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(or Memories of a Hanger-on)

by John Bertles


Unlike good wine, memories do not improve with age. The bad memories fade and the good ones improve. I know, from personal experience, that this is nearly always the case. Therefore, before I get too old I would like to give you some of my "Hangar Experiences".

Shortly after I joined Adastra Hunting Geophysics, Barry Howe suggested that Alan Horne and I should have a flight in one of the company's aircraft. After signing the compulsory "butcher's sheet", we proceeded to Hangar 15. On arrival, we boarded the Prince VH-AGF, captained by Ken Rowlands. It was a great flight and most memorable was the wing tip circuit over the Caringbah Hospital. It appeared as an X rotating. Alan could not be persuaded to open his eyes for a look.

My first memory of the "Thursday Afternoon Keg Party" was at Hangar 15. After we all collected drinks, Bunny Hammond gave a speech, welcoming everybody and after consultation with Jack McDonald, said that it was to celebrate the swinging of a new prop on the Cat. Next week we were back for another celebration of the swinging of a prop on the Cat. Evidently, an apprentice started the engine and forgot about the height of the aircraft in its configuration.

After the move to Hangar 13, things became more civilised ??. For a start, if you wished to put on a keg, you had first to place your name on the list hanging on the change room door. I remember when one of the office staff, Roger Albert Alfred Smith, became engaged; he asked me how he could put on a keg for the staff. We proceeded to Hangar 13 and approached Jack who said, "Put your bloody name on the list". When Roger saw that he would be buying a keg 12 months down the track, it was suggested that if he wanted to put it on sooner he would have to negotiate with the person whose name appeared on that date. You can imagine the trouble he had with that. While on the subject of "R.A.A.S." Some might remember the Christmas party where one of the Hudsons was put on open display. Roger was showing his fiancÚ the flight deck when one of Jack's famous acetylene "pipe" bombs went off. At that time, Roger touched a switch at the same time as a flash photograph was taken. We could not count the bodies left in Roger's wake.

Another fond memory was the Thursday that Jack decided to attach an aircraft battery to the beer dispenser. We should have woken up to the fact that mischief was afoot, as there were no beer jugs on the table, only glasses. Jack stopped Bunny Hammond from pulling a beer and he thought it was a great joke until much latter he pulled one and forgot about the "extra charge" at the pump. The battery was disconnected shortly after.

I also remember a group of us moving up to the Mascot Hotel after one good afternoon drinking "cordial" at the hangar. We were all sitting at a large round table, where Jack was offering a large sum of money to help him get a divorce, when an apprentice approached with drinks for all and as he stood looking for a vacant area in which to place them as the table was overflowing with empties. I shouldn't have said "overflowing" because that's what happened when Jack, with a sweeping motion, cleared the table.

Yes, these were fine days which allowed good memories to come back to haunt us in later life. Thank goodness, I was not married in those days and could get away with much more than was later possible.

John Bertles 20th March 2004



If you wish to contribute your experiences, please contact Ron