BETTER ON A CAMEL
BOAC and BEA reminiscences, memorabilia and history
 
 
Introduction
Review of background to airline experiences and recollections
 
 
Dedication
About the charity 'Practical Action'
 
 
Foreword
Foreword by Sir Ross Stainton, former Chairman of BOAC
 
 
CHAPTER ONE - THE FAR EAST AND INDIAN OCEAN
airport and airline memoirs about the far east - from India and the Seychelles to Japan
 
 
Burma - Lighting Up Time, by Gerry Catling (1954)
an airport story - cigars as insect repellent
 
 
Burma - The Day of the Dear Departed (1954), by Gerry Catling
memories of a delicate diplomatic exercise with BOAC in Burma
 
 
Burma, etc. - Britannias, by Alan Douglas
recollections of the Bristol Britannia in service with BOAC
 
 
Burma -The Sound Barrier, by Tony Russell (1972)
Dealings with the civil aviation authorities in Rangoon
 
 
Burma - The Fertiliser Factory, by David McCormack (1972)
memoirs of an airline manager - going the extra mile in customer service...
 
 
Burma - Cigars, Religion and Superstition, by Peter Jones (1975)
Meeting the Burmese People
 
 
Burma - Special Adviser to the Manager, by Peter Jones (1975)
attending a funeral in Rangoon
 
 
Burma - Burmese Days, by Peter Jones (1975)
a visit to Mandalay and the temples of Pagan
 
 
China - Learning Chinese by Ralph Glazer (1983)
Meeting CAAC
 
 
India - Holy Cow, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Obstruction on the runway...
 
 
India - Delhi (Not) Singing in the Rain, by Ralph Glazer (1964)
Monsoon (and its Cargo) Close airport
 
 
India - The Morning Commuter, by Peter Fieldhouse (1970)
Getting to the office in Calcutta
 
 
Japan - The Mount Fuji Disaster, by James Wilson (1966)
a retrospective view of the management of the aftermath of a major air crash
 
 
Pakistan - Yaqoob and Musaleem, by Peter Liver (1987)
fond memories of two aged retainers
 
 
Philippines - Cutting it Fine, by David Hogg (1970)
memoir of the chaos to civil aviation caused by a typhoon in Manila
 
 
Philippines - Being British, by David Hogg (1969)
reactions to an earthquake
 
 
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) - The Day my Number (almost) Came up, by Gerry Catling (1960)
memories of a BOAC Comet 4 landing on a wet runway..
 
 
Seychelles Days, by Mike McDonald (1974-1977)
An island idyll..civil aviation (and British Airways) arrive in the Seychelles
 
 
CHAPTER TWO - THE MIDDLE EAST
airport and airline reminiscences and memorabilia in the Middle East
 
 
Abu Dhabi - Ice Cold in Abu Dhabi, by Graham Moss (1970)
keeping VC-10 passengers cool on the ground
 
 
Abu Dhabi - Sand Trap, by David Hogg (1972)
hazards of driving in the desert
 
 
Bahrain - The Traffic Manual Expert, by David Meyrick (1962)
an air cargo problem - loading a BOAC DC7F
 
 
Bahrain - The Thunderstorm, by Ron Colnbrook (1968)
a scary flying story
 
 
Iran - The Nosewheel Incident, by Alan Hillman (1965)
a problem on the runway in Tehran
 
 
Iran - Hold Five, by Brian Cannadine (1972)
Teheran Airport - animal alert!
 
 
Israel - Cultural Differences, Mike McDonald (1972)
airline tales from Tel Aviv
 
 
Kuwait - a 'Fifth Pod' Operation, by Jack Wesson (1965)
a BOAC flight planner's nightmare
 
 
Kuwait - the Oil Drillers, by John Cogger (1970)
a BOAC Sales Manager at work - life in the fast lane
 
 
Kuwait - Out of the Fog, by Peter Richards (1991)
Return to Kuwait after the Gulf War
 
 
Saudi Arabia - Abdul and the Bacon, by David Hogg (1973)
a treat goes missing
 
 
Yemen - Sana'a Memories, by David Hogg (1973)
a testimony of everyday life in the Yemen
 
 
CHAPTER THREE - AFRICA
recollections and tales of life with BOAC and British Airways in Africa
 
