Royal Air Force Staff College

Bracknell, England


Last Updated:  March 16th, 2020

I left Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines and flew to Jacksonville.  Mary and I packed up the only stuff we were allowed to ship to England (1000# "express shipment). The rest of our stuff was stored by the Navy for when we returned to the states for our next duty station. I think we sold our trusty 1967 Buick LeSabre.  We then flew to Ridgewood for a short visit with my parents, my fiend Jeff Lapic and my sister Barbara.

Left to right: my sister's daughter, Melissa,  Heather, Jeff, Laura, and Stacy

After Ridgewood, we went on to Duxbury to spend Christmas with Mary's parents and her brothers and sisters.

We flew from Logan airport in Boston in early January to Heathrow Airport outside of London.

I guess we got a room in a hotel in London because I had to check in with the American Embassy before heading to the Naval Staff College in Greenwich.

In 1973, the American Embassy was located in Grosvenor Square.

This is the same American Embassy where the Cornell Glee Club performed after our Russian Tour in 1960.

I put on my Service Dress Blue uniform and checked in with the Naval Attache at the Embassy. He informed me that my orders had been changed from the Royal Navy Staff College at Greenwich to the Royal Air Force Staff College in Bracknell. He told me that due to the fact that I had three combat tours in Vietnam, the RAF wanted me there. The change meant that I wouldn't be starting my class until March instead of January. He told me to check in at Bracknell and get situated in officer housing. I asked him if I had to check in st the embassy from time to time. He said, "No enjoy the break" !!

London is an easy trip by car or train from Bracknell.
Bracknell is west of Windsor Castle and Ascot, the home of the famous horse race.

The largest town near Bracknell is Reading.
Northwest of Reading is the delightful countryside area called  "The Coltswolds".

Our Mercedes looked pretty much like this one.

We needed a car and had no idea how to rent one! But not for long.

Mary's father's company Emerson and Cumming Ltd., had a location in Wembley outside of London and a major manufacturing facility in Germany.

They shipped a Mercedes 220 to London for us to use while we were in Great Britain.

Officer's Quarters

The Officer's Mess

The RAF Staff College

The quarters had no heat or air conditioning. The quarters had a fireplace in the lounge (living room) that burned soft coal that had a pan of water suspended above the fire. The water was heated by the fire and then routed into the various rooms that had radiators. Most people did not use their dining room except for the occasional party so kept the door closed and the radiator off. I think the real reason that the Brits generally wore a jacket or sweater is that they kept their quarters colder than we Americans do. There was a coal stove in the kitchen that used hard coal and heated water for use in the kitchen and showers. The Americans had an electric heater in that water source but it was too expensive to use.

The were two quarters for the American students that had a 220 volt circuit for our refrigerators. Everyone else had a cold closet where they kept their food that needed to be kept reasonably cool. Most of the Brits shopped almost every day so they did not have to store much food in their "cold closet". The American students used an American commissary so we shopped less often. Milk in bottles (with cream on the top) was left by our back door every Monday. The Brits only used milk with their tea so didn't use much milk.  We used a lot of milk. The Green grocer brought his wagon around every Wednesday and sold fresh vegetables and lettuce.  The onion and garlic man brought his wares around about every couple of months. We hung them in the coal shed outside the back door.

It took a little while to get used to living in our quarters. But, I eventually got pretty good at making a fire in our lounge fireplace using soft coal from our
semi-attached coal house. We used a small block of paraffin as our fire starter. It was pretty cool and damp in January so once we got the coal fire started, we needed to keep it going so that it would heat the water in the pan over the fire for the radiators in the other rooms. We had paraffin space heaters but we quickly learned that with two little girls running around, they weren't safe.

After a few weeks we were ready to do a little sightseeing. We did go into London a time or two. One trip was to the famous Brown's Hotel to experience their high tea.  We managed to find a terrific local lady to watch the girls on such trips. We called her, Nanny Grainger. The girls loved Nanny Grainger and she loved them and she took great care of them when we had to leave them behind.  The Brits are not too patient about the "little one" making a fuss in places like Brown's Hotel. But Heather says that she went to Brown's Hotel with us. However, the social life associated with the course would be very active. We had to leave the girls with Nanny Grainger two to three times a week.

