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 - The Morning Commuter, by Peter Fieldhouse (1970)
Getting to the office in Calcutta
 
 
India - Holy Cow, by Ralph Glazer (1984)
Obstruction on the runway...
 
 
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
 
 
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....
 
 

Uganda - Exodus of the Ugandan Asians, by Mike Wickings (1972)

In 1972 I was called into the office of the reservations superintendent southern routes, and advised that I was being sent to Uganda to help with the massive increase in traffic resulting from the expulsion of Ugandan Asians.

I was to replace a fellow reservations inspector, who had been out there for 4 weeks. Most of the staff in the BOAC office in Kampala had been Asians and as they had all been given orders to leave, temporary replacements were being sent in to run the reservations/ticketing office. I flew out in a VC10 which was going on to Blantyre. When we landed at Entebbe, I was the only one to get up to disembark, much to the consternation of fellow passengers and the crew.

I had with me a suitcase full of uniforms for the other UK staff who were already there, as it was felt that we would be safer if dressed in uniforms with plenty of gold braid. This was subsequently shown to have been quite a good idea! Manning the office were 4 staff from Reservations Control, whose job it was to control the sale of seats on all the flights leaving Entebbe. There was also a cashier/accountant looking after all the finances. Although I had initially been posted for 4 weeks, I eventually stayed out there for 11 weeks, and while it was arduous work with long hours, we had some good moments and some most interesting experiences.

When the Asian families received their orders to leave, they were given a date by which they had to depart and a form which they had to present to the airline in order to get their tickets. They would usually come into our office as soon as they had the form in order to book the last possible flight out. They would them come back the day before travel to pay for, and collect their tickets. Because of the situation, we were only accepting cash payments and as they were unable to take any money at all out of the country, many were buying tickets through to USA/Canada or round the world first class tickets in the hope that they would be able to use them later for further travel. On some days we were taking nearly 250,000 shillings in cash.

In many cases, the customers would hand us whatever cash they had left, as they had no further way to spend it - and did not want the Ugandan government to have it. We initially refused to accept money but they just left it on the counter, so we decided to put out a charity box and all such monies were put in it. For several years the Asian staff had been collecting stamps for a local orphanage and these were collected each month by the little old nun who ran it almost single handed. When she came in we gave her the charity box as well, explaining where the contents had come from. We had no idea how much was in it until about an hour later when she appeared again, with tears streaming down her cheeks and proceeded to give each staff in turn a big hug and a blessing. It transpired that there was the equivalent of over 3,000 in the box, which was a huge amount in 1972 values.

As it was intended that BOAC would continue to operate to Uganda, we were asked to recruit and train local African Ugandans. One of those was taken on as trainee cashier. One of the important jobs was the banking of the day’s takings which we did every evening via the night deposit box at Barclays Bank, which was just around the corner.
After about 3 weeks, the cashier decided that he would show the trainee the procedure, and after a week's training showing him what to do, he asked him if he was confident to do it on his own. He said yes and we sent him off the following Monday evening at the close of business to complete this task... We never saw him or the money again!!

One morning on the way to the office, I saw a long queue forming outside a mens wear shop. It had been owned by an Asian but had been shut up when he left Uganda. The Govt had then sequestered it, together with all the stock, and ‘given’ it to a local trader to set him up in business. This was the first day of trading for the new owner.

I asked one of our new staff what was the reason for the long queue as mens wear was not one of the items in short supply at that time. He said that the new owner had no idea what he was doing and was selling everything for the 'price' shown on the labels. So shirts were being sold for 16 shillings and trousers for 38. This was about 80% less than the correct price and not surprisingly he had sold out by mid afternoon. He reopened the shop selling bananas the following week.

Idi Amin had declared himself a devout Muslim and had invited the King of Saudi Arabia to come and visit. Much to everyone’s surprise he accepted and on the day of his visit we all went on to the roof of the office to watch the procession go past. We left the office at 6.30pm to walk back to the hotel but when we got to the driveway that led up to the hotel we found a large crowd and armed soldiers manning the gates. We made our way to the front to find out what was happening and one of the guests we knew who was standing there told us that there was a state banquet taking place and no one was allowed to enter the hotel until after it was over and all the dignitaries had left.

At that moment an army officer came over, having noticed our uniforms, saluted the four of us and beckoned us through the barriers. I told the others not to say anything and just follow his instructions. He just wished us good evening and told us we could go to the hotel, which we did. We went up to our rooms, changed and met up in the deserted restaurant for dinner. As we were eating, the banquet room doors were opened and Idi Amin, the King and all their flunkies came out and walked towards us to get to the main exit. Idi Amin stopped at our table and asked us how our meal was and if we were enjoying our stay in Uganda and then carried on. About 30 minutes later, around 8pm, the other guests were let in and one of them came up to us and said what ‘lucky sods’ we were. Apparently the officer had thought we were the crew from the Kings plane and were returning to the hotel to join the group.

From Aug 72 until the end of the year 60,000 Asians were expelled. 30,000 went to UK, with the remainder going to USA, Canada, Australia or India. Many owned businesses, including large-scale enterprises, that formed the backbone of the Ugandan economy. Many Ugandan Asians were able to use their skills and expertise to re-establish themselves in their newly adopted countries and contribute significantly to the economy. Amin expropriated these businesses and properties and handed them over to his supporters. The businesses were mismanaged, and industries collapsed from lack of maintenance. This proved disastrous for the already declining economy of Uganda.

BOAC was operating up to 2 flights a day for several weeks, and was one of several airlines (including BCAL, which later became part of British Airways) which were used to transport the Ugandan Asian community out of Uganda.

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