 
Ghana - the Watchman, by Anthony Farnfield (1966)
a letter in the files
 
 
Kano, Nigeria - Willie on the Rampage, by Pat Noujaim (1959)
The randiest dachshund in Northern Nigeria nearly causes a delay
 
 
Nigeria - Bush Telegraph, by David Hogg (1965)
bad news travels fast in West Africa
 
 
Nigeria - Things Other than the World Cup, by Don Ford (1966)
BOAC involved in events in Lagos before the Biafran War
 
 
Nigeria - Boom Times, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
the oil boom in Nigeria in the seventies
 
 
Nigeria - an Attempted Coup, by Peter Jones (1976)
violent regime change in Nigeria
 
 
Nigeria - Living and Working in Lagos, by Peter Jones (1975-1979)
stories of expatriate life in Nigeria
 
 
Nigeria - Never Knowingly Undersold, by Peter Jones (1981)
Travails with the Lagos Telephone Company
 
 
Nigeria - Student Travel, by Peter Jones (1981)
a student goes to the wrong destination
 
 
Nigeria - Lagos Airport Again! by Nick Robertson (1989-90)
Wild West (Africa)
 
 
Ethiopia - Petrol Rationing, by Doug Tester (1975)
Michael to the rescue
 
 
Uganda - The Road to Kampala, by Peter Liver (1972)
a moment in history - BOAC in Uganda in the days of Idi Amin
 
 
Uganda - Exodus of the Ugandan Asians, by Mike Wickings (1972)
Organising the departure of Asians from Uganda
 
 
Kenya - Nairobi 1956 etc., By Maurice Flanagan
early memories of BOAC in Nairobi
 
 
Kenya - The Frustrations of the Comet 4, by Don Ford (circa 1962)
recollections of ingenious improvisation to make best use of space in the BOAC Comet 4
 
 
Kenya - Nanyuki Wedding, by Steve Sturton-Davies (1992)
a wedding in the bush
 
 
Egypt - The Six Day War, By Ron Colnbrook (1967)
memories of a war zone
 
 
Libya, Sudan and Iraq - The Personal and Confidential File, by Roddy Wilson (1955-1960)
more camel stories...
 
 
Libya - The spirit of Christmas Past, by Gerry Catling (1958)
hijinks in the Tripoli transit lounge
 
 
Libya (and Ceylon) Unaccompanied Minors by Gerry Catling (1959)
The difficulties that younger passengers sometime cause...
 
 
CHAPTER FOUR - THE CARIBBEAN, AMERICAS AND ATLANTIC OCEAN
WESTERN HEMISPHERE
 
 
Jamaica - Dr No by Mike McDonald (1964/1974)
a James Bond memory
 
 
St. Lucia - Hurricane Allen, by Peter Jones (1980)
surviving a major hurricane
 
 
St.Lucia - The Wrong Taxiway, by Peter Jones (1983)
consequences of miscommunication
 
 
St. Lucia - The Red Lady, by Peter Jones (1983)
voodoo and the Boeing 747 - an unsolved mystery
 
 
Trinidad - Management Skills, by Bill Smith (1965)
learning the ropes, the hard way
 
 
St. Lucia - The Collector, by Peter Jones (1983)
An Illegal 'Collector' of Rare Species is seen off
 
 
Bahamas - Cabin bags and Elephants, by Tony Russell (1966)
squashed baggage
 
 
Canada - Gander, Crossroads of the World, by Gerry Catling (1956)
Transatlantic travel as it used to be
 
 
Mexico - A Day in Mexico City, by Ralph Glazer (1975)
Concorde, a Road Accident and the Mexican Police
 
 
Panama - Don't Stop! by David Hogg (1975-1980)
what about the snakes?
 
 
Panama - Flying Positive, by David Hogg (1975-1980)
BAC-111 pilots in Central America
 
 
Chile - Chile-Chile-Bang-Bang, by Howell Green (1994)
Frustrations in the queue for take-off
 
 
Uruguay - Jet Flight Arrives in South America, by Alan Douglas (1959)
introducing the Comet 4 in South America
 
 
USA - I Was There That Day, by Jonathan Martin (1963)
Dallas 1963, the day of President Kennedy's assassination
 
 
USA - The New World, by Don Ford (1967-1969)
An expatriate airport manager comes to Chicago
 
 
USA - The Cricket Team, by Peter Jones (1964)
cricket in New York with BOAC?
 