But when we took our first drive in our Mercedes to the Cotswolds, we were captivated.  (From Wikipedia) The Cotswolds are an area in central and south west England comprising the Cotswold Hills, a range of rolling hills that rise from the meadows of the upper Thames to the escarpment known as Cotswold Edge...The area is defined by the bedrock of Jurassic limestone that creates a type of grassland habitat rare in the UK that is quarried for a golden coloured (Oxford Concise Dictionary (OCD) spelling) Cotswold Stone. Note: We were required at the RAF Staff College to use the OCD as our source for proper spelling!

We could drive from Bracknell to Reading (southeast part of the map below) and head west on the M4 (on the left side of the road, of course). We could hang a right and head to Oxford for a visit or take the M40 northwest to Stratford-upon-Avon to take in some Shakespeare (which we did on a couple of occasions. Or, we could continue on the M4 out of Reading to Swindon and then head northwest to the Cotswolds and on one occasion to Cheltenam. My paternal grandmother was from Cheltenam. The rolling hills of the Cotswolds with its' beautiful quaint villages of Cotswold Golden limestone were gorgeous!!

Oxford College
The Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon

We went to Stratford-upon-Avon on several occasions. Heather remembers going to at least one Shakespeare play while there.
Once at dinner at Stratford, Mary almost leaped out of her chair when she saw Alan Bates at a nearby table!

Driving through the Cotswolds

Village after village of winding roads and beautiful houses
Beautiful Tudor style with thatched roofs
Or houses of Cotswold limestone and thatched roofs

We also went on a trip to Bath. You know you are on a Roman road because they are straight. English country roads aren't!

Bath is a city with a mix of Roman (baths) and
English (churches) architecture.

A typical Roman bath in Bath, England

We also made a trip to the Salisbury Plain to see Stonehenge.  We could have made this trip during Ferbruary or after I had a Staff College trip to see the British Army training range on the Salisbury Plain. The Salisbury Plain stretches from western Barkshire (where Bracknell is located) to Wiltshire. It is the largest grassland habitat in western Europe so was ideal for ancient civilizations for farming and offers an ideal location for a large training area for the British Army.


Wildridings Primary School

We enrolled Heather in Wildridings Primary School. I'm not sure whether we sent Laura to Wildridings or not. Wildridings was the name of an estate about one mile south of the "new town" (all buildings recently built starting about 1962). Wildridings Academy had school uniforms; gray skirt or slacks, white shirt, and a red cardigan type sweater. Heather was in the equivalent of 4th grade. We didn't hesitate to take her with us whenever we traveled about where the educational value of the trip exceeded what she would learn in school. The Wildridings Head Master had no problem with this. Heather adapted very well to school at Wildridings. She even developed an English accent. Wildridings Academy also enjoyed having an American onboard. They gave Heather the lead role in the school play, Mary Poppins.  The evening of the play, the Head Master addressed the audience and informed them that there would be an American playing Mary Poppins. They were surprised I think that when Heather spoke, she had a genuine English accent and they wouldn't have known that she was an American if the Head Master hadn't told them so.

Becoming Acquainted with Staff College Students

But eventually, we had to stop our tourist activities and start getting serious about attending classes at the Staff College in March. Royal Air Force students began arriving and moving into their quarters. They were mostly Squadron Leaders (equivalent to USAF Majors and Navy LCDRs like me). There were a few Wing Commander students (equivalent to USAF LTCols and Navy CDRS). There were a couple of USAF Majors "on the course"; one Major Wy Gowell would become a close friend "on the course" and in sports activities. He and his wife Elaine would become good social friends as well. It was amusing that most of the RAF students had a difficult time getting used to the unheated scant base quarters. One Wing Commander and his wife had just returned from a tour of duty in Washington D.C. and had a particularly tough time; they were actually in shock. I had to teach the husband how to get his lounge fire going using parafin cubes. His wife had become a big fan of American bourbon which is hard to find in the UK so I had to keep her supplied from the base Exchange. He and his wife would also become close friends (I was her only source of bourbon).

