Archive for the 'booker' Category

Eulogy

The Service of Thanksgiving for the life of Dudley Vernon Steynor

Service conducted by  The Revd Canon Cavell Cavell-Northam

EULOGY

Dudley was born on 16 October 1909 in Malvern where he grew up with his two brothers and sister in a large family home enjoying the freedom of the Malvern Hills.  Kite flying, model aeroplanes, motor cycles and motor cars were just some of the hobbies pursued by the family.

His interest in music developed at an early age as the family were very close to Vernon Warner the young protégé pianist.

Dudley was in one of the first intakes at Stowe school and a contemporary of David Niven, Sir Nicholas Winton and Geoffrey de Haviland .  In later years he bumped into David Niven at Heathrow Airport. David recognised him immediately, which says a great deal about the Steynor profile.

On leaving Stowe he studied the piano in London at the Academy of Music   living in Kew with his brother Martyn.  Together they joined the Hounslow Flying club and learned to fly.

Following his studies at the London Academy of Music he was advised to continue studying in Europe and chose Berlin where he studied at the Edwin Fischer School, only returning due to the imminent possibility of War.

His wish to assist the war effort as a pilot was initially thwarted by poor eyesight.  Having spent some months on the ground as a Link Trainer Instructor, and following a weekend party at the house of Jumbo Edwards his Commanding Officer and pre war Olympic Gold Medal Rower, a further medical in London was arranged. This medical was with the Chief Medical officer of the RAF.  He proceeded to test his eyesight by initially requesting him to read the chart with his good eye and then, without changing the chart and while looking the other way, asked him to read it again!  Dudley passed.

Some months later Dudley bumped into the Chief Medical Officer, thanked him, and asked if he realised that in fact his eyesight in one eye was really quite poor.  He replied that he knew people who could see perfectly and were quite lethal in the air and some people, like  Dudley, who might not have perfect eyesight but were  excellent pilots. As one who spent his time on the ground he would prefer people like Dudley above him!

The outcome of this was a posting to Booker Airfield as an Instructor in charge of B Flight where he spent the rest of the war. Here he met Ann who was assisting the war effort by helping with the tea wagon along with two of the sisters of King Zog of Albania who was living in exile at Parmoor here in Frieth.  Dudley and Ann were married in 1943.

On being de-mobbed Dudley decided that a career as a concert pianist was no longer an option and proceeded to devote his energies to designing and developing various ideas.  The first of these was the Verdik Petrol Economiser which made significant improvements to the petrol consumption of the cars of the day, and was widely acclaimed by the motoring press.

There followed  a humane rat trap which he designed at the request of his uncle in Birmingham who owned a hardware shop and it was the mesh of this trap that led to his next significant development.

A famous burns’ surgeon was staying with the Hon Mrs James in Lane End and on seeing one of the traps announced this was just the mesh needed to make guards to protect children from the horrendous burns suffered as a result of accidents with electric fires.  Dudley came up with a suitable design and as a result was kept busy for a few years supplying the electricity companies and then gas companies with guards to fit to all their various models. It was not long however before the manufacturers started incorporating guards at the manufacturing stage bringing this market to a close.   Guards for open fires were a further development and these carried on selling for a number of years.

Dudley and Ann started their married life at The Cottage, Lane End next to the old Chapel on Moor Common.  William was born here in 1948.

In 1951 they moved to Colliers Corner on the day of the birth of their daughter Linden who Dudley delivered in the absence of the midwife who had not yet arrived.  Dudley always said he was not phased by this as he had been in the Boy Scouts!!!

The family was completed by the arrival of James in 1956.

Although continuing throughout his working life with his inventions he decided that with a growing family to support he needed a more stable income. This led to his ownership of Goodchild’s Garage in Lane End and then a Daf Dealership.  Soon Dafs could be seen wherever you looked!

