Peter Callegari 1961-1966
As a schoolboy, I was always air-minded, and served many years as an air cadet in the Montrose squadron. During that time, I got my Class C gliding certificate, and represented Scotland at the national air cadet aircraft spotting competition, so as soon as I found out about the University Air Squadron, my interest was kindled. I started Med school in 1960, but waited till the following year to apply for admission to the UAS.
After the fairly comprehensive selection process we are all familiar with, I was accepted. At that time, Mike Bradley was CO, and Tony Hopkins, Jack Russell, and, Keith Monson were instructing. Pete Curtin and "Tinker" Bell arrived later. Like all of you, I took to the fulfilling routine of Air Squadron life very quickly, and the flying was immensely enjoyable. Eventually, Jack Russell was brave enough to send me solo after about 9 hours of training.
In 1963, the Medical Cadetship scheme was introduced, and I was among the first applicants, earning my commission as flying officer in June of that year. That brought with it the princely salary of 800 pounds/year, and I was rich for the first time, having up till then survived on 300/year, the maximum government grant. I completed my original 3 year stint with the UAS, but continued thereafter as a social member, along with the other medical cadets. The rules were a bit unclear for a while, and I was allowed to continue flying a for a time, eventually amassing some 200 hours on the "Chippie". I have only very happy memories of Air Squadron life. Our social life centered around Buccleuch Place, with its happy ambience, and almost worn out Ray Conniff LPs, not to mention cheap booze! Dining in nights at Turnhouse were also something very special, but generally fairly tame compared to those I attended later in my RAF career.
Summer camps, mine were at RAF Chivenor, RAF Valley and RAF Kinloss, were a time for more a concentrated flying experience, and for learning something about being a real officer, like knowing who to salute, for instance. The pictures of Ron Pattison's prang brought me back to that day, when I was in the air at the same time. Ron and I were flatmates for a time.
Eventually, despite the distractions of the Air Squadron, which got me into trouble more than once from my professors, I completed my degree, my 2 house-jobs, and was posted to RAF Gutersloh, not far from the East German border, in August 1967. Gutersloh, a former Luftwaffe station, was a wonderful posting, a very active fighter station with 2 squadron's of photo-recce Hunters, No.2 and No.4, and 2 squadrons of Lightnings, No.19 and No.92.
As you might imagine, the late 60's was an exciting time to be close to the Iron Curtain what with
Czechoslovakia, and other distractions going on. I was fortunate to get MO experience flights in both types of aircraft. The social life was beyond anything I had experienced in my life, especially the Annual Balls, and again the wild dining in nights. Here too, I again crossed paths with Tony Hopkins who commanded No.4 Squadron. It might interest some, that one of my station commanders was Keith Williamson, a boy entrant who enlisted as an aircraftman apprentice at RAF Halton, and ended up as a Marshall of the Royal Air Force, just to prove it could still be done!!!
After a couple of years there, I began to consider Internal Medicine as a career, and was fortunate to be selected for training and posted to RAF Nocton Hall in Lincolnshire, where I spent the remainder of my 6-year short service commission. During that time, in 1971/72, I was seconded to Edinburgh to attend the MRCP course, and was billeted at Turnhouse for 6 months, but by this time, all trace of EUAS was long gone. Before emigrating to Canada in August 1973, I tried to get my PPL through the flying club at Cranwell, and though I got in a few hours on their beloved old Tiger Moth, my time ran out.
Since then, I have lived in Canada, initially in Jasper, Alberta, in the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park, for 13 years, and latterly in Victoria BC, where I have spent the last 25 years in Geriatric consulting practice. I retired at 68 in Dec. 2010.
I did get one last kick at flying, gaining my PPL when in Jasper, retraining on a Piper Tomahawk, an aircraft I never learned to trust. I constantly thought it far too flimsy to fly, and that the tail section might snap off at any moment!!! Not really, but you get the picture, compared with the sturdy Chipmunk. Our local very small flying club had a jointly owned Piper Cherokee, a nice enough flyer, but boring compared with the Chippie, so I got some more hours in before getting a mighty scare, finding myself caught in a very rough system of mountain wave turbulence, which, though it left me just short of a pair of brown underpants, turned me into a bit of a white-knuckle flyer. Shortly after that, another club member pranged the Cherokee, writing it off, but survived, and it was not replaced.
Realising that 1... I had a wife, Olivia, my high-school sweetheart whom I had married in 1965, and 3 little kids who depended on me, and 2...there were frequent reports of light aircraft and lives being lost to accidents in the mountains,....I decided not to pursue flying further, though I still cast a wistful glance skyward when I hear a small aircraft flying over, and wonder, what if.....
My years with the Edinburgh University Air Squadron remain some of the most precious memories of my entire life, and are certainly something I would not have wanted to miss.