There were about 90 students from the UK and about 50 from various countries around the world. Most of the non UK students were from Commonwealth countries. Many of the Commonwealth students had done their flight training with the Royal Air Force at RAF Cranwell. They wore uniforms similar to RAF uniforms and the names of their air forces reflected their close relationship with the RAF; for example; The Jordanian Royal Air Force, the Saudi Arabian Royal Air Force, the Argentinian Royal Air Force, the Indian Royal Air Force, and yes the Pakistani Royal Air Force, and yes the Iran Royal Air Force (the Shaw was still in power then). Major Sam Shurdom) was the Director of Operations for an F-102 squadron in Jordan and had to commute often on weekends back and forth. We did manage to get in some liberty together. Both his brothers lived in the US. Sam was very patient and had a great sense of humor. He even smiled when some best intentioned young ladies in London wanted to entertain him with a rendition of Hava Na Gilla.  Some of the Commonwealth nations had done advanced training elsewhere, ie; Russia. The Indian and Afghanistan Royal Air Force guys had learned to fly their MIG 21s in Russia. Many of the students "on the course" were the "cream of the crop" in their air forces and would go on to become very high ranking officers. One of my best friends "on the course" Major Paul Leuthold would become Chief of Staff of the Swiss Air Force. Crown Prince Bandar Faisal of Saudi Arabia would be in charge if the Doran Oil Facilities Air Defense sector (home to ARAMCO) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Note: He was no longer Crown Prince because his uncle had 'eliminated" his father!  Our neighbor across the road but one (means across the road but one house down from directly across the road), Major Bruce Jackman was an experienced combat officer with Gurkha (ethnic Nepalese) soldiers throughout Indonesia, Africa, and the United Arab Emerites). Bruce and I closed the Officer's Mess on numerous occasions and made an organized retreat to our respective quarters. As you can see, I would be studying with and getting to know many of these interesting officers and their wives socially.  Crown Prince Faisal did not live in the unheated quarters on the base. He had a floor rented an entire floor of a luxury hotel (Inn on the Park) in London and commuted daily with his security team daily to Bracknell.

Comparison of RAF officer ranks to USAF ranks

The students were either Squadron Leaders (Major/Lcdr) or Wing Commanders (LtCol/Cdr).
The instructors were either Wing Commanders or Group Captains (Colonel/Captain).

This is our Class Picture

I'm the guy in the Service Dress Khaki uniform in the middle. I guess I should have worn my Dress Blues!

There were three phases of the curriculum at Bracknell.

Phase One: Commonwealth/non NATO students (January through mid-March)- English language review and orientation type curriculum.

Phase Two: All students (April through July)

Phase Three: NATO country students only (September through mid December)

My Normal Phase Two Schedule

I normally started my day about 0600 in the morning. I would scan three newspapers and read carefully read any articles that were pertinent while I was having breakfast. The papers that I looked at each morning were the London Times, one of the liberal rags such as The Guardian, and the international Times Union from the previous day which I had delivered to my quarters. Once OP had completed that, I walked from our quarters, past the Officers Mess, and then to the main building of the college. I have indicated the track of my morning stroll on the map below.

Officers Mess
Staff College Main Building

0900- Class- Our first event was a classroom session. We were organised (Oxford Dictionary spelling) into groups of 30 or so for the purpose of classroom sessions. We had one in the morning and a second in the afternoon.

1015- Coffee- This was a very important gathering. My objective in scanning the three newspaper each morning was to ensure that I was well informed for any questions and discussions that would come up each day, especially in the morning coffee session.

1100- Guest Lecturer Presentation- We had an important speaker each day. These speakers might be a senior RAF officer or a member of the British government.
1145- The guest lecturer would take a break and have a glass of sherry wit the Staff College President and some of the college faculty.
1200- Questions- The guest lecturer would return. This would be our opportunity to ask questions. Very well articulated questions were common and sometimes
         somewhat controversial.
1245- Lunch- We had a proper  four course English lunch (AKA Supper) every day; usually some kind of a brown soup, salad, a course of meat potatoes and a
         vegetable followed by desert such as sherry trifle followed by coffee or tea.
1400- Class- The second class of the day often included working on some kind of a project such as writing an Operation Order.
1500- Tea
1600- Sports- We would then retire to one of the sports fields for a game of over limited Cricket, football (soccer), field hockey, etc.

I was an active participant in sports while at Bracknell.

Rugby- I was on the RAF Bracknell Rugby side where I was the right wing three quarter. This was the easiest position to put an inexperienced American. My friend, USAF Maj Wy Gowell was the left wing three quarter. We had a"fixture every Wednesday afternoon dutring the season. We had some very experienced skill players who had played at Oxford, Cambridge, etc. We played various teams of our age group (early 30s) such as the Army Staff College, and the Police Academy. We did play one young team, Kings College., We held our own. Winning was not as important as playing at a high standard. A p[opst game assessment might be expressed as follows; "It was a just result". We went as a team to Wembly to see the Australain Blacks play one of the strong English sides. I was a great experience for me.