 
Ascension and Falkland Islands - Encounters of the Third Kind, by Bruce Fry (1985-1987)
a BOAC station engineer goes on secondment to the RAF in the Falklands
 
 
CHAPTER FIVE - EUROPE
EUROPE
 
 
Bulgaria - Fog in London, by Mike Lewin (19xx)
BEA schedules affected by fog in London
 
 
Cyprus - Suez and the Rocky path of True Love, by Gerry Catling (1956-57)
effect of Suez on BA schedules and social life..
 
 
Cyprus - the Hijack, by Bruce Fry (1970)
when a hijacked BOAC VC-10 diverted all flights to Nicosia
 
 
Cyprus - The Turkish Invasion, by Taff Lark (1974)
Evacuation of tourists when Cyprus invaded by Turkish forces
 
 
Germany - from BSAA to the Berlin Airlift, by Charlie Item Smith (1948-49)
Following the BSAA disasters, the Avro Tudor fleet is assigned to the Berlin Airlift as fuel tankers
 
 
Germany - Learning German, by Larry Gorton (1966)
recollections of a BEA manager having problems learning German
 
 
Italy - The Secret of Fiumicino, by Bill Smith (1967)
airport customer service staff get a morale boost and valuable lessons for motivation are learned
 
 
Poland - The Stand-off, by Roy Burnham (1978)
an encounter with American presidential security guards
 
 
Romania - Heidi's Haggis, by Mike Lewin (1971)
a bit of BEA memorabilia - ingenuity in the kitchen saves Burns Night in Bucharest
 
 
Russia (USSR) Trans Siberian Start-up, by Brian Burgess (1969-1972)
planning for an historic moment - BOAC's trans Siberian route to Japan
 
 
Russia (USSR) - Red Faces in Red Square, By Bernard Garvie (1970)
Diplomatic Incident with Chandelier
 
 
Russia(USSR) - The Omelette Factory, by Peter Richards (1970s)
Navigating over Siberia
 
 
Russia(USSR) the Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)
In a Moscow Hotel Room..
 
 
Russia (USSR) The Security Guard, by Peter Richards (1976)
How to scare a Russian Security Officer
 
 
Russia (USSR) -The Stewardess, by Taff Lark (1980)
shades of 007
 
 
Russia (USSR) - Domodedovo Airport, 'the House of my Grandfather' by Mike McDonald (1989)
a memoir of early days at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport
 
 
Spain - Dictatorship and Honour, by Gerry Catling (1960)
a recollection of Franco's Spain - negotiating the 'personal honour' code at Madrid Airport
 
 
Spain - A Soft Touch, by Ralph Glazer
A Meeting with Franco
 
 
Switzerland - The Precision of the Swiss, by Gerry Catling (1968)
recollections of how we proved to the airport authority that the Super VC-10 was not a noisy aircraft
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Further reading and watching for addicts....
 
 

Romania - Heidi's Haggis, by Mike Lewin (1971)

Shortly after I arrived to open up BEA services to Bucharest, the British Embassy was giving a Burns Night dinner. I had heard from a number of friends that very often in these remote outposts BEA or BOAC would provide, and fly in, the haggis itself, as a gesture of goodwill. I checked with the catering department to see if they could do this; they confirmed that they could, so I promised the embassy that we would provide the haggis for their dinner. After dealing with catering department in London about when it should come, they agreed that they would fly it out on the Tuesday flight – we had two flights a week in those days – for the Burns Night dinner on the Thursday evening.

I met the Tuesday flight and asked the crew if they had a haggis on board. “No”, was the reply. I checked the in-flight stores – no haggis, so desperately again tried to contact catering, not an easy job, because in those days you had to wait 3-4 hours to get a telephone call to anywhere outside Romania, and then only if it were politically approved (haggis could quite well have been code for something else).

Telex was just as difficult because we had no automatic connection, so we had to telephone SITA (the airline common communications network) and hope that they would give us a connection while we waited for 2-3 hours beside our telex machine.

After some lengthy waiting and correspondence with the catering department, they told us not to worry - they would send the haggis the next day. There happened to be a charter flight going to Arad in northern Romania, carrying the Tottenham Hotspur team who were playing Arad in the Fairs Cup, and there would be a catering inspector on board who was looking after the catering needs of the Tottenham team. He would come down to Bucharest on the Thursday morning early and would carry out a catering inspection of the kitchens, as we were considering whether to start using the facility for some of our catering. He would bring the haggis with him.

