Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Journey of Mr Phillips

Posted on behalf of John Phillips, who is struggling with Google to become an 'author' on the site . . . Hodge.

After leaving Halton I was posted to 56 Sqn at Wattisham and spent 3 years there travelling Europe, getting drunk and dirty, but not doing anything particularly challenging. The Phantom was even then an old kite and not particularly thought provoking to maintain. Andy Smith and Rich Wilby were also at Wattisham along with a load of 138’s.

I applied to move to F3 Torando’s as I thought they would give more intellectual challenge and was posted to 229 OCU at Coningsby in 1988. After attending the Q courses that I really enjoyed I soon realised that the F3 was even less of a challenge (and certainly less capable) than the Phantom (engineers were really just black box and LRU changers).

Whilst at Coningsby I had a really bad car accident whilst travelling from my house in Lincoln to work. I was unconscious for 2 days and as a result was not allowed to work on aircraft for 6 months because of the risk of a fit.

In true RAF style they decided that the best place for me was Halton as an instructor so after the TIT course at Newton I was posted to Apprentice Training Wing in 1989. After 4 years on fast jets I of course was an ideal candidate to teach T42 propellers and worked for Chief Tech Ian McGregor (he taught class 1 T42 as a Cpl!). It was really strange going into the instructor’s crew room and seeing Dave Crone (now dead), Mick ‘Gizzley’ Adams, Ron Pengelli (what a c**t you are Phillips), also now long dead and a lot of the old civi instructors. Sweaty Betty was still teaching and still sweaty!

I absolutely loved instructing and also the life at Halton (I was still single and being posted to a station with a hospital had its benefits – there are two certainties in life – death and nurses!).

When I arrived at Halton I met up with Lee Kilgour who had also just been posted into an instructing role at the airfield following his tour of Northern Ireland. Lee and I got up to a lot of mischief during our time at Halton as he was single as well. We were joined by Nige Porter although he was married and so less mischievous, and a 134 Brian Lenahan a 137 Dick (Glynn) Barton and 140 whose name I cannot remember (it’s the start of things to come!) . Lee left the RAF around 1991 I think and after a spell at uni became a schoolteacher back up the Manchester area. We stayed in touch for a while, but we’ve not been in contact for a while. I went to his wedding to a nurse from Stoke Manadville Hospital (who says we never integrated with the local community!) and I know he has 3 boys. I will try and get back in touch again and get him signed up to the site.

When the apprenticeship came to an end in 1993 with the 155 entry graduation (I was on the parade in the support flights made up of serving ex-appos the only 139 I think. The fly past was every type of aircraft in RAF service at the time including the Red Arrows have a look at the photo), I moved to Propulsion Training Squadron and trained fitters on Gas Turbines using the Jaguar Propulsion Systems Training Simulator. I then helped with the move to Cosford in 1993 and finished my service there.

So as you can see whilst many of you I expect were fighting the first Gulf war, Lee and I were doing our best to both train new engineers and maintain the morale of our nursing staff. They also serve who stand and wait!

Whilst at Halton I managed to get into the RAF Harries B team in the National League and Support Command volleyball teams (yes Ged and Mike you wont believe it, and I did my EVA coaching badge as well). I also had the pleasure of coaching the appo volleyball teams to beat Cosford, the Navy and the Army, as well as the Halton Ladies team (it was a dirty job but somebody had to do it!) to win the Support Command cup. I spent a whole lot of time just playing sport and having a right good time. One of the great memories I have of this time was at the Cosford Games when Lee was managing the football team and I managed the volleyball team. I was in the stand with all the apppo’s stirring them up singing ‘Lee Kilgours green and white army’ and a few other choice songs. He then returned the favour coming into the gym and creating a hell of a noise during the volleyball. Needless to say we stuffed Cosford in nearly every sport that year.

It was during this period that I applied for a commission, but just as I was about to go to Biggin Hill I ruptured my knee ligament playing for the Harries B team and had to postpone. The Berlin Wall then came down, options for change happened, and my opportunity had to be put on hold for a while so I decided to further my career in civi street.

I left in 1995 and joined Xerox as a trainer, becoming an HR Development Manager within a year. After 6 years I left and became the Director of Learning at the recruitment consultancy Adecco, managing their training business. I was made redundant from Adecco and joined TK Maxx as their Head of Talent but didn’t really get on with fashion retail (far to many men in loud shirts!). During all this time I had been living with my first wife in Aylesbury and we had two daughters.

I left TK Maxx in 2004 and moved to Nottingham to be Head of Learning & Development and the credit rating agency Experian. I bumped into Paul Darrington here who was working for the same company, but his bit got sold and I’m now not sure where he is. I left Experian in 2008 as a result of the credit crunch joined the motor insurer BGL and was made redundant form them 6 months later – I guess I’m just lucky like that! Now I’m trying to set up my own HR Consultancy business, not easy in the current climate, but we’ll give it a go.

I got divorced from my first wife in 2005, but I am very happily married to my new and much improved wife Sharon (we married in September 2008 – she’s from Wigan but don’t hold that against her!). We live in West Bridgeford, Nottingham so if anybody is passing let me know. I’d be happy to set up a Midlands 139 Old Boys group.

I often think about those days at Halton and what you are all up to. I have watched with interest the careers of those of you still serving through the RAF web site and the RAF list, as well as my other contacts still serving. Being an ex-appo has enabled me to both get jobs and do business. We laugh about it being like a Free Mason, but it really is without the funny hand shakes!

Hodge has done a great job with the site and it would be great to get back in touch with all of you.


  1. John, fantastic to read your story to date being one of the few I lost touch with such a long time ago. The wide variation of paths that we've all gone down never ceases to amaze me, it would be great to meet up again whether at a re-union or otherwise although it would probably take a week to exchange war stories! All the best Mike Inder.

  2. Mike,

    Would love to meet up. If I'm passing Marham I'll be sure to let you know.