Cricket- I did my duty playing cricket. I had the proper attire (kit) and all. I didn't protect the wickets as much as I went for the big hits; hitting the ball out of the circle (homerun). I could usually get about 20 to 30 runs without ever having to run from wicket to wicket. My at bats didn't last all that long though as the bowler figured out how to get the ball past me and knock down the wickets.

Squash/Tennis- My tennis experience and the fact that I had played squash at Cornell gave me a chance against the better players at Bracknell. I met one of the senior instructors, Group Captain Leeds on the squash court. I learned that he had been an "All England" tennis player and was a member of "The Queen's Club" at Wimbledon. He gave me a tryout and I ended up on the Brackenell Tennis Team. The tennis season was after the Rugby season so I exchanged representing Bracknell in Rugby on Wednesday afternoons to playing regular fixtures in tennis on Wednesdays. All of our matches were on grass of course. The climax of the tennis season was that I was a part of the RAF Bracknell team that participated in the RAF Championships which were played at Wimbledon. At the end of the season, Group Captain Leeds got each member of our team reserved centre court seats at " The Championships" at Wimbledon.

There is a picture somewhere of our RAF Bracknell tennis team. I hope to find it soon and post it here!

Field Hockey- I had no idea what I was doing but I played a bit of field hockey. I participated in a fixture where we played the "English Ladies Field Hockey Team". We got our butts kicked! They ladies were really nasty players. They occasionally used their stick where they shouldn't have.

Softball- Wy Gowell and I organised some of the cricket players into the Bracknell softball team. It was quite a sight. We had a keg of "bitter" available at all practices. They were good athletes. Their learning curve was steep. We played a few American teams and did quite well actually. Everyone had a good time.

The sports programe at Bracknell was quite effective as a medium to get to know many of the students and faculty very well!

Social Activities

There were some official social functions related to the RAF Staff College such as parties in thew Officers Mess and a very elegant Dinning Out with all the students, faculty, and their wives. But, there was almost a constant stream of house parties with small groups of attendees of about 20 to 30 people. The Leutholds (Switzerland) had a memorable Fondu party early on in the spring. It sort of set the tone for things to come. Paul and Heidi had used their dining room table with chairs ll around for about 14 or so people. The one rule was that you could not sit next to your wife. The procedure was that one by one you took put a piece of bread on your Fondu fork and then dipped it in some kind of high proof colourless liquid. When it was good and wet, your task was to dip the fork into the melted cheese and then eat the cheese and bread off of your fork. If the cheese and bread fell off the fork, which it did in most cases, you were obliged to kiss the woman on your right; a real ice breaker.  In our little social group, we managed to have at least one of these parties during the week and sometimes two.

As I mentioned before, most people didn't use their dining room often and kept the door closed and the radiator off. Many people didn't even bother to draw a dinning room table, chairs, and related dining room furniture from the furniture supply warehouse. So the room was empty. But they would open the room if they had a party Somehow they would a have music in the dining room and almost no light in the room. Party goers would go into the room to dance, not n=necessarily with their wives. What happened in the room stayed in the room. The room would soon be called the "grope room"; not exactly what you might expect from the "straitlaced" Brits!

We had two officers representing the Royal Air Force Malaysia. One Malaysian Squadron Leader was married to a Malaysian princess and they were equivalent to English high society. The other Squadron Leader Su who was married to a very cute and shy part Chinese wife. In the Malaysian Air Force at the time being married to a wife with Chinese blood was not a career enhancing situation. Squadron Leader Su was head and shoulders more capable professionally than his fine society counterpart, but he knew that he would never rise to the highest positions in the Malaysian Air Force. However, Su knew how to have a good time at parties. We never referred to him by any name other than his surname Su. We found ourselves at parties quite often with Su and his wife Ann. At first Ann was very shy. You wouldn't think that she had much to say. But, after being exposed to the western wives' views about feminine independence, she underwent a metamorphosis. By the time the Malaysians left the course at the end of July, Ann was the life of the party.

We were also at parties quite often with Squadron Leader Venod Patney, a MIG 21 pilot from the Royal Indian Air Force.  His wife Vena had a job of some sort in Reading not far from Bracknell. Vena was beautiful and very intelligent. Venod was exceptionally intelligent and asked the most logically expressed questions of the guest lecturers in perfect Queen's English. I always enjoyed talking with Venod about his experience with the MIG 21 Russian flight training programe.

