Edinburgh University Air Squadron, 1946-1969
Summa Petunt Juvenes
I joined the squadron in 1956 (CO S/L Blackford) and had a dramatic ride to solo with F/L Billing whose arm was long enough to beat me on the head. Thereafter life dramatically improved. Our three years were highly formative and totally memorable and like others, I nearly joined the RAF. But I had qualified as a lawyer and was lucky enough to be running a court department in a City office with some high profile cases so found sufficient interest to opt to continue a career in law which eventually took me back to my hometown of Peebles as a country lawyer, to be the last of a generation of general practitioner solicitors who would tackle most fields of law with clients from every social stratum including the poacher who always had the foresight to leave a salmon on the door of the old folks home providing a great plea in mitigation!
There were tales of derring-do and near misses. I remember a Canberra leading a Chipmunk lost in Lincolnshire back to Waddington where the engine expired with lack of fuel at dispersal. Straw in the wheels nearly cashiered one of our year and another eminent scientist spent two hours to determine the ceiling of a Chipmunk and then how many spins could be done and recovered; I think 20+. My flying did improve. I flew the aerobatics for the Edinburgh Team which won the Scone Trophy in 1959. F/L Bill Gallienne was a great tutor who sadly died in an air to air over Suez. The social life also had a formative effect from very formal dinners to memorable evenings in our little mess in Buccleuch Street where once we entertained the Duke of Edinburgh; also carried a legless James Robertson Justice, the current Rector, down the three flights of stairs!
The flying bug never lets go and in later life along with Hamish McLeod I recovered a PPL and an IMC rating in U.S.A. We went on to build a Europa, best described as an extraordinary aircraft. After two broken propellers, 45 modifications and 60 hours flying it was time to sell. My wife and I had a superb holiday flying a very old Cessna around New Zealand. Nice to be welcomed wherever you went by air traffic control!
Our son served in Newcastle Air Squadron. In 1984 when, as Rector’s Assessor to Lord Steel during the University’s quadracentenary, I did have a brief revisit to Edinburgh Air Squadron when the BBC decided to make a film of undergraduates and I persuaded them to include footage of the Air Squadron which turned out to be much the best part of a rather poor film. In return I negotiated a flight in a Bulldog – real power. I thought the thing to do was my old aerobatic sequence and was a little hurt that the only comment from the instructor at the end was “You must have a hell of a strong stomach!”