“Fly Navy”- or Not! A cautionary tale in two strands by David Tivey

Strand 1 – “Fly Navy”


This was a 1950s/60s advertising slogan for pilots for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. I had been interested in flying since, at the age of 15, I had cadged a ride from a member at the London Aeroplane Club at Panshanger, near Hertford, where my family home was. He took me up in a Tiger Moth for about an hour, and we even did some aerobatics (not bad for a first flight!). I was pretty well hooked. When I went to University, I joined the RAFVR Squadron there. We flew Chipmunks – a bit different from the Tiger Moth – and were based at the Filton Aerodrome of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Quite a laugh – taking off in a Chipmunk from the 100-yard-wide Brabazon runway that was 4.5 miles long. You could do several take off and landings in its length, and with the right cross wind, you could take off in its width. My service with them was ended when, instead of achieving my solo at the summer camp, I spent 3 weeks in the officer’s sick bay with a nasty bout of jaundice. Rather than having to go back a year in training the following September, I resigned.

It came alive again when I took my final exams in Chemistry, with the realisation that the last thing I wanted was a career as a chemist! I got through my degree, with the knowledge that I wanted to get into flying. Having decided that dark blue suited me better than RAF blue, I applied to the FAA. All went well with the selection procedure, interviews and aptitude tests. The medical was the final hurdle. To my – and the Naval doctor’s – consternation, it was found that I had limited hearing above 4000 Hertz in one ear. The MO told me that it was noise damage and guessed that I had done a fair bit of shooting, and that I was right-handed (all too true!). He said that the recent introduction of the Belgian FN automatic rifle had done the same thing to some of their marines until they introduced ear protection. I had a second assessment at Millbank, but the result was the same – so, no flying for me!

Strand 2 – Shooting

This goes back to the age of 11. At my prep school, they had a 25yard indoor range for .22 shooting. For a small fee, I could learn about target shooting. On arrival at my second school, I found that, not only could I shoot at a smart indoor range in the winter and spring terms, but in the summer, we cycled a couple of times a week the 2 or 3 miles to an outdoor range in a valley of the South Downs. Meanwhile, the Master responsible for shooting, with the CCF Sergeant Major, drove up in his brand-new Ford Popular with 8 or 10 .303 rifles and a load of ammunition. There we shot at 200 and 500 yards. I took to this, and for 5 years had 2 terms of .22 and one term of full bore, with occasional inter school meetings at other ranges in Sussex, and then the yearly Ashburton Shield meeting at Bisley.

Remembering that this was the 1950s, no one had heard of earmuffs for target shooting. Although you could buy earplugs at the shops at Bisley, I couldn’t afford those. The result was one damaged hearing and no “Flying Navy“ for me. Bridget said that it had saved my life!

Screenshot 2020-08-22 at 18.17.29Although I had told the FAA that I wanted to fly helicopters, they said that I would fly whatever they told me to fly. I had done well in the flying aptitude tests, so it could well have been fixed wing jets. At that time, the Navy’s fast, carrier-borne jet was the Supermarine Scimitar. This was a big, heavy, multi-rôle, twin jet aircraft, operating from small aircraft carriers, such as HMS Illustrious and HMS Hermes. In service, 39 of the 76 aircraft purchased were lost to accidents, often during landing at sea. I have been told that, at that time, the average service life of a Naval fast jet pilot was about 3 years! Bridget was undoubtedly right!

The moral is, tell your young people to look after their ears when they are exposed to loud noise, and wear suitable protection!

The Love of Bank Notes by John Swain


In normal times we handle it every day. Money, they say, makes the world go around. Others see it as the root of all evil. These days we are using less coinage but an increasing use of cards, however bank notes make us feel good if we have plenty in our wallet.

Basingstoke is the headquarters of Thomas de la Rue, the world-famous producer of bank notes, and Foyle Park resident and Probus Club of Basingstoke member, John Swain, was employed in that specialised printing industry all his working life.

Leaving grammar school at 16 he followed his father into the printing trade and undertook an apprenticeship of five years as a camera operator. On becoming a journeyman he joined security printer Bradbury Wilkinson in New Malden and as John says “learned about making security documents and how to spot and prevent forgeries.”

Bradbury Wilkenson Press
Security Printing at Bradbury & Wilkinson in 1980s

Despite operating in a tightly controlled secure environment it was noticed that some Travellers cheques began to go missing. Despite stringent checks on employees at entry and exit of the factory it was only by spotting which member of staff was enjoying exotic holidays and had a new car they discovered he was simply using a Royal Mail post box in their reception to send an envelope to his home.

An intended advancement to head up their photographic studio did not proceed as the company was taken over by Thomas de la Rue, but instead he become the general manager of the New Malden plant.

“All I had to do was to reverse a deficit of £12 million which in five years turned into a profit of £2 million.”

410_2-1024xautoMoving to Basingstoke in 1990 to head up a new, large photographic and proofing department was a continuous learning curve as the printing of the latest style of notes can involve over fifty security features as well as three different printing processes with visible and invisible fluorescent inks and holographic images.

Numbering Boxes used on both sides of currency

Moving from water marked cotton-based papers, made by their Overton mill, to the latest polymer substrate is not as new as one might think. Back in 1970 Bradbury Wilkinson produced the Isle of Man £1 notes on plastic but then discovered that the ink came off if a note was accidently left in clothes put in a washing machine. Eventually, after over two decades of research, the problem was solved, but by an Australian printer.

Latest Currency Press can simultaneously print six colours both sides of a sheet.

Visiting overseas De La Rue production facilities became a regular occurrence for John and after one trip he was stopped by a Customs officer at Heathrow. On this occasion the standard documentation he carried failed to impress the officer and as currency printing plates and ink looked suspicious the officer demanded the plate box and ink be opened. It was explained that it contained specialist fluorescent ink that was also indelible and should, on no account be touched. Of course, the officer got ink on his fingers and made the situation worse by using a tissue to spread it over his hands.

John smiled at this recollection. “That was a good few years ago, so I guess it has worn off by now.”

Loads of money. The finished product.



Publicity During The Covid Lockdown – part 5

Typically the month of August is quiet for the local magazines as the Rabbiter, Villager and Loddon Valley Link do not publish. However we failed to get a mention in the newly returned Link (but with a promise for September) but did get in the Basinga, Popley Matters,(still considering if they should return to a printed version), Chineham Chat (returning with a printed edition) and the Kempshott Kourier.