Note: When I checked in with the Air Attache at the embassy in London, I asked him how limited was I expected to be by the classification system, in my discussions at the RAF Staff College. The military had a habit of classifying almost everything at least Confidential NOFORN (no foreign access). He told me that I was there to tell them about my Vietnam experiences including important tactical lessons learned and he was confident that I would use common sense in my discussions. He told me that I was not an intelligence gathering assignment. I was there to be involved in the exchange of information and ideas. When I checked out with the same officer after completing the RAF Staff College, I told him that I had learned quite a bit about Russian flight training from an Indian MIG 21 pilot and an Afgan MIG 19 pilot., He told me that we had plenty of access to that kind of information and that they didn't want these types of staff colleges to turn into intelligence gathering exercises.

Many of the RAF types were interested in what kind of target intelligence photography we had. to use at the tactical level. I told them that we had tactical reconnaissance aircraft onborad the carriers which took pre-strike target images and post strike BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment photography). I had mentioned that we also had access to satellite images of the would be targets and on one occasion, I almost had a mid air collision with a drone near Haiphong in the summer of 1967. I didn't know until the summer of 1972 that the name of the drone program run by the USAF was called Buffalo Hunter which at the time was SECRET NOFORN information (It is now declassified and appears in Wikipedia). I did not relate any of the Buffalo Hunter coded information, just that I had seen one in 1967.  This came up in one of the guest lecturer sessions. One day, the guest lecturer was a senior RAF Air Chief Marshall in charge of Intelligence. He gave a rather "milktoast" presentation about RAF capabilities. During questions, one of my RAF friends asked him whether the RAF had a drone based intelligence programme. He replied that he knew the Americans were working on it but that it was still in the future. My RAF friend replied that that was very interesting because I had told him about encountering an US intelligence drone in 1967 over North Vietnam. The word got out to the guest lecturers circuit that there were combat experienced pilots with the latest information in the audience and that they had better make sure they up to date information in their presentations.

Field Trips and Major Social Events

Field Trips

We two official field trips during the Phase Two Curriculum; the British Army training facility on the Salisbury Plain during the late spring and the Paris Air Show in late June.  

The British Army Training and Exercise Area on the  Salisbury Plain

The Salisbury Plain stretches from western Barkshire (where Bracknell is located) to Wiltshire. It is the largest grassland habitat in western Europe so has been an ideal location for a training area for the British Army. The British Army first began conducting exercises on the Salisbury Plain in 1898, conducted large scale training exercises during both World Wars, were conducting active training, especially tank and anti-tank training while we were there in 1973 and continue to use it. We drove from Bracknell in buses and lories (trucks). The trucks carried our tables, table cloths chairs, dishes, etc for a proper lunch on the "battlefield" on the Salisbury Plain.

Types of training conducted by the British Army on the Salisbury Plain

Infantry Tactical Training
Small Vehicle Integrated Tactical Training
Open Country Tank Maneuvering Training

Integrated Air and Ground Assault Training
Tank Live Firing Exercises
Anti-Tank Live Firing Exercises
During our tour, the demonstration of anti-tank live firing was exceptionally impressive!

The Salisbury Plain Ghost Town

In 1943, the townspeople in a small village in Wiltshire on the western end of the Salisbury Plain were forced to leave their village in 1943. The village was used for training in house to house fighting expected following the allied invasion of Normandy. The villagers were not allowed to return to their village after the war and the village has remained uninhabited and controlled by the Ministry of Defense.

After the village was vacated in 1943
The public was given tours of the village recently.
A recent picture of the abandoned village

The Paris Air Show

The Paris Air Show is traditionally held the last week of June every odd year.

So being 1973, we were able to attend. We flew in from England, early in the morning, spent the day and returned the same day. So, unfortunately, we were not able to spend any time in Paris itself.

The Paris Air Shoe is held at Le-Bourget airport northeast of Paris.

It is located within the urban sprawl of Paris itself; a factor that would become important at the air show that year.

Note the urban sprawl around the Le-Bourget airport

The show consists of static displays
and numerous flight demonstrations.

There are also many places to enjoy a glass of wine and great food in any of the tents sponsored by aviation industry companies.

One major plane crash occurred during the 1973 Paris Air Show

On the second day of the air show, the second production aircraft of the Russian built Aeroflot TU-144 (Concorde copy-cat) crashed in the vicinity of the airport.
That day the Concorde was first to demonstrate the performance capabilities of the aircraft; high speed flyby, steep pull up climbing to 10,000 ft altitude. When the TU-144 pilot attempted the same series of maneuvers, he pulled the nose up too steeply failng to recover the aircraft.
The plane crashed killing the six person crew and eight people on the ground.