Among his many and varied interests steam always held a fascination. The purchase of an Avelling & Porter Steamroller gave the local community a much loved landmark as he kept it next to the road outside his house.

In 1964 he was tempted back to flying when William started gliding at Booker, now Wycombe Air Park. Dudley was soon recognised as an excellent pilot and instructor and he continued enjoying his gliding in retirement up to the age of 84.

In early 1981 disaster struck. There were extensive power cuts across the area as a result of a heavy snow fall. Dudley had taken Ann out to get a hot meal when the power was restored. The resultant surge caused a fire in Colliers Corner and they returned to find five fire crews doing their best to get it under control. They had lost nearly everything they owned.

Undaunted, a mobile home was bought and placed at the bottom of the garden for them to live in. The initial clearing of the site was carried out by two young men who were keen to earn some money between their training sessions at Marlow Rowing Club. A number of local tradesmen were engaged to rebuild the house and by the spring of 1982 they were able to return. As a thank you for all the hard work Dudley took the two rowers gliding. In the years that followed he watched with great interest the developing career of one of those rowers, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Following the death of his wife Ann in 1996 he returned to his music and at the grand age of 87 produced two CDs of his favourite piano pieces.

Latterly he kept himself fit by doing at least 10 minutes a day on his exercise bike and completing fiendish Soduko puzzles until only a few months before his death.

His 100th birthday was a milestone he wanted to achieve. He thoroughly enjoyed his day which many here I am sure will remember as it brought Lane End to a standstill!

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Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS)

I enjoyed my years at Booker Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) for three reasons – I loved flying – I loved teaching and I loved my home comforts. All three came together when I married Ann in 1943.

Booker airfield was all grass in those days, and we took off and landed into wind. We commenced flying at 8.00am and flew until 12.30 or 1.00, had some lunch in the mess and returned to our flying at about 2.00pm. At 6.00pm we left the flying to the night boys. Those of us who were flying that night would finish day flying a bit early or might go straight on to night flying and have the following morning off. A busy life but I loved it. There were plenty of challenges to be mastered for we flew in all weathers compatible with the aircraft we flew, Tiger Moths and Magisters. I think most of us became extremely good pilots – as Cecil (Sagittarius Rising) Lewis wrote in his book “All my Yesterdays” ‘There is nothing like instructing for improving one’s flying’.

I had many good pupils and rarely failed to get them up to solo flying. I remember one interesting case of a pupil I had to fail on account of his night flying. The glide indicator at the beginning of the approach used three lights – green, amber or red. If you were too high you saw Amber, if you were too low you saw Red and Green was the correct one. The Amber meant closing the throttle to lose some height. The Red meant open the throttle further until you could see Green. This pupil consistently closed the throttle when the red light appeared and I am pretty sure he had no suicide tendencies. He passed all tests for colour blindness. Once when we were three miles away over the valley above Wycombe and the red light showed I had time to ask him ‘What colour do you see?’ He answered ‘Red’. ‘And what does that mean?’ ‘We are too low’ and he opened the throttle a little which I immediately increase to full throttle and hoped I was not too late!

Later in the war I remember I was with my pupil over Maidenhead when I noticed the sky in the West almost completely blacked out by aircraft. They were on their way to Arnhem. They were also towing gliders and approaching at 140 mph or so in a line so long that I knew they would reach me in a few moments. More worrying was that they seemed to cover the air from almost ground level up to 2000ft. I was at 1000ft and knew I couldn’t fly round this armada or out-climb it. There was only one way left – get down to tree height as quick as you can. It was a frightening few moments as I aimed the Tiger Moth at the ground in a vertical dive and levelled off brushing tree tops at 100 feet or so, as the masses of tugs and gliders, some of them flown by pilots I may have personally trained, swept by. The lowest of them was only some 200 ft above the ground and they kept on coming for the next ten minutes while I crept back to Booker! Obviously we couldn’t be warned to expect this attack on the bridge at Arnhem.

