Memories of Harold Tokins

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My first sight of Gosport was in September 1950  when I , at Eighteen & a half  was joining the Royal Navy as a Naval Airman, reporting to HMS Daedalus at  Lee-on-Solent to be kitted out and sign the dotted line. After a week or so we  recruits left Hampshire to do our training at HMS Gamecock, Bramcote,  Warwickshire. Could one get further from the sea ?

Next view of Gosport when in early 1951 I joined  HMS Vengeance in Portsmouth Dockyard. Remember as we sailed out of Portsmouth we  passed our last Battleship HMS Vanguard that was alongside at Railway  Jetty. Looking down from the Vengeance flight deck thought this Battleship was  rather small.

After VENGEANCE I was drafted to Lee for  assessment to yet again go back to the midlands and GAMECOCK . On finishing my  basic training in 1951 , as a Naval Airman AIRFRAME I was drafted to HMS SISKIN  . Royal Naval Air Station Gosport.

Firstly as on probation I joined the Aircraft Repair Section ( ARS  ). Worked and leant my trade on Aircraft such as Sea Otter, Sea Hornet, Firefly  and the rebuilding of Tiger Moth biplanes that we formed into a University Air  Squadron then under canvas Bell Tents we operated in the summer of 1951. I certainly learnt my trade from those  wonderful Civilian Riggers that worked at Gosport and they had worked fabric  aircraft from the first world war through the second.

After that I was sent on a weeks course for conversion  to work on Helicopters, joined 705 Squadron at Gosport. We started with just 4  Helicopters .  When I left Gosport  in 1953 705 Sqdn had over 30 Helicopters. Dragonflies, Whirlwinds &  Hillers.

While on 705 Sqdn at Gosport I saw and did many  things. The Coronation Review. The  Maiden Flight of the Short’s Princess down the Solent. The arrival of the S.S.  United States on her maiden voyage where she took the Blue Ribbon from the  Queens. Flights along Southsea waving to the crowds. Rescue Work in Holland for  the 1953 floods. Going to do Air Shows around the country ( Helicopters at that  time were a novelty ) being winched down to hang waving to the crowd like a  Monkey on a String dressed as a Sailor.

The Gosport Airfield was a grass field that had a  road dividing the living quarters from the Hangars and Workshops etc. The Barrack site had a small parade  ground surround by nice two story 4 mess blocks. The food in the 1950s at SISKIN  was superb . Best I ever had in all my Naval Service. If Siskin Victualling  Officer could do it on the same money then the rest of my Naval Service I was  being robbed by the Officers.

The Airfield stretched from Fort Rowner to Fort  Grange. The RAF occupied one Fort.  They were ATDU ( Aircraft Torpedo Development Unit) and flew twin engine Bristol Brigand  Sometimes if they did not crash them as they were known to. Recall a RAF Sergeant  Master Pilot called Blood that was certainly very quick in getting out of a  crash landing. The other Fort was a Communication Center near the Railway  Crossing. There was the School of Aircraft Handlers ( Fire Fighting , Handling  and Driving ). I think 3 Hangars and one that had been bombed during the war.  Then there was a small Hangar that had been made into a Cinema and weekend Dance  Hall , known as the Concert  Hangar. Had great dances there  every week with those lovely girls from Gosport, Fareham etc bussing in.

Great memories of warm summer weather having the  afternoon off after night duty walking down to Stokes Bay to swim & rest.  Then sometimes having a night out for a drink and a dance at the Tower Ballroom, at Lee.  What happened to the Tower  at Lee ?(Demolished in the late 60’s - Ian)

Memories of attending the Pitt Street Swimming Baths in  Portsmouth during a morning then on the way back after the Ferry Crossing ( cost  2d old money ) awaiting Naval Transport ( 3 ton Lorry or if lucky a Bus ) going  down some steps into a Cafe right opposite the Ferry on the corner of the High Street.  Great Cuppa and Bacon Sarnie. Thinking Gosport High Street. Memories  of a Monday Morning Bus ride back to camp, with steamed up windows passing St Georges Army Barracks, St. Vernon Boys going over their Mast.  I’ll fly but that Mast put the frighteners up me, and those poor young boys had  to do it. The Railway Public House by the level crossing that had such good jazz  music on a night out. Then there was a Forester Pub that I had many a nice drink  in.

Gosport was a wonderful Naval Town. It spoilt me. Having over two years  there and being spoilt by the people, the hospitality and such a great naval air  station as Gosport. I thought  all my Naval Service would be the same but I soon got a shock when I left  Gosport for Yeovilton in late 1953. I did get back Gosport side till 1959 as Petty Officer Buffer at Lee-on-Solent and still get an  occasional visit as I have a  Daughter-in-Law at Fareham.

Gosport is still my favourite place in the South  though as a Londoner and now a Lincoln City resident I have split  loyalties. Harold Tokins © 2005

Whirlwind Helicopter

Coronation Review 1953

Dragonfly Helicopter

Whirlwind Helicopter

Coronation Review 1953

Dragonfly Helicopter

- I came into contact with Mr.  Blood frequently and can confirm that Mr. Blood could and did fly anything with  wings and an engine (or two). As ATDU was a somewhat hybrid entity being  controlled by RAE Farnborough, Ministry of Supply, HMS Vernon and goodness only  knows who else, as an "aero engine mechanic" I and many others had to service  many different types of aircraft, as and when required. Types of aircraft  included - during my tour of duty with ATDU - Swordfish, Brigand, Mosquito, Avro  Lincoln(on detachment at Weston-super-Mare),Canberra, Vampire, Meteor, all these  for operational duties. For other duties we had the Dominie, Anson, Balliol and  for a couple of mad weeks at the time of the review of the fleet we hosted  a flight of Fireflys of HM's Royal Australian Navy. I tell you. Never to be  forgetten. Anyway, the point I would like to make is that Mr. Blood could and  did fly every one of these types without, I suspect, bothering to even glance at  the "Pilot's Notes - AP....). It was never my privilege to fly with Mr. Blood  but that I made his aquaintance has always been a satisfaction to me.  Master Pilot indeed. By Terry Hinde (14th Dec 2008)

I have looked at the Site about Siskin and the Floods in  Holland in 1953. I was on 705 Squadron; and flew with F/Lt Danny Kearns and switched choppers when we landed in  the wrong place. I enjoyed the history lesson, thanks. I did  receive an "Oorkonde" from Queen Julianna (and Prince Bernhard), just curious  how many of the Squadron got the same, I recently met a Dutch fellow who had  been with the Dutch Army and who was busy during the "Vatersnood". By the way; I live on the West  Coast of Canada, and worked with the RCN for a number of  years.  Roy Kennedy. (Added 2nd October 2009)

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See More About the Air Crash

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