We did not observe the accident as we were at the Paris Air Show on the opening day.
The crash occurred the following day.

Reaction to the Crash
(From Wikipedia)

Following the crash, there was considerable political pressure to move the Paris Air Show from the Le-Borguet to an airport at Istres, which is situated in open country 40km (25 miles) northwest of Marseille. However, the Paris Air Show was not moved and continues to take palce every odd year at Le-Bourget.

" The crash reduced the enthusiasm for the TU-144. Restrictions on the TU-144 following the Paris Air Show crash meant that it only saw limited service during 1977 and 1978, and it was finally withdrawn from service following another crash in 1978."

"The TU-1454's rival, the Concorde, went on to serve with British Airways and Air France for 30 years afterwards, being finally withdrawn from service in 2003 due to low passenger numbers following the crash of Flight 4590, rising service costs, and the slump in the aviation industry following 9/11/

Mess Night at the Great Hall in Greenwich

The final social event of the main term was a Mess Night held at The Naval War College. It was held at the Great Hall in Greenwich.

Lord Nelson's Great Hall at Greenwich
Greenwich Bar

It was a spectacular event especially with all the various styles of Mess Dress Uniforms

Royal Navy Mess Dress
British Army Regimental Mess Dress
Royal Air Force Mess Dress
US Navy Mess Dress

Each British Army Regiment had separate styles of very elaborate Mess Dress!

Of course the evening started at the bar. There were lots of sea stories being told. My favourite was a discussion between an Indian Navy and a Pakistani naval officer. It seems the Indian Navy officer had been on board a Komar boat and had taken the Afgani naval officer's mine sweeper with Stick missiles. The Afhgan officer said he maneuvered his boat behind a third country ship, Possibly Russian and the inbound missiles hit the Russian ship instead of his mine sweeper. Their discussion was very professional and unemotional over gin and tonics. Probably neither one was supposed to be drinking alcoholic beverages!

From the bar, every one moved on into the Great Hall for many toasts starting with Admiral Lord Nelson whose statue was on the stage, and after toasts to a great many other important folks, ended up with the final toast to "The Queen "
{of England}. The meal was a sumptuous many course affair which ended with a sherry trifle desert course and coffee.

 Main curriculum with all the students ended at the end of July.  The Class Picture was taken back at the college.

 Then the students from the non NATO countries went back to their various home countries.

August Break

As is the practice in most of Europe, the RAF Staff College took a break during the month of August. Some students went home for the month.
We elected to stay in England and take two vacation trips.


Mary had found a house for rent in the village of Mousehole on the sea coast of Cornwall.  We rentedit withj two other families; ther Gowells and the Wing Commander and his wife (their names escape me at the moment) and all our children (about nine I think).

We set off in our Mercedes and headed southwest. We took the English back roads so it took about three hours to go the 100 or so miles!

Many of the local Cornish roads look like this. You have to be very careful because on the edges of the road are drainage trenches. If you get a tyre stuck in one of those, you are in big trouble!
Much of the Cornwall coastline looks like this. There are many cliffs and small inlets which were used by smugglers. If you watched the PBS series "Poldark", you are familiar with this view.

We drove on the road to Penzance but took a left when we got to the coast to find our rental house in a small village called Mousehole.

The house was a large stone 15th Century house with walls on the roadside that were about 6-8ft thick. The road was right outside our front door but the walls were so thick that you couldn't hear a sound of passing cars. ON the first floor, we had a large lounge room that had french doors which looked out at St. MIchaels' Mount. We kept the doors locked however because the garden outside was only about twenty feet in width and lead to a cliff with about a seventy foot drop to the small beach below. Way too dangerous with nine small children around.

There were a large kitchen and a dinning room on the first floor and stairs leading to the second and third floors above and a basement below.
There was a very large room on the second floor with we used as a dorm room for all of the children. There were three bedrooms on the third floor for the adults.
There was another family that had rented the basement with an entrance to the yard (garage and driveway)

The view of the sea and St Michaels Mount from our house was spectacular!

At low tide, the causeway from the town to the island was exposed so vehicles and tourists had access to the island and the castle.
But at high tide, like in this view, the causeway was underwater.

Across the road from the house was a restaurant that served coffee, breakfast, tea, dinner, and desert (especially our favourite, strawberries and cream)
Down the road to the left in the town was a pub where we played darts and drank some beer.