Life was sometimes frustrating. Trying to instruct on a very busy circuit with a pupil almost ready for solo encourages us to fly to one of the nearby fields we used for forced-landing practice. Such a field was within the river bend above Henley. This field had been a mushroom farm and I remember the times we instructors would go there, park our Tiger Moths around the edge and instructors and their pupils would be seen picking mushrooms and packing them into the Tigers’ lockers. We would get going early and our CO. O’Donnell soon found that his practice of standing on tarmac with his stopwatch at 8.0’clock to check any late starters was no longer necessary. Unfortunately the seeds of doubt started hatching – Why? He asked our CFI Jackie Hicks to get airborne early to discover what we were ‘up to’ – in this case ‘down to’ is more appropriate for he discovered all his instructors on their hands and knees at this field picking the best of the mushrooms, and rather than joining us he decide to put a stop to the practice we had enjoyed.

Some of us did not have to fly beyond Booker to increase our wartime rations. I landed on and killed a hare. I did not know I had done so but another instructor had seen it and added that as he was eating in the mess he had no use for it. Ann turned it into a superb ‘jugged hare’ which we much enjoyed – likewise a partridge which my flight commander Davies had killed but forgot to take with him when he went on leave.

For solo cross-country training we used Fairoaks, Sywell and Cambridge aerodromes and it was on one of these exercises we came into contact with the cable of a drifting barrage balloons which I have already mentioned.

One of these cross-country exercises my pupil consistently got lost and I wanted to see what he would do. He said he would land at the first airfield he saw and ask them where he was. I told him to go ahead as I wasn’t sure myself. By a few gentle suggestions I was able to get him to go towards Booker as I told him that most airfields were built to the same pattern. We finally arrived at Booker and I told him to go to the control tower to find out where we were while I remained in the cockpit. He returned with a broad smile on his face!

This reminds me of Finlay who was an American who joined us before the Americans entered the war. He was solo in America but had considerable difficulty in flying a Tiger Moth. His solo flying had been on tricycle-equipped aircraft. We were all very fond of Finlay and our Flight commander at that time was S/Ldr Davey who, like Cecil Lewis had been a pilot in the 14/18 war. He decided to take on Finlay but could make very little progress with him and handed him over to me. After a week I manager to get him solo and I remember Davey’s words as with remarkable hindsight he said “Oh dear. I feel our troubles have just started.” And indeed they had! Although Finlay now flew the Moth well he would lose his way as soon as he strayed any distance beyond the circuits at Booker and we were often picking him up from airfields miles away. I well remember his last flight when we received a phone call from Pershore Airfield, near Worcester. “We have just sent off one of your pilots – a fellow called Finlay – we refuelled him and pointed him towards Booker.” So in about an hour he should have arrived. But it was three hours later that he turned up – as we were just about to stop flying for the day. Davey told me to march him into the Flight hut first thing the next morning. I did so and witnessed the following interview – Davey: “Finlay can you tell me why you took off on your own when you know you are not allowed to do so?”

Finlay “Well sir I had caused so much trouble in the past that I felt one more would make no difference.”

Davey “ Can you tell me why you took so long to get to Booker?”

Finlay “ I had to stop to refuel at Eastleigh” (An airfield on the South coast)

At this point I noticed Davey suddenly drop his head onto the desk and indicated with both arms that he wanted me to march Finlay out of the Flight hut. I returned to find Davey literally weeping with laughter. The next few days saw the Americans enter the war and Flinlay left us to join them.

S/Ldr Davey often took us up above the clouds where he demonstrated leading several aircraft with his hand signals as they did in the last war. He once told us to follow him to Booker as a a formation and make a formation landing. “ I shall be in trouble for this” he said after we landed because we were not allowed to practise formation flying. And indeed he was posted to other duties soon afterwards. The CO and the CFI thought he was getting too old and should be given a less demanding job. Davey turned up once at Booker flying a Tiger Moth from the front seat! He told us he was mapping out many airfields with the idea of possible extensions. As for his front-seat flying he said “It’s warmer and I can smoke my pipe!”

