A short weekend in Scotland - Tony Cunnane's Autobiography

A Yorkshire Aviator's Autobiography
Tony Cunnane
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A short weekend in Scotland

As the P2 Personnel Officer at 3 Group HQ I had custody of a large number of blue 'Staff-in-Confidence' personal files (but not my own). To keep prying eyes out, those files were kept in locked cabinets in my office, not in the Central Registry. Many of the so-called 'blue' files contained personal details of the subject officer's indiscretions, often to do with money problems or sexual peccadillos. Whilst preparing briefing notes for the AOC, I was astonished to read about the troubles some married officers got into by 'playing away' from home. Even now, 50 years later, I wouldn't dream of revealing any names but the offending officers' careers were usually ruined either temporarily or permanently: at best they were posted to some remote station in a far-off overseas place such as Aden or El Adem, or to one of the Scottish outer islands; in one case that passed across my desk the offending officer was required to resign his commission.

My first social engagement after arriving back from the Far East was to attend the wedding of a fellow RAF Officer in Dunoon. I travelled in my beautiful British Racing Green MG Midget (below).



My brief travel log (two extracts above), was part of my more formal private diary (three extracts below).
Friday 27 August 1965. I set off early from RAF Mildenhall and stopped, as usual, in Grantham main street for breakfast at my favourite café (cost: 6s 9d). Heard Sonny and Cher singing I Got You Babe on the BBC Light Programme on the car radio. It’s Top of the Pops at present and my current favourite because of the hypnotic instrumental syncopations. Then up the A1 to Scotch Corner and across country on the narrow, winding A66 to join the A6 and on to Gretna Green where I had coffee and fruit pie for 1s 5d. I listened to a piper playing on the Green and because he was so good I put half a crown (2s 6d) into his almost empty cap lying expectantly on the ground in front of him. I appeared to be the only person listening to him! Then on to Stranraer where I arrived at 6.50pm. After booking into the George Hotel at Stranraer I filled the MG with 4 gallons 'Super' for £1 0s 10d.

Saturday 28 August 1965. The George Hotel bill for dinner, bed and breakfast set me back £2 15s 2d. Good job I don’t do that very often! Then it was on to Ballantrae - Gourock – and finally to Dunoon where I arrived in good time for the wedding at 3pm Then via Otter Ferry to Oban where I arrived at 9.40pm and booked into the Kings Arms Hotel.

Sunday 29 August 1965. The bill for DB&B at the Oban Kings Arms Hotel was £2 2s 6d. I then drove back south via Perth, across the Forth Bridge at Edinburgh, and so to RAF Topcliffe (where I called in for a free snack in the Officers’ Mess). Finally back to Mildenhall where I arrived at 01.55 on Monday morning. 1,246 miles in total.

Why such a long journey in such a short time? You may well ask. At 0730hrs on Monday 30 August I took over as the Duty Staff Officer at HQ 3 Group Mildenhall. I had already been briefed that my new Boss there, Air Vice-Marshal Denis Spotswood, was a stickler for discipline - especially time-keeping. At about 8.30am on the way to his office, the air vice-marshal called into my office to ask me if I had anything to report. Naturally he was not asking about my weekend although he did know where I had been - he knew everything his staff officers did on and off duty. There was a very active Cold War going on and he was in charge of half of Britain’s nuclear defence force. He didn’t need to ask a junior flight lieutenant whether anything was going on; if anything had been, I would have been the last to know about it!

The following day, 31 August 1965, Henri Mignet, a well-known aircraft designer died at the age of 71. The only reason I knew of him was because  he was displaying his then famous Pou du Ciel (Flying Flea) aeroplane barely three miles from our house on the very day I was born (see this page).


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