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Photos courtesy Tony Swain’s Collection, unless otherwise noted
Bout 10 years ago comes a phone call. "Hi! This is Terry!"
"Wah? Who?" sez I.
"You daft head. I’m your cousin! Lulu and I are in town!"
It had been a while. Last time I saw Terry was in Hull in 1953, at Uncle Cyril’s Bon Voyage party for me off to Canada for pilot training. I got rather tipsy, which embarrassed my Dad, who knew about these things. I remember (some of it) well.
Terry and I were born over his Mom’s Fish & Chip shop, but as clouds of war rumbled, in 1937, when we were three, everyone moved to the Wheeler Street Terraces, behind my Dad’s Boot Shop. Their back alley led onto the Corporation Tram Sheds yard, where we acquired life preservation skills dodging clanging trams when our Micky Mouse Trike wheels stuck in the tracks
I got my first flying lessons on seaside holiday at Filey. Mom gave me dual on launching a glider via a rubber band and got complaints. Sigh. Low flying, knocking people’s hats off and much yelling about emergency landings in some family picnic’s best apple pie, etc. Double sigh! The same old stuff.
Amazing prescience really, as years later, after my brief air force career, Mom wangled me a designer’s job at Blackburn’s on the Buccaneer catapult launched Royal Navy fighter-bomber!
And Terry? Well, he and his mom worked some at my Dad’s great shoe making enterprise till the 60’s, when he and his brother sailed away in a concrete boat to America forever. And no-one knew where.
Till the phone call. Seems Terry and Lulu were circumnavigating America in their motor home. Found me in the phone book, and Bob’s your uncle.
They stayed awhile, and we rehashed a lot of family stuff. Went to Delta and flew them around in Bessy. Seems his friend in Florida had a bunch of Warbirds, even a Harvard. Hey, Hey, Hey! "Gotta come and see us!"
THE WELL FIXED COUSIN
So after Sun ‘n’ Fun we drove on down. Really cool place. Nice bungalow in Fort Lauderdale on a canal, a yacht at his private wharf. Went hunting Marlin in a 150 foot motor Yacht, boudoir spiral staircases, hot tubs, and all.
Lulu also has a place up in Boston to avoid hurricanes! They got it pretty good!
Well last November he was off to the UK and all, seeing family and stuff, when he saw something he knew I’d like, and bought it. Comes the latest phone call…
"Hi Tony? Terry!"
"Oh hi," says I, "Where yah been? How’s Lulu?"
"Fine, fine fine… Say, been to England to see my kids, and saw something you’d like whilst looking around, still in it’s original container. I’m having it shipped? Do you want it for Christmas?"
Now you never know with well-fixed folks. They sometimes throw you a bit of a curve, as we occasionally discover at Reno and Oshkosh. "Well… that’s nice to think of us. You gonna tell me what it is?"
Lo-ooong pause. "Well I need to know where to ship it."
"We haven’t moved in 40 years. Same address!"
"OK… It’s a dismantled Harvard in its original shipping container, as new, never been assembled. No instruments, engine never run, no accessories, or anything."
A HARVARD FOR CHRISTMAS
My mind over-boggled and spun in! We are not exactly flush, what with the recent economic shenanigans and all. So big problems pummeled my mind. No hangar, where to put it? What about the prop? An obvious engine rebuild? Who’d do the work? Could we afford a free Warbird in bits?
Where’s the catch? I tried some pertinent questions. Terry said it was intended for the R.O.K. Air Force? T-6 Serial 117364, and never got used. So, not a Harvard? But he said "…it looked like yours."
Terry now realized that though I’m a talk-a-lot minor warbird guru, I wasn’t finding this easy. But having already arranged shipping, he generously said if it didn’t work out, we’d just sell it, and share the take. Talk about sweat. Watch for developments!
WORLD’S FASTEST HARVARD
Speaking of Harvards, you recall last month I mentioned I’d flown a T-6 faster than the Reno racers, and mentioned 375 MPH. Well, I checked the letter I got from the North American Aviation expert guys, and found they quoted knots, not MPH, and possibly 400 knots at that. That’s an incredible 470 MPH. No wonder the engine howled and access panels tore off all over the wings!
Amazingly, though the engine screamed at over 4,600 RPM, it did not come apart, and after recovery at about six feet, got me home! So don’t let your seatbelt let go upside down in a loop.
I’ve pored and pored over my logbooks many times to identify the actual aircraft, but, fearing repercussions at the time, I didn’t flag the entry in my log. (I did make an L-14 entry) But Ta-Dah! After much research and elimination, I now have identified Mark 2B 3767 as the fastest Harvard in the world. And, of which I have an actual picture at Penhold in 1953. So who flies it now?
REMEMBERING AT DELTA
Remembrance Day came after last month’s deadline, so here’s a mini-report. Ten aircraft gathered at Delta for the Vancouver Area Remembrance flight, but unfortunately with weather below VFR, the mission was scrubbed. Metro Vancouver Regional Parks thoughtfully provided a welcome marquee, so Delta’s Ceremony was reasonably sheltered.
Larry Thompson and myself were honoured to place The Wreath in memory of all veterans. After which a number of those gathered spoke of their war experiences, and finally, 8-year-old Isabelle Hui Bon Hoa led everyone in Canada’s National Anthem.
All then retired to the Old Coffee Shop for a welcome bowl of The Mary’s traditional hot soup and scrumptious sweet deserts provided by the Delta Ladies.
MEANWHILE AT LANGLEY
As new support crew, warbird artist, Ginny Ivanicki reports. The Fraser Blues did get airborne and despite the low cloud, flew by four local Cenotaphs.
By 11 a.m. we were up in the air. This is the first time I ever took part in this ceremony and it meant so much to me. I never imagined such an opportunity. I’ve always been with those on the ground, getting choked up as the planes passed by overhead. This ‘fly over’ means so much to people.
Later, visiting each Legion, each time the pilots were introduced, a heck of a cheer went up. It was wonderful, and they sure deserved it. They worked very hard! Seven planes, in close formation, in rough weather, was a tough job. They are all such fabulous guys and stellar pilots! I am honoured to know them.
THAT’S ALL FOLKS
Except, yes, the shipping people called that the Harvard Container had arrived! Marked the ‘ROK Air Force’ - would there be a political problem? Should I send it on direct to Mike and the guys at Victoria Air Maintenance?
Sigh. Not likely. You see, it was built in Korea, at their Academy Ltd Works, and was imported to the U.K. sometime in the 1990’s, where Cousin Terry got it for five pounds. It’s a plastic model at 1/72 scale, of a Korean Air Force Texan. Panic over. I guess I’ll get some glue and build it myself. Triple Sighs.
Tony Swain & The Mary, Old COPA Guys.