After the war Ann and I took Davey to lunch in London and I feel I might include on of his experiences when surveying airfields after he left booker. It has nothing to do with me but is typical of an older man who possessed great skill in map reading and mathematics and who would often put himself on the night-flying stint if the weather was specially bad and he noticed a junior instructor there. He told us “I decided to visit an airfield on the Welsh border. When I was approaching the Welsh mountains the cloud level began to drop. I was gaining height at the same time, I was following a valley and soon realised it was too narrow to turn in so press and with my map and my watch I calculated the moment when I had to make a turn to the right. The right wing-tip brushed the top of the trees – I had been a bit early in my turn – but I was now clear and only had to climb on full throttle to get clear of the surrounding peaks. When I knew I had enough height I flew West until I was clear of the coast. I then descended to sea level, found where I was and then found the airfield and landed. The place was empty and in the watch tower they asked me ‘where have you come from?’ I said I have just landed here. ‘What do you mean? We have been shut all day.’ It took them a while to accept the situation.”

Flying at Booker – navigation

Apart from teaching our pupils the art of flying they were taught the art of navigating their way about the country. Use of the compass, the effect of wind etc. As the duration of their course at Booker was a fixed one the weather was often the limiting factor and sometimes we were unable to get our pupils up to the solo stage. But the war would not stop to suit our convenience, so we just had to do our best. It cost a lot to train a pilot up to flying a Spitfire or a Lancaster and if we could sort out the likely pilots from the unlikely ones at the beginning of their training a lot of money and time would be saved. Thus the grading scheme was started and a few instructors were chosen to carry it out. I was one of these. We were required to test all pupils who had failed to go solo and any others with whom their instructors had some doubt. Thus produced some interesting results including my only crash!

The pupil had not soloed but was considered ready but for poor weather. His general flying was good and his approaches and landings good. Normally I would have sent him on a solo flight, but there was something about him that worried me. I said to him “I am going to ask for one more circuit; you had it all your own way so far and I am going to give you a small problem”. I handed over to him on the start of the approach and final leg – but about 20 feet too high. He closed the throttle and started the approach at the correct speed there was plenty of airfield ahead – and I mentally relaxed and removed my had from the stick thinking ‘he’s OK’ when suddenly he pushed the stick hard forward. We hit the ground – the undercarriage crumpled and the propeller was quickly reduced to the boss. For some time after this I was known as ‘crasher Steynor’.! Another moment I remember was testing a pupil who had not soloed and after putting him through all the most fiendish positions to which he reacted as an experienced pilot would I said “I find it hard to believe you have never soloed. As far as I am concerned you can go solo whenever you want to”. I have a strong feeling that I was being tested by the Air Ministry as to my ability for this job as a grading officer.

Flying at Booker – landing out

The country between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury was our low flying area and when a pupil had soloed we would send him there to practise his flying and so prevent the circuit becoming over crowded. There was a useful landmark in this area – the Chinnor cement works with its smoking chimney – and pupils were told to fly south when they wanted to return to Booker. If they failed to spot the airfield in poor weather they would soon see the river Thames. Then all they had to do was find Marlow and follow the road to the airfield. I remember when two of our pupils on the same day didn’t make it home. One of them turned left when he saw the river and followed it for miles and miles, finally landing at Hornchurch. The other one turned right and flew on and on until, as he said “I ran out of river and landed in a field”. The barrage balloons were up and the first one had flown through the lot. When asked if he had seen them he replied “Oh yes, but I kept well below them”!