We ate breakfast and dinner in the house. But, we enjoyed going across the street in the mornings for coffee and in the afternoon at tea time for strawberries and cream.
It was only a short walk to the pub in the village. We would go occasionally for a pub lunch and in the evenings for some beers and darts.

Our normal procedure was to have breakfast and dinners in the house. Each adult had a specific duty. I was one of the cooks. Wy Gowell's job was to serve the after dinner drinks. The Wing Commander's wife was in charge of reading a bed time story to the children each night.

One day we noticed hundreds of small sailboats sailing around the area off the coast of Penzance. We found out that there was a regatta going on for the Ensign Class of day sailors. Laura was very interested in it so I rented one for a few days. Laura at 7 years old turned out to be a very fast learner.

Ensign Class regatta of the coast of Penzance
Except in those days, all the Ensign Class day sailboats had blue sails.
We practiced out of the Mousehole Marina on the left side of the causeway. The regatta was to the right side toward Penzance.
Laura was a fast learner.
Sailing turned out to be a shared
interest for Laura and me for many years.

If you have watched "Podark", you know that there were mines in Cornwall. Those mines were tin mines. The wives of the miners would lower the lunches for their husbands at the end of a rope into the mine. Their lunch was a pastry filled with meat, potatoes, and vegetables called a Cornish Pastie. When I was spending time in Montana many years later in a gold mining town called Nevada City, there were merchants selling Cornish pasties on the street corners.  It turned out that many of the tin miners from Cornwall came to America to participate in the gold rush of the late 19th century and the Cornish pastie remains today as a lunch item in Nevada City, Montana.

Cornwall Tin Mines
Cornish Pastie
Cornwall Tin Mines

We had virtually no contact with the family that was staying in the basement apartment. Toward the end of our trip, I ventured from our garden to the yard outside the garage entrance. I knocked on the door and spent some time with the downstairs family. They worked for some kind of a world agency sponsored by the United Nations. They were in between assignments. He was an American. His wife was Dutch. They had a large number of children. They all spoke numerous languages reflecting the various locations where they had been located. Toward the end of the conversation, when talking about the husband's life during his youth, he mentioned that he graduated from Ridgewood High School. Amazing. Go figure!

After a great week in Cornwall, we headed back to Bracknell to get ready for our second trip; Scotland.


We took the car train from London to Edinburgh

We loaded our Mercedes aboard
We had a reasonably comfortable trip
With a great view of the countryside

We left the rolling hills of northern England for the more mountainous Scotland
When we arrived in the major city of Edinburgh, we offloaded our car from the train for our drive through central Scotland

We enjoyed the hills and rivers of central Scotland
Purple 'Heather' adorned the hills Lots of castles and sheep; few people

We visited as many castles as we could on our way to our farmhouse in Loosiemouth, Scotland

Loosiemouth, Scotland

Loosiemouth is located on the coast of the North Sea
But we did not stay near the sea 
Instead we stayed in a cute little farmhouse like this one

We stayed in the farmhouse for a few days. It was rustic but quite an experience particularly for Heather and Laura.
I'm sure we drove around a bit and enjoyed the scenery. But, the visit I remember the best was the visit to Grant Distillery.

Just a short drive south Glen Grant
Grant's Distillery
The copper distillery equipment was beautiful

Grant Distillery products
My daughter Heather recently called me and asked a few questions about scotch. She and her husband David were at a scotch tasting event in California.I reminded her that she had visited the Grant Distillery in Scotland when we lived in England and that she thought that the copper vats were really cool. I also reminded her that scotch was colorless when it came out of the still. Scotch gets it's color from a sherry cask which is used during the aging process.

Single malt Glenfiddich is aged for twelve ($50), fifteen ($70), eighteen ($100), and twenty one years ($185) for a
750 ml bottle. Some special editions cost much more.

Scotch aging in sherry casks

We made three side trips on our way back from Scotland

Loch Ness and the Loch Ness Monster

We drove west from Loosiemouth and drove down the western shore of Loch Ness

The drive along the shore of Loch Ness is a beautiful drive
Heather claims to this day that she saw the Loch Ness monster

Our next visit was to the factory and retail store of Pendleton

We purchased a couple of Pendleton shirts and ties which I wore for many years
This is one of the Smith Clan tartans
The Smith family crest

We arrived back in Bracknell at the end of August in time for the last portion of the course

Phase Three: The Fall NATO Course Curriculum and Three Field Trips

Academic Curriculum- The schedule was similar to Phase Two except the course was taught at the NATO Confidential level. We spent time working on mission defensive planning designed for NATO response to Soviet incursions into eastern Europe.

