places of interest included Palestine, Cyprus during EOKA, Kenya in Mau Mau times, Aden with terrorist troubles, Cyprus, again, during the Turkish invasion, Hong Kong, The Balkans, The Falklands, Gulf Wars 1 and 2 and Afghanistan.

John Terry Prize Winner

John Terry Prizewinner photo[8069]

Probus Club member John Terry featured in the Basingstoke Gazette on Thursday 14 September as he was one of the winners of a competition to Spot The Bench by identifying the Sitting with Jane benches around the town from photographs of small sections of each bench. The competition was organised by Basingstoke Deane Rotary whose past president Alan Gibson presented the prizes standing close to the recently unveiled statue of Jane Austen outside the Willis Museum in the market place.

John’s prize was afternoon tea for two at Tylney Hall hotel.

Probus member Richard Stettner took this photograph.