If a pupil lost his way and ‘landed out’ he was instructed to phone Booker with as much information as possible and we would send two instructors in a single Tiger Moth to retrieve him My flight Commander Michael Harraway and I formed a rescue team and we had some interesting moments. A pupil had landed in a field at Pinner and the police had put him in the local Goal. My sister-in-law Betty lived in Pinner and I phone her and we met at the field. She was thus able to see our rescue team in operation. On another occasion a pupil had landed in a field next to the local vicar’s house. The vicar insisted we had tea with him before we left. The vicar had an attractive daughter and Michael told me to take the pupil back in the pupil’s Tiger Moth and he would follow later. This worried me a bit because Michael was very susceptible to young ladies and it was already late in the day and we had a forty mile journey ahead of us. I was met on the airfield by the CFI, Jackie Hicks, with “What’s happened to Michael?”. He arrived half-an-hour later as our CFI was about to get the Chance-light going. Before coming to Booker Michael had been adjutant to Group Captain Malan at Biggin Hill. He suggested to me that we could use our compulsory blind-flying time by flying to Biggin Hill. We went there in a Magister and arrived as their Spitfires were returning from a successful strike over France. A moment for celebration followed, and Michael was quickly drawn into the Officers’ Mess. I went to the Sergeants’ Mess and had some difficulty refusing most of the drinks offered me. But I had the journey home and I had doubts about Michael’s ability to fly when the time came to go. My doubts were justified and his friends had to lift him into the Magister. I needed a little help too I regret to say and I have no memory of the actual take-off. The first thing I can remember was that we were at 2000ft and my brain was clearing. I think Michael was then asleep. I was now faced with the task of locating the half-mile gap over the river which marked the only safe crossing if we were to avoid being shot down by the Army anti-aircraft guns. In my present state I knew this would be impossible. The alternative was to fly South until clear of balloons. It was a longer flight, but I was becoming more sober every minute and made a good landing back at Booker. Looking back at this episode I remember feeling confident that I would be able to manage. I put this down to the competence one achieves from a thousand hours of instructing. As Cecil Lewis says in his last book, All My Yesterdays, “In the First World War I had been accounted a first-class fighter pilot, expert in aerobatics; but there is nothing like instructing to teach you accurate flying. By the time I had been at it three months, I was flying far more skilfully than I had ever flown before.”

After the war Michael Harraway became our solicitor. Ann and I were fond of him and he often stayed with us. He lost his life at a fireworks party given by Diana Dors when some fireworks exploded inside the house and set fire to it.

Flying at Booker

Early in 1942 an American, Finlay, came as pupil to B flight. America had not yet decided to help us. Finlay had soloed in America and he just felt the urge to help us in the war. We all wanted to do our best for him and his training was taken in personal hand by our flight commander, F/Lt Davey who had been a pilot in the 14-18 war and, like Cecil Lewis, had re-enlisted. But Davey failed to get Finaly up to solo in a Tiger Moth, and he asked me to see what I could do. I see from my log Book I took Finlay up seven times covering 2 hours before sending him solo on March 10th 1942. I remember Davey’s words when I gave him this news. “I think our troubles have just begun.” How true this was to prove! Finlay could fly safely enough, but his navigation skill was nil. I gather that in America there are straight lines everywhere. Like our own pupils Finlay was required to do several solo cross country flights. Even if he landed at another aerodrome he was supposed to phone Booker to get someone to guide him back home. After a few such flights Finlay decided to do it his way “I have caused enough trouble already”. I think he arrived at his last destination, but the return to Booker beat him. We receive a call from Pershore airfield “ We have just sent off your LAC Finlay having pointed him in the right direction.” Now Pershore is about an hour away but he only made it back after some three hours. Next morning I marched Finlay before Davey in our flight hut. “Why did you take so long to get here from Pershore?” Davey asked him. “Well Sir, I had to stop to re-fuel”. I saw Davey drop his head and cover his face with his left hand whilst indicating ‘get out of my sight’ with his right. I marched Finlay out of the hut and found Davey crying with laughter, tears running down his cheeks. America was now in the war with us and Finlay joined them.