Field Trips- There were two field trips in support of the NATO curriculum.


I don't recall many details about this trip except that we flew into Berlin from England, spent the day and a night and then flew back to England the next day.
I remember that we visited the Brandenburg Gate, Check Point Charlie and the Berlin Wall. It was 1973 so there was an allied West Berlin and a communist East Berlin.

Brandenburg Gate

Check Point Charlie

Check Point Charlie Sign

The Berlin Wall in the 1970s

Berlin bar

I don't remember anything about what kind of hotel we stayed in or where we went for dinner.  But, I remember well an incident at a Berlin bar that night!

I remember that I was at the bar drinking with some of the RAF guys and Bruce Jackman, my neighbor at Bracknell and a Major with the British Army. We ere having a great time until some German civilians came into the bar and began making trouble. On of them came over to me, pushed me and made some unflattering remarks about "my mother".  The next thing I knew that German was out the door and was thrown into the street courtesy of Bruce Jackman. You might remember that Bruce was a"Gerka" officer with a lot of combat experience in Indonesia. He didn't appreciate the remarks the German was making at my expense and took immediate action.

West German F-104 base near Norvenich, West Germany

Again, unfortunately I don't recall many details about this trip except that we flew into Berlin from England, spent the day and a night and then flew back to England the next day. Norvenich was located in the western part of West Germany close to the border with Belgium.

The base was heavily defended with AAA batteries for air defense and anti tank barriers and machine gun positions around the base perimeter to repel ground attacks.

The German Air Force flew the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter from Norvenich.

They conducted their F-104 pilot training in the clear skies and flat terrain at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.

However they had a poor accident record flying from Norvenich as the newly trained pilots from Luke were exposed to the relatively poor weather in Germany.

Although I don't recall where we stayed overnight in Norvenich, I do remember the German meal we had that night. We had a whole roasted pig (with apple in the mouth), lots of potatoes and beer served by attractive fraulein servers.

We had a great time!

Phase Three came to a close in December 1973

My final project was to write an article comparing my experience flying a "dumb" (but fun) aircraft, the A4 Skyhawk over North Vietnam during the summer of 1967 with my experience flying the A7 Corsair "smart" aircraft in an even more challenging environment over North Vietnam in during the summer of 1972. The main reason the RAF wanted me to attend their course rater than the Royal Naval Staff College at Greenwich was so that I could pass on what I had learned during my three combat flying tours. I was honored that they eventually decided to publish my article in The Journal of Naval Science in July, 1975.

Journal of Naval Science Article

 "Smart Aircraft, Smart Weapons, A Comparison"
It was published in the July 1975 edition of the Journal of Naval Science.

If you would like to read the article, Click HERE

Final Thoughts

Having flown a two year tour with the USAF attending the RAF Staff College in lieu of one of the US Staff Colleges was perfect for me. I learned a great deal about how other air forces operated around the world. Especially valuable were my discussions with combat experienced pilots from Isreal, the Indian and Afghani Russian trained MIG pilots, getting to know the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and my friendships with Maj Paul Leuthold of the Swiss Arly Air Force, Sam Sherdon of the Royal Jordanian Air Force, many of my RAF classmates, and Maj Bruce Jackman.  

If the goal of this type of staff college is to increase the interoperability of joint forces, I am the example of how effective this can be. In August of 1990, I was sent to Saudi Arabia as a tactical air advisor to the senior naval officer, a Vice Admiral, at the beginning of Desert Shield just after the Sadam's attack on Kuwait. My task was to work with Flag Rank officers for joint planning for the response to the attack on Kuwait which would eventually become Desert Storm. While executing this task I worked with Royal Air Force Air Vice Marshall Ian MacFadyan,
the senior RAF officer in Saudi Arabia and a classmate at the RAF Staff College, Prince Bandar Faisal, the Saudi Royal Air Force Air Commander for defense of the Dahran sector also an RAF Staff College Classmate, a USAF Brig General who was an F-105 Wild Weasel pilot I knew at McConnell during my USAF Exchange Tour who was responsible for Electronic Warfare Plans for the USAF in Saudi Arabia, and the 117 Stealth Squadron Commander LTCol John Miller who was my student at McConnell when he was a First Lieutenant.          


Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic Fleet

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