“Fine,” I thought. Early on Thursday morning I went to the airport to meet the catering inspector off the flight; he got off looking a little pale, almost green. I asked him if he was OK, and he said it had been a very late night and very early morning and he thought perhaps that the ice they put in the drinks was not made from as pure water as he was used to. He assured me he would be fine, so we entered the kitchens, which were fairly sparse.

He took one look at the food that was being prepared there and promptly threw up all over the floor! We then had to try to persuade the management of the catering establishment that this was not really his view of the quality of their catering, but that he had been taken ill, as he was unaccustomed to the kind of food he had taken the previous evening.

We rescued him from that situation, took him into town and asked him, “What about this haggis?” “Ah,” he said, “we have little bit of a problem there. After your call the catering department realised that they had actually forgotten your haggis and contacted Harrods and everywhere else they could think of to try to get hold of one for you. They were all sold out, but they did come up with this”, and he opened up his bag to produce two dog-food sized tins of Baxter’s haggis.

I said, “We have to feed 75 people with a haggis ceremony this evening – how are we going to do that with two tins of haggis?” He said, “Don’t worry, BEA catering is never beaten! Why don’t you take me to your home and we’ll see what we can rustle up,” so we went home and my wife Heidi and the catering officer sat down together to work out a recipe.

Heidi is Swiss and understandably her first question was, “What is this haggis anyway?” He said, “Here are the ingredients as shown on the tin, so we can just go out to town and buy those and we can make the haggis ourselves.” She then pointed out, “This is Romania, midwinter, 1971, and there is nothing to buy in the town except pickled cabbage - although I did hear a rumour that there might be some leeks in one of the suburbs.”

“Oh. Well, what have we got in the freezer?” We looked in the freezer and found two shoulders of frozen lamb, which was a start, as haggis is based on sheep’s meat.

Rolled oats were the next item. “Rolled oats in Romania – no chance.” I telephoned around every contact we knew and found that the US marines had some ground rice. OK, ground rice it had to be, so we sent off to fetch the ground rice. The next most important ingredient, of course, was sheep’s offal – liver, kidney, heart and that kind of thing. We had no idea where to go for that – none of our friends had any, none of the embassies had any, eventually we found one hotel that said they could provide two kilos of liver.

One of my two staff said she had a hairdressing appointment at that hotel over lunchtime and so she volunteered to pick up the liver and drop it down to us. Off she went, while the rest of the concoction was bubbling away, some of it on top of the cooker, some of it in the oven because that is all the space we had.

At about 2.30 came a plaintive call from the staff member who was to get the liver, “I’ve got the liver, but I can’t get out of the hotel. It’s Ceaucescu’s birthday today, and he’s decided to address the populace from the balcony of this hotel. The square is ringed with troops and police and nobody is allowed in or out.”

At this point, having kept the situation quiet from the embassy, I had to ring the political secretary at the embassy and explain the problem to him. “Can you use your influence to go into the hairdresser’s at the Palace Hotel and collect two kilos of liver?”

He needed a bit of explanation for that one, but in the end understood the urgency, and eventually was able to get through the throng and deliver the precious liver to our home. It was then chopped and added to the mixture.

The next problem was the fact that it was all supposed to be packed into a sheep’s stomach, which was about the last thing we were likely to find. So Heidi went off to the bedroom, cut up all the pillowcases, sewed them up to the size and shape of a sheep’s stomach, so that we had six lumps of pillowcase filled with meat, being roasted and boiled, both on top of and inside the cooker. Eventually all the juices came through and the ‘haggises’ looked sufficiently brown so that nobody could actually tell whether they were pillowcases, sheep’s stomach or what.

Finally we had to get the haggis to the embassy. The only receptacle large enough was our baby’s bathtub. When we arrived, we were ceremonially piped in to the dinner, (Black Tie or Scottish Dress preferred) bathtub on our shoulders and six lumps of pillowcase stuffed with haggis for ceremonial butchering at the top table. It tasted wonderful – nobody knew the difference.

bea
Text-only version of this page  |  Edit this page  |  Manage website  |  Website design: 2-minute-website.com